Posted by: gravessack | September 23, 2016

Twins Notes As Season Winds Down

For those who stopped paying attention to the Twins season, major changes could be on the way. With the Twins quickly approaching 100 losses, one must wonder if Manager Paul Molitor’s job is safe. In 2015, the Twins had us thinking that they were on the right track by winning 83 games. However, the club took a nosedive into a dark dungeon in 2016. Here are two updates on this season and how they could play out at the beginning of the off-season.

  • If it seems to you that the club has been riddled by injuries this month, you are right. Trevor Plouffe, Eddie Rosario, Danny Santana and Trevor May are all out for the year. Plouffe has a strained left oblique, Rosario broke his left thumb while sliding into first base, Santana injured his left shoulder in late August, and May has a stress fracture in his back. Meanwhile, Joe Mauer (quad soreness) and Miguel Sano (back injury) have been sidelined for just over a week. Sano was back in the line-up September 22, while Mauer is still out. It will be interesting to see how the Twins will handle these injured players, including Closer Glen Perkins, this winter. I believe most of these injured players will be back, except for Plouffe.
  • The President of Baseball Operations and General Manager search are coming to a conclusion, as President Dave St. Peter said that the Baseball Ops president could be in place this month. However, while the Twins are squaring up candidates, they could very well be interviewing more candidates. Per ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Cubs’ VP Jason McLeod is “well-regarded” and “well-positioned” among Twins bosses. Other candidates that the Twins have interviewed to be the head of Baseball Ops include the Rays’ Chaim Bloom, the Indians’ Derek Falvey, and the Royals’ J.J. Picollo, whom are all Assistant General Managers. Whoever the Twins hire will have the opportunity to pick his own General Manager and then be left with the difficulty on which coaches to fire or keep. Although the owners have told Molitor that his job is safe, don’t be surprised if that changes. No one knows who will go and who will stay! This could get interesting! Click here for more about the current unpredictability of the coaching staff.

Written by: Michael L.Sack

Posted by: gravessack | September 22, 2016

Vote on the “Speechless” Poll!

How would you rate the first episode of “Speechless”? Vote on the poll on our Facebook page!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | September 20, 2016

“Speechless” to Premiere 9/21

Tomorrow’s the big day! “Speechless,” a comedy TV series about a family with a son named J.J. who has cerebral palsy and uses a speech device, will premiere on ABC tomorrow night (9/21) at 7:30 Central. See Two Men On’s June 1 interview with Micah Fowler, the actor who plays J.J., for more on him and the show. Enjoy the show and don’t forget to tune in to ABC tomorrow night at 7:30 Central!

***Earlier today, Michael Sack came across a Star Tribune article about an actor on “Speechless” from the Twin Cities. Cedric Yarbrough, who plays the school groundskeeper in the comedy, grew up in Burnsville and has had to go down a winding road to land this acting job. To read more about Yarbrough, click here.***

Written by: Sam Graves and Michael Sack

Posted by: gravessack | September 18, 2016

Dozier, Hollermann, Aoki: Amazing Minnesota Athletes

Twins second baseman Brian Dozier had a pretty miserable first half of the 2016 season. At one point in the middle of the year, his batting average was under .200 with just a few home runs. Since Dozier was supposed to be an offensive star for the Twins this year, he was viewed as a huge disappointment.

Fast forward a few months and the story has a complete turnaround. Dozier currently is hitting .281 with an astounding 41 home runs! He also has 98 RBI and has scored 99 runs! He is the only Twin other than Harmon Killebrew to hit at least 40 home runs in a season (Killebrew has the franchise record with 49 in 1964 and 1969). Dozier is second in the majors in home runs behind Baltimore’s Mark Trumbo, who has 42. Dozier is tied for seventh in the AL in RBI and is 10th in the AL in runs scored. Dozier ranks third all-time in home runs hit by second basemen.

The Twins are wrapping up a historically bad season, but Dozier is having a historically good one. The main reason I watch Twins games now is to see if Dozier hits a homer! There has been recent trade speculation involving Dozier, but he is too good to trade! Click here for more on Dozier’s historic season.

On an unrelated note, congratulations to Minnesotan Rose Hollermann and the rest of the U.S. women’s basketball team on winning the gold medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games! Also, congratulations to Minnesotan Chuck Aoki and the rest of the U.S. wheelchair rugby team on winning the silver medal!

Written by Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | September 2, 2016

Paralympics Are Coming Up

Just two weeks ago the Olympics came to a close with both of USA’s basketball teams winning gold and Michael Phelps dominating in the pool—again. Those games were the precursor for what is about to transpire starting next week: The 15th Summer Paralympic games will take place in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil from September 7 – 18. Here’s a quick guide to get you prepared!

Television
During recent Paralympics, NBC Universal has been televising the Games to sustain equality. This year will be no different as NBC will be broadcasting 70 hours, including 9 primetime slots. The Paralympics will also be shown in the afternoon and late nights, mostly on NBCSN. Coverage begins with the Opening Ceremony on September 7 at 6pm on NBCSN. To view the full TV schedule, click here.

Venues
The Paralympics are using some of the same venues as used for the Olympics. In all, the Games will be held at 20 different venues across Rio. Most notably, the ceremonies will be held at Maracana and the wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball competitions will be held at Carioca Arena 1, the same place where basketball was held during the Olympics. To see the list of the venues, click here.

Minnesota Connection
Ten athletes from Minnesota, participating in eight sports, will be heading to Rio with the largest USA Paralympic team in history. Chuck Aoki and Rose Hollermann are Courage Center alums who are on the wheelchair rugby and basketball teams, respectively. Team USA has reportedly grown 17% since the London games. Here is a Star Tribune article about the Minnesota contingent and athlete numbers in general.

Follow Along
Besides from the enhanced TV experience, the Games info will be on social media, as well at this website. Events will be streamed online.

It will be a fun week! As the Games move along, feel free to comment and discuss the Paralympics in the comment section of this post. Let the Games begin!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | August 27, 2016

Twin Cities Sports Access

Two Men On recently interviewed reps from stadiums throughout the Twin Cities to get an idea of accessibility in each stadium and why the stadiums chose to include certain accessibility features.

As you may know from reading this blog, Target Field is very accessible. An interesting fact about Target Field, according to Senior Vice President of Operations Matt Hoy, is that the stadium has more than 750 wheelchair seating locations since the ballpark was designed to meet the previous ADA guidelines. Although the new guidelines do not require as many wheelchair seats, Target Field has chosen to not reduce the number of wheelchair spaces. Hoy said that the goal for Target Field, which has been nominated for local and national accessibility awards, was to “have the most accessible facility possible.” Click for more on accessibility at Target Field.

CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints, also exceeds the number of wheelchair seating locations set forth by the ADA. Saints Executive Vice President Tom Whaley said the ballpark has about 110 wheelchair spaces and 180 semi-ambulatory seats “for fans that may not require a wheelchair, but for whom regular seats are not the most accessible.” CHS Field is in the process of installing cup holders in all accessible seats. Whaley said CHS Field is a significant upgrade over Midway Stadium, the Saints’ previous ballpark, where there amazingly were no elevators! Click for more on accessibility at CHS Field.

TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Gophers football team, has about 850 ADA seats. Assistant Director of Sales & Service Zach Duket said that fans can request electrical outlets for wheelchairs on game days. Duket said he would like TCF Bank Stadium to add railings behind the ADA seats on the concourse so that other fans can’t get too close to the ADA seats. This would be similar to Target and CHS Fields. Click for more on accessible seating at TCF Bank Stadium.

U.S. Bank Stadium, new home of the Minnesota Vikings, has about 700 ADA seats and electrical outlets in ADA areas to recharge scooters and wheelchairs. Read the July 25 Two Men On post for more on accessibility at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Have an opinion on accessibility at Minnesota sports stadiums? Please share!

Written by: Sam Graves

Interviews by: Sam Graves and Michael Sack

Posted by: gravessack | August 13, 2016

New GM Must Make Bold Moves Right Off The Bat

The Twins suggested this week that their search for a new General Manager may leak into the offseason. Whenever the new GM is hired, given that the Twins are 394-532 since the beginning of 2011, he will be placed right in the middle of a disastrous era for the Twins. Undoubtedly, the new hiree should not be afraid to be bold, and sometimes cruel. It is the only way that the Twins will get back into contention! Here are three dramatic suggestions as to where he could start.

The incoming GM must let hitting coach Tom Brunansky and pitching coach Neil Allen go. Brunansky joined the Twins for the 2013 season, leading the team to just a .242 batting average that year. It was a little better in 2014, however it actually dropped seven points to .247 in 2015. Surprisingly, the batting average is back up to .257 so far this year, but the team has struck out 990 times with 365 walks. Brunansky was supposed to get the offense rolling and the fire power is still not where it needs to be.

Allen, joining Paul Molitor’s staff in 2015, has been credited in turning around Tampa Bay before moving north. Allen somewhat turned the Twins pitching staff around that year, as pitchers had a 4.07 ERA with 1,046 strikeouts. The staff this year has a 4.94 ERA, but disturbingly has given up 1,157 hits while recording 160 strikeouts. Of course in May, Allen was suspended for just over 45 days because of a DWI arrest before resuming his duties. He said that his five-week treatment at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation “saved his life.” Although Allen had a rough year and Brunansky has been trying, I feel that it is time to give new voices to the batters and pitchers. If you are wondering, I want to see Molitor return for at least one more year.

The most radical idea for the newbie that I have is that they should restructure Joe Mauer’s contract. When the new GM is hired, the 33-year-old will have 2 years, $28 million left on his contract. In recent years, Mauer’s stats have dipped since his August 2013 concussion. Since 2014, Mauer has never batted higher than .280 after having been above .305 for the most part of his career. His power performance has dipped as he has just 23 home runs and has struck out 282 times during that three-year time span. During spring training this season, Mauer said that his blurred vision is due to his concussions, but did not use that as an excuse about his performance.

Tweaking Mauer’s contract would free up money to sign actual top-tier pitchers. I would not mind at all if Mauer changes positions since Kennys Vargas and Byung Ho Park could handle first base. Mauer has not played up to his contract, and it would only make sense to find more money by offering Mauer less. Maybe like a three-year, $18 million contract remodel starting in 2017, perhaps?

If the new GM goes bold, it will show the fan base that he is serious about changing the Twins organization. It should be mentioned that the Twins have hired a search firm, Korn Ferry, to help out with the search and that Rob Antony in still in the running to be the permanent replacement. What do you want the new GM to tackle first?

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | August 1, 2016

Twins Make Deadline Deals

In early July, then-General Manager Terry Ryan told the media that the Twins would be busy at the trade deadline. Coincidentally or not, he was fired two weeks after that statement and was replaced by interim GM Rob Antony. When Antony was handed the job, the Pohlad family gave him free rein to do whatever he felt necessary to improve the Twins before the non-waiver deadline, which was August 1 at 3pm. Here is a rundown of the Twins deadline deals.

  • On July 28, the Twins traded away their lone All-Star representative, shortstop Eduardo Nunez, to San Francisco for pitching prospect Adalberto Mejia. During Nunez’s three-year tenure with the Twins, he batted .280 with 91 RBI and 118 stolen bases. Nunez became a trade piece after a good first half of this season, but he faltered after the All-Star break. Hard-throwing Mejia has never landed in the Major Leagues, but he is on the verge of joining the Twins. He has spent 6 seasons in the Minor Leagues, posting a 3.27 ERA with 462 strikeouts. Antony expects Mejia to report to Triple-A before debuting in the Majors in a couple of weeks.
  • On deadline day, the Twins sent Boston reliever Fernando Abad in exchange for flame-throwing relief pitcher Pat Light. Abad’s time in Minnesota was short but effective at times. During his 39 relief appearances this year, Abad held a 2.65 ERA with 29 strikeouts, finishing 8 games. Light has very minimal big league experience, pitching just 2.2 innings this season. The 25-year-old has spent the last five seasons in the Red Sox Minor League system. Light, who can throw a fastball 94-97 miles per hour, has a 4.40 ERA, 240 strikeouts, and a .419 winning percentage at Single-A and Triple-A. He will start his Twins career at Triple-A Rochester.
  • In a late stunning deal that was announced just 10 minutes before the clock struck three, the Twins received starter Hector Santiago and Minor League pitcher Alan Busenitz from the Angels. In order to get the pitchers, the Twins sent struggling starter Ricky Nolasco and pitcher Alex Meyer to Anaheim. Starting in 2014, Nolasco was supposed to be the ace of the pitching staff, but as soon as he started, he kept struggling and getting hurt just after showing promising results. Meyer got his feet wet in the Majors, but really did not have any spark that he was supposed to have. During Santiago’s 6-year career, he has a 3.68 ERA with 595 strikeouts, giving up 294 walks. This season has been great for him, as he is 10-4 with a 4.25 ERA. Santiago also has partaken in one All-Star game in 2015. Busenitz has never landed in the Big Leagues, spending 4 years in Anaheim’s Minor League system. He held a 3.55 ERA and struck out 216 during that span.

Let us hope this is just the start of the rebuilding process, as teams can still trade in August after players go through waivers. I’m sure that Antony is thinking about what the next General Manager would want – if it isn’t Antony himself.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | July 25, 2016

A Quick Preview Of Accessible Seating At U.S. Bank Stadium

On the dark, dreary morning of July 23, stadium officials welcomed fans to U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time. I have heard that sun shines bright into the stadium due to the ETFE roof, but the weather gods wanted me to wait to see the sun-lit field. Like many other people, I was amazed by the stadium’s design. I was busy looking at all the glass and bummed out about all the rain as I wanted to see Downtown Minneapolis through it. However, I saw some glimpses of the ADA seating.

There are plenty of accessible sections throughout the stadium, totaling 690 spots. That number excludes the 140 spaces in the suites, loge and club spaces, according to usbankstadium.com. ADA sections at U.S. Bank Stadium are very unique as each section is surrounded by glass. I have never seen that type of handicap seating in a stadium before! “We chose that {material} so people could see to the field no matter what height they were,” MSFA Communications Director Jennifer Hathaway explained.

I was a little surprised when I noticed that there were not any cup holders in the handicap sections. I have been to stadiums where it goes both ways. For example, Target Field has cup holders in those sections, while CHS Field does not. Hathaway told me that there are not cup holders in those sections at U.S. Bank Stadium “because they were not requested from our ADA committee.” She then added: “Of course if we determine that cup holders are needed at the ADA platforms, we will address the issue!”

As you can tell with that being the only thing that I found strange, I would say U.S. Bank Stadium was pretty darn sweet! As was the case after Target Field opened, I am confident they can improve the ADA seating even more at the gorgeous glass house if and when they need to. Without further ado, take your first look at an accessible section at Minnesota’s newest multipurpose complex.

Here is just one of the accessible sections at U.S. Bank Stadium. This section is on the 300 level.

Here is just one of the accessible section at U.S. Bank Stadium. This section is on the 300 level. Photo taken by Michael Sack

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | July 20, 2016

Thoughts on Terry Ryan and the Twins’ Future

As many of you know, the Twins fired general manager Terry Ryan on July 18. The move was hardly surprising given the fact that the Twins have a 34-59 record, worst in the American League. Ryan was fired following 2 stints as Twins general manager over 22 years. Prior to this season, I was completely in favor of the Twins keeping Ryan as GM. With this dreadful season, I was much less certain of Ryan’s future.

Ryan’s first stint as Twins GM (1994-2007) was largely a success. In 1996, Ryan made his first major move, trading Dave Hollins to the Seattle Mariners for David Ortiz (though Ryan and the Twins later failed to re-sign Ortiz, which turned out to be a big mistake). In 1998, Ryan sent Chuck Knoblauch to the New York Yankees for four players. Two of those players were Christian Guzman and Eric Milton, both future All-Stars. In 1999, Ryan traded for future two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana. Perhaps most important, these moves (and more) helped spark the Twins’ turnaround in the early 2000s and kept the Twins in Minnesota amid contraction talk. Without the help of Terry Ryan, the Twins may not exist today.

Ryan’s second stint as Twins GM (2011-2016) was far less successful. After replacing former GM Bill Smith (a tough job!), Ryan drafted star prospect Byron Buxton. However, the real trouble began when Ryan traded Aaron Hicks (for John Ryan Murphy, who has done nothing since the trade).Ryan then decided to put 260-pound Miguel Sano in right field, a position Sano had never played before and was terrible at. Also, I think Ryan was too old-school and unable or unwilling to adapt to the modern age of sabermetrics.

Going forward, the Twins need to hire a GM with no ties to the organization. The Twins’ history of promoting within the organization is fine once in a while, but sometimes a completely new voice is needed (especially after this season!). Read an article supporting this idea, as well as the consequences of the decision to keep manager Paul Molitor after 2016.

Ryan’s firing is just part of the solution for the Twins. How about getting rid of Joe Mauer’s contract and using the money to get at least one star pitcher? Please vote on the poll below asking whether you believe the Twins need to do more to contend than firing Terry Ryan. As always, feel free to comment!

Written by Sam Graves

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