Posted by: gravessack | June 11, 2014

A Surprise Addition

On June 8, the Twins surprised everyone by signing veteran slugger Kendrys Morales to a one-year contract worth roughly $7.6 million. Morales, who was a free agent, last played for Seattle, where he hit .277 and had 23 home runs and 80 RBI. He has hit at least 15 home runs in three of the past five seasons. Morales will likely be the primary designated hitter for the Twins. He can also play first base, but the Twins will likely want Joe Mauer to play at first.

I love that the Twins made this move. Most of all, signing Morales (which was shocking since the Twins aren’t known for spending a lot of money and were not one of the teams that were expected to sign him) means the Twins are serious about contending for the postseason this year, something the team could not have dreamed of the past three seasons. I was a little worried Morales would be rusty since he had not played in either the minors or the majors since the end of last season before coming to Minnesota. However, Morales is off to a very good start, batting 6-for-13 in his first three games with Minnesota!

To make room for Morales on the roster, the Twins designated outfielder Jason Kubel for assignment, meaning the team can trade him, release him, or send him to the minors. Kubel, who first played for the Twins from 2006-2011 and was very good, struggled in his return to Minnesota this year. I like Kubel, but this move made sense based on his poor performance this season.

It has only been three games, but Morales looks like he will be a very good player for Minnesota. If he continues to do well, I would strongly encourage the Twins to extend his contract past this season!!

What do you think about the Twins signing Kendrys Morales??

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | May 14, 2014

Get This Guy Out Of Here!

Twins starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey needs to go! He is a horrible pitcher! Although he had a few good starts last year, many of his starts since he joined the Twins at the beginning of last season have been pretty ugly. Last season, Pelfrey’s struggles were attributed to the fact that he had Tommy John surgery the year before. After signing him to a three-year contract this past offseason, he is still bad even though he was supposed to pitch better two years removed from Tommy John surgery. He is 0-3 with a 7.99 ERA this season, which is pretty awful! He also takes a long time between pitches, making him not that fun to watch and probably not that fun for his defense, who has to stand in the field when he pitches.

Pelfrey is currently on the disabled list with a groin injury and will probably rehab in the minors before (supposedly) coming back up to Minnesota. This may be a good thing because pitching in the minors for a little while, combined with the assumption that Pelfrey will be fully healthy when he returns, may get him back on track. I suggest that the Twins see how Pelfrey does after he returns to the majors. If he continues to struggle, the team should send him back to the minors or possibly release him! They could trade him too, but I don’t know how many teams would be willing to get him based on his extremely poor performance so far in Minnesota!

What do you think about Mike Pelfrey? What do you think the Twins should do with him if he continues to struggle?

Written by: Sam Graves 

Posted by: gravessack | April 4, 2014

What’s New At Target Field?

A new season has begun and the home opener is just days away. While the Front Office is trying to improve the performance on the field, improvements to Target Field are also underway. Every year since the ballpark opened in 2010, the Twins have made enhancements to improve the fan experience. News organizations have made a lot of the new foods at Target Field, but there have been other things added for this year that should go unnoticed.

Debuting in May is the “Target Field Station.” It will be more like an entertainment hub, with a large video board and a small amphitheater, which will be used for concerts and plays, among other events. The screen will be used mostly for Twins games and movie nights (it would be cool to watch the Wild in the play-offs there!). Most light-rail train lines and the Northstar line will converge at this station.

As for accessibility at this Hub, the amphitheater has two designated ADA seats (with signage), but the entire ring of front row seating is accessible. The entertainment area has three elevators and there is a seamless connection to Target Field’s promenade. “The upper plaza is completely ADA accessible including surmountable curbs on the Great Lawn”, says Kevin Smith, Senior Director of the Twins. Smith also indicated that there are seven ADA spots in the nearest parking ramp.

Major League Baseball is requiring all ballfields to have metal detectors by the start of 2015. The Twins have decided to start using them in preparation for the All-Star Game this July. This got me wondering: what happens when a power wheelchair goes through the detectors? Smith quickly put a kabosh on that, saying the Twins “will have guards with wands who can assist with people in power wheelchairs.” So, that’s good!

In other non-food upgrades, the Club has installed a grassy berm beyond center field and the trees are back in center field, though the 14 trees have been moved up to the Minnie and Paul level so that players can stop whining. Unlike the Black Spruce trees that were there in 2010, these trees are Spartan Junipers from Hartman Companies of Victoria, Minnesota.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | March 15, 2014

New Catcher Rule Is A Little Complicated To Understand

Starting this season, Major League Baseball will institute a one-year trial catcher rule. The goal of this newly adopted rule is to prevent catchers from being slammed into by baserunners at home plate (remember when San Francisco catcher Buster Posey broke three ligaments in his ankle and a bone in his leg in May 2011 and missed the rest of the season?). But if you dig deeper into this rule, it’s one complicated modification.

Basically, the new rule does not allow a baserunner to go out of his way to plow down a catcher when there is a play at home plate. In other words, a player has to go directly toward home plate and not at an angle so that he hits the catcher. If the runner pushes through with his elbow, arm or hand, he could be ruled out under the umpire’s discretion. If a catcher is blocking the plate without the ball near him, the baserunner will be determined safe. The adaptation also states that a catcher CAN block home when it is impossible to field the ball any other way to make a play. The umpire needs to decide if either the catcher or baserunner violates the rule and make the appropriate call.

To me, the way this new ruling is phrased is very contradicting. At what point can a catcher block the plate? Right now, how I interpret the rule is if the catcher blocks the plate from the runner the player is ruled safe. At the same time, the catcher is allowed to block the plate in order to attempt the tag. What exact point during the play does a catcher have to allow a runner to score? When can the catcher block the plate? For example, can a catcher block home before the relay man gets the ball or does the catcher have to wait until after the relay happens? I don’t have an answer to that critical question.

Some catchers are asking the league for clarification on this rule, according to ESPN. I hope the fans also get some more explanation before the season starts. Luckily, this rule can be reviewed on the expanded replay system. If this gets too confusing or if it does not cut down on injuries, the rule should be revised or scrapped in 2015. To review the full rule, click here.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | March 2, 2014

Instant Replay: Good For Baseball?

This past offseason, Major League Baseball announced it will expand instant replay for the upcoming 2014 season. Instant replay was introduced to MLB in 2008 but was limited to just home run calls. Now, reviewable plays include fair/foul and safe/out calls. However not everything will be reviewable, such as balls and strikes and interference calls. Click here for the details on MLB’s expanded instant replay.

I believe expanded replay will benefit MLB. My only concern is that since baseball games are already too long, replay may lengthen games even more. Still, expanded replay will largely decrease incorrect umpire calls and hopefully eliminate them altogether. Too many games are influenced by incorrect calls, such as the one on June 2, 2010, when a blown call at first base ruined former Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. There also have been several controversial calls in the postseason, including when Joe Mauer had his obvious base hit ruled a foul ball against the Yankees, where games are extremely important and one blown call can make the difference between a team winning the World Series and being eliminated from the postseason. Click here for more controversial calls.

In addition, expanded instant replay will most likely take a little pressure off umpires to make the right call, especially on close plays. Even though umpires get calls right for the most part, replay will benefit them a lot as well. It will be interesting to see whether instant replay has a positive impact on MLB! I think it will!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | February 17, 2014

My Spring Training Analysis

This could be the most intriguing Spring Training in years. With the Twins hoping to put a winning team on the field, finally some patience may be paying off. Ever since slugger Jim Thome left in 2011, the Twins have been down in the dumps. The club finished in last place in 2011 and 2012, and in fourth in 2013. The die-hard fan base grew restless after the Twins extended Manager Ron Gardenhire’s contract in September. But then the Twins made several moves to try to improve this depressing team.

Coming into this Spring Training, the Twins pretty much have the top three starting pitchers locked up for the first time in years. The Twins spent more than $60 million on three pitchers this off-season: Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, and Mike Pelfrey. Nolasco and Hughes should really help the front of the starting rotation, as they can rack up the strikeouts. Hughes had only four wins with the Yankees last year, but has won more than 16 games in a season a couple of times. Nolasco does not have impressive numbers but the Twins think he will be a prime pitcher. I am not sure why the Twins signed Pelfrey, but they think he will be better this year. Other pitchers who will fighting for a spot on the starting rotation will be Sam Deduno, Vance Worley, Kevin Correira, and Kyle Gibson.

The catcher position is all but solidified. The Twins permanently moved Joe Mauer to first base to get him in the line-up more. Days later, they signed free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki as a replacement. Suzuki has a career average of .263 with 67 home runs and brings good catching skills with him. Look for Suzuki to be the starting catcher, with surging Josmil Pinto to be his back-up. In a September stint last season, Pinto smacked four dingers and had a batting average of .342 in 21 games.

There should be two players sharing the Designated Hitter position: Josh Willingham and Jason Kubel. They both have power at the plate when healthy. Willingham had 35 home runs in his first year as a Twin and 191 during his career. Willingham hit only 14 home runs last year due to injuries. During Kubel’s nine seasons in the Majors, he has hammered 139 balls with 551 RBIs. With Arizona in 2012, Kubel sent 30 balls into the stands. Both Willingham and Kubel struggled last season, but look for them to bounce back in 2014 sharing the DH role.

The 2014 Spring Training will feature the Twins two prized phenoms: third baseman Miguel Sano and center fielder Byron Buxton. Sano has been in the Minor Leagues for four seasons and has 90 home runs with 291 RBIs. Sano was named 9th best prospect in 2013 by Baseball America. If he has a decent spring, Sano could easily replace Trevor Plouffe at third. As for Buxton, he was named the 10th best prospect by Baseball America last year. During his first two years in the minors, Buxton has an average of .312 with 17 homers and 97 RBIs. Keep a close eye on the center field battle between Buxton and Aaron Hicks. Hicks was supposed to be the full-time center fielder last year but he struggled at the plate and dealt with injuries. If Sano and Buxton really show off their stuff this spring, the Twins should not hesitate to put both of them in the Opening Day line-up! The Twins need firepower!

It should be a better year if Nolasco and Hughes shine, and if Sano and Buxton get their shot in the Majors. It is time to look toward the future. If the Twins end above the 82-win mark, it will be a great season. Spring Training truly kicks off on February 22 when all players are supposed to report.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | January 10, 2014

Our First Peek At Accessibility Features In New Vikings Complex

As workers continue to prep the Metrodome for destruction and as construction workers poured the first concrete of the new Vikings stadium, I felt like it was time to dig deep to find out how this multi-purpose facility will serve fans with disabilities. Via e-mail, Jennifer Hathaway of Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) said that the MSFA has been working with an accessibility committee since this past spring. Below are the key ADA features of our newest sports complex that will be ready for use in downtown Minneapolis in 31 months.

Features for people with physical disabilities: First and most importantly, the facility will feature more than 650 wheelchair spaces (includes companion spaces) and 16 elevators. The stadium will also have one interior pedestrian ramp. All entry gates will have wheelchair access. The ticket booths and concessions will be at an accessible height of 34 inches. The stadium will have accessible short-term parking use when purchasing tickets or shopping at the team store. The complex will have charging stations at each ADA location and 12 accessible unisex restrooms.

Features for people with visual and hearing disabilities: Assistive listening devices will be made available at each ticket window and will amplify the announcements at the stadium for the hearing impaired. All room and directional signage will have braille. Moreover, ribbon boards will provide closed-captioning and elevators will have controls providing braille/raised characters. Elevators also will have audible signals.

Most of these features go beyond the accessibility of the 2010 ADA standards and the Minnesota Building Code, which is good news. Plus, this stadium will have more than three times as many wheelchair seats than the Dome had. I feel confident about the facility’s accessibility, too, because Mortenson Construction built Target Field, which has proven to be truly accessible.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | January 1, 2014

The Dome Is Slowly Fading Away

Not even 20 hours after the Metrodome’s final event, crews from Albrecht Sign Co. started dismantling the 65,000 seats which fans sat in for 32 years. On January 18, after all seats are removed, workers will begin to deflate the big white bubble. But the real dismantling starts January 20, when workers will start ripping down the walls. That should be a sight to see as crews can’t just blow up the arena as they are starting to build the new Vikings stadium a few yards away. I believe this is the right way to put the Dome to rest – days and days of destruction.

Crews will be destroying the Metrodome in a circular motion; one day a section may be there and the next day…gone. At the same time, construction crews will be building around the Metrodome destruction. By doing this, they will be able to build the new multi-purpose stadium in time for the 2016 NFL season.

There are two memories of the Dome that I will remember because I was at both of these games. On August 19, 2007, pitcher Johan Santana smoked the Texas batters with an 17-strikeout winning performance. Fans really wanted manager Ron Gardenhire to send Santana back out in the ninth inning because he was just a few strikeouts away from the MLB all-time record. I would have liked to see Gardenhire keep Santana in to try to finish, but the Twins had closer Joe Nathan waiting in the bullpen. That was a really fun game to be at.

Almost a year later, on July 31, I was at a game when everything broke loose. After Gardenhire got ejected late in the game, he kicked his hat real high before leaving for the clubhouse. Fans started to torpedo the field with hundreds of hats and baseballs. Former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen removed his players from the field, with the Dome’s public address announcer threatening the forfeit of the game if fans did not stop bombarding the field. Eventually, the game continued with more than 40 fans being ejected. These two memories will certainly be on my mind when the Dome’s days are over.

In the end, the facility was a nightmare for fans with disabilities. Built before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, the Metrodome lacked a lot of accessibility features. The facility had less than 200 ADA seats and only had two elevators. Also, it had few handicap entrances so I had to go around the stadium just to find one. Sometimes I just gave in and went through the windy doors (you should have seen my face!). Lastly, the Metrodome had tiny concourses that barely fit everyone and food stands blocked people’s paths.

The Hubert Horatio Humphrey Metrodome, which has been a fixture of the downtown Minneapolis skyline for three decades, will slowly fade away into rubble. All the memories – from the Twins two World Series Championships to Brett Favre’s last second heave to win a game in 2009 – will be engraved in our minds. The Dome served the Twin Cities well, but there is just one more thing to say: BRING ON THE WRECKING BALL!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | December 31, 2013

Farewell, Dome!

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the former home of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings, will soon be history. The Dome, which opened in 1982, will soon be torn down now that the Vikings ended their season on December 29. There have been many great memories inside the Dome, including when the Twins won the World Series there in 1987 and 1991. My favorite probably was, because I saw it on TV and clearly remember it, when the Twins defeated the Detroit Tigers in 2009 to advance to the playoffs.

Although the Dome has seen some memorable moments, I will not miss it. Based on my experience there seeing many Twins game, I felt the Dome was pretty inaccessible. There are only 2 elevators in the entire stadium and it was sometimes difficult to see the game because fans were allowed to walk in front of other fans trying to watch the game. The railings were high enough that I and other fans in wheelchairs were looking directly at a bar most of the time! Target Field is much more accessible since fans can’t walk in front of you and there are no bars in the way. I’d bet the new Vikings stadium is much better than the Dome as well. I’m sure there will be memorable moments, such as the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field, in Minnesota’s new stadiums!

What is your favorite Metrodome memory and what is your opinion of it being torn down?

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | December 23, 2013

Twins Make Unconventional Catcher Swap, While Adding a Pitcher

The Twins have traded a catcher to sign a catcher. Looking to bolster their pitching staff, the Twins traded utility man Ryan Doumit to Atlanta in exchange for pitcher Sean Gilmartin. Since Joe Mauer will move permanently to first base, that left rookie Josmil Pinto and Chris Herrmann as the only catchers on the major league team. To coincide with the trade, the Twins signed veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki on December 20.

After multiple failed attempts to sign a catcher, the Twins inked Suzuki to a one-year deal worth $2.75 million. Suzuki has played for two teams during six MLB seasons. Although Suzuki does not have great offensive numbers, he will be a good mentor to Pinto. For what it is worth, Suzuki has a .253 career batting average with 67 home runs (with 14 of those coming in 2011.) He also has 359 RBI for his career. As for his catching skills, Suzuki has thrown out 26% of base stealers in his career. Suzuki will presumably be the starting catcher, but Pinto will be given lots of opportunities in 2014.

Doumit will be missed as he was a solid batter in his two seasons with the Twins. The problem with Doumit was that he could not catch when the Twins needed him to and he had trouble hitting in the clutch. As for Gilmartin, he has never made it to the major league level. In his three years moving around the minor league system, Gilmartin had an ERA of 4.23 with 223 strikeouts. I believe Gilmartin will spend a little more time in the Twins farm system before he debuts in the majors.

The Twins have had a busy December trying to get out of their three-year drought. It will be interesting to see who makes the team in April. Hopefully these new additions will improve our beloved team next season. Also, hopefully outfielder Jason Kubel makes the team. Even after signing starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey to a two-year deal earlier this month, the Twins should still go after free agent pitchers Bronson Arroyo and Matt Garza. Lastly: Welcome to Minnesota, Kurt!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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