Posted by: gravessack | November 17, 2017

Target Field’s Renovations Will Improve Accessibility

The Twins are again making improvements to Target Field. Ever since the ballpark opened in March 2010, it has been changing. Some changes have been big—like Minnie and Paul’s and The Catch in center field—and some small, such as installing heaters on the Terrace Level. Most modifications affected accessibility in one way or the other. The most recent round of renovations will slightly improve ADA features yet they will be noticeable for those who use them.

In early October, the Minnesota Ballpark Authority, who owns the stadium, approved a $15 million plan to enhance the Metropolitan Club. That plan involves making the club available to every fan who enters Target Field, not just season ticket holders. When the enhancements are completed in March, the area will be opened up looking over the field via an operable door, being dubbed the “Crown Door system.” Other changes include adding a new bar and expanding the food menu in the dining area and reconfiguring the main concourse to make an “easier path/access to the space.”

Accessibility in the corner of Target Field will be different next year. “The {new} elevator access directly to the space from the main concourse should make access much simpler,” said Twins president Dave St. Peter. “All other access should remain consistent. The widening of the concourse between Gates 29 and 34 should be beneficial to all guests moving through the area.” One more note is the accessible seating options in the renovated area should not see a change.

“We remain committed to the most accessible facility possible,” added St. Peter.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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Posted by: gravessack | November 7, 2017

Twins Hire New Bench Coach

When Ron Gardenhire was named manager of the Detroit Tigers October 20, he began to form his coaching staff. The former Twins skipper evidently enjoyed his time in Minnesota as he has added a couple of Twins coaches from the past. One of Gardy’s decisions left the Twins with a coaching vacancy, as he snatched up Joe Vavra to be the Tigers’ quality control coach. That left the club having to find a bench coach. The Twins did not take long to find the right guy.

The Twins hired Derek Shelton November 6 to man the bench. Derek Shelton wearing Tampa Bay Rays sweatshirt on baseball fieldShelton, who played in just 46 minor league games in the New York Yankee organization from 1992 until 1993, comes from Toronto as he was their quality control coach for one season. Prior to 2017, the 47-year-old was a hitting coach for two clubs; Tampa Bay for seven seasons and Cleveland for five. In the early 2000s, Shelton managed in the Yankee farm system for three seasons.

Shelton reportedly knows about the psychology of sports and that sports can get in players’ minds. That was partly the reason the Twins hired him, as Shelton met CBO Derek Falvey “a decade ago when Shelton was Indians hitting coach and Falvey was just getting his start in the front office.” The Illinois native is analytical also, so he will be helping Paul Molitor with everyday line-ups and figuring out each day’s schedule. I suppose he can do those tasks while cleaning the bench! Here is an MLB.com article on Shelton’s hiring.

For the record, former pitching coach Rick Anderson is Detroit’s bullpen coach and Steve  is their bench coach. Add Doug Mientkiewicz as he became the Toledo Mud Hens manager, the Triple-A affiliate, on November 6. Needless to say, Detroit is recycling former Twins coaches now. It will be like a reunion when the Tigers make their Minnesota excursion!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | October 28, 2017

Pitching Coach Has Been Chosen

After firing pitching coach Neil Allen following the Twins’ dismissal from the postseason, the front office started searching high and low for a new pitching leader. The pitching was not all that bad last year, but Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey just wanted to go in a different direction, which was surprising to many. Known candidates were former Twins pitcher Carl Willis, and Jim Hickey, the recently fired Cubs’ pitching coach. New Minnesota Twins pitching coach Garvin Alston looking at camera and smiling

On October 26, the Twins made the declaration that Garvin Alston would assume the pitching coach duties, starting in 2018. A pitcher for Colorado, his MLB career lasted just 12 days in June of 1996. After his retirement, the 44-year-old took a nine-year hiatus from baseball before taking a job as a pitching coach in the Oakland organization in 2005. He held various positions there, ranging from a Single-A pitching coach to a minor league rehab coordinator. When the Athletics let go of Alston after 2015, he joined the Diamondbacks for two years, coaching their bullpen.

Alston was fired by Arizona earlier this month, and manager Paul Molitor jumped at the opportunity. The Twins wanted to bring in a fresh perspective, and Alston delivers that notion, as this will be his first gig as pitching coach at the big league level. Alston does not have a particular style and will coordinate with his staff to see what fits best.

There was a recent Star Tribune article on Alston, in which he says he has “not one philosophy.” He also said “It is the ability to adjust to the actual pitcher and knowing what their strengths are.” One of the concerns that he will need to address is who will be the starters behind Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. Hopefully, Alston can find the magic touch and turn his staff into one of the best in the league!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | October 22, 2017

2017 World Series Preview

When the Houston Astros defeated the New York Yankees last night (yes!), it became official: The Astros will play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series starting this Tuesday, October 24, on FOX at 7 p.m. C.T.

Los Angeles Dodgers logoThe Astros are led by probable A.L. MVP Jose Altuve, as well as ace Justin Verlander.Houston Astros logo Houston got to the World Series by beating Boston in the ALDS and New York in the ALCS. The Astros are especially good because of their offense, particularly Altuve who won the A.L. batting title with a .346 batting average.

The Dodgers are led by ace Clayton Kershaw who led the N.L. in the 2017 regular season with a 2.31 ERA, while posting an incredible 18-4 record. The Dodgers got to the World Series by beating Arizona in the NLDS and the Cubs in the NLCS. The Dodgers won 104 games this season and looked like the best team in MLB for much of this season.

Although I would like to see Houston win the World Series, I think that the Dodgers will win in six games. L.A. has home field advantage and they have pretty much been dominant in the playoffs, losing just one game. Click here for more on the World Series, and don’t forget to tune in for Game 1 in Los Angeles on Tuesday night!

Hopefully, we will be writing about the Twins in the World Series next year!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | October 20, 2017

Perkins’ Twins Career May Be Over

With the coaching situation seemingly cleared up, the Twins are turning to deciding which players will or will not return next year. This off-season, the club has six athletes that are bound to be free agents, and General Manager Thad Levine needs to figure out if he wants to re-sign them. The first player personnel decision was probably the least difficult, yet the most emotional.

On October 18, the Twins effectively released closer Glen Perkins, when they declined his 2018 option worth $6.5 million. Former Minnesota Twins pitcher Glen Perkins standing in dugout looking out toward baseball field The Stillwater Area High School graduate was drafted by his hometown team in the 2004 MLB Draft. After pitching in the minor leagues for a while, Perkins made his Twins debut in 2006, where he made four appearances. Perkins went on to be a starter in 2008 and 2009, striking out 137 in those two years.

He moved to the bullpen full-time when the Twins moved to Target Field in 2010. Perkins’ best years came consecutively, when he was an all-star in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Over that span, the 34-year-old recorded 112 saves and had 197 strike outs. He had a wicked pitch that could get anyone out.

Unfortunately, Perkins’ career took a downward spin starting in 2016. After just pitching in two games with a 9.00 ERA, he was put on the disabled list and never returned that season. It turned out that the pitcher had a torn labrum plus a torn rotator cuff. Perkins would not return until August 2017, sixteen months after he last took the mound. He had troubles from the start. Perkins’ once reliable pitches had vanished and opponents were hitting the ball hard. In eight relief appearances, he produced an ERA of 9.53, surrendering 8 hits and 6 runs in 5.2 innings. Pitching his whole life in Minnesota, Perkins made his final jog from the Target Field bullpen on September 30, finishing the game against Detroit. Afterward, he asked for the ball and was emotional, knowing the end was near.

One of his bigger highlights of his career was when he was selected for the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field. It was a big honor for him, as he seized the opportunity to close out the victory. Perkins earned the save, while his former teammate Kurt Suzuki was behind the plate.

Perkins could possibly return next season on a minor league deal if he wants to return. Although, reports are out there that he may retire.

It was fun watching Perkins pitch and he had a fabulous career. If he chooses to retire, he should be proud of what he had accomplished! However, the next question will be; who is going to be the Twins closer of the future?

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | October 11, 2017

Molitor Rewarded With New Contract; Allen Dismissed

When the Twins season ended in defeat October 3 at the hands of the Yankees, speculation started to swirl every which way regarding the future of Paul Molitor. The manager had just guided the team to an 85-win season, making it to the post-season for the first time in years. There were a few thoughts that Molitor would be fired just because usually new general managers want to hire their own guy. A few days of negotiations went by with no news. And then…

On October 9, the Twins and GM Thad Levine announced that Molitor had been signed to a three-year contract reportedly worth only $4 million amazingly.Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor standing on dugout steps and looking out on to baseball field The St. Paul native was thrilled to have his contract extended and is excited for the future. Molitor took over in 2015 when then-GM Terry Ryan extinguished the contract of Ron Gardenhire. Molitor’s first year was a bit of a surprise, as he orchestrated a team who lost 90 games or more the previous four years to 83 wins. In 2016. the season fell apart for him, resulting in 103 losses and the firing of Ryan. Molitor knew that the Twins were better than that, which was proven this past year. When his first contract expired, the 61-year-old had a managerial record of 227-259.

Additionally, just hours after the extension was finalized, the Twins announced that they let go of pitching coach Neil Allen. Allen, who was brought on with Molitor, had a rocky three-year stint. In his first year with the club in 2015, Allen’s pitching staff had an ERA of 4.07 with 1,046 strikeouts. During the maddening 2016 season, the pitching staff performed poorly, ending with a 5.08 ERA. Also, in May 2016, he was arrested in Minneapolis for driving while intoxicated. Allen was suspended for over a month. He had a bounce back year in 2017, coaching his pitchers to a 4.59 ERA with 62 quality starts. Ultimately, that would not save Allen, as Levine and Molitor will be searching for a new pitching coach to help smooth out the pitching kinks.

The Twins nailed both decisions. Molitor deserved a new contract, despite some questionable decisions. A candidate for the AL Manager of the Year award, he should have a good line-up back in 2018, with hopefully added quality starting pitching. Molitor, and myself, thinks this team is on the cusp of something special. With a new pitching coach on board next season, they can tweak the pitching to accomplish more than expected.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | October 4, 2017

Twins Squander Playoff Opportunity

On September 27, the Twins surprised the masses by securing a spot in the AL Wild Card game. At that point, they had gained recognition as the first team to lose 100 games and make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. There were positive vibes, and Chief Officer Derek Falvey said this team could make a deep run. However, the daunting task was finalized a few days later: the Twins had to face the Yankees in the Bronx on October 3. That was trouble since their playoff losing streak was at 12 games, mostly at the hands of New York.

The Twins started the contest with a bang. Second baseman Brian Dozier hit a home run of starter Luis Severino in the first inning. A couple batters later, Eddie Rosario smashed a two-run homer to right. Severino was taken out after recording just one out. The Twins could had done more damage as they had two runners on with one out, but nothing more materialized. Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Ervin Santana throwing a pitchThis was setting up so nicely! But, then came the bottom of the inning. After a walk and a single, Twins ace Ervin Santana offered a meatball to Didi Gregorius for a home run. The winner-take-all game was tied at 3 at the end of the 45-minute first.

The Yankees retook the lead with a Brett Gardner home run in the second. After just two innings, Santana was done for the night, surrendering four runs on three hits, on his way to a disappointing 18.00 ERA. He had no command at all! However, the Twins came back again to tie it in the third. With the bases loaded, Byron Buxton grounded into a force play and beat out a would-be double play. Speaking of Buxton, he made a great catch in the 2nd inning, which eventually sidelined him after he stole second in the 4th. He was taken out due to a back injury.

Meanwhile, the Twins bullpen could not keep the game tied very long. Reliever Jose Berrios, who was given the loss, gave up a single to Greg Bird in the 3rd inning, bringing around the fifth Yankee run. New York crushed the Twins dreams in the 4th when Aaron Judge smoked a two-run homer to left field.

Minnesota Twins designated hitter Kennys Vargas watching AL wild card game in dugout with teammates

Kennys Vargas pondering what could have been after Tuesday’s loss.

The bullpen tried its hardest from there to keep the Twins in the game. It was not meant to be as relief guy Trevor Hildenberger walked former Twin Aaron Hicks to score the eighth run in seventh.

After that, the Yankees’ Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman shut down the Twins offense. Kahle gave up no hits in his 2.1 innings of work, earning a hold. Chapman and his 100 mile-an-hour fastball closed the game. After first baseman Joe Mauer singled with two outs, Jorge Polanco went down swinging to end a season of surprises and dashing hopes and dreams of fans and players alike. Twins personnel held their heads high knowing very few people had them making it this far.

And so, as this year has come and gone, decisions have to be made with the coaching staff, including the fate of Manager Paul Molitor. Will we see a coaching staff overhaul? Or will just a few be dismissed? If so, will Molitor survive? Stay tuned this week to find out!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | October 1, 2017

An Unexpected (To Say The Least!) Success

Minnesota Twins players celebrating and spraying champagne after clinching a playoff spot

Let the champagne fly!

I wrote an October 8, 2016 post recapping the Twins’ disastrous 2016 season. Other than Brian Dozier, who hit 42 home runs last season, nothing really went right for the Twins. The team finished 59-103, the worst record in franchise history.

Not surprisingly, there was not much hope among Twins fans going into the 2017 season. Although the Twins had replaced general manager Terry Ryan, Minnesota still had the same manager and, more importantly, many of the same players as in 2016.

The 2017 season started off as a nice surprise. The Twins were in first place in the AL Central for the majority of the first few months. At the end of July though, the season seemed to be falling apart. With Cleveland and Kansas City playing really well and the Twins playing poorly, Minnesota had slipped to third place and had traded starting pitcher Jaime Garcia and All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler.

But then out of nowhere, the Twins won 20 games in August! Then on September 27, the team clinched a playoff spot, something that was unimaginable at the start of the season! The Twins are the first MLB team EVER to lose 100 games one season and make the playoffs the next!

My prediction before the season was that the Twins would win 75 games this season and would finish fourth in the division, which was actually optimistic, was shattered as Minnesota finished the regular season today with 85 wins and in second place in the division! That is 26 more wins than last season!

Minnesota will play in the AL wild card game this Tuesday, October 3, at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN against the New York Yankees in New York. This game will be tough, especially as the Yankees have dominated the Twins in the playoffs in recent years. I do think though that the Twins have a better chance of beating the Yankees in the wild card game then in a playoff series.

Whatever happens on Tuesday (Let’s hope the Twins clobber the Yankees!), this has been a great season for Minnesota. Almost no one predicted the Twins to finish the season with a winning record, let alone make the playoffs! Paul Molitor has done a fantastic job managing the team this season after an awful 2016 season with many of the same players as he had this year!

While this is not at all likely, let’s hope that in a month we’ll be writing about the Twins winning the World Series! I’ve been wrong about Twins predictions before!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | September 28, 2017

100,000 Thank Yous!

When Sam Graves and I started this blog back in 2010, the goal since we wrote the first Two Men On post was to bring unique perspectives to you that included, but not limited to, baseball and accessibility-related issues.Sam Graves and Michael Sack of "Two Men On" at Target Field watching a baseball game We have been thrilled by all the support we have received through the years as we did not know what would come of this blog. That came to a climax, when on the morning of September 24, our blog reached 100,000 views after 92 months of existence!

We have had exceptional experiences since we started this adventure. For instances, being able to tour Target Field before the complex’s first-ever game, being interviewed by Minnesota Public Radio and Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, getting to attend Harmon Killebrew’s dinner in 2010 in the 573 Club, and throwing out the first pitch at Target Field in 2014. Last year, we conducted an interview with Speechless star Micah Fowler, which is the top viewed entry, and an interview with co-star Cedric Yarbrough.

We have had viewers from over 60 countries, which astonishes me. Just a reminder you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and we do take story suggestions. Do not be scared to tell us what you want us to find out. Thank you also to the 39,980 visitors so far who have read our blog through the years.

It is amazing and that we reached this milestone the same week the Twins clinched a play-off spot for the first time in seven years! Make sure to check back soon for Twins play-off coverage!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | September 23, 2017

Is The Front Office Hinting At Something By Firing Mientkiewicz?

When newly acquainted Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine started working together 11 months ago, they promised changes would be made to improve the Twins. The duo made that known when they fired two major league coaches right away, then gradually let go of several scouts. Not shockingly, their latest firing frustrated a lot of people; but more importantly, what does that mean for Manager Paul Molitor’s future with the club?

On September 15, the Twins parted ways with Single-A Manager Doug Mientkiewicz.Former Twins minor league coach Doug Mientkiewicz in dugout What enraged some people is how he was fired. Levine had one of his assistants call Mientkiewicz while he was picking up after Hurricane Irma in Florida. That assistant would not give a reason for his dismissal, frustrating him. Mientkiewicz was a head coach in the Twins Minor League system for five seasons with two teams.

In 2013 and 2014, he led the Fort Myers Miracle to the play-offs, winning the championship in the latter year. The 43-year-old jumped up to lead Chattanooga to a Southern League Championship the next year. This past year, he was demoted to manage at Single-A again. Mientkiewicz was dealt the blow, even after posting a 385-299 record. He can be credited for helping center fielder Byron Buxton through the system.

The departure should be a warning sign to current coaches that they are not safe, as Levine came here to change the direction of this ball club, and the Pohlads gave him free rein to do whatever he wants. My first thought of the firing was: Could this be a sign that Molitor’s time here is running out and that the Twins already have a plan?

When Falvey and Levine arrived here, Owner Jim Pohlad made it clear to them that Molitor will manage in 2017. Now in his final week of his three-year contract, Molitor must be feeling some pressure because managing the club to the play-offs for the first time since 2010 might not be the only factor if he is granted an extension. I would be in favor of them searching for a fresh manager only if they make the right choice. I prefer a leader who is enthralled in helping his team exceed expectations, is not afraid to tell his team what they are doing wrong, and can get the most out of his players.

Could that plan be interviewing and giving Mientkiewicz the opportunity to manage the Twins? That was one of my initial inklings, however, that does not seem likely now, as it was reported that the break-up did not go smoothly. Plus, he is now mad at Falvey and Levine. Due to this surprising news, there is no telling what they will do next and the major league staff is most likely their next project at season’s end.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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