Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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Had a long talk with Justin Morneau that provided the basis for today's column. I couldn't fit all the good stuff into the newspaper, so here are Morneua's responses on a few other topics of interest:
Do you leave the Twins bearing a few regrets?
Morneau: ``Yeah. A World Series would have been the No. 1 thing. We got to theplayoffs and couldn’t find a way to get it done. It seemed like a key player was injured every time we got there, and when you’re matching up with a team like the Yankees that has so much depth, you need every guy that you have. In '06 we’re missing Frankie (Liriano), who was the best pitcher in the game at the time. And then in '09 and '10 I was hurt, and who knows what happens? I couldn't control the injuries. It’s part of playing the game. That’s something you wish didn’t happen but that’s part of the game.''
What was it like to be traded and wind up walking into the Pirates' dugout during a game?
Morneau: Crazy. Crazy. Really weird. For a few innings I looked out there, being on a different team, it took a little while to settle in. Once I made a few plays and atook a couple of at-bats, it started to sink in, and I started to realize it’s still baseball. Different team, but still baseball. It’s odd. At the same time, it was exciting.
Can you see yourself playing for the Twins again?
Morneau: I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. That’s too hard to answer that right now.
What was your favorite moment as a Twin? Maybe the game-winning home run off Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya in 2006?
Morneau: That one went through my head. The favorite one for me would probably be sitting in the dome the last day of the season in 2006, watching the game in Kansas City up on the screen, when nobody left the stadium. That’s not something you could ever script or plan. That just kind of happened. That was something we all shared with the fans and our teammates. That was insanity. That was probably my favorite thing I can think of.
Did you consider retiring when you were dealing with concussion symptoms?
Morneau: I had to think about it, but to say it was considered, no. To say it was close, no. But was it a realistic possibility? Maybe. It’s hard to say. Going through it, it felt like I wasn’t getting better. If I physically wasn’t able to go out there, to be cleared by a doctor to play…
Will you still live in the Twin Cities?
Morneau: Well, we live in Arizona during the winter. Corey Koskie came back. It might turn out to be a good thing. You go somewhere else and see what it's like, and you realize how great the Twin Cities are.
You've started hitting homers like your old self in the last month. Have you found your swing?
Morneau: My swing felt more like my swing. It's hard to put a finger on it. Those pitches I was missing or popping up early in the year, I felt like I was squaring up. I hit them in some of the right ballparks to hit them in, too. I just hope it continues for this month and next month and we have some fun.
Do you have any reassessed career goals?
Morneau: Winning. Just winning. Hopefully I get to play a few more years and enjoy wherever I'm at. Right now this is a good place to be.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow from Milwaukee. Sunday on the station we'll have the Gardenhire show from 9:30-10, then Sunday Sports Talk with me, Scott Korzenowski and Tom Linnemann from 10-noon. I'll be calling in from the Vikings game in Detroit.
Remember the good ol' days, when Twins fans could just blame everything on hitting coach Joe Vavra?
Guess what: The 2013 Twins are even worse offensively than the 2012 Twins.
Replacing Vavra with Tom Brunansky hasn't helped. I'm not saying Brunansky isn't good at his job. I'm saying that hitting coaches don't create good hitters.
The Twins struck out 30 times in the three-game series against the Royals.
They've struck out 65 times in their last six games.
They haven't scored more than four runs in a game since July 23, when they had 10 at Anaheim.
With Cris Carter heading to the Hall of Fame, a couple of my favorite memories of covering him:
-At the begining of his career with the Vikings, we talked for an hour about his struggles in life and with the Eagles. Then he told me, ``If I like what you write, we'll get along fine. If I don't, I"ll punch you in the eye.''
I didn't get punched.
-During his last season with the Vikings, I asked how he had maintained his talent. He said he has assembled an entourage: A chiropractor, trainer, masseuse, physical therapist, chef, nutritionist...and about five other people.
He was one of the most dedicated and divisive athletes I've ever covered. A lot of his teammates couldn't stand him because he could be vain, and arrogant, and outspoken. Noone questioned his drive or his toughness.
Wrote about the Twins' pathetic effort and pathetic roster for the Friday paper.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow. Scott Korzenowsky and I will run the Ron Gardenhire Show and Sunday Sports Talk from 9:30-noon on Sunday from the 3M Championship.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib
Everytime I write something nice or even neutral on Joe Mauer, I get emails. Oh, I get emails. Mostly from people telling me he's overpaid.
Well, if he is overpaid, it's not by much.
There are two ways of assessing a veteran player's monetary value. One is anecdotal. Talk to people in the game. They said Mauer would have made a killing as a free agent had he become one. Can you imagine what the Red Sox would have paid for a potential Hall of Fame catcher in his prime with a swing that might produce 50 doubles a year off the Green Monster, and who would constantly be on base in front of their sluggers? Probably $25 million a year. And all quality free agents end up being paid more than their actual value, because the bidding becomes a competition between super powers.
So Mauer is certainly worth $23 million anecdotally.
In terms of statistical valuation, I always turn to the great site Fangraphs.com, which calculates the obective value of a player.
Here is how Fangraphs values Mauer, year by year, since 2006: $23.1 million, $12.7 million, $26.6 million, $34.5 million, $21 million, $6.1 million and $21.2 million. This year, he is valued, so far, at $21.5 million.
Obviously, when he doesn't stay on the field, he's not worth the money, which is why 2011 was such an abomination.
When he is on the field, he's worth about what the Twins are paying him. Factor in that the Twins signed him in part to keep his contract status from ruining the opening season at Target Field, and he was an incredible bargain from 2006 through 2009, and the Twins and their fans have little to complain about other than the mystery ailments of 2011.
Mauer's real problem is he plays for a bad team. He doesn't have people on base ahead of him, and he doesn't have people who can drive him in batting behind him. He's not as valuable as Miguel Cabrera, but he's more valuable than the great majority of players with big-money contracts.
He's also the Twins' only above-average position player. He's not the guy you should be complaining about.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd & Dubay. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
My list of Twins players who might be traded:
1. Justin Morneau: It makes sense to trade him. The Twins can't make a qualifying offer of about $14 million to an aging player who hasn't regained his power since his concussion in 2010. If they're going to let him walk away and get nothing in return, it makes sense to deal him now.
But how much can be bring in return? He's had a horrible month. I asked Twins general manager Terry Ryan if he would trade a player he expected to lose for the highest bidder, or whether he would have to get something he liked in return. He said, ``The latter.''
At the time of this writing, my impression is that the Twins are trying to deal Morneau but haven't gotten an offer they like.
2. Ryan Doumit: He fits the team well but could be replaced by Chris Herrmann, who has impressed in his limited big-league time as a similar player. He probably wouldn't bring much in return but could be of use to a National League team as a bench player.
3. Jared Burton: Has value as a power righthanded arm, but is signed through next year. It might make more sense to keep him until next year. If the Twins are surprisingly good, he'll be valuable as a pitcher. If the Twins tank again, Burton might be able to reestablish his value and be traded next July.
4. Glen Perkins: They don't plan to trade him. He doesn't want to be traded. They know they can keep him around for a reasonable price in the future, because he wants to keep commuting from Lakeville. I'd trade him only for a front-line pitcher or top pitching prospect, someone who projects to be an ace or a quasi-ace.
5. Jamey Carroll: He's a pro, but the Twins are going to have lots of utility infielders in the future. If you can get something for him, trade him. But that's unlikely.
6. Clete Thomas: Outfield version of Jamey Carroll. If the Twins traded Thomas, they could call up Oswaldo Arcia, who is tearing it up at Class AAA.
7. Mike Pelfrey: Was surging until giving up four runs in the third inning to the Royals on Tuesday night. Might not be a market for him.
8. Kevin Correia: Probably can't get much for him. The key here is whether the Twins think he can provide quality innings next year. If they think he can survive a second year in the American League, it would be wise to keep him around. If they think his recent slump is due to the league catching up to him, then moving him would be smart, if it's possible.
9. Brian Duensing: Pitching version of Jamey Carroll.
10. Samuel Deduno: Keep him. Might be the ace of the 2014 staff.
I've been told by several Twins officials that there isn't a lot of demand for the players they're willing to deal, although that can change quickly. This is why the Twins are having a third straight lousy season: Their roster just isn't very good. The only Twins who could be traded for a franchise-altering player or players are Joe Mauer, who has a no-trade clause, and Perkins, who is an affordable All-Star.
Ryan has excelled at minor deals in the past, landing players like David Ortiz and Johan Santana in trades that didn't draw much attention at the time. But it's hard to replicate miracles.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon every weekday. Scott Korzenowski will be my new co-host on Sunday Sports Talk. We'll be at the 3M Championship Sunday, starting with the Ron Gardenhire Show at 9:30, then our shot 10-noon.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Scott Diamond allowed five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings on Sunday, and it could have been worse. Clete Thomas saved a home run and Aaron Hicks made a diving catch of a line drive in centerfield.
In fact, those two plays preceeded a stretch of five batters that knocked Diamond from the game, a walk, single, single, popup and bases-clearing triple in the fifth.
I spoke with Twins' pitching coach Rick Anderson about Diamond after the game. Diamond has failed to contribute a quality start (six innings or more and three earned runs or fewer) in seven of his last eigth starts.
``He's inconsistent right now,'' Anderson said. ``He'll throw a good curveball, then he'll try to throw one that's even better, and it will just spin up there. He needs to get back to throwing strikes early in the count.
``I called down and asked (bullpen coach) Bobby Cuellar, `Is this the same guy we saw warming up earier?' Scott just has to relax and have some fun with the game.''
Although the Twins don't have any pitchers at Class AAA they consider worthy of an immediate callup, they could find a way to give Diamond a break from the rotation. They could always use a long reliever for a spot start if they think Diamond would benefit either from a mental break while in the big leagues, or if they think he needs to work on his pitches in the minors.
I think Diamond could return to being a good big-league starter, but he falling behind in the count right now, and his stuff isn't good enough to allow him to pitch in those situations. He has to get strike one, then turn to his breaking pitches and try to get hitters to at pitches down in, or out of, the strike zone.
``He's just trying to do too much right now,'' Anderson said.
Bits: Joe Mauer's eight-game hitting streak ended on Sunday. He hit .483 during the streak...Justin Morneau's slugging percentage fell to .405. That's going to dampen his trade value. I wrote the other day that the Twins need to trade him, but they won't get much...Brian Dozier leads all big leaguers with 18 doubles since July 1.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon every weekday. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
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