Posted by: gravessack | November 28, 2016

New Five-Year CBA Deal Is In Place; No Lockout

December 1st Update: With just four hours to go until the deadline, an agreement has been reached for a new five-year CBA between the owners and players. It still needs to go through the finalizing process. Two interesting tidbits from the new deal that were unveiled overnight are that the All-Star Game will go back to being an exhibition game rather than determining home-field advantage during the World Series. Also, new players in the league won’t be able to use smokeless tobacco. Eventually, this ban will be for all players in the major leagues. As details start to pour in, you can get up-to-date here.

Earlier Story:

There is something looming around Major League Baseball that no mainstream media is really talking about. Long-standing labor peace might be broken! For the first time since the 1994-1995 strike which cancelled the post-season, MLB’s clock is close to expiration. Don’t fret; losing games or the 2017 season most likely will not happen…for now.

The light doomsday is December 1, when the current five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) will be history. That means another one has to be agreed upon before business matters can resume. That means, even though games won’t in jeopardy for a few more months, transactions and normal this-and-that’s at the annual winter meetings from December 4-8 in Washington DC might be on insecure grounds.

According to an ESPN article, the potential shutdown of baseball “essentially would place all typical offseason activity in a deep freeze, as well as cut off funding of benefits to players.” What is really nerveracking is if the Thursday deadline passes with no deal struck, both sides could get tougher on their stances making a quick agreement even more unlikely.

Concessions must be made. There have been talks of shortening the season, however that seems to be in the waste basket. It sounds like what needs to be worked out is how the draft will work. Owners offered to remove “the current system of forfeiture associated with the qualifying offer,” as they want players to agree with holding an international draft. The players won’t agree to that because it would affect prospects from other countries, such as in Latin America. Other topics too must be agreed upon before everybody is happy, and the luxury tax threshold might get a little testy.

There is hope that a new deal will be done before the deadline. Both sides are meeting at the MLBPA meetings in Texas this week in hopes of finalizing a multi-year CBA. If they can’t agree in the next 60 hours, we need to all buckle up and cross fingers and toes!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | November 21, 2016

Plouffe, There It Is!

When General Manager Thad Levine took the reigns of the Twins two weeks ago, he promised that hard player decisions would be made in short order. Levine took only 12 days to make his first major and somewhat surprising transaction. The move surrounds a player who had to deal with a lot of rumors about him in the past two years: Trevor Plouffe.

On November 18, the Twins called the longtime third baseman and told him that he was being released, effectively making him a free agent. Plouffe, who has been in the Twins system for 13 seasons, said he was initially shocked by the call. However, he said he realizes that Levine was hired to do anything to improve the team. Since Plouffe’s family is settled here, he does not know what will happen next.

During his tenure with his lone club, who drafted him in 2004, Plouffe put up some decent numbers. He spent five years in the minors, then he made his Twins debut on May 21, 2010. During his first two seasons in the Majors, Plouffe struggled a bit, hitting just 10 home runs along with 37 RBIs. The 30-year-old’s most productive year just happened to be in 2015, where he averaged .244, racking up 22 long balls and 86 RBIs. Plouffe’s grand total of home runs and RBIs were 96 and 357, respectively. One of his not-so-good achievements with the Twins is that he led the American League in double plays in 2015, where he grounded into 28 of those rally-crushers.

In the end though, Levine thinks the Twins have a plethora of third basemen waiting to take over. Plus, it sounds like the Miguel Sano in the outfield experiment is all but over, although Levine said last week that “the extent to which Miguel can still play the corner outfield spots only makes him that much more valuable and more of an asset.”

We will see what transpires. One thing is for sure: Plouffe is a growing player and will be missed! He will find a new team; Milwaukee is on the hunt for a third base guy.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | November 14, 2016

Interview with “Speechless” Actor Cedric Yarbrough

Previously, Two Men On had the privilege of interviewing Micah Fowler from ABC’s  “Speechless” (see June 1 post). Now, Two Men On has taken it a step further by having the privilege of interviewing fellow “Speechless” actor and Minnesota native Cedric Yarbrough (pictured with clown nose)!cedric-yarbrough

Two Men On sincerely thanks Mr. Yarbrough for his willingness to be interviewed. The interview transcript is below.

Two Men On (TMO): How/why did you decide to audition for “Speechless?”

Cedric Yarbrough (CY): I auditioned for “Speechless” because like most actors, frankly, I needed a job!… I’ve been pretty selective and protective of my career so I won’t just do anything but this was a special project. I could tell by first reading the script [that] I wanted to throw my hat in the ring & take on the character of “Kenneth” [J.J’s aide].

TMO: Before “Speechless,” did you have any misconceptions of disability that have been challenged as a result of the TV series? If so, what were they? How did you prepare for this role?

CY: I was able to prepare for the role with an amazing writer named Eva Sweeney. She has CP [cerebral palsy], is non-verbal & also has an aide much like the characters in the show. She kinda showed me the ropes & it was basically a crash course in CP…She & her aide were really amazing & extremely open to my questions, including ones about love, drugs & racism.

TMO: Do you have a sense of how “Speechless” is being received within the disability community? What sort of feedback have you been getting?

CY: I’ve been so in the “Speechless” bubble that I’ve tried to tune a lot of it out. Not that I’m not curious to hear what the disabled community is thinking but I treat it as any show I’d be working on. I don’t want public opinion to shape my performance on the show… But I will say some feedback has gotten in. We work very closely with Cerebral Palsy Foundation on the show & they’ve been quite happy. I’ve read some comments on our “Speechless” Facebook page & I hear a lot of kids with disabilities would love an aide like ‘Kenneth’ & that makes me EXTREMELY happy.

TMO: How is “Speechless” similar to and different from other things you have acted in?

CY: “Speechless” is similar to other jobs I’ve worked because it’s simply that, a job [which I love]. That’s the cool thing, I chose a profession I absolutely love. This particular one is different because it really means something to a lot of folks so it gives me that extra boost when I have those 5 am call times. My role as ‘Deputy Jones’ on ‘Reno 911!’ was a role of a lifetime. It launched my career & got me in the minds of Hollywood & America as a whole. Now I’m extremely fortunate to be working on this project. Another role of a lifetime [but a very different one]!

TMO: What have you enjoyed most about being part of “Speechless?”

CY: One of my favorite parts of being on the show is the awareness it’s creating. It reminds me of… when our first Black President was elected. It’s an inner happiness you feel. That’s the sense I’m getting about this show from the disabled community. They’re happy they are finally being represented in a respectful and first and foremost FUNNY way. And because this is happening, turning back and hiring actors without CP to play roles of characters with CP will be lazy and frankly stupid. Having a disability will be looked upon as mainstream & I think that’s a good thing.

TMO: Are you a baseball fan? If so, what’s your favorite team?

CY: I am not a huge baseball fan but I do cheer for the Twins and they let me down each year. Micah Fowler (J.J.) and I got to shoot an epic show this year where we shot at Dodgers Stadium. It truly was remarkable to stand in the stands, & in the dugout, & in the field & on that grass. Really quite cool.

Thanks so much again to Mr. Yarbrough for agreeing to this interview! We truly appreciate it!

Written and interviewed by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | November 11, 2016

The Times Are A Changin’…In Twins Territory…For The Better

Earlier this week, a dramatic, earth-shattering, bone-chilling “passing-of-the-torch” occurred. No, I am not talking about the election, I am talking about something right here in Minneapolis. On November 7, the Twins introduced the dynamic duo who will hopefully save them from the dumps. The upper management promised a swift search, in which it was, and the duo promised quick action, which also occurred.

Twins Owner Jim Pohlad and President Dave St. Peter congregated the Twin Cities media into the Target Field press room. That afternoon, they introduced the two men, both from outside the organization, who will now direct the path of the team: Chief of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine. Falvey came from Cleveland, where he spent last season as Assistant General Manager for the AL champion Cleveland Indians. Levine, who was chosen by Falvey, previously was with Texas, also as an Assistant General Manager.

Falvey and Levine plan on getting started right away to reorganize the franchise, while keeping the Front Office intact. Flakey would like to add to the staff, as he wants the Twins to start using analytical data, which means math equations and such. The duo will look at what they have in the Twins system, and then make decisions after that. They are not wanting to break up the team, for now. However, if there is a significant trade possibility that can make the Twins better, Levine won’t be afraid to move their “all-stars.” During the 50-minute press conference, Falvey used the word collaboration several times. “The goal here is straightforward and measurable,” Suggested Falvey. “It’s to build a sustainable, championship-caliber team, an organization that fans across Twins territory will be proud of.”

With newbies at the helm, there were quick changes. On November 9, Falvey did not renew the contracts of hitting coach Tom Brunansky and first base coach Butch Davis, effectively letting them go. Brunansky came to the Twins at the end of the 2012 season. While the hitting was unspectacular, it was not bad in 2016. The Twins were just looking for more production in the line-up. Brian Dozier’s 42 home runs and 99 RBIs this year made the stats look better than they really were. It is uncertain why Davis, who coached first base for two years, got the boot, but he also was overseeing the base running and outfielders, which were hard to watch sometimes. Now, it will be curious who will be chosen to replace them!

Falvey and Levine both received five-year contracts to try to turn this struggling team around. From this point to February 13, the new duo will have lots to do to improve the recent 59-102 team and make them contenders again. One thing is for certain: If an actor from the 1994 film Little Rascals can somehow become President of the United States, the Twins can get to a World Series!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | November 3, 2016

CUBS WIN! (Time To Forgive Bartman and Billy Goats!)

The drought is over! Let Steve Bartman free, let billy goats dissipate, let God’s green apples keep falling from trees – well, I think! For the first time in 108 years, the once cursed Chicago Cubs are World Series Champions. Cubs fans can now forget about all their worries and rejoice in the streets. As you would remember, in 2003, a man named Bartman interfered with Cubs left fielder Moises Alou down the foul line in Game 6 of the NLCS. Soon after, the Cubs lost their lead and the series. Bartman got booed and had trash thrown at him.

Fast forward 13 years and that hatred for Bartman can be laid to rest. The Cleveland Indians won the first game of the Fall Classic, with the Cubs winning the second. Then the Cubs bats went cold and lost the next two. They were outscored by the Indians 13-2 in games 3 and 4. Trailing three games to one and being on the brink of ruining hopes and dreams, the Cubs had to find a way to win the last game at Wrigley Field. With the help of Kris Bryant’s dinger and two singles in the 4th inning and with closer Arodis Chapman’s eight-out save, the Cubs found a way.

Heading back to Cleveland for game 6, the Cubs chances looked bleak. However, they stormed out of the gate with 4 runs in the 1st inning, thanks to another Bryant home run and a couple of hits. The Cubs’ Addison Russell hit a grand slam in the third, putting the dagger in the Indians. Behind Jake Arrieta’s nine strikeouts in 5.2 innings, the Cubs tied the series at three with a 9-3 shellacking. That left one more thing: an epic winner-take-all game 7.

The last game of the World Series took place on November 2. Cubs leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler led off the game with a home run off of Cleveland starter Corey Kluber. In the 4th and 5th inning, Chicago scored 2 runs each to take a 5-1 lead. However, when Jon Lester inexplicably came in to replace Kyle Hendricks in the 6th inning, he threw a wild pitch that scored 2 runs. Two innings later, Chapman came in to try get the four-out save. After a double, Chapman gave up his first home run since July to Rajai Davis, tying the game at six. Nobody could score in the 9th; then rain came, delaying the game for 17 minutes.

When play resumed, the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero both had run scoring hits. In the bottom half of the 10th, the Indians just could get one run off of reliever Carl Edwards Jr. Manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen with one out to go. With Cubs’ reliever Mike Montgomery pitching, Michael Martinez grounded out to a grinning Bryant at third base to secure the 8-7 win, making the Cubs World Series champions! Click here to see highlights of the Cubs’ 10th inning rally.

Throughout the play-offs, Maddon made interesting decisions which almost cost him the title. In the end, though, the manager who turned the Cubs around knew what he was doing and squeaked out enough wins. Indeed, with the Cubs going 103-58 in the regular season, the best MLB team this year was the last team standing. It is time to celebrate, Cubs fans!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | October 23, 2016

2016 World Series Preview

unknown-1cleveland-indians

Another drought will soon be ending! After Kansas City ended their misery last year, this year’s World Series will feature a team that has not won since at least 1948. Major League Baseball could be in an era of crowning new champions as bottom feeders improve. The matchup for the Fall Classic will be the American League champs Cleveland Indians against the Chicago Cubs, the National League winner. There will be no doubt that both teams will want to end their long Series droughts.

Cleveland is managed by Terry Francona and has not been crowned since the end of World War II. Cleveland comes into the last round having won the AL Central with a regular season record of 94-67. On their quest to the World Series, they breezed past favored Texas 3 games to 0 in the ALDS, and Toronto 4 games to 1 in the ALCS. As a team, the Indians had a batting average of just .208 with 51 hits and 11 home runs in the first two rounds. Shortstop Francisco Lindor led his team with a .323 batting average, 10 hits, 2 home runs, and 4 RBIs in 31 at-bats in October.

Despite the average hitting, the Indians’ key to getting to the World Series was pitching. Excluding the Wild Card Game losers, Cleveland pitchers led in pretty much every category among playoff teams. In eight games, the Indians pitching staff had an ERA of 1.77, 81 strikeouts and 6 saves while giving up just 15 runs. However, Cody Allen and Andrew Miller had to save most games, indicating that the Indians had to squeak out most of their victories. Cleveland’s best starting pitcher in October was Corey Kluber, who had a 0.98 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 3 games. In order for the Indians and future Twins Chief Officer Derek Falvey to be crowned world champions, Cleveland’s pitching needs to stay steady and its hitting needs to improve slightly.

The Chicago Cubs, managed by Joe Maddon, have not won the World Series since 1908! After finishing the regular season with a 103-58 record, the Cubs beat San Francisco in the NLDS and Los Angeles in the NLCS.

The Cubs have a dominant pitching staff, made up of ace and NLCS co-MVP Jon Lester, 2016 MLB ERA leader Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. Chicago led the league with a 3.15 team ERA in 2016. The Cubs’ offense is led by third baseman Kris Bryant and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Bryant hit .292 with 39 home runs and 102 RBI during the regular season and is the favorite to win the NL MVP. I (Sam) think the Cubs will win the World Series sine Chicago’s offense is more dangerous than Cleveland’s.

I (Sam) would like to see the Cubs win, but it will be exciting just to have two teams in the World Series that have not won for a very long time! Make sure to tune in to FOX this Tuesday, October 25 for Game 1! Click here for more on the World Series matchup.

Written by: Michael Sack and Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | October 15, 2016

“Speechless” Review

Now that four episodes of the ABC comedy “Speechless” have aired, viewers can begin to form their opinions about the show. Here is what I think of “Speechless.”

I really like the show so far. While it focuses on a kid with cerebral palsy (J.J.) and his family, the show is not overly sentimental. It uses wit and sarcasm, and does a good job of not putting too much emphasis on J.J.’s disability. It acknowledges his disability and the challenges associated with it, but portrays J.J. as a typical high school student.

Burnsville native Cedric Yarbrough, who plays J.J.’s aide, is probably the funniest character. I especially appreciate how his character treats J.J. with respect and as a normal kid instead of feeling sorry for J.J. because of his disability.

I would maybe like to see a little less of Maya DiMeo, who is J.J.’s mom, and a little more of J.J. The show focuses a little too much on her when it’s really more about him and his experiences.

Despite this small criticism, I love “Speechless” so far. The show respects J.J. and his disability while not putting too much emphasis on it. I would give the first four episodes 4.5 out of 5 stars. I’m definitely looking forward to future episodes!

What is your opinion of the show?

***There will be no episode of “Speechless” this Wednesday, October 19, because of the presidential debate. “Speechless” will return to ABC on Wednesday, October 26, at 7:30 p.m. Central for a Halloween-themed episode!***

Written by Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | October 11, 2016

A Curtain Has Fallen

On a cool Monday night in Boston, Red Sox DH David Ortiz came to bat against Cleveland reliever Cody Allen in the bottom of the 8th. Boston had to score with them down to their last at-bats of an ALDS elimination game. Allen threw three straight balls then on ball 4, Ortiz, even though the umpire called it a ball, questioned it as he wanted to swing one last time. When Ortiz got to first base, he clapped his hands trying to get his team going. His gesture didn’t help as Boston went whimpering from the post-season by getting swept 3-0. That lost effectively ended Ortiz’s magnificent career.

Back in 1992, the Seattle Mariners signed Ortiz out of the Dominican Republic. However, after being in their minor league system for four years, Ortiz was traded to Minnesota for third baseman Dave Hollins. unknown-1A first baseman at the time, Ortiz’s MLB debut was on September 2, 1997. Ortiz career with the Twins was rocky as he went up and down the system. While with the Twins, he battled injuries which caused him to struggle at the plate and stay in the minor leagues for a little while. With that said, in 6 years in Minnesota, Ortiz batted .348 with 238 RBIs and 58 home runs. Ortiz didn’t get selected to an All-Star Game or win many awards with the Twins. After the 2002 season, the Twins and Ortiz had a bitter divorce ending with the release of the future all-star.

This past summer, Ortiz took some shots towards the Twins organization. An article in USA Today had Ortiz offering sharp criticism. “What was funny is that when I played in Minnesota, they didn’t even know they had a major league baseball team. I used to walk around the street and people didn’t know who the hell we were,” said Ortiz in that article. He went on to say: “The thing that helped me was getting away from that turf. I got to the big leagues when I was 21, and a year later, I had so much pain in my body because of that turf. It was the worst. I went to Fenway, and the pain was gone.” Ortiz basically was taking rips at how our beloved team operates and at the Metrodome. Those comments were made the week that Ortiz made his last appearance at Target Field, and I don’t think the fans took it will.

After being released from Minnesota, Ortiz signed with the Red Sox in 2003. For the next 14 seasons, Ortiz became the most dominant player of all-time. The ten-time all-star found his groove playing for Boston. Ortiz started playing regularly that June. unknownOrtiz dominance in Boston provided these numbers: .290 BA, 1,530 RBIs, 483 homers, and 1,419 singles. Three times in his career, Ortiz led the American League in RBIs. He is the active leader in doubles with 632. With all the accolades, Ortiz’s greatest accomplishment was helping Boston win three World Championships, while winning the World Series MVP award in 2013.

After the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013 that killed 3 spectators, Ortiz was full of emotions. Five days after the bombings, Ortiz took the mic and gave a heartfelt speech to the crowd. The Red Sox held ceremony at the end of a home victory against the Royals for the victims and first responders. Afterwards, Ortiz told Bostonians: “This is our [expletive] city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.” Ortiz went on to say how he felt and that they were there with the city and would do anything to alleviate the pain. Later on, Ortiz apologized for the curse word, but not for the message that he gave.

Obviously, Ortiz played better once he signed with Boston. Ortiz will probably land in the Red Sox Hall of Fame, and maybe get enshrined into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Amid few controversies, Ortiz chugged his way through his career by making pitchers look bad. It seemed like every time he had to deliver, Ortiz did! FAREWELL, BIG PAPI!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | October 8, 2016

A Nightmarish Season (Except for One Guy)

If it weren’t for Brian Dozier, there would be no major bright spots of the Twins’ 2016 season. The second baseman was on fire the second half of the season. Dozier finished 2016 with a .268 average, 42 home runs (tied for third in MLB), 99 RBI and 104 runs scored in 155 games.

The rest of the team was a completely different story. The Twins started 2016 0-9 and never recovered, finishing with a 59-103 record, the worst in franchise history! The pitching, both the starters and relievers, was awful. The team finished 29th in MLB with a 5.08 ERA. Also, Joe Mauer was second to Dozier in runs scored, and Mauer scored just 68 runs! That stat alone says there wasn’t much going right for the team other than Dozier.

It will be interesting to see how this dreadful season affects Twins management. Recently, the team hired Derek Falvey as chief baseball officer. Owner Jim Pohlad has said that Manager Paul Molitor’s job is safe, but I’m not sure anyone’s job is safe after this year! I’m not sure who should go, but there needs to be some changes! The biggest challenge for the Twins this offseason is to get an elite starting pitcher without trading Dozier! Click here for a review of the Twins’ 2016 season.

Written by Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | September 29, 2016

Almost Identical, but Polar Opposites

Baseball is weird! My two favorite teams are having the most extreme years. While the Twins have the worst record, the Cubs have the best record in MLB. The funny thing is that they are exactly opposite of each other.

The Twins, who are 56-102, will finish in last place in the AL Central. They opened the year at 0-9 with Miguel Sano unknownin the outfield. It regressed from there. Recently, the Twins lost 18 games out of 20. The Twins batting has not been bad, as they have the 11th best batting average in the AL at .251. The Twins are just four shy of 200 home runs. The main sticking point was the pitching staff. They couldn’t hold a lead or give the offense a chance to catch up. Over the course of the season, the staff had a league low ERA of 5.10 with 1,153 strikeouts. These stats are what led up to the firing of Terry Ryan and putting pitching coach Neil Allen, along with other coaches, on the hot seat.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs are on a tear. The club has a record of 101-57 and will definitely finish in first place in their division. unknown-1
After the 2014 season, the Cubs snatched up Joe Maddon to manage and revamp their system. It worked as they made it to the NLCS last year. The Cubs have been dominate at home this year as they are 57-24. The Northsiders have a batting average of .256, which is 5th in the NL, to go along with 194 home runs. The Cubs pitching staff rank #1 in their league in ERA at 3.13. Their starters have won a whopping 79 games. Theo Epstein became the Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations in 2009, and their recent success just gave him five more years and just under 50 million bucks. This may be the Cubs’ best chance to win the World Series.

You may be asking if the Twins and Cubs could end up with the same record reversed. Well, each team has four games left. The Twins would need to go 2-2 with the Cubs going 3-1. That would be something!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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