Posted by: gravessack | February 4, 2016

Twins Make Mysterious Signing

Well, well, well, look what we have here: another outfielder in the mix. Earlier this week, the Twins said that Miguel Sano had only lost five pounds during his quest to lose weight this winter. It seemed liked the Twins had things pretty settled in the outfield with several players competing for the remaining two slots. Either the Twins are having second thoughts and are veering away from making Sano transition to the outfield or they just want even more competition between the fielders. This signing confirms that the Twins outfield is still very much in flex mode.

On February 2, the Twins signed two-time All-Star Carlos Quentin to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Quentin, who is 33, is a nine-year veteran in the Majors. After being traded from Arizona after the 2007 season, Quentin had his four best years with the White Sox. With Chicago, he had an average of .257, 107 home runs, 320 RBIs, and a .505 slugging percentage. Leaving the South Side for San Diego after being traded once more on the last day of 2011, Quentin’s career went downhill. While with the Padres from 2012-2014, Quentin had a .251 batting average with 33 dingers and 108 RBIs.

After the 2014 season, Quentin just played in five Minor League games for Seattle before he announced his retirement in May. It seems that Quentin’s value went down due to his injuries and performance. He missed half a season in both 2012 and 2013 while recovering from a torn meniscus in his right knee that required surgery. While he initially retired because he felt that his injuries prevented him from performing at 100%, at some point this off-season, he declared himself healthy and wanted to give it another shot. If Quentin makes the Twins big league club out of Spring Training, he will earn $750,000 this season.

Even though this seems to be an out-of-the-blue signing, Quentin could really help the Twins’ youngsters, plus the club is still looking for a fourth outfielder to replace the departed Jordan Schafer. We will know soon enough what the Twins are planning. And here’s to Quentin regaining his all-star stroke to help the Twins in 2016!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | January 30, 2016

An ‘Ol Twins Conundrum

Deep breath, baseball fans – we are just three weeks away from Spring Training! After recording their first winning season since 2010 last year, Twins Manager Paul Molitor and his group will look to improve on that progress and make the play-offs this year finally! This Spring Training will be intense as some things are still very much up in the air. For one thing, the top four starting pitchers are locked in with a couple of pitchers competing for the fifth slot. However, the biggest situation the Twins need to figure out in late February and March is who are they going to have play the field. Here we go…let us tackle this issue.

During the Winter Meetings in December, Molitor reaffirmed the media that young slugger Miguel Sano will be moved to a corner outfield position. With the Twins avoiding arbitration with third baseman Trevor Plouffe by signing him January 25 to a one-year deal, Molitor’s idea could very well become a reality. On top of that, the Twins plan on keeping Joe Mauer on first, as they are planning on him sharing the role with new Twins player Byung Ho Park. The second-year Manager left me confused for a couple of reasons.

In his five years in the Twins organization, Sano, who batted .269 with 18 home runs and 52 RBIs in 80 games last year with the big league club, has always been a third baseman. Sano is not accustomed to roaming the outfield and is not built for the position. The Twins have said that Sano has been playing the outfield in the Dominican Republic in recent months and has lost some weight. Nevertheless, I am nervous that he will be unprepared and too slow tracking balls. Nobody knows how accurate Sano will throw from as far as the warning track. Moving Sano would also be a potential injury risk since he is not used to it, and is not used to running that far.

Besides from Sano, the Twins could put a couple of other players in the outfield. Last year, Eddie Rosario did a pretty good job in his rookie year, in which he had 16 outfield assists. In recent years, Mauer has played the outfield sporadically. Some fans this off-season brought up a point of making Plouffe an outfielder, which he has some experience in. In addition to those players, the Twins have some youngsters waiting to get their shot roaming the large green field; Max Kepler, Adam Brett Walker III, and the forgotten Oswaldo Arcia. Assuming that Byron Buxton, who had a good end to his first MLB campaign, has the center field position won, the Twins would only have to fill the left and right field positions.

There is a simple solution in figuring all this out. During Spring Training, the Twins should try Plouffe and the up-and-comers in the outfield. If that works, there is the outfielder the Twins are looking for. If that doesn’t work out, the club could platoon some players, which is my preference. When an extra outfielder is in need, Mauer could go out there and let Park and Kennys Vargas handle first base. I would trust Mauer over Sano in the outfield due to the fact that Mauer is more fit for the position. It seems like Vargas, who went on a tear when he first came up in 2014, has evaporated amongst the Twins brass. I know the 25-year-old struggled after his initial call-up, but Vargas has so much potential that should not be overlooked.

This whole kerfuffle could have been averted by trading Plouffe after last season, rather than having the club try to figure out what to do over the next two months. All-in-all, do not be fooled when the Twins say Sano is the only viable option for the outfield. The Twins should do their due diligence this spring and not settle on one fix because fans expect the nine best players to take the field, and they have plenty of options!

Written by: Michael L. Sack


Posted by: gravessack | January 18, 2016

FIPFA Selects U.S. For Next World Cup

The world’s largest adaptive sporting event is landing in the United States next year. No, this is not your typical State Adapted Floor Hockey tournament or your Power Hockey or Soccer National Tournament. What is coming is much bigger! Earlier this month, the Federation Internationale De Powerchair Football Association (FIPFA) announced that the next World Cup will be located in Kissimmee, Florida, a suburb of Orlando, spanning from July 3-10, 2017.

This World Cup, which will be hosted by the United States Power Soccer Association (USPSA), will feature ten Power Soccer teams from around the world competing for the top prize. This event will have three preparation days, three competition days, and one off day before the Championship Round. The proposed World Cup format is a round-robin with the seeding being figured out afterward. Teams from each pool will go on to play in the knockout round to fight for first place during day two and three of competition.

With this magnificent event coming to the U.S., FIPFA is going grand with the site. The World Cup will be held at Silver Spurs Arena at Osceola Heritage Park. Silver Spurs Arena seats 11,400 and will hold two regulation sized Power Soccer courts. This World Cup site will be the largest site ever for an adaptive sporting event in the U.S.

This will be just the third World Cup. Tokyo hosted the event in 2007 and Paris hosted in 2011. Led by Indiana’s Michael Archer and joined by Minnesotan Pete Winslow for the 2011 games, the United States won both World Cups. The third World Cup was supposed to be held in 2015 in Houston, but FIPFA denied the bid due to costs getting to expensive.

The United States Power Soccer World Cup team will have 12 athletes with 8 being on the official delegation going to Florida. Three players from Minnesota, who are part of the club, will be vying for a starting role this year: Winslow from Woodbury, Nathan Mayer from Monticello, and Riley Johnson from St. Cloud. The other four players will be alternatives in case one of the top 8 athletes can not make it for some reason. The eight players who will represent the U.S. and the four reserves will be determined by the end of this year.

Next year’s FIPFA World Cup will maximize Power Soccer’s exposure in the United States! Stay with us as we will report broadcasting information, among other tidbits, as it becomes public. In the meantime, check out the official site of the 2017 FIPFA Cup by clicking here.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | January 8, 2016

Why I Support Adding Protective Netting

The Twins recently announced plans to expand the protective netting around Target Field in response to MLB’s recommendations for each ballpark to do so. MLB made these recommendations primarily because there were multiple incidents last season of fans getting seriously injured by foul balls, emphasizing the importance of fan safety. Target Field, which already had protective netting behind home plate, will have further netting “to protect seats between the dugouts and within 70 feet of home plate.” In addition, netting above the dugouts. This netting “will extend seven feet high and will run the length of the dugout in seating sections 3 through 6 and 11 through 14.” All netting will be up for the start of the 2016 season.

The issue of adding protective netting around MLB ballparks has been controversial, primarily because some believe it will interfere with fans’ viewing experiences. This seems like a silly argument to me. Fan safety is a very serious issue and is more important than possibly interfering with viewing experiences. I don’t believe the new netting will hinder fans’ views of the game. For example, hockey has protective netting all around the rink and it doesn’t seem to bother the fans, as tons of people go to hockey games.There is already protective netting above MLB backstops, and fans often want to sit in seats directly behind home plate. If the netting obstructed their views, why would they want to sit there?

MLB’s recommendations to add protective netting seem obvious to me, especially because of incidents of fans getting hurt by bats or balls. Even if they do slightly hinder fans’ views, this will be good for the game. Read here about Target Field’s new protective netting. Please participate in the poll below asking whether you agree with these recommendations!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | January 4, 2016

Making A Difference: Striving To Improve Accessibility

Ever since the American with Disabilities Act was signed by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990, people with and without disabilities have been trying to find ways to provide easy and fair access throughout America. The changes have ranged from making newly constructed stadiums ADA-compliant to making sidewalks smoother. Nearly all modifications need some sort of government funding, and rarely can one person implement a change.

This is the story of what could be done if we are not afraid to speak up. The set-up: a school in Nebraska trying to make something right and seventeen-year-old Nate Kotila, who has Cerebral Palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair, not accepting the improvement.

School officials at Papillion-LaVista South High School implemented a key system in 2003 to their lone elevator to prevent able-bodied students from using it. Administers gave students who needed to use the elevator a key to activate it. That seemed to be a great idea. But when Kotila, who lacks fine motor skills, tried it a couple of times, he discovered something that must be changed. Kotila had a difficult time getting the key into the hole and turning the key all the way. The junior thought about what could be done to fix the problem, and he came up with one.

Kotila’s idea was to install a card reader, so all students needed to do was “just hold the card in front of the reader and the elevator door opens.” He needed to raise over $1,500 for the enhancement. Kotila spoke at a teacher conference in the fall, pitching his idea, and immediately raised $800. A couple of weeks later, he had more than enough money.

The card system was installed at the end of November and has been in full effect since the middle of December. There are eight students at Papio South who need to use the elevator full time along with peers hobbled with injuries and each one of them received an access card. “We all have our card keys on lanyard with retractable cords. It really, really makes it so much easier and faster to access the elevator,” said Kotila. Papio South is the only school in Papillion-LaVista that is multi-floored, and therefore, is the only one that requires an elevator.

Kotila, who is from the Twin Cities area, is pretty busy when he is not conquering accessibility issues. While living in Minnesota as a pre-teen, he joined an adapted T-ball team in Robbinsdale and was intrigued by Power Soccer before the move. After Kotila’s family moved to Bellevue in 2009, his hobbies took flight. Along with helping referee a Project Unify Special Olympics basketball game with his school and rival school in late 2015, Kotila’s passion is aviation. He participates in a virtual airline, called AAvirtual. AAvirtual is on-line and its objective is to “simulate real American Airline flights and operations using our flight simulators.” After logging more than 430 hours on the flight simulator, Kotila “loves being able to use the many resources to simulate the flights that are occurring real-time.” As far as Kotila’s refereeing ventures, he says, with a smile, “it seems that once I do something then other people ask me to do more.”

After graduating from high school next year, Kotila plans on going to college to get a degree in Information Systems or in a technology field and he “always wanted to be a pilot so it would be awesome if I could find a career using my technology education in the aviation industry,” he acknowledged.

Kotila’s elevator system should be implemented at every school. I always wondered why with Minneapolis South’s one elevator that school officials didn’t regulate who uses it. Able-bodied students would sometimes cram the elevator, so students with disabilities would need to wait for the next one. Kotila’s invention alleviates that problem and schools, especially one’s with just a single available elevator, should find a way to install this system. The card reader is a two-fold solution: school elevators would serve their purpose and it would keep students off elevators who don’t necessary need them.

With Kotila’s thorough planning and persistence, he succeeded at making Papio South more accessible to those with disabilities. Kotila learned a lot from his experience and knowing what he likes to do, he might not be done with accessibility. “This was a great learning experience and I would sure be open to learning more and helping in other buildings and companies but I think I will most likely wait until after college to do anything purposefully,” Kotila explained.

Written by: Michael L. Sack


Posted by: gravessack | December 13, 2015

Terry Ryan Is Not At Fault!

Recently, there was a post by my co-blogger arguing that Twins general manager Terry Ryan should be fired. I strongly disagree with that statement. Here’s why.

Signing free agents and making trades are complicated. While they can look simple to the average fan reading about it, there are several things to consider before signing or trading for a player. Perhaps the biggest factor to consider is money.

A good example of this is the Twins signing Byung Ho Park. Park, who has hit over 100 home runs in the last two years, was signed for (only!) $3 million a year over 4 years. That’s not all that much compared to other major league players, even those with not nearly Park’s numbers, but Park has never played in the majors! He has only played in the Korean league, which I’ve heard is significantly less difficult than MLB. The Twins signed Tsuyoshi Nishioka to a three-year deal worth $9 million (a signing made by former general manager Bill Smith, not Ryan). Nishioka, who had had a lot of success in Japan, did nothing in MLB. Park’s deal is perfectly reasonable since, while his stats in Korea were very impressive, nobody knows how he’ll do in MLB.

Some fans may have been upset with Ryan not making any transactions at last week’s MLB Winter Meetings, despite the fact that some other teams spent big money. The Twins hoped (and still do) to add a reliever, but top relievers this year are very expensive. The Twins don’t have nearly the amount of money that some teams such as the Yankees and Red Sox do (Minnesota had the 18th highest payroll in 2015). Also, La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune said, “The last time I checked, the offseason doesn’t end with the winter meetings.” There are about four months until for the Twins to do something until Opening Day!

I don’t agree with Ryan about moving Miguel Sano to the outfield. Ryan should trade Trevor Plouffe for a quality reliever and have Sano play third base. Still, I strongly disagree that Terry Ryan should be fired and that he is afraid to spend big money (he did sign Ervin Santana for $54 million!).

We all want the star players, but the reality is teams can’t always afford everyone they want. So before blaming Terry Ryan, think about how complex adding players can be.

Please vote on Michael Sack’s poll (see December 11 post) asking whether you want the Twins to keep Terry Ryan as general manager. Vote to keep him!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | December 11, 2015

Terry Ryan Must Be Let Go

Let us face the sad reality: As long as Terry Ryan is General Manager, the Twins won’t win the World Series. After the Twins made the signing of Byung Ho Park official on December 1, the front office has made a couple fundamental flaws. These flaws ironically came to light when teams are supposed to be wheeling and dealing at the Winter Meetings this past week to improve. We saw several top free agents removed from the board as they signed with teams, while Ryan twiddled his thumbs and did nothing in Nashville. Ryan has a bizarre routine at the Winter Meetings that could and probably should cost him his job.

  • Right after the season concluded, the Pohlad family told Ryan to spend large amounts of money to improve the Twins. Instead, Ryan is spending as little as possible to try to sign good players. For example, he only gave Park, who has over 100 home runs in the last two years, $3 million per year. Some analysts believe that Park could have received a lot more money if another club would have won the bidding. General Managers across MLB found ways to sign players who make an impact to modest deals, but Ryan was just unwilling to strike a deal. It is time for the Pohlads to get serious with him and demand he tries harder to sign more prevalent players. It’s just mind-boggling that other General Managers can sign All-Stars with big bucks and that Ryan doesn’t even try!
  • Ryan was looking to trade struggling Ricky Nolasco during the meetings, but then made the abrupt decision to keep him after all. After talking with clubs, Ryan didn’t trade him because he did not want to sell low. How low can he get? Oft-injured Nolasco, who is 11-14 with a 5.64 ERA the past 2 years, has only made 35 starts with the Twins. Ryan could easily trade him for a minor league player. To not help Ryan’s cause, he said that Nolasco will come to Spring Training next year “competing” for a starter’s role. If you read that correctly, we may see a $12 million pitcher, who has said he does not want to be in Minnesota, come out of the bullpen. Good grief – you got to be kidding me!
  • Before the meetings were held, Ryan announced that they are moving power hitter Miguel Sano to the outfield. People are worried about Sano’s transition due to his stature and his ability to run down balls. The Twins have different players that could fill the vacancy: Joe Mauer, Trevor Plouffe, and actual outfielders Max Kepler or Adam Brett Walker. Instead Ryan went with the least likely person to do well roaming the field. Everybody sees the easy solution that Ryan still hasn’t figured out: Trade Plouffe to get a maximum return, put Sano at third, and put an actual outfielder in the outfield. Or more simple: Don’t trade your hottest hitting outfielder for an unknown catcher in John Ryan Murphy. Ryan said Murphy, who has minimal experience, is the real deal, but then claims another catcher from Seattle named John Hicks. Please someone, help me find anything good with these moves!

Clearly, the Pohlads and Ryan are not on the same page regarding signing players and that has to stop. Either they need to have a hard and deep talk about their differences or the Pohlads need too find the guts to send the 62-year-old on his way to retirement. Like Rhett Bollinger of said this week on Twitter: “Ryan is hesitant given the volatility of relievers from year-to-year. Multi-year relief deals rarely pan out.”

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | December 2, 2015

Twins Hit One Out Of The “Park”

Could next year be the first time we see a baseball hit out of Target Field’s boundary?

Going into the off-season, we all thought the Twins’ goal would be to go after relief pitching to bolster the bullpen. Instead, GM Terry Ryan decided to sign a slugger to add to the batting order, which already includes Miguel Sano (18 home runs in 80 games last year). This signing signifies that the Twins are trying to keep up with Kansas City and are not afraid to again sign overseas.

The Twins submitted the winning bid of nearly $13 million to negotiate a contract with Byung Ho Park, a bona fide Korean DH and first baseman. The club had a 30-day period to get a deal done; after nearly 3 weeks, the announcement was made. Park flew to Minneapolis and two days later, on December 1, the Twins signed the 29-year-old to a four-year deal worth $12 million. The deal includes an option in which the Twins can keep him for a fifth year. Considering Park’s potential talent, this deal is overwhelmingly good for the Twins because if Park doesn’t rack up the numbers the way he did in Korea, they are not overspending on him.

Speaking of numbers, Park’s statistics in Korea are astonishing. Park played nine seasons in South Korea, including five with the Nexen Heroes, based in Seoul. His career started slow having played less than 100 games five seasons in a row. In 2011, Park got traded from the LG Twins to Nexen and his statistics exploded: In his first year with Nexen, Park belted 12 home runs and racked up 28 RBIs in 51 games. The following years for Park were equally explosive. He has hit 30+ homers and 95+ RBIs in the last four years.

During his last two years in Seoul, Park has hit 105 home runs with 270 RBIs, averaging .323. Like every power hitter, Park strikes out a lot, 303 times in those two years. Park has also racked up numerous awards overseas; including two MVP awards, three Gold Gloves, four home run titles, and four RBI titles. Like with Sano, we will take the strikeouts with Park’s talents.

At Park’s introductory press conference Wednesday morning, Ryan said the Twins are keeping Trevor Plouffe at third, Joe Mauer at first, and moving Sano to the outfield. Park will be the Twins primary DH, although he will show off why he earned three Gold Gloves when Mauer gets days off. Although hitting balls is harder in MLB than in Korea, the Twins are confident that Park will make a seamless transition to the states. Park, who the Twins have been scouting for more than 10 years, is expected to be in the 2016 opening day line-up.

In my opinion, I have doubts on how productive Sano will be roaming the outfield due to his powerful stature. I am afraid he will be slow and not able to run down balls. I think the Twins should keep Sano at third base, trade Plouffe, and move Mauer to the outfield. Kennys Vargas and Park would then split duties at first base and DH. The Twins should trade Plouffe now to get maximum in return, just like when they traded Aaron Hicks to the Yankees for catcher John Ryan Murphy in November.

“Baseball is baseball,” Park said during his recent press conference. He says he is ecstatic to play in the United States, having come here for Nexen’s spring training for a couple years. Minnie and Paul better watch out this year because a ball might be coming their way in 2016! To watch Park’s hitting skills, click here.

Written by: Michael L. Sack


Posted by: gravessack | November 14, 2015

Star Tribune Special: Analyzing Disability Issues

The Star Tribune recently published a five-part series on the services for and treatment of people with disabilities in Minnesota. The series talked about low wages, group homes, sheltered workplaces, intimacy, and other issues. It also offered a look at other states, especially Vermont and its more progressive approach to employing people with disabilities.

In my opinion, each article exaggerated the problems a little, but at the same time delivered some good points. The first write-up was the most interesting to me. It talked about workplaces that are created exclusively for people with disabilities. While sheltered workplaces can be good for the disabled, some workers that should be in more competitive jobs are only in the sheltered setting because that is where they can get support they need. Furthermore, most workers at these places get paid below the minimum wage.

According to the first article, Minnesota is below the national average in placing workers with disabilities in competitive jobs. There are reasons for this that include timing, transportation, type of job, and the accommodations that people need. Personally, I tried finding a place to work by doing customized job carving but both efforts evaporated due to the fact that companies weren’t hiring and because of lack of available resources. I believe Minnesota should try something like Vermont, but keep sheltered workplaces for people with severe disabilities. Vermont has shown that they have success at job carving, as 40% of people with intellectual disabilities in that state have competitive jobs, compared to just 13% in Minnesota.

I have never seen a major newspaper cover this topic so extensively. I am glad that the Star Tribune tackled this issue because improvements can now be made to the system in Minnesota. Click here to read this amazing series of articles. Please feel free to fire away with comments!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | November 4, 2015

Season Ending Notes

After a nine-month campaign, the baseball season has ended. Several teams will look at this year as a resurgence and other teams, not so much. One of the teams that surged is our Twins as they finished in second place in their division. Below is a bow-tie to wrap-up the season.

  • A World Series Champion has been declared! On November 1, the Kansas City Royals, led by Ned Yost, provided the knockout punch as they cemented the New York Mets four games to one. The Mets’ two key producers failed to show up. Closer Jeurys Familia blew all 3 of his save chances, surrendering 3 runs. The key to the Series for the Royals is that they had to control second baseman Daniel Murphy, and they did. Murphy, who had been sizzling throughout October, fizzled in the World Series, hitting just .150 with 7 strikeouts. Throughout the playoffs, the Royals kept coming from behind, including three times in the final series, as they scored 40 runs in the 8th inning or later. As soon as you thought Kansas City was out, they found a way to win with sneaky plays and clutch hitting. Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who was named World Series MVP, averaged .364 with 8 hits and 2 RBIs. The key moment came during the last game when starter Matt Harvey was sent back out for the ninth. Harvey gave up one run and Familia gave up the tying run on a slick base running play by Kansas City. Three innings later, the Royals scored five runs and won their first World Series in thirty years!
  • On October 26, longtime Twin Torii Hunter announced that he was retiring from MLB. Starting in 1997, Hunter played 19 seasons in the majors. Hunter was a team leader wherever he ended up. Playing for three teams, Hunter’s career totals ended up like this: .277 batting average, 353 home runs, 498 doubles and a slugging percentage of .461. Hunter, who is 40, made 5 All-Star Games and racked up 9 Gold Glove Awards. Hunter will be remembered as the one who leapt over Miller Park’s wall at the 2002 All-Star Game to rob Giants’ slugger Barry Bonds of a homer. He had many other memorable catches as well. Good luck in retirement, Torii!
  • Former Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire wanted to get back to managing in 2016, but it won’t be with a Major League team. Gardenhire, who has a managerial record of 1,068-1,039, was a finalist for the San Diego job. However, Padres General Manager A.J. Preller decided against Gardy and hired Andy Green for the job instead. That leaves Gardenhire pondering his future once more.

That leaves us with no baseball for 5 long months. Did you enjoy the season? Please chime in!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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