Thursday, December 30, 2010

AL Central

The other teams in the division are all pretty much like the Twins. Except, the Sox won a World Series, the Tigers made one, and the Indians came within a game six choke of winning the AL pennant. I guess that leaves the Twins tied with the Royals for postseason wins in the last 6 seasons. The entire division is too close to what I've followed for the last decade, so I can't give any of them serious consideration. Instead, I will examine a few alternative choices:

Chiba Lotte Marines
I have explained my "addition by subtraction" philosophy of offseason moves before. I don't know much about the Marines, but I do know that they lost a middle infielder from last season. That's usually a step in the right direction. Plus, they have $5 million to burn.

Round Rock Express
Sure they have a lame nickname, but they have been the home of one of the stars of my fantasy baseball team. I could finally follow the career of "hot" prospect Chris Davis. Austin is supposed to be a pretty nice city. It's hip and trendy, but since it's in Texas, I can't imagine it's quite like Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco. Then again, maybe it is. Meanwhile, the Rangers seem to be in pretty good shape, so I would expect they have decent players working their way through the capital of Texas.

Mankato Moondogs
For each home game, they designate a player on the other team. Each time he strikes out, beer is half-price for the remainder of inning. Once, he was 0-2 with 2K's facing an 0-2 count when the Moondogs pitcher plunked him. Also, occasionally, the opposing manager will hurl the game ball into center field in a temper tantrum after the bottom of the first.

New Ulm Kaiserhoff
Is Terry Steinbach still pitching for them? I saw them play a few summers ago, and I still suspect that they were actually the 1989 Oakland Athletics. They even had the green and yellow uniforms.

Murray's Corner Store*
They may be third-graders, but the really know how to run around those bases. Well, actually, most of them don't know that you have to tag-up on a fly ball. Of course, they all sprint towards home plate at the first chance they get. I know a lot of Major Leaguers don't know that you have to cross the plate before the third out, though. They have also proven that they can beat Anderson Pharmacy* and Gunderson Implement and Tractor* in the playoffs.

So there you have it. I guess I'll have to get started on my next iteration of inspecting the teams. I've never been one for that, so I'll probably channel my inner Lou Brown and go with a hunch.

* All business names are intended to be fake.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

AL West

The AL West brings back painful memories of Twins road trips during the 1990's. The time zone could work against these teams. More recently, I think of Dick Bremer perpetually reminding Twins fans how many times they play Seattle this month. With only four teams, it's easy to forget they're even playing.

Seattle Mariners
I'm still recovering from their dismissal of manager Don Wakamatsu. As I've said, anybody who gets into a fight with a weak-hitting and overpaid middle infielder is fine by me. At least they replaced him with manager Eric Wedge. He has also done something Gardy hasn't. I am certainly curious about the Mariners, but there isn't enough for me to root for them.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California
Lately, the Angels have combined everything that's wrong with the family-friendly Twins with all of my complaints about the Yankees. I suppose that's basically the Mets, but it's not comical. I don't know quite what to think of Angels skipper Mike Scioscia. He seems similar to Gardy, but I feel considerably different when he summons a reliever with a 2-run lead in the 8th than when Gardy does the same. I'd say that's because Tolbert, Punto, and Casilla are due up for the Twins, but somehow Scioscia's scrubs are actually somewhat threatening. Following the Angels, then, would mainly be an academic exercise. How similar or different are they from the Twins?

Oakland Athletics
A's general manager Billy Beane has been lauded- mainly by himself- for his Moneyball strategy to win games. As I understand, he picks an offensive statistic from a hat, acquires or develops players who are best at this, and has Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito in the cheap years of their contracts. The current roster has a handful of quality cheap- I mean young- pitchers and a futile- I mean high on-base-percentage- lineup. Do they still play in the Al Davis Coliseum? I think I may have to resort to the time zone argument if I want to rule them out.

Texas Rangers
Manager Ron Washington still wears his uniform without the wuss-out windbreaker. That alone might be enough for me. Nolan Ryan insists on building the team around quality pitching. It seems to be working. They've left themselves a target for this year. First, they need to remind us that although Cliff Lee was a huge part of reaching the World Series, he didn't do it alone. Second, they need to actually win the World Series. I have heard positive reports about the ladies in the Dallas metroplex and my favorite television show, King of the Hill, is set somewhere near Dallas. They play their games in the best mix of time zones of any team which would allow me the chance to watch an entire game and make my bedtime or retire to the sofa at 9:00pm to watch baseball to end my day.

The players in their lineup don't excite me too much, though. I also might feel a little bit too much like a fair-weather fan for jumping to a team that already won the AL pennant. At any rate, I think they are the front-runner after my first iteration through the teams.

Monday, December 27, 2010

NL East

With any luck, the NL East might provide me with a team that starts and finishes it's games early.

NY Mets
They're the Mets. What else needs to be said? They do deserve at least one argument on their behalf. I could spend the entire season quoting Apu from the Simpsons when he says that the "Ny Mets are my favorite squadron."

Washington Nationals
I already wasn't wild about them and then they signed that one guy to a huge deal. They should be mired in mediocrity for a while.

Philadelphia Phillies
They landed Cliff Lee and have one of the top teams in baseball. Of the big-spenders, they are probably in best position to legitimately contend for a World Series. They should be a pretty good team, but I can't imagine they would be much fun to root for. I haven't heard many flattering descriptions of the city of Philadelphia, either.

Atlanta Braves
They are the National League Twins. That World Series win was a long time ago. Otherwise, they have a history of early playoff exits. Heck, this year was a surprise that they even made it that far. For as much as a like a crusty old character like retired manager Bobby Cox, he was probably a bit of a Gardy. Now he's gone, so perhaps the Braves are free to explore what happens without him. They brought in some lousy left-handed reliever that the Dodgers didn't want. I have heard mostly good about the city of Atlanta. ESPN's Page 2 columnist Bill Simmons raves about the ladies in Hot'lanta and his readers and my brother confirm this. I have also heard good things about Chick-fil-A. Atlanta will definitely be among the contenders, but I do not know that I can excited myself about the baseball team enough to actually pick them.

Florida Marlins
I already have a battle-worn hat. My roommate introduced me to this audio clip of a confused Harry Caray. Every time I hear somebody mention the Marlins, I blurt this out like a reflex. I could really enjoy a full season of this:

Announcer: Two outs and a runner on for the Marlins ...
Me (to myself): The Marlins?!?!? Who the hell are the Marlins?!?!?

I've always admired their "Fire Sale" strategy, but they don't seem to have employed it in some time. I do like that shortstop who fired the manager last year. They could assemble a solid squad this season. Then again, they play in the only state to have it's own tag on I'm not sure I'd like the humidity of south Florida either. I'm sure Miami has it's girls, but it's probably too much a party town for an early-to-bed sort like me. Altogether, the Marlins are a strong contender. The Marlins? Who the hell are the Marlins?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

NL Central

I expect the NL Central to be much like its AL equivalent, except with more potent offense because the pitchers bat.

Cincinnati Reds
They surprised people by winning the division and making the playoffs last season. They've also left themselves room for improvement in 2011. They will certainly receive consideration.

Houston Astros
I keep forgetting that they exist. This may be a good thing or a bad thing. Either way, I'm at least curious enough to see who they have, what they are, and what they could do that I'll take a closer look. On the other hand, Houston is known for its humidity in the summer.

St. Louis Cardinals
I should like the Cardinals and Manager Tony LaRussa more than I do. ESPN always seems obsessed with a them. That kind of annoys me. There are probably plenty of convincing arguments that could be made for them, but I just don't think I could get excited about them.

Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee is a decent city to visit. I don't much care for Miller Park. The team has a solid lineup if they could get some pitching. They did trade for Greinke, but in the process they acquired that shortstop who always finds his way onto my fantasy team. It's an AL only league, so I suppose I could credit them with sparing me this year. I still feel "betrayed" that they left the American League. Moreover, I can never forgive them for getting rid of the old "Mb" glove logo which was the most perfect baseball logo ever. It was the perfect blend of cute, clever, and descriptive. I will not actively follow the Brewers as a contender, but if something catches my attention- such as bringing back the old logo- they may move up the rankings.

Pittsburgh Pirates
They have a fantastic stadium. The tickets are cheap. Pittsburgh is supposed to be a deceptively nice city. If they win 60 games and finish in 5th it would be an excitingly successful season. Supposedly, they are trying to groom a nucleus in the minors and hold them together to rebuild the franchise. They are more of an "investment" so nobody could accuse me of being a fair-weather fan. In fact, my interest in the Pirates is at least partially a statement about the current Twins configuration. At least these minor-leaguers for the Pirates might win a game in October. The Pirates are definitely a strong contender. Even if I do not choose them, I may catch a game or two.

Chicago Cubs
There's always next year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NL West

Due to my reader's impatience, I will skip the NL East and head west tonight. The timezone will be a major factor with these teams.

Arizona Diamondbacks
I don't like them. They sound like one of those made-up team from a baseball movie that didn't have the MLB license.

Colorado Rockies
With all the talk about asterisks and steroids, there is only true single-season home-run champion: Ellis Burks with my Rockies on Triple Play Gold Edition for the Sega Genesis. They have a nice stadium, Denver is a nice place to visit, and- based on a Pirates blogger's opinion- are rid of manager Clint Hurdle. They have pretty much disappeared ever since their Goldbergian winning streak that took them to the World Series a few years ago. They play their home games in the Mountain time zone and will travel to the Pacific time zone to play San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. I'm not sure I'm ready to stay up that late, but they're at least worth consideration.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Their owners' divorce is destroying the franchise, they just signed Matty, I've never cared for them, and over half of their games are in the Pacific time zone.. On the other hand, they signed Juan Castro. During his tenure with the Twins, Juany showed that he knows how to handle a bat. Also, there should be an abundance young ladies in Southern California rooting for the Dodgers.

San Diego Padres
They say southern California girls are unforgettable, but I bet I would forget after Jason Bartlett boots three grounders in one inning. On the other hand, he would be a fun player to root against. I'd want the Padres to win despite Bartlett's struggles. They're roughly on par with the Rockies. I'll watch them more closely than other teams in the West, but doubt I could actually settle on them.

San Francisco Giants
They play in San Francisco.

Fine. You want a baseball reason, too. I just don't think this will be an interesting year for them. They weren't exactly a one-hit wonder. It's not necessarily a disappointment if they don't win a World Series, but that's obviously less than in 2010. They should still be competitive. It's just not the combination that would be exciting for a fan.

Altogether, the time zone probably rules out the entire division. I'm just too much of an early-to-bed kind of guy. On the other hand, I could see myself settling in to relax before bed by watching the start of the game. A good game would be done by 11:30 and a bad game would be obviously bad by 10:30. Bartlett was once denied a starting spot in favor of Juan Castro. Now they're in the same division. How exciting!

Monday, December 20, 2010

AL East

In my quest for a new team, all criteria other than sabremetric over-analysis will be fair game. The team's time zone, reported availability of quality single women, potential as a vacation destination, number of former Twins on the roster, and funniness of cynical bloggers may all be considered. Who knows what else I might think of? Let's start by assessing the American League East for it's potential.

Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles intrigue me. In a league of Kansas Cities and Pittsburghs, they have quietly been one of the losingest franchises since the Brady Anderson era. Yet, 2011 might be a year they can enter with some optimism. Watching the Orioles finish in 3rd place with 83 wins sound more exciting than a division series sweep.
Boston Red Sox
I don't keep too close of tabs on the Red Sox. That's mostly because everybody hopped their bandwagon thinking the Sox are the anti-Yankees. In reality, they are the Yankees. At any rate, they have a young star or two flanked by above-average veterans. They're pitching staff isn't in very good shape. If they were my only choice, I think I'd be coming back to Minnesota in hurry. Young, Mauer, and Morneau are a better nucleus than anything in Boston.
New York Yankees
No, they are not automatically excluded just by virtue of being the Yankees. But they just signed a 36-year-old shortstop who is only a marginal improvement over your Yuniesky Betancourts to a how many year deal with worth how many million? They're also similar to the Red Sox, though the veterans are somewhat better. I'm not sure what they have for young talent. Regardless, the best they can hope for is another AL Central title for the Twins. On the other hand, there is some pretty good food in the Big Apple and it's been a few years since I've been there.
Tampa Bay Rays
They just traded Bartlett. A few days ago, in a news article, I noticed that the greatest athlete of all-time was wearing a Rays jersey. If Hulk Hogan lives in Clearwater and thinks the Rays are the team, it's tough to argue. Starting pitcher Matt Garza puts a flying elbow drop on that case, though. Then again, Brad Radke also lives in Clearwater, so there's always a chance that all-time favorite baseball player could wander out to the mound and pitch 8 innings, allow three hits and one run, and claim he didn't have his best stuff. Rays Manager Joe Maddon tends to favor common sense over managing by the book.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are the number one contender among American League teams. First, I already have the hat. Second, you can pretty much refer to my earlier post about how they are basically the same as the Twins. If they can hold the offense anywhere near last season's level and stabilize the pitching rotation, they could leap into relevance.

Overall, I'm hesitant to pick a team in the AL East. With the patient hitters, the games last so long that they'll end after my bed time. Also, I am curious about National League baseball. Is it really as different as all the hype? Is managing with a pitcher in the lineup really as difficult as AL Managers (of the Year) make it look in inter-league games?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Truth

What do I have in common with Nick Punto this offseason? We're both looking for a new team. One of us will inevitably end up back with the Twins, and it's not going to be me. After much prayer, soul-searching, and consultation with my brother, I have come to realize that I am not a Twins fans. Relationships take work, but I'm doing more than my fair share. Unlike an interpersonal relationship, with a sports team, the fan should just have to show up. The Twins may go on to great success without me, but I have concluded that I wouldn't really enjoy being along for the ride.

Despite all the hate for Punto I know his (potential) departure will not fix the franchise. Deep down, Twins fans do not hate Punto because he is the cause of the team's mediocrity. The anger is because he symbolizes everything that is wrong with this franchise. The Twins try too hard to create the "Little Engine that Could" image. Gardy is still here, and he's more than eager to have some speed in his middle infield. He's just another symptom, though. When you combine fancy new stadium, "We're just happy their competitive" fans, a weak division, a hometown hero, and a business savvy ownership, you're going to get what the Twins have been.

What will I do without the Twins? Especially during the World Series, I realized that it's baseball I love. I have always wondered what it's like to root for another team. Most baseball fans have tunnel vision on their team. When you only watch one team, you notice every flailing strike three, every booted grounder, and every boneheaded bullpen decision. Are other teams managers just as dumb? Are their middle infielders just as pathetic? I'm looking forward to finding out. At least all the players start with a clean slate.

In the coming weeks, I will try to chronicle my search for the new team. I think already have it narrowed down to a short list, but I'll try to build some drama while I research contenders.