Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The new site

We've moved to jonmarthaler.com. Please join us over there.

You're missing out. We swear you are.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Join Me At My New Home

It's the end of an era, and I'm shutting this place down.

Well, not really; I'm just changing web addresses again, for about the third or fourth time now, but writing that doesn't allow me to lead off with "It's the end of an era," which for any writer is always fun. Really, I'm just making a change that I probably should have made three years ago. For those of you that don't want to read a thousand words, you can go there now; for the rest of you, allow me to explain, and allow me to meander down memory lane as I do.

Eight years ago, I got my start as a writer when my college newspaper, the Minnesota Daily, let me have a job as an opinions-page sports columnist. Until then, I was in a category that, thanks to the blog/social media revolution, doesn't exist any more: someone who could write, but just didn't, not very much.

I wrote a bunch of columns there. Some of them were good and some of them were okay and some of them haven't aged very well at all. One of them even won me a regional "Best Sports Column" award. I still have a letter somewhere from the University of Minnesota journalism school, congratulating me for that. They spelled my name wrong.

As that year ended and I graduated and was going onto graduate school, I wanted to keep writing. I did what everyone was doing at the time: I started a blog. It had a stupid name, because that's what blogs did back then. At first it was on LiveJournal, because I had friends who had LiveJournal accounts. Soon I ported everything over here to Blogger. And for awhile, I got very serious about blogging.

Starting in the spring of 2006, I wrote at least one post every day. At the beginning of 2007, I started writing more than one post per day. And starting later that year, I started pounding out more than 100 posts per month. I wrote about everything I could think of and a lot of stuff I knew nothing about, and for awhile I was my very own online, poorly-sourced, erratically-edited newspaper.

It was fun, but not all that good, and definitely not sustainable.

Back then, this was a sports blog, a real live site that could theoretically even exist outside its sole author. Now, though - it's really just a personal site. Most weeks, I put up a link to my Twinkie Town column on Monday. Saturday, I post the weekend links that I send to RandBall. The writing, it lives elsewhere. Every so often, I'm moved to write about something that doesn't fit either place - mostly cricket, these days - but ultimately I'm just using this site for self-promotion.

I'd always wanted to try to build my own WordPress-enabled site, and as a tech guy, it was starting to reflect badly on me that I hadn't done so. And this time, when I went to pick a name, I decided to stay sensible. It would be a personal site, so I might as well go self-centered with the name.

And so, we now launch JonMarthaler.com.

(You can tell that this is supposed to be important, because I put it in a one-sentence paragraph. Don't tell me that I haven't learned anything about sportswriting.)

  • The content will be the same, which is to say that it'll continue to be mostly links to other things that I've written.
  • The site looks pretty much the same, which is to say boring. It turned out to require a surprising amount of handwritten CSS to keep it looking boring.
  • If you're a person that reads this site via RSS, the new feed is right here.
  • If you're the kind of person that likes sharing stuff on social networks, the new site has got those fun Like and +1 and Tweet buttons built right in. My goal is to someday get someone to click on one of these buttons.
  • Comments are open now. For those of you who commented on Star Tribune blogs in the days before you had to be registered to comment, that's exactly what it's like over there now. I plan to be horrified by the amount of comment spam I get.
In closing, a plea: Please join me over there. I've honestly been surprised that anybody ever reads this site. I hope you'll continue over there.

Once again: JonMarthaler.com.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Joe Mauer's Greatest Fears

The Twins are not doing so well, so I'm falling back on my favorite dead horse: teasing Joe Mauer for being boring. (I'm a real jerk.) According to the Target Field scoreboard, his greatest fear is "disappointing his parents," which is an answer that's almost unfathomably designed to make my mom get mad at me for making jokes about Mauer.

Nevertheless, that's what I did.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Bill Smith and Mike Rizzo Try To Make A Deal

The MLB non-waiver trading deadline was Sunday, and there were plenty of rumors involving Twins center fielder Denard Span. Most of the rumors had him going to Washington, with the Twins apparently demanding closer Drew Storen in return. The entire trade was up in the air and didn't happen, and by Monday, we found out that the Twins were demanding players besides Storen for Span, while the Nationals were demanding players besides Span for Storen.

With this in mind, I wrote down a transcript of a discussion from an alternate universe, in which Twins GM Bill Smith and Nationals GM Mike Rizzo haggle over a used car, unsuccessfully.

You have to admit, it's probably closer to the truth than anything else.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Weekend Links

This week, the weekend links were written from Ortonville. You can really see the Western Minnesota flavor, can't you? No? Hmm, it's not coming through. Anyway, these appeared as usual at RandBall, your home for baseball road trips of all qualities.

It's Saturday! Rand's on the Great Baseball Road Trip, I'm on the Average Non-Baseball Road Trip, so let's just go straight into the links:

*We begin this week with the baseball trade deadline, which is on the mind of all Twins fans this week as we all try to figure out whether the team should buy, sell, stay put, or try to leave Tsuyoshi Nishioka behind on their current road trip. John "Twins Geek" Bonnes thinks the Twins should consider trading Denard Span for Nationals reliever Drew Storen. I agree 0%, but his reasoning is interesting. Nick Nelson, on the other hand, thinks that the Twins should stay put, and if they make a comeback then great. (I agree 100% with this one.)

*Nelson also thinks that the Twins should quit being so patient with the awful Nishioka, something else I agree with. And while we're at it, Parker Hageman breaks down Michael Cuddyer's pitching, yet another skill in the arsenal of the guy who's been the team MVP this year.

*I've argued with many people about the paying-college-athletes debate, and so I won't go into it any further here. Nevertheless, let me point out that America's greatest sportswriter, Joe Posnanski, agrees with me.

*And finally: Canis Hoopus commenter KGMN went through and put together video clips of his top 68 plays of the Timberwolves season. Be warned that loading all 68 videos will likely make your computer and internet connection groan in pain for awhile, so be careful.

There's also some Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio extras in there, which should get you excited for 2012-2013. The season's only 15 short months away!

That's enough for me; enjoy your weekend. It's supposed to be hot, but slightly less hot, and so maybe we can enjoy summer instead of being burned alive, for once.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Trade Deadline Week, The Headlines

Today at Twinkie Town, it's the beginning of the week leading up to the trade deadline. I have no idea what's going to happen - today's rumors were sendig Denard Span to the Nationals, which would be incredibly stupid if the Twins actually did it - but not knowing what's going to happen didn't stop me from writing some fake upcoming headlines for the week.

(Fake headlines seem to be my go-to this year when I can't think of what to write.)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Weekend Links

This week's RandBall column was written on a dark Saturday morning, with the first India-England Test match going on in the background. As I'm sure you can imagine, I got engrossed in England's attempt to shift Rahul "The Wall" Dravid, and therefore didn't write much in the links this morning. So it goes. Anyway, these links appeared first at RandBall, your home for avoiding the follow-on on the internet.

Good Saturday morning to you, the dedicated weekend readers of StarTribune.com. It's a bit of a rumbly Saturday out there, a warm and stormy July day, so let's dispense with the pleasantries and get straight on with a bit of reading while the storms roll through:

*We must begin this week with Chris Kluwe's response about the life of a punter (warning: punters use bad words sometimes, kids.). Kluwe was taken to task by former Broncos tight end Nate Jackson for, effectively, daring to speak even though he's a punter. But Kluwe's a good writer, he's funny, and he simply doesn't care what Nate Jackson thinks - and the result is great.

*In pirate news, Spencer Hall went down to Key West to interview college football coach Mike Leach - and ended up on a fishing boat with Leach for eight hours. Key quote from Leach: "Fish aren't smart. It's not like they have advanced degrees." You have to admit, his point is inarguable.

*In Twins news, Jesse at Twinkie Town looks at Tsuyoshi Nishioka's splits from each side of the plate, and concludes that maybe someone should tell Nishioka never to hit right-handed again. He also breaks down, by position, the average amount of time it takes players at each position to reach the majors - and applies it to the Twins' top minor-league prospects.

*And finally: if you're looking for a little more whimsy in your Twins links, how about your two new favorite Twins animated GIFs?

That's enough for this week - please, enjoy your Saturday. Rand will be in with the Great Baseball Road Trip ruminations all week. Be sure to get any and all Carolina-related jokes ready for the comments.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Questionably-Sourced Bio Of Scott Diamond

Talk about things spiraling.

Sunday afternoon, I was still figuring out who was going to pitch the next day's doubleheader for the Twins, so that I could write the game preview threads for Twinkie Town. Around then, the team announced Scott Baker was headed to the disabled list, and that lefty Scott Diamond was on his way to Minneapolis to start Monday's nightcap.

This caught me by surprise. And the Twinkie Town interface didn't have a single bit of info on Diamond. Usually we at least have access to a little widget that shows a photo, height and weight, and that sort of basic information. This time we didn't.

So I started making up my own biography for Diamond. About the time I wrote, "His mother was a Cape buffalo and his father was a bolt of lightning," I realized that purely by accident, I had stumbled into potentially the silliest post I'd ever write. So that became my Monday column: A Questionably-Sourced Bio Of Scott Diamond.

Monday morning, I got an email from Greg Layson of the Guelph Mercury, Diamond's hometown paper, requesting that I call. I did, and we chatted about why I'd choose to write something so goofy, and about why the Twins had so many Canadians.

The resulting article marked three milestones:

  1. It's the only time I'll ever be quoted in the same article as the father of a major-league baseball player.
  2. It's the only time I'll ever be quoted making fun of myself in a newspaper in another country.
  3. It's the only time I'll get a chance to suggest that the Twins are more Canada's team than the Blue Jays are.
The internet is a wonderful thing, isn't it?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Weekend Links

This week in the weekend links, I write about the strangeness of sportswriting, and attempt to make up for foolishly forgetting about the Women's World Cup. As always, these links first appeared at RandBall, your home for deleting not-terribly-funny similes and saving both of us.

It must be hard to be a pro baseball reporter. They end up having to take part in this great kabuki, The Dance Of The Postgame Quote, in which nobody (except Ozzie Guillen) ever says anything interesting. After Matt Capps completed the final stage of his transformation into Ron Davis, those reporters had to go down to the clubhouse and talk to Ron Gardenhire. And one of them had to take one for the team and ask Gardy if he was about to replace Capps as the closer. And then everybody got hit with the shrapnel as Gardy jutted out his jaw and got mad at the question like he always does. And then all those reporters headed back upstairs to write what they were going to write anyway. It's a goofy game they have to play. (As you can see from that lede, I couldn't do it.)

But that's not why you called, so on with the links!

*It seems like a good week for a bit of American legend Spencer Hall. In fact, let's have a double dose: first, in his own inimitable style, Hall compares ESPN's short-lived disciplining of writer Bruce Feldman to Chiang Kai-Shek handing out watermelons. Second, Hall takes to the road to visit the great state of Oklahoma and do some catfish noodling. It'd be hard to find a writer anywhere as consistently fascinating as Hall.

*This week, six more college hockey teams announced they were breaking away from the WCHA, forming the American National Generic Hockey Conference Association, or some other equally generic, vague, and meaningless name. Chris Dilks at the Western College Hockey Blog has been making fun of them every step of the way. I've tried to decide on my favorite post from the saga, and I think it's this one. Or maybe this one. It's hard to say.

*And finally: the Empire State Building will display the colors of whichever team wins Sunday's Women's World Cup Final - even if that team isn't the USA. On the one hand, fair's fair. On the other hand, for somebody who a couple of weeks ago forgot entirely that the Women's World Cup was even being played this summer, I'm not very happy about this. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Seriously, though, I know I'm always exhorting you to pay attention to some overlooked sporting event or another, so this plea may fall on deaf ears. That said, I'm sure there are people out there that don't want to watch Sunday's final (1:45 pm, ESPN), simply because it's women's soccer. If that's what you think, then you now and me three weeks ago aren't that different. I forgot the World Cup was even happening; now the final is must-see TV. Flip over when you get a chance. The British Open will probably be over by then. Give it a try.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau Don't Know What To Do Today

Today's a tough day, sports-wise; about the only thing going on is the Home Run Derby, a fun idea that turns out underwhelming, every year. Also, for the first time since 2005, neither Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau is on the American League All-Star team. So today at Twinkie Town, we imagine what they might be doing today.

It's nice to be writing goofy things again.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Weekend Links

I'm always fascinated by the headlines that Rand chooses for my posts. For example, the headline he chose for today's edition - which is below, but appeared first on RandBall - is "What makes a good color commentator + Matt Capps' struggles". Which is fine, except that the post also includes British automotive shows, hockey, and Canadian football. I feel bad for poor Mr. Rand - he has to try to come up with a headline that will draw people in to my goofy collection of links. He has a hard job.

Happy Saturday! I've been thinking about Rand's post about Tom Kelly in the broadcast booth, which touched off a discussion about what makes for a good color commentator. Near as I can tell, there are two things that make for a decent color guy on a sports telecast: first, less than ten games of experience in a broadcast booth, and second, a distinct inability to filter the content of what you say. Every person who becomes a color commentator for more than ten games eventually gets polished and bland, and starts saying the same things over and over again. Meanwhile, you stick somebody like Kelly in the booth - who knows baseball, and who couldn't care less about anybody hearing what he says - and it's gold. Another example: when FOX put Al Leiter in the booth for the NLCS while he was still playing, he was a joy to hear as a broadcaster. Now that he does regular work on the MLB Network, he can put you to sleep in three seconds flat. Lack of experience and lack of a filter - that's the key.

But that's not why you called. On with the links:

*First, I'm not sure that automotive "journalism" fits into the sports category. Second, I'm pretty sure I've cajoled you on behalf of this show before. Nevertheless: Jalopnik put together a viewer-curated list of the ten best episodes of "Top Gear", a British automobile-related television show that includes equal parts wildly inexpensive cars, stunning film photography, and British people running into each other and falling down. (Think Benny Hill, but in a Bugatti Veyron.) I find the show delightful

*At least one person thinks that hockey's about to be America's winter sport again, and not just because the NBA might not play again for awhile. The post strikes me as a bit over-optimistic, but he's right about one thing - the NHL is a lot more fun to watch than it was fifteen years ago, the last time it was poised to "break through."

*Since Parker Hageman examined Matt Capps's extremely hittable fastball, the portly righty has finished two games in a row without allowing so much as a hit. That said, this was mostly due to Chicago's hitters only blasting the ball as far as the warning track, rather than out of the park, so it's not as though the problems are over for Capps.

*And finally: if you want to know why the Twins have beat the White Sox nine times in a row, this picture might sum up the whole thing. And if you're just getting into the "planking" craze, I have some unfortunate news for you: when Canadian football players start using something as a touchdown celebration, that particular fad is probably over.

That'll do it for me - stay cool out there. I'm already sick of the heat. When will fall be here?

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Weekend Links

This post was written on Thursday pre-July 4th weekend, though it appeared on the 2nd. This is always tougher because I have to choose subjects that Rand won't link to or talk about - hence, the mini-essay about soccer television ratings. One of these weeks I'm just going to write entirely about super-niche sports - Australian Rules football, South African rugby, and that sort of thing - and I'll see if Rand actually puts it up. Anyway, the following appeared first at RandBall, everyone's favorite Independence Day sports blog.

Happy Fourth of July Weekend! If Memorial Day is the official beginning of summer, then Independence Day marks the weekend when you realize that summer is slipping through your grasp and is in fact already one-third over. That summer list you made - you know, back in February when you were stuck inside and cursing your lot in life - is starting to look a bit daunting now. Let's face it: you are not going to buy a motorcycle and ride it to Saskatoon, just for the pure thrill of the open road. You have chores to do. But you can still spend a weekend sitting in a lawn chair and blowing stuff up, and frankly, isn't that all you really wanted out of summer, anyway?

On with some holiday weekend links:

*John Bonnes looks at the Twins' lineup cards this year and comes to a realization - they're almost like snowflakes, not a one alike.

*Meanwhile, Parker Hageman examines Scott Baker's season, looking for the reasons that the shoulder-slumping righty is so much better this year than last.

*In television news: last week, I encouraged you to watch the Gold Cup final between the USA and Mexico. For those of you who did, and had to squirm through the home team's embarrassing 4-2 loss to the Mexicans, I apologize... but you were not alone. Almost nine million people watched the game - more than Game 7 of the Stanley Cup and almost as many as the final round of the US Open. Now, eight million of those viewers were watching the Spanish-language broadcast on Univision, which indicates that Mexico's presence in the final may have been a driving factor in that number. Even so, to me it's yet another indication of soccer's status as a non-niche sport in America.

*And with that in mind, it's time for Episode 2 of the NSC Minnesota Stars documentary, in which the crew talks to team CEO Djorn Buchholz, and interviews midfielder Ely Allen, who managed to give himself a possible concussion in the kitchen. Also look out for interviews with assistant coach Carl Craig, the only person in the video whose language had to be edited. (He's from northern England, so I find it hilarious; he sounds like's about to jump through the screen and smash a pint glass over your head.)

That's enough for the Fourth - now get out there and get those fireworks! No, not those. The good ones. You know the ones I mean.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Twinkie Town: Book Review Time!

Usually at Twinkie Town on Mondays, I write a sarcastic joke post in the morning, and then a serious game recap following the game in the evening. Well, this time around I started the day off with a serious review of Alex Halsted's "100 Things Twins Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die."

Then, that night, the Twins lost 15-0 to the Dodgers... and I couldn't help myself from writing my most sarcastic game recap ever. These things happen, I guess.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Weekend Links

This week in the weekend links, I forget about the women's World Cup, we talk soccer, and local humorist Stu makes fun of Joe Mauer. It's all happening! As always, these first appeared at RandBall, your home for goofy pictures stolen from the internet.

Ah, summer; it's a time for baseball, and for the NBA and NHL drafts, and for breathless, pointless coverage of NFL minicamps. For those of us who are soccer-inclined, it's also a time for international soccer, and for USA fans, it's a Gold Cup summer. Quick summary for the uninitiated: the Gold Cup is a biannual soccer tournament in which all of the North American and Caribbean teams play each other for three weeks before the USA and Mexico play in the final. The USA can't beat Mexico in Mexico, and the Mexicans usually have trouble winning in America, mostly because America helpfully schedules most of the matches for Ohio in February when it's about 23 degrees outside. (I think Bud Grant may coach the team.)

Anyway, the final is tonight, at 8pm, and while it's in America, it's at the Rose Bowl, which if anything is usually a road game for the USA. Unless you're really looking forward to the Rugby World Cup, this might be your one chance this summer for some good old fashioned nationalistic cheering. [Proprietor note: What our misogynistic friend meant to say was, the Women's World Cup also starts Sunday!]

And the first two links are about soccer in America, so away we go!

*Spencer Hall muses on the one-year anniversary of Landon Donovan's goal in the World Cup against Algeria, certainly the best USA soccer moment of the recent past. It turns into a few thoughts on what it means to be a fan. It's the same reaction I remember having at the time: that right there, that is why we are sports fans.

*The Run of Play thinks that soccer is like that woman you know you shouldn't chase. The only issue I take with this piece is that it seems to wonder if America will ever embrace soccer, a question that I find to be about ten years out of date. Occasionally, you still read the "soccer's about to catch on!" article, or the "America will never like soccer rabble rabble" opinion piece, but I have some news: while we were all talking about it, soccer arrived. Kids play it. The games are on TV. Die-hard crowds show up for MLS games across the country. Believe me, I know from niche sports, and soccer isn't a niche sport in America, not any more. Like it if you want, hate it if you want, but arguing about it won't change that it's already here.

*Enough about soccer; let's talk Timberwolves! Most of the local basketball literati had a strange reaction to the Timberwolves draft - they actually think there's now a light at the end of the tunnel. The Wolf Among Wolves blog is upbeat, always a surprising reaction for a Minnesota basketball fan. (Granted, this was before we found out that the Wolves had mistakenly drafted an ineligible player, which while unfortunate, is also hilariously funny - but still.)

*And finally: RandBall correspondent Stu is funny, which you already knew. Joe Mauer is boring, which you also already knew. But the former teased the latter for his dullness this week, and frankly, that's a combination that we like to see. Well done, Stu. Well done.

That'll do it for me; I'm off to make sure that RandBall correspondent Dave MN doesn't punch anybody in the face. (You know how he gets when discussions about hops get started.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Twins Advice Column For Imaginary People

Today's Twinkie Town column is titled "Ask A Twins Coach," and is written in the vein of the long tradition of fake advice columns. It features Steve Liddle dealing with some self-esteem issues.

I'm not sure what else I can say to give you the correct idea, which is that this week's column makes no sense.