Monday, July 31, 2006

What Are You Trying to Pull, Acie Earl?

There is a channel on the local Mediacom grid that inexplicably reverts to an all Iowa network, complete with weather warnings for the state and everything. Once in a while, you can see the state get a little nostalgic and play an old sporting event, like an Iowa Hawkeyes football game against the Michigan Wolverines from the 2003 season. Well, last night was no different, and the championship game from the 1995 Great Alaskan Shootout between Iowa and Duke was on. There were a couple things that were unusual about this game. First, Iowa actually lost the game, which means there wasn't a good reason to show this game. Second, I couldn't name a single player from the Duke squad in the couple of moments I saw. I actually recognized Ryan Bowen (I could watch a white kid from Iowa dunk all day) from the Hawkeyes before I picked out Jeff Capel from Duke. Capel is now the coach at Oklahoma.
I went to my computer and shared this conundrum with Steve, who didn't care and started looking up the Duke roster. Capel and Steve Wojciechowski were the only players whose names I recognized. So I started looking for some players from Iowa. If they made it to the finals of the GAS, then they must have had some talent, right? And clearly, I was losing my mind, right?
So I stumbled across a leaderboard with year by year leaders and I checked out 1995 and 1996 and I was able to compile some semblence of a roster. Ryan Bowen was there. Jess Settles was part of the squad in the midst of his half decade in Iowa City, which raised another interesting question. Why does Iowa seem to lead the country in 6th year seniors? Settles was there for about 6 years, same with Luke Recker and Jeff Horner. How is this fair? Is Iowa that exciting that young, athletic men want to spend the better part of the 20s there? It doesn't seem to add up.
So I was looking at the year-by-year scoring leaders to find more examples of the sweet deal the Hawkeyes seem to have set up to keep them less mediocre than at least 4 or 5 teams every year in the Big Ten. And then I found him. Acie Earl, scoring leader at Iowa in 1991, 1992, 1993 and.... 1996! What?! But there it was, in Helvitica font! Acie Earl must have been at Iowa for 7 years! How is that possible? Well, I aimed to find out, so I googled him. And I came across this page, which leads me back to the original question. What are you trying to pull, Acie Earl?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Deadline

In case you may have missed Baseball Tonight over the past, oh, three weeks straight, the baseball trade deadline is on Monday. This time of year feeds me with more stress and excitement than finals ever did, which could perhaps explain why my grades were less than exemplary. I think it has to do with the fact that I am watching someone else, i.e. Terry Ryan, tinker with something I love, i.e. the Twins, and I have no control over it. I so desperately want to go to TR and say, "Terry, don't do anything stupid, but please, for the love, do something!" But as of yet, he is not returning my calls. So I turn to my blog. Here is the advice I would give to Terry if I can get past security.
First, don't fall for the Lew Ford trick again. You know, where a 29 year old rookie comes to the majors and sets the world on fire? There's a reason it took him 11 years from high school to make it to the majors and contribute. Now, instead of trading high, or acquiring a more etablished 4th outfielder, the Twins stumbled out of the blocks, in part because they relied on Lew Ford as a starter three or four times a week. You need more production out of corner outfielders than what is provided by Ford. And now, because of the flash of brilliance that he once provided, the Twins are hanging on to him, way past his peak value, and he is bringing the team down. This current hot streak scares me, because I worry that the organization may actually believe career minor leaguers Jason Tyner and Josh Rabe will be their ticket to the post season. That kind of faith could sink this team down the stretch. It would be more appropriate to find another corner outfielder, especially since Shannon Stewart and Jason Kubel are always a threat to sustain an injury. Even when all the pieces are in place, a good designated hitter could make all the difference in the world.
Don't even get me started on the situation at third. Nick Punto has all the makings of being the next Lew Ford. To be more precise, Punto is a utility infielder thrust into the spotlight who is overachieving. If the Twins don't realize that they still have a need for a corner infielder, I'm going to scream. Oops... seems I got started.
Secondly, the Twins have a wealth of pitching prospects. Don't be shy to deal them. There are 5 spots in the rotation, of which only 4 need to be consistent, and the 5th can merely be adequate. Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano are a hell of a 1-2 punch for the future. That leaves at most 2 spots that need to be filled. Let's assume they will be filled by phenomenal prospects Scott Baker and Matt Garza. So that means the Twins have Carlos Silva, Kyle Lohse, Kevin Slowey, Glenn Perkins, Boof Bonser and Dave Gassner as pitcher that should be available in a deal. And those are just the pitchers. If you package two of those guys together to acquire a needed bat, say a third baseman, you have plenty of leftovers to fill the bullpen and that pesky 5th starter spot for years to come.
Third and finally, don't be offended when people ask for Garza. Or Juan Rincon. Because they will. Believe it or not, you, Terry Ryan, are not the only GM trying to get the better of the other. Sometimes, you need to take chances. They pay off sometimes, and become franchise pitchers, or all-star closers, but more often those chances don't end up paying off. So don't be shy about dealing prospects, even though you think you might be overpaying. Not everyone will agree with you. Keep in mind that you have a new stadium coming, and you need to sell tickets and put butts in seats. The best way to do that is by getting names, sad to say, and not always talent. So go ahead and expand the payroll, give up the prospects for an established player, because, as they say, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

In case you were wondering, my proposal at this point would be Matt Garza for Freddy Sanchez of the Pirates, straight up. I don't think either side would take it, but I would still propose it. - Ryan

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Victoria Times news

I finally figured out how to make links, so please, contact me in any way that you know how to have me link to you.

The relaunch of Is It Sports? is forthcoming, so be very excited. It will be bigger and better.

I'm currently in talks with Harold Reynolds to take over some of my baseball analysis.

That is all.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Recently, local columnist and resident crochety old guy Sid Hartman has become raised an interesting argument in regards to the Vikings from last year. He was of the belief that it is talent and players alone that lead to winning ball games and disregarded the role that a lack of discipline had on the Vikings last year. In essence, he doesn't think that the transition from Mike Tice to Brad Childress will not affect the team next year.
Professional sports are like any other line of employment. To do your best job you need to remain focused. Sometimes, you need a disciplinarian to direct you to keep your eye on the prize. You can't possibly claim that Daunte Culpepper is less talented than Brad Johnson, but Johnson led the squad to a more successful record after Culpepper's injury last year. Johnson, however, was not a party to many of the liscivious acts that the rest of the team was. Both had the same coach, but Johnson, more veteran, is self-disciplined.
Culpepper made it clear he wanted to leave the team after his easy going coach (the second of his career) departed. The party was over. Of course, Culpepper is going to a team led by noted martinet Nick Saban. And I really think that he'll be better for it. Daunte Culpepper has too much talent to fail in this league if he is put in the proper environment. Look forward to an excellent year from him in Miami, assuming his knee holds up.
But to say that coaching and discipline have no bearing on a team's fortunes is a dangerous misrepresentation of the facts. Even more laid back coaches, such as Andy Reid, for example, elicit respect, which is it's own form of discipline. Having players follow the teams gameplan, following team rules helps to develop camaraderie and team chemistry. That is the benefit Mike Tice would have got by having a spine and not trying to make friends on the team.
This next season, Brad Childress will be without the talent Tice had available to him, but he should be able to do more with it. In short, he'll run a tighter ship than last year's "Love Boat". - Ryan

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Baseball Salary Cap

Clearly, from all the comments, my readers are clamoring for my idea for a baseball salary cap. One reader I don't have yet, which I wish I did was Bude Selig, because this will be a good post for him. Since I suspect he's the type of guy who sits alone in his Jockeys, Googling himself at night, Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig Bud Selig. There. Now he should stumble across my humble little blog. In any case, here's the plan I have for a baseball salary cap.
First off, I felt I needed to take into account a few things. For example, baseball, more than most sports, is steeped in tradition and applauds loyalty. Secondly, there will still be teams that can't afford to pay as much. It's simple economics. Those are the two mitigating factors we need to take into account as we delve into this proposal.
The first point is that this would only be a partial salary cap. There would be a fixed number, but it would be a more complex formula to arrive at the cap number than the other majore sports legues institute. The key to the formula, is that it takes into account player loyalty.
Lets say, for example, that it's a contract year for hypothetical player Rico Gomez. Rico plays for the Devil Rays and has for 5 years. So, the 5 years, in theory, would take 50% of his salary off the books against the salary cap. The Devil Rays could offer him 2 million, knowing that only a million would count against their cap number. The Yankees, if they wished to steal Mr. Gomez, would take a 2 million dollar hit to create an equitable salary. That would definitely deter the Yankees from grabbing any player they fancy.
This would lead to a couple of things. First, it would mean entire franchises down to the minors could be evaluated better, since players wouldn't be as apt to switch teams. Also, players that switched teams of their own volition would be doing so for the right reasons, because they would very often be forced to take salary cuts to switch teams.
So I think this is a sound plan. Please feel free to let me know what you think of it, and we can debate this plan in the comments. If I have time to read all of them. - Ryan

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bad Baseball

If you want to watch bad baseball with overpaid players showboating their way through the game, tonight is the night. The MLB all-star game is being played in Pittsburgh tonight, and the Pirates faithful will see what it's like to see a bunch of underachievers on both teams instead of just their own. Some of the best players in the league will go out and flouner around for an inning or two until they are replaced.
So why is baseball with such talented players so undesirable to watch? Because they treat the game like its a battle between two little league teams. Everyone gets a chance to play and winning's not what's important. Since deciding that hte game should count for something, this has been thrust to the forefront. Why should it count, the players want to know. I'll tell you why it should count. Because the fans voted you in to the game so we could watch great baseball, not a long weekend with rich people.
Ever since the 70s, it seems, since team loyalty deteriorated into an east coast money grab, the All-Star game has turned into a glorified softball game, and the Home Run derby is nearly soulless. The managers don't seem to pick guys that will help them win, but rather guys they want to hang out with, it seems. Take Ozzie Guillen's preponderance with White Sox players this year. He likes his players, which is fine, and he wants to hang out with the guys, which is fine. Unless you want to see some players from teams other than Boston, New York or Chicago trying their hardest in this game.
The best, easiest fix for this is the team and league loyalty. A salary cap, catered specifically for baseball, would be the best for the league, and for this game specifically. And now, you have another post to look forward to in the future. Not tonight though, since I have to watch some TV. Last Comic Standing is on. - Ryan

Friday, July 07, 2006


It's been another heated debate between Celine Dion and the Three Rivers Park District rages on. And now, just like a good editor, she's attacking people who write to her in the letters to the editor. For example, one woman wrote saying that she thought a dog park would be "a wonderful idea". Celine responded by saying that she missed the point. An ally of Celine's stated that the intersection in question was not a particularly dangerous one (proving that an administrative body is has a better grasp on a town than a bitter newspaper editor) and the appeal not to open the dog park was shot down. So that is the biased letters to the editor section. Let's see how Celine reported the news.
"Three Rivers Shoves it Forward" So its nice to see that Celine didn't interject any part of her personal opinion into this dog park issue. In this section, Celine gives us two dated segments concerning the dog part, the first involving a city council meeting saying that they had discussed with the park department the safety at Kochia and Highway 5, which until the subject had been brought up had been a safe intersection, except, perhaps, for a few bad drivers. A $250,000 project on Highway 5 from Victoria to Norwood was in the works, but 1) for a stretch of road that long, a quarter million is reasonable, so the Park shouldn't feel guilty and 2) IT's NOT A DANGEROUS INTERSECTION! and finally 3) the intersection isn't the Park Commission's problem in the first place. The second dated section was by Celine's good buddy, councilwoman Kim Roden, who she has protected from unflattering press in the past, and it was a letter directly to the Parks Commission after Celine didn't get her way.
Here's what I think happened. Ms. Dion is unhappy more with the growth of our beautiful town, and she wants things to stay exactly as they have been. She wants the town to be exclusive to only Schmiegs, Diethelms and Notermanns and other conservative Catholics. She wants everyone in town to believe exactly what she does, so she can be the voice of the people. The sad thing is, Celine still is the voice of the town's only newspaper. I hope that people can figure out the unbiased pros and cons of issues in Victoria. Or better yet, since I don't want to get all activist, take your dog for a walk and say hi to Celine for me. - Ryan

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

But Wait, We're Still 9 Games Out!

So, who is the most frustrated team in the majors right now? What about the Twins who have just finished an audacious streak of 21-2 over 23 games, but the leader of the division, the Tigers, have had as nearly a remarkable run, and the Twins remained 9 games out. Or how about the White Sox, who went on a simlar run, but have a much closer view of the Tigers' backside? It's neither. The most frustrated team right now has to be the Cincinatti Reds who have watched the first place St. Louis Cardinals stumble of late, including an 8 game losing streak but still can't find their way atop the division because the Reds can't seem to get their act together either, and Cincinatti remains in second place.
The fact is, however, that I'm a homer and I'm going to talk Twins. They've been pretty hot lately and Terry Ryan's plans may have changed from selling to not buying at the trade deadline. If I were GM, however, I would be looking at my teams strengths and weaknesses to figure out what to do, if not for this year, then for next year. With the emerging production from young players, it's clear that the Twins will be competitive next year as well, so dealing off Torii Hunter or Shannon Stewart isn't a great idea, as they can still produce. Lew Ford, on the other hand, may be a different story. More on that later. Let's look at the squads strengths and weaknesses. and figure out what the team needs to do.
Outfield - The Twins have five solid players in the outfield right now, in Hunter, Stewart, Ford, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer. It's clear that one of them should be a DH, with the other three playing every day. You get the best range with Stewart, Hunter, and Ford, the best arms by adding Kubel or Cuddyer and replacing Stewart and the best bats right now are Stewart's, Kubel's and Cuddyer's. Well, Hunter is a franchise player, whether or not anyone in Minnesota believes it. Since Kirby Puckett retired, he's the only player voted into the All-Star Game from this squad. Dealing him sacrafices the casual fan (whom the Twins hope to attract with the new stadium) as well as any reputation for loyalty. Besides, he's not bad in the field. That makes Ford the odd man out here.
The middle of the lineup - Starting with Joe Mauer batting third, who leads the majors in average, then followed by any combination of Justin Morneau, Cuddyer, Hunter and Stewart has been productive, although I would rather see Stewart batting second behind Luis Castillo to give Mauer a few more shots at some RBI. Nevertheless, the Twins shouldn't be in the market for a feature bat.
Pitching - There are some brilliant pitchers on this team, including All-Star Johan Santana, potential All-Star Phenom Francisco Liriano and closer Joe Nathan. Juan Rincon is serving well in the set up role and Brad Radke, Carlos Silva and Jesse Crain appear to be coming around. The Twins are almost assured 3 wins for every 5 games for the rest of the season.
Consistency - With as much youth on this team, its tough to get any consistency out of this squad. The biggest problems stem from young pitchers in the 5th rotation spot as well as a continuing issue at third base.
The top of the order - Again, this is an easy fix, as I've already mentioned. Simply replacing Nick Punto in the two slot with Stewart. But then, the end of the lineup would be weak, which is another problem.
Pitching - After Santana, Liriano is yet to face the challenges of an entire season, I don't yet trust Radke after his auspicous start and there is still that pesky problem of establishing a fifth starter. There aren't any inspiring middle relievers, unless you fully trust Kyle Lohse or Crain, which I don't think the Twins organization does.

So what does that leave the Twins with, in terms of deadline moves? There is only one to be made, and to whom for what depends on the course of the season. The Twins haven't been good at trading assets in there prime for help at present or down the road, but I think this is the season to do it. Lew Ford is only two years removed from his breakout year and has several good years left, although at nearly thirty years old, he doesn't stand to improve dramatically. Also, if the Twins falter, Ford would make an excellent fourth outfielder for a team in contention, (Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Rockies come to mind) and if the Twins do stay hot and get in the race, he would make a good chip to trade to, say, the Devil Rays for Aubrey Huff, a great second half player who conveniently plays third base.
There will be some grumbling that "we love Lew Ford" and, "Lew ford is a good player, why trade him?" But, here's the problem. If we want good players, unless we're trading with the Knicks, we have to give up some assets. So in short, trading Kyle Lohse or Rondell White doesn't sound likely, as there aren't many teams in the market for an inconsistent head case or someone whos's just plain broken. So don't look for those guys to be traded, but more likely released or placed on waivers some time this season.
And from my end, I would appreciate it if we acquire a third baseman who could stay with the team for a while. I am of the opinion that an established player is better than a prospect, going back to that old cliche a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. But again, I'm not the GM. We'll have to see what Terry Ryan does in the next month. - Ryan