Minnesota Twins, 2017 edition

Well, I suppose we should take a little look at the Twins chances in the coming campaign. It’s been difficult for me to muster much enthusiasm for this, after the utter carnage of last year’s collapse. Ugh.

But it’s spring, the time of new beginnings and fresh starts. Out with the detritus of last year’s “efforts.” Who can even remember last year? That was then and this is now, and everybody starts at zero and works from there.

The Twins ownership overhauled their Brain Trust in the off season. AND we’ve added a pitch-framing catcher.

And we’ve sent our top spring hitter down to AAA.

This does not exactly inspire confidence in their decision-making ability.

Their pitching is still something of a mess. Mauer is still at first base. Plouffe is gone. Dozier is still here, but I don’t think he’ll be here long.

Hmmm. 59 wins last season.

Pitch-framing catcher.

Buxton. Sano.

I’m thinking 82-82 this year. I am a glass-half-full guy.

Good luck to you Twins! Let’s play some ball!

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I suppose the Twins are training, now…

…and I suppose I should make some note of that.

But last season took a lot out of me. As my high expectations (i.e. World Series) were not just “dashed.”

There isn’t really a word for what they were.

Perhaps “eviscerated” comes close.

Well, anyway, these are the Twins, so they have regrouped and apparently are in Florida again, spring training, as it were, and thinking of the future, and planning for the upcoming season. They’ve got a brand-spanking new front office, new GM, new coaches, a new “pitch-framing” catcher, a new old third baseman, and everybody should still have a bad taste in their mouth from last season. (59-103, lest you could possibly forget.)

Anyway, I’ll have to touch base with the Twins soon — and forgive them — and get up to speed on the doings over there.

And I should also let all you Blaze fans know: The Louisiana Blaze, my team in the National Pastime Baseball League, are Champs! Yes! Yes!  Champions of the NPBL! We RULE.

The NPBL is a computer baseball league that uses Out of the Park Baseball simulation software, which provides an incredibly realistic baseball management experience. I assumed control over the Blaze back in 2050, and my 19-year long-range plan worked pretty much to perfection, as we win the title in 2069 (after finishing third in our division.)

I think more on this later. There were at least a couple good stories there. Suffice to say that “We rule!” and also that it’s also spring training in the NPBL, and last year is last year, we have left it behind and are thinking of the future and planning for the coming season.

Which makes me think that baseball is a zen sort of sport. There’s no yesterday, and there’s no tomorrow. There’s only NOW. And now the Blaze are working on the usual drills, enjoying an off day after winning a 5-3 spring game yesterday. And the Twins are also enjoying an off day after winning a 2-1 win spring game yesterday. And everything is good.

Now if only the Millers could win a game…

 

Diamonds are Forever

With baseball season just right around the corner, I’vediamonds-are-forever picked up a copy of Diamonds Are Forever at my local pre-owned book retailer. This is a good-sized book published in 1987 by the Smithsonian Institute, 159 pages full of baseball art and stories about the game we love.

The writing is mostly excerpts from longer works. Writers include John Updike, (“Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,”) Carl Sandburg, Ernest Hemingway, Roger Angell, Thomas Boswell, W.P. Kinsella, William Kennedy, Donald Hall, Steven King, and more. I hope Philip Roth is in there, but I haven’t spotted him yet. (Which reminds me, perhaps it’s time I re-read his The Great American Novel again. It’s been a good long while.)

baseball-and-becket-b-sm

I really bought this book for the art. Some of these are familiar, and some I’ve never seen before. I loved this picture, to the left, of Irish playwright Samuel Beckett going toe-to-toe with an umpire. A lot of people don’t know that Beckett managed the White Sox for a few years back in the late 40s. Those were very dramatic years for the White Sox, though they didn’t win a lot of games. They were more focused on illuminating the tragi-comic nature of the human condition, by means of a legendary gamut of absurdist plays. One of the most well-known of these was the play of second-baseman Sonny Godot, who would take the cut-off throw from the outfield, but then keep the ball in his glove, pretending that he didn’t have it, though the whole crowd knew it was there. All the opposing runners would round the bases and score. Even though he did this every time, he continued to get cut-off throws, game after game. This was baseball for the thinking fan, the deeply thinking and ruminative fan, and, thus, the White Sox did not draw so well in those years. Which was just the way Beckett liked it. “The end is in the beginning and yet you go on,” he would say to the baseball reporters. In the end, a lot of the White Sox fans complained that they no longer understood the point of the game, and eventually Mr. Beckett got canned, which is the fate of all of us. Beckett-ball had its brief moment in the sun, and then that was it, back to Paris for Mr. Beckett. He never managed a professional club again, and, in his later years, denied that he had ever managed at all.

Anyway, back to the book. What’s not to like? Classic baseball prose. Any kind of baseball art you can think of. And it’s springtime. What could be better? Play ball, already.

third-base-b-sm

 

 

“Holy Cow!”

…as Halsey Hall used to say.halsey-hall-wcco

Pitchers and Catchers report to spring training tomorrow!

Did you know that Halsey used “Holy Cow” in his Home Run call long before Harry Caray used it?

Yes, Halsey originated the “Holy Cow!” exclamation. Credit where credit is due.

My favorite story about ol’ Halsey is the time in 1968 that he set the press box on fire with ashes from one of his big cigars.

I was lucky to grow up listing to the Twins games on the radio, summer after summer, Herb Carneal, Halsey Hall, and of course, Hamm’s, the beer that refreshes.

hamms-beer-bear-and-twins

There’s a nice little write up about Halsey on the Society for American Baseball Research website. Good stories? Holy cow! In fact, the local SABR chapter is the Halsey Hall chapter. I wonder if they could add Herb Carneal into the name? Check out their February 2017 newsletter for a nice “Who Lived Here” trivia question.

Anyway: Pitchers and Catchers report. Spring is here. At last.

8 and 25. Seriously.

man.

 

brutal.

 

Just…

 

 

utterly

 

 

 

brutal.

 

I have to say, this club is not this bad. No.

Nobody is this bad, really.

Okay, maybe the Atlanta Braves, but probably not even them.

I know that spring training is just spring training, but this team went 19-11 in the spring. That’s the team I thought we’d be seeing this year. Where did they go?

I suppose this is one of the weirdly attractive things about baseball. Inexplicable, relentless catastrophe.

Of course, a lot of people will be happy to explain it. In fact, they saw it coming. Could have told ya.

But to be playing this bad. That’s pretty inexplicable. This goes far far beyond injuries and strikeouts and OPS and young ball players who lack experience in major league ball. This gets all the way down to the absolute nature of reality and existence.

Reality and existence: utterly brutal.

Life is full of suffering.

oh yeah.

grimreaper2

2016 Opening Day!

2016 Baseball America Baseball AlmanacThe baseball gods have been chiding me, these last few weeks. Or perhaps prodding would be a better word. I came across a free copy of Baseball America’s 2016 Almanac the other day, for one. I’ve not seen this publication before, and it’s an old-school compendium of everything baseball in 2015, overflowing with detailed statistics on the game at all levels. It may even cover high school ball, I haven’t thoroughly investigated the back pages yet. If I don’t carry it gently, statistics fall out like confetti, leaving a trail of data behind. Best to keep it in a plastic bag. There’s more than anyone could possibly want to know, in here, and in a font that punishes the older crowd with the weak eyes and out-dated eyeglasses. I can’t imagine that they sell a lot of these. It’s a pretty limited market. And isn’t this all online? But I like it, it’s nice to have, it’s got a solid feel to it, and – I don’t know how they did this – but when I flip through the pages I can smell the dark green grass of summer evenings. Honest.

1916 Spalding Baseball GuideAnd I can’t help but nod a bit in the direction of Spalding’s Base Ball Guide of 1916. It would be fun to compare the two. I’ll put that on my ever-growing list of things to blog about.

I also picked up a free copy of David Halberstam’s Summer of ’49 just yesterday.

And a few weeks ago I picked up two books, Deadball Stars of the American (and National) League, published by our friends at SABR, and waiting for me on the $2 shelves at my nearby Half-Price Books.

Plus, of course, there’s Spring Training, coming and now going, and I see today that the StarTribune writers have made their forecasts for the coming season.

playing for keepsAnd I just finished, (a couple weeks ago) Goldstein’s Playing for Keeps – A History of Early Baseball. (Rather scholarly, that.)

And I finally acquired a Japanese baseball card I’ve been wanting.

So.

Could I maybe take the time, or make the time, to blog a bit?

Obviously, no, not so much. There is a crushing shortage of available time.

And yet, here I am. I cannot let the season begin without making a prediction.

The local Knights of the Keyboard are not so much impressed by our hometown boys and their 19-11 springtime mark. A couple of the scribes pick them for second, three of them say third place, and one says fourth. The high-water mark on record is the 87-75 prediction, good 2nd place. The doubting Thomas pegs them at 79-83, and a 4th place disaster.

Well, maybe they are right. After all, these are the fellows that follow this club, day and night. They get paid to know all about the Twins.

But, what the heck, it’s Spring, and sometimes you just gotta show a little faith and a little confidence. Maybe they don’t quite have the pitching for a 97 win season. But I’m saying the boys finish first, and win 93 games. 93-69, good enough for first, the Junior Circuit Gonfalon, and a place in the big show against the Cubbies. You heard it here first.

1991 Twins Championship

Ya gotta believe.