RandBall

Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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A rainout in Jeter's final home game would be comeuppance for New York's weather haughtiness

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 25th at 3:55pm 277113441

yankeestadium

New York is in a lather because heavy rain is in the forecast Thursday night for what is supposed to be Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium.

On a personal level, we love the idea of some rain in the Big Apple falling on Jeter, as it would be a welcome moisture change from the tongue bath he has been getting even as a very good career ends with an awful season (unless a .611 OPS and league-worst range for a shortstop inspire a different definition from you).

On a grander level, though, the thought of a rainout at Yankee Stadium brings to mind a different kind of schadenfreude: a lovely comeuppance for those haughty East Coasters who act like it’s a felony that Minnesota doesn’t have a roof on Target Field (you heard from them during the All-Star festivities, when it dared to rain here and delay the HR Derby by an hour) while never once mentioning that Yankee Stadium is a much better candidate for one.

But it’s true: A fellow by the name of James Santelli ran the numbers a couple of years ago, compiling stats on the average amount of rain in every MLB city between April and September.

The impetus, it seems, was to prove that Seattle didn’t really need a roof — and he was right: that city actually gets the seventh-least amount of rain during the baseball season, more than only Arizona and the five California teams.

But the real delicious number in there, to us, is this: 26.41. That’s the average rainfall in New York from April to September. Only three other cities have more — Miami, Tampa and Kansas City, two of which have roofs. Minnesota is around the middle at 13th, with nearly five fewer inches of rain per baseball season (21.66) — slightly less than Baltimore and Philadelphia, slightly more than Washington DC and Boston, none of which, along with NYC, are ever lamented for their lack of a baseball enclosure.

If your chief argument is that Minnesota should have a roof because it’s too cold to play in April and September, or should the mood ever strike again, October … well, that’s just not true. The average high here, even as late as Oct. 23, is 55 — same as it is on April 9, around the time the Twins typically have their home opener.

If a place is going to have a roof, it’s usually about extreme heat (like Arizona) or rain. Maybe New York should have thought about that — or at least thought harder about it — before building a roof-free Yankee Stadium or at least before criticizing others for failing to do so.

Thursday (Gardenhire, the Twins and reasons for change) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 25th at 9:20am 277070311

gardyTwo of the most damaging things we can do in our lives are essentially polar opposites: Staying the course in a situation that has become toxic (or even simply too comfortable) because we don’t have the means, energy or guts to change … or acting rashly and changing something merely for the sake of changing it, only to regret the impulsive move and the better life we left behind.

When it comes to the Twins, and you cut through the raw emotion of losing 90 games in four consecutive seasons and simply examine the facts, you are essentially left with a decision on manager Ron Gardenhire that speaks to the nature of change. Careful reflection might not be popular with the ALL-CAPS crowd, but it is the right course when making a major decision like this.

We know that, when given capable players, Gardenhire is a very good regular-season manager. Even if he benefited from a weak AL Central at times, six division titles in nine years is an admirable accomplishment for anyone. His teams failed in the playoffs (the Twins are 2-19 in their last 21 postseason games under Gardenhire), and this four-year nosedive has been on his watch, but we cannot forget there are positive things on his side of the ledger, too.

The questions the Twins’ management should be asking itself in the next handful of days are these: would firing Gardenhire simply be change for the sake of change … and is there a greater danger in remaining on a comfortable, familiar course?

There are those that would argue sometimes “change for the sake of change” is reason enough to make a move. Maybe. Sometimes. You could look at attendance at Twins games this September, and the general apathy that is firmly entrenched among a growing number of fans and conclude that, if you were merely crowdsourcing this move, the best thing would just be to dump Gardy and start over.

The counter to that is that the Twins might actually be on the verge of giving the man enough talent to compete again, and when that has happened in the past the results have generally been good (the postseason notwithstanding, which we acknowledge is no small thing and could, in fact, be an even more damning bit of evidence against Gardenhire staying than four consecutive 90-loss seasons with an incomplete roster).

There are those, too, who would argue that there is a beauty in patience and that being comfortable in a job isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Maybe. Sometimes. But patience can bleed into complacency, and complacency can foster an attitude that makes losing acceptable.

If the Twins are going to make a move on Gardenhire, the reasoning and explanation needs to be more solid than “we just felt it was time for a change.” But if they are going to keep him, it better be because they feel like he’s the best man for the job and not because they don’t have the courage to move on.

There are certainly reasons beyond “change for the sake of change” to let him go, but there is also a not-too-distant past to consider when wondering if it would be a decision the Twins ultimately regret.

Joe Mauer and Giants P Madison Bumgarner have the same number of homers this season

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 24th at 5:07pm 276995911

This is the lowest of the low-hanging fruit. We know this.

It combines all the worst elements: small sample size, cheap shot, you name it.

But still, we have to point out: Joe Mauer, whose move to first base was supposed to boost his power this season, has four home runs in 500 plate appearances. That is the exact same number as Giants P Madison Bumgarner, who has 78 plate appearances and whose main job is, of course, pitching.

Bumgarner hit his fourth dinger Tuesday night. Mauer was out of the lineup Wednesday after being hit by a pitch yesterday.

It’s entirely possible Bumgarner will start the regular-season finale Sunday. It’s not known when Mauer will return to the lineup. Will they finish in a tie? Will one of them make a bold move to finish the year? Stay tuned.

Phil Hughes story lines: Contract incentive and K/BB ratio record

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 24th at 4:17pm 276975321

Target Field is in a rain delay in the bottom of the eighth with the Twins leading Arizona 2-1. It’s the smallest crowd we’ve ever seen at a Twins game, with possibly 8,000 actual fans in the stands.

There are, however, somehow two compelling story lines emerging from a game between two 90-loss teams competing on a weekday afternoon. Both involve Phil Hughes (no offense to Trevor Plouffe, who reached 80 RBI today before fracturing his forearm).

The first: Hughes has sailed through 8 innings of work today, currently sitting at 96 pitches while the tarp sits on the field. His season total is 209 2/3 innings. This is his final start of a very good year … and he has a $500,000 contract bonus if he reaches 210 innings. In other words, he needs one more out to make $500K.

Would the Twins let him go out and pitch the ninth if he sits in the dugout for an hour while the rain passes?

If he doesn’t get out there again, would they give him a bullpen appearance sometime in Detroit so he can hit his mark?

If he comes one out short, would they pay him his money anyway?

Stay tuned.

The second: Hughes very well could set the MLB record for single-season strikeout to walk ratio. He has 0 BB and 5 Ks today, meaning his season totals sit at 16 walks and 186 strikeouts — a ratio of 11.6 Ks to BBs (it was 11.3 going into today, better than Bret Saberhagen’s record of 11.0 in 1994.

However, if we walks a batter in the ninth without striking anyone out, his ratio would dip just under 11.0. If he has a walk and a strikeout while finishing the game, he would tie Saberhagen exactly at 11 even (no decimal points in either case).

UPDATES: Hughes didn’t come out to pitch the 9th, so he gets the K/BB record but falls one out short of his innings incentive. He said on postgame radio he has no plans to pitch in the bullpen at Detroit. So it’s up to the Twins now …

Wednesday (Against Football) Edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 24th at 2:08pm 276931681

stevealmondSteve Almond isn’t advocating a boycott of football. In fact, he still likes to toss the ball around and it’s clear he deeply misses watching a sport he compares to a work of art. But like a number of fans right now — how many, exactly, is an interesting question with no exact answer — he is conflicted about a sport that thrills him on one hand but troubles him on the other.

So he gave it up and wrote a book called “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto.” We caught up with him last week for a Sunday Q&A, but we also went to hear him read from the book (photo from the event taken by us) and take questions afterwards Tuesday night at The Loft in Minneapolis.

The main thing that troubles Almond is the same thing that troubles more than one of our friends: reconciling the fact that, by the NFL’s own admission, three of every 10 players will develop some sort of long-term brain problems and are far more likely than the general population to get serious problems much earlier in life.

Even if you are a passive viewer — watching only on TV — you are complicit in the NFL machine, Almond argues, because so much of the league’s revenue is derived from those massive TV contracts.

He made larger points about football as a microcosm for America and  about the sport’s troubling nature in terms of gender roles, race and sexual orientation. But mostly he sparked a good discussion with an audience of 40-50 people, a good mix of men and women, old and young. Plenty of them identified as football fans. Plenty of those fans appeared equally troubled by the things with which Almond struggles.

The overriding sentiment from Almond was not trying to convince people to give up football, but rather examine their motives for watching and take a closer look at the sport they love.

Some of you might have noticed that we’ve been in the process of doing the same thing. Keeping tabs on the Vikings is part of our job, so we still watch those games on Sundays. But we’ve cut out all other NFL viewing from what often used to be a 10-hour Sunday diet. We’ve unofficially called it the Sixteen Sundays Project, and the idea is to do something special each Sunday with the reclaimed time.

For Almond, the tipping point was brain injuries. For us, for some reason, it was a growing sense of distrust that came with the handling of the Ray Rice case. Maybe for us this sense will be fleeting. Maybe it will be permanent. But that’s where we are now.

Either way, we are not advocating you quit or cut down on your consumption. Free will is a beautiful thing, and so is football.

But if you are having trouble reconciling your fandom in light of recent events, you should also know you aren’t alone — and that some honest reflection, while a little frightening in that it will take you out of a comfort zone, can be a healthy thing.

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