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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Justin Morneau, a former hockey player, wore what looked like a hockey number and almost got into a brawl on Wednesday night.
Morneau donned No. 66 because the Pirates have retired his traditional No. 33, which belonged to the great Honus Wagner. He came to the plate after Andrew McCutchen hit a home run to left field and didn't run hard to first base.
Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta thought McCutchen was showing hhim up. McCutchen said he lost track of the ball. Morneau seemed to pay for the difference of opinion.
Peralta's next pitch almost hit Morneau in the head. Morneau took the pitch off his shoulder or forearm. Morneau motioned in anger and bewilderment, and the benches and dugouts emptied, although there were no punches thrown.
I asked Morneau if he took offense to that pitch. ``That's an interesting way to phrase it,'' Morneau said. ``It's one of those things where you're not sure. Is it a coincidence that it happened after a home run, or not? It's hard to say. If I hadn't hit the ball hard the other way the first two times I really would have been mad. I believe in pitching inside. The only thing that really gets you is when you get up around that head area, and that's what I took exception to.
``Getting hit is part of the game. When you get up in that danger zone, that's when I think tempers will get a little flared. They said they didn't do it on purpose, so...''
Morneau took note of his teammates rushing to his defense. ``That's a lose-lose situation for us,'' he said. ``I go out there (to the mound) and we get someone hurt or get someone suspended and we're missing guys in a playoff race. You don't go, then you have to let them know that that's not all right, but what do you do? I think it's kind of selfish if you charge the mound in that situation, where you can hurt the team.
``It's strange to say sometimes, but sometimes when crazy things happen that really brings a team together.''
I spent three days in Milwaukee following former Twins Morneau and Francisco Liriano. Liriano pitched poorly Wednesday but has salvaged his career. Morneau, while saddened by the way his tenure with the Twins ended, looks thrilled to be playing meaningful games in September again.
Remember, because of injuries, Morneau has played in only two playoff series, and in seven games - in '04 and '06.
I now have a team to watch in September and October. Morneau is one of the best people I've covered in baseball, and I love the Pirates' story. The lifelong baseball fan in me would love to see him fully recovered from the concussion symptoms that threatened his career, and leading the Pirates to their first World Series title since 1979.
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.
Ryan Braun is a fraud, and anyone who believed his previous denials about PED use is a fool, and what more is there to say about him? He's a drug cheat, and there will be more, and if baseball ever eliminates all drug cheats ballplayers will find other illicit advantages. This story will never end.
So last night while the Braun news was breaking, I just watched a ballgame, and was reminded of the beauty of baseball.
It was a meaningless game between two lousy teams, but strip the context away and the Twins' victory over the Angels last night was everything you could ask for in a night of entertainment.
Doug Bernier got his first big-league hit and RBI. Clete Thomas hit a double and a homer and made a game-saving catch. Glen Perkins sweated through a highly-difficult four-out save. Best of all, Sam Deduno showed more emotion on the mound in seven innings than many pitchers do in their entire careers.
This is why baseball survives work stoppages and drug scandals, and bad umpiring and terrible public relations, as evidence by the silly wording of the statements from Braun, the Players Association and MLB last night: The game can be great on any given day.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd & Dubay.
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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