Wednesday May 19, 2004
TWINS 3 JAYS 5
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORT
PERFECTION - Randy Johnson Throws Perfect Game against Atlanta.
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
Author of The Price of Winning
Editor and Writer at Baseball Interactive
Recently, I had the chance to chat with an incredible writer. A couple of months ago, John Strubel e-mailed me and asked me if I would be interested in being a Featured Writer at his baseball website, Baseball Interactive. I had to check out the site first, but within minutes of going there, I was absolutely thrilled to be a part of it. Since then, I have had a few chats with John and found out that he is very knowledgeable about baseball.
But John is a busy man. He is a radio personality and has worked a number of years in minor league baseball. Now, he is very busy writing a book called The Price of Winning. Read the below dialogue for a better description of what it is about. Scandal and controversy surrounding a Division III hockey team and the community it called home. I know that I will definitely be purchasing a copy when it is available.
So, we had a nice chat, and it is below. I hope you enjoy it. Be sure to check out Baseball Interactive as well as John's The Price of Winning site. If you have any questions or comments, e-mail me.
THE CONVERSATION BEGINS...
SethSpeaks: Let's start with the website. You started Baseball Interactive. How long has the site been up, and what made you decide to do it?
JohnStrubel: The site launched in July 2003 in beta version. I tested different content pieces to see what users were responding too. I knew from the outset I did not want to have a pure "blog" site. I wanted more thoughtful, well-researched writing. So I found a small group of writers on the web and asked for input. I started it because I have a deep passion for baseball.
SethSpeaks: Where did that passion come from? Were you always a big baseball fan?
JohnStrubel: Yes, since I can remember really. I can't remember a lot of games until I was about 7 or 8, but I do remember opening my first pack of baseball cards at age 5 (they cost 10 cents and included a really awful stick of bubble gum that tasted like cardboard coated with sugar). My first card was Rennie Stennett (Pirates second baseman). My first game was the Mets-Reds at Shea Stadium in 1972. I saw Willie Mays play centerfield for the first and last time live.
SethSpeaks: Holy Wow!!! To have seen Mays in person would have been incredible!!! How long did you collect cards? Do you still collect them? And yeah, that gum was bad!!!
JohnStrubel: I collected cards until I was in my mid teens maybe. Baseball card collecting is totally different now, it's a business not a hobby. I still have all my cards though.
SethSpeaks: Yeah, card collecting is definitely not the same as 20 years ago when I started too. I still have mine too. They'd be hard for me to give up. Back to the site, you provide so much information. From featured writers to updated standings, great links and more. You also write. How do you decide what to write, and how frequently do you write yourself?
JohnStrubel: Well, it's a balancing act. I would love to write more than I do, but it's just not humanly possible. I try and write two pieces a week. For me, the most important tool for a "writer" is in the research, fact-finding. It's time-consuming. Once that is compiled and organized the actual writing process is fairly natural. I went to college for journalism and was a sports editor, so I've done this already. The balancing comes between writing and editing the site. I try and keep my topics moving to the rhythm and beat of the sport. I'm not much for columnists, I like stories, interviews, analysis
JohnStrubel: One last thing on that last question. The first thing I learned as a writer was to stay out of the way of the story. Keep a healthy distance and remain unbiased. Too much writing today comes as much from the ego of the actual writer and not the storyline. I don't like when journalists cross the line on a story and infuse their opinion.
SethSpeaks: Excellent point. Just tell the story and don't add too much opinion. Let the facts speak for themselves. Speaking of stories, interviews and research, you are writing a book which should be on shelves in September, called The Price of Winning. You went to college at SUNY-Plattsburgh, and in the late '80s their hockey program had some success, but it ended up being tainted. What made you decide to write the book, and why now?
JohnStrubel: Well, in short, I was at the State University of Plattsburgh for two years (1985-1987). I was the assistant sports information director and sports editor for the college paper when the hockey program won their first-ever Division III NCAA title. Plattsburgh is a small town of 20,000+ and another 6,000 college students. So, like it or not, the college is a huge revenue source for local business. The local community is enamored with the men's ice hockey program. So, when they won the title, the city was turned upside down. One problem: they college - and the local community - were violating NCAA rules.
JohnStrubel: Free housing, free meals, etc. This was in 1986-87, before many of the Division I NCAA infractions started coming down and hitting the national headlines.
JohnStrubel: In the weeks after the team won the title, the NCAA received an anonymous letter from someone within the college, detailing the violations. The infractions committee put together an investigative team and embarked on a three-year investigation which resulted in the 1990 ruling.
SethSpeaks: It just seems like a very timely book because of all of the incidents that have happened in the past couple of years in the NCAA.
JohnStrubel: Plattsburgh was officially stripped of their title and all records were expunged from the NCAA record books.
SethSpeaks: That had to be a shock to the town and the college, beyond just the hockey program.
JohnStrubel: The whole ordeal rocked the college and the city of Plattsburgh.
JohnStrubel: I don't know if you've ever read the book Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger? It's about a high school football program in Odessa, Texas. The team and school mean everything to the small town. The players are treated like they're pro athletes. It was a very similar scene in Plattsburgh.
SethSpeaks: I have heard of the book, haven't actually read it.
JohnStrubel: There is a book idea stewing as a result of my book and the Bissinger book. It deals with the psychology of student-athletes (high school and/or college). When their athletic career ends in school, and they are no longer treated like royalty, there is a rude awakening when they face the "real world." Athletes aren't prepared for it, they fail because they donít have the skills or the backing and support from those who carried them in their playing days. Anyway, let me go back and answer your research question here ...
SethSpeaks: that sounds like a great book too... I completely understand that situation!!!
SethSpeaks: How long have you been researching this for the purpose of The Price of Winning? How much time have you spent interviewing those involved?
JohnStrubel: I researched and interviewed since April 2001. I drove to Boston ... and back to Plattsburgh (twice), to conduct face-to-face interviews. I contacted and interviewed 40-50 former players, local community members, boosters, administration, former and active coaches and NCAA investigators. Along the way, I had two major breakthroughs which proves that research and persistence will eventually win out and give you the story. Those two breakthroughs are fully documented and in a safe place with the sources remaining confidential. I can tell you this, I do identify the writer of the anonymous letter(s) - there were actually three, I will publish the letters and identify them in the book. I will also identify the other source and a ton of very detailed conversations in the book.
SethSpeaks: Holy wow! Now I want to read the book now!!! Excuse my lack of knowledge, but when you decided to write the book, where did you start? Did you have to discuss it with a publishing agency, or do you write the book and send it somewhere?
JohnStrubel: The foreword and the first two chapters are written and have been sent off to my editor for review and direction. The book may get pushed back to Spring '05 so I get it just right.
SethSpeaks: That makes sense. I really think you've got a great story here and with all of the research and information you've done, I can see it being sold in high volumes!
JohnStrubel: The final documents I received from a source arrived at my home via Federal Express last winter. My hands were shaking so bad I could barely open the package. It was a rush to have documented evidence on paper.
SethSpeaks: I can only imagine!!! I know you've got the website for The Price of Winning, can people pre-order copies at this point, or where will it be distributed?
JohnStrubel: Not yet. It hasn't gone to the publisher, obviously. When the final edits are complete and shipped for publication, I can take pre-orders on the web through any major book vendor - Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, etc. All the vendors are listed on the homepage at PriceofWinning.com (by the way, that is the book title)
SethSpeaks: Well, good luck with the rest of the book writing process! I know I'm looking forward to reading it!
SethSpeaks: So, in your Inside Pitch article from this weekend, you discuss Carlos Beltran. If you were to venture a guess, where and when do you think he will be traded?
JohnStrubel: I think there is a swell of activity going on in the underground world of baseball already. Don't let the media denials fool you. He is a star playing in a small city, on a losing team. He will be moved when someone offers the Royals what they are looking. He will be gone before July 31. When? Who knows. But the Royals will not let him slip away as a free agent without getting anything in return.
JohnStrubel: "what are they looking for"
SethSpeaks: They will certainly get a package of prospects for him, I would think. A package including at least one pitcher. Whoever offers the best package will probably get him.
JohnStrubel: Exactly. You can narrow it down by identifying the "money" teams that are in a pennant race and have a strong farm system to move some guys. Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox - and, depending on how they continue to play, San Diego.
SethSpeaks: The Yankees have nothing though other than Dioner Navarro and Robinson Cano, and I donít think that is enough. Would the Dodgers part with Edwin Jackson and more to get Beltran?
JohnStrubel: If they're in the pennant race, I bet they would. Beltran has 8, 10, 12 very productive years ahead of him
SethSpeaks: I think so too.
SethSpeaks: Speaking of books, did you read Moneyball?
JohnStrubel: Yes. Twice
SethSpeaks: So, obviously you liked it. What is your take on the whole SABRmetrics versus traditional, old-school thinking?
JohnStrubel: I'd say it was compelling. I like reading "insider" books on subjects I am intrigued about. My first was when it was released and the second read was more of a skim and highlighting. I used to it to re-fresh myself with the tactics used around the draft, it's good background with the June draft just a few weeks away.
SethSpeaks: I love the draft and hearing about the players, stuff like that. You added a 2004 draft page to Baseball Interactive with links on anything involving the draft or anything about it. Is Jered Weaver going #1? Is that a given?
JohnStrubel: I'm not sure if it's a given, but he will certainly go 1-2-3. There are a lot of great arms this year. Weaver has the most favorable scouting report. I would think it depends on a teamís needs.
SethSpeaks: that's true... OK, back to your "roots", did you play ball growing up?
JohnStrubel: yes but I was too small ... I graduated high school 5'5." I grew to 6 feet tall between high school and college.
SethSpeaks: what positions did you play? Did you play in college?
JohnStrubel: I played more stickball in the summer than you can imagine. We would play with a tennis ball and a broom stick. When my mom was working during the day I would saw off the end of her kitchen brooms and use them as bats, she would get so mad at me.
SethSpeaks: that's awesome!!!
JohnStrubel: In high school I planned on being a baseball statistician. This was long before the internet or technology. Baseball stats - even in MLB - were compiled by hand. When I was 15 I bought a book called "The World of Sports Statistics" by Arthur Friedman (team statistician for the NY Mets). I knew then, this is what I was put on earth to do.
JohnStrubel: I would compile day-by-day stats at home. I designed my own charts and compiled the stats from baseball box scores in the daily papers. I would spend hours, upon hours, transcribing, cross-referencing and filing the info. I was a very quiet kid, considered a sports geek in school.
SethSpeaks: that is the coolest... I thought I was the only one who thought about that kind of stuff!!!!!!!!!
SethSpeaks: That was my next question... which writers did you admire or read growing up? Who were your favorite players growing up?
JohnStrubel: I didn't have any writers that really influenced me until college. I was enamored with Mets announcer Bob Murphy. I wanted to be in the press box. My favorite player was Lee Mazzilli when he was a Met in the early 80s. He wasn't a great player, but he was the only thing the Mets had.
JohnStrubel: Here's an interesting note: when I found out Arthur Friedman resigned as the Mets stat guy, I boxed up all the stats and had full intent to ship them to Shea Stadium to show them, despite the fact I was 16, I could jump in and do the job. My mom knew how much time I spent doing that stuff and talked me out of sending it. She told me, "I will send that for you if you really want me to, but you realize, you will never see them again." That scared me, so I never sent them.
SethSpeaks: I'd be scared to lose it all!! Did you grown up in NY?
JohnStrubel: Upstate New York, a small city called Mechanicville, just outside of Albany, the state capital (about 2 1/2 hours from Shea Stadium).
SethSpeaks: So, where are you located now?
JohnStrubel: I live in Charleston, South Carolina now. I spent the last 16 years as a radio personality. I bounced me from city to city for a while. Charleston Riverdogs (Class A for TB Devil Rays)
JohnStrubel: I worked for Mike Veeck for three years as a public address announcer.
SethSpeaks: What was working with Mike Veeck like?
JohnStrubel: He is a brilliant guy. I remember I first meant him when he took over the team in 1997. I was producing his radio commercials, and I took him aside in the studio and told him my dream was to work in major league baseball. He grinned, looked down at the Cal Ripken jersey and looked me in the eye and said, "call me next week." It was about two weeks before the season opener and a brand new stadium they built. I called him and he made me come into the office and do a live audition for the PA announcer job. I sat in his office, with a script and read aloud. It was the strangest thing I've ever done for a job. He put me in the booth with the PA guy who had the job at the time. They gave me a wireless mic and let me run through the stands and mess with fans during the half innings while the PA announcer did the standard lineups and batter up stuff. After a week, Veeck cut the other guy loose and dumped the job on me. I spent three year doing it.
SethSpeaks: Wow!! How fun! but what an opportunity!
JohnStrubel: In my third year as a PA guy, Veeck offered me a play-by-play job in Sioux Falls. It was tempting, but I couldn't do it. I had a house, a wife, I wasn't some 19 or 20 year old kid who could throw his clothes in the back of a car and go ... I just had to say no.
SethSpeaks: Ah yes, the Xplorers!!! Gotta love the Northern League!
JohnStrubel: As you probably know, minor league baseball pays like, well, you know ...
SethSpeaks: yeah, I know...
JohnStrubel: It's a 9am-12midnight/day job during homestands You get to do play-by-play during the game, fill programs with stat sheets in the office during the day and roll tarp if it rains ... uh, no thanks! See, as PA guy, during rain delays, I would take the wireless mic out to centerfield and get the 50 or so diehards, drinking beer under the awning to cheer me on as I sprinted to the infield and dive head first on the tarp and slide through the puddles from second base to home plate
SethSpeaks: ok, John, I appreciate you taking the time to answer some questions. I really enjoy the Baseball Interactive site and wish you well as The Price of Winning comes together!
Again, if you have any questions for me or for John, Send Me an E-mail.
TWINS TOP BLUE JAYS
TWINS 3 BLUE JAYS 5
Last night, the Twins just were unable to get enough timely hits. By the third inning, Carlos Delgado already had an RBI double and a sacrifice fly, giving the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead. Miguel Batista was great for the Jays though. He had given up no hits through the first five innings. In the 6th, the Twins finally got to him though. Matthew Lecroy singled in Luis Rivas and Michael Ryan to tie the game.
However, in the bottom of the 6th, the Jays struck back against Johan Santana. Santana loaded the bases and then plunked Dave Berg in the ribs to bring in the go-ahead run. Joe Roa was brought in and gave up a 2-run double to Reed Johnson to give the Jays a 5-2 lead.
Things got dicey in the top of the 9th. Terry Adams came out for the save. Jacque Jones singled. Lew Ford walked. And Michael Cuddyer scored Jones for the 3rd run. Luis Rivas executed a sacrifice bunt, moving the runners to 2nd and 3rd. However, Michael Ryan and Cristian Guzman struck out and the Twins lost the game.
Just a couple notes...
Matthew Lecroy was 2-4. He had two of the team's five hits.
Shannon Stewart sat out because of his plantar fasciatis. I almost wonder if they should just put him on the disabled list, just to keep him from doing too much.
Doug Mientkiewicz had to leave the game in the 7th inning with a lower back strain. Hopefully he won't have to miss too much time. However, if they do need to DL him, maybe Justin Morneau would finally get called up!
Miguel Batista is a very underrated pitcher. With Arizona, he was frequently moved between the starting rotation and bullpen, yet, when given innings, he was very productive. He was also hidden behind Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson (and Brandon Webb last season).
Peter Gammons most recent article is about the Twins organization, Terry Ryan and their success. It's a great article.
Rick Helling is scheduled to pitch on Thursday for AA New Britain. The Twins have decided that there is not a place for him on the Twins 25 man roster. They would like him to continue pitching in the minors in case of an injury. However, they have given him and his agent the opportunity to talk to other teams as a free agent.
This morning, the Twins take on the Blue Jays this afternoon at 11:30 The game is on ESPN, their Wednesday afternoon game. Here is the pitching matchup:
Wednesday - 11:35 - Kyle Lohse (1-3, 5.93, 1.84, .313) vs. Justin Miller (1-0, 3.38, 1.33, .273)
Any thoughts on the Twins? E-mail me.
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORTS
Redwings 4, Norfolk 3 - Terry Tiffee hit a grand slam to win the game for the Redwings He was 2-4. The team had just three total hits and four walks, but still won. David Gassner got another win to improve to 6-1 with a 2.36 ERA. He went 5 innings and gave up 5 hits and 2 walks. He struck out 4 and gave up three runs. It wasn't his best outing, but it was enough for the win. He did get great support from the bullpen. Adam Johnson and Brent Schoening combine for three scoreless innings before Jesse Crain finished the 9th for his 8th save.
Michael Restovich is hitting just .260 but he does have 10 homers and 28 RBI. As usual, his problem is the strikeout. In 163 plate appearances he has 9 walks and 33 doubles.
NEW BRITAIN ROCK CATS
GAME 1 - Rockcats 1, Portland 4 - Henry Bonilla started and gave up 11 hits, a walk and 3 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. 1B Garrett Jones went 2-3 with a double. Rob Bowen had a double in 3 at bats.
GAME 2 - Rockcats 1, Portland 0 - Scott Baker was 4-2 with a 2.40 ERA at Ft. Myers. Last night, he made his AA debut and it was impressive. 7 innings (complete game) pitched, and just one hit allowed, a single to Raul Nieves. He walked none and struck out four. Jason Kubel provided the offense. He went 2-3 with a double and a solo home run which proved to be the game's lone run. The team had just four hits.
JD Durbin was put on the Disabled List with a 'slight tear in his labrum'. If he has arthroscopic surgery, he will be out 4-6 weeks. Other Rockcats performing well include 2B Luis Maza who is hitting .338 with 3 homers and 20 RBI. Kevin West is hitting .303 with 14 doubles, 7 homer runs and 34 RBI.
FORT MYERS MIRACLE
Miracle 3, Lakeland 6 - 1B Danny Matienzo went 2-4 with an RBI double. He is hitting .303 with seven doubles this year. C Jose Morales went 2-4 with an RBI. 3B Brett Tamburrino was 2-4.
THE SWING OF THE QUAD CITIES
Swing 3, West Michigan 4 - Nick Blackburn started and went 5 innings. He gave up three hits, two walks and two earned runs, while striking out 6. Julio DePaula went 2 1/3 innings, giving up no hits and a walk for an unearned run. Levale Speigner took the loss. He went 2 1/3 innings before giving up a solo homer to Eric Rodland to which ended the game. DH Dusty Gomon went 2-4 with a 2 run homer. CF Ryan Spataro went 2-3 with a walk.
Matt Moses was put on the Disabled List with a back injury.
Any questions or comments on the Twins minor league system, e-mail me.
Again, I hate to bring it up, but having two TVs in the living room is really a wonderful thing. I was watching the Twins game on TV 1, of course. But I had the Braves/Diamondbacks game on TV 2! About the fifth inning, I noticed that Randy Johnson had not given up a hit yet. At that point, that game would move to TV 1 every time the Unit took the mound. There were a couple of really nice defensive plays, none better than Alex Cintron's play charging in and throwing out Mike Hampton by 1/2 step. But the story was completely Randy Johnson. He struck out 13 batters and was throwing hard the whole game. His final pitch, which struck out Eddie Perez, registered at 98 degrees, and his slider was unhittable.
Granted the Braves don't have much of a lineup these days. I mean, just Sunday Ben Sheets struck out 18 Braves hitters. Here is the lineup they sent to the plate, with their batting averages:
Tuesday Night's Lineup 2003 Braves Lineup
Jesse Garcia SS - .284 Rafael Furcal SS
Julio Franco 1B - .255 Marcus Giles 2B
Chipper Jones LF - .238 Gary Sheffield RF
Andruw Jones CF - .246 Chipper Jones LF
Johnny Estrada C - .333 Andruw Jones CF
JD Drew RF - .296 Javy Lopez C
Mark Derosa 3B - .201 Vinny Castilla 3B
Nick Green 2B - .222 Julio/Matt Franco 1B
Mike Hampton P - .200
Eddie Perez PH - .200
Not exactly the same lineup they through out there last year. The Braves have been hurt by the free agent losses of Gary Sheffield, Javy Lopez, and Vinny Castilla (granted, Johnny Estrada is doing just fine!). Injuries have also been huge as Rafael Furcal continues to be unable to play and Marcus Giles is now out 6-8 weeks with a broken collarbone.
That said, these are all major leaguers, and there have only been 17 perfect games in major league history. The last perfect game in the big leagues was David Cone in 1999. The last one in the NL was in 1991.
Just an incredibly dominant performance by Randy Johnson!
It put another incredible pitching performance on the back burner. First, Mike Hampton pitched a great ball game for the Braves. He gave up just 2 runs in his complete game. But Jason Schmidt of the San Francisco Giants threw a one-hitter in a win over the Chicago Cubs. The lone hit was a close-call infield single. Schmidt was dominant as well and deserves some mention.
Any thoughts?? E-mail me.
This is it, all the marbles. I'm sitting in the house loading up the pump, I'm loading up the Uzis, I've got a couple of M-16s, couple of [guns] with some silencers on them, couple of grenades, got a missile launcher. I'm ready for war."
- Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves
Well, Kevin Garnett did apologize for the above statements, which I am happy he did. The Kings are now just sounding incredibly bitter to the media.
But it all doesn't matter! Tonight at 7:30 the two teams will tip off Game 7 from the Target Center. I am really looking forward to the game. It is one that I will have to watch by myself, that's for sure. Expect it to be a physical game, but finesse will also play a big role. Which team will turn the ball over less, and which team will hit open shots. That's really what will determine who will head onto the Western Conference finals against the Lakers.
What do you think will happen? My head is telling me that the Kings will find a way to pull out the win. My heart wants the Wolves to win and advance. E-mail me.
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
Well, we are down to the final three. It was pretty clear who the judges have picked to advance. Anyone who doesn't think that the judges can influence the vote are kidding themselves. The judges were harsh in reviewing Diana Degarmo and Jasmine Trias, and Fantasia Barrino could do no wrong. So, did I agree with the judges?
Each performer got to chose a song to sing, had to sing a song the judges selected for them, and had to sing a song Clive Davis chose for them. He are my thoughts on the performances of each contestant.
Jasmine Trias - Saving All My Love For You
Very shaky, especially early, but she was alright once she got going into the song. Definitely no Whitney, and she probably should have chosen something easier.
Fantasia Barrino - Chain of Fools
It's like listening to Aretha Franklin. It was a good song choice for her and her annoying voice. She is very good and very strong, but she did seem to be yelling some throughout.
Diana Degarmo - Ain't No Mountain High Enough
the first stanza was bad. She just seemed a little slow or behind the music. And it definitely sounded like she was screaming. I jus thought it was a really bad song choice.
Jasmine Trias - Mr. Melody
Just didn't work for me. Just not enough energy early in the song. Vocally, however, she was very, very good!
Fantasia - Fool in Love
She's a very good performer. She's very good, very strong, and this was a great song choice for her.
Diana Degarmo - Because You Love Me
Randy Jackson admitted that the song would challenge her. Well, she was just all over the place early, definitely missed a lot of notes. The music was too fast for her and for the song. Her ad-libbing at the end was the only good part of her performance. Everything else was just bad!
Clive Davis' Choice
Jasmine Trias - All By Myself
Great song! Probably too low for her, but the rest of it was really great.
Fantasia - The Greatest Love of All
Another great song! Whitney Houston is tough to emulate, and I didn't think this would be a good song for her voice. However, she totally surprised me by singing with a good, normal voice, instead of her annoying voice. I thought she was absolutely incredible!
Diana Degarmo - Don't Cry Out Loud
Excellent song and excellent song for her. She hit all of the notes with strength, and without yelling this time. I thought that she was just very impressive!
Yes, ends up I agreed with the judges:
1.) Fantasia Barrino
2.) Diana Degarmo
3.) Jasmine Trias
I think that Jasmine will be done. But then again, I have thought that the last few weeks, so who knows what will happen when the votes are tabulated and announced tonight!
So, what do you think? Who will be gone? E-mail me.
That is it for today. Have yourself a great day! As always, if you have any questions or comments on anything, please e-mail me.
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