Posted by: gravessack | March 12, 2018

Twins Land Top Pitcher For A Bargain

Lance Lynn pitching in a game as a member of the St. Louis CardinalsAfter signing first baseman/DH Logan Morrison February 28, Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey expected to not sign any more players this off-season. That did not mean he would stop fielding calls. In a year when free agency is going at a snail’s pace, stars are accepting shorter deals than projected. The Twins have really taken advantage of this unique situation. Not satisfied with how the starting rotation looks, Falvey snatched up the ninth best 2017-2018 free agent, according to

After starting pitcher Lance Lynn declined a two-year, $20 million offer by the Twins last week, he kept talking to the club. When the chats ended, Lynn agreed to sign with Minnesota on March 10 for one year worth $12 million. That is a super sneaky deal that Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine constructed, since Lynn was projected to sign for $56 million in November. Without a doubt, players in Fort Myers were thrilled to see that the front office is still adding quality talent.

This will be Lynn’s seventh year in the major leagues. After being drafted by Seattle in 2005, he decided to forgo the opportunity and pitched college ball for three seasons. The 30-year-old re-entered the MLB Draft in 2008 and was chosen by St. Louis. 2011 was his first season in the majors, where he pitched in 18 games and had a 3.18 ERA. Quickly finding a groove, Lynn was selected to the All-Star Game the following year, when he went 18-7 while striking out 180. The Indiana native won at least 10 games during the 2013, 2014, and 2015 seasons, with a total of 546 strikeouts over those seasons.

Unfortunately for Lynn, he tore a ligament in his right elbow sometime in 2015 that required Tommy John surgery at year’s end. Even though he missed the entire 2016 season, Lynn bounced back and had a solid season last year. Not missing a beat, he started in 33 games and went 11-8 with a 3.43 ERA and 153 strikeouts. With a fastball-first approach, Lynn has always been a 10-win guy throughout his career. He has been a solid pitcher, as his overall record is 72-47, and has a career ERA of 3.38 and 919 strikeouts.

This signing really says that the Twins are in it to do damage in the American League. Falvey has signed a bunch of proven players that will drastically improve the pitching department. Lynn will undoubtedly join a pitching staff that consists of Jake Odorizzi, now-injured Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios and, apparently, Kyle Gibson. The rotation, especially when Santana returns towards the end of April, looks to be a splendid upgrade to years past when the Twins had to rely on Adalberto Mejia. We shall see if Lynn keeps pitching like he is capable of, and if he does, this could be one fun year!

The Twins are done bringing in players…or are they? The betting site Bovada predicted correctly last week that the Twins were favored to land Lynn at 9-to-5 odds. Interestingly, that same site also said the club is in the lead to sign starter Alex Cobb at 5-4. Odds can be deceiving at time, but as we learned this week, they can be a hint for what is ahead. That means we should follow Cobb, as he will want to join a team pretty quickly.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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Posted by: gravessack | March 7, 2018

Let The Paralympics Begin!

A few weeks ago, we watched the United States win gold in women’s hockey, men’s curling, and Jessie Diggins’ comeback victory in the women’s cross-country team sprint event. 2018 Paralympic Games logo Next up for Pyeongchang, South Korea, is the 13th edition of the Winter Paralympic Games, which will begin March 9 and come to a rousing conclusion March 18. Athletes from 48 countries will come together for a week of competition.

The Paralympics consist of participants with a variety of disabilities, mostly those with limb deficiencies and muscle impairments. Because of the athletes’ abilities, there are only six events that will take place: sled hockey, wheelchair curling, alpine skiing, cross country skiing, biathlon, and snowboard.

Those sports will take place in the same venues as the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee transformed each arena to make them accessible to walkers and wheelchair users. The sled hockey tournament will be held at Gangneung Hockey Centre, where a small adjustment was made to put in transparent boards where team benches and the penalty box will be located. The boards will lower the benches so that the sleds can get to and from the ice. Likewise, the wheelchair curling competition is at the Gangneung Curling Centre. At the curling complex, crews made “special efforts” to accommodate wheelchair users.

To the topic everyone is wondering about. These Paralympic Games will have the most coverage since U.S. television started broadcasting them. During the 10 days of festivities, there will be more than 250 hours of events shown on NBC, NBCSN, and the NBC Sports App. The network that will show the Games most days is NBCSN, from 1-4 p.m. CT.

In an enhancement, the sled hockey gold medal game will be aired live March 17 at 10 p.m. CT on NBCSN and on the app. For those intrigued to see how wheelchair curling is played, your first opportunity will be March 10 at 9 p.m. CT on the cable network. NBC is realizing more and more fans across the United States want to see the Paralympics, and the TV schedule this go around is a great step forward. Here is the full Paralympic viewing guide.

It will be a fantastic week of athletics! Medals are to be won and records are to be broken! For you early risers, do not miss the Opening Ceremony that is going to be aired live on NBCSN this Friday at 5 a.m. CT. The Paralympic Winter Games should be the most watched ever, and you can get all the info you want through the Paralympic website. LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | March 4, 2018

My Spring Training 2018 Experience

Sam Graves with Torii Hunter at CenturyLink Sports Complex outside Hammond StadiumThis past week, I was in Fort Myers, Florida, for five days to see some of the Twins spring training. I went to two games and saw many of the regular players! Plus, it was a lot warmer than Minnesota!

On the day of the first game I went to, I met former player and current coach Torii Hunter (see photo) before the game! During the game, which the Twins lost 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays, Byron Buxton, who I predicted in a previous post to do well this season, robbed a home run and then hit a home run! He should be very fun to watch the rest of the spring and throughout the season, especially because of his blazing speed and his very good second half of last season.

The Twins won the second game I went to against the Toronto Blue Jays, 2-1. Eddie Rosario homered and new Twin Logan Morrison played and got a triple. I sat in the first row by third base, practically on the field! When Brian Dozier was taken out of the game, he walked right by where I was sitting!

Unfortunately, I was unable to review Hammond Stadium’s accessibility features. I did write a post in 2015 about Hammond Stadium’s accessibility features, and not much has changed since. After one of the games I went to last week, I had to wait a long time for the elevator, mainly because lots of people were using it. Hammond Stadium should consider either adding more elevators or making them bigger. The elevators I used were fairly small and much smaller than the elevators at Target Field. There are fewer people who go to games at Hammond Stadium than Target Field, but the elevators still can be an issue.

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | February 28, 2018

Twins Snatch An Improved Hitter Off The Market

Logan Morrison while playing for the Tampa Bay RaysUp until recently, Twins General Manager Thad Levine has been signing pitchers at a slow pace and mainly focusing on bullpen support. Yet, there was still a point of interest in shoring up the starting rotation and provide competition in camp.

Within the past two weeks, the Twins signed pitcher Anibal Sanchez, traded for sure starter Jake Odorizzi, and brought in infielder Erick Aybar for a peek. Going into spring training, the Twins liked their offense and thought they were settled in that part. That is why it was a surprise when it was rumored that they were interested, and apparently sent an offer, to a hitter that may be on the verge to greatness.

Mere hours after the February 25 report, first baseman/designated hitter Logan Morrison agreed to sign with the Twins on a one-year, $6.5 million deal that includes a vesting option for 2019, which was officially announced this morning. When Odorizzi, who was formerly with Tampa Bay, arrived in Fort Myers, he contacted free agent pitcher Alex Cobb and Morrison to say they should join the Twins. It seems like that helped Levine wrangle in Morrison, although the GM is hesitant about Cobb.

Morrison, who was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 2005 draft, will be heading into his eighth season in the league. He debuted in 2010, when he played in 62 games. Over his four years in the Florida/Miami organization, the 30-year-old batted .249, clobbering 42 home runs and drove in 162 runs. After Morrison was traded to Seattle at the conclusion of the 2013 season, he advanced his offensive production. With the Mariners for two years, the Missourian hit 28 long balls and recorded 92 RBIs. Nevertheless, Seattle traded him before the 2016 campaign; he was headed east.

Morrison proved to them that was a mistake, as he batted .238 with 14 home runs and 84 hits in 107 games in his first year as a Tampa Bay Ray. Sometimes noisy, he changed his batting stance to try to better himself. Apparently, “LoMo” developed a new launch angle which was successful, as he had a huge 2017 campaign. In 149 games, the newfound slugger smashed 38 dingers, had 85 RBIs, singled 126 times, and had a slugging percentage of .516. Morrison’s superior success did not translate to the Rays re-signing him, making him a free agent.

Once connected to Mike Napoli, who just signed with Cleveland, the Twins brass never gave up on finding ways to improve an offense that made great strides in 2017. Morrison will fit well in the DH spot, especially if Miguel Sano has a tough time or if he is suspended because of the sexual assault case that happened in December. Also, Morrison will most likely be the first baseman when Joe Mauer needs rest. Morrison will add supplemental power when Sano is ahead of him in the line-up, making a dual threat for opposing pitchers.

This acquisition is a huge get for the Twins and it may be a signal of what is yet to come. If Morrison can keep improving, this move will be looked at as outstanding. Welcome to Minnesota, Morrison, but please do not hurt Minnie and Paul too much!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | February 22, 2018

New Rules Approved, Will Start This Year

Cartoon of two people writing rules on chalkboardAfter several negotiation sessions, the MLB and MLBPA have decided on new rules for the upcoming season. Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the agreement February 20. The directives mainly surround the pace-of-play situation, but stopped short of a complete overhaul. Besides attempting to change the speed of the game, MLB will install new phone lines in each stadium and “capability for all Club video review rooms to receive direct slow motion camera angles.”

In an article, Tony Clark, the MLBPA’s executive director, said that “players were involved in the pace of game discussion from day 1, and are committed to playing a crisp and exciting brand of baseball for the fans.” With the new laws, hopefully everyone will be satisfied and can enjoy a great season. Although some changes could frustrate players and coaches, and we could see some growing pains, a.k.a. arguments.

The most noticeable change is teams are only allowed six mound visits per game. A visit could be with a manager or a coach, and if a pitcher steps off the mound and talks to a position player. Clubs will be entitled to one additional meeting in each extra inning. If the home plate umpire deems that the pitcher and catcher are confused by their pitches, he can give permission to the catcher to have a quick chat with the pitcher. If the “cross-up” rule comes into play before the six conferences, that mound huddle “shall count against a team’s total number of allotted mound visits.”

Another aspect of the game that is changing is the in-between inning countdown clock. In the regular season, the breaks will now last 2 minutes and 5 seconds during local telecasts to just short of three minutes for post-season games. There will be a strict process that culminates with the pitcher pitching the ball when the clock strikes zero. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as if the ump believes an injury could result if extra time is not warranted or if there is a delay unrelated to normal baseball activity.

A third tweak in the rules that I found interesting is relief pitchers must immediately come in when appropriately called. They can not take any extra pitches in the pen! According to the memo, “during the playing of God Bless America, or any other extended inning event previously approved by the Office of the Commissioner, the timer will begin at the conclusion of the song or event.” The pitching change timer will start as soon as the reliever steps onto the playing field.

These, and other new tidbits, will be enforced by the umpires. If need be, the umpires will tell league offices and discipline will be recommended if players viciously violate the new rules that will officially debut March 29. It will be difficult for on-field personnel to get used to the new MLB pace-of-play rules, but I have confidence that each party made the right decisions in talking this through. Players will have to get used to this version, and do so professionally.

Thankfully, there will not be a pitch clock this year, since the MLBPA persuaded Manfred to not implement the 18-second timer!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | February 18, 2018

Twins 2018 Season Preview (And a Prediction)

Twins pitchers and catchers reported to spring training last week, marking the return of baseball! After a surprisingly successful 2017 season, expectations are high for the Twins in 2018. To have another successful season though, the Twins need to do one specific thing: get an elite starting pitcher, especially since Ervin Santana will be out until at least mid-April after he had finger surgery.

Just a few days ago, the Twins signed veteran starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (this is not official yet, as Sanchez has to pass a physical). Sanchez, who will turn 34 in a couple weeks, was very good early in his career, but he has struggled the last three seasons for Detroit, especially last season when he had a very high 6.41 ERA. Sanchez’s one-year, $2.5 million contract is not guaranteed, so he will have to earn a spot on the Twins roster to make the money. Still, signing Sanchez is somewhat risky.

Yesterday, the Twins traded for starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi, who was playing for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Twins only had to give up a Single-A player and Odorizzi is supposed to help the Twins’ rotation, but he sounds like just an average pitcher because he was 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA last season. He does have pretty good career numbers though, so hopefully (and quite possibly) I am wrong!

Jake Odorizzi pitching while playing for the Tampa Bay Rays

Jake Odorizzi

Even after getting Sanchez and Odorizzi, the Twins need an elite starting pitcher if they want to go deep into the playoffs. They have been interested in Rays’ starting pitcher Chris Archer, who is young and very good and would be what the Twins need. After getting Odorizzi from the Rays, I’m not sure if the Twins will get Archer, but they really should! Read an article about how the Twins could be one of the A.L.’s best teams with a top starting pitcher.

I predict the Twins will win 88 games this year, a three-game improvement over last year, and finish second in the A.L. Central behind Cleveland and make the A.L. wild card game again (Before last season, I predicted the Twins to finish fourth and they finished second, so I probably will be wrong!). I also think Byron Buxton will have a great season after having a great few months at the end of last season. Of course, I may be cursing him since I thought ByungHo Park would do well last year and he didn’t even play in the majors in 2017 and now he’s back in South Korea! So who really knows what will happen, especially when no games have been played yet?!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | February 15, 2018

Closing Time!

The average high temperature is rising, and that means two things: springtime and the baseball season is right around the corner! Pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training in Florida and Arizona. Image reading "Oh Yeah: It's Competition Time"Competitions can now commence to see who makes big league clubs and who gets sent packing. The Twins six-week camp does not seem to be as thrilling, since they have all of their position players mostly solidified and fewer players are vying for spots than usual. There is a competition for the closer’s role, albeit small. The contestants are both new to the Twins, and the runner-up could be the set-up man.

Fernando Rodney, who came to the Twins in December on a one-year deal, is the clear front-runner. He has been great closing games out in his 15-year career. Pitching for eight teams, Rodney has 300 saves and a 3.73 ERA. The three-time All-Star also has 824 career strikeouts, and has given up 0.7 homers per nine innings. Rodney led the American League in games finished in both 2009 and 2014, 65 and 64 respectively. The 41-year-old also led the AL in saves with 48 during the 2014 campaign while with Seattle. Rodney will show opponents his four-seam fastball, change-up, sinker, and an occasional slider.

Trying to take the seemingly inevitable away from Rodney is former Red Sox pitcher Addison Reed, who surprised fans when he signed on for two years. It came as a shocker because the Twins told Rodney that he would close games. Whatever the case may be, Reed has been in the league for seven seasons. The Twins will be the 29-year-old’s fifth team overall and third in the AL. He comes in with 125 saves, most of them coming between 2012 and 2014. The California native has not had much success closing the past couple years, however he has been good in relief. In 2016 with the Mets, Reed pitched his way to a 4-2 record and an 1.17 ERA in 13 games. Reed’s pitching repertoire basically just consists of two pitches, a four-seam fastball and a slider.

After losing Brandon Kintzler to free agency, the Twins knew that they had to shore up their vacancy at closer. General Manager Thad Levine was right on about this situation. He brought in a veteran and a decent second hand man. The Twins may be looking at inserting Reed in the set-up role, in which Rodney would be the closer. Another strategy could be if Rodney falters, Reed could be the interim closer until Rodney relaxes and gets back to pitching the way he can. It will be interesting to see what happens with this duo. LET THE COMPETITION BEGIN!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | February 11, 2018

No, Yu Didn’t!

Five years and around $100 million apparently was not enough to entice Yu Darvish. Those were the terms that the Twins reportedly offered this year’s top free agent pitcher earlier this week. General Manager Thad Levine really wanted Darvish to secure the number 1 spot in the rotation, especially that Ervin Santana won’t be back until at least mid-April after he had surgery on his right middle finger February 6. The dream became for naught when Darvish made his much-anticipated decision.

After several weeks of negotiations and whittling down his preferred teams, Darvish chose to sign with the Chicago Cubs on a six-year, $126 million contract on Saturday.Chicago Cubs logo Darvish could make $150 million with incentives and can opt-out after the second year of the contract. The Brewers made a legitimate offer for him also; however he felt that the Cubs had the best, longest deal for him. The Twins minus was that they were unwilling to offer an opt-out clause. One must wonder: if the Twins had, would Darvish be a Twin? The other club in the running was the Dodgers. I feel that he picked the team that could win now, and ultimately, close relationships did not matter. (Levine was the assistant GM in Texas when Darvish was there.)

Darvish will join the Cubs as possibly the front-line starter at the start of spring training. The 31-year-old, who has an overall record of 56-42 in five years, will join fellow starters Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, and Tyler Chatwood. With the almost certain loss of Jake Arrieta, Darvish will try to assert himself as the leader. To do that though, Darvish has to slay his demons of last year, when he went 10-12 and recorded 209 strikeouts with Texas and the Dodgers.

His downfall was really felt in the World Series in October.Yu Darvish pitching in a World Series game in 2017 for the Los Angeles Dodgers Darvish was very below average, posting a 21.60 ERA, along with 9 hits and 9 runs in 2 starts against the eventual champions, Houston. Additionally, he was accused of tipping his pitches during those starts. Darvish is good enough to get back to pitching like his first four years in the league, and I believe he will do just that.

And so with hours to go until Twins pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, they are still searching for their significant free agent starter. The flood gates should open up now and free agents start signing with teams. Hopefully, Levine immediately tries to coax second-tier pitchers Arrieta, Alex Cobb, or Lance Lynn to sign here. The Darvish signing must have been a slap in the face to the front office. Then again, they have some other options that they must not pass up if they want to keep up the team’s progression!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | February 6, 2018

MLB’s Pitch Clock Would Be Catastrophic

Commissioner Rob Manfred took over the reigns prior to the 2015 campaign, and doing so, one of his initiatives was to speed up the game. He has greatly succeeded. There is now a 2-minute in-between innings clock and managers must decide within 30 seconds whether to challenge a play. Yet, in an attempt to further speed up the game, Manfred desperately wants to make such a drastic change that baseball might as well be a timed game!

Last year, Manfred suggested that he wants to implement a pitch clock, and have pitchers hurry up on the mound. Teams would have 18 seconds to pitch the ball once the catcher throws it back.A minor league baseball game in which a pitch clock is being used The reason is MLB wants to keep the fan interest and think speeding up the game would be the solution. MLB has been trying a pitch clock in the minor leagues and apparently it is working. However, this change is garnering push back from the players.

There are a lot of moving parts to the latest MLB pace-of-play proposal. MLB is being a bit pushy about the length of game. They are trying to do anything they can to have quicker games that averaged 3 hours and 5 minutes last year. I, along with many of the players, am not for this potentially dangerous change. We would see more wild pitches, hit batters, and arm injuries if pitchers need to pitch faster. On the other end, batters would not be properly prepared for their at-bats. Since pitches would be constantly coming, umpires would not be ready and catchers could be unprepared.

The sport of baseball is the only one with no end game as far as time goes. Fans for generations enjoyed going to ballparks as they relax to watch nine men try to get 27 outs and score runs. Our national pastime is simple – A pitcher pitches, a batter bats, a fielder fields, and an umpire umps without worrying about beating a clock. Baseball was invented with no clock for a reason. The faster they play, the more likely something bad will happen and the skill level will deteriorate.

Manfred, who wants the system implemented in 2019 under MLB’s new plan, should reconsider the pitch clock idea. This plan should never take effect and it would not be good for the game. Manfred has to realize that having a timer would be bad for baseball. If he really wants to speed up the game, a new solution must be rendered. A clock that speeds up pitchers would have a negative impact on fans, as they want to see good ball being played and that won’t occur with pitchers speeding up. This concept would be a monumental mistake on all levels!

For the love of this great game, Manfred, please just scrap your plan! Keep baseball the way it is – it is fine!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | January 26, 2018

Perkins Hanging It Up; Thome Gets The Call

And the news regarding Twins players – present and former – keeps chugging along. It seems as if the Twins have been making moves lately to help the team in the future. That took a backseat this week though when two inevitable things happened, both signifying career ending outcomes.

On January 23, former closer Glen Perkins retired from Major League Baseball after 12 seasons. First it was rumored, but he made it official via Twitter. Perkins grew up Former Minnesota Twins pitcher Glen Perkins pitching baseball during a baseball game at Target Fieldin Stillwater, then went on to pitch for the Minnesota Golden Gophers in 2003 and 2004. The 34-year-old was drafted in the 2004 MLB draft by the Twins. Early in his career, Perkins had success starting, as he went 12-4 with a 4.41 ERA in 2008. Shortly there after, he was converted into a closer. Perkins’ best year was in 2013, when he closed out 36 games while racking up 77 strikeouts.

The pitcher, who was with the Twins his entire career, tore his labrum in 2016 that required surgery. When Perkins tried to come back 16 months later, he was not himself. The three-time All-Star, who saved the All-Star Game in 2014 at Target Field, looked lost on the mound. He pitched in just 10 games in 2016 and 2017, and had a 9.27 ERA while surrendering 13 hits and 6 walks. During Perkins’ final year, he knew his time with the Twins was short. Overall, he saved a total of 120 games throughout his professional journey. Perkins ultimately decided to hang it up to “spend my time brewing beer, smoking meat, woodworking and hanging with my family,” he pronounced on Twitter. Perkins has an offer to join the Twins front office if he chooses.

Meanwhile, out east, MLB announced the next round of Hall of Fame inductees on Wednesday. Former Minnesota Twins designated hitter Jim Thome after sliding into a base during a baseball gameFormer Twin Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, and Trevor Hoffman will head to Cooperstown in July. Thome joined the Twins prior to the 2010 season when he became a free agent. Although his time in Minnesota was short, he put up big numbers. Thome played in 179 games, batted .266, with 37 home runs and 128 hits. He was traded to Cleveland in August of 2011.

In his 22 years in the Majors, playing on six teams, he hit 511 home runs and drove in 1,699 runs. Thome was well liked due to his personality. It was fun watching him smack long homers at Target Field! He officially retired in 2014 with Cleveland, although quit playing two years prior. CONGRATS, THOME, ON YOUR ENSHRINEMENT!

That is your Twins scoop for the week. Make sure to check back as there could be potential big news regarding a certain pitcher soon!

Written by: Michael L. Sack


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