Hello again everybody...
Been a while, I know. I hope everyone had a safe and happy 4th of July. I spent a pleasant evening watching three different fireworks shows from the cozy confines of my deck. Not a bad way to spend the evening, and I didn't have to fight traffic!
So we're into the meat of July (just 10 shopping days left until the single greatest day of the calendar year!), and teams are making news all over the place.
What does that mean?
Yep... it's “Notes” time!
And we'll get to the notating...
Right after the quote!
“Statistics: the only science that enables different experts using the same figures to draw different conclusions.
- Evan Easar (1899 - 1995), American humorist
I've had a lot of verbal/text battles with my Brewers-fan friends since I published my picks for the 2011 All-Star team. We're all looking at the same numbers. My system didn't put him in as a starter. Milwaukee fans vehemently disagreed. In the end, he got voted in and I don't have a huge problem with that.
Which leads me to the first of today's...
The All-Star rosters have been announced... and the fans nearly got it right.
In fact, there's only one position between the two leagues that I can point at and say, “no, no, no, you're WAY off there.”
That's the American League shortstop. I know Derek Jeter got two hits last night. I know that leaves him 4 short of 3000 and an automatic ticket to Cooperstown. I know he'll go down in Yankee lore as one of their all-time greats.
But he shouldn't be starting in the All Star Game. Not only should he not be starting, he shouldn't even be on the team.
I get the use of an All Star selection as a career achievement awards in very limited and specific situations (see: Ripken, Cal, in his retirement year), but I don't think this one qualifies. I'll congratulate Mr. Jeter when he reaches 3k as much as the next baseball fan. But when you're hitting .256/.320/.320, you don't make an All Star team. Sorry.
The only other pick that had me scratching my head a bit was Josh Hamilton in the AL outfield. He's put up some solid (although not career-high) offensive numbers, but he got DQ'd in my system because he hasn't played enough games. While most full-time starters are in the mid-60's for games played, he's in the mid-40's. Worse crimes have been committed in All Star balloting (see: Jeter, Derek), but he was the only other pick that didn't finish in the top five of my system, so I thought I'd point it out.
Like I said, Brewer fans got their knickers in a twist when I didn't pick Ryan Braun as a starter in the NL outfield. I'd love for them to tell me how to tweak my system to get him in, without getting rid of defensive numbers all together.
His below-average defensive stats have always held him back in my system. I even deliberately tweaked the math this year to down-play their importance a touch, and he still didn't get in.
Sorry folks, but I'm not taking defense out of the equation, and until his improves enough, he doesn't get my vote.
Outside of Jeter and Hamilton, every other player that got voted in ranked in my top five at their position. In fact, in the NL, every player ranked in the top two!
So well-done fans. I'll give you a B+ this year. That would easily be an A-, except for the Jeter nonsense. But still, a better result than I expected. Kudos!
Speaking of the All Star rosters...
Is it just me, or are the rest of you loving the stars that have been put on the jerseys and caps of players picked for the All Star game?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is something they just started this season, and I love it.
If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can click here to get something of an idea.
For players picked to participate in this year's All Star game, they've had two gold stars embroidered on the back of their jersey on either side of the MLB logo (pictured in the above link) and likewise on the back of their caps.
Like I said, I love it. It's small and unobtrusive, taking away nothing from the aesthetic pleasure of the baseball uniform. At the same time, it's a way of honoring the guys who've been picked to be on their respective league's squad.
As I understand it, they won't be a season-long addition. Instead, they'll only be around until the end of play on Sunday before the All Star break.
People love to kill MLB for some of the boneheaded decisions they make - and deservedly so - but I think they deserve kudos for this one. They got it 100% right.
Speaking of baseball...
The Twins are trying to become relevant this season... but they're going to face some difficult decisions at the end of the month.
After last night's action, the Twins are 38-46, 7-games out of first in the AL Central.
Nothing about those numbers is good, but considering how anemic the division has been this season, another Division Championship isn't out of the question.
That being said, the non-waiver trade deadline is on the 31st and the Twins are going to have to make some very tough calls.
Are you planning on bringing back Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer next year? Probably not. So wouldn't it make sense to try and move one of them for some young talent while you can?
Kubel just experienced a set-back in his attempt to rehab a foot injury, so the likelihood of him being available to trade isn't high.
That leaves Cuddyer. Michael's hitting .290/.359/.469 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI. Trust me, there are several teams out there looking for some pop that would be interested in putting Cuddy in their lineup every day.
But you're talking about a career-Twin. A “glue-guy”. Someone who's as important in the clubhouse as he is on the field. Someone who's been way out front with the Twins community efforts.
Dealing a guy like that won't be an easy decision, and my guess is the front office would have to be bowled over by an offer before they agreed to move him.
Other candidates to get moved? I think it's pretty clear that the Twins would love to part ways with Delmon Young at this point. He's also on a rehab assignment, but is far closer to coming back than Kubel is. Could he be moved? Possibly, but you'd be lucky to get 25-cents on the dollar given his struggles this season. Still, addition-by-subtraction IS a very real concept in baseball.
Joe Nathan is probably untradable unless the Twins agree to pick up a substantial portion of his salary. Given their history, this seems extremely doubtful to happen.
Matt Capps has struggled mightily of late in the closer's role. I doubt you'd get much value for him, but then again, the Twins traded one of their top prospects for him last year, so you never know.
Glen Perkins is an interesting possibility. If the Twins are sincerely ready to bag it for this year and try to reload for next season, then he could be a big-time trading chip. Contenders are always looking for relief pitching. If that reliever is left-handed, his value increases. If that reliever has proven to be able to handle both left-handed specialist and general late-inning relief roles, his value increases dramatically. Perk has been the club's best reliever this season, but has also spent copious amounts of time in the manager's doghouse in previous seasons. I'd be surprised, but not shocked if he got moved for the right deal.
Outside of those guys? There aren't many names that other teams are going to call about. And how shocking is it that I'm talking about the Twins moves at the trade deadline being those of a “seller” instead of a “buyer”? Who would've guessed THAT coming into this season?!
Speaking of Matt Capps...
Twins fans are calling for his head... okay, maybe not literally but they sure would like to see someone else closing games. Only I'm not sure that's the right move.
I'm not saying I'll be upset if Gardy decides to go with someone else to close games, only that I won't be upset if he doesn't.
First of all, there aren't a lot of great options. Glen Perkins is the name on most fans lips when asked who should replace Capps. The problem with that is, if you put Perk in that role, you limit his usefulness. Right now, he can come in any time in the 7th, 8th, or 9th to get a tough lefty - and any righties that come after him - out. Who fills that role if he's the closer? Mijares? Dumatrait? I don't think so.
The other option is Joe Nathan. He's been better as of late, but we all saw how shaky he was early in the year. Do you really want to put that pressure back on his shoulders at this point? I'm not sure I do.
Secondly, I think we highly over-value the closer position to begin with.
How many times have we seen one-hit wonder closers feast on cheap save opportunities (see: Rod, K)? The entire reason the “Hold” statistic was invented was because baseball stat-heads realized that often times outs recorded in the 7th and 8th innings are actually more critical to team wins than outs recorded in the 9th inning.
I'm all for having defined roles in the bullpen. I think it allows guys to get into healthy routines, understanding their role on the club and building their confidence. That being said, I don't think it should automatically be a case of, “that guy's our best reliever, he has to pitch in the 9th inning”. More often than not will that be true? Yes. But in some cases (see: Perkins, Glen), I think there are strong arguments to make exceptions to that rule.
Gardenhire said it best after last night's game, “the most important thing is to get Cappsy going good.” And he's 100% right. The Twins aren't going to contend without Matt Capps pitching well in some role. If that's not as the closer, so be it.
But let's be careful to think through the impact yanking him out of that role will have on the rest of the bullpen before we go ahead and hit the eject button.
Speaking of the eject button...
The Wild are moving players around like crazy... so maybe it's time to refer to the GM as “Trader Chuck”?
Eh, doesn't really have a good ring to it, does it?
But clearly the guy's not afraid to pull the trigger.
On the day of the NHL Entry Draft, Fletcher sent the club's top defenseman to San Jose for forward Devin Setoguchi, prospect winger Charlie Coyle and a first-round draft pick that turned into center Zack Phillips.
I've got no problem with this trade whatsoever. Brent Burns had stretches where he was an elite defenseman, but could never stay at that level consistently. Maybe he fulfills that potential with the Sharks, but it wasn't happening in Minnesota. In return, the Wild got a winger who knows how to score the puck and isn't afraid to shoot it - something too many Wild forwards have been unwilling to do in the past. They also got a couple of young prospects and considering the dearth of NHL-ready talent available to them, prospects are a desperately needed commodity.
But that wasn't the end of the wheeling and dealing from Fletch.
On Sunday, blockbuster news hit Twitter late in the afternoon that the Wild were sending forward Martin Havlat to the Sharks in exchange for Dany Heatley.
I like this trade for a couple of reasons.
One - and least importantly - Heatley is a former Badger, and as far as I'm concerned, the Wild can't have too many former Badgers on their roster!
Two - and infinitely more importantly - Havlat wasn't working here. Yes, he led the team in goals last year - and that shouldn't be undervalued. But there were long stretches of time where he'd disappear and be a total non-factor. On a team starving for skilled players, you simply can't have that.
That being said, Heatley doesn't exactly have a stellar reputation in that department. There's little reason to believe that a change of scenery is going to make things click for Heatley since the Wild will be the fourth club he's been on in his career.
So if their just swapping one disgruntled forward for another, why do I like this deal? First, Heatley's contract - while more expensive - is a year shorter than Havlat's. Which means if the Wild really are going to bottom this thing out and try and build through the draft, they're going to be out from under that commitment sooner, which is a good thing. Second, even though I'm not expecting a dramatic attitude change from Heatley, there's always hope when it comes to change. And right now, this club needs all the salable hope it can get it's mythical paws on.
Make no mistake, it's going to be a far different-looking Wild club that takes the ice this October than the one we saw last season.
Does that mean it will be better? Not necessarily. But for the first time in a while, fans can start to see a concrete and specific plan being executed by the club. And that may be enough to keep fans coming to the X while the club tries to get back into the playoffs.
That's going to wrap things up for today. Hope you feel sufficiently updated! I know I do.
Until next time, thanks for reading!