Saturday, October 31, 2009

Does Boof Bonser Have a Future with the Minnesota Twins?

Boof Bonser is out of options, both literally and figuratively.

Just two years removed from serving as the number two starter in Minnesota’s rotation, Bonser, 28, is in the uncomfortable position of not knowing what his future with the organization may hold or if he even has a future with the organization.

The Twins currently have half a dozen pitchers under contract for 2010 that started twelve games or more last season.

Bonser, who spent 2009 rehabbing from surgery to repair tears in his labrum and rotator cuff, didn’t throw a competitive pitch until a rehab assignment in September.

Additionally, Brian Duensing and Jeff Manship also figure to make bids for spots in next year’s rotation and the team has made mention that they’ll be on the lookout to add a veteran arm or two this offseason.

So where does that leave Bonser?

The Twins could conceivably non-tender him this December, thus making him a free agent.

Given Bonser’s considerable upside and reasonable salary, it wouldn’t make much sense for the Twins—a team that used eleven different starters in 2009—to just let him walk away.

If I were a betting man—and I am—I’d put good money on the Twins giving Bonser a one-year contract and an invite to Spring Training with a very clear message that if he doesn’t pitch his way into the rotation, or a long-relief role in the bullpen, he’ll be plying his trade elsewhere.

Bonser’s descent from first-round pick and elite prospect to potential non-tender candidate has been a rapid one.

Bonser, a high school standout, was drafted with the 21st overall pick of the 2000 amateur draft by the San Francisco Giants. He was assigned immediately to the short-season league and suffered the usual up and downs high school pitchers do at that level.

The next year, however, Bonser had a breakout season pitching for the Hagerstown Suns of the South Atlantic League.

Bonser went 16-4 with a 2.49 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 134 innings pitched. In doing so, Bonser—who was just 19-years old at the time—won the South Atlantic League Most Valuable Pitcher award and earned postseason all-star honors as well.

Although he didn’t match that success in any subsequent seasons, he still rose steadily through the Giants’ farm system and was pitching in Triple-A by the end of the 2003 season.

That winter Bonser was the key-component in the now-infamous A.J. Pierzynski trade that sent Bonser, Joe Nathan, and Francisco Liriano to the Minnesota Twins.

Since then both Liriano and Nathan have surpassed Bonser, both in terms of overall production and value within the organization.

Nathan was immediately given the closer role and has proved to be one of baseball’s best in that role.

Liriano showed glimpses of brilliance and dominance before succumbing to Tommy John surgery which has since rendered him maddeningly inconsistent.

Bonser spent two seasons in the Twins’ farm system before getting called up in 2006. He spent most of the year bouncing back and forth between Rochester and Minneapolis, all the while going 7-6 with a 4.22 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 100.1 innings pitched at the major league level.

In 2007, Bonser began the year as the number two starter behind Johan Santana. Inconsistency was the name of the game as Bonser would alternate awful starts with brilliant starts. When it was all said and done he had another unimpressive line of 8-12 with a 5.10 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 173 innings pitched.

Following that mediocre season, Bonser—at the request of the front-office—made an effort to drop some weight so that he could pitch deeper into ballgames. Bonser showed great dedication and dropped 35 pounds over the winter.

The only problem was that a slimmer, sleeker Bonser still couldn’t get anyone out.

Despite being the only experienced starter in the 2008 rotation, Bonser was demoted to the bullpen by the end of May after going 2-6 with a 5.97 ERA to start the year.

Unfortunately, the results out of the bullpen weren’t much better.

Bonser pitched 52 innings out of the bullpen and tallied 5.88 ERA. He was used mostly in mop-up situations, but appeared to be re-finding his form near the end of the season. He was averaging better than a strikeout per inning and seemed to be getting back on track.

As such, Bonser spent the 2008-2009 offseason preparing both physically and mentally for a bullpen role. He was rumored to be in the mix for a long-relief spot or perhaps a setup role in front of closer Joe Nathan.

Unfortunately, Bonser’s 2009 ended before it had ever really begun. He was diagnosed with tears in both his labrum and rotator cuff and ruled out of the 2009 season early in Spring Training.

Bonser’s loss was a major reason for the early-to-mid-season struggles of the Twins’ bullpen as the team was forced to bring in castoffs like Luis Ayala to fill roles that they had no business filling.

Since then the club has acquired Jon Rauch as a top setup man and saw relievers Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares, and Jesse Crain take big steps forward to solidify their roles in the bullpen.

With the aforementioned overabundance of potential starters, the Twins have plenty of in-house candidates for additional bullpen roles and not nearly enough roster space for all of them.

And that bring us back to the big question: where does that leave Boof Bonser?

As I stated earlier, Bonser is probably too intriguing of an option for the Twins to outright release him, but will he be ready to outpitch the competition this spring?

For his part, Bonser has already shown a lot of dedication and desire to make it back with the Twins.

He worked very hard in his rehabilitation to make it back ahead of schedule and pitch in meaningful games in September.

It was reported that he was showing good velocity and improved command of his pitches during his rehab assignment.

Is it a sign that Bonser has finally found the right mix of desperation and motivation to become the great pitcher he appeared to be in the minors or was this just another sign that Bonser is a great minor league pitcher who can’t make the right adjustments at the highest level?

Hopefully 2010 will be the season that question is finally answered, and when that answer comes, here’s to hoping that Boof is still wearing Minnesota pinstripes.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Despite Best Efforts, WWE's Tag Division Remains on Life Support

Earlier this week, I discussed my displeasure with the WWE’s ill-advised decision to book Big Show against the Undertaker at Survivor Series.

According to spoiler reports this week on Smackdown, Chris Jericho will be inserted into the World Heavyweight Championship match.

I’ve got no problem with the decision to add Jericho to any main event, especially one that projected to be as boring as Undertaker versus Big Show. This does, however, continue to push the Unified Tag Team Titles to the backburner.

This will be the second pay-per-view in a row where the titles go undefended. Prior to that, Jericho and Big Show’s feuds over the gold had taken a backseat to the tag team wars of Degeneration-X and Legacy.

Additionally, the champs and the only team that could be conceived as the number one contenders, Degeneration-X, are both involved in triple threats that were booked to create controversial angles involving team unity.

We’ve all seen the whole “every man for himself” angle played out a dozen times and doing it twice in the same pay-per-view just reeks of lazy booking.

At this point, I wouldn’t be shocked to see an ECW Title triple threat featuring Christian versus the Bushwackers inserted onto the Survivor Series card just to round things out.

Lazy booking notwithstanding, my biggest gripe is about the damage being done to the tag team division.

The tag division has been rebuilding slowly, but surely, since the gold was put on Jericho and Edge this summer. The substitution of Big Show as Jericho’s partner made plenty of sense and has worked to create a dominant heel tag team.

Everyone knows that storylines are better with a face—or in this case a team of faces—chasing the heels for the gold. So it only makes sense that you’d work to rebuild the tag team division with a dominant heel team. Jericho and Big Show fit the bill perfectly.

Jericho—no matter what any Orton fan will tell you—is still getting the best heel heat of any wrestler on any brand in any company, period.

On top of that, he’s still one of the top workers in the business and can seemingly pull a good match out of anyone on the roster, as evidenced by his ability to make the “Legends” match at WrestleMania 25 watchable.

Big Show, at this stage of his career, is no longer considered a real threat to singles titles, but makes the perfect “bully” tag partner. He’s big. He’s mean. He’s perfect for the enforcer role in a tag team.

So the WWE has half of the equation right. They’ve built the perfect heel tag team to carry the gold and re-establish the division.

Unfortunately, the bigger issue is that the writers have yet to put together a worthwhile challenger to create the intrigue and really get the fans begging for one team to take the gold off of Jericho and Big Show.

In recent months we’ve either seen, or been teased with, the following feuds for the Unified Tag Titles:

Cryme Tyme

I think not. The WWE buries these two talented workers as a stale, if not mildly racist, comedy routine for most of the year and then expects fans to buy them as legitimate contenders for the tag titles by giving them a one-month push, before sending them right back into obscurity. Yeah, call me crazy, but I’ll pass.

Batista and Rey Mysterio

This tandem was thrown together roughly a week before the pay-per-view and inserted as a filler match more than anything else. Matches with little build-up tend to be disappointing and this was just that. Batista went head-to-head with Jericho and Big Show in his return to Smackdown and that warrants him and the returning Mysterio a title shot. Yeah, not so much.

MVP and Mark Henry

Please. MVP should be in the midst of a singles push, not slumming it with the WWE’s most overrated big man. MVP seemed in line for a big push when he moved to RAW and—despite the fact that it completely defies logic—so was Henry. Instead, WWE turned them into a tag team with matching spandex. Cute, real cute.


Sure, this one I’d accept, unfortunately, they’ve garnered a grand total of like three wins as a tag team in the last six months and done nothing but serve as Orton’s lackeys and DX’s whipping boys. Additionally, they’re also heels and we all know that heel versus heel feuds tend to be a little stale for the average viewer.


Again, this one I’d accept and this seemed to be the logical course to take things, but apparently the writing crew saw differently. After booking DX as the best tag team in the company for the past three months, they decided to pretty much blow this feud off altogether.

There you have it folks. We’ve seen three mediocre feuds. And we've seen just one established tag team go against the champs. Call me crazy, but that’s not how you rebuild a floundering division.

The WWE made the short-sighted decision to break up the Colons, neither of whom serves much purpose as a solo act, and they have yet to really get behind a push for the Hart Dynasty.

William Regal’s Ruthless Roundtable is still wasting away in obscurity in ECW until we have another “free-agent steal” that lands them on RAW or Smackdown to get jobbed into eternity.

Beyond that the division is still very, very thin.

The rumored Edge and Christian reunion would be a nice shot in the arm, but it would also only serve as a short-term solution because both men are much too talented individually to return to the tag ranks on a full-time basis.

Plus, at the rate we’re currently going the Unified Tag Titles will have gone the way of the Cruiserweight (which should come back just for Evan Bourne), European, and Hardcore Titles by the time Edge is heeled and ready to return.

Here’s hoping that after Survivor Series the WWE can right the ship and continue the hard work of re-establishing the tag team division to its former glory.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Delmon Young: Hit the Ball or Hit the Road

Delmon Young is at a crossroads.

It may seem strange to read that line about Young, as usually you read about aging veterans reaching a crossroads, not 24-year olds who seemingly have their entire career in front of them.

Young is at a crossroads, because at just 24-years old he is on his last legs with his second big league organization. A far cry from the future Young had no doubt envisioned when he was taken first-overall in the 2003 draft by Tampa Bay.

Since that day Young has been called many things.

He’s been called “talented,” “amazing,” “a natural,” and was once even hailed as the “next big thing.”

He’s also been called “lazy,” “arrogant,” “entitled,” and “selfish.”

Which words truly define Delmon Young are not for us to decide, Young will decide that for himself in the next twelve months.

Because his trade value is so low, Young will undoubtedly survive the offseason as a member of the Twins outfield and should be given a bulk of the at-bats in left field both in Spring Training and during the 2010 season.

In that time Young’s performance on and off the field will determine where he goes next.

He has put up serviceable, yet unspectacular, numbers in his three seasons in the show.

He’s hit for averages of .288, .290, and .284. Good numbers, yes, but not what one expects from a former number one pick.

Unfortunately, those solid averages have been accompanied by literally no power. In those same three seasons he’s combined for 35 home runs and 222 RBI.

Those numbers would be acceptable if he were a light-hitting centerfielder or middle infielder, but he’s playing a corner position in the majors and last time I checked, that was a power position.

Power isn’t the only thing missing from Young’s game; however, as his once-vaunted speed has all but disappeared.

In three minor league seasons Young swiped 75 bases. Throughout his entire Major League career, he’s accumulated just 28 stolen bases. In 2009, Young managed merely two thefts in a meager seven tries.

In addition to the uninspiring power numbers and complete lack of speed, he’s also displayed little defensive prowess in his time in the show. He’s looked lost and overwhelmed far too often and, as a result, hasn’t made of use of his oft-praised cannon to throw runners out.

Now here’s the interesting part—despite what the previous 350 words may indicate—I still think there’s hope for Delmon Young.

He has been through a lot in his young career and is still maturing both on and off the field.

He was given free-reign in the Tampa Bay organization to act as he pleased until the infamous bat throwing incident that cost him 50 games in the minors and pushed back his impending call up in 2006.

After that moment he was stuck in a box by the media and no matter how good of a citizen he’s been on or off the field, he’s been unable to escape that box.

After an impressive rookie campaign in 2007, he was swapped to the Twins because the Rays wanted to clean house and didn’t feel they could win with him on board.

He struggled in 2008 to get off to a good start and the struggles lasted much of the season. In 2009, it was more of the same, only he had more off the field issues to deal with when his mother succumbed to cancer early in the season.

Young eventually caught fire down the stretch and played a big part in helping the Twins win the American League Central.

And that leads us to where we are now.

We’ve all seen what Young can do.

Twins fans have been privy to a patient hitter who can attack the ball with a powerful line drive stroke that scouts once compared to the likes of Albert Belle.

Twins fans have also watched as a young, inexperienced hitter flailed at first pitch after first pitch and made mistake after mistake in the outfield.

In all likelihood 2010 will be Young’s last chance to prove he belongs—not only with the Twins—but as an everyday outfielder in the Major Leagues.

As a Twins fan, and a fan of Young, I hope he makes the most of it.

All personal feelings aside, baseball is a business and Delmon Young needs to hit the ball or hit the road.


Big Show: WWE's Go-To Stepping Stone

It was announced on last night’s RAW that Big Show is the new number one contender for the Undertaker’s World Heavyweight Championship.

According to Show, he struck a deal with Smackdown General Manager Teddy Long prior to Sunday night’s Bragging Rights pay-per-view.

The deal was simple enough: if Big Show turned on the RAW squad and helped Smackdown win the inaugural Bragging Rights match, Long would name him the number one contender.

Big Show did his part and chokeslammed Kofi Kingston off of the top rope, leading to a win for the blue brand, and Long upheld his end of the bargain as well.

At the opening of RAW, Big Show let the world know exactly why he’d turned on RAW—as if any of us are supposed to believe that brand loyalty exists anyway—and proclaimed himself to be the next in line to attempt to dethrone the Undertaker.

With that announcement the world let out a collective groan.

You see we’ve seen Big Show versus Undertaker about a million and a half times.

In fact, for those who don’t remember, Big Show and Undertaker squared off last year at Survivor Series in a very forgettable Casket Match.

Prior to that they’d had a confrontation at Unforgiven, a match at No Mercy, a Last Man Standing Match at Cyber Sunday, and following the aforementioned Casket Match they concluded the feud with a Steel Cage match on Smackdown.

The oversaturation of the Big Show/Taker feud isn’t what bothers me. It’s annoying and only further proves that the booking team is struggling to keep things fresh, but it’s a forgivable offense.

I mean seriously, after sitting through some combination of Cena/Orton/Triple H in the main event on RAW for the better part of—well—forever, I can handle a stale, rehashed feud on the blue brand every now and then.

What really bothers me about this is that no one in their right mind believes Big Show is going to win this match.

In the past year the WWE has shown us that it has no problem playing hot potato with the two marquee championships. Since last year’s Survivor Series the WWE Championship has changed hands ten times and the World Heavyweight Championship nine times.

Despite those gaudy numbers, does anyone think Big Show has a chance of walking away from Survivor Series with a third gold belt slung over his beefy shoulder? I didn’t think so.

For all the WWE’s work to build Big Show as an indestructible monster—generally a biannual event—they seem to put just as much work into turning him back into a joke.

He spent the early part of his year destroying Cena and Edge and knocking out wrestlers left and right only to be the guy on his back at the end of every feud.

This is no new thing either; it’s been that way throughout his entire career.

The WWE brought Big Show in to plenty of hype and hysteria and played him up as an unstoppable force. Seven feet tall. Five hundred pounds. Blah Blah Blah.

In the end, he was just another bad-guy for Stone Cold and The Rock to topple on their way to the top.

To this day he’s been given two runs with the WWE Championship; both times he was a transitional champion. Neither of his reigns amounted to anything memorable. He was given a shot with the US Title and the first big run with the ECW Title after the reboot. He’s held tag titles numerous times and that’s about it. Nothing overly impressive in the grand scheme of things.

That’s who Big Show is. He’s a second-tier giant.

The WWE will build him up a couple times a year—after misusing and/or burying him the rest of the time—and stick him in a main event with the hopes that the WWE Universe will jump to their phones to order the next pay-per-view because Big Show could win the big one.

The problem is that Big Show is never going to win the big one.

Sticking him into a feud with the Undertaker for Survivor Series won’t sell any more tickets or garner any more PPV buys. If anything, it’s a lackluster main event that could turn away fans, especially when coupled with a potentially-great, yet equally played-out main event on the RAW side of things.

Big Show may be a main event wrestler in both status and stature, but when it comes to the opinion of the fans, he’s just an unthreatening stepping stone.

A big stepping stone, but a stepping stone nonetheless.

Monday, October 26, 2009

WWE Gets It Right: Kofi Kingston's Time to Shine Is Now

Mark your calendars, ladies and gentlemen.

Oct. 26, 2009 is a day that will live in infamy.

Today is the day the WWE built a superstar in one night.

Tonight on RAW, the WWE gave Kofi Kingston the ball and he damn sure looks ready to run with it.

Since his debut, Kingston has been saddled with a horrible Jamaican gimmick that no one was really sold on, but people were willing to overlook it because of his in-ring ability.

Unfortunately—as we’ve seen with many talented superstars in the past—great in-ring skills and a dead-in-the-water gimmick don’t generally combine to make main event talent.

Kingston has been stuck as a one-dimensional caricature since his debut.

He’s been involved in stellar match after stellar match, but all we’ve gotten from him outside of the ring is a horrendous Ja-fake-an accent and—well—that’s about it.

He’s played the nice guy who is seemingly friends with all the faces and he’s been given a few modest—if unspectacular—mid-card title reigns and short tag title run with CM Punk.

In recent weeks, the announcers have quit claiming that Kingston hails from the all-too generic “Jamaica” and have since been stating his actual (yet equally-generic) homeland: Ghana, West Africa.

Kingston was given a spot in the overbooked, underwhelming 7-on-7 Bragging Rights match at the pay-per-view of the same name and suffered the loss.

That loss, however, meant nothing as Kingston made his mark on the night by intervening in the Ironman Match between then-WWE Champion Randy Orton and John Cena.

Kingston came down to the ring and ran off Legacy with a chair, a seemingly innocuous action in the grand scheme, but the next night on RAW we learned that Orton felt otherwise.

Following an impressive win over Chris Jericho, a beaten and battered Orton emerged from the back and assaulted Kingston following his match and threw him from the entrance ramp to the concrete floor below.

Orton went on to give an interview claiming that he blamed Kingston for costing him the WWE Championship the night before. He also went on to say that he was far from finished making Kingston pay.

Soon thereafter we witnessed an awkward scene where Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes presented Orton with a NASCAR car with his likeness plastered all over it. Orton gazed—perhaps a little too longingly—at the car and the scene faded.

Later in the evening, following a Legacy loss to Mark Henry and MVP, Orton came out and began on one of his patented “I should be the champion” rants when Kingston appeared on the Titantron.

It was then that the WWE officially made a star out of Kingston.

Kingston—now without his awful Jamaican accent—went on to tell Orton off and get the “Legend Killer” irate. He then destroyed Orton’s brand-new car, all the while talking smack to Orton and coming off like a legit main eventer.

Although it was the first-time Kingston has ever been given any “real” segment time, he made the most of it. He came off as a tough, competent and completely legitimate foe for Randy Orton going forward.

It is great to see Kingston finally getting some room to grow as a character and with that opportunity the WWE is giving him the top heel in the company to feud with.

Call me crazy, but it doesn’t get any better than that.

Personally, I cannot wait to see where they take this going forward. After his promo tonight, Kingston looks like a star and showed a mean streak that we haven’t seen from his previously one-dimensional character.

Additionally, I’m very intrigued to see how the styles of Orton and Kingston mesh in the ring. With Orton’s smash mouth aggressive approach and Kingston’s high-flying, controlled chaos they could either go together like oil and water or they could put on five-star match after five-star match, only time will tell.

All I know is that tonight, the much-maligned RAW writing staff made a superstar out of Kofi Kingston. Here’s hoping they don’t screw this up.

Trading Joe Nathan, the Mistake the Twins Can't Afford to Make

The Twins cannot afford to trade Joe Nathan.


Not now. Not later this offseason. Not at any point before next year’s trade deadline, if at all.

Despite the battalion of pitch-fork wielding commentators storming Bill Smith’s gate (read: email account) with calls for Nathan to be jettisoned, it just can’t happen and here’s why:

First and foremost, he’s the only closer we’ve got.

If the Twins let Nathan go elsewhere, who finishes out the games?

Jon Rauch has experience, but fares much better in a setup role.

Francisco Liriano has the stuff for the job, but until he proves he can survive an inning unscathed, he belongs nowhere near the closer’s role.

Pat Neshek is a hot-option around most internet forums, but he has missed the better part of two seasons and is returning from two surgeries, not exactly the best time to put him in high-pressure situations.

Jesse Crain? Matt Guerrier? Jose Mijares? Yeah, I think I’ll pass.

Joe Nathan is the top option in the Twins’ bullpen and despite what one bad outing—against one of the top players in the game—may have people thinking, the Twins can’t afford to give up on a guy who has been neck and neck with Mariano Rivera since taking over as the stopper in Minnesota back in 2004.

Secondly, Nathan’s trade value—despite another typically stellar season—is at a low right now.

This isn’t to say anything about his actual skill or value, but let’s be honest here folks, if the Twins trade Nathan now it will be viewed as a desperation move.

It’s not like every other General Manager in the game quit watching baseball once their teams were eliminated. Everyone saw him implode in the ALDS.

As such, everyone will know that the Twins are trying to unload him in panic move, especially given his unexpected post-season surgery to have bone chips removed from his pitching elbow.

Good luck finding a team willing to ship over top prospects to take on $22+ million in salary for a closer whose previous employer is leery to keep around, despite coming off a season in which he co-won the award for the top closer in the game.

My third and final reason why the Twins cannot trade Joe Nathan is a simple one, the team is better with him onboard.

Since coming over to the Twins in the infamous fleecing of the San Francisco Giants, Nathan has done nothing but produce.

In six seasons with the Twins, Nathan has saved 246 games, made four All-Star teams, become a huge fan-favorite, and has established himself as the heir apparent to the aforementioned Rivera as the best closer in the game.

Sure he blew the game against the Yankees.

So what?!

Closers blow games, it comes with the territory.

Jason Kubel looked clueless and out of his league in the ALDS, would anyone like to ship him out of town as well?

My point is that we all need to just stop, take a deep breath, and avoid overreacting.

If someone had mentioned trading Joe Nathan while he was racking up save after save down the stretch and helping propel the Twins into the playoffs, you’d have laughed in their face.

Wait a few months, let the sting of another first-round exit subside, and then we’ll see how everyone in Twins Territory feels about trading away one of the best closers in the game.

I gotta think that come Spring Training you’ll be ready to go back in time and laugh in your own face for overreacting.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Heaven Knows: Can the Angels Comeback in the ALCS?

Despite what the media would have you believe, the New York Yankees haven’t won their 40th pennant yet.

In fact, after Thursday night’s amazing comeback victory, the Los Angeles Angels are very much alive and kicking in the American League Championship Series.

The Yankees may still be the favorite—especially as the series shifts back to Gotham—but the Angels aren’t done yet. They do, however, have an uphill battle in front of them.

Since the introduction of the seven-game format for League Championship play in 1985 a total of 30 teams—including the 2009 Yankees and Phillies—have jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the series.
Excluding this Yankees team, 23 of the other 29 clubs parlayed their 3-1 lead into a World Series berth.

As one can see, it’s not impossible that the Angels could still pull off a stunning comeback, but history isn’t exactly in their favor.

Here’s a look at the six teams that have rallied back from the daunting 3-1 deficit…

Read the rest of the article at

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tough Break: Tigers' Prospect Sizemore Fractures Ankle

Scott Sizemore, a top prospect for the Detroit Tigers and heir apparent at second base, fractured a bone in his left ankle during Thursday's game in the Arizona Fall League.

As a result, Sizemore will miss the rest of the AFL season, but should be fully recovered by spring training.

The fracture took place when a baserunner took a hard slide into Sizemore’s left leg while his foot was planted to turn a double-play.

The silver lining is that the injury is a “nondisplaced” fracture, meaning that the bone has cracked but remains in alignment. It is believed that his recovery time should be six to eight weeks.

Sizemore, 24, was on a tear in the AFL, hitting .368 with three home runs and nine RBI in his first five games.

General manager Dave Dombrowski, who has already publicly stated that he expects Sizemore to be his club’s starting second baseman next season, was disappointed by the injury, but understood that it is just the nature of the game.

"He was playing very well, offensively and defensively, and feeling really good," Dombrowski said. "But these things happen.”

Sizemore, the Tigers’ fifth-round selection in the 2006 draft, hit an impressive .308/.389/.500 with 17 homers, 66 RBI, and 21 stolen bases between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo in 2009.

Those numbers impressed Dombrowski enough to warrant anointing Sizemore as the second baseman of the future if Placido Polanco, an impending free agent, signs with another club as it is largely believed he will.

Dombrowski also went on to say that Sizemore’s injury would have no impact on potential contract negotiations with Polanco as the club believes Sizemore will be ready to take the reins at the keystone corner in 2010.

"You wish it wouldn't have happened. You'd rather have another month [in Arizona] under his belt,” Dombrowski said. “But he'll be fine."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Good Cuts: Twins’ Morneau and Nathan Go Under the Knife

The Minnesota Twins offseason got off to a dubious start this week as two of the team’s perennial All-Stars, Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan both underwent “cleanup” surgeries.

Luckily both Nathan and Morneau are expected to be ready and healthy for the start of Spring Training after undergoing their respective procedures to remove bone chips.

Morneau had been hampered by an ailing right wrist prior to the end of his abbreviated season due to a stress fracture in his lower back. It was later revealed to be a bone chip and was removed Tuesday by Twins hand specialist Dr. Tom Verecka.

Despite the surgery, Morneau’s offseason game plan remains intact. Rest, rest and more rest. When Morneau was diagnosed with the stress fracture in his back he was told by doctors to rest for three months to allow the injury to heal.

It is believed that both injuries will have fully-healed and allowed Morneau to begin rehabilitation by Spring Training.

Nathan’s procedure comes as more of a surprise to most Twins fans, as few people knew he was having any issues. Nathan, however, knew otherwise.
"It's a case where I knew that [my elbow] was not 100 percent, but it wasn't really a problem until we really got in there and really took a look at it and got a chance to see that these bone chips can do some real damage if they aren't taken care of," Nathan said.

Nathan saw renowned specialist Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., who performed the surgery Tuesday morning and removed two bone chips from the closer's right elbow.

It is expected to take six to eight weeks before Nathan can begin a throwing program and up to three months before he’ll be cleared to pitch off of a mound.

Nathan figures that the surgery won’t put him too far off of his usual offseason throwing routine and could actually prove to have a positive impact.

"I think this could end up being a blessing in disguise," Nathan said. "It will give me a good opportunity to kind of get that time off that I need and give my body the rest that it probably needs right now."

This Guy’s All Wet: The Los Angeles Angels New Good Luck Charm

The Los Angeles Angels had a huge night on Thursday.

First and foremost the Halos got to watch John Lackey—in potentially his last game with the club—pitch at his best and hold the Yankees in check for 6 2/3 innings.

Secondly, the club managed to pull off a huge comeback against the vaunted bullpen of the New York Yankees and force a game six in New York on Saturday night.

Lastly—and most importantly—the Angels finally found a new good luck charm.

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, the days of the Rally Monkey and Thunder Sticks has come and gone.

It is the dawning of a new era.

Now is the time of the “yet-to-be-nicknamed dude who went swimming in the outfield waterfall last night.”

Personally I think that name is a bit long, but I’m sure ESPN or Fox will come up with something by sundown tonight.

For those who missed it, 29-year-old Angels fan, Jose Cervera made his debut in the bottom of the sixth by stumbling across the outfield rocks and diving into the water multiple times.

After each dive Cervera threw his hands in the air like a proud Olympic gymnast.

His debut performance was met with a mixed reaction from the crowd, befuddled looks from the players and a rarity from Major League Baseball, as he was actually given some camera time as opposed to the usual cutaway shots or impromptu commercial breaks.

It seemed initially as though Cervera was bad luck when the Angels lost a commanding 4-0 lead soon after his performance.

By the bottom of the seventh, however, Cervera proved that he is a good luck charm of a more dramatic fashion as the Halos rallied to win 7-6.

Cervera—who shockingly was not intoxicated—was detained in Anaheim’s jail Thursday night.

He has since been released, and faces charges of trespassing, a misdemeanor.

Perhaps the Halos should look into getting this guy a uniform and traveling kiddie-pool to take this show on the road!

Newbies, You’re Outta Here: MLB to Use Only Veteran Umps in World Series

It was unofficially announced last night that Major League Baseball will only be using umpires with previous World Series experience for the Fall Classic this season.

The move comes as a result of numerous botched calls throughout the first two rounds of the postseason.

With those errant calls has come an increased push for Major League Baseball to expand its use of instant replay. Currently MLB only uses instant replay to determine boundary calls in the case of home runs.

Commissioner Bud Selig has been hesitant to expand the use of instant replay, so much so that he’s gone on record stating that he believes the system is working well.

"This goes on every time there's a controversial call," Selig said. "But frankly, I'm quite satisfied with the way things are."

As it stands “the way things are” includes a smattering of blown calls in nearly every series this postseason.

Notable mistakes include: Phil Cuzzi's foul call on a drive by Joe Mauer that was fair by a foot, Jerry Meals' error on a ball that bounced off Chase Utley's leg, Dale Scott's miss on a pickoff and Tim McClelland's call on a tag play, just about anything done by C.B. Bucknor and a host of other blunders.

Bucknor was actually in line to work in his first World Series this year.

However, the combination of blown calls in the Angels/Red Sox series and the fact that he is consistently ranked—by the players—as one of the worst umpires in the majors probably did nothing to help his cause.

"I don't really have any desire to increase the amount of replay — period," Selig said.

What Selig does have is a desire to decrease the amount of bad PR that MLB and its umpiring crews are receiving this postseason.

As a result, for just the second time in a quarter century, baseball will break tradition and the six-man crew will consist entirely of umpires who have previously worked in the World Series.

The crew currently figures to be comprised of longtime crew chiefs Joe West, Dana DeMuth and Gerry Davis, along with Brian Gorman, Jeff Nelson and Mike Everitt.

The rumored crew will undoubtedly be experienced.

West, DeMuth and Davis each have worked three World Series and have been major league umpires for more than 25 years.

Gorman, Nelson and Everitt all have called one World Series, and have been on the big league staff for at least 11 years.

The World Series crew has generally included at least one umpire working the event for the first time. In each of the previous two Series, there were three new umpires on the crew.

If Major League Baseball wants to use this as a bandage for the problem, that’s fine.

This can’t, however, be a permanent solution as the pool of available umpires for the World Series figures to continue shrinking each year as experienced umps retire.

The ideal situation would be for MLB to ramp up its efforts to improve umpiring across the board this offseason.

If that doesn’t happen—and the atrocious umpiring continues—Selig may have to move on from “the way things are” and finally listen to the calls for expanded replay.

Unfortunately for some teams on the wrong end of botched calls in this year’s playoffs, no matter what happens it will be too little, too late.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TBS Hates the Minnesota Twins

As any avid reader of my blog can tell you, I’m a pretty big baseball fan.

To that end, I’m a huge Minnesota Twins fan.

As such, the past couple of weeks have been very exciting. The Twins scratched and fought and clawed their way back from the brink to win the American League Central Division in a thrilling one-game playoff against the Detroit Tigers.

For their efforts the Twins earned a date with the New York Yankees in the first-round of the playoffs.

For anyone who doesn’t follow baseball very closely, the Yankees are $200+ million behemoth that currently employs three of baseball’s top four highest paid players.

The Twins are a small-market team that has survived (and thrived) over the years largely on solid scouting, shrewd player development and spend-thrift tactics.

To get a good grasp on what a David vs Goliath story this really was, one could look simply at the overall payroll of the Twins (roughly $65 million) versus the aforementioned salaries of just the three highest paid Yankees (roughly $75 million).

Anyway, bitching about salaries notwithstanding, the real problem was how badly TBS—the station covering the playoffs—treated the Twins throughout the series.

From day one the Twins were treated like an afterthought. The announcers never gave them any credit or even a fighting chance.

Often times the announcing was so abysmal I had to mute the TV for fear that I’d throw a book or a baseball or myself through it in a desperate attempt to quiet the mindless ass-rambling of Chip Caray.

For their part the Twins played some very tight ballgames, but just couldn’t hang with the Yankees and eventually were swept out of the Division Series three games to none.

All of that I can handle.

I was upset by the Twins’ inability to put games away.

I was upset by the announcers’ inability to not suck at life.

I was upset by the umpires’ inability to see with anything better than 80/80 vision.

What upset me most, however, was that during the decisive game three matchup between the Twins and Yankees, TBS decided to pan the crowd and zoom in on some of Minnesota’s “finest specimens.”

They did the same thing in New York, mind you, zooming in on celebrities like Jay-Z and Kate Hudson or well-dressed business men and hotties in Derek Jeter jerseys.

In Minnesota, we got this:

That’s right folks, of the 54,735 people in the stands that day, the powers that be at TBS decided to flash these two on the screen for all the world to see.

Sure, sure we got the occasional snapshot of some worrisome looking Nordic gals in their pink Joe Mauer jerseys or some wholesome, sideburn-bearing gentleman in crooked TC caps. But it was these two fine specimens that the TBS crew decided to focus on.

Of all the audience shots, these two received the most prolonged screen time; so much so that at my Twins party (which, living in Boston was more of an anti-Yankees party than anything else) the entire populous in attendance broke into uproarious laughter.

Not cool, TBS. Not cool at all.

Monday, October 12, 2009

As Twins’ Season Ends, GM Smith’s is Just Beginning

The Minnesota Twins magical run is over.

After falling to the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series, the players can now head home for the winter and the front-office—lead by General Manager Bill Smith—can begin the work of ensuring the Twins are a contender again in 2010.

The pieces are already in place for a very good ballclub next season.

Perennial All-Stars Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan should all be healthy and ready to contribute.

The patchwork rotation the club marched onto the field in the second half should also be reloaded barring no setbacks for injured starters Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins.

Denard Span, Jose Morales, Matt Guerrier, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer all took major steps forward this season and figure to get even better in 2010.

Undoubtedly, the biggest area of need this offseason is the same as it has been for much of the decade, the infield.

Orlando Cabrera and Joe Crede are both free-agents, neither of whom should be brought back on anything more than a one-year, incentive-laden deal.

Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert and Alexi Casilla haven’t done anything to prove they belong in the everyday lineup.

Super prospect Danny Valencia hit .285/.337/.466 with stops in AA and AAA last season, but may not be quite ready to handle the everyday third base job out of Spring Training.

Smith will no doubt make inquiries about potential trade targets such as Milwaukee’s JJ Hardy, Florida’s Dan Uggla and San Diego’s Kevin Kouzmanoff, but should also be scouring the free-agent market for some potential buy-low bargains.

While other teams are clamoring to sign pricier infield options like Mark DeRosa, Orlando Cabrera and Chone Figgins, the Twins would be wise to take a chance on one or more of these five players who figure to be well within the Twins’ financial means.

Read the rest of the article at BLEACHERREPORT.