Buscher off to fast start

Brian Buscher had two hits – including a two-run homer – in the Minnesota Twins’ spring training victory against Cincinnati on Thursday.

Buscher, who had two more hits in Wednesday’s preseason opener against Boston, likely will lose a lot of his regular-season at-bats to newly signed third baseman Joe Crede.

But Buscher, a third baseman by trade, started at first base Thursday. Combine any extra at-bats from that position with the fact that Crede is injury-prone, and one can assume Buscher will still see a fair amount of action with the Twins this season.

I would think Crede will get quite a few days off during the season, especially during home games with the Twins playing on that unfriendly artificial turf.

The Star Tribune’s La Velle E. Neal wrote when players first arrived for camp that the two players who appeared to gain the most strength were Buscher and Justin Morneau. It’ll be interesting to see how he does this season in a part-time role after driving in 47 runs in just 218 at-bats last season.

PBS to broadcast Red Wings documentary

For those Minnesota Twins prospects in camp who don’t make the major league club, they might appear on national TV more than the big leaguers themselves.

Jim Mandelaro of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle writes that a 13-episode series on the Triple-A affiliate of the Twins will be taped this season and broadcast in 2010.

The first telecast will likely run in March 2010 in conjunction with the new "inning" being produced by Ken Burns for his Baseball series that ran in the 1990s.

Better idea: A follow-up to Wolves’ Mount Rushmore

Let’s put a new twist on the Mount Rushmore of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Who would be on your Mount Rushmore of players that have torn down the Wolves franchise? This exercise is simple and limited to players only (a certain executive-turned-coach would be too prevalent on everyone’s lists).

The Wolves have had a lot of good years thanks to Kevin Garnett. But after seeing Garnett win an NBA title in his first year with Boston, it makes you wonder why – besides not having a teammate like Paul Pierce – was he not able to win one in Minnesota.

Here’s my anti-Rushmore:

  • Joe Smith: Smith was a pretty serviceable player in parts of four seasons with the Wolves, but without question the Wolves inability to win a title with Garnett can be traced back to the scandal involving the contract he signed. The NBA found out after the 1999-2000 season that Smith had made an "under-the-table" agreement with executive Kevin McHale regarding a future contract, so the NBA punished the Wolves by voiding Smith’s contract and stripping the franchise of five future first-round draft picks.
  • Marko Jaric: The Timberwolves acquired Jaric in the summer of 2005 in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers got Sam Cassell and a first-round pick. Jaric then signed a six-year, $40 million deal with the Wolves. Well, let’s just say Jaric didn’t really become what the Wolves hoped.
  • Latrell Sprewell: "I have a family to feed." Enough said. His departure also coincided with - though is not directly responsible for - the Wolves slipping from a conference finals contender to mediocrity. But that line "I have a family to feed" live in infamy.
  • Ndudi Ebi: The Wolves had very few first-round picks during the KG era, but Ebi is the first-round bust that everyone seems to remember.

I’m sure I left out at least one ridiculously bad contract. Who ya got?

There’s Garnett and … well, Garnett was good

This link from ESPN.com’s Scoop Jackson comes courtesy of former Forum colleague Todd Deutsch.

ESPN.com recently had readers vote on a Mount Rushmore of Sports for each state. Jackson responds in the top link with his Mount Rushmore for each NBA team.

As you go through the alphabetized list of NBA teams, you notice when you get to the Minnesota Timberwolves that only one man is mentioned. That man, of course, is the Big Ticket himself Kevin Garnett.

Here is Jackson’s rationale:

"Rationale: This will be a one-faced mountain. No one else deserves to share this space."

Jackson’s omission of other Wolves wouldn’t be quite so glaring except for the fact that even the relatively young Charlotte Bobcats franchise has four players on his list.

Who else would you include? Is anyone else worthy? Could the Wolves’ Mount Rushmore just be four KG faces young and old?

Can’t argue with Crede deal

Only one of the two deals I mentioned in an earlier blog post done, agreeing to terms with third baseman Joe Crede.

With only $2.5 million guaranteed to Crede, there’s not much to dislike about this deal. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Glass half-full: The Twins bolstered their defensive unit by adding an All-Star third baseman from a year ago who, unlike their other hot-corner options, has 30-homer potential. He’s a former Silver Slugger winner who came through in clutch spots for the White Sox during their 2005 World Series run, hitting .368 and .294 in the ALCS and World Series, respectively.
  • Glass half-empty: The Twins never hit on these "low risk" free agents. They end up costing the team victories in the early part of the season, and those games gain significance when you miss the playoffs by one game like last year. Crede has a .306 career OBP, which is 30 points LESS than Delmon Young‘s OBP last season. Crede has played in 44 percent of his team’s games the last two years.

Regardless of how well you think Crede will perform, this deal shouldn’t hurt the Twins even if he doesn’t perform. Crede should be an upgrade over a Brian Buscher/Brendan Harris platoon when he’s healthy, and if he’s not, you just go with Buscher/Harris.

It never hurts to add depth, so when a team can add an All-Star third baseman for $2.5 million when you are well under your projected salary budget, it’s hard to complain too much about it.

Is Vick right for Vikes?

If you didn’t see it in Saturday’s Forum, the Associated Press had a story that the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers might have the most interest in acquiring Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

Vick is still under contract with the Falcons. He’s missed the last two seasons after being jailed for dog-fighting charges.

Off-the-field problems aside, Vick was an explosive player on the field. His most famous moment might be when he marched into Lambeau Field in the playoffs and beat the Green Bay Packers. It was the first time in NFL history a visiting team won a playoff game at Lambeau.

However, you can’t so easily put his off-the-field problems aside. The public-relations nightmare a team would have in adding someone like him might not be worth what he brings to a team on the field.

So Vikings fans, what say you? Would you like to see Vick in Minnesota next year? I know a lot of Vikings fans who think the team is just a solid QB away from winning. Is this the guy?

Twins making late push for players

It looks like Minnesota Twins GM Bill Smith opted to go with the John Elway 2-minute offense approach to this offseason.

After doing very little for most of the offseason, the Twins agreed to terms with third baseman Joe Crede and have made a sign-and-trade proposal to the Arizona Diamondbacks for free-agent reliever Juan Cruz.

Crede is the big name, but Cruz would be the more valuable addition.

I mentioned Cruz in an earlier post as someone I thought would be a good addition, but he was a highly unlikely acquisition because he is a Type A free agent, meaning the Twins would lose their first-round pick if they signed him.

But because of this unusual offseason, a number of Type As remain available. Major League Baseball is stepping up its efforts to help teams acquire Type A players, encouraging sign-and-trade deals with the player’s former team. And that looks to be what’s happening here.

Cruz is the hard-throwing right-hander the Twins need in the bullpen. He can be a bit wild at times, but he without question would immediately step into the eighth-inning role for them.

Crede is more of a mystery. If he is healthy, he’s a big defensive upgrade at third base over the platoon of Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris. Offensively, Crede has got some pop but carries a pretty low OBP for his career. Once again, if he’s healthy, he could be small upgrade over Buscher/Harris offensively. It’s conceivable that Crede and Buscher would platoon, but it wouldn’t be a straight platoon. Crede would get the majority of at-bats I’m sure.

One other note from La Velle E. Neal’s post above. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has tossed out the idea of carrying just 11 pitchers on Opening Day. The Twins usually go 12. 

So, will Smith’s 2-minute drill work like Elway’s? Only time will tell.

I think it’s only natural to be skeptical of the team’s free-agent moves considering the last few years. But at least in the case of Cruz, the Twins would be adding a player at the top of his game.

Virtual waiting is a real pain

Well, it took five hours of staring inattentively at a computer screen, but I managed to snag tickets for the Cubs-Twins series in June at Wrigley Field.

This was my first experience trying to get highly sought-after seats for a baseball game the day that tickets go on sale. I went to Fenway with one of my brothers a couple years ago, but I went through a ticket broker site and spent two-to-three times face value for the seats.

I vowed this time that wouldn’t happen.

I don’t know how many of you have tried to go through the team site the day that tickets go on sale, but with the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field tickets, there’s an enormous amount of waiting. Call it naive or whatever you want, but I woke up this morning expecting to log on, get the tickets (or find they were sold out) and then return to bed.

Instead, after logging on I was greeted with something called a "virtual waiting room." Little did I know that I would spend the next five hours inside this room. I even left my shabby apartment for an eye doctor appointment and returned to find that I was still in there.

I did what I could to pass the time, eating some breakfast, hopping on the exercise bike, doing a mock fantasy baseball draft on ESPN.com (I think my presence in a virtual waiting room already established I was a geek. The mock fantasy draft can’t hurt me after that).

I watched as two of the three games for the June weekend series were listed as sold out.

Finally, at 2:45 p.m. I got in. However, I was met with more resistance. There were very few options when looking for seats that were together. After 15 minutes of getting a prompt screen telling me that "high volume" was prohibiting me from finding seats, the Cubs’ site hooked me up.

The seats are awful it looks like, but they are cheap. And as long as they’re not obstructed, I’ll be satisfied. There’s always the option of putting my tickets up on StubHub or TicketCity and finding better, more expensive seats there.

After this whole experience, the video below describes how I’m feeling:

 

A deadline like no other

The trade deadline is all about buyers and sellers.

The buyers are acquiring established talent. The sellers are acquiring prospects to build around in the future.

Not in the NBA. And it’s amusing.

I turned on ESPN shortly after the NBA trade deadline passed Thursday, and the network pundits were debating the deals that did – and didn’t – go down.

It’s funny to hear those guys discuss what teams were possible suitors for, say, Shaquille O’Neal. It’s not the team that has the most cap space to take on Shaq’s contract or the team that has the most enticing prospects for Phoenix to rebuild around.

No, it’s the team that has Raef LaFrentz. And why? Because LaFrentz makes a lot of money, but his contract is expiring soon.

And that’s what’s great about the NBA trade deadline. Prospects aren’t nearly as intriguing as future salary cap space is. So often times phantom players get dealt to make the salaries line up. Remember when Aaron McKie got traded … while he was coaching for the Sixers? Or what about Keith Van Horn getting dealt despite having been unofficially retired for a year and a half?

There’s nothing more intriguing to NBA teams at deadline than bad players with gigantic, yet expiring contracts.