Thursday, January 27, 2005
Stick & Ball Guy
First, I want to thank Al Bethke of Al's Ramblings for writing a quick posting on his thoughts on the 2005 Minnesota Twins and some of their players here yesterday.
Today, I want to thank the author and creator of Stick and Ball Guy. I read a number of blogs every day. There are probably eight to ten that I read daily. Then, there are a bunch of other sites that I read a couple of times a week. When I learn of new sites, I like to check it out for awhile to see how well written it is and if the topics capture my interest. Stick and Ball Guy is a site that I learned of a couple of months ago, and it quickly became one of those sites that I read every day. He talks about the Twins, but also touches on other Minnesota sports teams, particularly the Minnesota Timberwolves. But he also discusses other topics from law, to family, and more.
So again, I encourage all of you to check his site out and bookmark it. He was gracious enough to let me ask him a number of questions about his site, the Twins, Wolves and more. I found it interesting and I think that you will too. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
The Conversation Begins...
SethSpeaks: Stick and Ball Guy, the Website, has been around for a few months now. What was it that made you decide to start writing your website?
SBG: Actually, I started the website about two years ago, kind of. I set up my account and wrote two or three postings. And then I quit. I just didn't have the time to do it, with law school and work. But, I had it in my mind that I would someday start up my site again. Then about ten days before the bar exam this summer, I couldn't take the studying any more. So I started the blog again and a stress reliever. I deleted the couple of posts that were there and started over. That last ten days were positively hell. Taking a little time out of each day to relieve my stress was a big help. No one else knew about the site. Then I told my dad about it and for the first month or so, I basically wrote it for him.
The original idea a couple of years ago came from reading the Twins Geek and then Aaron Gleeman. I liked the Twins Geek stuff and I absolutely loved what Aaron was doing. I just wanted to see if I could do it too.
SethSpeaks: You write about the Twins, but also about the Timberwolves, Vikings and many other topics. How do you determine what to write each day?
SBG: This, of course, is one of the challenges. During the Twins season, it's easy. There is so much to write about. And if I go to the game that night, I am looking for angles about that game. I will take a little note card with to write down impressions. I want to have some regular features as well. I have a Friday feature now (ten topics, fifty words), so I know what that column is going to be about every week, at least for now. I am trying to cook up some other ideas as well. When I am riding home from work I think about topics. Or when I am talking to friends, I come up with ideas. Tonight for example, on the way home I formulated the idea completely. Then I went home and wrote the article.
Sometimes I read articles and think I need to comment on this. Other times, I sit down with nothing. Then, I write about whatever comes into my head.
I've written some research columns almost in a stream of conscious approach.
Whatever I think up next is written down. It may not make for the best reading, but at least the reader knows what I was thinking.
SethSpeaks: What is your baseball background? Did you play growing up? Where did you find your love of the game?
SBG: I played summer baseball for 12 years growing up. I remember my first at bat. I was seven, and my ten year old cousin was pitching. He lived in the next town over. I swung at the first pitch he threw and grounded out to shortstop. No tee ball back then. I played all the way through high school.
I am a lefty and I played first base for most of those 12 years. I also played slow-pitch softball for another 12 or 14 years, which isn't baseball, but it's still a lot of fun. Also, when I was a kid, I played a ton of sandlot baseball. There was a vacant lot down the street from my parents' house and a bunch of us boys in the neighborhood played there all the time. We had a little backstop and a scoreboard and we dug in 2 by 4s for bases.
I saw my first Twins game on July 4, 1973. It was the major league debut of Eddie Bane and the Twins had a then record crowd of over 49,000 people. I was hooked on major league baseball from that point on.
SethSpeaks: Who were your favorite players growing up?
SBG: My first favorite player was Harmon Killebrew, of course. My dad and I would listen to Twins games and Dad always talked about "the Killer". He was my dad's guy, so naturally, he was mine. I loved Rod Carew, of course. I was very Twins-centric. I don't remember any other players that I really liked a whole lot -- and those seventies Twins teams were almost devoid of any real good players. When the Twins traded Rod Carew, that was pretty tough. As an aside, I once met Gene Autry after the trade and I told him that Rod Carew was my favorite player. I'm not sure that a whole lot of people when first meeting him said that.
SethSpeaks: What are your general thoughts on this Twins offseason?
SBG: It's half a loaf for me. Not picking up Guzman's option was a very good idea. I could not believe the money he got! Ridiculous! I thought things were going pretty good up until the arbitration deadline for non-free agents.
Clearly for me the number one priority was signing Brad Radke. I sat at my computer as the deadline passed and kept checking, checking, checking for news. When I saw that he signed I was euphoric! And the move to offer arbitration to both Koskie and Blanco (who'd already signed with the Cubs) was great! I was really thinking that the Twins were going to have another off- season like the year before, which, in my opinion was one of the best in the history of the club.
When Koskie signed with Toronto, I was a little disappointed but I understood it. He's an injury risk. He's probably on the downside. Although he's been a very good player for the Twins, he probably can be replaced at third and some of our young studs will pick up the slack with the bat. The Redmond signing was a decent replacement for Blanco. The Castro deal puzzled me. Why two years?
The Jones/Rivas signings, however, sent me completely over the edge. I really thought that they'd sign Joe Randa, play Cuddyer at second and part ways with Jones. Now, they have almost $20 million tied up in the outfield starters and they've got Lew Ford, a man without a position. I think the Jones move shows that the Twins don't have a lot of confidence in Ford. Fine. Jones is a serviceable player, despite his shortcomings. I just think he's not worth the money to the Twins. As for Rivas, I am of the opinion that he can't play.
Finally, there is the matter of Johan Santana. I popped a vessel when I saw that first offer from the Twins. I wouldn't have put that one in print. I think the Twins have to pay Santana. And the money that they gave Jones and Rivas would have been a nice pile to give to our number 1 starter.
SethSpeaks: Do you see the Twins as the favorite, or a contender in the AL Central this year?
SBG: I think they are still the favorite. If the Twins pitching staff throws like it did last year, they'll be just fine. And I think that they can. Plus, I think that Morneau and Mauer in the lineup every day will be a big boost. I am expecting that these guys will take the pressure off of Hunter. Plus, Stewart is a professional hitter and if Ford can approximate last year's output -- that's five quality hitters in the lineup. Plus, I think Jones will rebound. For all my frustrations with him, he's got pop and he can hit, at least he can hit right-handers.
SethSpeaks: If you're Ron Gardenhire, what is your opening day starting lineup? And, more importantly, who is the starting pitcher in that game? Is the Cy Young winner, Johan Santana, the starter? Or, do the Twins go with Brad Radke, so he can pass Bert Blyleven for more Opening Day starts?
I'd put Jones back in left. He's got a nice strong arm, but he has a bad release point. He throws balls into the ground or he air mails them. I know he's going to start Rivas, but I wouldn't. Bartlett is at SS, but truth be told, I don't think he's ready. I saw him play in person when he was up last summer and he was just so bad in the field. But, who do you put there? I suppose it will be Castro.
As for the Opening Day, I start Johan Santana. I start Radke fourth, the home opener. I bring back Santana on his normal rest, for game five. Then, they are back to back. I don't know if Radke cares about such records -- if he does, it might be worthwhile to switch it. What I'm most worried about is not offending Santana. I think he's mad enough now as it is.
SethSpeaks: Where do you stand on the whole Moneyball versus Traditional topic that has been around for a couple of years now?
SBG: I don't think that Billy Beane should have written that book about himself! (Seth Note - I assume, and really hope, that SBG is kidding. We all know that Michael Lewis wrote the book.)
This book has to be the most misunderstood book in the history of sports. I read a column in the LA Times when DePodesta was named general manager of the Dodgers. The author basically told his readers that DePodesta was going to run the Dodgers on the cheap. That's not what that book was about. It was about competing within your means. It was about thinking about solving a problem in unconventional ways. It wasn't about drafting fat catchers and letting all your talent get away. Okay, on one level it was about that. But, if Billy Beane was the GM in Los Angeles, he wouldn't let every good player he ever had get away.
I would say that I believe in what Beane has done. He's taken an approach that has worked in his situation. And he's modified that approach. The Billy Beane philosophy in Oakland is evolving. But, his approach is tailored to his situation in Oakland. And I think that is the point. You look at your own situation -- ownership, market, everything, and you adapt your way of thinking to the situation.
2005 and beyond will be very interesting in Oakland with the trades of Mulder and Hudson. Buster Olney has said repeatedly that Beane has been lucky in Oakland and that it was the big three of those two guys and Zito that made Oakland good and not anything else. We're going to find out, now, aren't we?
I'm betting on Beane, by the way.
As another aside, I listened to the Twins game in which Billy Beane got five hits. He hardly had any the rest of the season, but that one night he was an HOFer.
SethSpeaks: You don't have to get real in-depth because it is a huge topic, but what do you think about all of this steroid talk?
SBG: There's a lot of crap being shoveled around. Testing does not ensure that there is no cheating. Think about it. A lot of these substances aren't even detectable! What good does testing do? I'm also not completely sold on how much it helps players. And I think it's completely hypocritical if they aren't going to test for amphetamines.
I mean, go ahead and pop your stimulants. And don't tell me that old time players didn't take stimulants. It happened.
All that being said, I wish players didn't take steroids. But I am not so na´ve to think that steroids is the only problem.
SethSpeaks: You also talk about the Timberwolves a lot. Kevin Garnett is remarkable. I think he's the best all-around player in basketball, and has been for awhile. But what is going on with the team this year? They can beat Seattle and Detroit this week, after losing to Toronto the previous week. What needs to be done?
SBG: There are a lot of problems. They don't have a center. They can't defend the perimeter. Their guards get beat off the dribble constantly. They don't have a consistent second rebounder.
Offensively they've been a train wreck. I watched a game the other night and charted possessions. No kidding, there were 12 consecutive possessions when KG was on the floor but did not get the ball in the low post. How does this happen? And it's not like he wasn't down in the post establishing position.
What happens is Hudson dominates the ball or Griffin shoots too much or they turn it over.
Garnett's scoring numbers are there, but his shots are way down. He's only taking 17.3 shots a game, compared to 19.6 last year and that was with Cassell on the floor getting his shots! For some reason he is not the focal point on offense enough. He should be taking at least three more shots a game.
Period. And that comes from getting him the ball in the low block area on a consistent basis and early in the shot clock.
You hear a lot about chemistry. I wrote a while back that anyone who is on the floor but not getting the ball to KG should not play. If the ball goes to KG, more guys including the man himself, will get good shots.
SethSpeaks: Do you play fantasy sports? If so, what is their allure?
SBG: I've played fantasy football in the past. For me, the allure of it was beating my co-workers and bragging about it on Monday or Tuesday morning.
Unfortunately, my teams were usually middle of the pack, and so I was usually the recipient instead of the giver of some pretty pathetic trash talk. I am not really a big fantasy player at all.
SethSpeaks: Tell us a little more about SBG. Married? Kids? What do you do when not writing your website?
SBG: Not married, but engaged. No kids. When I'm not working or writing my website, I am usually spending time with my fiancÚ. I like to watch movies, especially old ones and I like to read. Strangely enough, I haven't read a book since law school! My last year of law school, I read about 10 books for fun. Haven't done any of that recently. I do a little cooking once in a while.
SethSpeaks: We know you recently finished law school. That is quite the accomplishment! What was it about law that made you want to go to law school?
SBG: Good Question. I worked as an engineer for a dozen years before I went to law school. I was interested in intellectual property, as I was involved quite a bit in patent work as an engineer. I went to law school specifically to be an intellectual property attorney. I like it. It's pretty challenging work and you get to become acquainted with a bunch of different new stuff. So, that's fun.
Law school was very exhilarating at first. I was very excited to be there.
But, man it was a long three years. I'm glad I did it, but I wouldn't want to go through it again!
SethSpeaks: Anything else that Twins fans would like to know about you, the Twins, your site, or anything in general?
SBG: Just that I think it's pretty cool to be a fan in this day and age. The effort that people like you have put into their websites have made being a fan much more enjoyable. I feel like fans exchanging knowledge and opinion makes the game a lot more fun to follow.
Thank you very much again to Stick and Ball Guy. I would encourage all Twins and baseball fans to check out the Stick and Ball Guy site and be sure to bookmark it! If you have any questions for me, or for him, send me an e-mail.
A COUPLE OF SETH THOUGHTS
Wednesday, 1:00 p.m. - Doug Mientkiewicz traded from Boston to the NY Mets in exchange for minor league 1B Ian Bladergroen. Good deal for both teams. Mets wanted a good defensive 1B, and Mientkiewicz is certainly that. The Red Sox wanted, well, to get rid of Dougie Baseball. In a side note, Mientkiewicz did agree to loan the baseball to the Red Sox for a year.
Twins fans, you will soon be able to vote for the 2005 Twins Hall of Fame. At TwinsBaseball.com, there are 19 former players to vote for. Voting will begin after Twins Fest.
There is a story on both ESPN.com and FoxSports.com (and other places) about Fernando Valenzuela pitching again. He pitched for a team in Mexicali in the Mexican Winter League playoffs. He went 5 2/3 innings. I don't know why it has become a story now. He has been pitching all winter in the Mexican League. Most outings, he has been shelled, but the 44 year old has also had some decent performances. In other words, I don't think he will be making a comeback.
Speaking of comebacks, 44 year old Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd will be pitching for independent league team in Brockton. He says he wants to pitch into his 50s, like Satchell Paige did.
Former University of North Dakota forward Jerome Beasley was released yesterday by the Miami Heat. He had been on injured reserve all season. Last year, he played in just a handful of games for the Heat. He was the Heat's second-round pick (33rd overall) in 2004.
First-time drug offenders in the NFL get an automatic four game suspension. Ravens RB Jamal Lewis made phone calls to set up a huge drug deal, and he got just a two game suspension from the NFL this year. Yesterday, Lewis was sentenced to four months in jail. Of course, I guess he did say he was sorry!
Music fans, check out BrentNet's 2005 Grammy preview. He discusses the nominees and then mentions the songs or artists that he would have selected. And, from there, you need to check out the discussion on the forum.
American Idol is cool! With Gene Simmons and Kenny Loggins as guest judges, there is a little different flavor. The highlight of this week's episodes has to be crunked-out guy who wanted to make sure that the judges could DIG IT! Can you name the contestant? If so, e-mail me.
And finally, it looks like Anna Benson will be getting her own reality TV show. I know I will be watching!
Have a great day! If you have any questions, comments, or ideas for future articles, please e-mail me. I am still checking my e-mail frequently.
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