Posted by: gravessack | May 27, 2016

Things Can Get Worse – And They Just Did

With the Twins’ 12-34 record, the Twins’ front office never thought this season would start like this. The whole make-up of the team has failed; hitting has been bad lately, fielding has been mediocre, and the starting pitching needs some work. And now, the Twins are on to a replacement pitching coach. Where will this lead to?

Early Thursday morning, May 26, pitching coach Neil Allen was driving near HCMC in downtown Minneapolis when state troopers pulled him over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. After being questioned by the troopers, Allen refused a breathalyzer test and was taken into jail. After spending over 6 hours behind bars, Allen was released. As a result of the arrest, the Twins indefinitely suspended Allen with pay.

Allen has had a history with alcohol. When he was a player in the 1980s, Allen struggled with drinking. He drank so much, Allen was admitted into a clinic in 1989 for a month. His teammates worried about him when he started drinking heavily. However, Allen informed the Star Tribune in 2015 that he has not drunk alcohol since 1994. Sadly, it seems as if Allen is going down a dark road again.

As a result, the Twins promoted Minor League Pitching Coordinator Eric Rasmussen to the Twins pitching coach for the time being. Rasmussen has spent the last 26 years in the Twins organization, being a pitching coach for three Minor League teams until he became the Coordinator in 2009. The Twins say Rasmussen is only temporary, presuming Allen will attain his duties once he gets his bad habits fixed and serves his penalty. It will be interesting to see how Twins’ pitchers respond to Rasmussen though!

One must wonder if Allen’s DWI situation is prolonged, will the Twins make a permanent change at that coaching spot? Although it is unclear what the Twins’ policy is regarding arrests, the pitching has not been performing well lately and maybe a new voice is all they need. Or will the Twins give Allen a second shot just like the Wild did with assistant coach Darryl Sydor, when he was arrested for driving drunk in 2015? We will certainly see!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

There are just a few comedy shows that feature children with disabilities – let alone an actor with a real disability. That is about to change as ABC announced this week it has selected the pilot “Speechless” to make into a television show. This will be the first comedy that I know of that an actor actually has a disability, who is playing someone with a disability.

Scott Silveri, former writer and producer of Friends, will produce this groundbreaking show. Speechless will follow the DiMeo’s, a family of five. One of their children has some kind of disability, although it remains unclear what it is. Hints indicate that the oldest son, JJ, played by Micah Fowler, who has cerebral palsy in real life, speaks only with assistance of a communication device in the comedy. The mother, Maya, portrayed by Minnie Driver, will do anything for her three kids. She is determined to fix negative disability viewpoints—real or fake. At the same time, the family wants to build a home where JJ can be independent and find his voice. There is not much known about the father, although his name will be Jimmy, played by Big Bang Theory‘s John Ross Bowie.

The show almost did not become reality; the pilot was in jeopardy as they had trouble finding actors to play the parents. At the last moment, Driver and Bowie stepped up and were cast as the parents.

ABC has been groundbreaking in its work to attract diverse audiences with such shows as Black-ish, Dr. Ken and Cristola, and Fresh Off The Boat. It seems as ABC is on the verge in adding the disability community to its list.

To my knowledge, the only television show to have a disabled actor is The Middle, which also originally aired on ABC. Atticus Shaffer, who plays Brick Heck on the show, has Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which stunts his growth and causes brittle bones. It allows Shaffer to play his character three years behind his actual age, however his character in the show does not portray someone who has a disability. With Speechless, television will be adding someone who authentically uses a wheelchair for daily life.

I am excited to see how the show turns out, especially with Silveri producing. I hope the show captures what it truly is like to be disabled. Speechless is set to debut this fall on Wednesdays at 7:30 pm. To watch a preview, click here. WAY TO GO, ABC!

Written by: Michael L. Sack


Posted by: gravessack | May 8, 2016

Two Bright Spots in a Horrendous Season

The 2016 Twins season has gotten off to an awful start. After losing to the White Sox this afternoon, marking the sixth time this season the Twins have been swept in a three-game series (the season is just a month old!), the team’s record is a dreadful 8-23. Key players are injured. As bad as the season has started for the Twins, there are a couple bright spots.

  • Designated hitter/first baseman Byung Ho Park has been impressive in his first season since coming over from South Korea. Although Park hit 53 home runs last year in Korea, no one knew how he would do in the United States. Park has not disappointed, as he leads the Twins with seven home runs in 2016. Even though he strikes out a lot, Park is a dangerous hitter because of his tremendous power.
  • First baseman Joe Mauer has been heavily criticized in recent years because he has a massive contract and has underperformed. However, Mauer is off to a great start this season. He reached base in 28 games to start the season, five games short of the team record, and is hitting an impressive .302.

Although the team’s performance is much more important than the performances of two players, Park and Mauer are bright spots in an otherwise dreadful season. Park and Mauer are doing their part; now it’s time for the other players to do theirs!

Written by Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | May 6, 2016

Why Not Bring In Lincecum?

The Twins’ horrendous start this year have fans once again venting about General Manager Terry Ryan and even Manager Paul Molitor. While I do not blame Molitor, it is time for Owner Jim Pohlad to get serious about how Ryan is handling his team. In a recent Star Tribune article, Pohlad claimed the start of the Twins 2016 season was a “total system failure” but at the same time has full support of Ryan. Pohlad also said that spending lots of money does not make teams better and he is blaming the players on the field for this mess.

It is time for them to wake up! It is true that the Twins offense and bullpen have been bad, but there has to be a point when our front office needs to do its job correctly! The Twins have shuttled players from Triple-A to the Majors and vice versa, hence Byron Buxton’s demotion April 25, after he had 22 strikeouts in 45 at-bats in 2016. They tried outfielder Max Kepler and pitcher Alex Meyer for a couple of games before sending them both back to Rochester. Due to injuries to Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson, they decided to promote starter Jose Berrios, who has had one poor and one good outing.

With all that said and nothing working, Santana and Gibson are both scheduled to return this week, and Ryan has some tough decisions to make. He has to try to do something differently since what he has tried is not working. If the front office wants to really earn the fans’ trust again, there is a pitcher who could help this club come back from this mess it has created.

This afternoon, May 6, former MLB pitcher Tim Lincecum held a pitching showcase in Arizona for 20-plus teams. Lincecum has not pitched in the majors since June due to left hip surgery. Lincecum, who has not pitched well since 2011, is trying to land on a team. He is 31 and has pitched for San Francisco throughout his nine-year career. The two-time World Series champion has a career record of 108-83 with an ERA of 3.61 and has racked up 1,704 strikeouts. Lincecum is a four-time All-Star, whose best year came in 2008 when he won 18 games and had an 2.62 ERA. However, Lincecum has had a losing record and an ERA of over 4.00 since 2011 that could make some teams weary of him, making way for the Twins to snatch him up (that is my hope anyway!).

Lincecum could make for an interesting project for the Twins. It can get worse for the Twins, who have an 8-20 record, if Ryan does not try to improve the team. He and the Twins should at least give Lincecum a look and see if it is worth signing him to replace Tommy Milone, who is apparently being transferred off the 40-man roster later this week. Signing Lincecum would prove to the fan base that Ryan has not given up on his team. Will Ryan go for it or does he think this team is just doing well enough to make money that he probably won’t spend anyway?

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | April 20, 2016

Target Center Accessibility

I am a big fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves (even though they are not a great team). I attend many Timberwolves games each season. Although I like going to Wolves games there are some drawbacks.

The biggest drawback of going to Timberwolves game at Target Center is the accessibility. The accessibility in Target Center is decent. However, there are many accessibility flaws. The main issue in my opinion, since I have a visual impairment, is if I want to sit in the accessible seating I have a hard time seeing what is going on in the game because the seats are up so high and I have to look down.  Also, when I look down the big scoreboard is distracting.  Another issue is makes it hard to go is that it is so dark in the hallways and on the second level of the arena.

Another big issue of the accessibility of Target Center is that it only has two public elevators. I find this irritating because it takes a long time to get downstairs after a game.  It also takes forever to get down because the elevators are small.

This year Target Center got the green light for renovations. There are a few things that need to be improved in the renovation. The first thing is that they need to add more elevators so more fans who need them can get up and down faster. Target Center should have accessible seating somewhat closer to the court so fans who sit there do not have to strain their necks. Target Center also needs improved lighting throughout the arena.  I believe the renovations will make Target Center more accessible and improve the fan experience

P.S. This post is part of a social media campaign launched by my friend Sam Graves and me to increase awareness of accessibility issues at local sports arenas. We hope to get at least 50 votes on the poll below! Also, feel free to share your experience regarding accessibility at Target Center!

Written by Peter Froehlich (Guest Blogger)

Posted by: gravessack | April 18, 2016

Xcel Energy Center: ADA-Friendly?

On April 5, I went to the Minnesota Wild game at Xcel Energy Center. Although the arena is fairly accessible (for example, I had an unobstructed view of the game since I was able to pull my wheelchair up right behind the seat railing), I noticed a couple major accessibility flaws.

First, since the elevators to the skyway can be crowded before game, I decided to go up the ramp leading from the parking ramp to the skyway level. Once I arrived at that level, I saw that there were four or five steps! What’s the point of having a ramp that goes to a place that there are stairs! Ramps are ADA-friendly; stairs are not.

A second major access issue at the arena is that it is not made clear (to me at least) that there is an elevator inside the arena that goes to the skyway. I found this out when I thought I needed to go all the way around the arena to get to the skyway after the game. A Xcel Energy Center employee said that was the case. Right then, I saw an elevator that went to the skyway! When you have an elevator, you need to tell people in wheelchairs!

Although Xcel Energy Center offers numerous ADA services, including accessible seating on all levels as well as accessible concession stands, the arena has some major accessibility flaws, especially for people who use wheelchairs. While I had a fun time at Xcel Energy Center, this experience is an example of people not understanding what being truly accessible means.

P.S. This post is part of “All Access MN,” a social media campaign launched by my friend Peter Froehlich and me to increase awareness of accessibility issues at local sports arenas. We hope to get at least 50 votes on the poll below! Also, feel free to share your experience regarding accessibility at Xcel Energy Center! Watch for an upcoming “All Access MN” post on accessibility at Target Center!!

Written by Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | March 31, 2016

A Follow-Up: Sano’s Struggling So Here’s An Idea

Twins’ second-year player Miguel Sano is slated to open the season in Baltimore on Monday, April 4, as the right fielder. The Twins have stuck to their word since December when they announced that Sano would make a transition. During spring training, the Twins brought in a bunch of outfielders to look at and presumably came up with the top four—Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Oswaldo Arcia and Sano.

I think some players deserved more consideration. For one, Carlos Quentin had a decent spring, batting .250 with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs in 36 at-bats before he was cut. It is hard to compare since he was let go, but Quentin was actually outperforming Arcia at the time he was sent packing. Arcia, who had to make the team since he is out of options, has 54 at-bats while averaging just .204 with 6 RBIs. It seems silly that the Twins gave the struggling player a roster spot while not offering the more deserving player, Quentin, the fourth outfielder spot. The Twins just did not want to give up Arcia for some reason and that could prove costly!

Second, and more startling, Quentin’s performance could have landed him with the spot Sano won. This spring, Sano has struggled, making some glaring mistakes, such as overrunning the ball, taking bad routes to the ball and not running fast enough. His stats in the field perhaps do not tell the full story. Sano has started 17 games in right field the last month, racking up 1 error. Sano is weighing in at 270 pounds after trying to lose weight off-season. At his current weight, he likely will have a slow reaction time and probably won’t be leaping over walls or diving, like his mentor Torii Hunter once did. The encouraging part, though, is that Sano really wants to learn the outfield ropes and demonstrate his ability no matter his size.

By the way, former Twins star David Ortiz does not think Sano should play the outfield, as he recently said in an Star Tribune article: “The outfield is not for big guys. When a big guy dives for a ball, the whole stadium shakes. Every time a big guy is running and then dives in the outfield, he’s going to feel that for a long time.” Personally, like Ortiz, I wanted the Twins to try Trevor Plouffe in the outfield, however the team never let him test it out in March.

The Twins should not wait to long to make a change if Sano falters. The club has players waiting in the minors. With the addition of Byung Ho Park, the Twins could afford to move Joe Mauer, who is batting .282 with 8 RBIs this spring training, to right field. Sano could move to first base and share the duty with Park, who is tearing the ball apart in his first month with the Twins. The Twins always could bring up Kennys Vargas if need be. Another option: put Plouffe in the outfield and Sano back at third. After getting a sample of Sano in the outfield, this scenario would make me more comfortable with the outfield line-up.

The Twins, who are on a seven-game winning streak, are about to start this experiment for real. We may see bloopers, we may see great catches, but most of all, let us hope and pray that the Twins have a contingency plan!

Written by: Michael L. Ssck

Posted by: gravessack | February 20, 2016

Nolasco Cannot Start!

Throughout this offseason, and especially in the last few weeks, there has been debate as to whether Ricky Nolasco should be a member of the Twins’ starting rotation on Opening Day. He should not and here is why:

  • Ever since signing a 4-year, $49 million contract with Minnesota in November 2013, Nolasco has been a huge bust. In 2014, he went 6-12 with a 5.38 ERA. Last season, he was 5-2, but had an extremely high 6.75 ERA (he was injured for most of the season)! The Twins should put him in the bullpen in 2016, as he could be effective for an inning or two, but he should not start! Answer the poll below asking whether Nolasco should start in 2016!
  • The Twins should instead insert Tyler Duffey into the starting rotation. In the second half of last season, Duffey basically came out of nowhere and went 5-1 with an impressive 3.10 ERA. After pitching terribly in his major league debut, Duffey didn’t lose a game. Click for more on why Duffey is ready to be a full-time starter in the majors. Do you think Duffey should start in 2016?

On Opening Day, I think the starting rotation should look like this: 1. Ervin Santana, 2. Phil Hughes, 3. Kyle Gibson, 4. Duffey, 5. Tommy Milone. The Twins could replace Milone with Jose Berrios later in the season, but Berrios should start the season in the minors. Please comment on who you think should be in the starting rotation on Opening Day and make sure to participate in the poll!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | February 17, 2016

A Pretty Bland Starters Race

This is the week where true baseball fans get giddy as players start to appear at their respective team’s spring training site. Where the sun shines longer, grass gets greener (well, not in the north), and the bats start smacking baseballs, the national pastime is back in full force.

The first full-squad workout for the rejuvenated Twins is February 27 in Fort Myers, Florida. We all know that there is competition for two outfield spots, but for a healthy pitching core, there’s not much to the starting pitching race. Yes, I know improvements must be made to the rotation who guided the club to a 83-79 second place finish in the AL Central last season. However, the top four slots should be a piece of cake to figure out, with only the fifth starter having to be determined in approximately 32 games this spring. Here are my top four starters and a couple of others competing for a coveted starting role.

In the number 1 slot should be veteran Ervin Santana. Santana, who will be in his second year in the Twins organization, was good after he came back from his 80-game ban last year. In 17 starts, Santana went 7-5 and had 82 strikeouts with a 4.00 ERA. Before joining the Twins, Santana was a one-time All-Star, pitching for three teams, including 8 seasons with the Angels. It seemed like Santana struggled a bit initially last season due to his absence, but expect him to rebound this year and have a splendid time in 2016.

Third-year Twin Phil Hughes is perhaps slated to be the number 2 pitcher. After Hughes registered a remarkable 16-win 2014 season, he had a mediocre 2015. Hughes was hampered by injuries last year, limiting him to 25 starts. The Twins gave him an extension after his first season, but Hughes went 11-9 and recorded just 94 strikeouts in those starts in addition to two bullpen appearances. The one-time all-star will look to rebound and get back to his 2015 form.

Kyle Gibson deserves to be slotted in as the third starter. Coming into his fourth season with the big league team, Gibson has continued to form into a great pitcher. Although never going to an All-Star game, Gibson should be attending the Midsummer Classic in due time. Gibson recorded the most strikeouts of his career last year with 145 that led to a 3.84 ERA. If the 25-year-old has a good spring, look for him to do some damage this year.

Yes, oft-injured Ricky Nolasco has to be the fourth starter. Although this turned out to be one of GM Terry Ryan’s bad deals, Nolasco should receive one last chance to show us what he can do when he is good. Engulfed by elbow and ankle injuries, Nolasco made just 9 appearances in a very unsettling year for him. In 2015, the California native’s record of 5-2 did not tell the whole story. Nolasco had an ERA of 6.75 and had 35 strikeouts with 14 walks. The 33-year-old’s career statistics are underwhelming for the large contract the Twins gave him in 2013 and he has voiced his displeasure about being in Minnesota. Nolasco must have a short leash in 2016, and should be replaced if he falters.

The 5th spot in the rotation is really up for grabs heading into spring training. The most likely pitcher to secure the spot is Tommy Milone, who went 9-5 with an ERA of 3.92 last year. Tyler Duffey, who had a decent half season in 2015, made a case to be in the role. Alex Meyer, who didn’t do so hot in his first go-around in MLB, will be in the mix. Jose Berrios has an outside chance of debuting in April, perhaps as the last starter. Berrios had an amazing year last year in the Minors, resulting in a 14-5 record with an ERA of 2.87 and 175 strike outs. Clearly, there are decisions to be made about who will start fifth for the Twins.

Who would you put in the starting rotation?

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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

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