Sitting down to read some baseball blogs, you may recognize there are all types of bloggers. You can find angry bloggers and happy bloggers, naive bloggers or ones with eternal hope.
Today’s Timeout at the Plate focuses on a blogger who has love for all the teams in her “area.” I say “area” because this blogger values her privacy and this writer has no clue as to where she really lives. But that’s okay, because here at the Timeout franchise we value privacy of all those cool enough to submit their time to the format. You don’t need to tell me anything more than you would like and I make sure each and every participant knows that. The only thing that is not a mystery about this blogger is her love for the game.
In all honesty I have no idea who “Erin” really is, but that doesn’t matter because when
Plunking Gomez hit the blogs it was near an instant sensation. Rightly so, as this blog contains everything Minnesota in one respect or another and just saying the word plunk makes for a fun visit. Plunk, plunk, plunk…sorry I digress..
So with no further hesitation I present to you the genius behind the Plunking Gomez sensation and maybe a little more into the mind of the mysterious Erin Kathleen.
I think I may be the biggest fan on MLBlogs of the name “Plunking Gomez.” I can’t recall how many times on the community blog I put Plunking Gomez is the best just to be able to write Plunking Gomez. Please explain how you came to the title.
Well, since I don’t visit the community blog very often, I’ll have to take your word for it.Coming up with the title was actually the hardest part of the whole thing. It just seemed like all of the
clever blog titles were taken, and I was having trouble coming up with something clever and original. But then I remembered Go-Go, and how he would annoy opposing pitchers with his attempts to bunt and steal and just cause havoc on the base paths. And occasionally, a pitcher would get fed up with his antics and throw at him. And thus, an original, if not necessarily clever, blog title was born.
Anyone who reads your blog, depending on the season, can tell you are an all around Minnesota sports fan. Is baseball your first love?
Yes, and it’s mostly because my first memories of the Twins were of them winning a World Series. If my first memories of the Vikings were of a Super Bowl title, and not of my father swearing at the tv, then I would probably love football more. That’s just the way it is.
I think though, that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to appreciate the game itself a lot more. I like how slow it is. I love how pitchers and hitters are always playing mind games with each other. I love stolen bases and good defensive plays, and just little things like that. They’re almost more exciting than home runs. Almost. But mostly I love how unpredictable it is. Sometimes it’s great, like when the 2006 Twins made an incredible late-season run to capture the division title before getting swept by Oakland in the ALDS. And sometimes it’s frustrating, like when the 2007 Twins got off their best start in nearly a decade, posting a 10-6 record by the end of April, only to fade down the stretch and finish 79-83, their worst record since Ron Gardenhire took over in 2002.
When I think of your blog I think “jaded” as a descriptive word for your feelings on Minnesota sports. Is this correct and if yes, why?
Well, I don’t know jaded is really the right word. Realistic perhaps. You just tend to not expect much after suffering through many years of failure and mediocrity. And even when you finally have a good team you just can’t allow yourself to get too excited about the season.
You always have this nagging feeling of impending doom, like this is all too good to be true and something bad is about to happen. At least that’s what I learned from the 1998 Vikings.
I can’t really think of a pitching staff that overall has been lights out this season so far. The Twins picked up Juan Morillo from the Rockies to help their staff and the dude has a nasty fastball but lacks command. Do you think the pitching coaches in Minnesota can change his career around?
I hope so. A guy whose fastball averages around 96.5 mph would certainly be a good thing to have in the bullpen! Morillo wasn’t great with the Twins, but he still has a lot of upside and it will be interesting to see if the coaching staff can tame some of his wildness. He just cleared waivers and was sent down to AAA Rochester, where he’s been perfect in his three appearances so far. I do think he’ll benefit from working with Bobby Cuellar, the Red Wings’ pitching coach, who’s had a great deal of success in teaching a lot of the Twins’ prospects to throw strikes. He doesn’t yet have a good breaking pitch to complement his fastball, other than a seldom-used slider, so perhaps the coaching staff will try to teach him the changeup.
Erin, what’s the biggest thing that irks you about Twins baseball?
Do you mean how the Twins play? Or the organization itself? Because the thing that’s driving me the most insane right now is all of the runners stranded on base. The pitching is making me want to vomit right now, too.
Lately you have been giving a lot of love to Joe Mauer. Is this Jen J. Diatribe of a Law Student type crush love or just a great deal of admiration for the guy?
It is a great deal of admiration for the guy. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I think Joe is cute and everything. But I don’t care all that much about that kind of thing. I wouldn’t want a guy on my team who can’t hit or field his position, no matter how good-looking he is. But mostly I’m just amazed at what Joe can do both on the field and at the plate. He has such a good eye at the plate, and he has to be one of the toughest hitters to get out in the league. And besides being a two-time batting champ, he’s also one of the best defensive catchers in the game, not to mention a sort of babysitter for the somewhat inexperienced pitching staff. I guess it just kind of amazes me that he’s so good while playing one of the most physically demanding
positions in the game.
Speaking of Jen J. the loss of Joe Crede to the Twins was a big blow to that gal. What player loss on the Twins would be a similar impact for yourself?
Well, obviously losing Mauer would be tough. It’s probably inevitable, but the thought of Joe in anything but a Twins uniform makes me ill. Losing Johan Santana was hard, too, since he’s basically a strikeout machine and the rest of the young starters will probably never be that good. But this is the kind of thing you get used to when you’re a fan of one of the most frugal organizations in baseball. Once a player develops into a star, he’s probably going to
end up leaving via free agency. Or he’ll get traded for a bunch of prospects, and the whole process will start all over again.
It’s still early in the season and the Twins have had some ups and downs. Do you think with all your in-depth analysis at Plunking Gomez you have an idea of how the rest of the season is going to go?
Oh, I don’t know. Before the season started I wrote that I didn’t think this would be much better than a .500 team, even with Mauer in the lineup, and so far that assessment has been correct. I think the starting pitchers will probably be OK. Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey
are certainly much better than their performances to date would indicate. But Glen Perkins will come back down to earth, and Nick Blackburn probably won’t be anything more than a back-of-the-rotation starter in the mold of Jon Garland and Carlos Silva. Some of the
right-handed hitters in the lineup might start to be more productive, but having to divide playing time among four outfielders seems to be hurting the development of some of the younger players.
But most of all, I think that the failure to add a competent reliever during the
off-season is going to haunt the Twins. Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain have had to log a lot of innings so far this year, and Crain’s shoulder has already started to suffer for it. Jose Mijares shows a lot of promise, but it’s really only his first season in the major leagues and it’s too early to tell if he will continue to be a dominant reliever. The rest of the bullpen are a bunch of stiffs who probably shouldn’t pitch in blowouts, let alone close games.
Finally, if you had to pick just one Minnesota franchise to win it all, who would it be?
The Vikings. Vikings fans have suffered enough already!
The saying ignorance is bliss can go a long way. After researching in the last 24 hours the degree of steroid influence in countries outside of the United States, I am neither ignorant nor bliss.
Unlike the United States, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela are countries with steriods available at the local drug store, no prescription necessary. The ability to easily obtain the drugs, combined with the impoverished lives so many players’ families lead, makes teenagers particularly susceptible to the quick fix steroids are supposed to provide. The average annual income in the Dominican is around $2,500, and Chicago Cubs infielder Ronny Cedeno, a Venezuelan, said: “We’re poor. We’re really poor. We need to make money. And it’s really hard to say no.”
I have to thank Erin Kathleen of Plunking Gomez for initially schooling me on what are called “buscones” or searchers in Latin America. From there the pandora’s box was opened and I cannot go back.
Buscones can be legitimate men to hustlers who help to bring talent to Major League teams and receive compensation from a players signing, usually anywhere from 10 to 30 percent.
Gonzalez, a shortstop, is in such a position to provide all this — including renovating a new home 2 1/2 miles away, where men lay tile and grin at their teenage employer’s arrival — as a direct result of the renegade system in which major league teams procure Dominican players. The system became so unwieldy that, six years ago, Major League Baseball established an office in Santo Domingo, the capital, to help provide structure, a commodity that has proved hard to obtain.
“Officially, we do not have jurisdiction over these people,” said Ronaldo Peralta, the director of MLB’s Latin American office. “There is only so much we can do.”
Foreign teenagers aren’t subject to MLB’s annual draft, which includes only American high schoolers and college kids. Rather, they are all but auctioned off to teams by street agents known locally as buscones, a derivative of the Spanish for “to find” or “to seek.” The process, which Nationals President Stan Kasten has likened to doing business in “the wild, wild West,” involves Dominican baseball men — part coaches, part providers, part hustlers, part financial advisers — identifying and cultivating talent, preparing the players for tryouts and then selling them in the July following their 16th birthdays to the highest-bidding major league teams. Depending on the arrangement, the buscones end up with anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of the signing bonuses — except in the countless instances in which they rip off an illiterate and unsuspecting family.
I was saddened to read all of the iformation and how MLB has very little power in helping to control these situations outside of the States.
I wondered aloud how many Americans and baseball fans were aware of this practice and where was I in hearing about this. We as a country tend to rally behind circumstances like these but I had not remembered any national outcry..
We won’t buy clothing or shoes made in sweat shops. We demand countries pay living wages or U.S. companies not take up shop in these countries to keep these practices out of sight.
How was it then we allow Major League teams to continue engaging in the process of picking up talent outside the United States where extremely unscrupuous practices are rampant?
MLB is aware of the pitfalls involved in the system. The league, though, says it is helpless to do anything directly about it.
“We do have a concern,” MLB’s Peralta said. “But I have to be honest with you, and I want to state for the record: Buscones, or independent scouts, are a very important part of the industry. They help fill a gap, because there’s not a lot of organized baseball in the Dominican Republic. They provide a service.
“But the sad situation becomes when, like in any other big group of people, there are some guys — and I wouldn’t say the majority of them, because there are a lot of hardworking people — but you will find some bad apples that have abused the players. We have no jurisdiction over them, but still, those incidents are the most publicized.”
Peralta said his office is working with the Dominican government to help establish regulations that MLB couldn’t enforce itself, including setting standard percentages buscones can receive from a signing bonus — 10 percent if they worked with a kid for a year or less, 15 percent if it’s a year or more. Though President Leonel Fernandez signed the legislation, Peralta said it had some “points of conflict” with the Dominican Olympic committee and other politicians, and it is not yet law.
“Basically,” Peralta said, “it’s out of our hands.”
I do understand the flip side of this argument and many buscones do provide a very necessary service to young players and Major League teams. I understand how many players would never see one moment in a Major League ballpark if not for them. What I don’t understand is if the average fan is willing to lobby their team to create the best possible situation and deal with legitimate buscones.
As the league continues to grow in numbers of Latin American players, it’s very possible your team, if it has none now, will have a greater presence in the future.
Now you know and are willing to ask if your team is helping to create a better system for young players or stimulating a negative one already in place?
There are a lot of great articles available for research. The excerpts from this blog came from writers Jeff Passan of yahoo sports and Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post. Both men had great articles and helped to lessen some of the ignorance of this writer.