Joe Mauer is Awesome

Joe Mauer
Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

Let me just repost what Aaron Gleeman wrote yesterday.  It should be no surprise to anyone that Joe Mauer is my favorite player in baseball.  The guy is  a total stud:

Mauer is such a great hitter that batting .417 or getting on base at a .500 clip during a 19-game stretch shouldn’t surprise anyone, but eight homers and five doubles in 72 at-bats is totally unexpected even without considering that he missed April with an injury. He hasn’t abandoned his patient approach at the plate and isn’t suddenly pulling the ball consistently. He’s still taking tons of pitches and going the the other way with most of the balls he hits, but the fly balls just seem to be traveling a little further.

I’m not sure how to explain it and have no idea whether it’ll last, but holy shit has Mauer been amazing. At .417/.500/.819 he’d be leading all of baseball in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage with enough plate appearances to qualify and he has one homer per 9.0 at-bats after going deep once every 46.8 at-bats coming into the season. Plus, Ron Gardenhire may even leave him in the No. 2 spot that I’ve been advocating for years now after the 20-run outburst with Mauer there yesterday.

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Bill Simmons to be Timberwolves GM?

Two of my favorite things are intersecting today.  My love for The Sports Guy and for the Timberwolves could turn into a marraige as he’s launching a campaign to be the Twolves GM.  The Star Tribune did an interview (via email) with him here.

I personally think he knows the intricacies of the league, the contracts the budgets and the trades to do the job rather well.  Plus he has good NBA common sense. He knows how it works – arguably more than any other journalist.  Here are some thoughts he has:

I would think outside the box, and really, that’s what a team like Minnesota needs from their GM. I would go out to dinner with every [original] Minny season ticket holder — and there can’t be many — in groups of eight or 10 just to let them know that someone appreciates that they stuck with the franchise for this long. I would make a vow that, if we are ever eliminated from the playoffs in any season, from that point on, every home game is half-price and all season ticket holders get a half-price refund on the remaining games so they aren’t paying for crappy tank jobs. I would make myself accountable at every game and via email. I would make a rule that any T-Wolves fan could trade in a jersey of a player no longer on the team and get 40% off a new one. I would have a contest to find two T-Wolves fans to announce all our home games on Timberwolves.com, kinda like Mystery Science Theater but with diehard fans of the team. Etc etc etc. I have a million ideas. Really, you have to be an idea guy to be an NBA GM – you deal with a lot of stuff beyond “Which players should I pick?” And anyone who reads my column knows that I never, ever, EVER run out of ideas.

I would LOVE for this to happen.  One can only hope

Edina Hockey

Growing up in Edina, MN is a great experience.  One of the highlights of the year is the state hockey tournament. If Edina made (which we always did) we’d get the days of school off and everyone would go to the Xcel Center dressed up like maniacs and cheer like mad for the Hornet players.  Hockey there is huge and it doesn’t get any bigger than the state tourney.  You can imagine how happy i was to see Sports Illustrated do an article about this year’s team.

THE BOYS made a pledge, like many 13-year-olds do. No contract. No blood oath. Just a promise. In 2004, five eighth-graders from Edina, Minn., teammates in the youth hockey program, committed to the same dream. They would not merely win the state high school hockey championship someday. They would win it together, for Edina High.

It might not have been an extraordinary pledge in other sports, but in hockey, star players have the opportunity to leave high school for prep schools, junior leagues or the national development program in Ann Arbor, Mich. The idea of playing against better competition, developing more rapidly and enhancing their value to Division I schools or NHL scouts is too seductive for many boys to resist. Stay at your high school and you’ll go to your prom—but you might not go to the pros.

No matter: For kids steeped in Minnesota’s puck culture some things are more important. “My heroes [growing up] weren’t guys who played for the [NHL’s Minnesota] Wild,” says Edina’s Baker, 17, a defenseman who will play for Holy Cross next year. “They were guys who played at the high school.”

Damn straight.  High school hockey is ridiculously awesome.  Go Hornets

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25 Random Things About Me

I got tagged in Facebook to do one of these lists.  I really enjoyed reading some of my colleagues and some of my old friends from high school so i thought i’d put one together.

The rules are that once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged or however many you want. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

Here are my items:

1. I don’t like fruit (with the exception of apples) and i’m happy that my sister’s the same way. It makes me feel less strange.

2. I tend to get around. I’ve been to 49 states and hope to get to the final one, Mississippi, sometime soon.  Since college, I’ve lived in Virginia, New York, Washington DC, Boston (sort of), and now Los Angeles.

3. I have no toenails on my 2 little toes.

4. I was born in NY, then moved to CA, then moved to Texas before i finished my youth in Minnesota.

5. I grew up in Minnesota.  When i moved east in 1996, i felt like a Midwesterner.  I then lived on the east coast for 11 years.  When i moved to California last year, i felt like an Easterner.  After a few years here, who knows who i’ll be.

6. i’ve never broken a bone. I attribute this to my love of milk.

7. I love the extended Lewis Family clan and feel so fortunate that i have such great cousins, aunts and uncles.

8. When i was younger I used to dress up like a ninja and wonder around in the woods with my brother.

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The Dark Art of Rebounding

I would like to call to attention a post written today about my new favorite player in the NBA.  Let me ask you this question:

if you take:

  • Every rookie who has ever played in the NBA since 1946 …
  • Weed out everyone who played less than twenty minutes per game …
  • And sort them by who gets the highest percentage of total rebounds while on the court …

Which rookies over the past 100 years do you think would be in that list?  I’ll give you a hint: 2 of the top 10 are rookies this year.  At number 9 you have Greg Oden. He’s ahead of Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Another 2008-2009 rookie, however, is currently third all time. He’s ahead of Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Oakley, Buck Williams, and Bill Walton (trailing only Clifford Ray and Larry Smith, who were three years older in their rookie years than the guy I’m talking about).  It’s, of course, Kevin Love.

It’s strange considering:

Kevin Love’s total rebounding percentage is greater than his age, which just about never happens. He’s only 20, but he grabs 21.3 percent of the rebounds while he’s on the court.  He’s also smaller and less athletic than a lot of the players he’s competing against for those loose balls. And he’s best known as a passer

Whatever it is, it’s amazing to see Love haul in offensive board after offensive board.  Even more amazing to think that he’s only 20.   The article is good as it describes his mentality when playing.  Check it out and Go Kevin Love and Go T-Wolves!

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New Media – What Will It Look Like

Toby and i have been debating and discussing what new media will look like.  His post today inspired me to lay down some of my thoughts. A lot of my thinking stems from this article in The Atlantic and Fred’s Post about his reading habits.

newspapersdead
The Atlantic post described how the NY Times is dead.  With $1 billion in debt, a $400 million dollar loan due in May and only $46 million in cash on hand, it is going down.  Even with the $250 million it got yesterday, it cannot continue to exist the way it is.  No newspaper can.  My beloved Star Tribune declared bankruptcy last too and that’s the beginning of the trend of all papers.

Why are they failing?  Because the business model is wrong.  They are trying to do too much.  They cover things that are commodities.  It’s as if every online music service tried to build an mp3 store to compete with iTunes and Amazon.  They don’t because those work great.  Newpapers try to cover every story: national and international news, sports, entertainment, etc. The local newspaper doesn’t need to cover most of they reports on today because their paper is not going to be the place where the public finds that information. When user’s get online, all of this news is available in other places, for free and in a better, deeper format.  For instance:

  • National and International news: this is covered by AP, Reuters, and CNN.com
  • Entertainment news: this can be found online (RottenTomatoes) or from national news and reviews from individual columnists (Ebert)
  • Sports: ESPN.com and bloggers will cover this

If a paper is covering any of these on their own, it is a losing proposition.  What’s left? The only thing is see is local news. I think local papers should focus on local news because everything else is a commodity.  Even bloggers will be able to fill the gaps left by major journals.

Toby talks in his post about the Huffington Post which i think is a piece of the puzzle but it’s only interesting because they are trying to be a news portal.  And i agree.  In my mind, most “papers” will shift online and instead of reporting the news, they will be filtering it. And if they don’t, they will die.  They better hurry up too, becuase places like the HuffPo are trying to get there first. You can already see how this is happening.  Filters are already part of people everyday lives the same way a paper used to be.  Technology aggregation and filtering is done at Techmeme, sport aggregation and filtering at ESPN, and news filters like CNN can replace almost any newspaper’s news coverage.

I’m not the only one who thinks this way.  More evidence came yesterday when ESPN announced a partnership with TrueHoop to place NBA blogs in their site because they know that they can’t cover everything.  You can see how techmeme is the “paper” of choice for Michael Arrington from TechCrunch.  He writes:

Image representing Techmeme as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

TechMeme is another four-year favorite. It is the blogosphere’s daily newspaper, and one of the sites we use most often in seeing how stories develop.

Will papers become local news sources?  I think that’s all that’s left for them.  But they better hurry up because local blogs like LAist.com and DCist.com are already attacking this niche and doing a better job than they are.

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You know you're a Minnesotan if…

My sister sent me this and i found myself chuckling.  Instead of forwarding, i’m just putting it up…

You know you’re a Minnesotan if..

  • 75% of your graduating high school class went to the Univ. of Minnesota. (maybe another 10% to Madison)
  • You know more than 1 person who has hit a deer.
  • People from other states love to hear you say words with “o”s in them.
  • You know what and where “Dinkytown” is.
  • “Perkins” was a popular hangout option in high school.
  • You have no problem saying or spelling “Minneapolis.”
  • You get mad at people who think Fargo is in Minnesota
  • Your school classes have been canceled because of snow or cold.
  • You know what Mille Lacs is and how to spell it.
  • You assume when you say “The Cities” people know where you are referring to.
  • You know the 2 sports-related reasons why we hate Dallas.
  • Continue reading “You know you're a Minnesotan if…”

Newspapers, The Wire, Star Tribune, and the T-Wolves

Newspapers are on the way out. My friend Jules has been telling me this for years. I saw two more big pieces of evidence this week.

First, i read the fantastic article in Esquire called “A Newspaper Can’t Love You Back” by David Simon, the creator of The Wire. The article is a tribute to the paper he once loved and worked at and an inside look at how it came to suck so bad. In a piece of the article, he explains how he came to understand that the newspaper was dead. It reads…

Admittedly, I can’t even grasp all of the true and subtle costs of impact journalism and prize hunger. I don’t yet see it as a zero-sum game in which a serious newspaper would cover less and less of its city — eliminating such fundamental responsibilities as a poverty beat, a labor beat, a courthouse beat in a city where rust-belt unemployment and crime devour whole neighborhoods — and favor instead a handful of special select projects designed to catch the admiring gaze of a prize committee.

I have no way of knowing that for all of its claims to renewed greatness, The Sun will glean three Pulitzers in twelve years, as compared to, uh, three Pulitzers awarded to The Sun and its yet-to-be-shut-down evening edition during the twelve years prior — a scorecard that matters only to a handful of résumés and means nothing to the thousands of readers soon asked to decide whether they need a newspaper that covers less of their world.

I can’t yet see that what ails The Baltimore Sun afflicts all newspapers, that few, if any, of the gray ladies are going to be better at what they do, that most will soon be staring at a lingering slide into mediocrity.

I only know, as I hang up the editing-suite phone, that I’ve lost my religion, that too much of what I genuinely loved is gone. I turn to David Mills, my co-producer on the HBO project. He’d worked with me on the college paper, then at The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, The Washington Post. But we wrote that first television script together, and when I returned to the metro desk, he went to Hollywood, never looking back.

“Brother,” I say, “we got out just in time.”

This article is good and i’m a HUGE fan of The Wire and i’m plowing through season 4 right now. If you’re not familiar with the show, check out a season. I recently read a good article in Atlantic Monthly about Simon and how he’s sticking it to the Baltimore Sun. They had a good description of the show, saying..

The show hasn’t been a big commercial success. It’s never attracted a viewership to rival that of an HBO tent-pole series, like The Sopranos or even the short-lived Deadwood. It isn’t seen as a template for future TV dramas, primarily because its form more or less demands that each season be watched from the beginning. Whereas each episode of The Sopranos advanced certain overarching plot points but was essentially self-contained, anyone who tries to plumb the complexities of The Wire by tuning in at mid-season is likely to be lost. If the standard Hollywood feature is the film equivalent of a short story, each season of Simon’s show is a 12- or 13-chapter novel.

Some years ago, Tom Wolfe called on novelists to abandon the cul-de-sac of modern “literary” fiction, which he saw as self-absorbed, thumb-sucking gamesmanship, and instead to revive social realism, to take up as a subject the colossal, astonishing, and terrible pageant of contemporary America. I doubt he imagined that one of the best responses to this call would be a TV program, but the boxed sets blend nicely on a bookshelf with the great novels of American history.

But speaking of newspapers, the second piece of information i was sent this week was that my local Minnesota paper, The Star Tribune, is laying off 60 people (article here). I definitely rely on the paper for Timberwolves/Twins/Vikings scores and news. It’s my lifeline for inside and biased information. Luckily, i have recently discovered a few T-wolves blogs that are going to now be my go-to for sports news. If you’re looking for one, canishoopus is pretty good.

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So long Santana

About 7 years ago, there was a “Free Johan Santana” movement in Minnesota that wanted the Twins to move the young left-handed phenom into the starting rotation. After Santana spent the majority of four years in the bullpen and another half-season at Triple-A, the Twins finally gave him a permanent spot in the rotation to begin the 2004 season. He immediately became the best pitcher in baseball, winning the AL Cy Young by going 20-6 while leading the league with a 2.61 ERA and 265 strikeouts.

In four seasons as a full-time starter Santana went 70-32, winning two ERA titles and three strikeout crowns while capturing a pair of Cy Young awards and deserving a third. It was an amazing metamorphosis. At 21 years old Santana was a little-known Rule 5 pick who showed some promise, at 23 years old he was an ace-in-waiting who dominated from the bullpen or rotation, and at 25 years old he was the best pitcher in baseball. Three years later he’d be the best pitcher in baseball and all of us in MN were pretty damn happy.

This week Johan was traded to the Mets for 4 prospects. While getting 4 unknowns for the best pitcher in baseball seems like a travesty, you can’t really think about it like that. Johan was going to be lost to free agency next year, so the Twins really were trading one season of the best pitcher in baseball for 4 prospects, which really isn’t that bad. The Twins have had great success in getting prospects and turning them into great players – in fact, that’s how we got Johan – so i’m not going to say all is lost

In a perfect world, we’d sign Johan and he’d be the best pitcher in baseball for another 10 years and he’d enter the Hall of Fame witha Twins cap on his head. The world just doesn’t work that way unfortunately, especially when you’re a small market team. So, all i can do is thank Johan for brightening my day every 5 games and wish him well.

I’m just happy he didn’t go to a Boston team, with Moss, Ortiz, and Garnett they’ve done enough.

Patriots Perfect? Don't Talk to Me About iIT.

I am pretty sick of hearing about the Patriots, their quest to perfection and all that.  I am forever destined to curse the entire Boston area for stealing all of the good Minnesotans.  First is was David Ortiz and Doug Mientkiewicz going to the Red Sox, then it was Moroney going to the Pats and Kevin Garnett going to the Celtics.  The final straw was seeing Randy Moss catching passes as a Patriot. It just drives me nuts.  It’s as if Minnesota is the JV team to New Englands Varsity squad.  It just hurts so much

I did like Klosterman’s recent article about the meaning of perfection and how Brady and the Pats relate.  Check it out here.

Go Giants