Posted by: gravessack | October 1, 2014

Gardenhire Is Let Go After 13 Seasons

It was a day that some people hoped for and others not so much. On September 28, the Minnesota Twins completed its fourth consecutive season with more than 90 losses. Fans were getting anxious because it seemed like nothing was changing. As soon as the last Twins game was finished, all eyes were on the Front Office for an answer to that looming question: Would Ron Gardenhire be back for the 2015 season?

Monday morning came and went with us knowing that Gardenhire and General Manager Terry Ryan were in a private meeting at Target Field. No news at 10, none at 11, none even at noon. Finally, just after noon, a news alert popped up: “Twins fire Ron Gardenhire after 13 seasons.”

I have to admit that I was in complete shock because the Twins haven’t fired a manager in 28 years. Later at a press conference, Gardenhire and the Twins would say that it was a mutual decision between Gardy and Ryan. Ryan also shared that Gardenhire had been offered a new position in the Twins organization. At the press conference, Gardy put it simply: “I’m gone. I’m outta here because we didn’t win. That’s what it comes down to in baseball.”

As for the other coaches, Ryan said that they’re in “limbo” because their contracts expire December 31 and it is up to the new manager to bring in coaches that he wants. Because of this, Ryan is letting all of the coaches — including pitching coach Rick Anderson — talk to different teams that have interest in them. But, some coaches may be back as the new skip decides which coaches he wants on his staff. It should be noted that Ryan will be looking inside and outside of the organization for the right manager and that he professes to want a person like Gardy.

Gardenhire leaves the Twins after four poor seasons. He led the Twins to six division titles, and led his team to the ALCS in his first season in 2002 versus the Oakland Athletics. His final managerial record, however, was 1,068-1,039 and he had a 6-21 post-season record. Throughout his 13-year reign, Gardy has been ejected 73 times by umpires. Gardenhire will be missed for his sense of humor and his kind personality (though not always apparent to umps!). I know it was hard for Ryan to fire his friend and a person who was in the organization for 27 seasons as a player and coach, but I believe it is the right decision.

As the search for next manager continues, Ryan will be helped by the owners. He said that he will not be alone on this and that it could be a couple of weeks before a new leader is hired. There has been a few candidates already mentioned, so let’s do this. In the comment section, write down who you think will be the next Twins leader out of these five choices: 1. Ozzie Guillen (yes, that Ozzie) 2. Paul Molitor 3. Doug Mientkiewicz 4. Torey Lovullo 5. Joe McEwing. We’ll see who gets it right!

One more note: Gardenhire is looking forward to becoming a grandpa at the end of this month. So long, Gardy. It has been a pleasure!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | September 26, 2014

Mother Nature Says: “No Bonus For You!”

Weather can ruin a lot of things, but this one is a first. On Wednesday, Phil Hughes was starting for the last time this year and needed to pitch 8.1 innings to collect a bonus. Hughes was pitching great the whole game through the 8th until it started to rain. They played an inning in the rain, but the umpires decided to delay the game as soon as the Diamondbacks were done batting in the top of the 8th. Then things got interesting!

Hughes needed just one more out to reach 210 innings on the season, which would have given him a smooth $500,000. The sky was getting angry at that time and it poured and poured until there was standing water on the field. After a 66-minute delay, the field was still soaked as the Twins came to bat. It was not likely that Hughes was coming out to complete the game, but he was just one out away! Mother Nature was giving the Twins mysterious signals. In the end, the Twins sent out Jared Burton to save the game. Prior to the rain delay, Gardenhire had said that Hughes was going to go out to complete the game. It was not meant to be.

Hughes, clearly one of the Twins best pitchers this season, was asked by the Twins if he wanted to pitch out of the bullpen this weekend in Detroit to get his one out. Hughes graciously turned down that offer, effectively ending his season. Some people want the Twins to give Hughes that bonus, however Hughes didn’t think it was appropriate to take away innings from pitchers who are making way less money than him and his contract said 210 innings NOT 209.2 innings.

In his first year on the Twins, Hughes reestablished his all-star stuff while breaking a Major League record. Making 32 starts, Hughes was a machine, going 16-10 with an 3.52 ERA. Hughes had 186 strike outs with only 16 walks. Hughes was so dominant that he broke an all-time record with a 11.63 strikeout-to-ball ratio. Since 1901, Hughes is the only player to pitch more than 200 innings while allowing 16 or fewer walks in one season. Hughes’ season was just splendid. We will be lucky to have him as our ace for at least two more years.

And I predict that if it were up to Mother Nature, she would want the Twins to spend Hughes’ would-be bonus on adding a prime pitcher!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | September 21, 2014

Firing Gardy is Not the Answer

Many people would like to see Twins manager Ron Gardenhire get fired after this miserable Twins season, but I am not one of them. Here are a few reasons why owners shouldn’t let him go:

  • He is being blamed for too many problems. The Twins’ failure the past 4 seasons is due to several of the players, especially the pitchers, and their bad performances. Little (if any) of this is Gardenhire’s fault! Ultimately, it is up to the people who play the game to perform well, not the manager. Also, the Twins pitchers have the highest earned run average in the American League at 4.62. The pitchers are a large part of why the team’s not winning, not Gardenhire.
  • Are there better options? I don’t know all possible managers, but I’m not sure there are many (if any) better options to manage the Twins right now than Gardenhire. He has 14 years of managerial experience, and the Twins have won the division 6 of those years. Younger managers, such as former Twin Doug Mientkewicz, who is currently managing in the minor leagues, have little or no experience managing in the majors. Who is better than a manager with a lot of winning experience?
  • Rick Anderson needs to be fired, and the owners need to spend more money on quality players. Because Anderson is the pitching coach and pitching is the team’s main problem, he needs to be replaced before Gardenhire. Also before we blame Gardenhire, we have to acknowledge that team owners have largely been unwilling to sign high-quality players. My ideas? Free agent pitcher James Shields and outfielder Torii Hunter, who was a fan favorite until he left the Twins in 2007. Hunter is another upcoming free agent and has said he would like to end his career in Minnesota. Signing Phil Hughes and Kurt Suzuki last winter was good, but the team needs to sign more high-quality players before replacing Gardenhire. If the Twins are going to compete with teams such as the Tigers, who are not afraid to spend money on quality players, team owners need to spend more.

It’s easy to blame managers for their team’s poor performances. But the solution is more complex. Although I think Gardenhire likely will be fired following this season because of pressure from fans, I hope the Pohlads stick with him and would not be totally surprised if they do so.

What do you think about Gardenhire? Should he get fired after this season?

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | September 20, 2014

Gardy’s Job Is Safe But Should It Be?

Being a manager in the Twins organization is pretty sweet. In the last 28 years, there have been exactly two managers who have led the Twins. The Twins gave the job in 1986 to Tom Kelly. When Kelly resigned in 2001, he had recorded eight straight losing seasons prior to his resignation —  the Twins didn’t have the nerve to fire him. Ron Gardenhire took over, and in the 12 seasons since he has been the leader, the Twins have won their division six times, making the ALCS only once in 2003. At the end of last season, the Twins front office surprised everyone by giving the longtime manager a two-year extension. Unless some unforeseen event occurs, Gardy’s job is safe for at least one more year; it shouldn’t be!

As you all know, the Twins do not like to shake things up. The Twins shocked everyone by firing or reassigning six coaches at the end of the 2012 season, but Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson survived. However, with young men knocking at the door and another 90-loss season, it is time to release Gardenhire and Anderson. Nothing has improved since the firings and things will remain the same until a drastic change happens. The Twins were hoping to improve without having to fire the beloved manager, but the Twins will have lost over 185 games in the past 2 years.

Over the past couple seasons, the Twins attendance has been dwindling. Some nights Target Field has looked so empty that there were more flies swarming by the lights than people in the stands. I remember in 2010 when Target Field was packed and fans were excited for the team. Nowadays, more people are staying away from Target Field even on sunny nights. Since 2011, the average attendance and season ticket holders have been dropping. According to twinstrivia.com, the average attendance at Target Field has dropped 9,000 fans per game and season ticket holders are down 8,000 since 2011. The Pohlads should look at these numbers at the end of this season. I argue that if Twins’ ownership makes the right decision at season’s end, the fans will come back and the team can be competitive again.

There is yet another benefit to make the change for a new coach. More than ever, the Twins have been bringing up their young prospects. Since Shortstop Danny Santana was called up in May for an injured player, he has kept his spot in the line-up. In 93 games this year, Santana has an .322 batting average with 23 doubles, 7 triples, and 7 home runs. Santana provides speed and production on top of the line-up. Meanwhile, on August 1, the Twins brought up first baseman Kennys Vargas. Vargas has been one of the best hitters in the majors since his call-up, batting .295 with 37 RBIs and 9 home runs in just 45 games. Although Vargas strikes out often (54), he is enjoyable to watch because when he connects, the ball goes far. A new manager could really connect with these guys and the players who will be joining the line-up within two years. Also, I believe young players could relate better to a younger manager and perhaps perform even better, too.

It’s time to act. As hard as it may be, it is time to release Gardenhire and Anderson. And how about making Doug Mientkiewicz the next manager of the Minnesota Twins?

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | September 14, 2014

First Pitch!!

We did it!! Thanks to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and its CurePity Heroes campaign, “Two Men On” got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Twins-Angels game at Target Field on September 4! It was an amazing experience!

“Two Men On” and their families entered the stadium about 40 minutes before the game started. After walking around the warning track to near home plate, we waited about 20 minutes to throw out the first pitch. Now I know why pitchers can get pretty nervous right before they pitch a game!! Although we only met one current Twins player (Doug Bernier, an infielder and a September call-up, who was nice enough to catch our pitch), we did see former Twins shortstop Roy Smalley, who is now an announcer for the team!

One again, special thanks to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and its CurePity Heroes campaign for making this once-in-a-lifetime experience possible! Also, thanks to Bernier for agreeing to catch our pitch, and to the Twins staff, who also worked to make this possible. It was truly an honor!

Be sure to check out the video of “Two Men On” throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the “Two Men On” Facebook page and photos of the event in the “Photo Gallery!” Also check out an article recently written about “Two Men On.”

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | September 2, 2014

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

Thanks to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and its CurePity Heroes campaign, “Two Men On” was invited to throw out the first pitch this Thursday night, September 4, at Target Field before the Twins game against the Angels!

CurePity Heroes is part of the CurePity marketing campaign sponsored by Gillette, a hospital and clinic that focuses on serving individuals with disabilities. The campaign honors individuals or groups who seek to improve the lives of people with disabilities or complex medical conditions.

CurePity was created to change people’s attitudes toward disabilities. People with disabilities have often been objects of pity, and, until fairly recently, this pity created discrimination toward these people, such as being separated from their families and communities and placed in institutions. Because of this, CurePity stresses feelings of acceptance toward people with disabilities, which will create brighter futures for them and provide them with opportunities they previously did not have.

Click here for more on this amazing campaign. Thanks so much to Gillette for making this incredible opportunity possible! Be sure to look for the upcoming story about “Two Men On” at curepity.org!

Written by: Sam Graves

 

 

Posted by: gravessack | August 31, 2014

The Saints Are Moving On

Minnesota’s lone independent professional baseball team, the St. Paul Saints, has played at Midway Stadium near the State Fair since 1993. This small-town ballpark sported some quirky features, like restrooms were mainly porta-potties and sometimes the Saints let fans sit on the outfield warning track during games. Fans will miss the trains that roll by just beyond left field and watching firefighters train just over the right field wall on an old building. But Midway Stadium was missing something big: sufficient accessibility. The new Lowertown Ballpark, which will open next year, will definitely be an improvement for fans with disabilities.

Yes, Midway Stadium had the basic ADA features: wheelchair sections and access ramps. But the St. Paul Saints have promised greatly improved accessibility features in their new ballpark. In fact earlier this year, St. Paul Pioneer Press wrote a story on several fans who approved the Lowertown Ballpark accessibility plans.

The new field will exceed federal ADA standards for ballparks this size. The ballpark will feature 140 handicap seats and four elevators. In addition, the Saints will use padded folding chairs for more flexible combinations (for example, if two or more friends in wheelchairs want to attend a game together). The Lowertown Ballpark will also have ADA entrances, 10 single-occupant restrooms, a drop-off/pick-up area, braille and color contrasted signage for fans with visual impairments, and signage identifying accessible routes.

Also the stadium will have 180 semi-ambulant seats, which provide more leg room than normal seats and will be on the concourse level. Lastly, the stadium will have a 360-degree accessible concourse that will provide various viewpoints of the playing field. For more information about the accessible features of the new Saints stadium, please click here.

Personally, I love what the Twin Cities is doing with making all the new stadiums and their surrounding areas more accessible for all, but especially people with physical disabilities. For example, I just learned this week that plans are in the works to build a pedestrian bridge that goes across the light rail tracks near the new Vikings stadium to safely allow fans to cross, with elevators on each end. Across town at the Target Field light rail station, the Twins and Minneapolis did an outstanding job on accessibility.

But back to the Lowertown Ballpark: the Saints and St. Paul did their due diligence in making their new ballpark more accessible than other independent baseball parks. Here’s to hoping that Minneapolis and St. Paul become known as one of the most disability-friendly spots in the country. We are well on our way!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | August 9, 2014

An Interesting Few Weeks

It has been a busy few weeks for the Twins. First, the team designated reliever Matt Guerrier for assignment on July 23 and traded first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners on July 24 for reliever Stephen Pryor. On July 31, outfielder Sam Fuld was traded to the Oakland Athletics for starting pitcher Tommy Milone. The Twins also called up first baseman/designated hitter Kennys Vargas from the minors. That same day, the team signed catcher Kurt Suzuki to a two-year contract extension with a contract option for 2017. Finally, on August 5, outfielder Jordan Schafer was claimed on waivers by the Twins from the Atlanta Braves.

I was not very surprised when Guerrier and Morales left the Twins. Guerrier, who played for the Twins from 2004-11 and was very good, has had recent injury problems and had struggled at times this year. Reliever Ryan Pressly was called up from the minors to replace him. Although I liked Morales and wished the Twins would have kept him, it seemed his signing was only temporary because he is a veteran and the Twins signed him for only one year. I do not know about Pryor, who is currently in the minors.

I really like the Twins trading Fuld for Milone. Milone, who is 32-22 with a solid 3.84 ERA in his career, is considered by many to be a good pitcher and was sent to the minors earlier in the year only because Oakland has so many other good pitchers. He was sent to the minors by the Twins (which I don’t understand), but he should come up soon. When he does, I’ll be very excited to see him pitch.

I also like that the team called up Vargas and signed Suzuki to a contract extension. Vargas is a big guy who has a lot of power, and he showed some of it on August 6 when he hit a long game-winning three-run homer. He has been compared to David Ortiz! It will be very interesting to see how Vargas does in the future.

The signing of Suzuki was good for the Twins because he has been one of the best catchers in baseball this season. He has always been a good defensive catcher, and he is having a career year offensively, hitting .304. He is also supposed to be a great teammate.

Schafer will be an exciting player to watch on a regular basis. He only has a .222 career average but is extremely fast, having stolen 90 bases in his career. He is similar to Sam Fuld but I think Schafer is faster.

Today, August 9, Trevor May, one of the highest-rated prospects in baseball, makes his major league debut for the Twins. Even though the team is not doing very well right now, these players will hopefully help Minnesota return to playoff contention in the near future!

What do you think of the Twins’ recent moves?

Written by: Sam Graves

 

 

 

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 

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