Posted by: gravessack | May 13, 2018

Speechless Season 3 Is A Go

ABC's Speechless logo

Photo: ABC.com

There will be a third season of ABC’s sitcom Speechless! The Season 3 premiere date has not been announced, but there will be 22 episodes.

Season 2 ended with the DiMeos being evicted from their home. It will be very interesting to see where they move to and if J.J. is still living with them, since it seemed like he wanted more independence. Also, J.J. could not graduate high school in Season 2 because of his grades, I think, so it will be interesting to see if and where he goes to college after another year of high school.

I think it would be cool to see J.J. not live with his parents and for him to go to college to see how he handles that. Kenneth, J.J.’s aide, and Ray, J.J.’s brother, are my favorite characters, so I would like to see them a lot again next season (which seems very likely considering they’re both major characters). We’ll just have to wait and see what happens! Check back here for more details, including the premiere date, as they become available!

What are your hopes for Season 3?

Written by: Sam Graves

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Posted by: gravessack | May 6, 2018

Ohtani’s Shining Out West

Shohei Ohtani batting for the Los Angeles AngelsA foreigner is making an impact on a major league team, which is not surprising everyone. What could be shocking to some is how fast he has contributed to his club.

When Hokkaido Nippon-Ham, a team in Japan’s Pacific League, granted pitcher/DH Shohei Ohtani permission to negotiate with Major League Baseball clubs, multiple teams were interested. Each interested organization submitted a presentation to entice the Japanese phenom.

Since Ohtani is good at both pitching and hitting, American League teams were front-runners. In addition to Seattle, Texas and the Los Angeles Angels were on his tail. Because of his uniqueness, Ohtani wanted to join a team that was willing to let him pitch and bat. After a thorough process, Ohtani made the much-anticipated decision on December 8 to play for the Angels. The deal calls for him to make $545,000 or less for the next three years.

The Angels and Ohtani cranked out a program in which he can be the DH when he is not on the mound. That plan was trialed during spring training. His pitching performance was shaky at best, and Ohtani’s hitting was not all that wonderful either, as he just hit .125 in 32 at-bats. Despite poor numbers on both fronts, he made the 25-man roster to start the year.

Apparently, spring training did not bug the rookie as he has been great so far in the regular season. Ohtani made his pitching debut April 1, going six innings, striking out six, en route to his first win. His second outing was better, when he fanned 12 batters over 7 innings to get the April 8 victory. Ohtani’s next two starts weren’t as impressive. So this year pitching wise, Ohtani has an ERA of 4.43. I am sure that he is still hoping to improve his splitter, slider, and a fastball that can regularly approach 100 miles per hour.

When not on the mound, Ohtani is producing in the batter’s box. In his second game playing offense April 3, Ohtani clobbered his first home run off Cleveland’s starter Josh Tomlin, helping the Angels win. That game and the next two went really well for him at the plate. Ohtani notched 6 hits and 3 home runs, and drove in 7 runs. His productivity has been consistent, as he has reached base in most games. In Ohtani’s 59 at-bats this year, he has 20 hits, 4 home runs, and 14 RBIs, which have added up to a .339 average.

An April 27 play resulted in Ohtani suffering a left ankle sprain that has hampered him, albeit it is not serious. In fact, the Oshu native returned and pitched into the seventh inning on Sunday before being taken out, 12 days after his last outing. Ohtani wants to prove to the experts, who are saying that he should pick just one position, that he can in fact be solid at pitching and hitting. The Angels are certainly hoping that he can keep improving after he is healed and help them in the tight AL West.

It is bittersweet that Ohtani is gaining attention now. Ichiro Suzuki, who has spent 18 years in MLB, is on the brink of retirement as he moved to a front office role May 3 for the remainder of the season. Suzuki is 44 years old and has been the longest tenured Japanese player that has had good numbers in MLB. If it is indeed the end of Suzuki’s career, Ohtani will be determined to give fans back in Japan something to cheer for and someone to look up to for years to come!

Next time you are able to watch an Angels game or when they make the trek to Target Field, be sure to look for Ohtani. We may be witnessing the beginning of a great career!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | April 30, 2018

The Day Baseball Took A Back Seat

Danny Farquhar pitching for the Chicago White Sox, and two White Sox players paying tribute to Farquhar after his brain aneurysmThey might not be noticeable to the thousands of fans who flock to ballparks, but emergency medical personnel are at each game. Those professionals are there to assist fans if they have a medical issue. Hoping to never be used, they typically just watch the action take place on the field. Nevertheless, when they are needed, the EMTs are ready to jump into action. That is exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago in a frantic life-threatening situation.

During the April 20 Chicago-Houston game, White Sox reliever Danny Farquhar came in to pitch the sixth inning. He gave up 2 runs on a home run and was struggling. Manager Rick Renteria made the decision to take him out for another pitcher. That is when the situation got dire. Once Farquhar reached the dugout, he collapsed. Medical staff rushed to his side and was able to assist him to the clubhouse. Staff determined that he was conscious. In spite of that observation, Farquhar was hurried to Rush University Medical Center, an approximate 4 mile drive from Guaranteed Rate Field.

Upon arrival, the 31-year-old immediately went through testing that resulted in a grim prognosis of a brain aneurysm, which is a bulge in a blood vessel. Farquhar was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit in stable but critical condition. The reliever received a surgery to repair a rupture in the brain. Afterwards, White Sox officials said that Farquhar was progressing well. He could talk and give answers to people, and move his arms and legs. For a time, it was reported that he was in a severe health state, but that has subsided, thankfully.

Once news broke about Farquhar, teams started enacting tributes. The White Sox hung his jersey in their dugout and bullpen. The Mariners did the same, displaying his old #40 jersey above their bench. Meanwhile, Twins starter Jake Odorizzi, who pitched with the father of two young children for two seasons, wrote “FARQ” on his cap bill. First baseman and DH Logan Morrison, who also was teammates with the pitcher, could not sleep the night that he heard the news. In a Pioneer Press article about what happened to Farquhar, Morrison said that “you just want to know how he’s going to be. Is he going to be all right?”

Farquhar is a seven-year veteran who has pitched on four teams. Debuting in 2011 with the Toronto Blue Jays, he went 0-1 and recorded an ERA of 13.50 in 3 games. The Florida native went on to pitch for Seattle and Tampa Bay. Farquhar hitched on with the White Sox in mid-2017 after the Rays released him days earlier. So far this season, Farquhar had pitched in eight games, going 1-1 while striking out 9, resulting in a 5.63 ERA. He has been just an average pitcher throughout his career. Due to poor performances, he spent all of 2012 in the minors.

Back up in the White Sox front offices, the team placed Farquhar on the 60-day disabled list April 23. That is really a technicality that must be done as they are far more concerned about his health. In reality, Chicago knows that it will take him much longer to recover once he is discharged from the hospital in the coming weeks. We must commend and thank the medical professionals for acting quickly and giving Farquhar the immediate care that he required. Their speedy response might have saved his life.

“Two Men On” would sincerely like to wish the right-hander a swift recovery! To see where to send get-well messages to him, please check out this White Sox twitter update on Farquhar.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | April 25, 2018

The Unexpected Bench Contributer

Ryan LaMarre preparing to catch fly ball for the Minnesota TwinsTypically, once late March rolls around and the sun descends on spring training, minor league invitees are searching for their next job opportunity. Every once in a while, an unfortunate situation occurs that puts clubs in a pickle, which can be gold to a lucky wannabe. That was the case a month ago when outfielder Zach Granite suffered a bruised shoulder and his track got derailed. Having witnessed Ryan LaMarre’s stellar spring in which he batted .475, the Twins had no choice to reward him.

LaMarre’s Twins journey started November 30 when he signed on with the Twins for an unknown dollar amount. The pact was not major league guaranteed, so he had to prove to the club that he was ready. Given how his career had gone, the prospect of him making the Twins’ opening day roster looked bleak. LaMarre appeared in the big leagues for the first time with the Reds in 2015, where in 25 at-bats, he had an abysmal average of .080. After Cincinnati granted him free agency, the 29-year-old hooked up with Boston and Oakland the next two seasons. LaMarre’s production was non-existent. In those two years, he recorded no hits, striking out 5 times in eight games. The Athletics released him last June.

LaMarre was hoping to get another opportunity when the Twins picked him. After he performed out of his mind in 24 spring games, he did not take his promotion for granted. Coming off the bench can be hard for players because their timing gets funky as they bat less frequent. That has not been a problem for LaMarre, as he has performed solidly. While LaMarre has struggled against Tampa Bay and New York, he still has a .421 average, thanks to 8 singles in 21 plate appearances.

An April 13 demotion did not bug him, as LaMarre was brought right back up three days later for the Twins’ Puerto Rico trip. That set the stage for his best moment in his young career during the April 18 game. With the score even at one in the bottom of the 16th inning, LaMarre singled up the middle that brought in Eddie Rosario for the game winning run. Players were ecstatic for LaMarre; however, maybe too much.

The Twins went onto face the Rays and lost every game, and laid an egg in the first two at Yankee Stadium. Things have transpired so badly that LaMarre, with Monday’s game out of reach, pitched in the bottom of the eighth. It didn’t go well as he gave up a two-run bomb to Tyler Austin en route to a 14-1 thumping. Let us hope that the Twins do not need to pitch him often.

Fans should be cautious in making a proclamation that LaMarre can be as productive as he has been. For now, LaMarre seems like a legit backup outfielder and a decent hitter. The Twins should feel confident with his at-bats. Hopefully, the Michigander gets more playing time to see if this is really his breakout year, or if this hot streak is only an illusion.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | April 15, 2018

Snow Whomps Target Field In Weekend Showdown

Snow covered streets and cars as an April blizzard barreled by.

There was a competition over at Target Field over the last few days. The duel was not between any teams, but instead, mother nature came to play. In a month where baseball games have been put on hold by the weather, Minneapolis and its nine-year-old stadium were crushed by a wicked April storm.

After the Twins beat the White Sox in game 1 of the series on April 12, the Twins held out hope that they could play some this weekend. The weather forecasters gave a grim prognosis: Winter Storm Xanto, which was predicted to bring around 15 inches of snow to the Twin Cities, would be barreling in from the west starting Friday. Sure enough, sleet started falling in the afternoon, which turned into snow late in the evening. The Twins cancelled that day’s game around 3 pm.

Snow continued to roar down all night. As inches piled up, there was a game to be played at 1 pm Saturday, April 14. The storm was turning ugly, and it gave the club no choice but to postpone a second straight game. Around lunchtime, the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for Hennepin County, the first since 2005. Target Field’s state-of-the-art underground heating system was struggling to keep up. It was not melting the snow fast enough. Shovelers were also having tough time. In the end, the inner workings of the complex gave up, prompting the Twins to cancel Sunday’s match-up later that afternoon.

Over on Twitter, people were wondering if the Twins ever thought of installing a retractable roof on Target Field after it was constructed. LaVelle E. Neal, a Star Tribune columnist, put that to rest sarcastically, by saying “there’s no staging area for materials or equipment to build the thing. Unless you borrow technology from Captain America: Winter Soldier, and build a hovering construction platform to build it, then drop it on top of Target.” It should be mentioned that the Twins vetoed the idea of a movable roof because it would cost substantially more to build the stadium.

Also, on social media, there was a picture of Fernando Rodney having fun in the snow. Twins fans and players sure have creativity while witnessing a Target Field first, postponing three consecutive games!

No make-up dates have been announced yet. Meanwhile, as Twin City residents dig out, the Twins get to escape the state, and the country, as they are set to take on Cleveland Tuesday and Wednesday at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. With the temperature expected to hover around 85 degrees both days, Joe Mauer, a Minnesota native, will take a break from showing his new teammates how to cope in conditions not designed for baseball.

As I end this piece, snow continues to glisten down west of the Mississippi.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | April 13, 2018

Mauer Reaches Big Milestone

Joe Mauer batting for the Minnesota TwinsIn the Twins-White Sox game on April 12, bundled up fans witnessed history as fan favorite Joe Mauer collected his 2,000th major league hit!

Mauer, a St. Paul native, started high school at Cretin-Derham Hall in 1997. He made a huge impact while playing baseball, as he struck out just once in four years. That superb performance caused his hometown team to scout him. Ultimately, with the first pick of the 2001 MLB draft, the Twins picked Mauer.

April 5, 2004. That was the date when Mauer singled up the middle off Cleveland’s Rafael Betancourt to claim his first hit in the major leagues. He went 2-for-3 that day. Ever since then, the Florida resident has been hitting very well. Over the next decade, Mauer went on to win 5 Silver Sluggers, 3 Gold Gloves, 3 batting titles, and made 6 All-Star Game appearances.

However, in 2014, the Twins permanently moved Mauer from catcher to first base due to concussion and other health concerns. It looked like Mauer’s production was dwindling, but he rebounded to have a couple solid seasons, making this big occasion come to fruition.

Having singled already in that brisk game at Target Field, Mauer came to bat against White Sox reliever Aaron Bummer in the 7th inning with two men on. The count was 2-2, but that did not phase Mauer. Bummer tried to slither a fastball by him, but Mauer smoked the ball into center field with the infield in for a two-run single and the milestone hit. The hit also added key insurance runs. Once at first, the attendees gave him a standing ovation, and Mauer’s teammates applauded him. After the inning, Mauer reluctantly stood by first base as the patrons continued to acknowledge what had just transpired.

Mauer’s quest at achieving the celebrated feat took just a little more than 14 years. He ignored the complainers who said that he should be playing when he was experiencing nagging injuries. There were plenty of fans who thought Mauer was lackadaisical after signing the massive eight year, $184 million contract before the 2010 campaign. Knowing what he could accomplish, he proved his skeptics wrong. In his journey, Mauer also has doubled 405 times, tripled 19 times, and has hit 137 home runs, en route to an overall batting average of .309.

Our hometown hero now joins a list of 284 other major leaguers who have achieved the feat. Among Twins’ history two other players, Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett, had more than 2,000 hits as members of the Twins.

Mauer’s 2,000th hit came in the year in which his contract is expiring. Over the years, he has appeared in commercials, been an amazing advocate for Gillette Specialty Healthcare, and took part in numerous community functions. The Twins should be smart about Mauer’s next contract, but they absolutely need to re-sign him. Mauer deserves to spend the rest of his playing days in the Twin Cities.

Little did we know that the boy who was playing around with his brothers, Jake and Billy, on St. Paul’s diamonds in the early 1990s, would become this great. Maybe one day, Mauer will have a statue outside Target Field! In the meantime, we would like to congratulate him on a momentous event that will go in Twins books forever!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | April 6, 2018

MLB Season Should Begin In April, Not March

Yankee Stadium covered in snow on day of baseball game in 2018

Photo: Associated Press

This past winter, MLB agreed on a new labor contract that will add four off days to each team’s schedule throughout the season. That part may sound good to the players, but because of the extra off days, MLB will be starting its regular seasons a week earlier than normal, until further notice. This year, the season started on March 29, the earliest start date ever (not including international openers).

In just one week, eight games have been postponed because of weather! No Twins games have been postponed, but the team did have to play in a game in Pittsburgh in the snow! The temperature was barely above freezing for the Twins home opener yesterday!

I do not agree with this decision by MLB. The extremely cold temperatures and snow for games in Northern cities make games unpleasant for fans, players, umpires, and coaches. When the Twins played in Pittsburgh in the snow a few days ago, there were hardly any fans at the game! Watch this one-minute video clip showing some of the extreme weather in MLB games so far this season, along with quotes from players and coaches about the bad weather.

The players may like the extra off days (probably not the cold weather!), but I think MLB should go back to the old schedule of starting the season in early April. The weather may still be bad, but hopefully it will be better than starting in late March!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | March 26, 2018

Twins Lose Vargas To Cincinna…Oh Nevermind!

Kennys Vargas sliding into a base during a Minnesota Twins gameThe Twins wanted to send first baseman/DH Kennys Vargas down to Triple-A Rochester. It turned into the team playing an epic game of cross-country ping-pong!

Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and Manager Paul Molitor made the decision to demote Vargas after a spring in which he averaged .281, had 9 hits, and struck out 10 times. Under Major League Baseball’s guidelines, when a player is out of options (as was the case with Vargas), he must be put through waivers before being demoted. When they sent him through the waiver system on March 16, the Twins were hoping that he would sneak past 29 teams, but the Cincinnati Reds scooped up Vargas six days later. The departure was gloomy because he is still learning the game and could still become a great hitter.

Ironically, the 27-year-old reportedly never made it to Goodyear, Arizona, the site of the Reds spring training facility, as he was in Puerto Rico for the birth of his child. Not knowing why the Reds picked him up, Vargas was put back on waivers. In a twist only made for a movie, the Twins plucked him right back up on March 24.

Vargas, who debuted for Minnesota in 2014, was supposed to be a power hitter in the middle of the lineup. In his first year, he played in 53 games, hitting 9 homers with 53 hits. Vargas was an exciting player as it seemed like he was productive most of the time. However, his numbers went down the next two seasons, hitting just 15 homers and had 37 RBIs.

Vargas rebounded, playing in 78 games last year, the most in his career. During the season, he slugged 11 home runs and drove in 41 runs, both career highs. The negative for the improving slugger, like other players who hit for power, is his strikeout rate. In 859 career plate appearances, Vargas has struck out 251 times.

It was a hectic week for Vargas. However, it might not be over since the team must waive him once more. When the Twins send him through later this week, let us hope nobody claims him, so Vargas can finally end up where he belongs: in Rochester.

I really want to see him succeed in the Twins organization, someday sharing the DH role with Miguel Sano. Vargas would also make for a satisfactory backup first baseman for Joe Mauer or Logan Morrison, if they are still on the major league team in 2019. Once his wild ride concludes, Vargas will probably settle in at Triple-A and try to encourage the Twins to bring him back up for good.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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Posted by: gravessack | March 21, 2018

Polanco’s Mishap Paves Way For Aybar

Erick Aybar batting as a member of the San Diego PadresWhen infielder Erick Aybar signed with the Twins on February 24, he knew that he had a fighting chance to make the team. Now, Aybar has a magnificent chance of going to Baltimore next week for the start of the MLB season.

The Twins have had a reasonably good spring. Players are getting their chances and getting better. Coaches have been putting together different strategies. Other than very minor injuries, they seem to be ready for the year. Then came the shocking news on March 18 that shortstop Jorge Polanco tested positive for a banned substance, dampening the enthusiasm of the start of the year. The substance, Stanozolol, also caused starter Ervin Santana to miss half a season back in 2015. The unfortunate news, which will result in Polanco missing 80 games plus the post-season, blew the shortstop competition wide open.

Maybe because of his situation, Polanco has had a rough spring. He has known of the incident for a month but held it back from the Twins. That seems odd to me. The 24-year-old has committed seven fielding errors in 13 games, a very poor output. However, he has posted decent offensive numbers. Having one of his best years in 2017, Polanco’s bat will be sorely missed in the line-up for the first three months.

There are several candidates to take over at shortstop: Ehire Adrianza and Eduardo Escobar will be considered. Even Nick Gordon’s name should be put forth. Yet, the one player that could take advantage of this unforeseen circumstance is Aybar, the 34-year-old former star. In his prime, he was an All-Star shortstop for the Angels. Debuting in 2006, Aybar spent 10 seasons in Los Angeles, becoming their prime shortstop. Aybar hit .315 and drove in 417 runs there. During his 2014 All-Star season, he slugged .278 with 164 hits, including 30 doubles. Alongside his infield mate, Howie Kendrick, in 2010, Aybar won his lone Gold Glove.

From there, Aybar played for three teams in two years. In 2016, he joined Atlanta for 97 games and had 101 hits. After posting a .242 average, he was traded to Detroit to finish the season. During the 2016-2017 off-season, Aybar joined San Diego. He had a pretty bland year last season, hitting .234 with 78 hits and just 22 RBIs in 108 games. However, Aybar wants to try to give it another go with the Twins.

Minnesota, and a major taboo, resulted in the situation Aybar is in now. Basically, if Polanco was not suspended, he would have just been at spring training as a way to garner more competition. The way this spring transpired has favored him, as Aybar has displayed decent offensive numbers. Aybar would most likely start the year backing up Escobar at short. However, the argument could be made that Aybar should have the starters role.

The Twins must inform Aybar by March 27 that he will make the team, otherwise he can ask to be released, effectively making him a free agent once again. Personally, I do not want to see that happen because he would be a good mentor to Adrianza and Escobar, while Aybar sees if he can rekindle his career. If Aybar can, he will be the most surprising roster finalist this year.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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Posted by: gravessack | March 12, 2018

Twins Land Top Pitcher For A Bargain

Lance Lynn pitching in a game as a member of the St. Louis CardinalsAfter signing first baseman/DH Logan Morrison February 28, Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey expected to not sign any more players this off-season. That did not mean he would stop fielding calls. In a year when free agency is going at a snail’s pace, stars are accepting shorter deals than projected. The Twins have really taken advantage of this unique situation. Not satisfied with how the starting rotation looks, Falvey snatched up the ninth best 2017-2018 free agent, according to mlbtraderumors.com.

After starting pitcher Lance Lynn declined a two-year, $20 million offer by the Twins last week, he kept talking to the club. When the chats ended, Lynn agreed to sign with Minnesota on March 10 for one year worth $12 million. That is a super sneaky deal that Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine constructed, since Lynn was projected to sign for $56 million in November. Without a doubt, players in Fort Myers were thrilled to see that the front office is still adding quality talent.

This will be Lynn’s seventh year in the major leagues. After being drafted by Seattle in 2005, he decided to forgo the opportunity and pitched college ball for three seasons. The 30-year-old re-entered the MLB Draft in 2008 and was chosen by St. Louis. 2011 was his first season in the majors, where he pitched in 18 games and had a 3.18 ERA. Quickly finding a groove, Lynn was selected to the All-Star Game the following year, when he went 18-7 while striking out 180. The Indiana native won at least 10 games during the 2013, 2014, and 2015 seasons, with a total of 546 strikeouts over those seasons.

Unfortunately for Lynn, he tore a ligament in his right elbow sometime in 2015 that required Tommy John surgery at year’s end. Even though he missed the entire 2016 season, Lynn bounced back and had a solid season last year. Not missing a beat, he started in 33 games and went 11-8 with a 3.43 ERA and 153 strikeouts. With a fastball-first approach, Lynn has always been a 10-win guy throughout his career. He has been a solid pitcher, as his overall record is 72-47, and has a career ERA of 3.38 and 919 strikeouts.

This signing really says that the Twins are in it to do damage in the American League. Falvey has signed a bunch of proven players that will drastically improve the pitching department. Lynn will undoubtedly join a pitching staff that consists of Jake Odorizzi, now-injured Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios and, apparently, Kyle Gibson. The rotation, especially when Santana returns towards the end of April, looks to be a splendid upgrade to years past when the Twins had to rely on Adalberto Mejia. We shall see if Lynn keeps pitching like he is capable of, and if he does, this could be one fun year!

The Twins are done bringing in players…or are they? The betting site Bovada predicted correctly last week that the Twins were favored to land Lynn at 9-to-5 odds. Interestingly, that same site also said the club is in the lead to sign starter Alex Cobb at 5-4. Odds can be deceiving at time, but as we learned this week, they can be a hint for what is ahead. That means we should follow Cobb, as he will want to join a team pretty quickly.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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