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Brad Beneke

As you know Hall of Fame baseball player Tony Gwynn died Monday at the young age of 54. Most people who read my posts know that he’s the 19th ranked hitter in all time hits, and his career batting average of .338 left him tied at 18th all time, and that the only hitter from 1940 through the modern day ahead of him is Ted Williams. Incidentally, contemporary Hall of Fame hitters Wade Boggs and Rod Carew (to whom he is most often compared) rank 33rd and 34th respectively.

Photo credit: Galaksiafervojo via Wikipedia

Photo credit: Galaksiafervojo via Wikipedia

We know of the abundance of awards he won, the batting titles and the All-Star games. His stats are readily available at any myriad of sites, but Mr. Padre is and was far more than the sum of his statistics. He could easily have been Mr. Baseball, or Mr. San Diego, as a kid who grew up there, played high school ball there, played college baseball about two hours from home at Long Beach State, and then returned home and played his entire career with the Padres. He even went on to coach the San Diego State Baseball team after his playing days ended.

The Gwynn family is a baseball tradition. Tony is clearly its leader, but his brother Chris played several years and son Tony Jr. is currently playing with the Phillies. Sr.’s attention to detail and video taping of all of his at bats throughout his career revolutionized hitting, and the art of analyzing both hitters and pitchers for the entire future of the game.

In today’s world it’s easy to see a tribute via Facebook.com or Twitter, but with their force-fed information streams it can also be easier for those tributes to quickly become yesterday’s news.

I believe Tony deserves better than that. I want to leave a lasting record of what he meant to me and to some of his friends, colleagues, and other baseball and sports dignitaries. Here’s what they have said about Mr. Gwynn. Continue reading

It’s time again for the most important sporting event in the world — and I couldn’t care less, even if I was paid handsomely. This is Baseball season and this is America, and while I sound like Glenn Beck via The O’Reilly Factor for a moment I’m actually quite OK with that (for the only time in my life).

Padres fans tire of putrid play

The Padres are sick and tired of losing … at least the GM and the team owner are, but someone forgot to tell the Padres hitters. Note to Phil Plantier… your job is hanging by a thread that you might as well let go, and do the honorable thing and resign! I’ve had conversations with Padres fans on Facebook, and they are starting to resemble a group of Twins fans that I’ve grown to appreciate (and collect). They want manager Bud Black to be terminated as well. So expect big changes in SD because unlike here in Minnesota… winning matters!

One Mauer contract quietly ends

Speaking of Minnesota… Kemps Ice Cream has let its contract with Joltless Joe Mauer of the Bilateral Leg Weakness and .250-.260 batting average expire. It’s his first endorsement loss of his career that I could find online. If he keeps hitting like a backup middle infielder I suspect that this will not be his first celeb deal to go the way of the Great Auk.

Surprising Twins capitalize on lucky draw Continue reading

Simmer Down, Manny

Hey Manny Machado! You must be a fan. The feeling is mutual, but replay shows you were just a little over emotional my friend.

Mattingly wearing down?

The Dodgers are usually left to my friend and colleague Marshall, but something tells me that he’s too depressed to deal with the underachievers in Chavez Ravine. Plus I know he has a lot of other things going on. Don Mattingly, you are one of my all time favorite players in the history of the game. However, your assessment the other day that your team just isn’t very good was a cop out on par with “guns don’t kill people …” and “**** happens.”

Continue reading

When I first saw Evan Longoria play it was a defensive move at third base that reminded me a little of Carney Lansford, the old A’s and Red Sox 3rd baseman, and a little of Scott Rolen. He’s not quite that good defensively in my opinion, but he’s far above average, and, at 28, he’s still relatively young — just in the middle of his prime. His bat is much more like Eddie Matthews or Mike Schmidt at the hot corner however. Longoria has prodigious power required of any man that wears number 3 on his back.

Evan became a YouTube sensation after this video went viral a few years ago. For non-baseball fans that’s cool, but it was a commercial for Gillette as proved by Snopes. What makes him a favorite of mine goes deeper than just the numbers, or the glam video. For years Evan has been the most valuable player, when measured by salary, in all of baseball, thanks to his long-term, team friendly contract. His was the long-term contract that changed the way that all teams handle young players now. His dollar signs were far smaller than they are now, but his production per dollar set the new standard. Continue reading

Listening to Ron Gardenhire add an “ie” or a “y” at the end of everyone’s name makes me sick! However, his annoying behavior has me wondering about major leaguers today … and their nicknames. Baseball Reference has an amazing list of major league and minor league nicknames from players throughout the history of the game. So does Wikipedia, if  you’d like to peruse.

There are some amazing nicknames, some stupid nicknames, some easy nicknames, and a few that make me just scratch my head. None of them through P are Mauer-zee or Plouffe-zee sounding, making Gardenhire as annoying as another “name caller” that’s over stayed his welcome: Chris Berman. Though Berman is responsible for some quite clever nicknames, he’s become about as clichéd as pyrotechnics at a KISS concert.

Personally, nicknames like Arod, Krod, HoJo, and others like that drive me nuts. Carlos Gonzalez’ nickname “Cargo” is kind of cool to me, but Evan Longoria’s “Longo” just isn’t. Kirby Puckett’s “Union Gap” (from Berman) and generally used “Puck” were never all that exciting to me, but “Bruno” for Brunansky seemed great to me.

My favorites include: Dwight “Dr. K” Gooden, Will “The Thrill” Clark and “The Splendid Splinter” Ted Williams (though he had half a dozen others). Stan “The Man” Musial might seem trite in today’s world, but ask anyone that watched him play … especially a Cardinals fan, and his nickname was as meaningful as George “BABE” Ruth! Continue reading

Tim Lincecum isn’t my typical choice when it comes to a favorite player.

I don’t know if he does anything amazing for the community in SF as Justin Morneau has done here in Minnesota. I don’t know his

Photo credit Bruce Edwards via Wikipedia

Photo credit Bruce Edwards via Wikipedia

college or minor league back stories. Heck, I remember looking at him the first time and wasn’t impressed. He’s slight of frame and with that Keanu Reeves look and that god awful haircut, I couldn’t take him seriously in the spring before his rookie season.

Then he threw a 12-6 deuce that just reminded me of Dwight Gooden and the hitter’s knees buckled. Then he threw a 96 mph fastball by the kid that made him look terrible. Not a big deal. It was spring training, and a lot of players look foolish from time to time — but then Lincecum did two things that made me take note. He threw two more fastballs over 95 with precision and he dropped the curve on a veteran hitter and made that guy’s knees buckle too. Again, that happens. But then he smiled. And it wasn’t just a typical “I’m playing in the big leagues, mom” kind of smile, either. His smile said: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

The Freak made me a fan. Continue reading

I get asked if I ever get tired of savaging the things and players I don’t like in baseball the other day. The answer is no. It’s the perfect game, and I think we should all strive for perfection while never being satisfied with status quo. After my wife shook her head at me for my answer she asked me a question that made me smile. “Do you have any players you love like you did when you were a kid?”

The answer is actually yes. Three players that are currently playing are my “favorites.” I am going to dedicate a blog to each of them. If I’m too sappy please understand it’s the yin to my yang for the passion I feel for the game of baseball.

The three blogs will be on two-time former NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum of the Giants, Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays, and former AL MVP Justin Morneau of the Colorado Rockies which is where I am starting because he is by far and away my favorite player since Don Mattingly and Dwight Gooden.

I’m a baseball card collector (though I’ve taken a 10-year break while raising my children and having little disposable income to invest) and that is where I first found out about Justin Morneau. His Bowman rookie card boasted my second favorite prospect analysis I’ve ever read (behind a card on Alex Rodriguez). It stated something to the effect of: “think Larry Walker with less speed, but with a lot more power…” As a Twins fan who has now endured three sessions of absolutely pathetic baseball (two then), 1978-86, 1993-01, and the current stretch that started in 2011 and likely will last until Terry Ryan resigns. Continue reading

I’ve been a fan of The Show since it became a PlayStation exclusive a few years ago. I’ve seen the evolution of the game, and am very pleased with a lot of the progress from 13 to 14. Everything from the menu boxes to the player rating system has changed.

I won’t be using a lot of the features as I am not a “gamer” in the classic sense. I don’t want to play against you online. I don’t want to create my own version of myself, try and work my way from A ball to the majors, and become a star, MVP, CY, or HOF player. Therefore, I can only briefly touch on those aspects of the game by saying they are there. You can recreate a lot of your childhood heroes and past superstars, but they are not those players…so for instance, if I create a player named Kirby Puckett, it is not THE Kirby Puckett. I can grab an old baseball card of his and get his height and weight and all of that, I can find a stance that is close to mimicking his leg kick and everything in his stride, but it’s not him. If I place him on the Minnesota Twins and give him 34, he will not be the real Kirby Puckett, and the game will not let him be announced as Kirby Puckett unless those two names are in the computer generated lexicon.

The create-a-player mode is impressive, but it’s the only way you can bring a favorite legend or childhood hero to life.

There are multiple grading systems used to try and create accurate player representations for the game. This is the area I’m truly impressed with in 2014’s version. Gone are the dozen A 99 level players, and 45 A level players to begin with that are in the 90’s automatically. In 2014 Miguel Cabrera (the cover boy), Mike Trout, and Clayton Kershaw are the only players rated at 99. And even those players are flawed. Miguel is a lousy base runner and a slightly below average fielder (just like real life). Kershaw’s pitches aren’t all 99 miles an hour with flawless command, and even though you could technically go in and change it, I don’t see the fun in that. Continue reading

I haven’t been this excited for a Twins rookie since … OK so I’d be lying if I said that I expected anything like this out of Chris Colabello this season. At 30 years old and after showing zero flash as a major leaguer last year in his debut I didn’t expect him or want him to make the team’s 25 man Opening Day Roster. Through April 19th I am a fool for thinking so.

Cowbell entered the day leading the American League in doubles and RBI. He is far from a finished project as a RF, but Twins management has handed first base to “Joltless” Joe Mauer, which forces the lesser athlete to play in the outfield to protect Joe from a hangnail or possibly breaking a sweat running for a fly ball.

To say that Colabello been clutch is almost an understatement for a team that is near the bottom of the league in batting average this year and that has been terrible over the previous three seasons at driving in runs with timely hitting.

I am not saying that this is something that is going to last. Watching his swing gives me pause because he has flailed at some pretty awful pitches. With the advanced scouting and metrics used these days it’s quite likely that by June he’s been nullified and reduced to roster filler. However, when he makes contact he puts the ball in right center, left center, and can pull the ball when needed so if his amazing April is not just a flash in the pan hot start his story could be that of a Disney movie.

In 2010 he was playing Independent League ball. The Twins signed him as a “Crash Davis” kind of mentor for the young up-and-comers, to solidify a weak spot in the lineup and give the AA team a first baseman.

Last year he won the AAA International League MVP, an honor that could have earned him $1 million in Korea. He had the offer and he talked to his agent about asking for his release from the Twins. At 30-years-old it would have made perfect financial sense to go overseas and cash a bigger paycheck than he’s ever seen. He didn’t. He believed that he could be a Major Leaguer, and he made the team out of spring training. Chris hasn’t let up at all for the Major League club so far. He is at 26 RBI, which ties the April record in Minnesota – held by Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett.

And he hit a homerun on his mother’s birthday – while mom was being interviewed on the local television broadcast. I’m definitely cheering for MORE COWBELL!

For what it’s worth Colabello will make a little over $500,000 this season. Joltless Joe makes $143,000 per game.

The Pirates absolutely needed the bat and the game of Ike Davis. By trading one of their best minor league relief prospects the Pirates gave up a potential asset for a definite asset. This should make the Pirates a huge winner in this, but the trade balances out quite nicely.

Anyone that has been paying attention to www.mlbtraderumors.com at all has seen that the Mets are perceiving themselves as winners in this situation as well.  First it clears the path for Duda to play every day at first base. Beyond that it will bring Bobby Abreu up from AAA to resume his MLB career. Finally it loads their minor league system with a top notch reliever while clearing everything else up.

My view right now is that the Pirates come out of this deal ahead 70/30.  Davis’ bat and this trade should be a huge shot in the arm to the players in Pittsburgh knowing that the owner and GM have the players’ backs.

The Mets don’t really lose anything by making this trade and stand to gain greatly if Abreu is more than a shell of his former self. And if and when Zach Thornton makes his MLB debut he becomes a top notch reliever… I think that the Mets will look at that as an amazing bonus.

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