By Michael Rand
In honor of pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, we’ve come up with 10 burning questions for the upcoming baseball season. Five of the questions have some sort of connection to the Twins. Five of them have a connection to the voices in our head. If you prefer 10 serious questions, please see La Velle in a little while. But do enjoy either way:
1. Will the Red Sox and Yankees regret not trading for Johan Santana? Yes. Boston had a chance to create a dynasty; instead, they got soft. With Curt Schilling possibly out for the year and Josh Beckett looking like he’s smuggling a case of Fenway Franks, the Red Sox will soon be lamenting their pitching depth if the kids don’t come through. As for the Yankees, Hank Steinbrenner recently said that if not trading for Santana ends up costing the Yankees, “people have to be held accountable.” The Andy Pettitte mess (they gave him $16 million before this HGH stuff blew up) is killing them. The money they gave Pettitte basically ended the Johan discussion. Plus, just look at the confidence Santana is giving the Mets. He makes any team feel like a frontrunner. Sigh.
2. What if there are visitors from another planet, and they prove to be very good at baseball. Will they immediately become free agents, or will there have to be some sort of draft? It really depends on whether these visitors played professionally on another planet. Even if they were paid in Ruglinks or Clapdops, they have lost their amateur status and are free agents. If it was strictly amateur, though, we say let’s have a draft. Since they will inevitably land on the Metrodome, the Twins should get the first pick. It will be used on a control pitcher.
3. Livan Hernandez signed a contract with huge innings-based incentives. What will the Twins do with Hernandez if the year wears on and they’re way out of the race? That’s a fair question. Thanks to the intrepid work of our baseball folks, we know Livan will essentially make another $133K in incentives for every five innings pitched past 160, up to 230 (essentially he can make $2 million in incentives). It’s a fair contract, but also one a team could exploit. If Hernandez is healthy and pitching OK but not great (two decent assumptions), and he reaches 160 innings with, say, 6 or 7 starts to go, and the Twins are 16 games behind the Tigers, would they try to save some money by sticking him in the bullpen or pulling some sort of other trick? It bears watching as the season progresses.
4. Is this the year baseball makes infielders illegal? Probably not.
5. Where will Kyle Lohse wind up, and what kind of contract will he get? It’s like 1:36 a.m. at various downtown bars. It’s just a matter of who gets desperate first: Lohse, or some team that thinks it’s one mediocre pitcher away from contention. He’s said to be the best of the pitchers still out there, but it’s hard to imagine someone like him getting a long-term deal this late in the game. We’ll guess he gets one year at around $6 million, and then tries to really cash in next year. As for a team, there’s been very little news on Lohse lately. The Phillies signed Kris Benson. The Mets cooled off when they got the Santana fellow. Maybe the Yankees will bite?
6. Question: If I’ve never been to a particular stadium, is it OK to eat dinner before going to a game instead of eating ballpark food? Sure, if you want to humiliate your family and degrade the game.
7. What should we expect from Delmon Young this year? 20-25 home runs, 100 RBI and a batting average close to .300. Five years from now, this trade will look very good for the Twins.
8. If HGH is outlawed, will only outlaws have HGH? No. You will still be able to get them from Andy Pettitte’s dad and similar sources.
9. Isn’t Jason Kubel the key to the offense? He really kind of is. You figure this: throw the speedy Gomez kid into the leadoff spot. Let Mauer hit second. Young third. Morneau fourth. Cuddyer fifth. If Kubel can anchor the six spot, that lineup will score a fair number of runs. If he doesn’t hit with RISP, it could be trouble. Follow him with some combo of Harris, Everett, Lamb, Punto or Casilla. Play Casilla and bat him leadoff on days Gomez doesn’t play. It has a chance. But Kubel is the key.
10. There was a pitcher for the Braves about 15-20 years back named Joe Boever. He threw a palm ball. Whatever happened to the palm ball? Wikipedia indicates such luminaries as Trevor Hoffman, Roy Halliday and Tony Fiore have used the pitch since then. As long as each of them teaches it to one new pitcher, it will live on.
Fasola-link! To the dogs.