Plenty of stuff happening out there. Crazy world.
1. Justin Morneau traded to Pittsburgh. I know trading Justin Morneau makes your heart hurt and I get it. He's been a Twin forever and for you people with human emotions it makes you sad that he's gone. Just look around at all the Twins' blogs and newspapers and there are nothing but heartfelt good-byes, and with good reason. But objectively, trading him was the correct move because he won't be around to be part of the team when they're good again, he's not that good anymore (although a hot August is probably what got him traded), and it made sense to try to get something for him rather than nothing when he walks at the end of the year.
What they got was actually better than I had expected, but isn't a team builder kind of a trade which just tells you how much Morneau has slipped since that damn concussion. The Pirates sent the Twins back of Alex Presley, a definite major leaguer but more of a depth/4th outfielder type, and rp Duke Welker, who is a fireballer with little idea where it's going after it leaves his hand, making him an intriguing lottery ticket.
Presley is 28 and still doing the bounce around from AAA to the majors thing for the Pirates, but he should slot in nicely for the Twins since he can play all three outfield positions and has a little bit of speed and a little bit of power. He's not much of a walker (which you know the Twins love) and so far this year he has 19 strikeouts against just one walk which is not real good but he's an ok player even with limited upside.
More upside comes from Welker, who is 6-7 and throws in the mid-90s and strikes out about a batter per inning but also walks more than 4 batters per 9 (that's really shitty for a reliever). His other numbers look pretty good - 2.29 ERA, 1.24 WHIP - and he already hit the show for a bit with the Pirates (4 batters faced, 4 outs, 1 K) so he could be ready by next year (or even this year). The Twins pride themselves on getting their pitchers to throw strikes, right or wrong, and if they can help Welker out with his command without hurting his stuff or going with the "pitch to contact" nonsense he could be a nice middle reliever.
Yes, it sucks that the Morneau era ended and how it ended. He went from one of the best hitters in all of baseball to a below average first baseman, hitting .286/.358/.511 prior to that stupid concussion and .256/.317/.412 after, essentially become a league average hitter which becomes well below average when you're playing at a premium offensive position. It's hard to believe a concussion could have that kind of impact on someone's ability, but it's not like it's unprecedented and the Twins' training staff has proven itself to be pretty much incompetent over the years so, you know. I was already going to be rooting for the Pirates, but this gives me a little more incentive.
Also, if you have found yourself saying, "Well he's a free agent after the season the Twins' could just resign him" please go ahead and hit yourself in the nuts with a pitch fork.
2. Gopher football is undefeated. Even if the win was only over UNLV a win is a win and Gopher football needs to take whatever they can get (especially since I bet on the OVER 5.5 season wins). It wasn't exactly an impressive win, and Philip Nelson's QB style seems to be making one read and either forcing it to that read whether he's open or not or just pulling the ball down and running. Luckily, UNLV's quarterback seemed to come from the same QB school. The Gopher gameplan was also less than imaginative and looked like something out of Tecmo Bowl (not Super Tecmo Bowl, just regular Tecmo Bowl) but the Rebel's offense looked more like they were drawing the plays up in the dirt while in the huddle so the Gophers had the advantage there too.
I'm no football expert, but it looked to me like the Gophers have a really crappy offense, a decent defense, and ended up blowing UNLV out thanks to three big plays (kick return TD, Interception TD, and blocked kick TD) that are non-repeatable in any meaningful way. That's a clear indicator of an overstated spread (they're favored by 17 pts) in their next game against New Mexico State, so go ahead and join me in betting against the Gophers because there's no way they should be favored by 17 on the road no matter who they're playing.
3. A whole lot is happening recruiting-wise, and we're still waiting to hear any good news. Kyle Kuzma committed to Utah. Wade Baldwin signed up with Vanderbilt. Quentin Snider dropped the Gophers out of consideration. J.P. Macura, who was supposed to be a sure thing, keeps doing things like visiting Purdue and Xavier. Rakeem Buckles didn't get his waiver to play immediately and will remain at FIU. And Lourawls Nairn visited this past weekend and left without committing to Pitino, even though he's explicitly stated multiple times he was going to take all 3 of his planned official visits (Oklahoma, Indiana) before making a choice we're all panicking anyway.
There remain enough intriguing options and realistic possibilities that there's really no reason to panic, but the raging optimism from a month or so ago has certainly flagged. Along with Nairn and Macura there's still some optimism around Isaiah Whitehead, even if he hasn't yet set an official visit here, there's a realistic shot at two of the local kids (Travis and Vaughn), and Paul White, Josh Martin, and Marial Shayok are taking officials to the U. I'm not worried at this point, but I would like it a whole lot if somebody, anybody, would just make a verbal to the Gophers. Just so I know it's possible.
4. I discovered Breaking Bad. You know how when everybody is saying something is awesome it almost always sucks like Rudy or Glee or Jennifer Lopez? Well this is the opposite of that. Everyone who watches the show says it's pretty much the best show ever, and they're right. If you're not watching it yet, start. If you are, you know what I'm talking about. You just never know what's going to happen next and it's never boring. It's been like a week since I started watching and I'm on Season 3, Episode 5 already. Sure, I'm ignoring my family and haven't gone to work in a week, but at least I'm catching up on my pop culture and will be able to act all snooty to people who haven't watched this show yet. "I mean really, Audrey, you can't talk about great TV if you've never watched Breaking Bad." *rollseyes *sipsbrandy
5. Josmil Pinto made his major league debut, going 2-4 with a double. This is significant to me because with Morneau now on the Pirates and Chris Parmelee proving to be terrible the door is wide open for Joe Mauer to move to first base full-time, and after this concussion mess it seems more likely than ever the Twins will go in that direction. The question then becomes who is the catcher of the future, and it's probably either Josmil Pinto or Chris Herrmann.
They're both considered around the same prospect level (Gleeman has Herrmann at #20 and Pinto at #37, John Sickels has them both in his OTHERS TO CONSIDER which means just outside the top 20). Herrmann's been up since July, and although he hasn't been great he hasn't been terrible either, showing a pretty good batting eye and some decent pop in his bat while being a halfway decent defensive catcher and outfielder, although Pinto's minor league numbers were much better this year than Herrmann, hitting .309/.400/.482 between New Britain and Rochester.
Neither Herrmann nor Pinto is likely to become a big-time impact player, but both are likely to become useful players and either (or both) has a chance to evolve into a full-time starting catcher and hold down the job for a while. Pinto probably has the better bat, but Herrmann is much better defensively and offers the additional benefit of being able to play the outfield competently while Pinto is either a catcher or DH. While the Twins have tons of questions and not many answers with the squad right now, catcher is one where they can probably feel good - Mauer or no Mauer in the mix. Seems weird.
6. Johnny Manziel can play some football. I know everybody likes to jump on Johnny Football and tear him apart for doing things like going to a casino and watching a basketball game because everyone is jealous and people generally suck, but let's not forget that this dude can play some fucking football. After he served his weirdo 1st half suspension, he came in for the second half and went 6-8 for 94 yards and 3 TDs as the Aggies beat Rice 52-31. Watching the highlights made it clear Manziel is one of the best Qbs in the country, as if winning the Heisman last year didn't prove that already. 80% of college QBs can make one read and then it's time to run (like P. Nelson), and another 15% can go all the way to a second read and that's it. There's only like 5% who can play QB like a real, actual QB, and that's why it's so much fun to watch guys like Manziel and Andrew Luck back when he was in college.
7. Not how I'd get fired up for the NFL season, but over at the blog Pat is Crazy long-time friend of the blog Joe U. (that's his quote up on the banner) decided to re-watch the 1998 (or 1999 depending on how you want to define it) NFC Championship game, also known as the game that destroyed the ability to actually enjoy sports for many, many Minnesota sports fans. And he blogged it, live blog style. Don't make his pain meaningless, go read it.