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John Bonnes

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  1. John Bonnes

    Not Twins
    Since this week was the 20th anniversary of Senator Paul Wellstone's death, I thought I might run one of my favorite columns, which I wrote to eulogize him.  I got quite a bit of feedback on it, and it mostly left me depressed, since many missed the point of the column.  Many readers who were critical of the column couldn't see beyond his politics, and even more sadly, neither could many of his supporters who praised it.  For me, the magic of Wellstone wasn't what he fought for, it was how he fought.  He made the impossible, possible and he inspired a generation to challenge their assumptions about the world and about themselves.  That's the lantern that he brought to my life.

    The Lantern Bearer
    A Lantern Bearer's light went out this weekend.  
    And the world grew darker.
    We react to the infinite realities the world holds in a straightforward way.  We simplify it by choosing, consciously or not, which reality we care to embrace.  But whichever illusion we choose can also constrain us and too often turns into a shadow that we dare not challenge.
    How do people react to you when you leave a room?  Do they laugh at you?  Some might.  Of course, some might admire you.  And some won't like you and some will and some won't give you a second thought, one way or the other.  Which illusion do you subscribe to?  And how does that shadow world modify what you say or do before you leave the room?  Illusions like that are everywhere.  And are so all-encompassing as to be invisible, like water to a fish.  
    And then comes a Lantern Bearer, who holds up their light to the shadows and walks through them and takes us along.  They remind us that we created these shadows, and that we can dispel them.  We just have to pick up our lanterns, hold them out in front of us, and walk bravely forward.
    Think your idea can never work?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    Think that which you care about cannot be achieved?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    Think you are alone in your passion?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.  The world has room for you, your energy, and your passion.  Indeed, it desperately needs it.
    A Lantern Bearer's light went out this weekend.  
    And the world grew darker.  
    Paul Wellstone's death left sizeable holes in our world in many ways.  An election, uncompleted.  A Senate, undecided.  A movement, leaderless.  A family, parentless.  
    But the largest hole might be spiritual.  For a slice of my generation, he wasn't just someone who championed their political philosophy, but someone who reminded them of the joy and strength that flows from acting in a fundamentally moral way.  
    "I lost my Kennedy." one friend told his wife this weekend.
    His believers flocked to the Twins Cities and followed him to Washington.  They participated in a system that they otherwise might have disdained. And they watched him challenge the shadows.
    Think an outsider can't change the system?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    Think voting your conscience will alienate you from the decision makers?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    Think a good man can't hold onto his convictions when clothed with the trappings of power?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    And then the believers started picking up their own lanterns.  
    A Lantern Bearer's light went out this weekend.  And it happened the way it always seems to with lantern bearers.  Suddenly.  Tragically. Too damn early.  
    And, of course, the world grew darker.
    When a bright light is suddenly taken away, isn't that always when things are darkest?  But that, too, is an illusion. Time passes, the eyes adjust, and one starts seeing the other sources of light.
    Because this Lantern Bearer's light has spread throughout this generation.  Some lantern bearers are trying to change how politics works.  Some are ushering underprivileged kids into college.  And if you look around, you'll find hundreds more have raised their own lanterns, found their own path, and chased their own shadows.   
    Is it still too dark?  Sure.  So maybe it's time you picked up your lantern.
    Think your voice won't be heard?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    Think you're powerless?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    Think YOU can't make a difference?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.
    A Lantern Bearer's light went out this weekend.  
    And a thousand more Lantern Bearers strode forward.
  2. John Bonnes
    I hope you'll allow me this non-baseball topic on my blog today. We had our last "first-day-of-school" picture today with both kids, as The Chatty Chatty Princess™ starts her senior year and The Boy™ has his first day in high school. It brought to mind TCCP's first day of kindergarten, a day I missed, but documented twelve years ago on my new "TwinsGeek.com" blog with this story:


    He didn't feel the gush that everyone said he would feel the first time he held her in his arms. He frowned. "I've never been especially good about feeling emotions."
    There was excitement to be sure. And a feeling of amazement. But mostly the infant seemed like an infinite puzzle to be pieced together. They had a job to do. She needed to eat. Sleep. Learn she was a part of a family.
    She would cry from the moment he came home from work, and he would walk around the house with her, showing her the curtains, the flowers, the Kirby Pucket face-on-a-stick; anything to distract her from her exhaustion or hunger for five minutes and then five minutes more. "She was happy before you came home, honest."


    Shortly after the colic passed, they watched her roll onto her back. Six eyes grew wide and looked at each other. She immediately began working on rolling the other way. And then crawling. And walking. And talking. Definitely talking.
    And with each victory, came more self-assuredness.
    Now they had a new job to do. Limits needed to be set and erased. Challenges needed to made and met. Illusions needed to be poked. Usually, the toughest part of the job was knowing when to hold a hand and when to turn away. When to watch out for her without watching her.
    It was one of these times that he realized he felt the gush. He hadn't loved her at the hospital. He had fallen in love with her at home. And that was infinitely better.


    Yesterday, his wife held her hand until she delivered her to her first kindergarten class - and then she turned away, and walked home.
    He hadn't gone. He had gone to work, like he did everyday. It was no big deal. It certainly wasn't for his daughter. Just new friends to play with. A new adult to charm. New toys, and art projects and songs to sing. Not so very different than another activity hour at the community rec center.
    But as he drove to work, he realized he knew better.
    It was not so long ago. He remembers his kindergarten and Mrs. Manfred. First grade and Miss Oeschlager. His hurry to clear the next hurdle, face the next challenge, race to adulthood.
    He sees it in her. She can't grow up fast enough. The blessed quandary about when to hold a hand or turn away will be less frequent now. And he wasn't there this morning because it WAS a big deal.
    So on I-94, he found himself struggling to wipe underneath his glasses, as too few memories triggered too many emotions for his eyes to hold. There was sadness. And pride. And the gush. But mostly there was life's intense taste when one is lucky enough to get a full dose.
    And he sighed. "I've never been especially good about feeling emotions."
  3. John Bonnes
    Here's what you really need to know about this game: Jupiter, Florida, where the Marlins play, is a long three-plus hour bus trip from Fort Myers. The bus leaves at 7:30 in the morning. It gets back something like 8:00 that night. The Twins, like every other team, tries to protect their best (veteranish) players from this as best they can.
    (And in the Twins case, they had a split squad game yesterday, meaning that nearly every veteran also played yesterday.)
    There was even a question in the pregame press conference with manager Ron Gardenhire about whether it meant anything that a veteran (and a high-priced veteran, at that) like today's staring pitcher Phil Hughes, had to make this trip. Like whether the team was sending Phil Hughes a message by making him take that trip.
    Gardenhire - who does every road trip, including the split squad days, by the way - said that the Twins expect their players to be pretty businesslike. "They didn't have a choice," Gardenhire replied bluntly. "We try not to send veterans on long bus rides, but when it comes up your turn, and you're lining them up to start the season, sometimes you've just got to suck it up."
    Just so I'm clear, there is no indication that Hughes had any problem with this. He said after the game he came down the night before to prepare.
    Failure to Detonate
    The story of the game was supposed to be Byron Buxton's first start, but Buxton went 0 for 5. The only thing that he did to impress was almost beating out a routine grounder just because he's so crazy fast. But he was still out.
    That didn't stop the Buxton frenzy. Gardenhire was asked about Buxton several times before the game and again after the game. Assistant GM Rob Antony was asked about Buxton in a pregame press conference. Phil Hughes was asked about Buxton after Hughes' start. And Buxton had a throng of reporters waiting for him after he dressed. One question: "Were you safe on the grounder?"
    You know what this means? Nothing. Or at least not to Buxton and not to the Twins. All it means is that a lot of writers aren't going to get the compelling story they wanted to write and a of Twins fans aren't going to get the compelling story they wanted to read. I'm confident we'll all get through this rough spot.
    Lineup Notes I
    Sam Deduno pitched but not until the fifth inning. It was assumed that Deduno would be legitimately competing with Scott Diamond and Vance Worley for the last spot in the rotation. But Diamond started a game already, Worley started a game already - and Deduno didn't pitch until after Phil Hughes and Ryan Pressly? Really?
    For what it's worth, when I asked Gardenhire before the game if everything in Deduno's shoulder was OK, Gardenhire replied "Everything's been good. No problems whatsover." After the game, when we asked for an evaluation of Deduno's performance, Gardenhire restated their goals. "We just want to make sure he's healthy, get him through his innings, and as we go, we'll stretch him out and see where we go from there. Right now, it's all about the health part and get through his innings."
    In my mind, I don't think the Twins know if Deduno is healthy, or at least if he can get healthy. If that sounds Deduno is going to have trouble grabbing that fifth spot, I think you're right.
    Lineup Notes II
    Eduardo Escobar started at third base today. That is likely because of the long trip, but it's worth noting that everyone seems confident that Escobar can play third base. (In fact, according to Gardenhire, the Twins thought that was his best spot when he was with the White Sox.)
    With a limited roster, an infield backup player is likely going to need to be able to play second base, shortstop and third base. Escobar can. Doug Bernier can. Today James Bereford showed that he can.
    But it's not clear yet that Jason Bartlett can. If we don't see him at the hot corner within the next couple of days, I have to think the backup infielder spot is Escobar's to lose. Barlett's hopes hang on the Twins decision whether to carry a 13th position player or 13th pitcher.
    A Bright Spot
    Chris Colabello got on base three times today, including two walks. That's his fifth walk in five (shortened) games this season. Colabello has made some mechanical adjustment, but after the game, he wanted to talk about being more comfortable and less anxious than he was last year. "It's more about just approaching your at-bats with a little more calm."
  4. John Bonnes
    In today's 6-3 loss to the Tampa Rays, the Twins pitchers didn't have a great day. Starting was Ricky Nolasco, whose prefix is already slowly turning from "Mr." into "Most Expensive Free Agent the Twins Ever Signed." (MEFATES?) Anyway, Mr. Nolasco threw two scoreless innings, but five of the seven opposing batters hit the ball hard. Fortunately, the last of those hard hits was right at first baseman Chris Colabello to turn a nifty double-play.
    I'm not saying there should be any concern. It's March 2nd. I'm just saying there is clearly work to do.
    The blast that hurt the most was given up by Anthony Swarzak to Evan Longoria. Longoria does stuff like that against all kinds of pitchers and nobody expects Swarzak to be immune. But Swarzak also gave up three other hits to guys not named Longoria, albeit all of them to pretty good hitters.
    Swarzak isn't on anyone's list of concerns this year, due to some very effective pitching last year. But it's not like his strikeout rate spiked or a walk rate plummeted. He just gave up a lot fewer home runs and hits. Today, that formula didn't seem as comforting as yesterday.
    We also got to see the recently acquired left-hander Brooks Raley, who induced three efficient ground balls in his first inning and then watched several pitches get tattooed to left field in his second inning. Finally, we got to see top pitching prospect Alex Meyer's 95+ mph fastball up close. Unfortunately, the Rays batters were seeing it too. He gave up a run in each inning and four hits total, though he wasn't helped by his defense in the eighth inning.
    One could draw a comparison from this game to last year's pitching woes and a slew of other memorable six-run games, but that would be a little silly. This was just an early spring training game featuring a couple of big leaguers and a lot of minor leaguers and nobody should feel too bad about losing to the Rays in any case.
    So instead, let's call it a reminder that the Twins this year are likely going to go as far as their pitching will take them. To their credit, they showed they understand this with their offseason moves. But those moves still need to work.
    Twins Takes
    There was an interesting subplot in today's game. Versus Tampa Bay's young right-handed phenom Alex Cobb, manager Ron Gardenhire started Jason Kubel, Oswaldo Arcia and Chris Parmelee. The three of them are all left-handed corner outfield/designated hitters, and there is a decent chance that only two of them come north with the team.
    Kubel, who most assume will be the team's primary designated hitter, started in left field. He went 0-3, though he had some hard hits.
    Batting as the designated hitter was Chris Parmelee, who homered yesterday. He also hit fifth, one spot in front of Oswaldo Arcia, which struck me as a little odd, seeing as I've assumed Arcia would make the team over Parmelee. Parmelee singled again today. Arcia, who played right field, hit a home run in the fifth inning.
    We've talked a lot about how "options" may make forecasting a bullpen a little tricky, but I wonder they might not have an impact here, too. Parmelee is out of options. Arcia is not. And Kubel was awfully fragile last year.
    If the Twins believe Parmelee is ready to turn the corner, it might make the most sense long-term to go north with Kubel and Parmelee. They could keep Arcia in reserve at Rochester for a couple months in case Kubel goes down or Parmelee flails. Keep an eye on how each of them are used.
  5. John Bonnes
    Aaron and John talk about the Minnesota Twins' options at the trade deadline, Miguel Sano's benching at Double-A, Justin Morneau's place in team history, what to make of Samuel Deduno (again), Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia going in opposite directions, the light rail pub crawl/Twins game on September 14, Joe Mauer's paternity leave, and answering mailbag questions from listeners.
    You can listen by clicking below, download us from iTunes or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.

  6. John Bonnes
    Buyers or Sellers
    They’re buyers. The Cardinals are one of three teams in the NL Central, along with the Pirates and Reds, who have the three best records in the National League. Each seems assured of a playoff spot.
    However, only one of them is assured of a playoff series, and that’s the division winner. The other two will be subjected to the wild card playoff game, which could result in a quick ending to a promising season. So the Cardinals have plenty of incentive to figure out a way to separate themselves from that pack.
    What They Need
    Almost all of the Cardinals rumors indicate they're looking for starting pitching or bullpen help. It’s not totally clear why – their team ERA is 3.33, which is good for 3rd overall in MLB. And starting pitcher (and former Cy Young award winner) Chris Carpenter is supposed to be back at the end of the month. That might be the starting pitching they need to acquire.
    They could be interested in a left-handed reliever. They have 37-year-old Randy Choate, but he’s almost the penultimate LOOGY (Lefty One Out Guy). In fact, he just set a record for the most consecutive appearances without pitching a full inning. It’s conceivable the Cardinals might want someone with a little more flexibility. They seem set at closer with Edward Mujica doing the job now and Trevor Rosenthal waiting in the wings if Mujica leaves as a free agent this offseason.
    Finally, the Cardinals have had some problems at third base, but 30-year-old David Freese seems to have recovered from a sore thumb and is back to hitting. He’s still only at a .273 BA and a 736 OPS, but he’s trending in the right direction. Jon Jay in center field has cooled quite a bit, but the Twins don’t have a right-handed center fielder to offer in a platoon, other than Hicks.
    What Might Work
    General Manager John Mozeliak says he’s not going to trade away any top prospects like outfielder Oscar Taveras or pitcher Michael Wacha and really, why would he? His team doesn’t have a glaring weakness. The best bet is something strategic, like Brian Duensing for a lower level prospect.
    Sleeper Targets
    The good news is that in Keith Law’s most recent farm system rankings, the Cardinals were #1 overall – the only organization above the Twins. But there are also some non-prospects that are interesting.
    Seth Maness –RHP – MLB – 24 years old
    Maness wasn’t a top 10 prospect, but was always recognized for his impeccable control; he walked 9 and struck out 83 last year in AA over 123.2 innings. He started this year in their AAA rotation but has been working out of their bullpen since. He won’t blow anyone away – 13K and 4BB in 27.7 IP, but his a career ERA in the minors of 2.80. He could be a solid back of the rotation innings eater.
    Tyrell Jenkins – RHP – High A – 20 years old
    If you’re more a fan of future potential and willing to accept some risk, Jenkins might be more your speed. The former football player has a 93-96 mph fastball but hasn’t shown he knows how to control it or how to develop an offspeed pitch. He’s a project, but a project with upside.
    Pete Kozma/Daniel Descalso – SS – MLB – 25/26 years old
    I’ll take whichever one they’re tired of. Kozman surprised late last year, but is hitting just .236 this year. Descalso may be stealing his job, but he’s just a year removed from hitting .227. Kozma will be a great defender, Descalso a great utility player. Neither will hit much, but I’ll take a flyer on either.
    Dream Target
    Matt Adams – 1B – MLB –24 years old
    If the Cardinals can’t find room for him at first base, the Twins sure can. Adams is blocked by Allen Craig, who is having a heck of a year - .324/.370/.491. But Adams has put up a 30+ home run year just two years ago in the minors, blistered AAA last year and is hitting .319 with a 953 OPS this year. I don’t know just what the Twins would need to do to pry him away, but he’s be a great addition, even if he does bat left-handed.
  7. John Bonnes
    1st of a series
    Buyers or Sellers
    They sure aren’t selling. The Braves only real competition in the NL East is the Washington Nationals, over whom they hold a 6.5 game lead. But they’re unlikely to take that lead for granted. Last year they won 94 games – and got knocked out in the one-game Wild Card playoff. The year before they collapsed down the stretch, losing eight of their last ten games (including their last five), finishing one game out of the playoffs. This is not a franchise (or fan base) that is going to feel like they’re all set.
    What They Need
    Which is a little weird, because they’re just about all set, as the Twins learned when they were swept by them earlier this year. The Braves starting pitching ranks 2nd in the NL in ERA. Their offense ranks 4th in runs, but they’re that “low” because their big free agent acquisition, BJ Upton, has just a 594 OPS. That isn’t going to last.
    However, there have been multiple reports of the Braves evaluating others teams' relievers. That’s a little odd, because Craig Kimbrel has been fantastic as their closer. However, they lost two left-handed setup men Eric O’Flaherty and Tommy Venters to Tommy John surgery in the same week in May. That’s left Luis Avilan, whose numbers look good, but 18K in 33 IP don’t inspire confidence. Neither do the 13 walks that go with them.
    What Might Work
    Last year at the deadline, and indeed in the offseason, there were lots of rumors about the Braves and Twins talking about a deal. That was because the Braves needed a center fielder (which they filled by signing BJ Upton) and some right-handed power (which they fixed by trading for his brother Justin).
    However, the Twins have three effective left-handers in their bullpen right now. Caleb Thielbar is unproven, but has been deadly against lefties. Brian Duensing represent a more senior option that would still not require a king’s ransom. And Glen Perkins would give the Braves the best lefty-righty combo to lose games in Major League Baseball. As the Braves evaluate relievers, they’ll certainly approach the Twins.
    Sleeper Targets
    Here are some names from down the prospect list which could conceivably interest the Twins in any non-Perkins deal:
    Jose Peraza – SS – Low A – 19 years old
    He’s skilled enough defensively to, project staying at shortstop, but he also showed some pop last year in Rookie League. This year, he’s only at .256/.317/.339, but he also just turned 19. He’s a guy the scouts often like: toolsy and projectable.
    Luis Merejo – LHP – Rookie League – 18 years old
    He dominated in the Gulf Coast Rookie League last year, striking out 53 in 41 innings. He’s back there this year, but he could make his way up to A ball and there is some thought he could move fast.
    Cody Martin – RHP – AAA – 23 years old
    Martin wasn’t on any Top 10 Braves list because he’s a command-control pitcher. But this year he’s posting a 2.45 ERA between AA & AAA and has 95 K in 88 IP (and just 74 hits). And those rates are not out of line with his numbers every other year. Don’t forget – Atlanta is the organization from which the Twins plucked Scott Diamond.
    Dream Target
    Mauricio Cabrera – RHP – Low A – 19 years old
    The Braves top two remaining pitching prospects, JD Graham and Sean Gilmartin, are both on the shelf right now with injuries. So let’s look for a bigger arm a little further down the ladder.
    Baseball Prospectus described Cabrera’s arm as “ridiculous” with a fastball that can work in the mid to high 90s. He needs to develop secondary pitches and command, though he has the makings of a slider right now that could be very good. If he progresses, he could be a top of the rotation arm. If not, he could still be a dominant reliever.
    If he were to be part of a package, there could be lot of excitement about the future of the Twins rotation with him joining Kohl Stewart and JO Berrios in the lower minor leagues.
    Each day in July, we’ll be publishing a profile of a MLB and whether there is any possible fit for a trade with the Twins. Tomorrow: The Washington Nationals
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