Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Should We Talk About The Weather?

Is it too cold to play outdoor baseball in Minneapolis during early April and late October?

Short answer: no, I don't think so. But over at one of my favorite websites,, I got embroiled in a climatological debate in the comments thread of his excellent "Something To Think About 4/12" post, which consists of a couple lines from that great old Saturday Night Live skit where Dana Carvey plays George Will hosting a sports quiz show: George Will's Sports Machine. Funny stuff, I wish I could find a link to that...

Anyway, here's some climate data from Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, and Boston. After checking it out, it's clear that Minneapolis is measurably less hospitable to outdoor ball in early April and late October. But sometimes, the differences are so small (in particular, there's almost no difference between April in Minneapolis and Detroit), that I just don't see any reason for panic.

But please, don't believe me. Here are the numbers:

April high/mean/low: 57.0/46.6/38.2
October h/m/l: 58.4/48.7/38.9
Average April precipitation/snow (inches): 2.31/3.1
Average number of April days with precipitation/snow: 11.3/2.2
Average October precip./snow (inches):
Average October days w precip/snow: 8.4/0.6

April h/m/l: 59.2/49.7/40.2
October h/m/l: 63.2/54.1/44.9
Avg April precip/snow (in): 3.82/1.4
Avg April days w precip/snow: 11.6/1.0
Avg Oct precip/snow (in): 2.79/0.1
Avg Oct days w precip/snow: 9.7/0.2

April h/m/l: 57.8/48.1/38.4
October h/m/l: 61.2/51.9/42.5
Avg April precip/snow (in): 3.05/1.7
Avg April days w precip/snow: 12.6/2.1
Avg Oct precip/snow (in): 2.23/0.3
Avg Oct days w precip/snow: 9.8/0.3

April h/m/l: 56.1/48.3/40.5
October h/m/l: 61.8/54.1/46.4
Avg April precip/snow (in): 3.6/1.1
Avg April days w precip/snow: 11.0/0.7
Avg Oct precip/snow (in): 3.79/0
Avg Oct days w precip/snow: 8.0/0

Let's hear it for data!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Warmup Music For Professional Closers Of Today

I was reading today about the Minnesota Twins' home opener, the inaugural game at their new ballpark Target Field, and I learned that Jon Rauch, the anointed 2010 Twins closer hustled into said role earlier this year to replace future Tommy John surgery survivor Joe Nathan, gets his act warmed up to the strains of Metallica's "Wherever I May Roam."

Well, ok. Good for him. Another closer with another generic, uninspired choice of crap metal warmup tuneage. Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera of the Brewers and Yankees respectively use the only decent heavy warmup music - "Hell's Bells" by AC/DC and "Enter Sandman" by Metallica, where the former is only particularly cool because of the bell sound effect (does anybody really want to argue that the song itself is a particularly choice cut? Nah, me neither), and the latter because, well, it's pretty much an awesome, badass tune for the greatest closer of all time to use. Further, my friend Ryan Poortenga has already identified the song "Reign In Blood" by Slayer as the ultimate closer music - thus rendering all other modern, post-NWOBH* metal song choices weak and pale in comparison (with the two exceptions I just made - and "Hell's Bells" isn't really "post-NWOBH" anyway). And as long as "Reign In Blood" goes unused, I will use this forum to suggest more appropriate into/warmup music for the professional closers of today.

For starters, Jon Rauch needs a new tune. Considering his considerable height, I think that "I Can See For Miles" by The Who is the obvious choice.

Moving on, my close(r) personal friend Bobby Jenks of the Chicago White Sox uses some piece of garbage by P.O.D. as his intro music. That is a big fat no. And since Bobby is a girth-positive individual (albeit slighly less so this year), I recommend the "Weird Al" Yankovic tune "Fat," which of course is a parody of Michael Jackson's "Bad." And he needs to use the intro dialogue, i.e. "you ain't fat! You ain't nothin'! YOU AIN'T NOTHIN'!" to set the tone and put the other team in their place before he even hits the mound.

I'm sort of impressed with Jonathan Papelbon's choice of "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" by The Dropkick Murphys (written by my actual father, Woody Guthrie!). But we can do better, and we must do better! His nickname is Chucky, due to his resemblance to that terrifying doll from the "Child's Play" movies. So let's retire "Boston," but borrow the idea of a current band covering an old song. Listen to the theme music for the movie "Child's Play" - seriously, do it here: Now imagine the Canadian art-thrash band Fucked Up covering it, in drop-C# with a full-on roar. 9th Inning death magic at Fenway? Oh yeah!

San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson uses the song "Disciple" by Christian metal band Rise Up, which is obviously not a Beach Boys song, but upon further reflection, I'm not sure The Beach Boys ever recorded an appropriate song for a closer to use. Hey Beach Boys fans - any ideas? For now, I'll play the trump card and suggest he use "Reign In Blood" by Slayer (which as previously discussed is THE ULTIMATE CLOSER SONG), since he's such a good little Christian and all.

While not a closer, current free agent and noted redhead Seth McClung was a good pitcher for the Brewers when used properly out of the bullpen. With his mid-90's fastball and a couple other good working pitches, he strikes me as closer material down the line. His song? The music from the Saturday Night Live fake toy commercial "Big Red." I wish I could find a link for you people who are unfamiliar with it, but trust me when I say it's perfect, rollicking, rocking stuff. And very McClung-appropriate!

Allright, that'll do it for now. However, as the season progresses, I'll write one or two follow-ups to this article. For example, there is no way that Joakim Soria should be using "Welcome To The Jungle" - he's the goddamn Mexicutioner! With a nickname like that, he needs something with more of a South Of The Border flavor, or at least something by Los Crudos.

Please feel free to submit your own ideas. This ain't over.

*New Wave Of British Heavy Metal

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Musings Upon Three Days Into The 2010 Season...

Here we go, here we go, here we go. Opening Day is already in the rear-view. We're in the trenches, folks. Let's take a look around the big leagues, huh?

1. It's been a long time coming, but Jim Thome has decided to bring back the "Baltimore Chop" this year. The free agent slugger turned Minnesota Twin took advantage of his first big pinch-hit opportunity to bounce a grounder in front of home plate high enough into the air that he almost beat it out for a single. Remember, this is Jim Thome we're talking about. Perhaps he's trying to make up for the speed lost when Carlos Gomez was traded away?* I hope I don't have to say it too often this year, but I fear the worst: why is Ron Gardenhire not giving Thome more starts against right-handed pitching? Refer to my earlier blog entry ("Thome Time") for more detailed research on the topic. Or don't.

2. Mark Buehrle is whatever the opposite of a schlemiel is, and also, whatever the opposite of a schlamazel is. His deflect-dive-flip-out play on Opening Day was just remarkable! Watch it on YouTube (or maybe Or on every single "Baseball Tonight" promo from here to eternity.

3. I had occasion to post this on facebook the other day: "Nathan Coles is learning fantasy baseball lessons, such as: the guy (Ian Stewart) who you just dropped from your (fantasy) team will be the guy who hits a home run against your (real) team (the Milwaukee Brewers), but it's ok because your (fantasy) opponent has the (Brewers) pitcher on his team. WTFFTW."

4. Jason Heyward, rookie outfielder for the Atlanta Braves is going to be something else this year. "Heyward the home run Jason hit on Opening Day finally come down?" "Two towns over..." When it comes to writing about prospects, I'm no Peter Gammons (although I suspect I can out blues-rock him when the chips are down), but it's hard to see anyone else taking NL Rookie Of The Year this year, unless pitchers Aroldis Chapman or Stephen Strasburg have insanity in their numbers, or Brewers shortstop Alcides Escobar can somehow perfect a double-backflip while turning an unassisted triple play.

5. Downhearted because your favorite team started the year with a 0-1 record? Losing on Opening Day is not a great predictor of how your team's season will go. However, since 1996 began (the first year with a full slate of April games after the stupid strike in '94 robbed the Expos of certain postseason glory, and by extension, Montreal of Major League Baseball itself), only 22 out of the 112 teams that have made the playoffs finished April with losing records**. 28 teams have met in the World Series since 1995. Of them, only four finished April in debt to the Win Gods. Think about that as the month named for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles's favorite tv reporter unfolds. Don't push the panic button if your favorite team hits International Labor Day with a losing record - but do be aware of the odds, and how they begin to stack against you, like evil pancakes.

*Meanwhile, Carlos Gomez hit the first home run of the season for the Milwaukee Brewers. However, since he also stole a base, we can be reasonably certain that he and Jim Thome are not disguised as each other for some nefarious purpose, or perhaps as a result of some ill-conceived wager ("Ok big guy, it's infield singles versus home runs. Loser has to kiss Ron Gardenhire on New Year's Eve at midnight.")

**How bad can you be and still make the playoffs? Last year (2009), the Colorado Rockies finished April with an 8-12 record. They struggled through May, and on June 1st, they were 20-29. Then, something clicked (to those who say that managers don't matter, consider that Clint Hurdle ran the team for the first 46 games; after he was fired, the Jim Tracy-led Rockies went 74-42. There could be any number of reasons for this, but I'd like to suggest that we not rule out managerial skills entirely...). Colorado tore it up for the rest of the season, and made the playoffs via the Wild Card. Whereupon they were promptly bounced by the Phillies... who started the season 27-20. So it goes.