Wednesday

5-20-09: Mailbag & Links

Hello again everybody...

Somebody flipped the switch from May to July here in Minnesota. The forecast for yesterday was for highs in the mid-80's and we ended up setting a record high at 97. Woops.

Did I ever mention how glad I am that I gave up on the meteorology bit?

Today we get low 90's and gale-force winds. If you're not familiar with the "wind tunnel effect" in downtown Minneapolis, let's just say it's noticeable on a relatively calm day. On a day like today where the airport's measuring the current wind speed at 25 mph with gusts up to 46 mph, walking around downtown means taking risks with your life. For those of you who own small dogs, taking them for a walk today would turn into flying a canine kite in short order.

And thanks to the ceaseless construction downtown, the "wind-tunnel effect" turns into the "sand-based involuntary exfoliation effect", which is nice. And the grit left behind in your mouth doesn't have any distinctive flavor, so that's helpful. I just feel bad for people without glasses. I got stuff in my eyes as it is. Those poor schmucks have to really be suffering!

So does all this talk about my trials and travails getting into work mean I don't have much of a column today? Could be. After all, I haven't written it yet!

But I'll tell you what I know. I've been getting emails from you my loyal readers with links to stories relevant to the blog. So I've decided to start posting them here on the blog and tacking on a few thoughts of my own. Plus today I've got another edition of the Mailbag. So let's get to it!

"No man ever listened himself out of a job."
- Calvin Coolidge (1872 - 1933), 30th President of the United States


Yes, I'm responsible for 95% of the "talking" on the blog. But I like to think that I "listen" to you, my dear readers, as often as I can. And if I can incorporate your responses into my columns, all the better!

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First up today, we dip into the Sports Take Mailbag:

Today's question comes from Cathy in Maple Grove:

"Hi Dan,
I have a question for you. The other night, about midnight, there was a grand slam home run. Good way to end a long game! But they kept calling it a 'walk off' grand slam. What does the 'walk off' part mean? Love the blog! Keep it up!"


Thanks for the kind words Cathy.

For those of you not following the Twins all that closely, Cathy's referencing the Twins/Tigers tilt from May 14th when Joe Crede won the game for the Twins in the bottom of the 13th inning.

Simply put, a "walk off" play is any offensive play that ends a game. In Joe's case, he hit that home run, and his team "walked off" the field with the win.

Most of the time games are ended by the defense. A final fly out, ground out, strike out, etc. But if a home team breaks a tie in the bottom of the ninth (or in extra innings) or comes from behind in said situation to win the game, it's generally going to be on a "walk off" play.

Usually these plays are followed by a mobbing of the player who scored the winning run, or the player who got the winning hit, or often both. Once said player is mobbed, they're usually slapped on the head as a form of celebration. If you watch closely, a player who's just hit a walk-off home run will usually flip off their batting helmet as they approach the waiting mob at home plate. That's because their teammates will often slap their heads so hard that the helmet will slide down and cause more damage than it actually prevents.

(Aside: They're not brain surgeons people, they're ball players. These are the same people who think that a shaving-cream-pie-to-the-face or covering a guy's underwear with peanut butter is the height of comedy.)

But if they win it in the bottom of the 9th or the bottom of an extra-inning, wouldn't that always be a "walk off" play, Dan?

Excellent question readers!

No, not necessarily. Allow me to paint you a picture:

Say it's the bottom of the ninth, the bases are loaded and the meat-head on the mound walks in the winning run. That wouldn't be considered a "walk off walk" because the pitcher was the one causing the run to be scored. The batter was only involved insofar as taking the pitch. Not really an offensive play, so the "walk off" tag generally isn't used.

Likewise, passed balls, wild pitches and errors usually don't earn the "walk off" label.

Singles, doubles, triples, home runs and sacrifice flies are the plays that usually get "walk off" slapped on to them when they end a game.

So why do these plays earn their own label?

Mostly because only home teams can have "walk off"plays. If road teams take a lead in extra innings, they still have to get three outs in the bottom half to win the game. So the only way a team can "walk off" with a win is if they're at home. That means the home crowd has a chance to go crazy when their team wins on one of those plays. And when you have an exciting finish, and a crazy crowd, labels like "walk off" get created.

I hope that answers your question Cathy. Thanks again for contributing to the Mailbag. Remember, if you want your question answered, send an email to: dcook93@yahoo.com. There's no such thing as a dumb question, but some questions do allow me to be more entertaining than others!

Finally today a couple of Links for you:

Mary in Plymouth sent in a link to this article on Twins catcher Mike Redmond.

Red Dog doesn't get the press that Joe Mauer, aka Baby Jesus, gets. But in a lot of ways, he's just as important to the Twins' success. And because it's a City Pages article, the author gets plenty of room to spell that out. I enjoyed it a lot.

Josh in Shoreview sent along this link from Scott Miller of CBS Sportsline.com. Scott's a former Minneapolis guy, not to mention a fantastic writer, so I always enjoy his work. Josh sent this particular article to me in response to my lamentations over the struggles of the Twins' bullpen.

Basically the article says that bullpens everywhere are struggling. So I guess I shouldn't feel quite so bad. Although that series in New York was enough to test anyone's patience.

To whit, it just crossed the wire that the Twins have placed reliever Craig Breslow on the waiver wire, where he's been claimed by the Oakland A's. Considering the Twins got him via waivers from the Cleveland Indians, I guess that's an appropriate way for Breslow to exit stage left.

(Get it? He's a southpaw? That was for you Lon!).

The Twins had already called up beefy right-handed reliever Sean Henn from AAA Rochester to take the spot opened by starter Glen Perkins' trip to the disabled list. So in response to Breslow's departure, the Twins have called up right-handed starter Anthony Swarzak who's compiled a 3-4 record with a 2.25 ERA. He'll take what would've been Perkins' next start on Saturday.

So check those links out. I promise, they're good reading. If you've got a link you'd like to share, you can send an email to: dcook93@yahoo.com.

That's all for today. Make sure to check back on Friday for your weekly dose of DFTU. You know you've got the fever, I've got your cure (and it's got nothing to do with a cowbell).

Until then, thanks for reading!

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