Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Boxing Banter

Like many of you, I'm sitting down to see if the Vikings can salvage a playoff berth today. Hopefully they can pull off the win against a Giants team that doesn't have a lot to play for -- I'd rather see them get in that way than through a Bears loss (although a Bears loss might be wishful thinking anyway). Now, enough on football -- time to get to boxing. Another abbreviated schedule this week means another short Boxing Banter post:

1.) The only fight of any significance this week was WBC flyweight champion Daisuke Naito's title defense against Shingo Yamaguchi. Last week I suggested that Naito was probably the prohibitive favorite due to the comparative records and strength of prior opponents, and that turned out to be the case -- Naito won the fight via an 11th round stoppage and doesn't seem to have ever been in any trouble.

2.) Fight News reports that Evander Holyfield is contesting the result of his December 20 fight against Nikolai Valuev. I would guess he has virtually no chance of suceeding. I don't know the rules that are in play for a sanctioning body to review a ring-side ruling, but I would guess the judges would have had to be horribly off to be reversed. I know that a few people, like ESPN's Dan Rafael, believe that Holyfield should have won the fight -- but I've read plenty of reports from other people that say the fight was either a draw or a Valuev win. My point is that this doesn't seem to have been a case where Holyfield won the fight without any doubt, and I think that's what it would take for the judges at ringside to be overruled.

3.) There are three title fights in Japan this week, and as with last week's fight I don't know much of anything about the fighters. First up is the WBA flyweight defense of champion Takefumi Sakata (33-4-2; 15 KO) against Denkaosan Kaovichit (45-1-1; 19 KO). Sakata has had the belt since 2007, and hasn't knocked anyone out in a title defense. With his record, that would seem to suggest that Kaovichit has a good shot of knocking Sakata off, but that record is built mostly against bad fighters and it's unclear just how good he is. These two fighters have met before, going the distance in a draw in November 2007. That suggests the fight is indeed closely matched. I'm going to predict a title change.

4.) Next up, Toshiaki Nishioka (32-4-3; 19 KO) defends his WBC interim junior featherweight title against Genaro Garcia (36-6-0; 20 KO). It will be Nishioka's first defense after winning the title September 2008. Garcia hasn't fought since December 2007, and has lost two of his last three fights. Nihioka, on the other hand, has been on a decent run recently. I would be somewhat surprised if Nishioka didn't retain.

5.) The WBA has a strange policy (designed to get more sanctioning fees out of fighters) that allows it to have multiple champions in a weight class. If the WBA champion in a class wins another major belt, he's declared the "WBA Super Champion," and a new "WBA Regular Champion" will be crowned. WBA "regular" lightweight champion Yusuke Kobori (23-2-1; 12 KO) will defend that so-called "title" against undefeated Paulus Moses (23-0-0; 17 KO) in the final interesting fight of the week. Moses has a couple of solid wins, but I wouldn't look at the undefeated record and get all starry-eyed -- he has a lot of cheap wins in the record as well. Kobori seems to have faced stiffer opposition in his career, and I think he'll emerge from this fight with the win.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Dickey Redux

I wasn't paying any attention to the Twins on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, so I missed until this morning the fact that the Twins have agreed to terms with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Last year, of course, the Twins signed Dickey before the Rule 5 Draft only to see the Mariners select him (in what to me was one of the most unusual Rule 5 selections ever -- I'm not saying it was a bad move, but Dickey doesn't exactly fit the profile of the standard Rule 5 pick).

It's not immediately clear what role Dickey is expected to play in the bullpen next year, but I don't think it necessarily has to be clear at this point. It's never a bad thing to go into Spring Training with more Major League caliber pitchers than there are available roster spots, and the 'pen that the Twins looked to be ready to go with wasn't exactly filled with 7 All Stars anyway. There's room for a guy to get pushed out by Dickey if it looks like he's better. If he's not, then the Twins can get rid of him instead. I can't imagine the money is going to be much of a deterrent.

This was a quirky little Christmas present from the Twins to those fans who were excited by the Dickey signing last year only to see him snatched away by the Mariners. We'll see how he does when the season rolls around.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Boxing Banter

Very little to talk about today, as there was only one major fight this weekend and there's only one next weekend. Here goes:

1.) I said last week that if Evander Holyfield was even remotely competitive in his fight with WBA Champion Nikolai Valuev, that heavyweight boxing should give up and crawl away. I guess it should start crawling, because Holyfield was far more than competitive yesterday. According to several sources, he should have won the fight. Not everyone agrees -- ESPN comentators seem to be split on the subject. The point is that Holyfield survived for 12 rounds against a champion, and had a legitimate chance to win the fight and a belt at 46. It seems clear that Holyfield was better than he has been in quite awhile, but he was by no means championship caliber. Instead, Valuev was exposed as a sham champion. I didn't know much about Valuev before this fight other than that he was a monstrous fellow with a strap around his waist. Now, I know that despite his size he's not much of a fighter, and also that he ducks legitimate fights. Those two things tend to go hand-in-hand; he's not very good, so why bother fighting a legitimate fight? This makes me wonder whether there's any possibility he'll fight one of the Klitschko's -- I imagine the money would have to be huge to force him into a fight he'd go into knowing he was going to lose. As for Holyfield, he should leave now. This fight was nearly as good as a win for his legacy. He didn't get squashed, and if he left now he could retain some dignity. If he fights anyone better than Valuev, he'll almost certainly be down in a hurry. It's well past time to hang 'em up, Evander.

2.) The only fight of any consequence this week will be on Tuesday, when WBC flyweight champ Daisuke Naito (33-2-3; 21 KO) defends against Shingo Yamaguchi (23-5-2; 9 KO). I've got nothing on this fight; I don't know anything about either fighter. This will be Naito's fourth defense since winning the belt in July of 2007 from Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. He's won two of the fights and retained via draw in the other. Yamaguchi does not seem to be a serious threat to take the strap.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blog Update

First things first -- when I changed templates all of my links disappeared. I'm going to be reconstructing them over the next couple of weeks, but here's my request to those of you who I may have linked to in the past: if you still want to be linked to, please let me know with an e-mail to taylorjs@colorado.edu (or a comment on this blog would probably work too, I suppose). This doesn't mean I won't link to anybody that doesn't contact me -- it just means that I'm less likely to accidentally overlook someone if you remind me!

Second, I'm heading back to Minnesota tomorrow for the holidays. I still intend on blogging a bit during the next two weeks, but I'm less likely to catch any breaking news as quickly as I normally would.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My 2009 Hall of Fame Ballot

It's coming a day earlier than I had originally announced, but here is the ballot that I would cast if I were a voter for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The format is the same as last year -- first, I'll list the players that I would cast a vote for if I had a chance, then the players who I would consider to be possibilities for the future, and finally I will name those players who I would remove from the ballot entirely. Also, just so you're aware, I've plagiarized the comments that I made last year on many of the names who are still on the ballot.

Hall of Famers

Bert Blyleven (12th Year) -- 61.9% in 2008

Despite some difficulties with Blyleven's candidacy, I think the scales come down on the side of Bert being a Hall of Famer. Whether this determination is colored by my Twins bias and my enjoyment of his color commentary for the Twins - well, that's for others to decide. On the plus side, Blyleven is 5th in career strikeouts (3,701) and no one is going to catch him anytime soon (with the retirements of Greg Maddux and Mike Mussina, Jamie Moyer is the closest active player with 2,248). He also struck out 2.8 batters for every batter he walked - that puts him miles ahead of all-time K leader Nolan Ryan (just over 2.0), in the neighborhood of Roger Clemens (2.96), and well below Randy Johnson (3.2). Looking at the pitchers near Blyleven on the K list, he's better than the majority of the top 20 - Fergie Jenkins beats him, as does Greg Maddux, and Pedro Martinez utterly blows everybody out of the water with about a 4.2. But Blyleven is clearly amongst the best in terms of K-BB in the history of the game.

Blyelven is also 9th All-Time with 60 shutouts - the man liked to finish what he started. The amazing thing about this stat is that it is incredibly predictive of Hall of Fame pitchers. Other than Blyleven, the top 23 pitchers in this category are in the Hall of Fame. Luis Tiant, at 24, is the first guy besides Bert who isn't in the Hall. Standing alone, that means nothing - but it is another indication that Blyleven's stats are in the same league as other Hall of Famers.

As for ERA, Blyelven's career 3.31 ERA isn't great by Hall of Fame standards - but it's better than quite a few players (Early Wynn, Fergie Jenkins, Dennis Eckersley, and Lefty Grove for example). In other words - I'm neutral on ERA.

The most oft-heard argument against Blyleven is that he won just 287 games, and this doesn't meet the magic number of 300. But that number didn't prevent Fergie Jenkins (284), Juan Marichal (243), or Jim Palmer (268), amongst others, from getting into the Hall. Bert pitched a couple more years than Jenkins, so one argument could go that someone with 22 years in the game should have crested 300 - but with his other numbers being so solid, I find it hard to argue that the lack of wins is entirely Blyleven's fault.

Perhaps more compelling is the argument that Blyleven was never a truly dominant pitcher - he finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting twice, and that was as good as it got - and he was an All-Star just twice. He also never led his league in ERA, Wins, or even K/9. Nevertheless, that doesn't take away from the fact that he put up some brilliant numbers in his career, not all of which were dependent simply on longevity (as his 3.31 ERA shows). Bert belongs in the Hall, and with last year's roughly 14 point jump in his vote total, I'm hopeful that he'll make it in one of his last four years on the ballot.

Andre Dawson (8th Year) -- 65.9% in 2008
After putting Dawson in my maybe category in 2007, I moved him into my "yes" category last year. Nothing has changed my mind since I made that decision. Dawson was a career .279 hitter with 438 HR's over 21 years. In that time, he also picked up 8 Gold Gloves and 4 Silver Sluggers, Rookie of the Year honors in 1977, an MVP award in 1987 (along with 2nd place finishes in 1981 and 1983) and topped it all off with 8 appearances as an All-Star. His 2,774 hits in 21 years are a litter lower than I would expect from a Hall of Famer, but the total package is outstanding, and I'm now convinced.

Ricky Henderson (1st Year)
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. He is the best base stealer of all time with 1406 steals, and with the changes in the game is likely to forever be so. He revolutionized the lead-off position, hitting 297 homers primarily from that spot. He won an MVP and finished second and third in the voting two other years. He made 10 All-Star teams in his 25 year career. It's almost irrelvent to add that he also had 3,055 hits and 2,190 walks (second most all time). If he didn't have the steals, maybe there would be a little bit of doubt in my mind (I'd probably vote for him anyway). But the steals are there, and they are relevant -- don't forget that in the era he played, the stolen base was a much more vital part of the game. There is absolutely no question in my mind that Henderson belongs in the Hall.

Jim Rice (15th Year) -- 72.2% in 2008
Last chance on Rice, and boy is this one tough. Rice's numbers (.298/382/2452) are actually fairly close to Hall of Famer Al Kaline's (.297/399/3007) - except for the hits, but Rice played 6 fewer seasons than Kaline. Last year, I said the difference between Kaline and Rice was Kaline's greatness in the field -- he won 10 Gold Gloves, and Rice never won one. However, Rice won an MVP award and finished in the top 5 of the MVP voting 5 other times. To me, that shows that Rice was an extremely respected hitter for a sufficiently long stretch of time to justify a Hall of Fame vote. Having fully considered the issue, I'm now convinced -- Rice belongs in the Hall. The sportswriters are likely to agree with me this year, as he's likely to retain the support he picked up last year while gaining a few last chance votes.

Hold-Overs (a.k.a. the Maybe's)

David Cone (1st Year)
A Cy Young winner in 1994, twice a twenty-game winner, five times an All-Star -- Cone is not a shabby candidate. I had planned to place Cone in my "no" list straight out, but he had some sustained success and I would want another year to consider his candidacy if I were a voter (yes, I understand that voters don't actually get to choose a "hold him for a year" option when voting). His 194 wins in 17 seasons are probably not enough, but this is not the shut and dried case it would appear. Next year, I'll probably say no flat out (assuming he hits the 5% mark and makes it onto the 2010 ballot) -- but for now I'm putting him in my Maybe column.

Don Mattingly (9th Year) -- 15.8% in 2008
This one is fairly difficult for me. His .307 career batting average fits comfortably in with the current Hall-of-Famers, and he hit 222 HR, so he wasn't a slouch in terms of power. He also won 9 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers, and an MVP Award. But I just can't pull the trigger - his BA/Power numbers are more in line with a Hall of Fame 1B from the 1910's than with one from the 1980's. This is closer than I originally thought it would be - I'd put him in the top 5 of the "best of the rest" on my ballot - but in the end I have to leave him off, at least for this year.

Mark McGwire (3rd Year) -- 23.6% in 2008
The McGwire saga in the Hall of Fame voting remains one of the more intriguing things to watch each year. After a year in which the question of performance enhancing drugs first exploded and then seemed to disappear (who was talking about it in August, September, or October?), will McGwire benefit? Or will voters continue to keep the issue alive and shun him in large numbers? It seems likely that McGwire has polarized the electorate -- he won 23.5% in 2007 and 23.6% in 2008, so voters don't seem to be very willing to change their minds on him. I've stated before that I wouldn't base my decisions on PED use, but my stance has changed slightly -- if there was a fair amount of proof (and I'm not talking the amount or kind of proof that would be necessary to convict in a court of law; I just want something more than a wink and a nod allegation) that McGwire used PED's for a significant part of his career, I would at that point likely exclude him. If he's only linked to use late in his career, or for only limited periods of time, I would be more inclined to vote for him. Part of the reason I put him on my maybe list, then, is because I just don't know where he fits on that spectrum -- and after all, there's nothing wrong with using those 15 years of eligibility to fully consider his candidacy.

Of course, there's also the issue of his performance on the field and whether it's enough to get him in. Last year, I stated that a player with a career batting average as low as McGwire's (.263) was to me a dubious Hall of Famer. I'm going to stand by that as a general proposition, but I've largely been swung around to the view that great performance in another area can compensate for a low batting average. That's why I am now convinced that Harmon Killebrew (.256 career BA) is still Hall of Fame worthy -- because 573 HR's for the era he played in was a remarkable number. Do McGwire's 583 HR's measure up?

For now, that's the question I can't answer. McGwire hit a bunch of homers, to be sure, but he did it in an era when homerun numbers have become inflated. It's also the statistic that would benefit the most from juicing. More than likely I would eventually support McGwire's inclusion in the Hall as one of baseball's great sluggers, but there are just far too many questions about his candidacy to say that I would support his election this year.

Jack Morris (10th Year) -- 42.9% in 2008
Another close one - but Morris' 3.90 career ERA is a bit too high, and his 1.78 K-BB ratio is a bit too low to earn him consideration for his control. He did win 254 games - which I don't think disqualifies him at all, since he has a .577 winning percentage. His failure to ever win a Cy Young (like Bert, he finished 3rd twice) is another strike against him, because unlike Bert he doesn't have a dominant category to boost his candidacy. Borderline, but probably not quite a Hall of Famer. In the last five years of his candidacy (starting next year) my focus as a voter would be on whether Morris should get in as one of the great pitchers of the 1980's and early 1990's -- but again, the fact that he doesn't have a Cy Young to back that up is problematic.

Dale Murphy (11th Year) -- 13.8% in 2008
His .265 batting average is a concern, but his 398 HR, 5 Gold Gloves, 2 MVPs, and 4 Silver Sluggers make him a serious candidate. I have reservations about Murphy having just 2111 hits in 18 seasons, though. If I had to make a final decision on Murphy right now, I'd vote no -- but I'm willing to reconsider.

Dave Parker (13th Year) -- 15.1% in 2008
No glaring weakness, like Murphy's batting average. Parker hit .290, with 339 HR and 2712 hits in 19 seasons, while picking up an MVP award, 3 Gold Gloves, and 3 Silver Sluggers. But, while those numbers are very nice, what exactly makes him a Hall of Famer? He was a very good, but not great hitter. He had very good, but not great, power. He could field pretty well. In the end, I think he misses the cut - he's a great player, but not a Hall of Famer.

Tim Raines (2nd Year) -- 24.3% in 2008
Raines played for 23 years and compiled a .294 batting average, 170 homers, and 808 stolen bases (good for 5th all time). He was basically the National League version of Ricky Henderson, and while he's nowhere close in terms of stolen bases, he has a much better batting average than Henderson and was a more patient hitter (Henderson walked a lot, but he struck out a ton, too). Raines also went to 7 All-Star Games, picked up a Silver Slugger award, and had one top 5 finish in the MVP voting. I'm inclined to put him in the "great, but not Hall-worthy" category for now, but as with the rest of those players I'm sticking him in my "Maybe" list in case I later change my mind on him.

Lee Smith (7th Year) -- 43.3% in 2008
Smith picked up 478 saves in his 18 years, which was the record until Trevor Hoffman passed him in 2006 and kept piling on in 2007 and 2008. His career ERA is also solid -- but when you compare Smith with the dominant closers of this era (Mariano Rivera, Hoffman, Billy Wagner) he doesn't quite match up ERA-wise. His 2.57 K's per BB is also a bit low. My biggest problem with Smith last year was that he has 21 more losses than wins, but it was a mistake for me to focus on that category because it's pretty meaningless for closers (heck, it's pretty meaningless for all pitchers). I think Smith is stuck between era's a bit -- he was a closer as far back as the early 80's when the position was first starting to evolve into what it is today, and he closed games out into the 90's when that evolution was pretty much complete. I lean towards a no vote for Smith, but he's close enough that I reserve the right to change my mind in future years.

Alan Trammell (8th Year) -- 18.2% in 2008
Solid career numbers (.285/185/2365) and awards (4 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers). But like Parker, Trammell is a really good player who I just don't quite consider to be a Hall of Famer right now. If someone can come up with a compelling argument in his favor, I would certainly consider it.

Mo Vaughn (1st Year)
Mo Vaughn doesn't exactly scream "Hall of Famer!" to me, but I find his numbers and his career interesting enough to include him on my "Maybe" list. He finished with a .293 career average and 1620 hits in 12 seasons (lower than I would like, but he didn't play for all that long). More interestingly, he had a four-year stretch in which he won and MVP and finished 4th and 5th in the voting two other years. If you ask why I put Vaughn in my "Maybe" list and banish Harold Baines to my "No" list, it's that four year stretch that I'd point to. Baines never was considered one of the top players in his league -- Vaughn clearly was. Vaughn also contributed by playing first base, and I'm a bit biased against DH's in that regard (although you could fairly ask whether it actually HURT his teams to have Vaughn at first base -- but I don't remember him being a complete and total farce at the position). If push came to shove I would say no on Vaughn, but it's also not quite clear cut.

Matt Williams (1st Year)
I'm not thrilled with his batting average (.268) or total hits (1878 in 17 seasons). However, he was a consistent power hitter (378) who won 4 Gold Gloves and finished in the top 6 in MVP voting 4 times. As with Vaughn, if push came to shove that wouldn't be enough for me, but he's also not a categorical no. I would want to continue considering his candidacy.

Off the Ballot

Harold Baines (3rd Year) -- 5.2% in 2008
Baines was in my "maybe" category two years, but I've thought about him some more and decided that I can make a firm decision on him. His .289 BA and 384 HR's are arguably suitable -- but he spent most of his career as a DH, played 22 years and only picked up 2866 hits, never finished higher than 9th in the MVP voting, and won just 1 Silver Slugger award. In the end, that's not good enough.

Jay Bell (1st Year)

He's a career .265 hitter who picked up just 1963 hits in 18 seasons. Bell had solid power for a guy who spent a large chunk of his career as a shortstop (195 HR's), but those numbers aren't enough to compensate for what is an otherwise extremely lackluster Hall of Fame resume.

Ron Gant (1st Year)
Open and shut case in my book. He was a career .256 hitter who had only one season where he even made it into the top 5 in the MVP voting. His 321 homeruns aren't shabby, but you don't build a Hall-of-Fame worthy career on 321 homeruns and not much else.

Mark Grace (1st Year)
In my head, I associate Mark Grace with Don Mattingly. Looking at Grace's numbers, though, he just doesn't stack up to the comparison. Grace had a .303 average and hit 173 homeruns (to Mattingly's .307 and 222), never won an MVP award or even finished in the top 10 in voting (Mattingly won an MVP), made the All-Star game just 3 times (which stunned me when I looked it up -- Mattingly doubled that, by the way), and won 4 Gold Gloves compared to Mattingly's nine. While these two have long gone together in my mind, it's clear that Grace's credentials fall short of Mattingly's. For that reason, he falls short of even my "Maybe" category.

Tommy John (15th Year) -- 29.1% in 2008

John is not a bad Hall of Fame candidate. His 288 wins are over 26 Major League seasons (although he didn't win many games over those last few years), and he has a 3.34 career ERA. He also finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting twice. Basically, John is Bert Blyleven without the strikeouts. In the end, that's not enough - Bert's Hall credentials are largely dependent on his strikeout and control numbers, and John can't compare in that regard. I've had John in my "maybe" category for a couple of years, but 2009 is his last year of eligibility so an up-or-down decision on his candidacy is appropriate. I would not cast a vote for Tommy John. He was a very good pitcher who doesn't quite rise to Hall of Fame levels.

Jesse Orosco (1st Year)
Looking only at Orosco's early career, the Hall of Fame might not seem like such a far-out suggestion. From 1983-1987 he picked up 102 saves with an ERA as low as 1.47 and usually in the mid-2.00's. After that, he became the situational lefty most of us remember. His career 3.16 ERA isn't bad, but there's just nothing in his career that would lead me to believe that it was Hall-worthy.

Dan Plesac (1st Year)
The poor-man's Orosco. Like Orosco, Plesac started off getting saves and posting solid ERA's. He then transformed, just like Orosco, into a situational lefty. His career 3.64 ERA shows that he wasn't as effective, as does the fact that his career was 6 years shorter. If Orosco isn't Hall-worthy, Plesac certainly isn't either.

Greg Vaughn (1st Year)
Vaughn finished fourth in the MVP voting in 1998 and 1999, laregly because of his power (50 and 45 homers respectively). Other than that and his 355 homers, he has virtually nothing on which to hang his Hall candidacy. He finished with just 1475 hits and a .242 batting average in 15 seasons. In no way does that measure up.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Playing Around

It was time for a new look for the site, so I will likely be playing around for a few days with different looks, colors, etc. I got a kick out of the grey, blue, and red scheme that was up for the last year or so -- but it really got old (my apologies for those of you who hated the look). A big goal of mine is just to clean things up a bit. You'll notice the advertising is gone -- I got a very nice check for a year from one of the advertisers, but my commitment has been up for awhile and the other two ads were just wasting space.

So, please pardon any strange things that you might see for the next week or so as I play around. And if by chance you see something you really like, let me know.


Boxing Banter

A shortened BB post tonight as I prepare for my last final (ever!) as a law student tomorrow. Here are some brief thoughts on what we saw the past few days:

1.) I hope you had a chance to watch Tomasz Adamek take the IBF Cruiserweight title off of Steve Cunningham on Thursday night. The card was on Versus, and also included an IBF Bantamweight fight won by champion Joseph Agbeko. Both fights went the distance and were entertaining (this was a great free card), but the Adamek-Cunningham matchup provided a great deal of drama. ESPN's boxing page even lists it as a contender for fight of the year. Adamek managed to knock Cunningham down three times (I believe he had only been down once in his entire career to that point) while staying on his feet despite absorbing a lot of punishment, and that proved to be the difference. A stunning round 4 sums up the fight -- Cunningham dominated the round, to the point that the announcers were discussing awarding the round to him 10-8 instead of the standard 10-9. Then, out of nowhere at the end of the round Adamek landed a right to the face that dropped Cunningham. Under the scoring rules in effect, that mandated a round victory for Adamek, and he ended up winning the round 10-9. That was a three point swing in that one round, and had he not picked up the knockdown (all other things staying the same) the fight would have ended in a draw -- one judge for each fighter and one with an even card. Great fight, great card, great job by Versus putting it together.

2.) Wladimir Klitschko easily defeated Hasim Rahman in Mannheim, Germany yesterday to hold onto his IBF and WBO belts. Rahman was a replacement fighter for Alexander Povetkin, who was supposed to get the mandatory fight against Klitschko but was injured in training. This was a ho-hum fight that was never in doubt, as Rahman spent painful amounts of time against the ropes and Klitschko was clearly the better, stronger fighter. It ended in the sixth roung when the referee stopped it following three brutal shots from Klitschko.

3.) Elsewhere in heavyweight land, it was all about the old guys. Riddick Bowe returned to the ring for the first time in three years and picked up an 8-round unanimous decision, while James Toney beat Fres Oquendo by split decision in a 12-rounder. I would like to say that these results are meaningless because both fighters are far beyond their prime, but with Evander Holyfield getting a title shot next weekend I guess I can't quite make that statement.

4.) The Kendall Holt-Ricardo Torres rubber-match was called off because Torres was hurt, but Holt still faced a challenge on the Showtime card on Saturday night when he faced previously undefeated challenger Demetrius Hopkins. Holt retained his WBO Junior Welterweight belt by split decision. The judge ruling for Hopkins was sort of on an island, with her point spread very different from what the other two judges had. Normally with a split decision in that situation I'd say a rematch is likely, but the cards of the other two judges weren't that close. Still, a rematch would be nice to see if Holt could do it again. I'm guessing Holt still wants Torres for a third time, so maybe that will come next.

5.) There are some fights next weekend, but there only appears to be one world title on the line -- WBA Heavyweight champ Nikolai Valuev defends his belt in a sham fight against Evander Holyfield, who came out of nowhere when he signed this fight. This thing has no business going beyond three rounds, if that. Holyfield is 46 and hasn't been a meaningful fighter in years. Valuev is a monster who is 11 years younger and has 34 KO's in 51 matches. The only reason this fight was signed at all was that Holyfield needed money and Valuev needed an easy end-of-year opponent, presumably for a tuneup. If Holyfield is even remotely competitive in this fight, Heavyweight boxing should just give up and crawl away.


New Look Organizational Rankings

For the last two years, I've put together Organizational Rankings posts (they were linked on the right side of the page, but my messing around has temporarily removed them). Unfortunately, this year I never got around to getting the relief pitcher post up (if you're clever, you can get to the page that has about 1/4 of the players listed, but I never activated the link because it was never completed). Equally unfortunately, the idea suffered from my inability to determine exactly what information I wanted to convey on the pages. On the one hand, the lists have been put together in the order of my rankings -- which is great if you want to see who I valued going into each season. At the same time, however, I've been trying to use those pages as a player transactions database. While there is a LOT of information on the players in the organization available on the web, some basic information is widely scattered and requires some actual digging to get at.

I legitimately want to service both of the goals mentioned above -- I enjoy ranking players, but at the same time I think its nice to be able to go to one site to see transaction information, rather than trying to track it down from multiple sources. As a result, I've decided to change the way that I present the information.

First up, in January I will be unveiling my new "Organizational Database." No, it will not be a true database. It will not be searchable in the way a true database is -- it'll just be like one of my long "Organizational Rankings" posts, but it will be organized by last name rather than by my rankings so that it will be significantly easier to find the player you're looking for. No more guessing whether Nick Punto is listed as a 2B, SS, or 3B if you want to see info on him. More than likely, I'll put the data into 4 or 5 separate posts broken down in some fashion like "A-E, F-K," and so on.

Here's the kicker: my goal is to keep the Database as up-to-date as possible. I will include a link to a page (probably The Baseball Cube) where you can easily see historical stats. I will include all the basic vital information. Most importantly, however, I'm going to do my absolute best to give you information like what year the player will become Rule 5 eligible, how many options years the player has used, and so on. I will also make an effort to regularly update all transactions for all players at the Rookie League level and above. This is all information that I keep track of anyway, but other than a half-hearted effort to track transactions I generally haven't made it available on the site. I might as well try, and see if anyone finds it useful.

As for the Organizational Rankings, they will survive in a different format. Starting in early February I will begin putting out the rankings using some of the same rules as I've used in the past, such as deciding which one position a player belongs in and not changing the rankings during the year. The posts will be much more in the nature of a simple list than they have previously been, however, and more than likely will include only a paragraph or two of explanation at the bottom to give some insight into why I ranked Player A higher than Player B, and so on.

I sincerely hope that once I get these two projects up and running that those of you who visit this site will find them to be useful. In any case, they should be much more user-friendly (and informative) than they have been in the past.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Seth's Book -- Downloadable!

Hey folks -- if you're looking for a great Twins minor league resource, you need to check out Seth Stoh's Prospect Handbook 2009. I went with the hard copy, but if you want to save a couple of bucks and like reading material on your computer, Seth has now made a downloadable copy available for $8.00 at this link. I strongly recommend the book -- very few people (and maybe none not employed by the Twins) know as much about the Twins minor league system as Seth.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Rule 5 Thoughts

A little later than promised, here are my thoughts on this year's Rule 5 Draft:

The Losses

It seemed coming in like there were a number of players who the Twins could lose, but by adding so many players to the 40-man roster in November the Twins were able to take most of the most susceptible players off the board. As a result, the Twins lost three players overall -- not a great number, but not terrible either.

The sole Twin taken in the Major League phase of the draft was 24-year-old Dominican Jose Lugo, a lefty reliever with a middling career ERA but excellent K-BB numbers -- last year he struck out 76 and walked just 33 in 69 innings, and he's consistently shown that those numbers are about what can be expected from him (at least at the minor league level). The Royals drafted Lugo and then sent him to the Mariners, so for the second year in a row the Mariners will have a Rule 5 draftee who needs to stick on the big league roster or be offered back to the Twins. Last year, you may recall, the Mariners unexpectedly took recent signee R.A. Dickey from the Twins, and when they couldn't find room for him on the big league roster they worked out a trade that netted the Twins catcher Jair Fernandez. I would expect something similar to happen again this year, since Lugo is seemingly nowhere near ready for the major leagues -- he spent last year in High A Ft. Myers, and it's an awfully big jump from there to the big show.

The Twins also lost two players in the AAA phase of the draft, meaning they won't be coming back. First up is righty reliever David Shinskie, a 24-year-old Pennsylvanian who has been in the organization since he was drafted in the 4th round of the 2003 draft. Shinskie's 2008 was limited by injury, but he had a very solid 2007 season (3.36 ERA in 64.1 innings).

Finally, infielder Juan Sanchez was also taken in the AAA phase, heading to the Brewers. Sanchez was initially signed as a free agent in 2004, but didn't get to the US until 2008, where he hit .314 in 137 AB's with the GCL Twins. While those are nice numbers, it's hard to feel the loss of a guy who wasn't that well known in the organization.

The Gains

The Twins picked up two players yesterday as well. Jason Jones, a right-handed starter out of the Yankee organization, was first up. He was a fourth round draft pick back in 2004, and has risen fairly steadily through the organization. He's already 26, so it's getting to the time where he'll need to take the next step. He'll get that chance this spring with the Twins, where the word is he'll be thrown into the bullpen mix and given a chance to earn a spot on the big league roster. Jones is not completely unfamiliar with a relief role, but he's been used far more often as a starter to this point -- he has 104 starts against just 20 relief apperances. His K-BB numbers are excellent, although he's not an overpowering pitcher as evidenced by his K/9 numbers. At this point, I don't expect him to make the roster (so he may be on his way back to the Yankees at some point), but anything is possible if he has a solid spring and there are injuries or disappointments involving other players.

Finally, the Twins selected righty reliever Henry Arias from the Reds in the AAA phase of yesterday's draft. Picks below the major league phase rarely pan out to much, but remember that a couple of years ago the Twins selected Brian Buscher from the Giants at this level, and he's now spent some reasonable time in the big leagues. In other words, unexpected things can happen. Count me a bit underwhelmed by the soon-to-be 24-year-old Arias -- he has ok K-BB and K/9 numbers, but his ERA and WHIP have generally not been that great (although he spent the first part of last year in A-ball with the Royals and actually pitched reasonably well). Ultimately, there's just not enough information on Arias to know whether he's worth much. With a AAA phase rule 5 pick, though, there's not much to lose -- so I look forward to seeing how he performs once the season starts.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Punto Returns to the Fold

In a move that is undoubtedly making many Twins fans shudder in fear of what's to come in 2009, the Twins today brought Nick Punto back under a two-year, $8.5 million deal with an option for 2011. The fact that Punto is back on the roster is bad enough for many of you, but the fact that the Twins are talking about him like he's the presumptive starting shortstop for 2009 is even worse.

Now, I can't deny that Punto has had some miserable performances with the Twins. His 2007 season (and his .210 batting average) won't soon be forgotten. But let me point out that Punto hit .284 last year with a 726 OPS (admittedly not great, but not deadly). He stole 16 bases. His Range Factor at shortstop (4.92) and his zone rating at shortstop (.865) both would have led the league at that position if he had been a regular starter. In other words, Punto remains an outstanding defensive shortstop, he has speed, and two out of the last three years he's hit at least .284. I am not arguing that the man is a Hall of Famer, or even that he'd be my first choice to play the position. What I am saying is that, by my reckoning, he's worth $4 million and is a far better choice to start at shortstop than Adam Everett ever was.

I know many of you wanted the Twins to make a splash by landing a third baseman or a different shortstop at the Winter Meetings. I also know that Nick Punto doesn't qualify for most of you as a big deal signing (and I'm really not trying to argue that he is). All I'm trying to say is that, compared to many of the free agent acquisitions the Twins have made the last few years, this one actually stands a chance of working out exactly as they expect it to.

Now, hopefully Punto doesn't go out and make me look like a complete fool by reverting to his 2007 form . . .

As for the Rule 5 Draft, I'll have some thoughts up by tomorrow morning. Rough cut: Not as painful as I'd feared, not as painless as I'd hoped.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rule 5 Draft

I wish I could tell you that I'll have up-to-the-minute commentary on tomorrow's Rule 5 Draft, but unfortunately I won't. I have a final in Indian Law tomorrow from 1:15 to 4:15 mountain time, and before that I'll be doing last minute prep. I expect to have a full recap of any Twins-related draft picks (coming or, much more likely, going) after I get home. Hopefully the Twins don't get ravaged -- there are definitely some guys I hope don't get taken. Be back tomorrow!


Sunday, December 07, 2008

No Surprise

I'm not sure why Dennys Reyes and his agent decided to wait until what seems like the very last instant to decline the Twins offer of arbitration, but it seems they did just that. Reyes is a lefty with a good track record, and should be able to get a nice, juicy contract on the open market. As such, there was no real reason for him to accept the Twins arbitration offer. From the Twins side, while I'm sure they wouldn't have minded getting Reyes back for another year, they really made the offer to protect the draft pick compensation they'll receive when he signs elsewhere. Really, this is a win-win for both sides. The Twins seem interested in adding a reliever during the Winter Meetings, so we'll see if that (or anything else) happens starting tomorrow.

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Boxing Banter

It's a little later in the day than I normally post, but I've been busy studying for my last set of law school finals (Family Law is not as interesting as sports, sadly). Here are some notes from the last few days of fights:

1.) Obviously, the De La Hoya meltdown is foremost on the mind of anyone who follows the sweet science today. As I mentioned last night, I expected this to be a joke of a fight, and I apologize to Manny Pacquiao and his fans for doubting his ability to be competitive against the naturally bigger De La Hoya. There's no reason to recap the fight -- all you need to know if you didn't watch is that Pacquiao won virtually every round and De La Hoya at the end wasn't doing much more than hiding behind his gloves hoping for the fight to end.

There were a few things that interested me about this fight that aren't getting quite as much attention, though. First, HBO weighs the fighters before the fight, showing how much weight was gained from the weigh-in the day before. Stunningly, Pacquiao actually entered the fight last night as the heavier fighter, a remarkable fact in a fight where he should have been struggling to get up to an appropriate weight, and considering that he was actually about five pounds below the max limit in the weigh-in. De La Hoya only gained a couple of pounds from the weigh-in, and while he obviously retained his height and reach advantage, the commentators mentioned several times that they expected him to be at least 10 pounds heavier than he was by the time the fight rolled around. I don't think it would have made much difference -- he certainly wouldn't have been any faster if he had been heavier -- but its an interesting point of curiosity.

I was also somewhat amazed by Pacquiao's approach when he had De La Hoya at the limit. With the exception of a flurry at the end of the eighth round when it looked like Manny really wanted to end the fight, he tended to back off after delivering key blows when De La Hoya was in trouble against the ropes. It's almost as if he couldn't believe that De La Hoya was in as bad a position as he really was, like he was thinking that De La Hoya might have been playing possum. There were several moments when it looked like Pacquiao could have pressed when De La Hoya was defenseless and either scored a knockdown or a stoppage from the ref. I would be interested in knowing what exactly was going through Pac-man's head in those moments. Maybe he already knew that he had won the fight, and didn't want to embarrass De La Hoya any more than he already had. If so, that's a stunning testament to how out of the fight Oscar was by the end.

De La Hoya should be, and almost certainly is, done as a fighter. Pacquiao, however, should have many years of big fights left. It sounds like Ricky Hatton might want a piece of him, and that would be an interesting fight. I imagine Manny will go for whatever is going to net him some major cash. It'll never happen, but last night's result leaves me wondering what a Pacquaio/Floyd Mayweather, Jr. fight would look like.

2.) The undercard for HBO last night was horrid. The first fight, featuring Daniel Jacobs (who fought 12 fights in 2008!), was what was expected -- a dominant performance from the undefeated super middleweight. The other two fights, though, were absurd. At the junior welterweight level, Victor Ortiz very well may have ended the career of Jeffrey Resto by finishing him off quickly in the second round. Resto just didn't get much offense in, and for a fighter who was looking to rebound and prove he deserves promotion by Golden Boy, it was a mess. Even worse, the WBO junior featherweight championship fight between Juan Manuel Lopez and "Argentinian Champion" Sergio Medina was possibly the worst fight I've ever seen. After seeing this fight, I can now say that Punch-Out!'s "Glass Joe" is real, and he hails from Argentina. Somehow, Medina entered the fight with a 33-1 record, but after what looked like one glancing blow from Lopez, he ended up on the ropes cowering. After being knocked down three times in 98 seconds, the referee stopped the fight. Medina's stats -- he landed one punch out of six thrown in the fight. Ouch. I believe it was also Medina who gained a whopping 16 pounds from the weigh-in the day before -- I guess eating like a glutton in the 24 hours before a fight isn't the best plan.

3.) I would have loved to see the Carl Froch/Jean Pascal WBC supper middleweight championship fight yesterday, but unfortunately it wasn't available anywhere that I normally look for fights. The Fight News account of it sounds intriguing, and hopefully I'll get to see Froch's next fight. Froch picked up the unanimous decision and the vacant belt. The WBO interim strawweight title was also up for grabs last night, and Manuel Vargas took out champion Daniel Reyes to win the strap. So far as I know, those were the only major belts that were up for grabs on the weekend.

4.) It looks like two IBF titles will be defended on free TV this Thursday night on Versus, including what should be one very fun fight at the Cruiserweight level. IBF Cruiserweight champ Steve Cunningham (21-1), who hasn't stepped into the ring since knocking out Marco Huck last December, will face Tomasz Adamek (35-1) for the strap. On the same card, IBF bantamweight champ Joseph Agbeko (25-1) returns to the ring for the first time since September 2007 when he defends against William Gonzalez (21-2). For a free TV card, this thing is awfully promising.

5.) Next Saturday features cards put on by HBO, Showtime, and Versus yet again. Unless you're a big James Toney fan, the Versus card isn't anything to shout about this time. There are some interesting fights on HBO and Showtime, however. First, I'm a sucker for Heavyweights, so the HBO main event featuring Wladimir Klitschko (51-3; 45 KO's) defending his IBF and WBO belts against Hasim Rahman (45-6; 36 KO's) is compelling even though it's unlikely to be much of a fight. Rahman, remember, is only getting this fight because mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin was injured while training. HBO's card also features the return of Riddick Bowe after three years absence. Yeah, I'm not quite as excited about that one. Showtime counters with a third match between Kendall Holt (24-2; 13 KO's) and Ricardo Torres (32-2; 28 KO's) for Holt's WBO junior welterweight title. The last fight, in July, was bizarre -- Holt won in 61 seconds with a KO, but he was knocked down twice before getting the win. A third fight in those circumstances makes a lot of sense.


Saturday, December 06, 2008


I figured tonight's De La Hoya/Pacquiao fight would be a lopsided affair. I was right -- but I backed the wrong fighter. De La Hoya just quit after the eighth round, after a fight in which he didn't just lose every round, he lost humiliatingly. The standard round loss is scored 10-9 for the winner unless there is a knockdown. De La Hoya lost at least one round 10-8 despite staying on his feet, and that's an indication of how much punishment he was taking. I'll have more on this tomorrow in my Boxing Banter post, but I couldn't leave it alone tonight. Remarkable result, and Pacquiao clearly showed that he fully deserves the title of the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Goodbye Randy

La Velle reported last night that Randy Ruiz was waived by the Twins yesterday, removing him from the 40-man roster and making him a free agent. While I found Ruiz to be an interesting player (if you remember, I was rather enamored of him during spring training), and I'm glad the Twins gave him a shot at the big league level this year, I also am not upset by this development. Ruiz would not have made the big league roster in 2009 barring a catastrophic series of injuries, and he's old enough that it doesn't look like he's going to suddenly break out as a must-have player. Keeping him around didn't really make a lot of sense, so I support the move.

Of course, if you wanted to read something more into this you probably could come up with a conspiracy theory or two. The Twins might be on the verge of signing Casey Blake and might think Dennys Reyes could accept arbitration, for instance, in which case they would have needed to clear one spot on the 40-man. Or, they might have wanted to make some extra room going into the Winter Meetings so that they had spaces available in the event of a trade that netted them more players than they lost. This is all idle speculation, though; I don't actually think the Twins needed much of an ulterior motive to part ways with Ruiz.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Holding My Fire

The Twins world is abuzz with talk of a possible Casey Blake signing, but I'm not going to comment until and unless the Twins actually pull the trigger and sign him. I will say this -- I think he'd be their best free agent signing of the last few years, by far, but his age certainly worries me and giving him a guaranteed deal for three years is probably a bridge too far in my mind. I guess if I were the GM, I'd probably try to sweeten the pot money-wise on a 2 year deal with either a vesting option or a team option and see if he bites. That's all I'm saying unless and until a deal is struck.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Reyes Offered Arbitration

No surprises today, which was a good thing -- the Twins offered Dennys Reyes arbitration, guaranteeing them either another year of Reyes or a sandwich pick in the 2009 draft. As I said yesterday, this made perfect sense. Reyes has 6 days to accept or decline the offer. Normally I would expect Reyes to reject the offer -- he almost certainly can get a multi-year deal with another team, and that would probably be more desirable for him than sticking around in Minnesota for one year (even if it would be for an arbitration inflated price). However, the slow development of the market this off-season might at least make it somewhat tempting for Reyes to take the offer. I still expect him to decline, but maybe his agent will have to think a bit harder about his recommendation. Either way, the Twins made the right move.


Hall of Fame

One of my favorite events of the off-season is the announcement of the new Hall of Fame inductees, which this year will be made on January 12. Today, the process started in earnest with the announcement of the official 2009 Hall of Fame ballot. These ballots are never exactly surprising -- thanks to the requirement that a player be retired for five years before being eligible, we know well in advance which players will be appearing on which year's ballot. Still, it's a blast seeing the names made official and knowing that the process has begun.

As has been my custom for the past couple of years, I'm not going to post my thoughts on the nominees just yet. With 42 days before the announcement, I want to draw things out a little bit. Here's the calendar for my anticipated Hall of Fame related posts:

December 19: Who I'd vote for.

January 9: Predictions of actual vote totals.

January 12: Reaction to the official announcement.

Until then, if you're interested in my thoughts on how to evaluate a player's Hall of Fame credentials, you can check out this post that I originally wrote in November 2006. My thoughts are essentially the same now as they were then.