Saturday Notebook: Approaching The End, The Best & The Worst, Non-Guaranteed Contracts, Abusing Reporters, and More

Brandon Phillips: A wizard in the field but not with his words. - Joe Robbins

Today's Notebook looks at the Twins wrapping up their season and if we'll continue watching, using GIFs to see if the eye test shows Derek Jeter or Brendan Ryan as the superior defender, MLB teams adding "guarantee language" to their contracts, Brandon Phillips flipping out on a reporter for simply stating a statistical fact, and more.

Heads, or tails?

Heads, you keep tuning in to Twins games, only to be constantly disappointed. Tails, you pass and just wait for 2014 to roll around.

I'm in the midst of watching the Twins miraculously get a 3-2 lead on Yu Darvish after being no-hit for over 6 innings, but those first six innings were more representative of the Twins' play of late than the last two innings. They were swept by the Royals, which should never happen. They've already set a franchise record for strikeouts in a season, and they still have September to play. Their batting average with runners in scoring position is abysmal. Remember that stretch about a month ago when they scored 20-some runs in a row off homers? Yeah, that was fun, except it masked that the team couldn't buy a hit with a runner on 2nd or 3rd for seemingly the entire 2nd half of the season.

The final month of 2013 comes around now, and with school and the NFL starting up again, many of us won't have much time for the struggling Twins any longer. Joe Mauer very likely could be shut down for the rest of the year. Josh Willingham hasn't hit much. There's no starting pitcher that anyone could say they'd enjoy watching on this team, except for perhaps Andrew Albers. Okay, there will be a few players that will be interesting to watch. In fact, as I type this, I just read on Twitter that Josmil Pinto will be promoted to the Twins on Sunday. Again, we have the aforementioned Albers. Brian Dozier has been pretty surprising lately. But after that, there isn't much, and this year is shaping up to end much like the last two.

Will we be able to stomach the rest of this season? I know some will just lose interest in this year's squad and start looking towards Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, and perhaps even Byron Buxton in 2014, but I will still watch as much as I can. The main reason can be explained by a single Twitter account. Liam Hendriks notched his 2nd career win in 25 starts by beating Cy Young candidate Yu Darvish last night. Brian Dozier is 2nd on the team in home runs with 12. Seven batters have hit at least 10 home runs this year, and three more (Aaron Hicks, Pedro Florimon, and Chris Parmelee) are two away from joining that club. Albers and Caleb Thielbar are showing that the indy leagues can be a springboard to major league success. There will certainly be some rookies showing what they can do with their September cups of coffee. Despite their struggles, we can still have plenty to watch for in the last month of this season.

So, is it heads or tails?

  • Despite all the advanced statistics saying otherwise, Derek Jeter has accumulated quite a bit of Gold Glove hardware on his living room mantle over the years for his supposed excellent defense. Never mind that "pasta-diving Jeter" has become a joke at the expense of his lack of range. Ben Lindbergh of Grantland expounds on the sabermetrics of defense that say that Jeter is poor with the glove by using the eye test via GIFs and comparing Jeter to one of the best defensive shortstops in the league in Brendan Ryan. Specifically, this article expands on John Dewan (creator of The Fielding Bible and the stat plus/minus) sending Bill James a DVD with the 20 best and worst fielding plays of both Jeter and Adam Everett, another defensive wizard at shortstop. Lindbergh does the very same thing in this article, and we get to see what makes the rangy Ryan better at shortstop than Jeter. It also reinforces the common belief that more range is better than less range with surer hands, as I so often rant about on Twitter. Just a warning though, Lindbergh's article is chock full o' GIFs, which may make some weaker computers and/or browsers explode.
  • Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports takes a look at baseball teams attempting to minimize their risk with their players by adding "guarantee language" to contracts, which effectively could turn an MLB contract - one where the money is always guaranteed to the player, even when the player is released - into a non-guaranteed deal. Part of the reasoning is to avoid having to pay a player that is hurt significantly in a non-baseball activity (I'm looking at you, Aaron Boone) but there could also be language in the contract that hedges against PED usage. Of course teams do not want to be saddled with a hefty contract when the player commits an act that is detrimental to the team, but at the same time, it seems extreme when the Chicago Cubs state that a player's contract will become non-guaranteed if he is hurt playing jai-alai, participating in martial arts, or riding an ATV. I guess they just want to cover their bases (pun not intended) but at least a Cubs player could still get hurt playing pickleball and have no worries about losing his money.
  • It's not often we have a player go on a childish tirade, but Brandon Phillips did exactly that earlier this week. His rant was directed towards reporter C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer, who pointed out that Phillips was being moved to the #2 spot in the lineup in spite of his .310 OBP. Phillips found out about Rosecrans' tweet and used a pregame media session to express his displeasure towards Rosecrans, which included calling him fat and a "motherf-----". Meanwhile, manager Dusty Baker just sat in silence with a wry grin on his face, which annoyed me greatly but still didn't surprise me as Baker is one of those old school managers that frankly couldn't care less about OBP at the top of his lineup. To his credit, Rosecrans handled the situation well, and it was reflected in the press release by the Cincinnati Enquirer saying they would not change their coverage of the team. I could see how Phillips was probably upset about Rosecrans' tweet, but he certainly handled it in a poor manner and it's a shame that he now appears to be yet another professional athlete that is bothered by the media for simply doing their job. On a related note, Will Leitch of Sports on Earth points out that this athlete vs. media fight is particularly one-sided where the athlete will always end up on top, although Ron Darling has a good counterargument where the athlete does little more than embarrass himself, just as I feel Phillips did here.
Ah yes, here is my favorite part of the Saturday Notebook. Prepare for more #cantpredictball!
  1. Betsy Bissen took this picture of Pedro Florimon nuzzling one of Joe Mauer's bats, which brings back images of Carlos Gomez.
  2. Josh Willingham got into a rundown against the Indians last weekend, but somehow still advanced to 3rd base safely as the Indians dropped the ball and then made a wild throw. Oh, and Willingham didn't even need to slide!
  3. Chicago White Sox bench coach Mark Parent was ejected from a game... when he was giving the lineup card to the umpires. Apparently Parent was arguing some controversial calls that went against the White Sox earlier in their series versus the Texas Rangers, and he perhaps he volunteered to hand out the lineup card to give himself a chance to chat with the umpiring crew.
  4. A new way to style the brim of your cap, brought to you by a Little Leaguer.
  5. C.J. Wilson manages to avoid stepping on the foul line, but he doesn't avoid tripping over his own feet.
  6. I cannot stop watching this GIF of Jose Fernandez snagging a Troy Tulowitzki line drive, only to have Tulowitzki and Fernandez have a humorous exchange after the play was over. You can easily read the lips of both players.
  7. Here's David Price throwing warm-up pitches in Vanderbilt football gear, and then having teammate Matt Moore hit him in the helmet with a baseball.
  8. Finally, this usher has far more nerve than I would as he doesn't even flinch when a foul ball is hit right at him.
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