Not a fan of trading Span (for one reliever anyway)

The rumor mill is in full swing right now, and the Minnesota Twins chatter centers around outfielder Denard Span.

Span is in the minor leagues on a rehab assignment after sustaining a concussion earlier this season. It’s been a slow process, but he appears to be getting close to returning to the major leagues.

The Washington Nationals are reportedly very interested in Span, and various rumors have linked Nationals closer Drew Storen as the guy that could go to Minnesota in a Span swap.

I’m a bigger fan of Nats set-up guy Tyler Clippard, who isn’t much older than Storen and has been absolutely filthy this season.

But if you believe what you read, the Nats are having a hard time coming to grips with dealing Storen alone.

I personally don’t like a Storen-for-Span trade from the Twins perspective. The Twins spent many years without an adequate leadoff hitter. And if you assume Span is fully recovered from the concussion (I doubt the Nats would have interest if he wasn’t), then I don’t make the deal.

I know the Twins bullpen is in rough shape. But I don’t think Ben Revere is ready to step into Span’s shoes at the top of the order, and Storen alone isn’t going to be enough to get that ‘pen going in the right direction.

  • Span’s line this season: .294 BA, .361 OBP, .385 SLG
  • Revere’s line this season: .249 BA, .294 OBP, .283 SLG

I like Revere. He’s fun to watch. But at this point in his career, he’s more of a bottom-of-the-order bat. If he replaces Michael Cuddyer or Jason Kubel (both free agents after 2011), that’s fine. But I still like Span – who sees a ton of pitches - at the top. 

It would take Clippard and Storen for me to change my mind, and that is never going to happen. So my guess is Span is still with the Twins on Aug. 1.

Trading for McNabb was the easy part

The Minnesota Vikings have agreed to trade one and possibly two sixth-round draft picks to the Washington Redskins for quarterback Donovan McNabb.

That was half the battle. Wait, not even half, really.

McNabb signed a five-year, $78 million extension with the Redskins in 2010. And in order for the trade to Minnesota to go through, McNabb must agree to take a pay cut.

That’s where things get a little sticky. Pro athletes don’t take pay cuts. Would the union even allow him to do it?

It’s hard to say how this will finish. McNabb may very well want to do whatever it takes to leave the Redskins and go to the Vikings for a couple reasons:

  • McNabb and Redskins coach Mike Shanahan never seemed to be on the same page last season.
  • The Vikings are one of the few teams willing to hand a starting job to McNabb.

I think in the end McNabb will be with the Vikings. The match makes too much sense.

A few late-night links:

Fantasy footballers kept on the edges of their seats

I was really hopeful that the NFL lockout would end Thursday. But if there’s one thing I should have learned by now, it’s that a lockout that has dragged on for months isn’t going to come to a screeching halt in one day.

As the lockout heads into Friday, it’s officially less than a month until my fantasy football league drafts. That will be held Aug. 21. I have no reason to think this lockout will go on much longer, but you never know. I’d just as soon see it end.

Jamaal Charles

Getting Jamaal Charles back in 2011 with the No. 16 pick is pretty much impossible. Associated Press photo

I feel more pumped for this NFL season than some previous ones. There are a few reasons for that:

  • As I mentioned yesterday, the Minnesota Twins are still alive. But they’re still a below .500 team that’s hard to get too excited about.
  • Last year, I won my league’s fantasy baseball title (thank you Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki!). This year, I’m stuck in third place, having endured injuries to every reliable starting pitcher I’ve had this season (Josh Johnson, Brett Anderson, Jon Lester, Erik Bedard, etc.).
  • I grew up a Chicago Bears fan, and the Bears were actually - and unexpectedly, from my point of view - pretty good last season.
  • I won my league’s fantasy football championship last season (thank you Jamaal Charles and Jason Witten!). I’ve won a few fantasy titles over the years, but I’ve never successfully defended a title. Can’t wait for another chance.

Back to fantasy football, I got word earlier this week that all 16 teams are returning to the league I’m in. Hard to believe as hot and humid as it’s been that we’re even talking about football season.

I’m leaning toward writing a weekly blog post on fantasy football. There’s definitely enough interest. I’ve always tried to avoid it, because there’s already SO MUCH fantasy football info on the Internet. But hey, why not?

Hopefully there’s some good news Friday on the NFL front.

Our graphic designer Troy Becker has put together a pretty sweet illustration for when the lockout ends. And I’m waiting to trot out some Minnesota Vikings preview stuff I’ve been working on as well. Stay tuned for that.

Also, thanks for all of the comments on yesterday’s blog post. I’ll make a habit of checking the comments more frequently if I continue to get that type of feedback.

Another “biggest series of the year” ahead for Twins

Say what you want about the Minnesota Twins, losing record or not. But they are just five games out of the AL Central lead, and that’s really the only number that matters.

But here are a few more:

  • Minnesota has won 29 of its last 43.
  • Joe Mauer – despite the lack of power – is hitting nearly .500 over the last couple of weeks.

With first-place Detroit in town for a four-game series starting Thursday, the Twins find themselves in the middle of a key stretch of games against division foes.

I counted the Twins out back in May, and that might have been a mistake. The old cliche that baseball is a marathon certainly has come into play, as has a pretty weak division.

To me, the Twins feel more like a bad habit: It’s hard to turn your back on them, no matter how much you think you should. They are flawed, but very much alive.

A couple links of interest:

Ominous words from a Vikings official

Noticed a quote in the Minnesota Vikings stadium story tonight that I thought was worth repeating on this blog.

“All I can tell you is that we are assessing our options,” Minnesota Vikings official Lester Bagley said, declining to elaborate.

Not sure what to make of that, but it has an ominous feel to it, does it not?

I’ve long said that I don’t think the Vikings are going anywhere. The Twin Cities market is a valuable one for football, and even though the stadium situation is troublesome, there can be a bright future.

At the same time, I just don’t see how a Vikings stadium is anywhere in the near future, in light of the Minnesota budget crisis. I can’t imagine lawmakers are jumping at the idea of building a stadium right now, or at any point in the next year.

So I’m torn on what will ultimately happen. If you have any feelings on how you think this will end up, I’d love to hear them.

And finally, apologies for the lack of blogging. I write a lot of my blogs at home, but my home computer is not well right now. I’m getting it looked at this week. I’m not the type who has a lot of patience for a slow computer, so I’ve mostly been avoiding it.

I wouldn’t have given away the Jeter ball, but that’s just me

The headline to this post couldn’t be more to the point.

I’ve spent the past few days listening to various sports-talk programs debate whether or not New York Yankees fan Christian Lopez should have given Derek Jeter the home run ball that he caught for career hit No. 3,000 in exchange for a few nice seats and some memorabilia.

Lopez has been applauded for doing what he did, even though he could have sold the ball for big bucks. I heard one expert speculate the ball is worth $200,000 or more.

It was quite a gesture. Lopez reportedly has $100,000 in student loans still to pay off. Plus, the government plans to make him pay taxes for it, although a brewing company stepped in and offered to cover the tax expenses.

To each his/her own. If giving that ball to Jeter is what Lopez thought was the right thing to do, then so be it. He made a decision on his own, and I give him credit for that.

But it’s not the decision I would have made.

I realize that statement seems motivated by greed. And I suppose to some extent, that’s true.

I would be left imagining what a difference that money could have made to the lives of myself and other friends and family. I’m not talking about going out and spending lavishly on things that I don’t need. I’m talking about buying and paying off the necessities – a house, a car, etc. – in a fairly unstable economy.

I heard one of the pundits on “Pardon The Interruption” give Lopez credit because getting that ball was like, “Winning the lottery without buying a lottery ticket.” Well, that’s not really true. He did buy his way into that game, knowing there was a chance – albeit slim – that a ball like that could find him.

Why give a gift of charity like that to a multi-millionaire athlete? It’s not like Jeter and the New York Yankees don’t have the money to pay for what the ball is worth. After all, Jeter just signed a three-year, $51 million deal in the offseason. A couple hundred thousand dollars is chump change for Jeter and the Steinbrenner family.

Charity should go to those who need it, not to those who are among the top earners in society. Even if he doesn’t want the money, give the $200K to those who actually need it. Go the Robin Hood route.

The best advice I would have given Lopez if I was seated next to him when he caught that ball wasn’t whether or not he should give it to Jeter. I would have told him to wait a week or two. Let things play out. I wonder if that would have yielded a different outcome.

All-Star snub an endangered species

Major League Baseball in recent years has followed the lead of other sports leagues and gone the route of having a selection show for its All-Star Game a week or so prior to the game.

Watching the selection show isn’t the most exciting way to spend an hour of a Sunday afternoon. And besides, it seems like just as much time is spent talking about who isn’t going to the game rather than who is going.

“I can’t believe Andrew McCutchen didn’t get picked.”

“How is Kevin Youkilis not on the team?”

Well, pundits got their wishes, as close to 90 players have been named All-Stars. Injuries have piled up. And a few players have just pulled out of the game for their own personal reasons.

Think about that number. That means an average of three players off every team will be considered All-Stars.

Let’s face it: With nearly 90 All-Stars, nobody is getting snubbed.

I’m not sure much can be done about it. All-Star Games are becoming a thing of the past. Some players want the bonus (albeit small compared to their annual salaries), but they have to be dragged kicking and screaming to play in these games.

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter has been criticized for pulling out of the game due to exhaustion. And he’s not alone. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick covers a few more cases here.

But I propose a change to the post-selection show debate. Instead of discussing who got snubbed, let’s wait until game day and discuss who is an All-Star but really doesn’t need to be there.

Tom Kelly proves to be a big hit in the booth

Major League Baseball goes on a bit of a hiatus the next few days, with regular-season play replaced by tonight’s Home Run Derby and tomorrow’s All-Star Game.

The Minnesota Twins head into the season’s halfway point – which is more a 60-percent point – just 6.5 games out of first place with a 41-48 record. They’ve won six of their last eight games. The record leaves much to be desired, but they’re in it I suppose.

During the last few games, Fox Sports North broadcaster and former Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven was on vacation as he prepares for his Hall of Fame induction in the coming weeks.

Replacing Blyleven in the booth alongside Dick “Don’t call me Richard” Bremer was Blyleven’s former manager Tom Kelly.

I got to say I really enjoyed the TK broadcasts. And I’m not alone. As of noon today, 66 percent of Star Tribune readers felt Kelly did “a good job” and would “like to see more of him.” Only 7 percent said they didn’t like him.

Broadcasting can be a real challenge over the long haul. It’s been noted that fans often tired of the same voice over the years, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think fans were simply embracing something new.

I think Blyleven does a good job. But it would be nice to see Kelly up there a little bit more, maybe even joining Bremer and Blyleven in an occasional three-man booth.

The thing I like about TK is that he will pretty much call out anyone, no matter the team. During what has been a trying season for the Twins, Bremer and Blyleven have not been very critical of anyone’s play on the Twins, outside of some isolated episodes (i.e. Kevin Slowey‘s bullpen stint).

TK’s stint in the booth was refreshing. Hope we haven’t seen the last of him on the air.

Capps’ struggles put bullpen in a tough spot

Another victory for the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night. And once again, another night that saw closer Matt Capps get bailed out by lefty reliever Glen Perkins.

Capps is struggling, having given up nine hits and five runs while recording just five outs in his three July appearances.

Meanwhile, Perkins continues to be the dominant reliever on the back end of the ‘pen. He struck out back-to-back Brewers on Sunday to preserve the win after Capps nearly blew the game. Then on Tuesday, Perkins relieved Capps again and got the final out.

Many are calling for Capps to be yanked from the closer’s role. And with the boos raining down upon him during his last two appearances, I’m not sure how much longer Twins manager Ron Gardenhire can stick with him. His strikeout rate is one of the worst among closers, and he’s just not keeping the ball down enough.

But putting Perkins in the closer’s role reveals how thin the Twins’ bullpen is. That would put Joe Nathan - who has been very good since returning from the disabled list in late June – as a regular eighth-inning guy, which he pretty much is anyway. But the Twins would lack any flexibility if either falters, because behind those two there is really nothing. And if some big outs are needed in the seventh inning, I’m not sure who they could turn to.

Ideally, I like having Perkins has someone who can come in and get the big out when needed. However, I’m not sure the Twins are afforded that luxury anymore.

Wild invest in a Heatley bounce-back

On name recognition alone, I was impressed by the Minnesota Wild’s latest trade. But a look at the numbers told a different story.

The Wild shipped forward Martin Havlat to the San Jose Sharks for forward Dany Heatley on Tuesday. It was the second trade the two teams have made this offseason.

In Havlat, the Sharks get a solid offensive guy, someone who seemingly flew under the radar in Minnesota. Havlat had 22 goals and 40 assists last season.

In Heatley, well, I’m not quite sure what the Wild got. Heatley had 26 goals and 38 assists last season for the Sharks, who were one of the NHL’s dominant teams during the regular season.

But not since the 2005-06 season has Heatley improved his goal total from the previous season. He had back-to-back 50-goal seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07, only to drop to 41, 39, 39 and then 26 goals last season.

The Wild are gambling on the bounce-back. And considering how badly they need scorers, who can blame them?