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The Minnesota Twins last won the World Series in 1991. In 1992, they fielded a very competitive team, but were undone by the loss of ace pitcher Jack Morris, and one bad pitch to Oakland Athletics reserve outfielder Eric Fox.

In 1993, the Twins thought they would again be right in the mix, signing hometown hero Dave Winfield to anchor a lineup that included Kirby Puckett, Chuck Knoblauch (before he lost his mind), Shane Mack and Kent Hrbek. The Twins lost 90 games that year. Management appeared to be blindsided and dumbfounded by the lack of production, and it put the franchise into an eight-year tailspin of tragedy, turmoil and ineptitude. It wasn’t until they decided to hand the franchise over to a core of young players who had mostly come up together in the Twins farm system that the team began to win.

The pitching staff of that renewed team was anchored by the “Big Three” of Brad Radke, Eric Milton and Joe Mays. Having recognized the complete lack of leadership on his team after the loss of guys like Kirby Puckett and Rick Aguilera, GM Terry Ryan sought out veteran pitchers, probably past their prime (and certainly affordable) who’d had success and could pitch a lot of innings, but who, most importantly, could mentor his young pitching prospects. So, in came the incredibly soft throwing Bob Tewksbury, and the very, very, very, (very) well -traveled Mike Morgan.

Ryan’s plan took some time, but it paid off. In the end, none of the “Big Three” became Hall of Famers, or even made a single start in the World Series, but they were significant pieces in the Twins return to the playoffs and respectability.

Cut to 15 years later.

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Bud Selig is reportedly upset and “embarrassed” that the Mets went public with the fact that they were not allowed to wear special hats to honor New York City first responders to honor the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

This is a further example of how clueless the commissioner of Major League Baseball really is–he should be embarrassed that he and his office made the decision in the first place. And he should be even more embarrassed that the hats they wore in pregame were physically taken away from the players, after it was heard that they may conspire to wear them anyway–the players had given the league an out (tell the players they can’t, players do it anyway, fine the players, donate the money to a charity supporting first responders).

And he shouldn’t be surprised–especially in today’s modern world, where players are constantly tweeting and actually interacting with fans–that the players would go public about the situation.

MLB dropped the ball on this one–multiple times now.  And if Selig was smart, he would look in the mirror, and figure out a way to fix the situation.

Why do I not think that’s going to happen?

Interleague play, to some the scourge of American culture, will end for the 2009 regular season on Sunday. To hear some baseball purists and radio talk show hosts (among others) speak, you would think that Interleague play is the single largest problem facing the game today, dwarfing the challenges posed by steroids, the economy and Scott Boras. I’m glad to know that there are people out there with passionate opinions about the game, but come on guys. Get a hold of yourselves.

At the beginning of IP this year, Jayson Stark went and found a group of players who don’t like it.  Aside from revealing Adam Dunn to be a complete whiner, Stark’s column tries to take an objective look at some of the things that make the players unhappy.

The major complaints seem to be that there are more “meaningless” series’ (i.e. Kansas City vs. Houston) than there are “rivalry” ones (like the Yankees vs. the Mets), it goes on too long, the travel can make things really difficult, and of course my personal favorite: “it’s not fair.”

I have some pretty strong opinions on the unbalanced schedule, and it occurs to me that we should explore that topic very soon. I’m the rare guy who is a fan of baseball’s schedule, and nothing gets me itchy quicker than someone telling me “it’s not fair”. Dude. You’re a professional ball player, playing at the highest level. If the New York Yankees had to play the New York Mets, and the Tampa Bay Rays had to play Edison Community College, I’d say that’s not fair. You’re playing another major league team. Stop talking and sit down. You’re embarrassing yourself.

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Manny Ramirez and the Los Angeles Dodgers are making plans for the suspended outfielder to return to the team after spending several games in the minor leagues.

Ramirez is eligible to return to the Dodgers on July 3. But according to Major League Baseball’s rules, he’s allowed to play in up to 10 games in the minor leagues before he returns.

Why? How can a guy who was suspended for 50 games as part of baseball’s performance enhancing drugs policy have the right to do anything to sharpen his game skills BEFORE his suspension ends? How is it in the league’s best interests to let a guy suspended for these reasons return to baseball, albeit the minor leagues, before his suspension ends?

If the Dodgers want Ramirez to play a half-dozen games in the minors before he returns to the big leagues he should. But that should start on July 3. Otherwise it’s not a true 50 game suspension. Part of the penalty for the clowns that continue to abuse performance-enhancers and cheapen the integrity of the game should be the requirement that they work themselves back into game shape AFTER the suspension ends.

Part of the penalty for using performance enhancers should be that the player is put in a situation where his performance can be hindered upon his return. He either comes back cold or he loses more time getting back into game shape.

Suspended players should not have any opportunity to participate in any kind of sanctioned league activities, major or minor, before their time on the sidelines is up. Otherwise it’s not a full 50 game suspension. And it’s just one more reason people can continue to question the voracity of the league’s efforts to stop this problem in its tracks.

What a joke.

We spent a good chunk of yesterday looking at the impact the acquisition of Jake Peavy would have on the Chicago White Sox, if it had come to pass.

Now for a look at the other side of the coin – what is up with the San Diego Padres?

Well, for one thing, owner John Moores and his wife have been embroiled in a bitter divorce that has created a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the club’s finances. That’s largely why the 27-year-old Cy Young winner Peavy was – and likely still is – available in the first place.

At least one radio show indicated this afternoon that Peavy wouldn’t be the last Padre to hit the road this season – stud first baseman Adrian Gonzalez will likely follow him out the door, the host (likely more than) guessed (though he is signed cheaply through 2011).

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You have to love a guy like Kenny Williams.

Going into the game against the Twins today, the White Sox were 17-22. Prior to this series they had endured a five-game losing streak, which put them six games out of first place. There’s no real reason to panic at this point – after all we’re barely 25 percent of the way into the season – but it clearly didn’t sit well with the South Side General Manager.

So he picked up the phone, called San Diego and made a deal for Jake Peavy. Even though it appears as though Peavy isn’t going to accept the deal (though I think he just needs some financial prodding to change his mind), Williams deserves credit. Two of the guys they were counting on toward the top-to-middle of their rotation have started slowly. But with the addition of Peavy, the Sox would have been starting a rotation of Peavy, Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Who Cares.

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I’m loving the new MLB Network.

I won’t watch a ton of Spring Training baseball, nor will I sit on the edge of my seat sweating the results of the World Baseball Classic.

But it’s nice to be able to have a game or some of the network’s alternate programming on in the background. I also like it for the news scrolls across the bottom of the page. One of the items indicated that Barry Bonds has given his agent, Jeff Borris, permission to shop his services to each of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams.

Bonds hit 28 home runs in 2007 for San Francisco when he, cough, cough, broke Hank Aaron’s All-Time Homerun record. But he sat out last season as teams shied away from the spectacle surrounding allegations of his steroid use and other legal issues.

An appeal has freed Bonds from a perjury trial until at least July and possibly for as much as 19 months, according to media reports.

Is anyone interested? Will news of A-Rod’s positive 2003 steroid test and the accompanying front-page headlines have pushed Bonds far enough toward the back page that a team might find it worthwhile to give him a shot?

Hard to say. But despite getting permission to shop his client, Borris doesn’t sound optimistic that Bonds will get to extend his home run total beyond 762.

“Major League Baseball was successful in conspiring in keeping Barry out of uniform in 2008,” he told the USA Today. “Unless they have a change of heart or see an error in their ways, I seriously doubt that clubs will give him the opportunity to play this year.”

When Rich started writing for Brushbackpitch.com last month he asked that people get their ranting and raving about the steroid scandal done with because he was tiring of reading about them every day.

He may have gotten his wish.

Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire and the respective allegations against them have at least temporarily taken a hiatus from the front pages of the nation’s newspapers. They’ve been replaced by the resignation of Jim Bowden as he’s investigated for any role he may have played in the skimming of Latin American players’ signing bonuses.

Bowden reportedly denies any wrongdoing and he claims his resignation is due to the distraction caused by media scrutiny of the investigation.

Fair enough.
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Bud Selig says being blamed for the steroid era “bothers the you-know-what out of him,” according to ESPN.com and other media reports.

Fair enough. Major League Baseball’s commissioner is entitled to his opinion. But he’s wrong.

Sure, Selig isn’t complicit alone. The Major League Baseball Players Association and every single player that ever stuck a needle in his ass shares the blame. But Selig has been the commissioner of Major League Baseball since 1992. He’s seen the league through some remarkable lows and some performance-enhanced highs.

And while he has taken great pains to see to it that a system has been put in place that will deter future players from taking steroids and using performance enhancing drugs he cannot, as that leader, say he doesn’t deserve some of the blame.

That a homerun record that stood for nearly four decades was broken three times in five years didn’t raise some suspicions?

That players would finish one season and return the next with a completely different physical look didn’t make him do a double-take?

Bud Selig can talk all he wants about being stonewalled by the union or being worried about another work stoppage. If you have concerns about steroids and you don’t fight those concerns you are complicit.

If you don’t get up on mountain top and scream “this is a problem and we need to fix it” until the union buckles, you are complicit.

Instead, both bodies let the records fall and they raked in the profits that came along with the excitement. No, Selig isn’t alone in being blame worthy. Brushbackpitch is on record saying leadership at the union needs to change as well.

But Selig’s attempt to clear his name and shed blame entirely is ridiculous and shameful. With a situation such as this, no matter how much good you do in fixing the problem, you were in charge when the sin was committed. And the buck should – and does – stop at the top.

And that starts with Selig.

Back in 1998 Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were credited by many with saving baseball.

The sport had been in the doldrums since 1994 when a strike did what wars, natural disasters and the Great Depression couldn’t do – it canceled the World Series.

McGwire and Sosa traded homeruns back and forth while chasing the 37-year-old record of 61, achieved by Roger Maris in 1961. McGwire won that race, beating Sosa 70 to 66.

Four years later Barry Bonds got in on the act, breaking McGwire’s short-lived record and finishing with 73. Six years later he broke another hallowed baseball mark, trumping Hank Aaron’s all-time record. His total now stands at 762.

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