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GDT #31: Twins @ Cleveland

Remembering the best sports blog ever which wasn't a sports blog. Also, BRUCE CHEN!

My apartment paint includes Kasota Gold. Not by my choice.
My apartment paint includes Kasota Gold. Not by my choice.
Game Time: 3:10 PM CDT (21:00 GMT)
Weather: 60% Chance For Buttloads Of Rain
TV: FSN. Radio: Kenneth, What Is The Frequency?

When the Twins played Cleveland some weeks ago, I wrote a short profile of Minnesota-born, Native American HOF pitcher Charles Bender. I looked for the Minnesota History article that introduced me to Bender, and what I found didn't match my memory. I've found it now. It wasn't in Minnesota History -- it was a GameDay.

For those who didn't go to Twins games in the 2000s, GameDay was an independent program/scorecard sold cheap by vendors outside the MetroDome. A trifecta of brothers wrote, published and hawked it at first; later, other writers/vendors joined the party (including "Twins Geek," AKA John Bonnes.) It was strictly a labor of love.

The brothers were motivated by the Twins program's lousiness. It contained nothing more than brief promo fluff, it cost $3, while -- foulest sacrilege of all -- the boxes for scoring were too small and a pencil cost extra.

From the start, GameDay's articles were light years ahead of anything the Twins put out -- or either of our local papers, for that matter. Twins history, player analysis, baseball basics, it seemed to never run out of material. And each issue contained a lot of material, new issues arriving every month or two. A pull-out insert (with nice big scoreboard boxes on the reverse) contained details about that series' matchups; previews of both teams and all the stats you could imagine. (Plus pencils were free.)

What made GameDay such a joy was the tone; instructive and argumentitive without ever being condescending to readers. Whether you were into the latest advanced metrics or (like me) still learning what the term "breaking ball" meant, GameDay could appeal to you. Rather than a lecture, it felt like overhearing a friendly conversation in the next row.

Even buying it was a pleasure. The vendors missed a few games yet there was almost always one around, often several. Part of going to a Twins game involved the ritual of finding where GameDay was being sold. (The Twins behaved somewhat dickishly about insisting vendors stay off Dome property.) Vendors were usually eager to talk baseball, sometimes other things besides. I got stock tips from one. Another was the ex-mayor of West Saint Paul.

GameDay folded before the Twins moved into Target Field. The writers had moved on to other things, while the rise of informative sports blogs made much of GameDay's stats content redundant.

I miss them a lot. Tons of good work can be found on sports websites. Still, those sites aren't always novice-friendly. (Internet culture as a whole isn't.) Print could also allow for slightly longer articles. And even when blogs give us great, generously-written material, "save file as" isn't the most nostalgic form of souvenir.

Here's the caliber of writing they had. Tom Swift, who did that Bender article? He didn't stop there; he wrote a whole book on Bender, published in 2008, highly praised by reviewers and historians. Or this GameDay line from Liriano's rookie year which still haunts; "please, God, let this kid stay healthy."

A few echoes remain. The Twins lowered their scorecard prices after GameDay took off. In recent years those scorecards even feature independent writers contributing short notes inside, which are "powered by GameDay" with the old program's logo. But you do have to pay extra for that pencil.


CHEN'S BACK! Bruce Chen will be called up today, as MLB bylaws require Bruce Chen to pitch at least one game against Minnesota every season for 50 more years. The death of knuckleballers is always predicted and often lamented; nobody praises humble junkballers. Here's FanGraphs' career estimates of Chen's pitch varieties and speeds (only for the last 12 of Chen's 15 seasons; he's so veteran, he broke FanGraphs):

Pitch "Fast"ball Slider Change Curve
Velocity 86.4 82.0 77.0 73.7
Usage 48% 19% 17% 16%

Phil Hughes pitches for the Twins, after picking up his first win of 2015 on Monday. It must have been his finest game, since wins are the most important stat for a pitcher. He's worst against Michael Bourn and Carlos Santana, best against Michael Brantley and David Murphy. Chen owns Mauer/Hunter, while Plouffe/Dozier/Suzuki own Chen. (It's really wild how skewed those numbers versus Chen are. Why not Plouffe, skip?) NOTE: Plouffe is away coping with a family issue. Wish him well, and thanks to gonzobob for the heads-up!


Minnesota Cleveland
Brian Dozier, 2B Jason Kipnis, 2B
Hunter S. Torii, RF Carlos Santana, 1B
Joe Mauer, 1B Michael Brantley, LF
Kurt Suzuki, C Brandon Moss, RF
Kennys Vargas, DH Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
Eduardo Escobar, 3B Nick Swisher, DH
Eddie Rosario, LF Michael Bourn Identity, CF
Jordan Schafer, CF Roberto Perez, C
Daniel Santana, SS Jose Ramirez, SS