Post-Game (Exhibition Style)
The nature of blogging is essentially re-reporting. Aside from the new era of legitimate reporters placed on the scene that update sporadically, blogging has historically been the art of taking one's reputable work and altering it into something that can't be interpreted as plagiarism but a thinly veiled version your own thoughts. I would be hard-pressed to even call it regurgitation. It's eating regurgitation, digesting it and then spewing it out again. That is how I feel about this post.
Since I didn't technically SEE any of the first spring training game of the season, I am relying on the reporters to spoon feed me this information. Most of my first-hand information was siphoned off MLB's box score (which is basically saying my "first-hand" information from the war in Iraq was from CNN.com), but Joe Christensen and Phil Miller did a good job feeding updates via their Strib and PiPress blogs in the afternoon in lieu of GameChannel or whatever ESPN, Yahoo or MLB.com function I would have normally decided to watch afternoon games on at work.
I do and I do not like the MLB.com's format for GameDay audio. On one hand, I like the idea of listening to the game with alternative broadcasters just to sample some of the favors of other markets. I feel like you do when you visit out-of-town Targets. The formats are basically the same in every city (i.e. aging play-by-play man, former player color commentary that wreaks of booze, lots of dead air, etc) though something seems OFF. You don't quite get their inside jokes and you might have to look something up on Baseball-Reference or Retrosheet to fully understand the context yet it feels like more active listening that way. On the other hand, I don't like that the streaming function for KSTP is turned off and directing you to feed the cougher at GameDay in order to listen from your workstation.
Forgetting about the technology that brings us the instant gratification of knowing the boxscore refreshed every 30-60-or-90 seconds, it felt oddly nostalgic. Other than being at the game in Sarasota or watching from a live feed near the ballpark, you are able were only to obtain information about this game in just a couple of mediums: (1) to tune in via radio where you are reliant on the spoken word, (2) if you are only to access websites which you are reliant on the written word or (3) internet radio and websites at the same time (the least productive work cocktail of them all). It is amazing how vital verbal communication and literary context is to baseball. For example, when the MLB.com website boxscore indicated that Carlos Gomez went 0 for 2, it lacked any sort of insight as to what transpired. Without proper framework that 0 for 2 could mean a myriad of things. To your average fan, an 0 for 2 afternoon mean two outs, end of story. But those two outs could have been frozen ropes pissed on to Norris Hopper in centerfield. They could have been dribblers in front of the plate. So when Joe Christensen says that Carlos Gomez had two at-bats that were not pretty, I have to take him for his word on it, much like the scribes from the evening newspapers of a bygone era. They put a good perspective to it.
Then again, that one blurb from Christensen raised a few more questions. How did Carlos Gomez behave as a lead-off batter? Did he let a few pitches go by in his first at-bat to make the pitcher show him something? Did Gomez work the count? Did he foul off several pitches? Did he look fooled by the breaking stuff, way out in front? Was he behind on the fastball?
At any rate, soon enough we all will get these answers, after all, television and hours of analysis will reveal some truths to Gomez's approach to the plate, but for now I am satisfied with asking the questions instead of being crammed with answers.
- As Gleeman pointed out in his Twins notes, Josh Fogg was one of the alternate candidates being targeted by the Twins as the "innings-eater" position. Instead the Twins went with the most "consistent" Livan Hernandez for $5 to $7 million in 2008. The Reds GM Wayne Krivsky signed Josh Fogg to a contract that will be anywhere from $4 to $6 million dollars less. This inflation of pay could be attributed to the cost of reliability in spite of a steadily declining performance. The Twins have decided to pay an increased rate for piece of mind. Regardless, both starters should finish with very similar numbers at the conclusion of the season. Fogg, meanwhile, made his Cincinnati debut in the 3rd inning and pitched 2 scoreless innings giving up one hit and striking out two (one of them freezing Carlos Gomez for the backwards K) while receiving the win for his efforts.
- One of the most impressive things to read (via Joe Christensen's updates) was that Mike Lamb, a career .268/.336/.411 hitter against left-handed pitching, deposited a Kent Mercker pitch for a single. Naturally one match-up against a 40-year-old reliever is not like facing the likes of Sabathia, Willis or even Buehrle for that matter, but Mercker still held lefties to a .249/.332/.380 batting line in his career. It is almost common-knowledge that the Twins have had their struggles trying to find an everyday third baseman that has offensive success -- which Lamb clearly has shown with his prior Texan teams. The last being Corey Koskie whose career batting line against lefties was surprisingly low .248/.328/.378 (very similar to Mercker's numbers against left-handed batters). What does any of this mean? Absolutely nothing. However part of the Twins success will be contingent on Lamb's ability to handle left-handed pitching. As it stand right now, Nick Punto and Brendan Harris are the only right-handed bats available to substitute in games which lefties start.
- Carlos Gomez's first two at-bats in a Twins uniform came this afternoon and, as Joe C reported, neither were "pretty". Easy to say considering he was victim of a Josh Fogg strike out. This shouldn't be taken with too much salt since it was two plate appearances but it could be possible that the only reason he is batting lead off is simply speed. After all, he has not shown a great amount of patience in the minors or his major league stint. His highest season total of on-base percentage was .355 where he split time with high-A and triple-A last season (in only 153 at-bats). His minor league career is .336, better than his rival centerfielder, Jason Pridie's .326 obp (Branden Harris's minor league obp was .359 and he had no hits either). Pridie, also struck out once in Gomez's stead and was hitless in his two at-bats. Still, Gomez flashed some good glove in center: Gomez made a diving catch to end the third inning. Freel broke his bat and hit a pop up that looked like it might drop in shallow center, until Gomez turned on the burners. After making the grab, he stayed hunched over for a minute, and appeared to have the wind knocked out of him. He’s fine. Meanwhile in Arizona, Torii Hunter started his Los Angeles debut with two hits (one a double), a 2-out rbi and a run scored. The double came off of Eric Hurley, Texas' #3 top prospect according to Baseball America. Hurley dominated the lower levels of the minor leagues, often averaging more than a strikeout per inning (in 2006, Hurley struck out 106 in 101 innings in Bakersfield), but ran into better competition in triple-A Oklahoma where his strike outs (59) to innings pitched (73.1) decreased significantly. Maybe I am hunting for omens, but this does seem to be a foreshadowing of the coming season. Torii will undoubtedly have a solid season while Gomez and Pridie will struggle to find their major league legs. In the following season, I would assume that this will equalize that Gomez emerges as that elite player while Torii is relegated to corner outfield or designated hitter in his later years.
- I can't say that I am rooting against Craig Monroe because that would imply that there would be someone to root for in spring training. I wish there were other candidates signed to a minor league contract that could compete in that right-handed designated hitter role, like Mike Sweeney, who went 1 for 1 with the Oakland A's today while... PLAYING LEFT FIELD. That's how you know it is spring training folks, when they let the guy with the glass back play left field. It is valid to consider bringing in some form of competition, if for nothing else, so that Monroe can prove that he is the better, more capable player. Seems more democratic that way.
- A few Rule 5 picks from the Twins farm system were on display this afternoon as well. Garrett Guzman, the former Twins farm hand that was selected by the Washington Nationals in the Rule 5 draft this offseason, had a decent first outing with his new team (although playing against local powerhouse Georgetown U). Guzman finished 2 for 3 with a double, rbi and a run scored. While in the Twins system Guzman was a career .290/.339/.439 hitter. In 2,085 plate appearances over a six year career, he only hit 44 home runs but he hit 29 in his last 1,055 plate appearances the past two seasons. RA Dickey got the win for Seattle after blowing the save against San Diego. Alan Schwarz did an excellent profile on Dickey for the NY Times recently. I have to admit, I was hoping that he was going to make the team out of spring training after reading about his season last year.