Minnesota Twins Offseason (Part 1 of 50 most likely…)

by Troy M. Olson

Torii Hunter retired from baseball this week, bringing to an end an illustrious career in professional baseball. For the majority of his professional career Torii called Minnesota home. I would be lying if I said my usually analytical mind didn’t just shut off for awhile when he returned to the Twin Cities to finish off his career this season. He could have perhaps finally captured that elusive World Series title with Kansas City, but he came back home where it all started and joined a team that was coming off of four straight 90-plus loss seasons. No matter how we want to quantify the leadership that Hunter brought to the team, there was no denying this young and talented Twins club benefited both on and off the field from Hunter’s swan song. His retirement puts an end to a great playing career spent mostly with the Twins, with a five year stint in LA and two years in Detroit in between. I would not be surprised if Hunter was able to stay on the Hall of Fame ballot for five years or so.

Hunter’s departure leaves a hole in right field, which brings me to the first of many off-season speculations / plans. This one will be less in-depth since we still have not yet wrapped up the World Series.

I would categorize the biggest needs of the Twins  entering the offseason as being:

  1. Beefing up the bullpen
  2. Finding a left-handed hitting catcher to platoon with Kurt Suzuki
  3. Find a replacement for Torii Hunter in right

What the Twins DO NOT need to do despite what many will want to do, or what conventional wisdom says:

  1. Free Agent Starting Pitching (based off of a pretty spotty recent track record of free agent SP signings)
  2. Shortstop (Eduardo Escobar has at least played well enough to go into 2016 as the everyday starter, and I would argue that he is a top-half of the league SS, given his experience at such a young age)
  3. Play Byron Buxton right out of spring training

Here would be my approach to the offseason:

  1. Keep things mostly status-quo. Despite a young and emerging team, the Twins do not have a lot of payroll room based on their allocated budget. They have a lot of young, cheap talent with more on the way mixed in with mediocre and costly over-30 year old players. Some will blame Mauer’s contract, but that is revisionist history. Add up the Santana and Nolasco contracts and you have a couple million more than Mauer. Santana was suspended and missed half of the year for steroid use and Nolasco missed more than half of the year via injury. Nolasco should not be given a scholarship, but should have to earn his way onto the rotation. If he does not:
  2. Move Nolasco to the Bullpen or try and package him with Trevor Plouffe in a trade. I like Plouffe a lot, but at age-30, he has probably reached his peak value. He is projected to make around 8 million via arbitration, an amount I think his performance backs up. He is a proven, slightly above average 3B who has improved his defense tremendously over the last three years. Sano replacing Plouffe at third would probably be a downgrade permanently on defense, and certainly would be in the short term, however, Sano had a Killebrew-esque debut at the plate and given the surplus of 1B/DH/Corner OF types on the 40-man roster, the Twins should strongly consider dealing from a position of strength, take the short term downgrade on defense, but upgrade offense at both 3B and DH in the process. Sano in the lineup as everyday 3B, combined with either Arcia or Vargas at DH gives the Twins two very young, power hitters that would balance the lineup out nicely.
  3. Sign Denard Span to play RF and leadoff. I think the Twins should take a page from what worked last year and try and replicate the Hunter reunion with another Twins player that was part of the Puckett to Hunter to Span, etc., unofficial “CF mentor-apprentice” program. This fills two needs. The Twins need to replace Hunter’s bat in RF, and they also badly need a consistent, everyday lead-off hitter. Span fits this role perfectly. Hunter was paid 11.5 million in 2015 and the Twins could probably sign Span of the same amount, spread out over multiple years of course (although they should go no further than 3 years with the offer). Span still has good speed for 31, had an amazingly underrated tenure with the Twins the first time around (patient approach to the plate + solid CF defense) and despite spending time on the DL this year, shows no immediate signs of regression. Slotting him in right field allows Aaron Hicks to maximize where his talent fits best with the Twins, hitting further down in the order, using his great speed in centerfield, and continuing to refine his approach at the plate without having to carry the leadoff role burden.
  4. Sign A.J. Pierzynski to platoon with Suzuki at catcher. A.J. is one of the most hated players in baseball, and maybe this would be the opposite of what Torii Hunter brought to the club house, but if you are also bringing in a guy like Span for a reunion, you’d have to think it would work out alright. A.J. has had a remarkably durable and consistently career at the games most demanding position. Who would have thought he would still be playing catcher a few years after Joe Mauer moved from the position. If you recall, after the 2003 Division Championship season, Pierzynski was traded to the Giants (in a coup that brought Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser to the organization) to make room for Mauer’s rookie season. The Twins lineup is also a little too right-handed heavy in a league with many solid to great right-handed pitchers. Adding some veteran lefty bats (Span and Pierzynski) who as of last year, seem to have plenty left in the tank, would address imbalance.
  5. Sign one, decent right-handed set-up arm for the back-end of the bullpen. This would give you three solid to great relievers at the back end of the bullpen in Glen Perkins, Kevin Jepsen, and said free agent. Does it make them the Royals bullpen overnight? No. But only the development of elite arms in the minors like Nick Burdi, Jake Reed, or Alex Meyer would do that to the bullpen. No need to overspend on a position that pitches no more than 70 innings per year. Between Span, AJ, and a right reliever — the Twins are spending no more than 22 million, which is about the amount that will be saved from the Hunter contract being off the books (11.5 million), trading Plouffe (8 million), and trading Nolasco (I will be conservative and say we pick up most of his contract to get the deal down, so the Twins only save 4 out of 12 million on this one).

A couple of impact moves added to a talented, young core. The early roster would then shake out like this, give or take…

25 Man Roster:

Lineup

Span (RF), Dozier (2B), Mauer (1B), Sano (3B), Rosario (LF), Arcia/Vargas (DH), Pierzynski/Suzuki (C), Hicks (CF), Escobar (SS)

Bench

C – Pierzynski/Suzuki, UTIL – Nunez, UTIL – Santana, 1B/OF/DH – Arcia/Vargas

Rotation

SP1 – Hughes, SP2 – E. Santana, SP3 – Gibson, SP4 – May, SP5 – Duffey

Bullpen

CL – Perkins, SU – Jepsen, SU – Free Agent/Trade, MR – Pressly, MR – Graham, MR – Tonkin Spot/LR – Milone

40 Man Roster that could make an impact:

Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Jose Berrios, Alex Meyer, Erik Fryer, Mason Melotakis, Blaine Boyer (to name a few)

Designated for Assignment, not re-signed, taken off the 40-Man roster or given outright release:

Brian Duensing, Chris Herrmann, Shane Robinson, Casey Fien, Aaron Thompson, Doug Bernier, Neal Cotts, Ryan O’Rouke, A.J. Achter

 

Episode 8: Everything’s Historic

Championship Pairing

This week your host with the most, Jered “pumpkin carver” Weber returns from his week hiatus to help bring a little more optimism to the podcast. Bill, Pat and Troy celebrate by voting on the long awaited Rick Perry Memorial Bracket Final Four, sharing their thoughts about the final Star Wars trailer, and discussing an up-and-down week in Minnesota sports.

Also, Troy begins his campaign to make Jered the next official radio announcer for the Minnesota Vikings. Will he succeed? Find out by listening to this week’s episode of Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast.

Or Direct Download this week’s episode by clicking here.

1:00-10:30: Intros and Millennial Musings
27:52-40:47: The Rick Perry Memorial Bracket Final Four
40:48-54:54: Pop Goes the Culture: Star Wars Trailer Nerdery
55:00-1:01:30: The Historic Nature of Small Town America/The Longest Sign Off Ever Read

Remembering Paul Wellstone and his impact on my life 13 years later

by Patrick K. Meacham

Many things have been said about Senator Paul Wellstone. On the anniversary of his death I wanted to express how one day in my life was vastly impacted by the death of a man I had never met.

There I was, between thoughts of how long until my wife will let us leave the party and how bad will traffic be on I-94 heading home. I was hearing this millennial speak about all of his life defining moments that he has had in the 4 years since he graduated some fantastic, 3rd rate liberal arts college, that everyone has heard of but no one can remember an acquaintance that actually went there.

You can probably guess a few his life defining moments – hell, you’ve probably heard them from friends, thought about doing them yourself or actually had eerily similar life moments.

Turns out he backpacked through Europe after his freshman year of college – staying at hostels and “roughing it”. At one point he bought a $900 bottle of champagne in a Budapest strip club or was it somewhere near Munich…doesn’t matter. But existential…religious…architecture…something, he rambles on about as I dreadfully eye the naked ice cube void of the scotch it was swimming in two minutes ago. Now I’m wondering how I could afford to travel to Europe on a county paycheck, let alone at 19. All of my money went to Ron Diaz and Skoal in college. It helps, though, I suppose when mom and dad paid for your ticket, college and that apartment you dreadfully call a flat – YOU LIVE IN MINNEAPOLIS! Nobody calls it a flat – not even the the bartender at Brit’s Pub.

Next I begrudgingly learned that he up and quit his non-profit job because the company’s ideals didn’t meet up with his – and he became an organic farmer for a summer while contemplating joining the Peace Corp – which never happened. Oddly enough, I never did learn what he currently does for work. I envision him working in real estate or as a mortgage broker in some exurb that he commutes to an hour a day because it’s a stepping stone to his “real goal” of becoming the next Jack Dorsey or Nick Woodman.

As if that wasn’t enough for the man – and his manhood – he informs me that he just finished his first marathon last week. By that time I was dreaming of hooking the Laphroaig Quarter Cask up to an IV and peacefully drifting into a coma of solitude with hints of a peat bog, butterscotch, and vanilla. I came out of my imaginary coma to hear the end of his pontification on how confidence is everything and that I should and can accomplish the impossible. Which is odd considering we were just talking about marathons and I’m an obese white male with a history of bad knees and smoking.

About that time my wife tugged on her earlobe and gave the universal sign of let’s get the hell out of here – but it was too late – I had already fallen into the trap. It started with the wondering of why all of his life defining moments are all full of a synthetic, non-organic, predisposed occurrences and it consumed me on our walk through the parking lot. What are my life defining moments?

On the drive from Minneapolis to our home in the small bedroom community north of the Twin Cities that only Rockwell could paint and Keillor could put into prose – Mason Jennings was playing on The Current singing “The Ballad of Paul and Sheila”.

And it hit me…

Like a ton of fucking bricks – I knew what my single life defining moment was, and I was instantly brought back to that moment in time – I didn’t know it then but I knew it now

Thirteen years ago today, an 18 year old version of myself was lying on the 70’s fall floral patterned pullout couch in my parents basement enjoying one of my last free afternoons prior to hockey tryouts – and Peter Jennings came on with a special report that Senator Paul Wellstone had died in a plane crash outside of Eveleth, Minnesota.

My first election was 11 days away, my first political hero had died, and the nation’s progressive conscience was gone.

One of my life defining moments.

It was easy then and is still easier now to support a man that fought tirelessly for economic justice, health care, peace and the everyday underdogs in our society. I’m not ashamed to admit that 18 year old me was also intrigued by the thought of how a skinnier George Constanza became the liberal voice in the United States Senate.

Senator Wellstone was the only Senator with a tight reelection looming to vote against the Iraq Resolution. Many notable Democratic Senators (Clinton, Biden, Kerry, Reid, Schumer, Harkin, and Edwards to name a few of the 29 Democrats) voted for and sent our troops into the quagmire that was, became, and is Iraq. I didn’t know how much that vote would mean to me at the time but when a high school best friend is buried after being killed in the Anbar province – you get mad, you cry, and then you wish there were more people like both Senator Wellstone and Corporal Linden.

Bernie Sanders said on the 5th anniversary of Paul and Sheila’s deaths “he understood that the way you can win elections is by rallying ordinary people at the grassroots level. And perhaps that achievement, from a political perspective, will be what he will be most remembered for”. The legacy he left and the bridge that he built between protests and unrest to movements and political change is still being used today – the playbook on grassroots politics he wrote helped President Obama mobilize hoards of volunteers, phone bankers, and door knockers in 2008. Bernie Sanders himself is taking a page out of and benefiting from the Wellstone way of campaigning – it wouldn’t surprise me if Senator Sanders goes to bed with “The Conscience of a Liberal” on his night stand and “Winning Your Election the Wellstone Way” is required reading for his staffers.

Eight years after Senator Wellstone’s death, I was sitting next to a Mayor Betsy Hodges, then a city council member from Minneapolis, at a pizza restaurant in Duluth, Minnesota for an evening get-together for classmates and speakers of the graduate program that I was attending at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Hodges asked where I was from and what I did when I wasn’t traveling 2 hours on a Friday afternoon for weekend graduate classes in Advocacy and Political Leadership. I tried to recite to her my elevator speech, and it felt like we could have climbed the IDS Tower and back while I fumbled through my background and resume. She then asked how a white male from northern Minnesota ends up coaching girls’ hockey, volunteering for Democratic Politics, and working with and advocating for individuals struggling with mental health and other challenges in an urban area.

I didn’t have to search for or fumble through an answer to this question “I guess, I like to fight for the underdogs – I learned it from Senator Wellstone”.

To me, one of my life defining moments is in what I said to Councilwomen Hodges and in what my life has become – and my attempt to adhere to my favorite Wellstone quote “live a life in which you don’t have to separate the life you live from the words you speak.”  It was that day 13 years ago that profoundly impacted my course through life since and hopefully it defines my life and the words I speak for rest of my life.

Episode 7: The Kardashian Quota

The Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast crew is back … well at least half of them. This week Pat and Troy take the reins and bring special guest Carson along for the ride. This week the trio debates baby boomers as mentors, get Carson’s take on the Rick Perry Memorial Bracket, and start speculating on 2020 Celebrity Presidential contenders. Also, Troy has his Garrison Keillor moment during News from the Front.

Do any of these wonderful topics intrigue you? Then, listen now!

Are you too cool for websites? Direct download this week’s episode instead!

Safe for Work Ways to Kill Time at Work.

Vice President Joe Biden will enter the Presidential race and Troy’s pick for the Democratic nominee looks better and better … that is until his first gaffe.

Lindsay Lohan for President 2020? Yes. God. Please. Just imagine the debates between Lindsay and Kanye West. Don’t worry, if you can’t imagine it – Carson speculated on Kanye’s answer to a debate question from last week’s Democratic Debate.  

The article referenced in the latest episode in regards to Boomers and their ability to be role models for millennials.

Believe it or not but Lamar Odom’s overdose has increased brothel business.

Star Wars. Trailer. Watch it.

Gilmore Girls is likely coming back on Netflix next year with the original cast. This is the Christmas Miracle all Millennial women have been waiting for this fall.

Ben Carson Tormented By Periodic Rational Thoughts … Onion Article or News Article? Find out for yourself.

Anyone want to know why I don’t live in California? Because Minnesota doesn’t have Extremely Venomous Sea Snakes due to El Niño. We just have above average or below average winter temperatures and potentially above average or below average snowfall…huh? Exactly.  

Millennial Nostalgia Fix of the Week

For our Millennial nostalgia fix, here is the Goosebumps trailer which looks about as much fun as listening to Ace of Base on repeat for 7 hours.  

The AV Club debates the importance of No Doubts Tragic Kingdom and asks the important question … does the album still matter.

Meach –

Comparing Cars and Guns (Using Facts), Part 2 of 2

by Troy M. Olson

In 2010, 13,186 people died in terrorist attacks throughout the world. In that same year, 31,672 Americans died from gun-related deaths, either from intentional or negligent homicide, or accidental gun deaths. The number of Americans who died from terrorist attacks since 9/11 is statistically insignificant in comparison, 33 deaths.

The September 11th terrorist attacks were followed by dramatic changes in policy and several subtle and not so subtle erosions of our Civil Liberties, 4th Amendment Rights, and 9th Amendment Rights. The withering away of our liberties codified best by the Patriot Act which combined with advances in technology have made Privacy, perhaps the most fundamental right we have as human beings, a product of the past.

33 Deaths in that time span, compared to 150,000 deaths from intentional killings using a firearm, compared to over 300,000 firearm deaths overall. This is not a simple case of a person with a gun killing someone. Obviously no gun kills anybody. But we do have even more accidental deaths from those who fail to use a gun safely and exercise caution while owning a weapon that is more dangerous, far more dangerous than cars, which have been regulated heavily since the 1960s.

The purpose of this analysis, using statistics, objective facts, etc., is not to attack the 2nd Amendment, infringe on gun rights… but rather to show that evidence and the facts point to a public gun policy that should have AT LEAST as much regulatory effect as we have with automobiles in America.

I have long argued that we have more reason to fear other Americans than we do terrorists. Statistics back this up.

To be intellectually honest and consistent, anyone who was FOR the Patriot Act should be FOR further regulation to curb further violence, whether intentional or accidental in this country.

Furthermore, if you were against large sections of the Patriot Act like I am today, and as I was in the past – you should argue against any Gun Regulation that infringes on our 2nd Amendment rights.

I have reviewed every single executive action that the President issued, all 23 of them. Not a single one infringes on anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights, nor violates the balance and delegation of powers under the Constitution between the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. Government.

The proposals to Congress from his speech are exactly that, proposals. It is the job of Congress to vote up or down on which ones to adopt and which ones to send back to the President. All of those proposals are quite clearly constitutional, and even those that some on the right argue are not, are not necessarily unconstitutional. For example: the assault weapons ban, in existence for ten years and the Supreme Court has never said that it is unconstitutional, therefore it thus far, has been held to be constitutional.

2nd Amendment (text)

A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed (emphasis added).

So what does this mean? Technically we can regulate guns all we want until the Supreme Court says “that’s too far.” There simply is no absolute right to gun ownership just like there is no right to drive a car however you choose, without regard to other drivers on the road.

For those that consider themselves Gun Rights supporters no matter what, take solace in the fact that while you statistically fight a losing battle, the regulations that you fear most, while not unconstitutional – are a political nonstarter. The potential benefits of either of these proposals passing would be statistically insignificant as well.

This was a bold move by the President, and it follows a tragic event that deserved a bold move in response. If 9/11 brings forth the largest erosion of our personal liberty in modern times, than surely this event should bring forth common sense regulations like universal background checks on those seeking to obtain firearms.

(Contemporary commentary: sadly, this shooting nor the next five, ten, twenty shootings did not bring any significant change other than the President’s original executive actions after Sandy Hook. There has been no significant act of Congress, nor much of a national discussion that doesn’t immediately devolve into one’s prescribed ideology. A shooting happens. We say the predictable words that person with that prescribed ideology would say. Then everyone likes each other just a little bit less.)

Note: the following link shows, contrary to what the most extreme firearm enthusiasts say, that you are more likely to die in an intentional or accidental manner involving firearms if you own one. Less urban areas with lower population density have higher rates of gun ownership, they also have higher rates of gun-related deaths.  

http://projects.oregonlive.com/ucc-shooting/gun-deaths.php

Episode 6: Stadium Wars

The Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast crew is back with another exciting episode. This week Bill, Jered, Pat, and Troy debate the merits of public funding for stadiums, talk the usual Minnesota sports mayhem, and finally take a few moments to talk about the excellence that is Star Wars. Also, Bill waxes intellectual on the bleak water future of California.

Do any of these wonderful topics intrigue you? Then, listen now!

Are you too cool for websites? Direct download this week’s episode instead!

Comparing Cars and Guns (Using Facts), Part 1 of 2

 by Troy M. Olson

For life saving technology with your help - Ralph Nader
For life saving technology with your help – Ralph Nader

The following was originally written in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and President Obama’s subsequent modest proposals to curb mass killings and violence in America in late 2012 (Note: the gun is the chief weapon of choice for violent crime in America period, and we’ll get to that. I don’t care about guns, but I’ve likely carried a gun for more hours in my life than most people reading this due to my time in the service. This article is about violence and unnecessary death and what we can do to stop it. What we can do to stop Americans from killing other Americans).

When we launched this website I considered making this one of the first posts, but decided to wait. The reason I waited is because there was no doubt in my mind, given the regularity of these violent, mass killings going on in our country, that the purpose for which it was written would have the opportunity to be timely again. I admit this freely, and with much regret, because that is itself an admission of defeat. Another sign of our collective failure to have a national conversation about public issues. 

This article, published in two parts operates under the premise that car accidents used to cause many, many deaths in this country.  And while they still do, regulation of their usage over the years despite more individuals driving cars has led to far fewer deaths while operating motor vehicles. Currently, we are facing record mass killings and violence in an era where overall crime and violent crime has been going down for decades. I thought the comparison was valid. Hopefully with sensible public policy, someday we can save some lives just like we did with the seat belt. 

CAR OWNERSHIP IN AMERICA:

As of 2010, the United States has the largest fleet of motor vehicles in the world, totaling 239.8 million.

The U.S. Department of Energy reports an ownership rate of 828 vehicles per 1,000.

In other words, we have a vehicle to person ratio of 1:1.3. For every one car in this country, we have a person and a third of a person. There is far more car ownership than gun ownership, as this analysis will later show.

DEATHS FROM CAR ACCIDENTS:

Since the 1960s, consumer advocates like Ralph Nader (“Unsafe At Any Speed”) have led the movement to make cars safer and traveling in cars safer. Since then, the US Federal and State Governments have regulated automobiles far more heavily than they had before.

Deaths from car accidents peaked at over 50,000 decades ago. In 2011, they were down to 32,367.

Year                                                Car Deaths

2011                                                32,367

2010                                                32,885

2009                                                33,808

2008                                                37,261

2007                                                41,059

Considering that the ownership of just one car compared to one gun and the number of instances of usage it would appear as if firearms are far more dangerous than cars, which are much more heavily regulated, and the deaths associated with them, whether intentional, negligent, or accidental, are more frequent.

GUN OWNERSHIP IN AMERICA:

As of 2009, the United States has a population of 307 million people. Based on production data from firearm manufacturers, there are roughly 300 million firearms owned by civilians in the United States as of 2010. Of these, about 100 million are handguns.

The American Journal of Epidemiology reported that having a gun in your home makes you three times more likely to be the victim of a homicide and five times more likely to kill yourself. This study conclusively shows that gun owners are in far more danger than non-gun owners. A 300 percent increase in the risk of death by homicide illustrates the likelihood that someone in the house will “snap” and kill you. Whether it be a father, a mother, or a child; if you own a gun you are more likely to be the victim of a homicide within the confines of your own home.

The following are estimates of private firearm ownership in the U.S. as of 2010.

                                    Households with a Gun            Adults Owning a Gun           

Percentage                        40-45%                                    30-34%

Raw Number                    47-53 million                       70-80 million

A 2005 nationwide Gallup poll of 1,012 adults found the following levels of firearm ownership:

Category                        Percentage Owning a Firearm

Households                       42%

Individuals                        30%

Female                                13%

Male                                    47%

White                                  33%

Nonwhite                           18%

Republican                        41%

Independent                      27%

Democrat                           23%

In the same poll, gun owners stated they own firearms for the following reasons:

Protection Against Crime                        67%

Target Shooting                                         66%

Hunting                                                       41%

GUN DEATHS:

All homicides

Number of Deaths: 16,259

Deaths per 100,000 population: 5.3

Firearm homicides

Number of Deaths: 11,078

Deaths per 100,000 population: 3.6

In the United States, annual deaths resulting from firearms total (whether intentional homicide, negligent homicide, or accidental deaths):

2011: 32,163

2010: 31,672

2009: 31,347

Rate of ALL Gun Deaths per 100,000 People

2011: 10.3

2010: 10.26

2009: 10.22

– END OF PART ONE –

Episode 5: Yelling from a Distance

Rick Perry Memorial Bracket: Elite 8
Rick Perry Memorial Bracket: Final Four

After a week off due to Troy Olson’s dramatic return to (and quick departure from) the fabled Minnesota, the full Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast crew (Bill’s alive!) are back with another exciting episode! This week we decide who moves forward in the Rick Perry Memorial Bracket, reflect on the terrible state of Minnesota’s sports teams, and continue to spend way too much time talking about the 2016 presidential election. Listen now! 

Not a fan of clunky websites? Here’s the direct download for your listening pleasure.