Posted by: gravessack | September 17, 2017

“Speechless” Season 2 Preview

ABC's "Speechless" logo (Photo: ABC.com)

Photo: ABC.com

It’s almost here! Season 2 of ABC’s sitcom “Speechless” will premiere Wednesday, September 27, at 7:30 p.m. CT. It will be interesting to see how Season 2 does after Season 1 received high ratings.

I hope that like Season 1, Season 2 is not too sentimental. The media will often make disability-related topics very sentimental and people may feel sorry for them. I felt that Season 1 did a good job of avoiding that for the most part, while respecting important disability-related issues.

I would like to see a little less of the mom, Maya, in Season 2 and a little more of J.J. and Kenneth (played by Minnesotan Cedric Yarbrough). Maya sort of dominated Season 1 at times even though J.J. is the main character. Kenneth, J.J.’s aide, is probably the funniest person in the show and my favorite character.

I am excited for Season 2 of “Speechless!” How about you?

Written by Sam Graves

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Posted by: gravessack | September 14, 2017

Bring “Big Sexy” Back!

When the Twins signed starter Bartolo Colon on July 7, fans were perplexed as to why General Manager Thad Levine would make such a move. Colon had been on a steep downhill slide and seemed to be on the brink of retirement. Meanwhile, on the Twins side,Bartolo "Big Sexy" Colon pitching in a Minnesota Twins game they were desperately looking for help in the rotation and the journeyman was available. To everyone’s surprise, the Twins swung the move and brought Colon to Minnesota. But, how would he perform?

The oldest pitcher in the game, at age 44, made just one poor start at Triple-A Rochester before debuting for the Twins on July 18. Colon’s three outings in July did not go well, as he just went 4 and 5 innings in his first two starts, giving up 24 hits and 10 earned runs. However, Colon seemed to get in the groove in August. In his first start last month, Colon shockingly pitched a complete game versus Texas, becoming the eldest to pitch a complete game since 1992. Colon’s magic continued as he went 4-1, pitching at least into the sixth inning all but one time. Colon made a decent start on September 5, but took a large step back last Sunday, as he gave up six runs on six hits in a measly 1.2 innings. The one other accomplishment that the Dominican made was completed August 20, when he defeated Arizona to get a win against every MLB team.

Dubbed “Big Sexy” a while back, presumably as a joke or because he has a bubbly personality, Colon seems to be enjoying his time here. When he is not on the mound, he is seen laughing with teammates in the dugout.Bartolo "Big Sexy" Colon exercising The happy-go-lucky pitcher just enjoys pitching, even with a very hittable fastball. Colon is a very fascinating person. Fans learned this year that as a kid he threw rocks at coconuts and mangos to build strength and that he rode his donkey to play baseball! “Big Sexy” on a donkey – a sight to behold!

Just over two months into his Twins career, the club will honor Colon tomorrow, September 15, with “Big Sexy Night.” Fans can purchased tickets in a deal that has an exclusive Colon shirt. If that is not an indication of signing him for next season, I do not know what is. Perhaps a one-year, $1.5 million deal would be appropriate. The Twins could try him in the starting rotation in 2018, and if that results in losses, move him to the bullpen until he decides to retire and ride a donkey off into the sunset. Pitching coach Neil Allen, if still with the team, could help Colon tweak his fastball to get hitters out.

If Colon does indeed decide to retire in three weeks, it was a pleasure to watch him in a Twins uniform and we should all thank him for bringing his talents to Minnesota to end his career. In my opinion, and as Justin Timberlake would say, the Twins should be “bringin’ Sexy back.”

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | September 9, 2017

MLB Games Must Speed Up

It has been well-documented that MLB has a problem with how long games last. Because I too believe MLB needs to speed up games, I’m going to keep this post pretty short.

According to startribune.com, as of September 5, the average MLB game in 2017 was 3 hours, 5 minutes, 5 more minutes than the average in 2016. An average Twins game in 2017 as of September 5 was 3 hours, 9 minutes. Click here for an article on MLB’s length-of-game problem.

This is WAY too long for a game! On weeknights, many people have to leave early because they either have to go to work or school the next day. Fans can get bored by the slow pace of the game. Players also can get bored if they have to stand around in the field for a long time and may not be as focused.

MLB has talked about adopting a pitch clock in 2018 (this may be for sure) and I am very much in favor of this. There is no reason for there to be 20-30 seconds between pitches! MLB is also considering limiting visits to the pitcher’s mound, another rule I would be supportive of.

I am a huge baseball fan, and I don’t think the game would be any less enjoyable with these changes (It actually should be even more enjoyable). Hopefully, these changes will happen and improve fans’ experiences!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | September 3, 2017

Momentum Is Building For An Electronic Strike Zone

Ever since the start of the 2014 season, Major League Baseball has been cracking down on how umpires are calling games. The umpire scrutiny started way back in 2008 when then–Commissioner Bud Selig approved a system where managers could ask umpires to review home run calls. The replay system since expanded to all sorts of reviewable calls, which includes out/safe calls, trapped balls, and fair/foul rulings. However, for years, it seems like the strike zone is obsolete as umpires have decided against using the standard zone and creating their own. Seeing the inconsistency, that may soon change!

There are 99 umpires in MLB that all seem to have different strike zones. Players are baffled and sometimes shocked about some of the strike calls they make. For example, a pitch that clearly looks like a strike is sometimes called a ball. The crying out came to a head August 12 when the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist was called out on strikes by umpire Mark Wagner on a pitch that was clearly low to end the game. Afterwards, Zobrist said that he was now in favor of instituting an electronic strike zone and, stunningly, Wagner admitted to reporters that he had blown the call.

Diagram of standard MLB strike zone

Here is a diagram of the old-fashioned zone.

To prove Zobrist’s point, umpires seem to have forgotten the letter-to-knee zone and have gone rogue with it. It has been too long since umpires got reprehended for making blown calls, although MLB did suspend Joe West for three games last month for calling Rangers’ Adrian Beltre the game’s “biggest complainer.” Soon though, the blown calls by umpires might come back to haunt them as an electronic strike zone may be in the works, even though Commissioner Rob Manfred is a little shy of the prospect.

Recently, there was an article saying that the strike zone idea could be implemented as soon as next year, which would relegate umpire’s duties. ESPN’s Buster Olney says that MLB wants a pitch clock, and that the players should get something in return. Several players said that they want a futuristic strike zone system if it would improve the game. Most think it would, except for San Francisco pitcher Madison Bumgarner, who recently said after experiencing a blown call: “I’m not an advocate for the stupid electronic strike zone. I don’t even like replay.” Well, that is at least one player who is in support of the men in blue.

There is some uncertainty on how this type of strike zone would work, but in my opinion, this would be a brilliant and long-overdue idea. I will just throw a suggestion out there. Place an umpire behind the backstop in a booth with a monitor that has a strike zone display, the one Fox Sports or ESPN uses. Once the pitch registers on the computer, then he or she can make the RIGHT call. The plate umpire could still signal how many balls and strikes there are. For the close plays at home plate, we will have to figure that out!

It is frustrating seeing umpires call balls and strikes that are blatantly wrong. All I know is something has to be figured out and consistency of the calls must get better. This new tool would keep up the integrity of the game and it would prevent umpires from looking silly. If Manfred can get on board with the automatic zone, we may see a seismic shift as to how games are called! A question to leave you with: Do umpires simply need a mandatory refresher course or should Manfred really be considering computerizing the strike zone?

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | August 28, 2017

Gibson’s Future May Be Decided In September

The Twins are in a prime position to make a run for the play-offs. One of the keys will be how the starting pitching will hold up. When most of the starters pitch nowadays, the club feels that they have a chance to win. Nonetheless, fans get worried when Kyle Gibson’s turn comes up. Gibson’s struggles should be concerning, and should not be taken lightly in the last month of the season.

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Kyle Gibson holding baseball with baseball glove on other handThroughout this year, Gibson has not shown that he can be trusted. He does not seem to have command of his pitches and has not shown that he could be relied upon for important games. Gibson, who pitched two decent games recently, has a record of 8-10 with an ERA of 5.59. The 29-year-old has given up 150 hits, 76 earned runs, and 52 walks this season. Gibson, more times than not, throws pitches right down the heart of the plate where opponents, who have a batting average of .303 against him, can smack the ball.

Gibson has publicly addressed his poor performances this year. However, this is an ongoing problem for him during his five-year Twins career. Overall, Gibson has a 4.77 ERA, given up 758 hits and 368 runs. The bigger problem is that his stats and overall execution are getting worse, and the only reason that the Twins keep Gibby around is that they have nobody to replace him with.

With that said, though, September will be a huge month for the struggling pitcher. If Gibson continues to falter, Manager Paul Molitor should immediately take him out of the rotation. The Twins have kept trying to put Gibson out there, with minimal results. They can not afford another bad outing by him as they are in the midst of accomplishing something that has not been done since 2010. And at season’s end, if Gibson keeps struggling, or not, the front office should examine whether to keep the pitcher who kills momentums! I would advise them to release Gibson!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | August 19, 2017

The Return Of Perkins

Twins pitcher Glen Perkins pitching in a game on August 17, 2017

Twins pitcher Glen Perkins pitching in a game on August 17, 2017

After a 16-month absence, Twins pitcher Glen Perkins has returned! Perkins, who hadn’t pitched in a major league game since April 10, 2016, returned to the mound on August 17, 2017. He recorded just one out, walked a batter, hit two batters and gave up two earned runs. While it wasn’t a good return at all for Perkins, it was good just to see him pitch again, especially since he wasn’t sure if he would ever pitch again after an extremely long recovery from shoulder surgery.

While Perkins could give the Twins a significant boost as they try to make the playoffs, he will have to pitch a lot better over the final six weeks of the regular season. He has an option for 2018 in his contract, meaning the Twins could pick the option up and keep him for next year or release him. Perkins was an All-Star in 2014 and 2015, so it will be very interesting to see how much he can improve over the remainder of 2017, now that he just started pitching in the majors after nearly a year and a half. Read more on Glen Perkins’ return here.

Written by: Sam Graves

*Michael Sack came up with the idea for this post.

Posted by: gravessack | August 12, 2017

What A Difference A Week Makes!

Then

On August 5, just one week ago, the Twins were down in the dumps big time and many thought their season was over. They were in third place and seven games out of first place. They were behind six teams in the race for the second AL wild card spot. Cleveland and Kansas City, the teams ahead of Minnesota in the AL Central standings, were playing extremely well. Twins management seemed to think this was the beginning of the end of the Twins’ 2017 season as well, as they traded starting pitcher Jaime Garcia and closer Brandon Kintzler for prospects.

Now

But just when you thought the season was over for the Twins…it’s not! Out of nowhere, the Twins have won six games in a row and are now in the second wild card spot, having passed six teams in just one week. With Kansas City now really struggling, the Twins are in second place in the division, 1.5 games ahead of the Royals. Minnesota is also just 3.5 games behind Cleveland for first place.

During this winning streak, the Twins have played well in all areas. The offense has been good, especially Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario and Brian Dozier. The defense, especially in the outfield, also has been good (Byron Buxton and Max Kepler made spectacular catches in last night’s game). What is really surprising though is how well the bullpen has pitched. I thought the Kintzler trade might demoralize the other relievers, but it has been the opposite.

Conclusion

I guess this shows fans how quickly things can change in MLB. The Twins management had seemed to give up on 2017 just a week ago, and now Minnesota is right in the middle of the playoff picture! Let’s hope the Twins keep it up!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | August 3, 2017

Deadline Redux and A Look Ahead

Just two weeks ago, the Twins looked to be on course to compete for a play-off spot. They became buyers, then went on an extended losing streak that left them clinging to respectability. Twins General Manager Thad Levine swiftly changed course and decided to have the Twins become sellers days before the trade deadline. Some have to wonder what was Levine’s thought process. Another issue that has come into play is Manager Paul Molitor’s job security as the season winds down.

When the trade deadline passed on July 31, the Twins picked up four pitchers and one catcher, all minor leaguers. The best deal, and probably a steal, was the third trade that came to fruition. Pitcher Gabriel Moya, currently a member of the Minnesota Twins organization, pitching in the minor leaguesThat brought pitcher Gabriel Moya to the Twins from Arizona. Moya, who is currently in Double-A, is a closer who won 4 games and has recorded 17 saves so far! The 22-year-old seems to have great movement on his pitches as he has an outstanding 0.78 ERA this year. His ERA actually went down since being traded. Moya, who has a great change-up, looks to be well on his way to the majors. He very well could be the Twins future closer.

The most telling situation was the Jaime Garcia dealings. At the time of acquiring the lefty on July 24, the Twins were wavering between first and second place. Garcia started only one game for the Twins, a July 28 winning effort, before being shipped to the Yankees for two prospects. Those two prospects were Zach Littell and Dietrich Enns, both promising pitchers. Littell has an excellent record and ERA in Double-A, while Enns has pitched decently. In the first Garcia swap, the Twins did pick up catcher Anthony Recker, a below average hitter, who replaced John Ryan Murphy at Triple-A. Enns and definitely Littell have the opportunity of making the team next year.

There was yet another transaction that would make the assumption that at least the front office has thrown in the towel. In their last move before time expired, the Twins dealt their All-Star closer to Washington. Brandon Kintzler, who took over for injured Glen Perkins last season, was pitching solid and was a reliable closer. The Twins got an average pitcher in return in Tyler Watson, a starter in Single-A, who has a 4.35 ERA. This trade all but signifies that the team is looking forward to 2018.

When all the wheeling and dealing concluded, the outcome did not sit well with some players, notably leadoff man Brian Dozier. He wanted Levine to add players as Dozier thinks the Twins still have a shot at something special. The second baseman said this despite hitting poorly most of the season. It seems as if he is unproductive, as he is striking out more lately, and complaining about strikes to the umpires this year. Dozier has to step up more and be a leader, and take his beef and prove them wrong.

Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor

This brings up the camaraderie issue in the clubhouse, and Molitor’s status as manager. During games recently, the bullpen has been bleak, the offense has disappeared, and Molitor is looking bored in the dugout chewing his gum. It has been reported that the locker room has been quiet and some players are angry. They need to regain composure and try to do everything they can to get back in contention. If they don’t, it will be a long two months and some coaches’ jobs may be in jeopardy.

Molitor, whose contract expires at year’s end, has to show that he is interested in his team during the last two months. He has left starters, who look to be falling apart, in games way too long. Molitor, who has a 193-237 managerial record, does not seem to communicate to his players during games, and rarely argues with umpires about obvious blown calls. Molitor has a tall task of helping his team win. If Molitor fails and shows little emotion as the season ends, there should be serious discussions about not renewing his contract, and a search should begin for a new energetic team leader.

Chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and Levine have a tough task ahead of them. Nobody should feel safe just because they have been on the team the longest. The bosses came here to fix the Twins, and should have free rein in deciding who stays and who should go. In my humble opinion, they need to have a knockout off-season to show fans that the Twins have a championship-caliber team!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | July 25, 2017

It is Trading Season and We Have You Covered!

It is the end of July and the Twins are still contending for a spot in the play-offs. This is the time of year where teams decide whether to be buyers or sellers at the July 31 trade deadline. Due to the circumstances that the Twins are in, they turned to selling mode as they lost all three games in Los Angeles this week.

The Twins will be looking to improve their pitching staff, which cannot consistently perform well as Ervin Santana, Minnesota’s best pitcher, could not make it through the 4th inning July 21 versus Detroit. The bullpen has been struggling lately, so they could use some help there to keep leads. Below I will list all the recent trades that the Twins have made as we get closer to the deadline.

  • The first trade the Twins completed was on July 23. This meaningless transaction sent rarely used starter Nick Tepesch to Toronto for cash. Tepesch, who signed a minor league deal over the winter, started just one game going 1.2 innings on May 6. Tepesch never gained much confidence with Manager Paul Molitor. In regards to the Twins end of the trade, I bet that they will find use for the money they received.
  • On July 24, after a weekend of rumors, the Twins swung a trade to get their preferred man. By sending pitching prospect Huascar Ynoa, who had been pitching in Rookie ball, to Atlanta, the Twins received starter Jaime Garcia and catcher Anthony Recker. This trade was discussed for days but a hiccup with Twins pitcher Nick Burdi temporarily delayed it. Garcia is 4-7 this year, resulting in a 4.30 ERA with 85 strikeouts. His career record is 66-52, mostly pitching for St. Louis. Garcia is expected to debut for the Twins July 28. Meanwhile, Recker is a 7-year veteran who has played on four teams. He has a career average of .199, racking up 18 home runs and 70 RBIs. Recker will be assigned to Double-A Chattanooga.
  • The Twins sent catcher John Ryan Murphy to Arizona for minor league pitcher Gabriel Moya on July 27. Murphy, who has been with Triple-A Rochester all season, played in just 26 games with the Twins in 2016. Murphy was way overmatched when he was on the Twins, batting .146 with 19 strikeouts. In Moya, the Twins get Arizona’s 25th best prospect. As a closer in Double-A this year, Moya, who has 17 saves, is 4-1 with an outstanding 0.82 ERA to go along with his 68 strikeouts and .148 opponent batting average. The 22-year-old will be assigned to Chattanooga. This is a slam dunk deal as the Twins give up a poor hitter for a possible future set-up man or closer.
  • In a spine-tingling move, the new bosses performed a sneaky maneuver by sending starter Jaime Garcia (yes, him!) to the New York Yankees for pitching prospects Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns on July 30. Garcia, who was looking forward to helping the Twins, just started one game, going 6 2/3 strong innings, striking out 7, in a win. Littell, who has never reached the majors, is 9-1 with a 1.77 ERA this year in Double-A. The fifth-year starter has a career winning record and has an overall ERA of 3.24. Enns has had a really odd 2017 so far, as he made 7 starts at Triple-A before being sent all the way down to Rookie ball for a relief appearance. In his starts, Enns went 1-1 with a 2.29 ERA with 37 strikeouts. Throughout his six-year minor league career, the 26-year-old is 27-14 with an ERA of 1.87. Unless Littell and Enns are ready for the big leagues, this is an eerie move that signifies that the Twins have given up on this year. Hopefully, this deal won’t come back to haunt them.
  • With moments to go before the deadline, the Twins traded all-star closer Brandon Kintzler to Washington in exchange for minor league pitcher Tyler Watson. Kintzler, who took over for Glen Perkins last year, had 28 saves this year. In his two-year stint with the Twins, he had an 2.98 ERA, had 62 strike outs, and recorded 45 saves. Watson, who is perceived to be an up-and-comer, was 6-4 and had an ERA of 4.35 this season as a starter in Single-A. This is the 20-year-old’s 3rd year in the minor leagues, where he is 9-8 in 33 starts. The Twins are hoping that Watson “is just scratching the surface of who he can be.” This trade all-but signifies the Twins have thrown in the towel for this season, which is not sitting well with second baseman Brian Dozier.

Please check back in a few days as I will recap all the moves and look ahead!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | July 9, 2017

Why Did the Twins Sign Bartolo Colon?

Pitcher Bartolo Colon, currently a member of the Minnesota Twins organization, pitching in a baseball game for the Atlanta Braves. (Photo: Todd Kirkland, Associated Press)

Photo: Todd Kirkland, Associated Press

On July 7, the Twins signed veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon, who is 44 and in his 20th major league season, to a minor league contract. According to cbssports.com, Colon is expected to make one start for AAA Rochester before joining the Twins rotation on July 18.

The Good

Colon has been effective for much of his long career. He had his best season in 2005 with the Angels, when he went 21-8 with a 3.48 ERA and won the AL Cy Young Award. Even in 2016, Colon was 15-8 with an impressive 3.43 ERA.

The Bad (Ugly Actually!)

2017 has been a completely different story for Colon. Pitching for Atlanta, he went 2-8 with an awful 8.14 ERA! Colon was designated for assignment by Atlanta on June 29 and was signed by Minnesota a week later.

My Thoughts

I really hope Colon can be an effective pitcher in Minnesota. Based on his 2017 stats though, I am not too optimistic. While Colon has been surprisingly good for so long, he is 44 (old by baseball standards) and his age might finally be catching up to him. There was a July 8 Star Tribune article arguing that signing Colon was an act “of desperation” by the Twins, particularly since Hector Santiago is on the DL and temporary replacement Felix Jorge struggled badly in his last start. Sadly, I agree with this argument. Why else would they sign a 44-year-old pitcher with an 8.14 ERA?

It seems as though the Twins think Colon may become good again based on his stats for most of his career. While that could turn out to be true, his 2017 stats, along with the fact that he is 44, are not promising. I guess we’ll see July 18!

Written by: Sam Graves

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