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Crain's signing, Bob Feller and bringing PuntoBack

  • Blog Post by: Howard Sinker
  • December 17, 2010 - 9:38 AM

The Twins need to rebuild their bullpen in 2011. They need to hope Joe Nathan rebounds from his Tommy John-forced sabbatical, that Matt Capps can do whatever job for which he's called upon, that Jose Mijares discovers some consistency and that the rest of the parts can be cobbled together from the minors and the guys who will be available as winter wears on.

For those of you playing along, the best free-agent tracker I know of is at mlbtradrumors.com, where you can see that Boof has signed a minor-league deal with the Mets (There goes Plan Z for the Twins) and Juan Cruz is available again.

Not to be too snarky about it, but it made me quite happy to see Jesse Crain sign with the White Sox. I really wanted to believe in his streak last summer -- when he gave up only four earned runs in 41 2/3 innings from mid-June through Septemeber. I wanted to believe that it was just a belch when he blew up against Toronto in a meaningless game in the season's final weekend, but I had noticed that he was having more trouble locating his pitches as September wore on.

Evidence: Craig walked 7 of 35 batters during a seven-game stretch in September after walking only 7 of 88 batters in 29 appearances before that. But we were so caught up in the Twins running away with the division that individual malfeasance was easy to overlook. And in 2009 there was a stretch of 17 appearances without allowing an earned run and, in 2006, Crain ended the season with 22 2/3 innings in which he gave up only one earned run.

In other words, his entire career has been about streaks and valleys -- and to read much more into last summer's hotness is a flawed premise. If ther White Sox want him -- and want him for three years, at that -- good for Jesse and good luck with that. Same goes for Matt Guerrier, who has parlayed his Twins service into a three-year deal with the Dodgers. Happy for him -- and happy it didn't happen here

Look at the mlbtrademrumors.com list and it isn't hard to convince yourself that there will be arms who will come cheaper and give the Twins just as much.

I think the White Sox have just done some subtraction by addition.

***

Thirty years ago, I was in Ely writing about the American Legion World Series. The future Mets lefty Sid Fernandez was pitching for the Hawaii team (and kind of freaked out during a northwoods thunderstorm). Bob Melvin, the former Seattle and Arizona manager, played for a California team. It was a big enough deal in Ely that they even had souvenir beer, which we think stayed out of the players' hands.

But the most memorable part of the week was being invited with to sit in the high school library for an hour with Bob Feller, Ted Williams and an old spitball pitcher named Burleigh Grimes. It was described as a press conference, but it was much better -- about a half-dozen of us listening, mostly, to Feller and Williams ask each other questions. We asked a few and then pretty much knew to shut up.

Feller and Williams were the first Hall of Famers to play Legion baseball. Feller's death this week was a good reason to dig my story out of the microfilm archives.

"Who was the best fielding shortstop you ever saw?" Williams asked Feller.

"Never paid much attention to that," Feller replied.

He led the American League in strikeouts seven times, which meant that the guy at shortstop didn't much matter.

Grimes, who pitched from 1916 to 1934 and was 87 years old at the time, told them both: "I could throw my best stuff to (Rogers) Hornsby and he'd hit it on the end of the bat and poke it over first base."

Williams played reporter for much of the hour. He asked Grimes, inducted into the Hall by the veterans' committee, and Feller about the icons of their eras. He wanted to know from Grimes what it was like to face Lou Gehrig and he asked Feller about Hank Greenberg, among others.

"Hall of Famers discussing fellow legends," I wrote. "Awe was present."

***

Speaking of legends, Gardy says he wants to bring Nick Punto back.

I have this unfortunate image of Gardy going into Bill Smith's office, plugging his iPod into the speaker dock and doing a Justin Timberlake cover.

You know, PuntoBack

I'm bringing Punto back/Those other boys don't know how to act/Bill, let me make up for the things he lacks/He'll burn it up for me and that's a fact.

Will Smith tell Gardy to just be gone with it?

The drama goes on.

Who has the next verse?

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