Twins minor league player of the week

Tyler Duffey 2015Chattanooga (AA) pitcher Tyler Duffey is the first Twins Minor League Player of the Week in 2015. Duffey made a start for the Lookouts on April 15 versus Birmingham tossing 7 shutout innings with two hits allowed, one walk and eight strikeouts. The 24 year-old Duffey has made two starts this season, tossing 13.2 scoreless innings pitched with six hits, two walks and 18 strikeouts. The right-handed Duffey was recently ranked seventh in minor league baseball on Baseball America’s Prospect Hot Sheet, covering games of April 9-16. Tyler Blinn Duffey was the Twins fifth round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Rice University and reportedly signed for a $267,000 signing bonus. Duffey served as the Rice Owls closer in his final season in college ball.

Duffey who was born in Houston, Texas and is starting this season at Chattanooga (AA) this season pitched at three levels in the Twins minor league system in 2014 starting out in Ft. Myers (High A) where he was 3-0 with a 2.82 ERA before being moved up to New Britain (AA) where he went 8-3 with 3.81 ERA. Duffey then was moved up to Rochester (AAA) where he was 2-0 with a 3.91 ERA and a SO/9 ratio of 9.0 in three starts. That SO/9 ratio at Rochester is a bit deceiving as his career SO/9 ratio is 7.4 but so far this year his SO/9 ratio is 11.9.

Twin minor league report 04192015

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According to ELIAS

Another extra-inning walkoff for Plouffe versus Cleveland

Trevor Plouffe

Trevor Plouffe

Trevor Plouffe sent Twins fans home happy last night after launching a walkoff homer in the 11th inning against the Indians. Plouffe’s game-winning hit marked the second time he recorded a game-ending RBI versus Cleveland in extra-innings, the third-baseman had a walkoff single in the 10th inning against the Indians on September 19, 2014. Two other active players have recorded multiple walkoff RBIs in extra-innings versus Cleveland – Justin Morneau and Jeff Mathis (each player has two such RBIs). Source – ELIAS

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This Day in Twins History – April 17

Jason Kubel

Jason Kubel

4/17/2009Jason Kubel hit for the cycle at the Metrodome against the Angels. Kubel became the ninth Twins player to hit for the cycle when he doubled in the first, singled in the third, and tripled n the sixth before clobbering a grand slam homerun in the 8th inning as the Twins rallied for an 11-9 win. It was only the third time in MLB history a player had completed hitting for the cycle with a grand slam home run. It was done previously by two shortstops, Tony Lazzeri in 1932 and Miguel Tejada in 2001. Box Score

4/17/2014 – What a day! Yesterday’s Twins/Blue Jays game was snowed out so the Twins scheduled a doubleheader for today in spite of 4″ of snow that fell at the ballpark last night. The weird snow storm dumped 20″ in North Branch but only .03″ at the airport. When Kyle Gibson throw the first pitch in the first game at Target Field it was just 31degrees, an all-time record cold temperature for a Twins home game. The Twins won game 1 by a score of 7-0 in front of 20,507 shivering fans. The second game of the DH which was the make-up game started about 6PM and the Twins won 9-5 but it was how they won that game that was unusual as 20,698 fans looked on but there were far less when the eighth inning hubbub started. The Twins scored six runs on only one hit in the bottom of the eighth inning as they came from behind to beat the Blue Jays, 9-5, in the second half of their split doubleheader at Target Field. Minnesota’s six-run “rally” benefited from the almost total inability of Toronto pitchers to throw strikes in that inning, as Steve Delabar, Sergio Santos and J.A. Happ combined to walk eight Twins batters. (Santos also threw three run-scoring wild pitches in that inning.). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Minnesota was the first big-league team to draw eight walks in one inning since April 19, 1996. The eight walks in one inning set a Twins club record, their previous record was six, done twice – April 16, 1961 at Baltimore (first inning) and July 15, 1965 vs. Kansas City (fourth inning). Both of the attendance totals were “paid attendance” and not a real count of fans in the stands and the estimate for fans in attendance was less than 12,000 for game one and even less for game two. Box Score Game 1, Box Score Game 2

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According to ELIAS

Twins are first team to beat the Royals in 2015

The Twins defeated the Royals on last night and handed Kansas City (now 7-1) its first loss of the season. Since the franchise moved to Minnesota for the 1961 season, the Twins had never before defeated an opponent that was undefeated at least five games into its season. They recorded wins over that span against three teams that were 4-0: the 1992 Rangers, 1996 Orioles and 2004 Tigers.

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Time to see what the baseball crystal ball has to say for 2015

The 2015 MLB season finally opens later today when the Chicago Cubs host the St. Louis Cardinals. So that means I had better get my predictions done here and now. Normally I try to do these predictions about a week or so before the season opens but the last couple of weeks I have had some computer problems and that has limited my postings on this site. This is my second hard drive crash in the last 11 months, what is up with that? Apparently just writing about the Twins brings bad luck. Luckily I have a back-up laptop with me but it doesn’t have all my images and tools that my original laptop has on it plus it is much sloooooower. So let’s get to it before something happens to this laptop.

The first thing we have to do of course is look at our Minnesota Twins. We have a new manager in Paul Molitor and a number of new coaches but we don’t have enough new and younger players. I think the Twins will break down and bring up Eddie Rosario, Trevor May, Miguel Sano,  Byron Buxton, and Jose Berrios before the All-Star game. Some may be just for a look-see but others won’t see the minor league busses again. Before the Ervin Santana suspension was announced I had the Twins finishing at 78-84, now I am not so optimistic. After consulting with the numbers experts here is what we came up with.

Not great but a six game improvement over last year.

Not great, but a six game improvement over last year. Maybe bringing back those black spruce trees is not such a bad idea….

…………………………………..

NL East

1. Washington Nationals

2. Florida Marlins (wild card)

3. New York Mets

4. Atlanta Braves

5. Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central

1. Pittsburgh Pirates

2. St. Louis Cardinals (wild card)

3. Cincinnati Reds

4. Milwaukee Brewers

5. Chicago Cubs

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

2. San Francisco Giants

3. San Diego Padres

4. Colorado Rockies

5. Arizona Diamondbacks

AL East

1. Toronto Blue Jays

2. Boston Red Sox (wild card)

3. Baltimore Orioles

4. New York Yankees

5. Tampa Rays

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians

2. Detroit Tigers

3. Kansas City Royals

4. Chicago White Sox

5. Minnesota Twins

AL West

1. Seattle Mariners

2. Los Angeles Angeles (wild card)

3. Texas Rangers

4. Oakland A’s

5. Houston Astros

World Series

Nationals over the Mariners

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Santana suspension shock to Twins and to Twins fans

I was out on the back fields of the CenturyLink Sports Complex on Friday afternoon watching the Twins AA and AAA teams take on the Red Sox AA and AAA teams. Both games started about 1 PM but I was particularly interested in the AA Chattanooga game and was surprised to see Mark Hamburger start the game for Doug Mientkiewicz ‘s gang. I was disappointed that Miguel Sano was not playing but Byron Buxton, Adam Walker, and Max Kepler all played. Once of the hardest hit balls in that game was a bullet line drive over the head of the Red Sox minor leaguer center fielder off the bat of Max Kepler who was DHing in this game. I had asked Max earlier how his arm was doing and he said it was good but obviously management is still not ready to play him in the field, at least they didn’t on this particular day. Kepler has a beautiful level swing and line drives just shoot off his bat, with his size if he applied some lift to the ball he would hit a bunch of home runs.

The crowd watching the games was pretty small, the players not playing in either game and sitting in the stands watching the games out numbered the fans by about five to one. As normal GM Terry Ryan, with stop watch in hand was standing between the two fields and keeping an eye on both games. I decided to give the poor guy a break today and not bother him with my questions and comments. About 2 or 2:30 PM I looked over where Ryan had been standing and he was nowhere to be seen. That seemed very unusual to me because Ryan always seems to be out there when games are under way on the back fields, he seldom leaves before the games end. After a couple of hours in the hot sun I decided I had seen enough and headed home myself.

2015 Minnesota Twins Photo DayAround 5:30 PM I sat down on my PC to look at some of the pictures I had taken at the ballpark when I was shocked to see a report that Twins pitcher Ervin Santana had been suspended for 80 games for PED use. There was no chatter about this at the ballpark earlier and news like this would have spread like a wild-fire. Shortly there after Press Releases were flying in every direction. MLB had their PR announcing the suspension, the Twins had their PR statement on the suspension, The Twins sent out another PR on the recall of Aaron Thompson and of course Santana had his own PR through the players union which actually seemed to have a time stamp even before the official MLB PR regarding his suspension. I don’t know how the process works for these kinds of deals but MLB must give the player and team a heads up on what is coming in an upcoming PR and then at the agreed upon time everyone hits the send button on their press releases.

This suspension is a killer for everyone, Santana himself, the Twins team, and of course the fans. Santana loses about $6.5 million, the team loses a good starting pitcher, and the fans lose even more hope in a team that wasn’t expected to be in the playoff hunt but had hopes of at least making a run at .500 baseball.

Now as the new season is about to begin and fans all across Twins Territory prepare to watch their new team strut their stuff in 2015 this suspension strikes clear out of the blue and Twins haters come firing out of the woodwork to blame Ervin Santana and the Twins organization. I am not saying Santana is innocent here but who knows for sure if he took this on purpose or if he indeed did take it without knowing he did so. I haven’t heard any whispers about Santana and PED’s previously so I am willing to give the man the benefit of the doubt here. Still it hurts to lose a pitcher of his caliber for half the season.

How can you blame the Twins organization for this? They obviously would not have gone after Santana and paid him the money they did if they had any idea that something like this would happen. But yet it is another ding on team that has been barely treading water since 2010. The Twins have had their share of bad luck, injuries, and bad decisions by management. Twins fans are grasping for anything that will show them that there is reason for hope but it seems like when the Twins take a step forward they also take a step back and it is hard to get anywhere at that pace. The ballclub is mired in this muck and their only hope is their cadre of young future stars that are banging on the clubhouse door. The Twins have spent the last year or two bragging about the potential of their farm system and most everyone in baseball agrees that the Twins have some young stars in the wings but yet the Twins keep signing mediocre players to play at Target field and keep sending the young guns to Rochester and Chattanooga.

It is like a poker game, you can only bluff so long before you have to put your cards on the table and show us what you got. I think it is a bunch of BS that you can bring up a young player too soon and traumatize him to the point that he will never be the player that they could have been with another year or two in the minors. The guys have played baseball their entire lives and they have had their share of butt-kickings, losses, and lessons learned, another humiliation or two at the big league level won’t kill them. What is the old saying? What doesn’t kill you helps to build your character. Football and basketball have no problems bringing kids straight to the big leagues when warranted, why can’t baseball do more of this? I think it is time for the Twins to bring their young studs to the table and let Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, Alex Meyer, Trevor May, and Jose Berrios play some ball at Target Field. Give us Twins fans a reason to come to the ballpark and see something new instead of the same old wait until next year crap. The Twins can’t spend $250 million dollars on player salaries so they have to look for new and creative ways to be competitive, maybe the old tried and proven older methods needs to be tossed out on their ear and some new radical ideas need to be tried.  What have you got to lose? Loyalty and experience are great but if you have young players that appear to be better than what you have on the big league club, why not give the young guns a chance to prove they are what you think and say they are.

So Mr. Ryan, do yourself and all of us Twins fans a favor and bring up these young stars sooner than later because every hit they get at Chattanooga or Rochester is one less hit they will get in Minnesota. If these guys show us they can’t pitch or hit at the big league level then we are ahead of the game, we know something that we didn’t know before. Potential is worth nothing unless it can be realized. Taking Mike Pelfrey from the bullpen and putting him in the starting rotation again isn’t exactly trying something new, how can you expect something new and better when you keep doing the same old things?

 

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How in the h*&@ does Herrmann make the 25 man roster?

Chris Herrmann

Chris Herrmann

The Twins 25 man roster appears to be set and Chris Herrmann is the back-up catcher. How does that happen? There is probably no nicer guy that Chris Herrmann but what is he doing making the Minnesota Twins 25 man roster going into the season opener just a few days away.

I need some help understanding how this could have happened. I know that the back-up catcher is not going to make or break the team in 2015 but I would like to understand the logic in this move. Nobody owes me an explanation, I understand that, but this move just seems like one of the dumbest moves the Twins have made in some time. I used to wonder if Nick Punto had some dirt on then manager Ron Gardenhire but now I have to wonder what Herrmann has on Paul Molitor and Terry Ryan. The other candidates for this role on the team were Josmil Pinto and Eric Fryer.

Eric Fryer is the oldest at 29 and he is primarily a catcher although Baseball-Reference lists him as a catcher/outfielder. That is kind of bogus as Fryer has appeared in just two games in the outfield for the Pittsburgh Pirates back in 2012 and the Twins have not used him as anything but a catcher. The case can be made that Fryer is the best catcher of the trio of candidates and he can hit a bit (career .246 average) but with little to no power. If the Twins brain trust were interested in just having a good back-stop then Fryer was their guy.

Josmil Pinto is already 26 and is by far the best hitter of the trio but pretty much everyone agrees that his work behind the plate still needs improvement, then again what players name could you bring up that doesn’t need improvement in some phase of his game. Pinto has a career average of .257 but he also has 11 home runs in just 78 games. Pinto has had injury issues this spring and that set him back for sure but unless the man is not in good enough shape to play, he should have been on the Twins roster.

The 27-year-old Chris Herrmann is a catcher by trade but the Twins also use him in the outfield and at first base. Herrmann has the most big league experience of this group having played in 97 games but his career average is .196 with four home runs. Herrmann’s is neither a good hitter nor a great defensive catcher but he brings flexibility to the table. But I have to ask you this, what good is flexibility in your back-up catcher when you carry only two catchers? The idea is that he is your back-up catcher, he is not going to play outfield or first base. The Twins have first base and the outfield covered, do you use him as the DH? Why? You have plenty of players that can be the DH that can hit better than Herrmann. There is ZERO logic in having Herrmann be the back-up catcher on this team.

I know that in a couple of weeks that Herrmann will be in Rochester and Pinto will be in Minnesota barring some kind of injury to Pinto but it drives me crazy when the Twins make cockamamy moves like this. I understand that this ballclub has far more serious issues than who the back-up catcher will be but this moves just jumps out at me and screams WHY? If you know why, tell me because I need help here.

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Former Twins outfielder Riccardo Ingram passes away

Riccardo Ingram

Riccardo Ingram

Former Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers outfielder Riccardo Ingram passed away after a lengthy battle with brain cancer at the age of 48 on March 31. Ingram was born in Douglas, Georgia on September 10, 1966.

Riccardo Ingram was a fourth round selection by the Detroit Tigers in the 1987 June amateur draft and made his major league debut with the Tigers on June 26, 1994 in Oakland-Alameda County Stadium as a pinch-runner for Cecil Fielder as the Oakland A’s beat the Tigers 10-5. Ingram appeared in a dozen games for the Tigers that season and then left the Tigers organization as a free agent after the 1994 season and signed with the Minnesota Twins. Ingram’s time with the Minnesota Twins in July of 1995 was brief and he appeared in just four games and had one hit and one RBI in eight at bats. Ingram left Minnesota after the 1995 season and spent 1996 with the San Diego Padres AAA Las Vegas Stars team before retiring after the season ended.

Ingram was offered and accepted a minor league coaching position with the Twins organization after retiring as an active player and spent the next 18 seasons coaching and managing in the Twins system. Ingram managed the GCL Twins, Fort Myers Miracle, and the New Britain Rock Cats and was well liked by his players and members of the Twins organization. alike Ingram was apparently a great story-teller and fun to be around. In 2009 Ingram suffered from severe headaches and was diagnosed with a brain tumor, the prognosis was grim as doctors gave him just a year to live. Ingram battled the brain tumor for a year before returning to coaching in the Twins system. Ingram was a coach for the Fort Myers Miracle in 2014 but as the year progressed he learned that his cancer had returned.

“Every year, he used to meet with our pitchers,” said Eric Rasmussen, who was Ingram’s pitching coach with the Miracle in 2005 and is now the Twins minor league pitching coordinator. “He’d gather them all together, and he’d say: “You have got one job to do. Throw the ball over the plate.” “And then he’d leave.”

Before becoming a professional baseball player, Ingram was a star football and baseball player at Georgia Tech and is a member of the Georgia Tech’s Sports Hall of Fame. He was the first Georgia Tech player to be named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s male athlete of the year. He was an All-Atlantic Coast Conference defensive back in 1986 before leading the Yellow Jackets to the 1987 ACC baseball championship.

Riccardo Benay Ingram is survived by his wife, Allison, and their two children – Kacey and Kristen. RIP Riccardo Ingram, you will be missed.

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Remembering 1965 – Part 7 – Holdouts and Hilario

As the Twins entered spring training in 1965 they faced some challenges that baseball teams do not face today. One of those challenges was the “holdout.” Agents didn’t really exist back then and arbitration was unheard of as players went head-to-head with their teams to sign a contract that both sides could live with. Back in the day, “holdouts” were commonplace as players fought with ownership for a good contract. In today’s world they never even discuss pay cuts after a player has a substandard season, back then it was common place and player salaries could be cut by as much as 20%.

Twins owner Calvin Griffith was known as one of the toughest negotiators in baseball and there was seldom a year that went by that he didn’t have some difficult salary negotiations with a number of his players, 1965 was no different as Calvin had some issues signing two of his best pitchers, Camilo Pascual and Jim Kaat.

Valdespino, SandyThe Cuban born outfielder Sandy Valdespino played sparingly for Minnesota between 1965-1967 appearing in 259 games. You can learn a little more about Hilario Valdespino by reading the piece about him in the March 27, 1965 issue of the Sporting News.

Sporting News March 27, 1965

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The Twins shortstop dilemma

Eduardo Escobar

Eduardo Escobar

In 2014 Eduardo Escobar took over as the Twins regular shortstop in spite of team’s attempts to give the job to a number of other players. Escobar responded by playing well in the field and better than expected at the plate by hitting .275 with 35 doubles and six home runs in 433 at bats. Escobar does not steal many bases, not sure why that is, and his OBP was only .315. Escobar is a fun player to watch and when he plays he seems to make the team around him play better.

This spring the 26 year-old Escobar has the second most at bats of anyone on the team and he is hitting .319 with three home runs and a team leading 14 RBI but his OBP is only .313. What you see is what you get with the popular Escobar, he will never be an on base machine but he plays well in the field and he has some pop in his bat. Although Escobar prefers shortstop, he has also played 3B, 2B, and he can play some outfield in a pinch.

Danny Santana

Danny Santana

The Twins however; seem to have their heart set on Danny Santana becoming the teams regular shortstop. The 24 year-old Santana is also a natural shortstop but the Twins threw him out in to center field last year and he responded well by playing good defense for someone with so little outfield experience and with the stick he was even better with a .319 average and seven home runs, 40 RBI and 20 stolen bases in just 405 at bats at the big league level. When you add in his .353 OBP, primarily from the lead-off spot you are looking at a pretty nice rookie season for the young switch-hitter. I know manager Paul Molitor would like to see his lead-off hitter with a .370 or so OBP but Santana is still very young and he probably will raise his OBP as he matures.

Meanwhile, back in the black hole the Twins call center field no one has stepped up and taken the reins to win the job since the Twins traded both Denard Span and Ben Revere after the 2012 season. The team has tried to give the job to Aaron Hicks for the last several seasons and this year he was expected to at least play center in a platoon role but just the other day the team sent him packing to look for a home in AAA Rochester. Everyone knows that center field will be the new home of Byron Buxton in the very near future so the Twins are only looking for s place holder for that role until Buxton shows up to claim his spot. By sending Hicks down the Twins seem to be saying that Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson will share the center field job. Personally, I think that by All-Star time Buxton will be patrolling center field at Target Field.

The Twins claim they want to be a better team, but who doesn’t. I am not sure I understand the Twins logic in playing Schafer/Robinson in center, Santana at short, and Escobar in a utility role.  To me it makes more sense to play Santana in center five days a week and two days a week at short and play Escobar at short when Santana is in the outfield. It seems to me that I would prefer Escobar in the line-up most of the time over a Schafer or Robinson. I understand that Santana needs to continue playing some shortstop if that is going to be his long-term position. I love Santana in my line-up but has he proven he can play short in the big leagues? Not on a long-term basis. Assuming that Buxton really is the knight in shining armor and will coming riding in to Target Field on his white horse before September of 2015 why not get the best sticks in the line-up.

Both Danny Santana and Eduardo Escobar deserve and have earned more playing time than Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson and it’s time for the Twins to man up and put their best players on the field. It will be best for the team and for us fans that pay good money to buy the tickets to watch this team play ball.

One things that really bugs me is when Twins management and Twins fans complain that this player can’t do this and he can’t do that. Everyone is always looking for a player with all five tools. What the hell are they thinking? How many five tool guys are there in the big leagues playing ball today? They are rare as hen’s teeth, they are perennial all-star’s and future Hall of Famers, they don’t grow on trees. If you find one each decade you are doing great. Most big league players have flaws, canker sores, warts and other issues. We all have to quit thinking that every player the Twins bring up has to be the next Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Jim Kaat, Johan Santana, or Kirby Puckett.

There is nothing wrong with good baseball players that have some warts. Twins management needs to realize that it is OK for some of these young players to come up to Minnesota with shortcomings in their game that they can improve on and learn from while they earn big league dollars. Not everyone can do it all, so don’t keep waiting on perfection.

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This Day in Twins History – March 27

Jim Perry

Jim Perry

3/27/1973 – Twins’ pitcher Jim Perry becomes the first player to use the ’10 and 5 rule’ when he okay’s his own trade to the Tigers for minor league pitcher Dan Fife and cash.

Brad Havens3/27/1985 – The Twins move pitcher Brad Havens to the Orioles and receive pitcher Mark Brown.

3/27/2005Bob Casey, the first and only Twins public-address announcer passed away.

Bob Casey

Bob Casey

3/27/2010 – The University of Minnesota Gophers lost to Louisiana Tech 9-1 in the first baseball game played at the Twins’ new home, Target Field. More than 37,757 people came through the turnstiles after they opened in the morning for fans to take a look, sit in the seats and sample the food. Tickets were $2, with proceeds going to the team’s community fund. Former Gophers and Twins catcher Terry Steinbach threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Louisiana Tech’s Clint Ewing hit the ballpark’s first home run.

Here is an interesting blog I ran across this morning on Fivethirtyeight.com . What would you rather have? TJ elbow surgery or shoulder surgery? See what Fivethirtyeight has to say about it.

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Twins Hodgepodge

The blog C70 at the Bat has an annual event where they check in with bloggers from other teams to talk about the past off-season and the up-coming season which they call Playing Pepper. This has been going on for a number of years and I have participated for the last few year. Here is what a number of Twins bloggers had to say in Playing Pepper 2015 – Minnesota Twins.

I know that spring training stats don’t mean squat but if you go by the numbers they have put up so far this spring the Twins bullpen is in for a long season and pitching coach Neil Allen and manager Paul Molitor will wear a path from the dugout to the pitching mound. Hopefully they are not nearly as bad as they have shown us so far this spring.

Chris Herrmann

Chris Herrmann

The Twins keep playing the 27-year-old Chris Herrmann this spring and the way I see it they are showcasing him and trying to do him a favor and move him. I have talked with Herrmann a number of time over the last few years and you could not meet a nicer guy. The Twins are using Herrmann in the outfield, first base, DH and at catcher. It is good to be able to play a variety of roles but it is the catchers gear that will prolong Herrmann’s career in the big leagues and he wants to be considered a catcher because he understands that ordinary utility players are a dime a dozen. I believe the Twins feel that Herrmann has no future with the Twins but they want to reward him for his loyalty but showcasing him and moving him this spring to a team that is looking for a back-up catcher that can also play several other positions. Herrmann is what he is and his skills are not going to change at this point in his career, he just needs to find a team looking for his skills. I wish Chris the best but baseball can be cruel.

I am disappointed in how little the Twins have run this spring under their new skipper. The team stolen base leaders so far are Aaron Hicks and Eduardo Nunez with two and the team has stolen a total of seven bases in 11 attempts. Oddly enough speedster Jordan Schafer has been caught three times in four attempts.

Tim Stauffer

Tim Stauffer

My biggest disappointment so far this spring? That would be reliever Tim Stauffer, I expected a lot more but it is still early.

I still have hope that the Twins will some how find a way to take a serious look at Eddie Rosario as the Twins center fielder in 2015.

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One of Twins top prospects shut down

Max Kepler

Max Kepler

This past Wednesday I heard that one of the Twins top prospects, Max Kepler had injured his arm during a morning workout. The early diagnosis was a Flexor Pronator Strain and a MRI the following day confirmed the diagnosis. The good news is that there is no tear but the bad news is that Max had a similar arm injury last season. Kepler works very hard to stay in shape year round but has had some bad injury luck the last couple of years that have limited him to 61 games in 2013 and 102 games last season. When I asked Twins management about the injury to Kepler their comment was “just a tight forearm”.

Kepler, who turned 22 recently was signed by Minnesota in 2009 and can play all three outfield positions as well as first base has been in the Twins minor league system since 2010. Kepler was hoping to start this season with Chattanooga and is very disappointed with his latest injury. A lot of people including myself were expecting a breakout season from Max in 2015 and he may still have that but it will start later than he would have wanted. I understand that Kepler has been shut down and will start rehabbing his injury this coming week but expectations are that he could be out 3-4 weeks. A very tough break for one of my favorite players in the Minnesota Twins system.

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Checking in with the Twins

When you visit the CenturyLink Sports complex when there are no games going on it can be kind of boring. I know, I know, I have nothing to complain about as I watch the Twins prepare for a new season in the 80 degree sunshine that SW Florida provides. When I got to the ballpark I ran into Seth Stohs from Twins Daily who had just arrived a day earlier and we chatted for a while. The Twins were playing the Pirates up in Bradenton so the remaining crew of Twins players back in Fort Myers was made up primarily of starting pitchers and a few position players that didn’t make the trip like Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter and Eduardo Nunez.

The minor league players hadn’t reported yet although I believe they are scheduled to report today. With the minor league group reporting it would mean that it is time for the Twins to announce their first group of cuts which I believe will be announced later today.

Ton Kelly

Ton Kelly

As I was leaving the minor league fields I happened to see former Twins skipper Tom Kelly sauntering back from the minor league complex to Hammond Stadium bat in hand. I said hello and asked about his health as we walked back. TK told me he was not 100% as yet but was getting stronger everyday. He told me about how his doctor had literally “gotten in his face” and told him to rest and do nothing after he was released from the hospital. Of course TK being who he is couldn’t sit still for long but he found out quickly that the doctor knew what he was talking about and since then TK has listened to the doctor and abided by his wishes. The doctor told him it would probably take about 6 months to get back to where he was before the stroke and the 6 month mark is coming up soon. As we got closer to the stadium more fans recognized TK and soon a group had gathered for pictures and autographs with the Twins legend. I continue to be amazed at how Tom Kelly has mellowed over the years. Good for you TK, stay healthy because the Twins and their fans need you.

As always I managed to get some pictures of the action for you down here and you can check them out on the right hand side of the page under the 2015 Spring Training link.

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The most interesting man in baseball?

Daniel Norris

Daniel Norris

Is Toronto Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris the most interesting man in baseball? Every now and then you run across a story that gets your attention and makes you wonder about a lot of things. This morning I ran across such a story on ESPN and it makes me wonder what if the Minnesota Twins had signed Norris. If the Twins drafted and signed Norris would they be OK with his life style? I really liked this story and wish Daniel Norris the best and I hope I get a chance to talk to him some day. You can read the story here. Maybe there still are “characters” in baseball after all.

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Remembering 1965 – Part 6 – $50K, Trades, and the Draft

Baseball has changed so much over the years, in terms of play, the players, the rules and even the executive side. When the Twins first moved here in 1961 team owner Calvin Griffith served as his own GM. Griffith could do it all, he scouted players, he made trades and he negotiated salaries with all the players. Now days the owners are expected to sit back and sign the pay checks and for the most part keep their mouth shut.

The attached Sporting News page from March 6, 1965 shows you how different things were 50 years ago. Manager Sam Mele and Twins owner and GM Calvin Griffith publicly state their differences about team make-up and openly discuss players that the team pursued in trades as the team reports to spring training and prepares for the 1965 season. Now days baseball clubs are like the government and everything is classified and the information that they do provide is often cryptic and ambiguous. I guess with all the money involved in professional sports now days maybe more information needs to be held closer to the vest but it seems to me that as time goes on that baseball squeezes more and more fun out of the game.

Harmon Killebrew

Harmon Killebrew

In another section you can read about Harmon Killebrew becoming the first player in franchise history to sign a contract for $50,000. They used to say that Griffith threw nickels around like they were man-hole covers but I think that Harmon usually got his way with Calvin.

In 1965 when you mentioned the word “draft”  and your number you weren’t talking about the upcoming June free-agent draft, you were talking about getting drafted into the military and as they say on one of my favorite TV shows, Person of Interest, “when your number comes up, we will find you.” Today baseball and its players no longer have to deal with the military draft and service to ones country because Conscription in the United States, commonly known as the draft, was discontinued in June of 1973. Back in 1965 there was a huge concern that the Twins were going to lose Tony Oliva to the military and the man could not even speak English. About a year or so ago ThinkBlueLA did a piece called Baseball without the Draft that you might also enjoy reading. It has a cool picture of Hall of Famer Stan Musial in a Navy uniform. Boy, how times have changed, and not always for the better.Tony Oliva

Many of the stories written about the Minnesota Twins in the Sporting News in 1965 were written by Max Nichols. Here is a short bio on Max Nichols during his time in Minnesota – Minneapolis Star, Minneapolis, MN: September, 1959 to February, 1980: sports writer specializing in baseball from 1959 to 1967; Assistant City Editor from 1967 to 1969; Sports Editor from 1969 to 1974; Education Editor from 1974 to 1976; daily sports columnist from 1976 to February 1980. You can learn more about the life of Max Nichols here.

Enjoy this page of the Sporting News as you travel back in time to March 6, 1965.

1965 Twins SN 03061965

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Who am I?

Elmer ValoIf I were still alive today it would be my 94th birthday making me the oldest player to ever wear a Minnesota Twins uniform. I was a left-handed hitting outfielder that was born in Czechoslovakia and played in the major leagues for 20 seasons but I only spent a part of one season in Minnesota. In 6,091 career plate appearances I walked 942 times and struck out just 284 times and posted a career .398 OBP which is identical to Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio. So who am I?

Hint: I played for three different franchises that relocated while I was a team member.

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Twins first exhibition game on deck

The Minnesota Twins open their 2015 exhibition season by playing the Minnesota Gophers on March 4 and they will play their final spring training game on Saturday April 4th at Hammond Stadium against the Boston Red Sox. When early April rolls around we will all have a pretty good idea who will make this years opening day roster. Having said that, I don’t think that Twins fans should get too attached to the players on the opening day roster because I have a feeling that the “roster will be a-changing” and I can’t wait to see some of that new blood when  it heads north to Minnesota and Target field.

Tinker Field 6The Minnesota Twins played their first ever exhibition game on March 11, 1961 at Tinker Field in Orlando. Cookie Lavagetto and his boys took on the Detroit Tigers and their first game turned out to be a 4-1 loss. Paul Giel started the game for Minnesota and took the loss and Bob Bruce who started for the Tigers was credited with the victory. You will notice in the box score that although this was the first game of spring training and players were not in the shape that they are in today that a number of the pitchers that pitched in this game logged three innings not the one inning that you will probably see tomorrow.

Paul Giel (courtesy of the Minnesota Twins)

Paul Giel (courtesy of the Minnesota Twins)

The box score below was provided courtesy of Stew Thornley, Thanks Stew, we appreciate it!

Twins first ST game boxscore 3-11-1961

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Hammond Stadium Extreme Makeover

There was a special Hammond Stadium Commemorative Section in the Ft. Myers News-Press Sunday paper today and the headline was “Extreme Makeover”. David Dorsey did a number of the articles in the special section and he did a superb job. Maybe his best piece in the section has the following headline – “Ancient Rome inspires entrance.” It talks about the “grand vomitory” and how Dave St. Peter and the Twins had to be convinced to give up some of their best seats behind home plate that brought in about $5,400 in revenue per spring training game. Dorsey also discusses the “Witches Hat” towers with the Populous architect. I am not going to spoil the article for you by telling you what “grand vomitory” means and what “Witches Hat” towers have to do with the extreme makeover.

You can read it for yourself here –

New Twins grand entrance will spew forth fans

Improvements abound at Twins spring training home

Fields of Dreams for the Minnesota Twins

Q&A: Hammond Stadium architect discusses the details

There is a very nice panoramic view video of the stadium and the grand entrance in the article that you also want to see.

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Looking at the best seat in the house spring training prices

2015 Grapefruit LeagueWhen I was out at the CenturyLink Sports Complex I picked a Minnesota Twins spring training schedule and I was also handed a brochure called “Spring Training Florida,” put out by the Florida Sports Foundation. Their web site can be found at www.floridagrapefruitleague.com and it is worth your time to check this site out before you head on down here to Florida to catch some spring baseball.

There are 15 teams that train in Florida (eight AL and seven NL) at this time and I thought that it would be fun to see how spring training ticket prices compare when you look at the best seat (most expensive) ticket in the house. Spring training tickets are priced all over the board and a number of teams break down their spring training games into various tiers like they do their regular season tickets. The Twins for example have two tiers and divide their games into “value” and “premium” pricing and this year they even have a lower price for their game against the Minnesota Gophers on  March 4th.

It is difficult to try to use logic to explain baseball spring training ticket prices here in the Grapefruit League. Some of the teams that you might say are going to be or have been less competitive have some of the highest ticket prices. I am not sure how things work out in Arizona where the spring training sites are closer together but here in Florida visiting teams seldom send very many, sometimes you wonder if they sent any of their regulars to away games. Not counting the game against the Gophers and any “B” games, the Twins will play 32 exhibition games, 16 at home and 16 on the road but five of those road games are at JetBlue Park just a couple of miles away so you really can’t count those as real away games.

So if you wanted to really splurge and buy a ticket for the best seat in the stadium, what will it cost you this year if you come down here to warm and sunny Florida.

TEAM LOCATION COST
1 Astros Kissimmee $58
2 Braves Lake Buena Vista $54
3 Red Sox Ft. Myers $48
4 Twins Ft. Myers $44
5 Marlins Jupiter $40
5 Cardinals Jupiter $40
7 Phillies Clearwater $39
8 Orioles Sarasota $35
8 Rays Port Charlotte $35
10 Yankees Tampa $33
11 Blue Jays Dunedin $32
12 Tigers Lakeland $30
12 Mets Port St. Lucie $30
12 Nationals Viera $30
15 Pirates Bradenton $27

Interactive Whiteboards by PolyVision

Average price for the best seat in the house is $38.33

I can’t really speak for the other teams but one of the benefits of coming to a Twins game at the CenturyLink Sports Complex around mid-March or later is that you can go to the back fields and catch a couple of minor league games going on. I believe that the minor league players are scheduled to report on March 10 so a few days after that you should be able to start to see them playing some games. Sometimes these games are against each other but most of the time they will play a team from the same level from another organization. Watching these future stars doesn’t cost you a dime and if you get to the park early enough you might not have to pay for parking. I believe the Twins charge about $10 for parking on days when the Twins play at Hammond Stadium and I think they start collecting money sometime between 9:30 AM and 10 AM. So if you are an early bird you can save a ten spot but don’t tell the Twins I told you to do that.

If can swing a trip to Florida to enjoy the sun and the wonderful weather you should try to take in a Grapefruit League game, it is a great way to enjoy an afternoon or evening.

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No red carpet but the uniforms were red

IMGP8441cI missed the Minnesota Twins open house this past Sunday because I was feeling under the weather but I was feeling fine again on Monday so I headed out to the CenturyLink Sports Complex to check out the Twins pitchers and catchers on their first day at training camp under new manager Paul Molitor.

I don’t know why but I was surprised to see the Twins wearing their red jerseys during their first 2015 workout. The workout was already underway when I arrived. I believe that the Twins workouts normally start about 08:30 AM and finish up around 11:30 AM.

The Twins pitchers were broken into several different groups as they went through a variety of drills and took their turn in the bullpen to get some throwing in under the watchful eye of their brand new pitching coach Neil Allen. The catchers in camp this year are Kurt Suzuki, Josmil Pinto, Chris Herrmann, Eric Fryer, Mitch Garver, Tyler Grimes, Dan Rohlfing, and Stuart Turner.

It is great to see the Twins out on the field again and getting ready for their first season under the tutelage of Hall of Famer Paul Molitor but all in all it was a pretty quiet day. There were a number of fans but not as many as I might have expected checking out the action getting pictures and a few autographs when the players work for the day was over. The one observation I would make after watching the first day is that it seemed much quieter and more business-like then what I remember from previous sessions under the Gardenhire regime. I didn’t see any horsing around or players standing around laughing and telling tall tales from their off-season exploits. Maybe it was just day one jitters and everyone getting acclimated but it seemed different.

Molitor was kind of what I expected him to be, standing around and observing the action and now and then taking a player aside and talking with him one on one. Maybe I missed it but I didn’t see Molitor smile once during the morning work outs. It might be just his personality or maybe it struck him exactly what he had stepped into during his first venture in managing. It will be interesting to see how the Twins players react to a manager that I think is much more of a distant old school Tom Kelly type than a players manager like Ron Gardenhire who seemed to be more interested in being part of the gang. Time will tell.

I haven’t seen TK down here yet so I am not sure if he will report when the position players show up or if his health concerns will prevent him from taking part in spring training this season. It was kind of odd not seeing the long time Twins coaching staff and instead seeing Eddie Guardado out on the field helping with pitchers fielding practice.

Your fun fact for the day, Twins pitchers are “a tall glass of water”, at least ten of them are 6’4″ or taller.

I did get a few pictures that you can check out on the right hand side of the page under “2015 Spring Training”.

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Remembering 1965 – considering a four man rotation – Part 5

The Minnesota Twins have a new pitching coach in Neil Allen this season.  Heading into the 1965 season the Twins also had a new pitching coach and his name was Johnny Sain. It turns out that both Allen and Sain were right-handed and both pitched in the big leagues during all or parts of 11 seasons. Allen is getting his first shot as a big league pitching coach in 2015 while Sain had already served as a pitching coach for the Kansas City A’s in 1959 and the New York Yankees from 1961-1963 before he joined Minnesota in 1965 where he would last for two years before going on to serve as pitching coach for the Tigers from 1967-1969, the White Sox from 1971-1975 and the Atlanta Braves in 1977 and again from 1985-1986. Most pitchers loved Sain as their pitching coach and Twins pitcher Jim Kaat was one of those. Matter of fact, when owner Calvin Griffith and the Twins let Sain go, Kaat went public about how stupid he thought that move was but that is a another story for another time.

The Twins had switched to a five man rotation in 1962 but new Twins pitching coach Sain thought that he had the pitchers in Minnesota to go back to a four man starting rotation and it was not a hard sell. Here is a piece that appeared in the Sporting News on  February 13, 1965. Feel free to click on the article a couple of times if your eyes are like mine and need a bit larger font.

 

1965 Twins to pitch on 3 day rest SN 02131965

 Here is how the Twins 1965 pitching stats turned out.

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Twins have easy travel schedule in 2015

AirplaneUnless something unforeseen happens the Minnesota Twins will not be booking a lot of frequent flyer miles in 2015 as they will only have to fly 23,866 miles this coming season. Only seven teams, the Indians with 23,499, the Brewers with 23,429, the White Sox with 23,180, the Tigers with 22,508, the Cubs with 20,953, the Cardinals with 20,875 and the Reds with 20,612 will fly fewer miles than our home town boys. The Mariners on the other hand will be on the other end of the spectrum and will need to fly 43,281 miles to play out their schedule of games in 2015.

The site I used to look up this information has information going back to 2009. Based on their numbers the 2015 Minnesota Twins will fly fewer miles than any Twins team has flown from 2009 through 2014.

Miles flown by the Minnesota Twins

2014 – 29,532

2013 – 29,043

2012 – 25,546

2011 – 32,199

2010 – 27,398

2009 – 25,315

So when you hear those Minnesota Twins radio and television announcers talk about the teams grueling travel schedule you can say, “what a bunch of BS”, they got it easy.

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Checking out the boys of summer

Hammond StadiumI went out to the CenturyLink Sports Complex on Monday to see what Twins have reported early and are enjoying the beautiful weather here in Ft. Myers.  Spring training hasn’t officially started yet but there are a couple dozen players here getting ready for the 2015 season. At this time of the year you see the players start their workouts about 8:30 AM and they are usually done between 11 AM and Noon. I was not willing to get up early and be at the park when the players first start working out so I left our condo in Cape Coral about 9:20 AM expecting to get to the park in 20-30 minutes. I don’t know what happened to the traffic but it took me 55 minutes to traverse the 12 miles. Traffic was just plain crazy, it has never taken me that long to get to the ballpark before. Then again traffic all over Cape Coral and Ft. Myers seems to be extra heavy this year, must be all those folks that are suffering from the cold and snow in the NE that must have decided they had enough and headed for SW Florida. When I finally arrived there were about 30 or so players spread over four fields. Two of the fields had batting practice taking place, a third had some infield drills going on and the fourth field was being used by some pitchers to get their running and stretching in. Since the players don’t wear uniforms it is hard to identify a lot of the players that are there. The big leaguers are easy to identify but the minor leaguers not so much. Torii Hunter was easily the most popular player out there on Monday and he had a group of fans following him and getting his autograph. Kennys Vargas was there and he appeared to be having fun both out on the field and with the fans that asked him for his autograph, the man always seems to have a smile on his face. It is amazing how much he reminds you of David Ortiz, now if he can just hit like Big Papi.

Miguel Sano

Miguel Sano

Even though has Miguel Sano has not played a game for the Twins he is well-known and loved here in Ft. Myers and everyone enjoys watching him take BP because you know he will park many a ball over the outfield fences. On this day I saw him hit one to dead center that hit the green batting out a long way out there. Sano is not getting any smaller and I really wonder how long he can stay at third base. I heard one of the coaches talking with Sano about running and Sano said he can’t run right now because he is having a problem with his foot. Hopefully that is not a serious issue because Sano needs to get as much playing time in spring training as possible. I saw Max Kepler and I almost didn’t recognize him, Max is a lot thinner this year but when I saw him in the batting cage he was hitting some nice line drives and even poked a few over the fence. I asked Max about his weight and he said that he had lost a few pounds and was eating healthier. Kepler looks ready for a big season.

There weren’t that many fans out at the ballpark but if you are hunting for an autograph and a chance to talk to some ball players then this is the place to be before the official grind of spring training begins. Hammond Stadium itself seems to have fewer and fewer construction workers around it and it is starting to take shape. The landscaping has a way to go but it is getting there. I think there is an open house slated for February 22 to show the fans the Twins updated new digs at Hammond Stadium.

I know that spring training is still a few days away but I want you to keep one player’s name in mind this spring. He might not make the Twins opening day roster but don’t forget the name Eddie Rosario.

I took a few pictures of what is going on down here and you can see them over on the right hand side of the page on the 2015 Spring Training link. They photo’s will make you wish you were down here in beautiful SW Florida in spite of the fact that by Friday morning the temps will be about 37 degrees when the sun appears over Hammond Stadium.

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Remembering 1965 – Part 4

Sid Hartman

Sid Hartman

The below material came from a column that Sid Hartman wrote in the Star Tribune on August 19, 1990.

The payroll for the Twins, the American League West’s last-place team, is about $16 million, an average of more than $400,000 a player. In 1965, when the Twins won the pennant in a 10-team league with no playoffs, the payroll for 25 players was about $1.5 million, less than half what Kirby Puckett is paid per season. There wasn’t any free agency then and the reserve clause was in effect. There wasn’t any arbitration, either, and it was either take it or leave it.

How things have changed in favor of the player. Harmon Killebrew, a big star on the team, didn’t make $100,000 until 1967. And Bob Allison, another big star, earned about $35,000. The team drew 1,463,288 fans and sold only 3,318 season tickets. Owner Calvin Griffith made a lot of money.

And when members of the 1965 Twins World Series team, here to play in an old-timers game Saturday night, reminisced about winning the pennant and losing the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games, they had to recall that it wasn’t all peaches and cream in the clubhouse. Pitching coach Johnny Sain didn’t get along with third-base coach Billy Martin, and manager Sam Mele sided with Martin. Many times Martin and Sain almost came to blows.

The pitchers were on the side of Sain, who believed a pitcher never threw a bad pitch or lost a game. But they never would have won without Martin’s inspiration. Still, they won the pennant and might have won the World Series had Jim Gilliam not made a sensational fielding play on a hard ground ball hit to third in the fifth inning of Game 7. Gilliam handled shortstop Zoilo Versalles‘ shot toward third with Rich Rollins on first and Frank Quilici on second. The score was 2-0 at the time and that is how it ended, with Sandy Koufax winning for the Dodgers.

Yes, baseball has sure changed in the last 25 years.

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Twins career OBP and OPS leaders

Twins Career OBP Leaders

Joe Mauer

Rk Player OBP PA From To G AB H HR BB IBB SO BA OPS
1 Joe Mauer .401 5578 2004 2014 1298 4833 1540 109 676 115 660 .319 .860
2 Rod Carew .393 6980 1967 1978 1635 6235 2085 74 613 99 716 .334 .841
3 Chuck Knoblauch .391 4573 1991 1997 1013 3939 1197 43 513 19 453 .304 .807
4 Chili Davis .385 1163 1991 1992 291 978 276 41 168 24 193 .282 .862
5 Harmon Killebrew .383 8018 1961 1974 1939 6593 1713 475 1321 152 1314 .260 .901
6 Matt Lawton .379 3150 1995 2001 771 2672 739 72 408 31 335 .277 .808
7 Steve Braun .376 2830 1971 1976 751 2429 689 35 356 24 285 .284 .757
8 Shane Mack .375 2434 1990 1994 633 2161 668 67 200 5 381 .309 .854
9 Corey Koskie .373 3257 1998 2004 816 2788 781 101 385 39 647 .280 .836
10 Doug Mientkiewicz .367 2505 1998 2004 643 2147 590 43 300 23 308 .275 .776
11 Kent Hrbek .367 7137 1981 1994 1747 6192 1749 293 838 110 798 .282 .848
12 Lyman Bostock .366 1577 1975 1977 379 1436 456 18 112 12 138 .318 .812
13 Paul Molitor .362 1885 1996 1998 422 1700 530 23 146 23 186 .312 .794
14 Bob Allison .361 4643 1961 1970 1236 3926 999 211 641 25 842 .254 .840
15 Kirby Puckett .360 7831 1984 1995 1783 7244 2304 207 450 85 965 .318 .837
16 Lenny Green .359 1754 1961 1964 485 1514 406 27 204 5 113 .268 .742
17 Denard Span .357 2671 2008 2012 589 2354 669 23 254 6 321 .284 .746
18 Luis Castillo .357 1036 2006 2007 227 933 279 3 85 0 86 .299 .720
19 Earl Battey .356 3161 1961 1967 853 2762 768 76 328 35 315 .278 .765
20 Shannon Stewart .354 1523 2003 2006 333 1373 404 29 120 7 172 .294 .772
21 Larry Hisle .354 2764 1973 1977 662 2437 697 87 251 19 478 .286 .811
22 Josh Willingham .353 1364 2012 2014 324 1132 263 61 184 9 347 .232 .799
23 Tony Oliva .353 6880 1962 1976 1676 6301 1917 220 448 131 645 .304 .830
24 Roy Smalley .350 4676 1976 1987 1148 3997 1046 110 549 31 606 .262 .750
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/13/2015.

To qualify for this Twins career OBP leaders list the player had to have a minimum of 1,000 plate appearances as a Minnesota Twin and have a OBP equal to or greater than .350 . The players above made the cut, anyone on this list surprise you? Joe Mauer is the Twins career OBP leader and yet he still takes a lot of abuse for his hitting. I think we need to appreciate Joe Mauer for the hitter he is. Just missing the cut, Lew Ford

 

Twins Career OPS Leaders

Harmon Killebrew

Rk Player OPS PA From To G AB H 2B 3B HR BB BA OBP SLG
1 Harmon Killebrew .901 8018 1961 1974 1939 6593 1713 232 21 475 1321 .260 .383 .518
2 Chili Davis .862 1163 1991 1992 291 978 276 61 3 41 168 .282 .385 .476
3 Joe Mauer .860 5578 2004 2014 1298 4833 1540 309 22 109 676 .319 .401 .459
4 Shane Mack .854 2434 1990 1994 633 2161 668 119 24 67 200 .309 .375 .479
5 Kent Hrbek .848 7137 1981 1994 1747 6192 1749 312 18 293 838 .282 .367 .481
6 Rod Carew .841 6980 1967 1978 1635 6235 2085 305 90 74 613 .334 .393 .448
7 Bob Allison .840 4643 1961 1970 1236 3926 999 167 41 211 641 .254 .361 .479
8 Kirby Puckett .837 7831 1984 1995 1783 7244 2304 414 57 207 450 .318 .360 .477
9 Corey Koskie .836 3257 1998 2004 816 2788 781 180 13 101 385 .280 .373 .463
10 Justin Morneau .832 5350 2003 2013 1278 4749 1318 289 16 221 501 .278 .347 .485
11 Tony Oliva .830 6880 1962 1976 1676 6301 1917 329 48 220 448 .304 .353 .476
12 Don Mincher .824 1762 1961 1966 590 1511 369 73 9 90 220 .244 .341 .483
13 Jimmie Hall .815 2102 1963 1966 573 1885 507 73 16 98 191 .269 .334 .481
14 Lyman Bostock .812 1577 1975 1977 379 1436 456 78 26 18 112 .318 .366 .446
15 Larry Hisle .811 2764 1973 1977 662 2437 697 109 23 87 251 .286 .354 .457
16 David Ortiz .809 1693 1997 2002 455 1477 393 108 3 58 186 .266 .348 .461
17 Matt Lawton .808 3150 1995 2001 771 2672 739 163 13 72 408 .277 .379 .428
18 Chuck Knoblauch .807 4573 1991 1997 1013 3939 1197 210 51 43 513 .304 .391 .416
19 Josh Willingham .799 1364 2012 2014 324 1132 263 55 2 61 184 .232 .353 .446
20 Marty Cordova .799 2620 1995 1999 628 2322 643 139 14 79 233 .277 .348 .451
21 Michael Cuddyer .794 4555 2001 2011 1139 4072 1106 239 35 141 411 .272 .343 .451
22 Paul Molitor .794 1885 1996 1998 422 1700 530 102 17 23 146 .312 .362 .432
23 Gary Ward .794 1681 1979 1983 417 1543 439 80 20 51 115 .285 .333 .461
24 Torii Hunter .793 4894 1997 2007 1234 4492 1218 259 26 192 319 .271 .324 .469
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/13/2015.

To qualify for this Twins career OPS leaders list the player had to have a minimum of 1,000 plate appearances as a Minnesota Twin and have a OPS equal to or greater than .790 . AJ Pierzynski just missed the cut at .788 . Number three on this list is Joe Mauer and we continue to bash him for not hitting more home runs.

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The Minnesota Twins and the Cherry Plaza Hotel

Cherry PlazaIt is mid February, TwinsFest is behind us and spring training is just around the corner. Target Field is still snow covered and the temperatures still don’t allow shorts to be worn outside but baseball fans are getting that itch, the itch to see some baseball. Since Minnesota fans won’t be able to see their home town nine play ball at Target Field until April some fans have already made their plans to travel to the Twins spring training home in Ft. Myers, Florida. Make no mistake, spring training is not far away, every day the numbers of players at the CenturyLink Sports Complex increases and Twins fans are attracted to Hammond Stadium like moths are to a flame. Some would argue with the same results.

Current Minnesota Twins players and future Twins players have it pretty good in spring training now days, but that has not always been the case. Back in 1961 at Tinker Field in Orlando, Florida when the former Washington Senators players put on their Minnesota Twins uniforms for the first time life was a lot different. Most of the teams that held spring training in Florida had segregated living and eating facilities and many of them even traveled in separate vehicles when their teams played an away game.

The Washington Senators had moved out of the Langford Hotel in Winter Park, Florida and into the Cherry Plaza Hotel (part 1) prior to spring training in 1959 under pressure from the Orlando Chamber of Commerce because the team was training in Orlando but staying in a Orlando suburb. When the Twins reported to their first spring training in 1961 the team was headquartered at the Cherry Plaza Hotel. However; the Cherry Plaza was segregated so the African-American players were housed at the Sadler Hotel on West Church Street which was an African-American business owned by Henry Sadler. It is ironic that Twins owner Calvin Griffith had helped to provide Sadler with the financing for his hotel.

In their first year of spring training as the Twins, there was little controversy over the segregated facilities in Orlando and the Cherry Plaza. Most baseball teams training in Florida were still segregating their players that year, although this would quickly change. According to various sources, by 1962 only five teams in Florida still had segregated spring training facilities, with the Twins being one of those teams.

In January of 1962, Twins players Earl Battey and Lenny Green were sitting at the head table of the “Hot Stove League” baseball banquet back in Minnesota while a derogatory and highly inappropriate story was told by “Rosy” Ryan, the former general manager of the Minneapolis Millers minor league club. Upon hearing the story, which referred to black players as “blackbirds,” Battey and Green promptly stormed out of the banquet. It is unknown if this was the straw that broke the camels back or just a coincidence but Earl Battey got in touch with than Minnesota Governor Elmer Andersen and updated him on the spring training segregation policies in Orlando.

Then the fur started to fly as then Minnesota Governor Elmer Andersen, Attorney General Walter Mondale and others started meeting with Twins owner Calvin Griffith, Road Secretary Howard Fox, and PR Director Herb Hoeft. Later, Minnesota Governor Karl Rolvaag got involved. The state also started communicating with Frank Flynn the General Manager of the Cherry Plaza Hotel (part 2).

Downtowner Motel

Downtowner Motel – Aren’t the color panels on this motel similar to colored panels on Met Stadium?

Heading into 1964 the Minnesota Twins were the only team in baseball that had not yet integrated its spring training facilities and the pressure was building as constant pressure on Griffith and Fox from civil rights organizations, the Governor’s office, the Attorney General’s office and, unceasingly, from the State Commission Against Discrimination (SCAD), caused the Twins to finally wake up. For the spring of 1964 they signed a contract with the Downtowner Motel in Orlando and abandoned the Cherry Plaza Hotel although Twins owner Calvin Griffith and his executives continued to stay at the Cherry Plaza Hotel. Segregated housing was finally over! The Twins even started paying the players meal money and allowing them to eat where ever they wished versus having the players always eat at the hotel and sign for the meal. According to Howard Fox, other teams have been providing meal money for years but the Twins approach has been to have the players sign for the meals so that the team could monitor if they were eating balanced meals.

Prior to the 1965 season the Cherry Plaza Hotel (part 3) became integrated and the Twins wasted no time moving back in and calling the Cherry Plaza Hotel as Twins headquarters once again.

There is a lot more detailed material to read about the Minnesota Twins and their early 1960’s segregation issues and you can check it out in some of these documents.

Calvin-Griffith-vs-The-State-of-Minnesota

Twins segregation continues 02161963

Twins last team to integrate in ST 03141964

Desegregating the Minnesota Twins (1964) (James C. and Kwame McDonald are one and the same person)

Baseball’s Reluctant Challenge Desegregating Major League spring training sites

When Hope Didn’t Spring Eternal For Black Baseball Players In Florida

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Remembering 1965 – the manager – Part 3

 Sabath Anthony “Sam” Mele 

 Sam Mele

Sabath Anthony “Sam” Mele was born in Astoria, New York on January 21, 1922. Sam Mele‘s parents were born in Avellino, Italy although they met in America. Mele’s mother was sister to big league brothers Al and Tony Cuccinello. Mele, a natural all-around athlete and a Queens Park baseball legend attended New York University where he lettered in both baseball and basketball but he excelled in basketball. After his time at NYU Mele   served his country by joining the Marines during World War II. Mele however; wanted to play pro baseball and was signed as a free agent by the Boston Red Sox in 1946. In his first year of organized ball, Mele played 119 games for Scranton (A ball in the Easter League) hitting .342 with 18 home runs before being moved up to Louisville in the AAA American Association where he played all of 15 games. Mele made his major league debut with the Red Sox the following year against the Washington Senators on April 15, 1947. His rookie season may have been one of the best of his career as Sam hit 12 home runs and knocked in 73 runs in 123 games while hitting .302. Mele would never hit over .300 again in his 10 year major league career. During his playing career spanning 1947 to 1956, Mele, who batted and threw right-handed, saw duty with six major league clubs: the Boston Red Sox, Washington Senators, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians, batting .267 with 80 home runs in 1,046 games. Sam Mele played his final major league game as a Cleveland Indian on September 16, 1956. Mele played AAA ball with for the White Sox and Athletics in 1957 and 1958 but never returned to the majors as a player.

Sam Mele in his playing days

Sam Mele in his playing days

Mele turned to coaching and served under manager Cookie Lavagetto in 1959 and 1960 for the Washington Senators before the team moved to Minnesota in 1961 and became known as the Twins. With the ‘61 Twins struggling, Calvin Griffith asked Lavagetto to take a week off to go fishing and clear his head in early June and during this period Mele filled in as manager. When Cookie Lavagetto was fired on June 23, 1961, Sam Mele who was 39 with no managerial experience stepped in as manager full-time and became the Minnesota Twins second manager. The Twins moved up two places in the standings under Mele, finishing seventh.

But the Twins, building with young home-grown players like future Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, Jim Kaat, Zoilo Versalles and Bob Allison, challenged the powerful New York Yankees in 1962 before finishing second. After finishing third in 1963, the team suffered through a poor season in 1964, leading to speculation that Mele would be replaced by his new third base coach, Billy Martin.

Finally, in 1965 the Twins broke the Yankees’ string of five World Series appearances by winning their first ever American League pennant and sent the Bronx Bombers on a tailspin where the New York Yankees would not appear in another World Series for 12 years. Led by Versalles, who was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player, batting champion Tony Oliva, and pitcher Mudcat Grant, who won 21 games, Minnesota won 102 games and coasted to the league title. The Yankees finished sixth, 25 games out. No Twins team has ever won 102 games since and Mele was named as the 1965 Sporting News Manager of the Year and back then there was only one manager of the year named for both the AL and NL. Minnesota took a two-game lead in the 1965 World Series, but the superior pitching of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Claude Osteen took its toll, and Los Angeles won in seven games. During the 1965 season Mele was involved in a an incident with home plate umpire Bill Valentine. The usually mild-mannered Mele’s hand apparently hit Valentine’s jaw and he was fined $500 and suspended five days.

The 1966 Twins won 13 fewer games, and ended up as runners-up to the Baltimore Orioles. Mele had clashed publicly with two of his coaches, Hal Naragon and pitching tutor Johnny Sain and both were fired after the 1966 season much to the dismay of star pitcher Jim Kaat who wrote an “open letter” to Twins fans voicing his displeasure on the Sain firing. The “letter” made national news and caused a ruckus during the 1966 World Series when major league baseball wanted the World Series front and center. The club swung a major trade for pitcher Dean Chance during the offseason and unveiled star rookie Rod Carew in 1967. Hopes and expectations were high in Minnesota, but when the Twins were only .500 after 50 games, Mele was fired. His successor was not Martin, as had been anticipated, but long time minor league manager Cal Ermer. Mele’s record as a manager was 524-436 (.546). He never managed again, but returned to the Red Sox as a scout for 25 years.

Now days Sam Mele is retired and is living in Quincy, Massachusetts. I was lucky enough to interview Sam Mele back in May of 2009 and the interview is about a 1/2 hour-long so grab the beverage of your choice, sit back, relax and listen to Sam tell you a little about himself and what it was like to manage the Minnesota Twins.

The interview with Sam Mele was done in May 2009 and is about 35 minutes long.

The Sam Mele SABR Baseball Biography is available here.

Piece by centerfieldmaz on Sam Mele

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Spending some time with Roger Erickson

Roger EricksonBack in early December I did an interview with former Twins pitcher Roger Erickson who pitched for Minnesota from 1978 until May of 1982 when the Twins traded him to the evil empire New York Yankees but for a variety of reasons I have not been able to get it out here for everyone to enjoy until now. It was a fun interview and it actually sheds some light on a previous blog that I did almost a year ago called Top Twins rookie starting pitchers about how the Twins abused their young pitchers over the years and shortened some players careers. The right-handed Erickson burst on the Twins scene in 1978 like a comet but injuries cut this young mans career short. Was Erickson just injury prone or did pitching coaches contribute to the problem? Erickson who comes from a family of baseball players had a 31-47 record with a 4.10 ERA in 106 starts in a Twins uniform but these numbers don’t really tell the story of Roger Erickson. I think there is a lesson in this story that tells us “don’t fix what ain’t broke.” Not everyone pitches the same way and teams and their pitching coaches should not try to pigeon-hole these pitchers to pitch in a manner that worked for them and in a manner they perceive to be the correct delivery. But you can make up your own mind about after you listen to this interview. I remember vividly when Roger first came up with the Twins because WCCO radio was the Twins flagship station and I always listened to WCCO. The station had some great personalities on the air back then and the morning show had a couple of characters by the names of Charlie Boone and Roger Erickson, “legends in their own minds” they liked to say. These guys were good and they provided some funny but always squeaky clean entertainment and with the Twins adding Roger Erickson to the team, the radio Roger Erickson used to have a ball with the fact that Roger Erickson the pitcher was having a season to remember during his rookie season in 1978. I guess you had to be there to understand….. So sit back, relax and listen to Roger as he talks about his career, baseball  in general, how a black widow spider bite can change your life, and that one day in Spring Training when he thought he had a game winning hit to right field and ended up getting thrown out at first base by Ellis Valentine. You can learn a little more about Roger Erickson and listen to the interview by going here. By the way, if you stop by our Interview Archives page you can check out all of the other interviews we have done over the years.

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Historical look at how Twins measure up to the rest of the league

I have followed baseball for a long time and it seems like the New York Yankees are always beating the Minnesota Twins. Truth or myth? I decided to check it out with an assist from baseball-reference.com .

It turns that the Yankees are indeed the toughest team to beat for our home town nine. Since 1961 they have played the Yankees 600 times and won just 252 of those match-ups for a .421 winning percentage. Actually I am surprised that the winning percentage is as high as it is because it seems like the Twins always lose to the Yankees.

Who do the Twins beat up on most frequently? That would be the Senators/Rangers franchise whom the Twins have played 696 times and whipped them on 366 occasions for a .527 winning percentage.  I have left the Houston Astros off the list since their time in the American League just started last season and I have included the Brewers/Pilots franchise since the Twins play them every year even though they have been in the National League for many of these years.

Here is how the Minnesota Twins stack up against the rest of the American League since 1961.

FRANCHISE TEAMS GAMES WON LOST WIN %
RANGERS SENATORS,RANGERS 696 366 329 .527
TIGERS 779 409 369 .526
WHITE SOX 844 441 400 .524
ROYALS 714 373 341 .522
BREWERS PILOTS,BREWERS 449 232 217 .517
A’S KC,OAKLAND 707 360 347 .509
RED SOX 596 298 298 .500
RAYS 129 63 66 .488
MARINERS 422 205 216 .487
INDIANS 777 375 401 .483
ANGELS 692 331 361 .478
ORIOLES 600 276 324 .460
BLUE JAYS 362 158 204 .436
YANKEES 600 252 347 .421

Interactive Whiteboards by PolyVision

 

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