7-23-10: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We've done it! We've fooled the employment gods and made it to the end of another week!

And it's not just any week-ending, oh no. It seems that the fine folks at the local office of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the corporate folks that run my shop are close to agreeing on a new contract.

Why would that be significant, you ask? Well, one, it guarantees me continued employment, which is always a good thing. But two, there's a clause contained within that contract that will change the nature of my job slightly.

I hate to be a tease, but I don't want to jinx anything either. (I'm a baseball fan, I believe in these things.) My hope is that in the next couple of weeks I'll be able to talk about some mildly exciting work-related news.

I know, I know, I probably shouldn't even have brought it up, but it's been on my mind today, so there you go!

I promise, as soon as it's official, I'll tell you all about it.

Until then, however, we've got some Updating to do...

Right after the quote!

”Knowledge is power, if you know it about the right person.”
- Ethel Mumford (1878 - 1940), American author

I'm not suggesting anything nefarious by selecting this quote... honest!

It's Friday. That means it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...

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Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 51-45, tied for second place in the AL Central with the Detroit Tigers, and two games behind the Chicago White Sox.

First off, allow me to say thanks for all the feedback on Wednesday's column. Be it by blog comment, email or Facebook messages, I got plenty of it, and enjoyed it all thoroughly.

I want to clarify one thing. I remain as firmly a fan of Joe Mauer as I ever was. He's a tremendous talent who's found himself in a rough spot and made what I believe was a terribly unfortunate decision. Many of you either flat-out disagreed with my assessment, or thought my concern was over-blown. Both of those are fair opinions, and I respect the passion with which you hold them.

Hopefully you understand that my criticism was borne of a similar passion, as well as an ardent desire to see Mauer perform at the top of his game. The Twins are certainly going to need him to if they're going to make the post-season, much less make any noise once they get there.

That leads me to my next mini-rant. Something that's been a subject of much debate amongst Twins fans lately. Namely, what in the world Delmon Young is doing still batting seventh in this lineup.

For the season, Delmon's hitting .314/.347/.508 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage). That's an OPS of .855. He ranks second on the club in BA, fourth in on-base, second in slugging, and second in OPS. In the three categories where he's second, he trails only Justin Morneau, who hasn't played in a couple of weeks due to a concussion.

Moreover, look at the last month. Over the last 28 days, Delmon's hitting .337/.366/.539, which translates to a .905 OPS. Those numbers far and away lead the club over that period and he's hitting seventh.

To be fair, when Joe Mauer was given a day off on Wednesday, Delmon moved up to the 3-hole (where he went 3-for-5 with 3 RBI), and he's had at least one plate appearance in every spot in the line-up except lead-off. But of his 334 plate appearances on the season, 195 of them have come in the 7-hole.

So here's the question: why isn't he hitting higher?

Jason Kubel, with his .771 OPS, has been hitting fourth. Michael Cuddyer, with his .793 OPS, has been hitting fifth, and Jim Thome has been hitting sixth. Thome has a .930 OPS, but doesn't quality for the “team lead” because he doesn't have enough plate appearances.

There's little question that Delmon has been more productive than those three guys, and if he was hitting higher in the order, he'd have more plate appearances, ergo more opportunities to produce. So why are they all sill hitting above him in the order?

The answer is simply, Ron Gardenhire.

There are plenty of folks out there who rip Gardy regularly. I have an uncle who's been calling for his head for years. I'm not here to do that. More often than not, I agree with his decisions, and am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on those I don't agree with.

In this case, however, I just can't let it slide. It's not like Delmon has been on a brief hot-streak. He's been the hottest hitter on the club for a solid month, and has been producing at a high rate for most of the season.

When Gardenhire's been asked why he doesn't move Delmon up in the line-up, he brushes the question off (as he's apt to do with most questions about his managerial decisions) with something like, “we like our guys where they are, and I like having a little pop at the bottom of the line-up.”

Translation? “I'm loyal to my guys, so I'm not going to 'demote' a Cuddyer or Kubel, and you should quit questioning my decisions so long as we're contending for a division title.”

That's all well and good if you're leading the division by 5 games and threatening to run away and hide. But when you've been struggling since June and are two games back, maybe it's time to look at making some changes.

Granted, the pitching staff has been a far bigger part of the problem than the line-up has. But when your pitching is scuffling the way the Twins' is, it's all the more important to maximize your run production. Just because your starter struggles, or your bullpen has a bad night, doesn't mean you have to lose a game. Winning 10-8 counts just as much as winning 2-0.

To that end, it seems to me that you'd want to give your hottest hitters as many shots at the plate as you can on a day-in and day-out basis. I'm not calling for a seismic shift. I'm not saying you should move Mauer out of the three-hole and put Delmon in there every day.

But is it that unreasonable to think that maybe putting Delmon fifth, and dropping Cuddyer (who's OPS is 25 points lower than Delmon's over the last month) a spot or two might be a good idea?

I honestly admire Gardy's loyalty to his veterans. I think that's something that's sorely lacking in professional sports these days. But loyalty at the expense of run-production simply makes no sense. Michael Cuddyer is a legitimate big leaguer. He knows that. His confidence isn't going to be crushed by being moved down in the order. If anything, it seems to me it would help motivate him to pick up his game.

And honestly, I think you could say much the same about Jason Kubel.

The point is, sometimes being loyal is inspirational, and sometimes it's counter-productive. Unfortunately right now, I think Gardy's line-up is tending towards the latter.

The Twins are in the midst of a four-game series in Baltimore. They won the opener last night 5-0 behind yet another brilliant, complete-game performance by Carl Pavano. (Seriously, where would this team be without Pavano right now? He might not be their best trade-acquisition/re-signing ever, but he's got to be on the list, right?)

Game 2 is tonight with Brian Duensing making his first start of the season (replacing Nick Blackburn in the rotation - finally) against Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie (3-10). Tomorrow it's Scott Baker (7-9) taking on the talented Brian Matusz (don't let the 3-10 record fool you). And Sunday it's Kevin Slowey (8-5) squaring off against Jake Arrieta (3-2).

After they finish in Baltimore, the Twins make their way to Kansas City for three, before returning to the friendly confines of Target Field for a brief three-game home-stand versus Seattle.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 37-59, in last place in the NL West and 19 games behind the San Diego Padres.

Trust me, I only include their deficit for format-consistency's sake. I take no small amount of pain in typing those numbers.

Let's see... positives... must find some positives...

Well, the Snakes had won three in a row before getting shut out by the Giants last night. That's something. Their run-differential is now only fourth-worst in MLB. The club remains sixth overall in team homeruns, and tenth in team RBI. Those are pretty decent numbers. Justin Upton has heated up and leads the team in batting average (.275) and is second only to Kelly Johnson in OPS (.844), so it's nice to see him getting back on track.

Oh who am I kidding, this club still blows!

The club is 6-11 since Kirk Gibson took over as manager. Not that the GM/Manager change was about sparking the club. But still, if ownership is going to pull a trigger like that in the middle of the season, you'd home for some kind of positive response from the team.

Rumors abound that Dan Haren is squarely on the trading block. According to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, the club's looking for an “A-plus” deal for Haren. CEO Derrek Hall said,

“Ideally what we would ask for is major-league ready pitching, be it starters and/or bullpen, and prospects. The volume doesn’t matter. It doesn’t need to be four or five or six guys. It’s really about the quality.”

Um, Mr. Hall? How about a major league starter (Kevin Slowey), and a couple of prospects (Ramos and Revere perhaps)? Call Bill Smith at 612...

Okay, okay, maybe I'm being a bit selfish there. And quite frankly, the thought of bringing a NL pitcher with a 4.60 ERA over to the American League makes me more than a touch nervous.

But the point is, Diamondbacks fans need to get used to the notion that the team, as currently constituted, isn't going to be the group that gets this club back on its feet. What we have to hope for is that interim GM, Jerry DiPoto and Arizona ownership has a solid plan in place. Otherwise moving a player like Haren for parts which may or may not fit a new GM's plans is just plain pointless.

Sorry folks. That's the best spin I can put on it!

Arizona's in the midst of its own four-game series, theirs being with the Giants. They dropped Game 1 last night 3-0, but will try to get back on track tonight with Edwin Jackson (6-8) facing Jonathan Sanchez (7-6). Tomorrow, it's Ian Kennedy (5-7) on the hill against San Fran's Madison Baumgartner (3-2). Then in Sunday's finale, it'll be Barry Enright (2-2, and owner of an outstanding start in his last appearance) taking on two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum (10-4). Um, yeah. Good luck Barry!

After they wrap up their home series with the Gigantes, it's time for another road trip. This time the Snakes head to Philly for three (they're struggling, time to get to mashing!) and then to New York to face the Mets for three.

So there you have it. Do you feel sufficiently Updated? I know I do.

Have a fantastic weekend. Enjoy some rest, relaxation and baseball! I'll be back on Monday with... something... I hope.

Until then, thanks for reading!


  1. I was wondering if you were going to mention the Snakes' trade possibilities, that seems to be all I read about them lately.

  2. I either have to talk about them wheeling and dealing, or delve into the numbers as to why they suck so much.

    And I can only do the latter so often before it becomes cruel and unusual.