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

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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

 

Posted by: gravessack | January 19, 2018

Fan Favorites Return As Coaches

Justin Morneau shaking hands with Minnesota Twins owner Jim Pohlad inside Target Field on January 17, 2018. Photo: Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune

Photo: Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune

For a while now, the Minnesota sports world has been focused on the Vikings, rightfully so, as they try to win their first Super Bowl. But the Twins also have made news in the last couple weeks. First, the Twins signed veteran relief pitcher Addison Reed to a two-year, $16.75 million contract on January 15. Then, on January 17, former Twin and fan favorite Justin Morneau officially retired and will become a special assistant to baseball operations for the Twins. A day later, the team hired fellow former Twin and fan favorite Jim Kaat to be another special assistant.

Morneau retired after 14 MLB seasons, 11 in Minnesota. His job will be to give “hitting advice to both Minor League and Major League players, as well as working in player development, player acquisition and the MLB Draft.” He will also be a Spring Training instructor along with fellow former Twins Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, and LaTroy Hawkins. Click here for what Morneau can teach the Twins’ hitters.

Kaat, who had been a broadcaster since he retired in 1973, “will aid in community and business initiatives in Minnesota and Southwest Florida, and he’ll be at TwinsFest this weekend” (January 19-21). He will have a similar role to former Twins Tony Oliva, Tom Kelly, Rod Carew, and Kent Hrbek.

The fact that so many former Twins return as coaches says a lot about the loyalty of the Twins organization. Hopefully, Morneau and Kaat will be as good as coaches as they were as players! Baseball season is right around the corner, and until then, Skol

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | January 5, 2018

Waiting On Yu

We are just about a month away from the start of spring training for major league teams. Yet, some big name starting pitchers are still unsigned. It seems like, like in years past, when one pitcher comes off the board, others rapidly follow. This year is definitely more intriguing as to who is still out there, and the pitcher who could tip all the dominoes has ties to the Twins. Pitchers like Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Matt Garza, and John Lackey are all on the free market still. However, the big fish in the sea that could start the signing frenzy is four-time all-star Yu Darvish.

The rumors about Darvish started in November when Twins General Manager Thad Levine Yu Darvish pitching in a baseball game for the Los Angeles Dodgerssignaled signing him was a “top priority” to give a boost to the rotation. The MLB winter meetings rolled around in early December with lots of optimistic chatter but little action. Instead, the Twins moved on to the bullpen issues. However, Levine has stayed in touch with Darvish’s agent.

Right before Christmas, Darvish met with the Cubs, and shot down a report that he signed with Chicago, condemning it as, well, “fake news.” Days later, the 31-year-old had a casual dinner with Rangers’ General Manager Jon Daniels; nothing intriguing transpired. Last week, the Yankees were said to be in on the pitcher. What would be the Twins move to get the coveted pitcher?

There is no known meeting set up between Darvish and the Twins. Levine is sending mixed signals by saying he wants Darvish, but not meeting with him. Perhaps, Levine thinks that knowing Darvish while in Texas will be sufficient enough to sign him. Even more mysterious is that the Twins could have already made an offer and are just waiting for a response, hence, a meeting is not particularly necessary. Whatever the reason for the delay, the Twins should ramp up the effort and do more than just sending Season 5 of Friends to Darvish (true story!) to lure him here!

There are more statistics than Darvish being an all-star that would suggest why teams should want him. In five years in the league, Darvish is 56-42, has a 3.42 ERA, and struck out 1,021 batters. Also, throughout his career, he is averaging 11 strikeouts and just 3.3 walks per nine innings. That’s pretty good!

One of the reasons why Darvish is still out there is that he had some struggles last year, going 10-12 with a 3.82 ERA, pitching with Texas and the Dodgers. The other tidbit that could be hampering his search is that he missed the entire 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Darvish’s numbers, though, will guarantee him a large contract!

Now is the time to carefully keep an eye on the clubs vying for Darvish’s residency for years to come. Hopefully, the Twins get super serious in their pursuit of the top free agent pitcher, and they can be the ones who start the blizzard of signees! If not, this will be disappointing with Levine talking big and not delivering. In the end, we are just waiting on you, Yu!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | December 30, 2017

Twins Boost Relief Core

As the baseball universe waits for the Yu Darvish saga to end, teams know they must move on to grab their necessities. The Twins, knowing that they could improve their bullpen, have done just that. In 2017, Twins relief pitchers accumulated an ERA of 4.40. To try to lower that number, the club signed closer Fernando Rodney on the last day of the winter meetings. While all of the Darvish rumors are still swirling, the Twins snuck in a surprising signing to close out 2017.

On December 26, the Twins inked Zach Duke to a one-year, $2.15 million major league contract. Duke was selected by Pittsburgh in the 2001 MLB Draft. The lefty made his MLB debut in 2005 and went 8-2 and had a 1.81 ERA.Current Twins relief pitcher Zach Duke standing and looking off into distance as a player for the St. Louis Cardinals Duke was a starter up until 2010 when he made the transition over to reliever in Arizona. Duke’s first true year in relief was in 2012, producing an ERA of 1.32 with 10 strikeouts.

Like with Rodney, Duke traveled the country in the forthcoming years. Between 2013 and 2017, the Texan joined Cincinnati, Milwaukee, the Chicago White Sox, and St. Louis. His best year came in 2014 while playing for Milwaukee. During that year, Duke pitched in 74 games, going 5-1 while striking out 74.

However, Duke’s career took a downturn. In October 2016, he underwent major surgery to repair a forearm flexor muscle and UCL in his left arm. He was traded to Chicago that July, and would not return for another ten months. When he reappeared last July with St. Louis, he appeared in 27 games, going 1-1 with 12 strikeouts en route to a 3.93 ERA.

Duke will see if he can reinvent his 2009 All-Star performance in 2018. He will be trying to help Trevor Hildenberger, Ryan Pressly, and Dietrich Enns shut down the opponents. Duke, along with Rodney, should help the young relievers with techniques that will be needed for the future. If all goes well, the Twins should gather up more wins because of their improved bullpen. With that said, if the Twins can indeed lure Darvish to Minnesota, a seismic shift will be seen, not only with the starting rotation, but with the leadership as well.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | December 20, 2017

Speechless Season 2 Mid-season Review

Speechless logoAs many of you know, Season 2 of ABC’s sitcom Speechless has been out for a few months. The show is still getting positive reviews. I too like the new season so far.

My favorite character in the show still is Kenneth, J.J’s aide. He is probably the funniest character on the show. I also like Ray, J.J.’s nerdy younger brother (who doesn’t like a nerd!?). The show still focuses too much on Maya, J.J’s mom. I think it should focus more on J.J., who is the main character, and less on Maya.

Probably the only episode I have not liked so far in Season 2 was the Halloween episode. In that episode, each of the three kids eat old Halloween candy that does weird things to them. J.J. gets superpowers and Ray and Dylan, J.J’s sister, swap bodies. At the end of the episode, it’s revealed that all of it was just part of Kenneth’s dream. It all just seemed very strange.

But all in all, I like Season 2 so far. l like how it, like Season 1, doesn’t get too sentimental when discussing J.J.’s disability and portrays J.J. as a typical teenager. Let’s hope it continues!

What are your thoughts on Speechless?

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | December 15, 2017

Twins’ Winter Meetings Splash: Signing Rodney

This year’s winter meetings, which were held in Orlando, concluded December 14. The Twins, who have said to be on the lookout for “top-tier pitching,” left without the guy they desperately want in starter Yu Darvish. General Manager Thad Levine knew though that they could not head home without snatching up a couple of pitchers to show they are improving their team. On the last day of the annual frenzy, the Twins made a splash of some sort. Time will tell if it is a big one!

In the early morning, reports started to swirl that Minnesota and Detroit were in deep discussions to lure closer Fernando Rodney to their respective clubs. Moments later, the Twins announced that they indeed signed the closer to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million, including a 2019 team option, which became official just after noon on December 15.

Rodney has pitched for numerous teams in his 15-year career. The 41-year-old made his mark starting in 2002 with the Tigers. Current Twins relief pitcher Fernado Rodney pretending to shoot a bow and arrow toward the sky as a player for the Miami MarlinsDuring his tenure in Detroit, Rodney saved 70 games, struck out 314, en route to a 4.28 ERA. When he left their organization in 2009, Rodney ventured west and joined Anaheim for two seasons. With the Angels, he recorded just 17 saves. However, he rebounded when he joined the Rays after the 2011 season, when he had a 1.91 ERA and 85 saves.

After two years in Florida, Rodney was off to Seattle. Playing in the northwest for a couple of seasons, he had 64 saves while striking out 119. In the last four seasons, the three-time All-Star was with the Padres, Diamondbacks, Cubs, and the Marlins. In those years, Rodney racked up 64 saves and struck out 154 batters. Throughout his career, he has been known as a flamethrower, but has been erratic at times, allowing a total of 404 walks and 53 wild pitches.

Taking over as the eldest of the club (for now), Rodney will bring his expertise to a bullpen that is looking to find the magic touch. The signing of the righty is a relief in that Levine is an out-of-the-box thinker and that he is willing to do anything to help the Twins.

After passing his physical, Rodney said that the Twins told him that he will be taking over the closer role, since Brandon Kintzler will be staying with the Nationals. Rodney is definitely the most experienced closer on the team, as he recorded 39 saves in 2017. Hopefully, Rodney will have one of his good years and we see him pretend to shoot a bow and arrow toward the sky, his signature move when he gets the final out of a game, many times!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | November 26, 2017

Target Center’s Renovations Not Very Impressive

Newly renovated Target Center scoreboard, which may be easier to see for people with visual impairments

Newly renovated Target Center scoreboard, which may be easier to see for people with visual impairments

I went to Target Center a few weeks ago for a Minnesota Timberwolves game. It was the first time I had been in Target Center since it was renovated last summer. I was hoping there was a dramatic improvement in accessibility, but there wasn’t from what I saw.

Probably the main accessibility issue at Target Center, at least for me, was and still is the lack of public elevators. Before the renovation, there were just two tiny public elevators in the entire building. From what I saw a couple weeks ago (and I have not seen anything online about this), there are still just two public elevators! I think they may have replaced the elevators and made them slightly wider, but it looked like there were the same number of elevators. I am not exactly sure of this, so please let me know if there are more elevators!

Another problem (and this isn’t exactly accessibility-related and hopefully will only be temporary) was getting my food. The line in which I got my food was fairly long and the vendors were pretty disorganized. It took my friend about 20-25 minutes to get my food, which was way longer than it should have taken.

The entire renovation cost $140 million. There are some changes, such as new seats and more ticket lines, but I still hoped for more, especially based on how much the renovation cost. The fact that Target Center is not very accessible, plus the fact that there apparently isn’t much online about accessibility, says to me that Target Center and the Timberwolves may need to start paying more attention to accessibility, like the Twins have.

Have you experienced the Target Center renovation? Please share your opinion!

Written by: Sam Graves

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