Matt Capps trade reaction

There are plenty of opinions of the Minnesota Twins’ trade Thursday to acquire closer Matt Capps from the Washington Nationals in exchange for catching prospect Wilson Ramos and another minor league pitcher.

What makes this trade so tough for me to stomach is the fact that the Twins could have gotten so much more for Ramos prior to the season. I realize there’s a clubhouse of 25 players that want to see the front office get behind their playoff push. But I’m left wondering if a deal for someone – like Toronto’s Scott Downs or Jason Frasor – couldn’t have been done without giving up Ramos, whose value could not be lower right now.

I remember before the season I pushed for the Twins to try and acquire San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell - undoubtedly a superior closer when compared to Capps - by offering up Ramos. And if you look at the comments, I was pretty heavily criticized for that opinion.

Once the initial shock wore off, I started to understand the deal for Capps. It is surprising to see what Ramos is worth now.

Ramos’ stock took quite a dive

Before the season started, Wilson Ramos was a highly regarded member of the Minnesota Twins farm system.

Ramos was ranked the No. 2 prospect in the Twins organization prior the season and was dubbed the organization’s best power hitter and best defensive catcher by Baseball America.

Fast forward to Thursday, which saw the Triple-A backstop traded to the Washington Nationals along with another low-level pitcher for closer Matt Capps.

Capps is no slouch. He went to the All-Star Game and is enjoying a very nice bounce-back season after a dreadful 2009. In 46 appearances, Capps is 26-for-30 in save opportunities with a 2.74 and 38 strikeouts in 46 innings. His walk and homer rates are about half of what they were last year, but batters are hitting a rather robust .279 off of him.

And if you’re wondering, Capps is arbitration-eligible next year, meaning the Twins could have him through 2011.

All in all, there’s nothing wrong with adding Capps, who will step in and replace Jon Rauch as the Twins closer.

I know the closer’s job is often viewed as overrated, and I get all of that. But by adding Capps, the Twins hope at least that they’ve given themselves one more arm they can rely on in the bullpen. You can’t have too many of those.

But at the beginning of the season, Twins fans never would have dreamed that this would be the haul the team would eventually get when it traded Ramos, who is blocked at the big league level by Joe Mauer.

It’s been that kind of year for Ramos. He’s hitting .241 with just five homers in 71 games for Triple-A Rochester, and aside from a seven-hit showing in his first two big league games this year, it’s largely been a forgettable year for the once-touted prospect.

Hard to figure what’s wrong with Ramos. I remember talking to Jim Mandelaro of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on "Sports Talk" (weekdays 1-2 p.m. on 970-AM WDAY radio) a month or two ago. Mandelaro – if I remember right – said he felt that Ramos never thought he’d still be in the minors, and maybe that affected his play.

Regardless, I’m left wondering if the Twins would have been better off holding onto Ramos and letting his value get a little higher. He’s obviously at rock bottom right now.

This so far is the opposite of the Mauer contract: The Twins seemingly re-signed Mauer at the height of his career, costing them the most money. And they have sold low on Ramos.

That’s not to say Mauer can’t return to 2009 form or that Ramos will return to 2009 form. But as we sit here in the last week of July, both deals look poorly timed.

1986 Hurricanes named most-hated team ever

SI.com released its picks for the 25 most-hated teams in sports history, and it’s hard to argue with the No. 1 pick.

Sports Illustrated went with the 1986 University of Miami football team. This is just an excerpt from the piece:

His players were visionaries, early practitioners of an in-your-face brand of football that went out of its way to belittle and intimidate opponents. It was, in a lot of ways, the opposite of sportsmanship.
 

And if you were wondering, the 2010-11 Miami Heat already have got the No. 25 spot, and the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh has yet to play in even an exhibition game yet.

So, what are your thoughts on the list?

On the radio today

I make my weekly appearance on "Sports Talk" from 1-2 p.m. today on 970-AM WDAY radio.

Joining me in studio is Forum colleague Ben Karkela. Today, we’ll be talking to poker pro Jason Senti of Grand Forks, N.D., who has reached the final table of the World Series of Poker’s main event, guaranteeing him at least $800,000. Senti and the rest of the November Nine will play on national TV to determine a winner for the $10,000 buy-in event.

We’ll also be talking to NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace, who will be racing at Red River Valley Speedway tonight.

And we’ll take phone calls on the Twins, Terrell Owens signing with the Cincinnati Bengals and whatever else is on your mind. Call 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or talk@wday.com

NBA’s salary cap lacks a meaningful purpose

Back when I was growing up and the Minnesota Twins were absolutely awful, I often cried out for a salary cap in Major League Baseball. I felt the Twins would never get it turned around, and the New York Yankees were winning the World Series every year.

And while the Yankees are still a dominant force, the Twins have had a pretty good last 10 years, proving that small-market and mid-market teams can have success if good decisions are made.

The NBA has a salary cap, yet I wonder what its purpose is.

The Miami Heat loaded up this offseason, retaining superstar Dwyane Wade and surrounding him with LeBron James and Chris Bosh. That’s a lot of star power.

Now there’s talk of New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul trying to get traded and forming his own version of the "Big Three" in Orlando or possibly New York.

These "super teams" do make it tough for the Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves of the world. Now, you could argue the Wolves have made plenty of bad decisions in the last few years, but how much of a difference those decisions have made is hard to quantify. Other than getting a better draft pick the year that Kevin Durant was available, at no point could the Wolves have landed a player as good as James or Wade.

However, with the NBA having a cap on how much a single player makes, it allows these players to form "super teams" with each other, which does little to create the kind of parity that makes the NFL and its salary cap so popular.

Without a salary cap, a player of Wade’s or James’ caliber might get $25 or $30 million on the open market. Who knows? But under the current set-up, those players are making much less than that, making it easier for a team to sign multiple top-of-the-line players.

Time definitely needs to pass before we can see the results of these "super teams." But the NBA in the future might have to revisit the terms of its salary cap if teams like the Heat are able to do what they say they’re going to do.

Cubs opening generates intriguing candidates

At the office with the Chicago Cubs-St. Louis Cardinals game on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

With the announcement of Lou Piniella set to leave as Cubs manager following the season, all sorts of relatively big names in the baseball world and the Cubs world have been linked to the job.

ESPN had a graphic including many of those names. I figured I’d break down the candidates.

  • Ryne Sandberg. The former Cubs icon has spent the last four seasons managing in the team’s farm system. I’m guessing he’s a popular choice among the team’s loyal fan base. But you have to wonder too if this is the best thing for Sandberg, taking over a team that hasn’t won a World Series in over 100 years. Bit of a gamble for his legacy, but if he led the Cubs to a championship, his status in the Windy City would untouchable. 
  • Alan Trammell. The former Detroit Tigers manager and icon is currently the bench coach for Piniella. He managed the Tigers to a .383 winning percentage from 2003-05 before giving way to the team’s renaissance under present manager Jim Leyland.
  • Joe Torre. It’s one thing to win in New York, but if Torre could bring a title to the Cubbies, that would be something. Torre going to the Cubs makes a lot of sense to me. It’s been reported that the Cubs owners want to make a big splash, and who better than to land Torre. And from Torre’s perspective, the ownership issues in LA might have him yearning to move on. I’m sure he doesn’t miss the pressure-cooker of the Bronx, and Wrigley Field couldn’t be farther away from that environment.
  • Joe Girardi. I’ve heard a couple of TV pundits say that the New York Yankees current manager has said he wants to one day manage the Cubs. Well, that day is not today. I’d be shocked if he went there. He’s got the best job in sports, at least when the organization is being run properly.
  • Bob Brenly. The Chicago Cubs broadcaster led the Arizona Diamondbacks to a World Series title in 2001 as manager. Despite the memborable championship, I don’t see Brenly as a "big splash" kind of hire. I do think he’s a solid color commentator though.
  • Bobby Valentine. Hey, why not? If there’s a job open, he’s a candidate these days. He didn’t exactly shoot down the idea while working as an ESPN analyst on Sunday, saying the job is one any potential manager would want. And he still considers himself that on occasion.
  • Lou Piniella. Isn’t it possible that he simply changes mind? OK, probably not. I just finished reading Bill Madden‘s biography of George Steinbrenner, so the manager flip-flop is still on the surface of my brain.

If I had to make a prediction right now, I’m leaning toward Torre or possibly Sandberg. But ask me again in October.

Tigers’ Ordonez to miss 6-8 weeks

The Detroit Tigers lost a serious part of their lineup tonight when outfielder Magglio Ordonez broke his ankle during the game against Toronto. He will be out 6-8 weeks.

Ordonez is hitting .303 with 12 homers and 59 RBIs for the Tigers, who are a half-game behind the Minnesota Twins for second place in the AL Central. Both teams trail the Chicago White Sox, who have a two-game lead on the Twins.

I have no idea who will replace Ordonez. Looking at their roster, I would venture to guess Ryan Raburn, who is hitting .209 this season, will see a bump in playing time. But I’m just guessing on that. Maybe there’s someone in the minors that I don’t know about.

Regardless, it will be tough to replace Ordonez’s production.

Kahn’s fine is deserved

Minnesota Timberwolves president David Kahn was fined $50,000 for remarks he made regarding new Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley and his past drug use.

I mentioned a couple of days ago that Kahn made some interesting comments to KFAN KSTP radio station. Here they are again:

Of Michael Beasley:

"He’s a very young and immature kid who smoked too much marijuana and has told me that he’s not smoking anymore," Kahn said, "and I told him that I would trust him as long as that was the case."
 

The Timberwolves organization was fined an additional $50,000 for inappropriate comments.

When the Wolves first hired Kahn, I initially liked the move, but that was moreso from a journalist’s perspective. Kahn said things early in his tenure as president that most team officials don’t, maybe because he used to be a sports writer himself. He’s not one for the sports cliche.

But considering the organization got fined too, Kahn’s demeanor with the press will no doubt change. I’m sure Wolves owner Glen Taylor doesn’t appreciate being levied a big fine from this himself, so he’ll likely pull Kahn aside and tell him, "You might want to go by the book when it comes to public speaking."

As the Wolves spiral further and further downward – and as Kahn says stranger and stranger things – we’ll look back on this time as not just a lackluster but also embarrassing – on and off the court – era of basketball for the NBA in the Twin Cities.

Kahn’s comments about Beasley are really inappropriate, and I’m sure Beasley didn’t appreciate how candid Kahn was being on that radio show.

Time to make Tasers more mainstream?

Here’s the video from last night’s Minnesota Twins game in Baltimore of the fan that ran around on the field for way too long:

According to La Velle E. Neal‘s blog on the Minneapolis Star Tribune website, the Orioles have a no-chase policy at Camden Yards when it comes to fans running on the field.

I realize Tasers can be damaging to a person’s health and in some cases lethal. So whether or not you think they should be used in situations like this, at the very least we could all agree that the threat of getting Tasered would probably stop these morons from running on the field in the first place. Then again, the fact that they are morons, they might be encouraged by the idea of getting Tasered.

But one thing is for sure: There is no reason security can’t chase this guy down. If anything, it’s more dangerous to have him running around. Remember when those two fans ran on the field in Chicago - one with a knife – and assaulted Kansas City Royals coach Tom Gamboa? What’s stopping another lunatic from doing something like that? These people need to be apprehended as soon as possible.

So to Camden Yards officials: Get rid of the no-chase policy. It forces your security to look as lethargic as the product that’s being put on the field sporting Orioles uniforms.

Twins reportedly pursue Oswalt, Haren

With one week before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Minnesota Twins are reportedly chasing starting pitching.

Reports last night said the Twins were interested in Houston Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Dan Haren, who are considered to be the two best starters available in the trade market.

Both of these guys would be an upgrade over at the very least Kevin Slowey. But which one would you rather have?

Oswalt has spent his entire career with the Astros, posting a 143-81 record and a 3.22 ERA over 10 seasons in Houston. He’s having one of his best seasons this year, with an ERA of 3.12 and 117 strikeouts in 124 innings pitched. This is the best ERA he’s had in a season since 2006. Oswalt is locked up through 2011 with a club option for 2012.

Haren has struggled this year with an uncharacteristic 4.60 ERA in 21 starts so far. That would be his highest ERA since starting 14 games for the St. Louis Cardinals in his rookie season in 2003. Haren’s strikeouts remain high (141) and walks remain low (29), but he’s getting hit much harder than in previous years, to the tune of a .285 opponents’ batting average. That’s about 60 points higher than last season’s OBA. And for someone who does give up a lot of homers (tied for the NL high with 23 surrendered), all of those baserunners are making it a long season in the desert.

Oswalt turns 33 later this season, while Haren turns 30.

If the Twins determine their goal is to win now – as in, this year – then Oswalt has to be the guy. I don’t live in Phoenix and have no idea why Haren is struggling, but a 4.60 ERA in the NL is pretty concerning.

But Haren strikes me as a good bounce-back candidate for a team moving forward beyond this season. I have a hard time believing he’s just lost his mojo and won’t find it again. This guy was a pretty dominant pitcher through last season, when he had a 3.14 ERA, 223 strikeouts and a very clean little 1.00 WHIP. He signed a four-year extension for $44.75 million prior to last season, so he has two seasons under control. Plus the contract has a team option for 2013.

Problem with Oswalt is that he has a no-trade clause. He’s reportedly said he won’t play for the Twins rivals in Chicago and Detroit. Not sure how he feels about Minnesota.

My guess is that Oswalt gets traded but not to Minnesota. He sounds like he’s pretty picky about where he ends up.

So I think if the Twins get either of these two guys, it will be Haren. And for the right price, Haren is a solid addition this season and beyond if pitching coach Rick Anderson can figure out what’s wrong with him.