Posted by: gravessack | July 7, 2015

Vote for Dozier!!!

Over the last couple days, MLB has announced the American and National League All-Stars for the All-Star Game on July 14. Closer Glen Perkins was selected but no else from the Twins…yet! Each year MLB has a “Final Vote” to determine who gets the final spot on each All-Star team. One of the five AL candidates this year is Twins second baseman Brian Dozier!

Dozier is more than deserving of this honor. Among all second baseman, he ranks 1st in runs scored this season with 63 (and is tied for the league lead), 1st in home runs with 17 (including a walk-off last night), 2nd in doubles with 26 and 1st in RBI with 42. Why not vote for a guy with those stats! Plus, I’ve heard he’s a great person!

Click here to vote for Dozier, as well as for instructions on how to text or tweet your vote. There is no limit to the amount of times you can vote! I encourage you to vote as many times as you can! Voting ends at 3 p.m. CT Friday, July 10. Until then, vote like crazy to help Brian Dozier get selected to his 1st MLB All-Star Game!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | June 15, 2015

Buxton Gets The Call To Join Twins

General Manager Terry Ryan rarely offers surprises, but he surprised us all over the weekend. During a rain delay in Texas on Saturday, the Twins announced that they called up the #1 MLB prospect, center fielder Byron Buxton. Fans have been longing for this day as they watched Buxton play in the Minors.

On Saturday, Chattanooga Manager Doug Mienkiewicz gathered his team and announced that the 21-year-old would be heading to the Big Leagues. There are a few clues that Buxton’s first MLB stint won’t be a short one either. The Twins waited a day to make room on the roster and came after Aaron Hicks tested his elbow and was placed on the 15-day DL. Plus, Manager Paul Molitor said if Buxton performs well, he’s staying in the Majors.

In his debut on Sunday batting ninth, Buxton showed his nerves as he went 0-for-4 with 2 strike outs. In his second at-bat, Buxton hit a hot-shot to Texas’ third baseman Joey Gallo, who made a good play as Buxton almost beat out the routine ground ball. Buxton proved his speed in the ninth inning, when his failed bunt didn’t get the runner to third base with the score tied but he ended up on first base for the first time. During the next at-bat, rookie Eddie Rosario smashed a line drive into the gap and Buxton easily scored the winning run. Buxton also made some nice running catches in center field. After the game, Buxton said he was nervous until his last at-bat, and he was excited to help his team win. According to Molitor, expect Buxton to play every day this week.

During the St. Louis series, Buxton will get the feel for pitching and should struggle some. He needs to get the feel of laying of the curve ball, but once he does, I think he will perform the way we all know he can. Buxton looks like Torii Hunter 16 years ago when Hunter could not lay off the curve in the dirt at all. Before Buxton reached the Majors, he was batting .283 with 12 triples, 67 hits, and racked up 37 RBIs in 59 games in Double-A. I believe once Buxton figures out the pitching, he will go on hot-streak.

Assuming Buxton stays up for a long while, the Twins might be starting the “prospect transition.” It will be interesting to see if the Twins soon bring up their #2 prospect, Miguel Sano, who is currently batting .258 with 11 home runs and 37 RBIs in 55 games in AA. Since they called up Buxton, I wouldn’t be shocked if they started to call up their best prospects!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | June 13, 2015

An Electronic Strike Zone??

Following Torii Hunter’s recent meltdown, which earned him a fine and a two-game suspension, I heard two guys on the radio mention the possibility of having an electronic strike zone in MLB. I am not sure if they supported the idea but I started thinking about what this would mean for MLB.

I support MLB using an electronic strike zone. I am aware this may be a bad idea and don’t know exactly how an electronic strike zone would work, but there are two main reasons for it: Less pressure would be put on umpires to make the right call all the time, and there would not be any outbursts from players or coaches (although I thought Hunter’s meltdown was somewhat amusing!).

Players, fans and coaches get mad at umpires when they appear to make bad calls. Although umpires are good at what they do, they make mistakes just like everyone else. An electronic strike zone would help umpires since it would take a lot of the pressure off the home-plate umpire and make games more fair.

Although meltdowns such as Hunter’s can be entertaining, they are very disruptive to games and often lead to ejections, fines and even suspensions. Since an electronic strike zone should be very reliable, there would be a dramatic decrease of player-umpire arguments and would benefit everyone involved.

One important issue this idea raises is the necessity and role of the home-plate umpire. While having an electronic strike zone would mean far fewer responsibilities for him. A home-plate umpire would still be necessary to make baserunning calls at home plate (this umpire would be in better position to make those calls than the other umpires). The home-plate umpire could also determine whether a batter swung on a check swing (although the first or third base umpires sometimes are asked to make those calls).

This issue is controversial and I’m sure many people are opposed to it since it takes away part of the human element of the game. Read more about the issue. A lot of people like baseball since the game is more old-fashioned than other sports, but I am more concerned with making it more fair for everyone. Now that there is instant replay in MLB, I am sure that someday there will be an electronic strike zone!

What do you think of MLB adopting an electronic strike zone??

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | May 28, 2015

What The Heck Is Happening With Our Team!?

We are back and alive! Nearly two months into this season, the Twins are exceeding all expectations that fans and reporters had for this team. The AL Central was declared the toughest division in baseball before the season and the Twins were predicted to be in deep trouble, especially with the 80-game suspension of starter Ervin Santana.

Apparently, the Twins didn’t get the memo as they are firing on all cylinders. After digging themselves into a deep hole in early April, the Twins climbed all the way to the top of the division after Memorial Day for the first time since 2010. The pitching has been great, the offense has been productive, and the base running has been spectacular. It feels like something special is happening!

The Twins’ starting pitching is vastly improved from years past. The starters are going longer and our bullpen is holding leads. The starting pitchers have 20 wins of 28, with Ricky Nolasco in the lead with 5. Each pitcher in the rotation is getting sharper as the season goes on and pitching into the 7th more often. Once reliever Casey Fien was placed on the DL in late April, Blaine Boyer has been an outstanding replacement. In 23 games this year, Boyer has an 2.28 ERA with 10 strike outs and 9 holds. Since Fien’s return is imminent, it will be hard for him to regain his set-up role during Boyer’s hot streak. Closer Glen Perkins has been perfect, closing out 18 games with an 1.19 ERA and 21 strikeouts while only surrendering 2 walks. This pitching staff is rocking right now.

The Twins’ 16-6 May record is one of the best in the League right now and their offense is a big factor in that. Before the May 27 game, the Twins scored first in nine straight games, winning most of them. As a team, the Twins are hitting .257 with 57 home runs and have scored 212 runs. Torii Hunter is contributing more at the plate than many of us imagined. He has 7 dingers with 29 RBIs, resulting in a .280 batting average. Others, like Joe Mauer and Eduardo Nunez, have been great at the plate. Mauer is batting .276 with 27 RBIs, while Nunez is currently batting .387 in 12 games.

Earlier this month, the Twins called up prospect Eddie Rosario from Triple-A. In his first MLB at-bat on May 6, Rosario smacked the first pitch that he saw over the fence for his first home run. Rosario since then has 14 hits with 10 RBIs. The Twins offense is surging without Kennys Vargas, who was sent down last week, and with Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano destroying the Double-A pitchers. Don’t be surprised if all three players join the Twins in the coming months.

A couple of times this year a Twin has scored from first base on a single. It seems like the base coaches are more riskier than the former ones. Third base coach Gene Glynn has a good eye for when to send the runner or not and the players are being more aggressive at running.

It definitely seems that Manager Paul Molitor has his team on a serious roll. Let’s see how far they go with this 28-18 start, their best start in 5 years! Once free agent signee Santana returns in July, the Club could potentially be even better. Just think: if the Twins play just .500 baseball from now on, they will finish with a 86-76 record.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | May 19, 2015

Should MLB Games Be Sped Up?

Recently, there have been steps taken to speed up MLB games. Listen to a brief speech on why these measures will benefit the sport.

What is your opinion on this issue? Will MLB benefit from having quicker games? Please comment!

Narrated by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | April 4, 2015

Down In The Dumps

This would happen to the Twins, wouldn’t it? As soon as everyone thought the starting rotation was set, something dramatic happens. Ervin Santana, who had secured the number two spot in the rotation this year, has been suspended 80 games for testing positive for using performance-enhancing drugs during the off-season. This is a huge blow to the team. Santana said he has no idea on how the drugs got in his system.

This announcement forced the Twins to choose between veteran Mike Pelfrey and rookie Trevor May. The club chose the frustrated Pelfrey, who had earned a spot in the bullpen, so he becomes the fifth starter. Pelfrey was frustrated because he thought he earned a spot in the rotation over May and Tommy Milone. The 31-year-old, who missed most of the 2014 season due to injuries, started two games and pitched in six this spring going 0-2 with a 1.15 ERA and 7 strikeouts. Hopefully Pelfrey pitches like he did to win the fifth spot and proves himself to the Twins.

This suspension raises a question: When did the Twins first have an inkling that Santana had tested positive? Before they signed him to a $5 million contract in December? Since then? I’ll be curious to hear about the timetable. In the comments, we would like to hear your responses to this development.

As we move forward, it looks like the rotation is now set. Phil Hughes will lead-off, followed by Ricky Nolasco, Kyle Gibson, Milone, then Pelfrey. Since the Twins don’t need to pay Santana his $6.25 million during his suspension, the club could look for another starter to cover the time period before Santana can return on July 4.

Sometimes it feels to us fans that it’s one step forward, two steps back for the Twins!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | March 22, 2015

CHS Field Visit

On March 21, I had a chance to go inside CHS Field, the brand new home of the St. Paul Saints, and buy single game tickets. My goal was to scope out accessible features. I will give a brief summary with recommendations on how to improve two things. Most of the highlights that I will feature are pictured below this article.

The entrance to CHS Field is fully accessible, as is the ticket office. There is an abundance of accessible seats with appropriate rail heights around the field. At spots around the 360-degree concourse, the fences are a little higher due to safety reasons. In left field by the Berm, there is a small outlook which wheelchairs can roll up to.

There were a couple of details that I would consider changing. In front of the main entrance, there is a pillar blocking the wheelchair sidewalk ramp which could make it difficult for someone to navigate. I would like to see that lone pillar be taken away. Secondly, I didn’t see any automatic door openers to get into the Saints offices and to the elevator on the main floor. Maybe I missed them, but would like to see them put in at some point. Those are the only things that were a little off. For more information on ADA features, please click here.

Not focusing on accessibility, CHS Field has some amazing features. When fans walk through the gates, they will see the whole field right away. There is an art gallery right behind home plate. When I visited, there was a picture of Midway Stadium and not-yet-budding trees. Fans can sit on a lawn in left field to picnic and play games during games. It will be exciting to see the finished product in May, as the grass for the lawn wasn’t installed yet.

All in all, CHS Field is a major upgrade to its predecessor!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

IMG_0924 IMG_0925 CHS Field IMG_0928 IMG_0930 IMG_0932 IMG_0934 IMG_0936 IMG_0938 IMG_0939 IMG_0941 IMG_0942

Posted by: gravessack | March 19, 2015

The Florida Report

Fan favorite Torii Hunter up to bat at Hammond Stadium

Fan favorite Torii Hunter up to bat at Hammond Stadium

Hello from Fort Myers! Yesterday, March 18, I got to experience the newly renovated Hammond Stadium and the rest of the CenturyLink Sports Complex, the spring training home of the Twins. Although Minnesota lost yesterday’s game 3-2, it was a lot of fun to be at the complex! Here are some noteworthy things from the day:

  • I first went around to some of the practice fields surrounding Hammond Stadium and saw lots of players and coaches doing drills, including former manager Tom Kelly, former first baseman and current minor league coach Doug Mientkiewicz and prospect Miguel Sano! Sano, who is a big, strong guy and is ranked as the team’s second-best prospect, is even bigger than he appears on TV!
  • My favorite thing about the renovation is that you can walk (or wheel) all the way around Hammond Stadium. Previously you could only go around part of the stadium. I really enjoyed seeing all the views from different parts of the stadium.
  • In terms of accessibility, Hammond Stadium is fairly good. The stadium has many elevators (I can’t find the exact number), good wheelchair seating on at least one level and wide concourses. However, when I was leaving the stadium, I realized that at least one elevator only goes to a couple floors. What’s the point of an elevator that doesn’t go to every floor?!
  • Although the stadium does have several ramps, it would be nice if there was a ramp to the levels of wheelchair seating going all the way down to the entrance, like at Target Field, so fans unable to take the stairs would have the option of taking the elevator or ramp. That way the elevators wouldn’t get so crowded, especially after games.

Despite a couple accessibility flaws, Hammond Stadium and the rest of the CenturyLink Sports Complex is beautiful, especially with the renovation. Unlike with Target Field, fans will not be cold!! Make sure to check out the Photo Gallery for more pictures of Hammond Stadium and the CenturyLink Sports Complex!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | March 15, 2015

A Journey Through St. Paul Towards Target Field

When I first heard of Mark Hamburger in 2013, he was pitching for the St. Paul Saints at now-defunct Midway Stadium. Now, the relief pitcher is trying to resurrect his MLB career and has a good shot of pitching out of the Twins’ bullpen this season. Hamburger was banned 50 games for drug abuse and he went in for treatment at Hazelden. Though he has had his fair share of struggles, Hamburger has held his head high this spring.

Back in 2007, Hamburger was an amateur free agent signee of the Twins. During his year-and-a-half stint at rookie ball, Hamburger pitched for two different teams. His stats weren’t impressive, as he went 3-3 with 52 strikeouts and 17 walks. During the 2008 season, Hamburger was traded to Texas in order for Eddie Guardado to make his return to the Twins. Hamburger’s only five MLB appearances were for Texas in 2011, where he went 1-0 with 6 strikeouts. He was suspended two years later, after pitching for three different clubs at the Triple-A level.

Trying to retool his career during his suspension, Hamburger signed on to play independent baseball in 2013 because the suspension was just for the MLB and MiLB. The St. Paul native decided to join his hometown team, the Saints. During his one-year stint with the Saints, Hamburger had a pretty decent season, starting 21 games going 6-8 with 120 strikeouts. After his brief stint in St. Paul, the Twins signed Hamburger again after the 2013 Saints season ended.

Hamburger had to finish his suspension before pitching, but once he pitched, he was decent. Last year, pitching at two levels of the minors, Hamburger had a 3.69 ERA and went 4-5 in 22 games with 54 strikeouts. The Twins invited him to this year’s Spring Training, where Hamburger has appeared in two games so far. He has 4 strikeouts with an ERA of 0.00 in three innings of work. The 27-year-old has a realistic shot of making the team if he continues to pitch well. Hamburger has had one tough journey to fulfill his dream but he is very close now to making it to that ballpark across town!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

 

 

Posted by: gravessack | March 1, 2015

Buxton and Sano Are Ready To Make That Leap

This is the second consecutive Spring Training which will feature the top 2 Twins prospects. Spending the last several seasons in the Twins minor league system, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are ready to show the nation that they are ready for the big leagues. This is the perfect year for the Twins to promote these eager players to MLB and show fans what to expect in the future. Fans have been hearing about Buxton and Sano for years now, but are wondering why they are still at the Double-A level if they are so good.

Buxton, who was drafted 2nd overall in the 2012 MLB Draft, was recently named the #1 prospect for 2015 by the MLB Network. Before an injury-riddled 2014 season, Buxton batted .334 with 77 RBIs and 12 home runs at both A and AA in 2013. The center fielder also had 163 singles and had a slugging percentage of .520 during that same season. Buxton has played three seasons at the lower levels, recording a .300 batting average with 21 home runs. Last year, Buxton played in just 31 games due to a concussion and a wrist injury; therefore, he underperformed.

Sano, who signed with the Twins in 2009, was named #11 on the same prospect list. Sano missed the entire 2014 season after tearing his elbow just a couple of games into Spring Training, requiring Tommy John surgery. The muscular third baseman had a successful recovery and is ready to show off his skills again. During Sano’s four minor league seasons prior to 2014, he batted .373, slugged 90 home runs, and had 291 RBIs. Sano also had a slugging percentage of .567 over those years. After taking a year off, Sano is hoping to regain his strength and join the Twins at some point this season.

Both Buxton’s and Sano’s 2015 journeys are about to start, as they are scheduled to play in Wednesday’s game against, yes, the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Florida. These stars should get considerable playing time this spring, and if they have a bright month, I can’t see how the Twins can keep Buxton and Sano in the minors much longer. Fans are desperate for change, and Buxton’s and Sano’s promotions would be one great leap of change!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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