This Day in Twins History – February 11

 

Dick Woodson - Twins pitcher from 1969 - 1974

Dick Woodson – Twins pitcher from 1969 – 1974

1974 – Forty-eight major league players invoke the new arbitration procedure established to settle contract differences. The first is pitcher Dick Woodson (seeking a contract for $30,000) and his team, the Twins (offering $23,000), who present their respective cases to Detroit lawyer and labor arbitrator Harry H. Platt, who must decide on one of the monetary amounts presented. Woodson wins. Get the story first hand on what transpired and why from Dick Woodson by going to my Salaries page and listen to the interview I had with Dick about this subject. You will find the interview about half way down the page.

Kent Hrbek 1983 Fleer1985 – Twins 1B Kent Hrbek signs a new contract that makes him the club’s first $1 million player.

 

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Twins GM Terry Ryan battling cancer

 

Twins Press Release

2/10/2014 2:03 P.M. ET

Statement from Terry Ryan of the Minnesota Twins

 

Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN – As the Minnesota Twins prepare to open Spring Training in Fort Myers, FL, I felt it was important to take this opportunity to share information surrounding my personal health.

During the course of a routine annual physical, Twins team physician Dr. Vijay Eyunni detected a lump in my neck which required further review. A subsequent biopsy confirmed the lump was cancerous, leading to an official medical diagnosis of Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Thankfully, incremental tests indicate the cancer appears to be confined to my neck and has not spread to other regions of my body.

At the direction of Dr. Eyunni, I am currently being treated at the Mayo Clinic as well as Minnesota Oncology. I’ve been assured this form of cancer is treatable and remain optimistic about my return to good health in the near future.

Understanding the need to focus on treatment and recovery, I will not be in Fort Myers as we commence Spring Training. That said, I’m highly confident in the proven leadership of our baseball operations team including Rob Antony, Mike Radcliff, Ron Gardenhire and others as we collectively prepare for the 2014 Major League season.

Lastly, my family and I would like to say thank you to Dr. Eyunni as well as the doctors and medical staff at the Mayo Clinic and Minnesota Oncology. In addition, we are grateful for the many friends and colleagues who have sent their well wishes and support throughout this challenging time. It’s my intention to see you back at the ballpark as soon as possible.

……………………

GM Terry Ryan

GM Terry Ryan

I would certainly like to pass on my prayers and best wishes to Terry Ryan and his family as they go through this difficult time. Fighting cancer is never an easy battle but I know that Terry Ryan is a fighter and he will win this battle.

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The hardest workers at Hammond Stadium so far are the construction workers

I went out to Hammond Stadium again this morning and hung around for a couple of hours talking baseball with other fans and watched some of the early arrivals hit and take some infield. Not much going on as yet. Some of the players I recognized today that were participating in early workouts of one variety or another were Trevor Plouffe, Jason Bartlett, Miguel Sano, Nate Roberts, Adam Walker, Lewis Thorpe, Wilkin Ramirez, Kyle Gibson, Jared Burton, Mike Kvasnicka, AJ Pettersen, and Amaurys Minier. These players and others that I did not recognize were working under the tutelage of some minor league coaches and Joe Lepel. After hitting, some of the infielders including Jason Bartlett and Miguel Sano took some infield on field 4 practicing their fielding and working on turning double plays. It was interesting watching Bartlett and Sano doing some of these infield drills on their knees. All in all there is not much going on out at the ballpark as yet with no players having officially reported. I would however expect that more players will arrive over the week-end and that the action will pick up next week. The people working the hardest at Hammond Stadium these days are probably the construction workers that are trying to getting things ready for the start of spring training. I took some more pictures today primarily of the ball players and I have uploaded them to the “2014 Spring Training” link you can find on the right hand side of this page. I will be out there again early next week and I will keep you updated on what I see going on at Hammond Stadium..

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This Day in Twins History – February 6, 1998

Chuck KnoblauchThe Twins recently announced the Chuck Knoblauch will be enshrined in the Twins Hall of Fame this summer but on this day back in 1998 the Twins traded their 1991 Rookie of the Year and four-time All-Star second baseman Chuck Knoblauch to the Yankees and in turn received pitchers Eric Milton and Danny Mota along with shortstop Cristian Guzman and outfielder Brian Buchanan and $3 million in cash. Knoblauch had publicly asked to be traded because he felt the Twins were not interested in putting a winning team on the field. Here is what CBS had to say about the trade at the time, there are some interesting quotes in this story when you look back on 1998 from 2014.

Knoblauch’s stay in New York was relatively short, just four years but he got his wish to be part of a winning team as the Yankees played in the World Series each of the four years, winning it all three times and getting Knoblauch three more rings to go with the one he won in Minnesota in 1991. Knoblauch developed some throwing issues during him time in New York and eventually started playing some outfield. Knoblauch became a free agent after the 2001 season and signed with the Kansas City Royals but only played 8o games for them in 2002 as before calling it a career.

Eric Milton

Eric Milton

Eric Milton was 57-51 with a 4.76 ERA for the Twins during his 6 seasons in Minnesota before he was traded to the Phillies for pitchers Carlos Silva, Bobby Korecky, and the infamous infielder Nick Punto.

Cristian Guzman

Cristian Guzman

Shortstop Cristian Guzman also stayed in Minnesota for six seasons appearing in 841 games hitting .266 and stealing 102 bases. Guzman left the Twins as a free agent after the 2004 season.

The Twins expected big things from outfielder Brian Buchanan but he never panned out and he appeared in only 143 games as a Twins hitting .258 with 16 home runs. In July 2002 the Twins traded “Buck” to the San Diego Padres for shortstop Jason Bartlett who just signed a minor league deal with the Twins once again.

Pitcher Danny Mota appeared in four games for the Twins giving up 10 hits and one walk in 5.1 innings and never put on a major league uniform again.

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First 2014 visit to Hammond Stadium

I was excited to get my first look at the changes that are taking place at Hammond Stadium this year and yesterday I went out there to see what was going on. For the most part it is a construction area and kind of messy and muddy in parts of the complex but work is going on everywhere.

The main changes to the ballpark itself are the new concourse that encircles the entire ballpark and the new “grassy knoll” in the left field corner. The grassy knoll appears finished but the concourse is definitely a work in progress. With the work underway, the new concourse is obviously not accessible to the public at this time so it is not possible to get pictures from there and to see what the field of play looks like from the concourse.

The area between field 5, the Twins batting cages, The Twins bullpen and the field with just an infield is a construction area so access there this spring might be questionable. This was a spring training gathering place for fans over the years and a prime autograph location but I am not sure it will be available this year. It is really too early to tell.

I bought tickets to a couple of spring training games and they told me to try to get to the ballpark early because the parking area has been changed due to the construction in the area. The parking areas on the right as you first drive in have not changed but as you get closer to the minor league complex the construction has eliminated many parking spots. The folks selling the tickets said they do not expect that the parking area will be cleaned up by the times games start so that could make things interesting but they do expect the concourse to be completed. From what I see of the concourse, I would be surprised if that is done by the time the Twins play the Boston Red Sox on March 1st.

I saw a few minor league players on field 3 hitting but I did not see any Twins players working out at all. I did see Kyle Gibson walk by and later I ran into Jared Burton and Glen Perkins and asked them if I could take a picture but they said “not today, a bad day for pictures today” and they kept on walking back towards the Twins clubhouse. Kind of unusual for Burton because he is usually willing to stop and talk with fans, maybe they had a bad day or they were just upset about having to walk through some muddy construction on their way to the clubhouse.

Nate RobertsNate Roberts walked by and I asked if I could take a picture and he was kind enough to stop and pose for me. We chatted briefly and he went on his way. Seems like a very nice guy and if you are a Duck Dynasty fan you have to like the beard that Roberts is sporting.

All toll I probably saw a dozen or so players today and about as many fans. Some were looking for autographs and others were there to buy tickets. The funny thing was when I asked if they were Twins fans, more said Red Sox then anything else. It sure was good to be back at spring training again and I am sure there will be more players and more fans when I stop by in the next few days for another visit.

Plans to renovate City of Palms Park (the old Red Sox facility) and bring the Washington Nationals to Fort Myers appear to be on hold, if not dead because Ft. Myers can’t meet the costs the developer has proposed the city pay to renovate the stadium. The Nationals, who train at Space Coast Stadium in Brevard County, have been looking elsewhere to move their spring training operations. Hopefully that changes because it would be nice to see another team in Ft. Myers.

If you want to see some of the pictures I took at the ballpark on Tuesday, you can find the link called 2014 Spring Training on the right hand side of the page.

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Historic Tinker Field to be demolished

Tinker FieldThe Minnesota Twins spring training home from 1961 – 1990 is scheduled for demolition some time in the next 60 days. The Twins left Orlando after the 1990 season and moved their spring training home to Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers prior to their 1991 championship season. Numerous teams including the Minnesota Twins had minor league teams that played in Tinker Field as part of the Florida State League and the Southern League.

The ballpark was built-in 1923 at a cost of $50,000 and named for former Chicago Cubs player and Hall of Famer Joe Tinker. It hosted the Cincinnati Reds for spring training in the 1920s, and the Brooklyn Dodgers for two seasons in the 1930s. The Washington Senators and later the Minnesota Twins held spring training camp there from the mid-’30s until 1990. Numerous Hall of Famers including Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Bert Blyleven, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson have played there. Tinker Field’s history isn’t limited to baseball, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at a civil-rights rally there in 1964.

On May 14, 2004, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places but now it is slated to be torn down in the name of progress. The main reason? The renovation of the Florida Citrus Bowl stadium, which abuts the baseball field, includes a larger enclosed concourse that will encroach onto Tinker Field. The ballpark will lose about 80 feet of its outfield, putting the outfield fence as close as 240 feet from home plate.

For me personally,it is sad that Tinker Field will soon be torn down as it is the first place that I ever attended spring training when I spend a few days there back in 1971 watching the Twins go through their spring paces.

Here is the story the Orlando Sentinel did on it today.

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More of This and That

It is 10:30 A.M. and the ole digital thermometer shows a -11.1 degrees but at least it is bright and sunny. I a trying to put a positive spin on the brutal winter we are having here in Minnesota this year, an “old school” winter just like I remember them as I was growing up in Taylors Falls. Back in the days when I had to ride a rickety old school bus seven miles each way to and from school and I don’t remember school being cancelled due to the cold. I am sitting about 10 miles west of Target Field and I can picture what the ballpark must look like as it sits there snow-covered and frozen over. But in just a few months the snow will be gone, the grass will be green and baseball will once again be played there. We just returned from a week-long Caribbean cruise where the temps were always in the 70′s and 80′s and the water was in liquid form, it is sooooo easy to forget that winter exists when you are relaxing on a cruise ship. But it won’t be long and I will be hanging out at Hammond Stadium and I am anxious to see the improvements that have been made there. Maybe the Minnesota Twins themselves will show improvement too, you never know, stranger things have happened.

I read today that the Twins and Fox Sports North will telecast all the Twins home spring training games. BRAVO! Smart move by the Twins to give fans back here in Minnesota that can’t take a Florida trip for what ever reason to see some of the Twins prospects playing ball this spring. You give someone a taste of something good and you can count on them coming back for more. As they have for the last few years the Twins will broadcast all the spring training games on KTWN radio. For an old guy like me, there is something very relaxing when you get to listen to a baseball game on the radio.

Max Kepler at Home Sweet Home baseball camp

Max Kepler at Home Sweet Home baseball camp

I have a ticket for TwinsFest on Saturday and I am excited about hanging out with some baseball crazy Twins fans and to see how the Twins will put on their first TwinsFest at Target Field, it will be interesting I think. The price for this event and the autographs keep climbing and I know it is a Twins Community Fund charity event but if the Twins are not careful they will price it out of reach for the average Twins fan. One of players I am most interested in seeing again is 1B/OF prospect Max Kepler who will be making his first trip to Minnesota and Target Field, hopefully he will be able to call this ballpark home in the not too distant future. Kepler has a busy off-season and one of those events had him participating in the Berlin Home Sweet Home baseball camp. It is always great to see Twins players giving their time to children and allowing them to get up close and personal with a baseball hero. Great job Max!

Andrew Albers 2013The Twins have agreed to transfer starter Andrew Albers to the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), reports MLBTR’s Steve Adams. Albers has agreed to terms with his new club as well, making the deal complete. The 28-year-old Albers was a great story for the Twins last year but with the Twins free agent starting pitcher signings this past off-season Albers had little chance of making the team this year much less joining the starting rotation. Albers was originally a 10th round selection by the San Diego Padres in 2008 but was released prior to the 2010 season. Albers then hooked up with Quebec, an independent team in the Canadian-American Association and he spent the 2010 season there. The Twins signed the left-handed Albers as a free agent in March of 2011 and he made his major league debut with the Twins as a starter on August 6, 2013 in a 7-0 trashing of the Kansas City Royals.  Albers won his first two starts as a big leaguer by allowing no runs on just 6 hits in 17.1 innings. Albers finished the season with a 2-5 record and a 4.05 ERA. Albers was named the Minnesota Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year for 2013. With a salary reportedly set to land in the “high six figures,” Albers stands to earn significantly more than he would have if he ended up in the minors. He also gets a chance to test the open market next year, as he will become a free agent after his season with Hanwha. Had he stayed with Minnesota, Albers would not have been able to become a free agent until 2019. Sounds like a win-win proposition for Albers and the Twins.

The big news in baseball yesterday was the New York Yankees announced signing of Masahiro Tanaka in a stupendous seven-year deal for $155 million. Tanaka is only 25 but if it was my money, I would have had a very difficult time spending it on a pitcher that has not thrown a single pitch in the major leagues. The Yankees were desperate for more young starting pitching and only time will tell if this was a smart move or not. This will be a fun story to follow in 2014. If I was going to spend that much money, I would have traded for David Price from Tampa and signed him to a long-term deal.

While I was out cruising the Caribbean MLB baseball announced that New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez‘s appeal was complete and that he had been suspended for the 2014 season. I have only one comment on A-Rod, this suspension is well deserved and I don’t plan to spend any more time writing about him in 2014.

Sam MeleFormer Twins manager Sam Mele turned 92 just a couple of days ago (January 21). Mele took over as the Twins skipper from the fired Cookie Lavagetto during the 1961 season and led the team to the 1965 World Series which they ended up losing in seven games to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mele remained the Twins manager until owner Calvin Griffith let him go during the 1967 season. Mele is now the oldest living person to wear a Minnesota Twins uniform. SABR bio. Happy Birthday Sam and many more!

Ken SchromI completed a fun interview with Ken Schrom, former Twins pitcher (1983-1985) and now president of the Corpus Christi Hooks (AA – Houston Astros) on Tuesday and I will post it here in the very near future so make sure you check that out. You can listen to Ken tell you how he was cut by a team that he was pitching for when he as actually part of the ownership group of the same team.

The Twins announced on January 17th that they have signed all three of their arbitration eligible players for the 2014 season when they agreed to terms with left-handed pitcher Brian Duensing, right-handed pitcher Anthony Swarzak and third baseman Trevor Plouffe on one-year contracts, avoiding arbitration. Duensing will earn $2 million in 2014, while Swarzak will earn $935,000 and Plouffe will earn $2.35 million. The last time the Twins went to arbitration was with Kyle Lohse in 2006 when Lohse was declared the winner when he asked for $3.95 million and the Twins countered with $3.4 million. The last time the Twins won an arbitration case was in 2004 when Johan Santana asked for $2.45 million and the Twins offered $1.6 million.

Earlier this month the team announced that single-game tickets for the 2014 season at Target Field go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. on Saturday, February. 22. In addition, tickets for the 2014 Home Opener against the Oakland Athletics on Monday, April 7 will go on sale starting at 4 p.m. on Friday, January 24 in conjunction with the start of TwinsFest. As in previous seasons, the Twins will apply variable pricing to all tickets for the 2014 season. Per-game prices for both single-game and season tickets will be based on factors such as time of year, date and opponent. The five-tier variable pricing structure will apply to all single-game tickets sold on Saturday, February. 22. Beginning the next day, Sunday, February 23, the Twins will apply demand-based pricing to all seating sections of Target Field for the 2014 season. Demand-based pricing, which prices tickets according to fan demand, is a practice that has now become very common. The system, which was implemented at Target Field in 2011, applies only to single-game ticket sales and does not affect Season Ticket Holder pricing. As of today I still can’t find any single game ticket prices on the Twins web site.

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Twins leaders by the decade

Games Won

1961-1969Jim Kaat - 141

1970-1979Bert Blyleven – 99

1980-1989Frank Viola – 112

1990-1999  – Kevin Tapani – 73

2000-2009Johan Santana – 93

2010-currentBrian Duensing – 29

…..

Home Runs

1961-1969Harmon Killebrew – 362

1970-1979 – Harmon Killebrew – 113

1980-1989Kent Hrbek – 201

1990-1999  – Kirby Puckett – 111

2000-2009Torii Hunter – 183

2010-currentJustin Morneau – 58

…..

Stolen Bases

1961-1969Cesar Tovar – 117

1970-1979Rod Carew – 235

1980-1989 – Kirby Puckett – 84

1990-1999  – Chuck Knoblauch – 276

2000-2009 – Torii Hunter – 116

2010-currentBen Revere – 74

…..

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Hammond Stadium Renovations & Spring Training Tickets

2014 Twins ST schedule 2David Dorsey of the Ft. Myers News-Press provides you with a short but informative video on how the improvements to Hammond Studium are coming along. Phase One of a two-phase, $48 million project is scheduled to be completed Feb. 15, just in time for when Minnesota Twins pitchers and catchers report for spring training duty. It sounds like they will be working right up to the last-minute to get it ready. You can watch the video right here.

Twins Spring Training tickets went on sale on Saturday, January 11th and the Twins really changed things up this year on the types of tickets they sell. Here is what the Twins are doing this year.

Location Season Tix Value Premium
Dugout Box $38 $40 $43
  Home Plate Box $22 $27 $30
  Diamond Box $20 $25 $28
Home Plate View $19 $25 $28
  Field View $17 $23 $26
  Bullpen Zone N/A $23 $26
  Left Field Drink Rails N/A $14 $17
Lawn Seating N/A Left: $12 Right: $14 Left: $15 Right: $17
Scoreboard Pavilion N/A $18 $21
Grandstand N/A $16 $19
Party Porch N/A $18 $21
Right Field Bullpen N/A $16 $19
  Right Field Drink Rail $21 $26 $29

View Twins Seating & Pricing - Premium pricing applies to the 3/5, 3/6, 3/9, 3/13, 3/22, and 3/28 games.

I had written a piece last year on spring training tickets prices that you can check out here and you can see for yourself how Twins ticket prices and categories have changed over the years. Increasing or changing the ticket seating categories allows a team to increase their ticket prices without actually telling their fans that the price to see a spring training game has gone up even if the team has been a cellar dweller for the last three seasons. I am looking forward to getting down to Hammond Stadium to check out the improvements for myself.

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The day the DH was born – January 11, 1973

After a seven-hour meeting in the Lancaster Room of the Sheraton-O’Hare Motor Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois, American League owners voted 8-4 for something they called the “designated pinch hitter for the pitcher,” or DPH, an abbreviation quickly modified to DH. I asked Clark Griffith how the Twins voted and here is what he had to say. “The Twins voted for it and I think that was a mistake. The vote was based on having Killebrew and Oliva for DH. I was involved in the drafting of the rule and after the vote it occurred to me that we used the wrong statistic to support it. The stat used was pitcher BA v. hitters BA and it should have been pitchers and those who hit for pitchers v. other batters. In essence, that means measuring the ninth hitter with all others. The effect of not removing a pitcher for a PH was not considered either. The DH is a horrible rule that should be allowed to go away. I love reading NL box scores for their complexity.”

From what I can determine, Charlie Finley, former Oakland Athletics owner, is generally credited with leading the push for the DH in 1973. He was strongly supported by American League President Joe Cronin and owners Nick Mileti (Cleveland), Jerry Hoffberger (Baltimore), John Allyn (Chicago) and Bob Short (Texas). John Fetzer (Detroit), Bud Selig (Milwaukee) and Calvin Griffith (Minnesota) would make 8 votes in favor with Boston, New York, Kansas City and California voting against the DH.

 

Current rules for the DH

A hitter may be designated to bat for the starting pitcher and all subsequent pitchers in any game without otherwise affecting the status of the pitcher(s) in the game. A Designated Hitter for the pitcher must be selected prior to the game and must be included in the lineup cards presented to the Umpire-in-Chief.

The Designated Hitter named in the starting lineup must come to bat at least one time, unless the opposing club changes pitchers. It is not mandatory that a club designate a hitter for the pitcher, but failure to do so prior to the game precludes the use of a Designated Hitter for that game.

Pinch hitters for a Designated Hitter may be used. Any substitute hitter for a Designated Hitter himself becomes a Designated Hitter. A replaced Designated Hitter shall not re-enter the game in any capacity. The Designated Hitter may be used defensively, continuing to bat in the same position in the batting order, but the pitcher must then bat in the place of the substituted defensive player, unless more than one substitution is made, and the manager then must designate their spots in the batting order.

A runner may be substituted for the Designated Hitter and the runner assumes the role of the Designated Hitter.

A Designated Hitter is “locked” into the batting order. No multiple substitutions may be made that will alter the batting rotation of the Designated Hitter.

Once the game pitcher is switched from the mound to a defensive position this move shall terminate the DH role for the remainder of the game. Once a pinch-hitter bats for any player in the batting order and then enters the game to pitch, this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for the remainder of the game.

Once a Designated Hitter assumes a defensive position this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for the remainder of the game.

At first, the designated hitter rule did not apply to any games in the World Series, in which the AL and NL winners met for the world championship. From 1976-1985, it applied only to Series held in even-numbered years, and in 1986 the current rule took effect, according to which the designated hitter rule is used or not used according to the practice of the home team. The list below shows the career numbers for players that played at least 50% of their games at DH.

Rk Player G From To Age AB R H HR RBI BA
1 Harold Baines 2830 1980 2001 21-42 9908 1299 2866 384 1628 .289
2 Frank Thomas 2322 1990 2008 22-40 8199 1494 2468 521 1704 .301
3 Don Baylor 2292 1970 1988 21-39 8198 1236 2135 338 1276 .260
4 Edgar Martinez 2055 1987 2004 24-41 7213 1219 2247 309 1261 .312
5 David Ortiz 1969 1997 2013 21-37 7057 1208 2023 431 1429 .287
6 Hal McRae 1837 1973 1987 27-41 6568 873 1924 169 1012 .293
7 Chili Davis 1562 1988 1999 28-39 5525 808 1540 249 954 .279
8 Andre Thornton 1225 1977 1987 27-37 4313 650 1095 214 749 .254
9 Travis Hafner 1183 2002 2013 25-36 4058 619 1107 213 731 .273
10 Billy Butler 1015 2007 2013 21-27 3768 445 1124 118 562 .298
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/5/2014.
.

The list below shows the numbers for Twins players that played at least 50% of their games at DH.

Rk Player G From To Age AB R H HR RBI BA
1 Glenn Adams 501 1977 1981 29-33 1387 138 390 29 196 .281
2 David Ortiz 455 1997 2002 21-26 1477 215 393 58 238 .266
3 Paul Molitor 422 1996 1998 39-41 1700 237 530 23 271 .312
4 Chili Davis 291 1991 1992 31-32 978 147 276 41 159 .282
5 Jose Morales 290 1978 1980 33-35 674 79 200 12 101 .297
6 Dave Winfield 220 1993 1994 41-42 841 107 222 31 119 .264
7 Jim Thome 179 2010 2011 39-40 482 69 128 37 99 .266
8 Danny Goodwin 172 1979 1981 25-27 425 52 103 8 55 .242
9 Jim Dwyer 145 1988 1990 38-40 329 47 95 6 43 .289
10 Rondell White 137 2006 2007 34-35 446 40 102 11 58 .229
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/5/2014.
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Maddux, Glavine, Thomas elected to HOF

Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux

Congratulations to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas on getting elected to the Hall of Fame in their first year on the BBWAA ballot. All three cleared the 75-percent threshold required to gain election to the Hall of Fame and thus will be inducted in ceremonies July 25-28 at Cooperstown, N.Y. According to the BBWAA web site, “Maddux was the leading vote getter with 555 votes of the 571 ballots, including one blank, cast by senior members of the BBWAA, writers with 10 or more consecutive years of service. That represented 97.2 percent of the vote. Glavine received 525 votes (91.9 percent) and Thomas 478 (83.7).

Tom Glavine

Tom Glavine

In his second year on the ballot Craig Biggio missed getting elected by just two votes. Former Twins pitcher Pitcher Jack Morris received 351 votes (61.5) in his final year on the ballot and will be eligible for the Expansion Era Committee consideration in the fall of 2016. Former Twins reliever Todd Jones who had asked that no one vote for him for the HOF was granted his wish and he will be dropped from the ballot. Former Twins outfielder Jacque Jones and pitcher Kenny Rogers each received but one vote and will also be dropped from future HOF ballots. Rafael Palmeiro only received 4.4% of the vote and will also be dropped from future voting. You can see the complete voting results at http://baseballhall.org/voting-results .

Frank Thomas

Frank Thomas

I am very disappointed that Tim Raines (46.10%), and Edgar Martinez (25.20%) received such low vote totals, I don’t understand how some of the voters can not vote for these and other baseball greats. It appears that the DH role continues to plague some players and I just don’t understand that. DH is a position created by major league baseball and yet voters do not give it the credit it deserves. Each position has unique characteristics and has to be looked at in its own right. Wake up voters, the DH has been around for 40 years and it is not going away in the near future so give the men that play the DH role the credit they deserve. Closers only pitch an inning or so in about 60 games a season, often lose more games than they win and damn near never hit and yet you have no problem electing them to th HOF and yet most DH’s are kept out? STUPID!

On a side note, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) hit it right on this year by selecting Maddux, Glavine and Thomas to be elected to the HOF. You can see how we voted here.

 

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This Day in Twins History – January 7

Bobby Castillo1/7/82 – The Twins sent catcher Scotti Madison and pitcher Paul Voigt to the Dodgers and acquired pitcher Bobby Castillo and outfielder Bobby Mitchell. Castillo spent three years in a Twins uniform and posted a 23-24 record with 3.98 ERA in 52 starts. Castillo’s claim to fame? He is credited with teaching Fernando Valenzuela how to throw a screwball. Mitchell was the Twins regular center fielder in 1982 hitting .249 in 124 games but lost his job in 1983 and never appeared in the big leagues again. Mitchell is currently the Atlanta Braves roving minor league outfield and base running instructor.

Rick Lysander1/7/83 – Houston sends pitcher Rick Lysander to the land of 10,000 lakes and receives pitcher Bob Veselic. The Twins used Lysander primarily as a reliever from 1983-1985 and during that time frame he appeared in 132 games winning 9 and losing 17 with a 4.08 ERA. Lysander had one particularly tough stretch in 1983 when he lost both games of a double-header to the Tigers on May 27th becoming the first Twins pitcher to suffer that indignity. The Twins gave Lysander a day off on the 28th in another loss to the Tigers but on the 29th he lost to the Tigers again giving him 3 losses to the Tigers in four days. The Twins then went home to Minnesota to play the Baltimore Orioles and you guessed it, on June 1st Lysander turned up as the losing pitcher again. Four losses in six days makes for a BAD week.

1/7/86 – The Twins trade pitchers Bryan Oelkers and Ken Schrom to the Indians and get pitchers Roy Smith and Ramon Romero in return. Smith went on to spend five seasons in Minnesota winning 19 and losing 18 games with a 4.28 ERA. Schrom is now president of the Corpus Christi Hooks.

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It makes me wonder

 

Eddie Rosario

Eddie Rosario

What the heck was Eddie Rosario thinking after failing his first test and then doing whatever he did to fail a second test? The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced yesterday that Minnesota Twins Minor League second baseman Eddie Rosario has received a 50-game suspension without pay after a second positive test for a drug of abuse in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Rosario is one of the Twins top prospects and has a bright future in baseball and he does something like this just before possible making his major league debut with Minnesota in 2014? I know that youngsters make mistakes and I sure hope that this one wakes Rosario up and gets him thinking straight again.”It’s disappointing, but now he has to pay the consequences and be accountable,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. “Losing 50 games, that’s a huge setback. That’s a lot of development time, a lot of learning that he’ll miss. It sets back his progression [toward] going up to the big leagues. But young people make mistakes, and hopefully he learns from it.”

What the Minnesota Twins TV contract pays them and what is the length of the contract? According to recent reports the Philadelphia Phillies’ new deal with Comcast SportsNet is for 25 years, and the contract is worth $2.5 billion in addition to an equity stake and ad revenue. The rights fee will be paid out on a schedule that increases about 3 to 4% per year, averaging out to $100MM per season over the 25-year term. An average of $100MM per season? That is a good start on your annual payroll.

Lucrative television contracts for Major League Baseball teams are not new. The New York Yankees signed a 12-year, $486 million deal with the Madison Square Garden Network in 1988, a deal that propelled them to an improved financial situation. While teams were trying to improve finances through the“stadium boom”of the 199s and early 2000s, the Yankees were again striking gold with television money. They formed their own network in 2002, and immediately began reaping the benefits. The Yankees received an estimated $85 million per year from YES beginning with the 2013 season, a figure that could pay off 41 percent of their projected payroll of $207 million before selling a single ticket, hot dog or jersey. Prior to the 2010 season, the Texas Rangers signed a deal with Fox Sports Southwest worth $80 million per year. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim raised the bar for television contracts in December of 2011 when they reached a $3 billion, 20-year deal with Fox Sports. None, however, can come close to the level of the deal struck between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Fox Sports late in 202. The deal will pay out an unprecedented $6-$7 billion over the next 25 years. That translates to $240-$280 million in revenue per year. But not all teams are on the same pay scale, the St. Louis Cardinals for example are stuck with a deal that pays out a paltry $14 million per year and does not expire until 2017. A number of small-market teams are locked into similar deals for under $20 million per year including the Florida Marlins ($18 million per year) and Pittsburgh Pirates ($18 million) that will certainly affect budgets for re-signing players and making bids on free agents.

Terry Ryan (courtesy of SI.com)

Terry Ryan (courtesy of SI.com)

If GM Terry Ryan is done tinkering with the Twins line-up. This off-season Ryan has stated repeatedly that the Twins needed starting pitching but that the Twins offense also needs help. Only the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox scored fewer runs in the AL then the Twins sad total of 614. The Red Sox led the AL in runs scored with 853, that is a difference of 239 runs or 1.48 runs per game when compared to the Twins. I sure hope that Ryan doesn’t think that bringing back Jason Kubel on a minor league make good deal solves that problem. At this time the Twins payroll sits around $70 million with 3 arbitration eligible players in Brian Duensing, Trevor Plouffe and Anthony Swarzak that will probably get a total of $7 million or $8 million between them. After that most of the rest of the roster will not get much above league minimum so my guess is that the Twins will start the 2014 season with a payroll of about $85-$88 million, a jump of about $10-$13 million from the 2013 open day payroll. I was hoping for better coming off three miserable seasons in a row. I know that money does not buy you a pennant or happiness for that matter but I also know that you get what you pay for in the long run.

Brian Dozier

Brian Dozier

Why does 2B Brian Dozier get so little respect. Numerous fantasy baseball prognosticators have Dozier rated as one of MLB worst second baseman, rating him in the bottom 33% in all of baseball. I know he only hit .244 but he hit 18 home runs, scored 72 times, knocked in 66 runs and stole 16 bases. I know that fantasy baseball does not take defense into consideration and Dozier did pretty well with his glove but those are some pretty decent numbers for a middle infielder in spite of the low average. The Twins don’t seem to be doing anything to promote Dozier as an up and coming player either and you often hear that Rosario is the 2B of the future. Sometimes we just don’t appreciate what we have and keep thinking that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. I say that Dozier will be better than you think and will become a leader on this Twins team that has no face to it.

Why shortstop Stephen Drew is still unsigned on the free agent market. I would love to see the Twins open their wallet and sign the 30-year-old Drew to a three-year deal for say $25 million. That is not cheap but I don’t see any shortstops in the Twins minor league system that are ready for the big leagues either.

Miguel Sano

Miguel Sano

What the date will be when Trevor Plouffe becomes Miguel Sano‘s caddie. Although I think that Miguel Sano will start the season in AAA Rochester, I see him in Minnesota as the Twins stating 3B before Memorial Day. I for one can’t wait to see Sano in Minnesota and Plouffe on the bench or with another team.

Just a few thoughts on a cold winter day in Minnesota when the high temperature today will stay below zero and the high temperature for tomorrow is predicted to be a -15 degrees. Holy Cow! I can’t wait to get down to Ft. Myers and catch some spring training action.

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Keep what you have or do you take what is behind this door?

2013 has just about come to a close and spring training is 41 days away and the MLB free agent list still has numerous serviceable players looking for work. The plums of the free agent market have pretty much been plucked but there are still a few decent players out there. The fact that Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was dangling in the wind probably has a lot to do with some of the top rated free agent starters still on the market not signing but now that he has been posted thing may start to break free. If you look at the available free agents you can see how some positions have been stripped bare and others still have innumerable free agents still in the unemployed corner. Strangely enough with everyone looking for starting pitching there seems to be plenty of arms still on the market, sure, they are not aces but they can certainly fill a spot in many teams rotations.

I thought it would be interesting to compare some of what I deem to be top free agents still looking for work to what might be the 2014 Twins team when they head to Chicago to open play in 2014. If you compare the free agent and the corresponding Twins player, who would you rather see in a Twins uniform? Don’t forget what it might cost to sign this free agent versus the player the Twins currently have because you don’t have an unlimited checkbook. This is just a fun little exercise to help you get through these cold snowy days in Minnesota as you wait the hear that “play ball” call once again. Are any of these free agents possible Twins in your eyes?

Position Free Agents Twins
Catcher John Buck Josmil Pinto
1B Mark Reynolds Joe Mauer
2B Chris Getz Brian Dozier
SS Stephen Drew Pedro Florimon
3B Michael Young Trevor Plouffe
LF Chris Coghlan Josh Willingham
CF Reed Johnson Aaron Hicks
RF Nelson Cruz Oswaldo Arcia
DH Kendrys Morales Chris Parmelee
SP Matt Garza Ricky Nolasco
SP Ervin Santana Phil Hughes
SP Masahiro Tanaka Kevin Correia
SP Ubaldo Jimenez Mike Pelfrey
SP Bronson Arroyo Sam Deduno
CL Grant Balfour Glen Perkins

Interactive Whiteboards by PolyVision

Stephan Drew

Stephan Drew

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THREE MAKE HOF CUT IN BBA VOTING

Maddux, Thomas, Glavine Recommended by Blogger Organization for Cooperstown

 

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance today recommends three players from the official Hall of Fame ballot to be inducted into Cooperstown this summer. Pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, most closely associated with the Atlanta Braves, and long-time Chicago White Sox first baseman/designated hitter Frank Thomas reached the 75% threshold when BBA members cast their ballots.

 

Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux

Maddux, a four-time Cy Young Award winner for the Braves, pitched from 1986 to 2008 and won 355 games while posting a 3.16 ERA and striking out over 3,300 batters. He had a career WHIP of 1.143 in just over 5,000 innings and an ERA+ of 132 over that span. His best season was 1995, when he fashioned a 19-2 record with a 1.63 ERA, good for a bWAR of 9.7 that year.

Frank Thomas

Frank Thomas

Thomas played from 1990 to 2008, all but the last three season on the south side of Chicago. He has a career slash line of .301/.419/.555 and fashioned an OPS+ of 156 during his playing days. He put up his highest single-season bWAR in 1997, when his 1.067 OPS and 35 home runs played a large role in his mark of 7.3.

 

Tom Glavine

Tom Glavine

Glavine’s career spanned roughly the same time frame as Maddux’s, with Glavine starting in 1987. He won the Cy Young in 1991 and 1998 and finished runner-up two other times. His career ERA was 3.54 and he won 305 games during his tenure with the Braves and the New York Mets. Glavine had a 1.314 WHIP for his career and an ERA+ of 118.

The voting of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance has often been close to what the baseball writers eventually decide, though the correlation is stronger with the year-end awards. A quick look at the past few years:

In 2010, no player reached the 75% mark in BBA voting, while the writers inducted only Andre Dawson.

In 2011, the BBA selected Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven and both were inducted into Cooperstown that summer.

In 2012, Barry Larkin and Jeff Bagwell were selected by the BBA, but the writers only took Larkin.

Last year, the bloggers again picked Bagwell, while the writers could not agree on anyone to honor.

Bagwell lost support in this year’s voting, coming up roughly 10% shy of recommendation. The final vote totals are as follows:

 

Greg Maddux 94.51%

Frank Thomas 80.22%

Tom Glavine 75.82%

Mike Piazza 72.53%

Craig Biggio 70.33%

Jeff Bagwell 64.84%

Barry Bonds 60.44%

Roger Clemens 59.34%

Tim Raines 54.95%

Edgar Martinez 41.76%

Curt Schilling 39.56%

Mike Mussina 32.97%

Alan Trammell 30.77%

Jack Morris 25.27%

Mark McGwire 21.98%

Larry Walker 17.58%

Jeff Kent 15.38%

Lee Smith 14.29%

Don Mattingly 9.89%

Fred McGriff 8.79%

Rafael Palmeiro 7.69%

Sammy Sosa 4.40%

Moises Alou 3.30%

Eric Gagne 2.20%

Luis Gonzalez 2.20%

Sean Casey 1.10%

Kenny Rogers 1.10%

Richie Sexson 1.10%

J.T. Snow 1.10%

Armando Benitez 0.00%

Ray Durham 0.00%

Jacque Jones 0.00%

Todd Jones 0.00%

Paul Lo Duca 0.00%

Hideo Nomo 0.00%

Mike Timlin 0.00%

 

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance was established in the fall of 2009 for the purpose of fostering collaboration and communication among bloggers from across baseball. The BBA currently has approximately 240 blogs in its membership, including some of the most prominent blogs on the Internet, spanning all major league teams and various other general aspects of the game.

More information about the BBA can be found at their website, baseballbloggersalliance.wordpress.com, or by contacting the founder and administrator of the organization, Daniel Shoptaw, at baseballbloggersalliance@gmail.com.

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Terry Ryan hires former teammate Sam Perlozzo

Sam Perlozzo with Philly in 2012

Sam Perlozzo with Philly in 2012

The Twins announced their Minor League managerial and coaching staffs this past Friday and there was only one major change from last season. Former Baltimore Orioles manager (2005-2007) Sam Perlozzo has been named Minnesota’s Minor League infield and base running coordinator. Perlozzo replaces Paul Molitor who was added to the Twins coaching staff for the 2014 season.

Perlozzo  was signed by the Twins as an amateur free agent in 1972 and was a teammate of GM Terry Ryan in Orlando in 1976. Perlozzo, a second baseman played 10 games for the Twins in September of 1977 but was released by Minnesota in March 1979.

I did an interview with Sam in the spring of 2012 when he was a coach with the Philadelphia Phillies that you can listen to at http://wp.me/P1YQUj-1ig .

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Looking at the Twins SO/9 ratio

Minnesota Twins pitchers have finished dead last in the American League in strikeouts the last three years and you all know where the team has finished in the standing during that time frame. When the Twins came into existence in 1961 the SO/9 average in the American League was 5.2 SO/9 and it slowly climbed to 6.1 SO/9 in 1967 but then started sliding down to under 5.0 SO/9 from 1974 to 1983. Since then it started climbing and for the first time in 2012 it went above 7.0 went it hit 7.4 SO/9 and in 2013 it hit 7.7 SO/9 which is a new high water mark.

From 2006 through 2013 only one team in the AL has finished above the .500 mark in the standings when their pitching staff has had under 1,000 strikeouts and guess who that was? It was the 2008 Minnesota Twins team that finished second to the Chicago White Sox in 2008 when Gardy’s boys went 88-75 and lost game 163 in Chicago. When Twins pitchers have 1,000 or more strikeouts the team won less than 79 games only once and that was the 2000 Twins when they finished the season with a 69-93 mark. Twins pitchers have struck 1,000 or more batters only 10 times in 53 seasons and peaked with 1,164 KO’s in 2006 when the team had a franchise high 7.28 SO/9.

The Twins can spew all the “pitch to contact” babble they want but striking out hitters and winning games goes together like peanut butter and jelly. We can only wait and see what the new Twins pitchers can do. Ricky Nolasco has a career 7.4 SO/9 and Phil Hughes is 7.6 SO/9 so they should help improve the Twins sad 2013 6.11 SO/9 team mark.

So looking back all the way to 1961 what Twins pitchers have had the best SO/9 ratio in a given season? The table below shows the highest SO/9 ratio with a minimum of 50 innings. Not many starters on this list.

Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan

Rk Player SO/9 IP Year G GS W L SV SO ERA
1 Joe Nathan 12.51 68.1 2006 64 0 7 0 36 95 1.58
2 Joe Nathan 12.09 70.0 2005 69 0 7 4 43 94 2.70
3 Joe Nathan 11.67 68.2 2009 70 0 2 2 47 89 2.10
4 Juan Rincon 11.63 82.0 2004 77 0 11 6 2 106 2.63
5 Johan Santana 11.38 108.1 2002 27 14 8 6 1 137 2.99
6 Joe Nathan 11.07 72.1 2004 73 0 1 2 44 89 1.62
7 Glen Perkins 11.06 62.2 2013 61 0 2 0 36 77 2.30
8 Francisco Liriano 10.71 121.0 2006 28 16 12 3 1 144 2.16
9 Tom Hall 10.66 155.1 1970 52 11 11 6 4 184 2.55
10 Casey Fien 10.60 62.0 2013 73 0 5 2 0 73 3.92
11 Johan Santana 10.46 228.0 2004 34 34 20 6 0 265 2.61
12 Ron Davis 10.02 64.2 1985 57 0 2 6 25 72 3.48
13 Glen Perkins 9.98 70.1 2012 70 0 3 1 16 78 2.56
14 Joe Nathan 9.84 67.2 2008 68 0 1 2 39 74 1.33
15 Juan Rincon 9.82 77.0 2005 75 0 6 6 0 84 2.45
16 Francisco Liriano 9.81 100.0 2012 22 17 3 10 0 109 5.31
17 Joe Nathan 9.67 71.2 2007 68 0 4 2 37 77 1.88
18 Johan Santana 9.66 219.0 2007 33 33 15 13 0 235 3.33
19 Johan Santana 9.61 158.1 2003 45 18 12 3 0 169 3.07
20 Tom Hall 9.51 129.2 1971 48 11 4 7 9 137 3.33
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/26/2013.

 

Looking over the Twins history here the best Twins career SO/9 ratio’s with a minimum of 100 innings pitched. How many of these pitchers were originally signed by the Twins? That would be eight.

 

Rk Player SO/9 IP G GS W L W-L% SV SO ERA BA
1 Joe Nathan 10.90 463.1 460 0 24 13 .649 260 561 2.16 .186
2 Pat Neshek 10.48 129.2 132 0 11 6 .647 0 151 3.05 .189
3 Johan Santana 9.50 1308.2 251 175 93 44 .679 1 1381 3.22 .221
4 Francisco Liriano 9.05 783.1 156 130 50 52 .490 1 788 4.33 .247
5 Tom Hall 8.52 455.1 139 44 25 21 .543 13 431 3.00 .212
6 Juan Rincon 8.41 441.0 386 3 30 26 .536 3 412 3.69 .248
7 Ron Davis 8.24 381.1 286 0 19 40 .322 108 349 4.51 .264
8 Jared Burton 8.16 128.0 135 0 5 11 .313 7 116 3.02 .216
9 Juan Berenguer 8.15 418.1 211 7 33 13 .717 9 379 3.70 .231
10 Ray Moore 7.95 159.2 126 1 13 10 .565 25 141 4.90 .252
11 Gerry Arrigo 7.93 131.2 54 15 8 7 .533 1 116 4.31 .245
12 Eddie Guardado 7.79 704.2 648 25 37 48 .435 116 610 4.53 .253
13 Dennys Reyes 7.77 126.1 191 0 10 1 .909 0 109 2.14 .238
14 Rick Aguilera 7.60 694.0 490 30 40 47 .460 254 586 3.50 .243
15 Dan Naulty 7.60 111.1 97 0 4 5 .444 5 94 4.61 .234
16 Al Worthington 7.59 473.1 327 0 37 31 .544 88 399 2.62 .221
17 Dick Stigman 7.52 643.2 138 85 37 37 .500 7 538 3.69 .229
18 Dave Boswell 7.51 1036.1 187 150 67 54 .554 0 865 3.49 .217
19 J.C. Romero 7.42 407.2 327 22 25 20 .556 2 336 4.35 .256
20 Mike Trombley 7.36 645.2 365 36 30 34 .469 34 528 4.53 .266
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/26/2013.
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Merry Christmas to all

Merry Christmas 2We at Twins Trivia want to wish each and every one of you a very

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Thank you so much for stopping by our site again this year and we hope that you will make Twins Trivia a regular stop in the future. 2013 was the third bad year in a row for the Minnesota Twins so Santa Terry Ryan and his gang of elves are working very hard to bring the team back to respectability and from what I have seen so far this off-season they are well on their way. No, I don’t say a run at the playoffs is in the cards for 2014 but I do see a ballclub that has the potential to be a team that can be fun to watch and that is a huge step forward. Manager Gardy remains at the reigns of a team that has a number of good young players on the cusp of being big league ready so you can once again put your Twins cap on proudly and get ready to watch some baseball because good times are ahead for the Minnesota Twins. Hang in there Twins fans, the snow may be up to your ass knees and the temperatures may still be below zero but spring training is less than 2 months away. Merry Christmas to one and all!

Thank you again and we hope you all have a happy and healthy 2014.

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Who can hit leadoff for Twins?

The Twins have not had a decent leadoff hitter since Denard Span was traded after the 2012 season and he was a good leadoff man, not a great one. This past season the hitters that Ron Gardenhire sent up to the plate to hit lead off for the Twins were just plain dismal.

Rk Player G OBP PA AB R H HR RBI SB BB SO BA
1 Darin Mastroianni 3 .357 14 12 2 3 0 0 1 2 2 .250
2 Alex Presley 27 .339 121 112 9 32 1 11 1 8 21 .286
3 Clete Thomas 17 .312 77 69 12 16 2 5 0 8 21 .232
4 Brian Dozier 74 .310 344 312 40 79 12 44 7 23 63 .253
5 Jamey Carroll 26 .252 120 110 13 21 0 3 1 9 19 .191
6 Eduardo Escobar 9 .182 33 30 4 3 0 1 0 3 4 .100
7 Aaron Hicks 10 .109 46 43 3 2 0 3 0 3 20 .047
8 Chris Parmelee 2 .000 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
9 Wilkin Ramirez 1 .000 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000
10 Ryan Doumit 1 .000 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
11 Chris Herrmann 2 .000 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/22/2013.

 

Brian Dozier

Brian Dozier

The Twins could use Brian Dozier to hit lead off again but that is not his ideal spot in the batting order but yet Gardy might not have a choice. All things being equal, if you look a the projected Twins line-up the leadoff hitter should come from center field. But who will play center field for Minnesota in 2014? Unless something dramatic happens it looks like Darin Mastroianni, Alex Presley, and Aaron Hicks will battle it out this spring in Ft. Myers to see will open the season as the Twins center fielder.

Darin Mastroianni

Darin Mastroianni

Mastroianni spent most of 2013 on the DL and if you look at his major league OBP, it stands at .298 which is not very good but it is a small sample size of just 230 at bats. In the minor leagues Mastroianni had a .370 OBP but that is in the minors. Darin is 28 years old so he is not the Twins center fielder of the future by any means and is best suited in a back-up role but that doesn’t mean he might not start the season in center field.

Alex Presley

Alex Presley

Alex Presley who the Twins acquired from Pittsburgh last season in the Justin Morneau trade is also 28 and he was OK in that role at the tail end of last season but nothing in his past major league stats indicates that he could put up the same kind of numbers over a 162 game schedule. In the minors Presley had a .352 OBP but again, that is in the minors. He too has a shot at being the Twins center fielder on Opening Day but he too might just be a placeholder.

Aaron Hicks

Aaron Hicks

The ideal man for the job is 24 year-old Aaron Hicks but when the Twins gave him the job in 2013 he hit for a .047 average and his OBP was a microscopic .109 in the 46 plate appearances that Gardy gave him in that role. Hicks would like to get the 2013 season in his rear view mirror and start his major league anew in 2014 but who knows if the Twins brain trust will let him start the season with the Twins in Chicago. The Twins sent Hicks down to  prove he belongs in the big leagues after hitting .192 in 81 games and Hicks responded by hitting all of .222 in the 22 games he played in Rochester. The Twins sent Hicks a message by not recalling him in September and Hicks had better come to Florida with a chip on his shoulder and play like a man possessed if he want to be the Twins opening day center fielder because he has something to prove to Gardy and Terry Ryan. Then again, Hicks had a fantastic spring training in 2013 and yet when the season started Hicks flopped big time. Hicks could very well start the season in Rochester and have to beat the Twins door down to prove he belongs in the big leagues with Minnesota. Dozier did it in 2013 and Hicks can do it this year. This team needs Hicks as their center fielder.

Looking back in Twins history to see who the best Twins leadoff hitters have been from a OBP perspective you have to admit that Chuck Knoblauch was the best the Twins have ever had. I know that Knoblauch was a jerk at times and a stuck up snob much of the time but the man played some good baseball for the Twins and it is a joke that he is not in the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame.  Hopefully he will get voted in this year, remember that you are voting for him for what he did in a Twins uniform on the ball field, not how he choses to live his life. While you are voting, put a “X” down next to Cesar Tovar too, he also deserves to be in the Twins HOF.

 Best OBP hitting lead off with 100 games or more

Chuck Knoblauch

Rk Player Year G OBP PA AB R H HR RBI SB BB SO BA
1 Chuck Knoblauch 1996 151 .448 699 577 140 197 13 72 45 97 74 .341
2 Chuck Knoblauch 1995 134 .423 620 530 105 175 11 63 45 77 94 .330
3 Denard Span 2009 145 .392 676 578 97 180 8 68 23 70 89 .311
4 Chuck Knoblauch 1997 155 .390 712 608 116 178 9 58 62 84 84 .293
5 Kirby Puckett 1986 128 .375 592 558 103 189 25 77 15 26 74 .339
6 Lenny Green 1962 149 .367 713 609 96 165 14 62 8 87 36 .271
7 Cesar Tovar 1971 142 .364 653 598 90 191 1 41 18 41 34 .319
8 Otis Nixon 1998 107 .360 498 446 71 132 1 20 37 44 55 .296
9 Cesar Tovar 1970 156 .356 721 646 119 194 10 54 30 51 46 .300
10 Jacque Jones 2002 133 .346 606 558 92 169 25 81 6 37 123 .303
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/22/2013.
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Trade a catcher and sign a catcher

Kurt Suzuki

Kurt Suzuki

According to a report by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle earlier today the Twins and catcher Kurt Suzuki have reached agreement on a one-year deal $2.75 million base salary that also includes some incentives just two days after sending catcher/outfielder Ryan Doumit to Atlanta.

The 30-year-old Hawaiian was the Oakland A’s second round pick in 2004 and made his big league debut on June 12, 2007 against the Houston Astros. Suzuki took over the starting catching role in 2008 and kept the job until the 2012 season when the A’s started to platoon him more and more. In August 2012 the A’s traded him to the Washington Nationals after their catcher Willie Ramos was injured and he stayed there for a year before the Nats traded him back to Oakland in August 2013.

According to the MLB Rumors site,  ”Suzuki has thrown out 26 percent of opposing base stealers throughout his career, though that number fell to only 12 percent in 2013. He was significantly better in 2012, when he picked off 30 percent of potential thieves. In 2013, he was above average in blocking pitches, per Fangraphs, and was average in terms of pitch-framing, per Matthew Carruth’s report at StatCorner.”

Suzuki’s best season may have been 2009 when he hit .274 with 15 home runs and 88 RBI. Since 2009 his average has fallen each season to .242 in 2010 then .237, then .235 and finally last season to .232. I have always liked Suzuki and I think he will be a very good fit in Minnesota as he backs up Josmil Pinto (assuming his shoulder woes get resolved) and teaches him what it takes to be a starting catcher in the big leagues. I remember a few years back when Suzuki was coming back off an injury and some baseball show was following his workout in a swimming pool. I was amazed when Suzuki was standing in the pool about waist deep and he jumped straight up and landed on his feet on the edge of the pool, that was pretty cool. I am looking forward to seeing Suzuki in a Twins uniform and I really think he will hit better than he has the last few years. I think the Twins made a very nice move here and the price was certainly right.

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Twins trade Doumit

The Twins and GM Terry Ryan keep working to improve the team with Christmas just  around the corner and Spring Training just 50 or so days away. Yesterday the Twins announced that they had traded catcher/outfielder Ryan Doumit to the Atlanta Braves for minor league LHP Sean Gilmartin.

Ryan Doumit

Ryan Doumit

The 32-year-old Doumit had spent the last two seasons with Minnesota with mixed results after the Twins signed him as a free agent in November 2011. Known more for his bat than his catching skills, the switch-hitting Doumit put up some nice numbers in 2012 when he hit .275 with 18 dingers and 75 RBI in 134 games however; in 2013 he appeared in 135 games but hit only .247 with 14 home runs and 55 RBI. Doumit suffered some concussion symptoms in 2013 and caught his last game in a Twins uniform on August 29th and was either in the outfield or used as a DH for the remainder of the season. There have been reports that Doumit is no longer interested in catching but those rumors must be false or the Braves are going to get a real surprise.

Sean Gilmartin

Sean Gilmartin

On the other side of the deal the Twins procured LHP Sean Gilmartin. Gilmartin was first drafted in 2008 in round 31 by the San Diego Padres but chose not to sign and then became a first round pick (28th over all) of the Atlanta Braves in 2011 and signed for a reported $1,134,000 signing bonus. Gilmartin progressed through the Braves system rapidly and in just his second year in pro ball in 2012 started 7 games for AAA Gwinnett. 2013 was a tough year for Gilmartin who had shoulder problems and really struggled in 2013. In 20 starts Gilmartin put up a 5.06 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 105 innings at three minor league levels, including AAA Gwinnett but was still recently named the Braves’ tenth best prospect by Baseball America. ”Gilmartin is a finesse pitcher who knows how to set up hitters and pitch to his strengths,” wrote the publication in its subscriber-only write-up, noting he projects as a No. 4 starter “His fastball has good movement while sitting in the 89-91 mph range, and he mixes it well with a plus change-up and a low-80s slider with a sharp, late break.” Here is what Mark Bradley at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had to say about the trade and why the Braves let Gilmartin go.

Danny Valencia

Danny Valencia

In some other news, former Twins 3B Danny Valencia is on the move again. This time he was traded by the Baltimore Orioles to the Kansas City Royals for outfielder David Lough and there is already talk of a platoon with 3B Mike Moustakas but I find that really hard to believe. Since leaving the Twins in 2012 Valencia has already seen action with the Red Sox and Orioles and now hopes to wear a Royals jersey.

Livan Hernandez

Livan Hernandez

Former (2008) Twins pitcher Livan Hernandez also made the news recently when he put up for auction some of his major league memorabilia including his 1997 World Series MVP trophy and World Series ring. Hernandez who last pitched in 2012 earned over $50 million during his 17 year big league career but must be a little short of cash now days. Kind of sad…..

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Some thoughts on recent Twins activities

Mike Pelfrey

Mike Pelfrey

According to a report by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman the Twins have reached an agreement with Twins free agent pitcher Mike Pelfrey on a two-year $11MM. The report goes on to say that Pelfrey could also earn as much as $3.5 million in performance bonuses. In his first season since undergoing  TJ surgery, Pelfrey was 5-13 with a 5.19 ERA in 152.2 innings for Minnesota in 2013. One of the problems I had with the soon (January 14th) to be 30 year-old Pelfrey was that he averaged just 5.25 innings per start last season while throwing  an average of 87 pitches per outing. I enjoyed watching grass grow more than I did watching Pelfrey pitch, the man is too slow and deliberate for his own good. He is going to have to improve on that if he hopes to reach 200 innings under Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson.

Jason Kubel

Jason Kubel

The Twins also signed former Twins outfielder Jason Kubel to a minor league deal. The 31-year-old Kubel was originally a Twins 12th round pick in 2000 and played for Minnesota from 2004-2011 before signing with Arizona as a free agent. Kubel  missed the entire 2005 season due to injury. Interestingly some reports have Kubel passing on better offers because he is sure he can make the Twins team. GM Terry Ryan has stated that Kubel will have to show that he can still hit and play both corner outfield positions if he wants to wear the Twins colors this season. Kubel has four 20 home run seasons under his belt with the most recent coming in 2012. If Kubel proves he can still hit the long ball, I have no issue with Kubel being a fourth outfielder and a decent left-handed bat off the bench. The problem you have when you have to get down to 25 is that Kubel can’t play center and you need someone to back up center.

Twins season-ticket holders over the weekend received notices of prices for the July 15 All-Star Game at Target Field. One ticket strip will cost from $401 to $1,416 for Champions Club members. Each strip consists of single tickets for several events: FanFest, the Futures Game, the Legends and Celebrity Softball Game, the Home Run Derby and of course the All-Star Game itself.  As expected, it won’t be cheap to be part of the All-Star festivities.

Liam Hendriks

Liam Hendriks

The Chicago Cubs claimed RHP Liam Hendriks on waivers after the Twins designated him for assignment. I know Hendriks has struggled with the Twins and he has been in the organization for seven years but he is still only 24 years old, hate to see the Twins give up on him.

The Minnesota Twins passed on the Rule 5 draft this year for the fourth time (2009, 2007, 2003) since 2000. I find it interesting that a team that has been so bad for three years could not find a spot on the 40 man roster for a Rule 5 draft pick.

The recent 2014 spring training schedule that the Twins organization recently mailed out indicates that spring training tickets go on sale on January 11th. I find it funny that 6 out of their 16 home games are classified as “premium” games, seems to me that any spring training game called “premium” is an oxymoron.

UPDATE Decembe 17 – Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that Kubel will earn $2 million if he makes the roster out of Spring Training and can earn another $1 million via incentives. Kubel will earn $150K for reaching 300 and 350 plate appearances, plus $200K for reaching 400 PAs. He also will receive $150K for spending 30 and 60 days on the Major League roster and another $200K if he reaches 90 days.

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This Day in Twins History – December 12, 1969

Graig Nettles

Graig Nettles

In a major deal the Minnesota Twins trade pitchers Dean Chance and Bob Miller, outfielder Ted Uhlaender, and 3B Graig Nettles to the Cleveland Indians for pitchers Luis Tiant and Stan Williams.

The Twins were fresh off a 97-65 season but had lost the ALCS to the Baltimore Orioles 3 games to none in the first year that the ALCS was played. Owner Calvin Griffith fired his feisty manager Billy Martin shortly after the playoffs and hired veteran baseball manager Bill Rigney to take over.

The Twins gave up a lot to acquire Luis “El Tiante” Tiant and Stan “Big Daddy” Williams. The 33 year-old Williams had a phenomenal season in 1970 out of the pen when he went 10-1 with a 1.99 ERA in 68 games while pitching 113.1 innings. 1971 was anther story with Williams going 4-5 with a 4.15 ERA and the Twins traded hin to the Cardinals in September.

Luis Tiant

Luis Tiant

Tiant was only 9-20 in 1969 but he was 21-9 in 1968 and the Twins had high hopes for Tiant. He pitched very well at the start of the 1970 season, and by the end of May was 6-0 with a 3.12 ERA when he went on the disabled list with arm troubles. He came back in early August, but only won one more game the rest of the way and finished the season with a 7-3 record and a 3.40 ERA. Tiant’s arm problems only got worse in the off-season, and the Twins released him at the end of spring training in 1971. The Atlanta Braves signed Tiant but within a month they too let him go and Tiant signed with the Boston Red Sox in May of 1971. With his fastball apparently gone it appeared that Tiant was done. However; Tiant began a remarkable comeback in 1972, reinventing himself as a junkballer, throwing an incredible variety of pitches from all sorts of arm angles. All of these came off a bizarre motion that had him looking straight at second base in the middle of his wind-up. Between 1972-1978, Tiant put up a 121-74 record for the Red Sox with a 3.30 ERA while averaging 243 innings per year. After leaving the Red Sox, Tiant pitched for the Yankees, Pirates and the Angels and left the major leagues in his rear view mirror after the 1982 season and 19 seasons and went on to pitch in Mexico at the age of 42.

Probably not one of the Twins best trades if you consider the wonderful career that Graig Nettles went to have. You just never know for years sometimes how trades really turned out. There was a nice article done by the Cleveland Plain Dealer back in 2009 about Dean Chance that you might enjoy checking out here. I have been trying to get in touch with Chance for an interview for years with no luck what so ever.

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If I had a Hall of Fame vote

Just think how much fun it would be to have a have a vote for the MLB Hall of Fame. There are many deserving candidates on the list this year as there are every year but this years ballot seems extraordinarily loaded. You have three pitchers with 300+ wins, you have five hitters with 500+ home runs, two players with 3,000+ hits, a player with 800+ stolen bases and a closer with 478 saves.

According to MLB HOF rules, electors may vote for as few as zero (0) and as many as ten (10) eligible candidates deemed worthy of election. Write-in votes are not permitted.

Any candidate receiving votes on seventy-five percent (75%) of the ballots cast shall be elected to membership in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

For me that is where the “kicker” comes in to play. The words integrity and character are specifically mentioned in the voting rules. I know that not all the players in the Hall are saints but what is in the past is not something I can change. If I had a vote today I could not vote for players that have been accused of cheating. I know all about innocent until proven guilty but that is not how things really are in life. These players that are being accused of cheating are hiding behind the veil of time and waiting for time to pass by. If these players were really innocent, I think they would be putting forth some effort to show that they are innocent. Come on, step up and show me why you should not be lumped in with that bunch of cheaters. When and if the Hall decided that Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose can be enshrined in the Hall, I will be open to placing a vote for players like Barry BondsRoger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro. Until then, these guys have to wait on the bench.

 The Twins Trivia Hall of Fame ballot for 2013 would look like this.

Greg Maddux

Frank Thomas

Craig Biggio

Edgar Martinez

Tom Glavine

Jack Morris

Tim Raines

Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox were unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox were unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

Congratulations to Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, and Tony LaRussa on their election to the Hall of Fame.

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10 years is a long, long time

 

RF Tony Oliva played for the  Twins from 1962-1976

RF Tony Oliva played for the Twins from 1962-1976

If the reports are true, the Colorado Rockies and long-time Twins first baseman Justin Morneau have agreed on a two-year $13 million deal. After signing Morneau the Rockies will have two players on their roster that spent all or parts of 10 or more season wearing a Twins uniform. Morneau will join Michael Cuddyer in Colorado. Former Twins LaTroy Hawkins who logged nine seasons with Minnesota and has played with 10 different major league teams will also call Colorado home this season .

Now days with arbitration and free agency players don’t stay with an organization that long and to play for a team for 10 years is getting to be a tougher and tougher task. Since the Twins started here in 1961 there have been 22 players that logged 10 or more season in a Twins uniform with Tony Oliva leading the pack with 15 notches in his belt. The only active player on the list is Joe Mauer and if he stays in Minnesota through 2018 when his current contract expires, he will also wear that Minnesota across his chest for 15 years.

Players that played in Minnesota for all or parts of 10 seasons

Rk Yrs From To Age
1 Tony Oliva 15 1962 1976 23-37 Ind. Seasons
2 Kent Hrbek 14 1981 1994 21-34 Ind. Seasons
3 Harmon Killebrew 14 1961 1974 25-38 Ind. Seasons
4 Jim Kaat 13 1961 1973 22-34 Ind. Seasons
5 Brad Radke 12 1995 2006 22-33 Ind. Seasons
6 Eddie Guardado 12 1993 2008 22-37 Ind. Seasons
7 Kirby Puckett 12 1984 1995 24-35 Ind. Seasons
8 Randy Bush 12 1982 1993 23-34 Ind. Seasons
9 Rod Carew 12 1967 1978 21-32 Ind. Seasons
10 Justin Morneau 11 2003 2013 22-32 Ind. Seasons
11 Michael Cuddyer 11 2001 2011 22-32 Ind. Seasons
12 Torii Hunter 11 1997 2007 21-31 Ind. Seasons
13 Denny Hocking 11 1993 2003 23-33 Ind. Seasons
14 Rick Aguilera 11 1989 1999 27-37 Ind. Seasons
15 Bert Blyleven 11 1970 1988 19-37 Ind. Seasons
16 Joe Mauer 10 2004 2013 21-30 Ind. Seasons
17 Greg Gagne 10 1983 1992 21-30 Ind. Seasons
18 Gary Gaetti 10 1981 1990 22-31 Ind. Seasons
19 Roy Smalley 10 1976 1987 23-34 Ind. Seasons
20 Rich Reese 10 1964 1973 22-31 Ind. Seasons
21 Jim Perry 10 1963 1972 27-36 Ind. Seasons
22 Bob Allison 10 1961 1970 26-35 Ind. Seasons
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/5/2013.
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Twins starters and pitch limits

The Twins have had a reputation for protecting their starting pitchers for many years and their method of choice for accomplishing this is to limit the number of pitches that their starters throw in a game. The Twins are not alone in counting pitches, all teams do it these days and a 100 pitch per game seems to be the “gold standard” that most teams follow.

Before pitch counts started to become prominent in the 1980′s ball clubs expected their starting pitcher to pitch a complete game unless he was injured during the game or just could not get anyone out. In days gone by relievers were often starters that were past their prime and were finishing their careers, being a reliever was looked upon as a step down from being a starter. In some ways it is not really that different today, hardly anyone comes out of high school or college hoping to be a reliever but there have been a few exceptions over the last couple of years. For the most part, relievers are still failed starters and yet baseball managers bring in these guys that are not good enough to start for his team to bail out the starter after the starter gets in trouble or reaches his pitch limit.

So what brought on this change? When I first started following baseball in the 1950′s teams usually had four starters and these starters were now and then called upon to pitch in a few games in relief each season as needed. Then baseball evolved from four to five starters, the Twins joined that bandwagon in 1963. As baseball payrolls started to escalate and pitching talent became diluted due to expansion, starting pitchers became a more valuable commodity. I don’t have good Twins payroll data prior to 1980 but it appears that the Twins highest paid player was always a position player until 1986 when Bert Blyleven became the first Twins pitcher to lay claim to that title and to make over a million dollars a season when he pocketed $1,450.000. In the last 28 years the Twins highest paid player has been a position player 16 times, a starting pitcher 11 times and a closer on one occasion. You can see the numbers and the names at http://wp.me/P1YQUj-22 . I am not sure anyone knows for sure but somewhere along the line, either the players agents or team management (I doubt it was a player) decided that starting pitchers needed to be protected and that limiting the number of pitches thrown was the best way to accomplish that goal. Counting pitches isn’t very scientific but it is easy to do and that might by why pitch counts were chosen as the tool of choice. The stress of the game, if there are runners on base, the weather and many other variables are not taken into consideration when all you do is count pitches to determine how hard a pitcher worked on any given day.

One way to make a case for pitch counts is that you can argue that each pitcher has only so many ”bullets” to throw before his arm or elbow gives out. I have always found the concept that pitch counts limit injuries to be kind of a strange notion because when we want to strengthen a muscle or ligament we do what? We exercise it and work it. After a knee or arm or elbow surgery we do what? We exercise it to make it stronger and that just seems to go against the grain of limiting pitchers throwing.

Have pitch count really limited injuries? I don’t think anyone knows for sure but the thinking must be that it has because pitch counts are becoming more entrenched than ever before. Let’s take a look at this from the Twins historical perspective. From 1994 through 2013 the Twins have played 3,173 games, during that time frame Tom Kelly/Dick Such and Ron Gardenhire/Rick Anderson have allowed their starting pitcher to throw 100 or more pitches in a game 1,134 times or in 35.74% of the games the Twins have played. Over the last 20 years Minnesota Twins managers and their pitching coaches have allowed their starters throw 100 or more pitches fewer times than any team in the American League and it is not even close. Have Twins starters suffered fewer injuries then all the other teams, I don’t think so. Heck, even the Tampa Rays have 1,259 games with 100 or more pitches and they have been in existence in only the 16 of the 20 years I am looking at here.

AL games with starter going 100 or more pitches 1994-2013

(Houston excluded since they have been in AL only one season)
 
Team Total Avg games per year
1 WSox 1711 85.55
2 Angels 1668 83.4
3 Yankees 1621 81.05
4 Mariners 1597 79.85
5 Rays 1259 78.69
6 BJays 1548 77.4
7 Orioles 1482 74.1
7 Indians 1482 74.1
9 Rangers 1476 73.8
10 RSox 1470 73.5
11 Tigers 1458 72.9
12 A’s 1434 71.7
13 Royals 1403 70.15
14 Twins 1134 56.7

100+ pitches by starters

Brad Radke

Brad Radke

In the past 20 years only four Twins starting pitchers have averaged 100+ pitches a game for the entire season and they were Brad Radke with 103.7 in 2000, Joe Mays with 100.2 in 2001, Johan Santana in 2004 with 100.8, in 2005 with 101.1, in 2006 with 101.5, in 2007 with 101.4 and Carl Pavano in 2011 with 102.5 and their innings pitched fell between 219 and 233.2 per season. The Twin leader in average pitches per game in 2013 was Samuel Deduno with 96.8 in 18 starts.

The intent of this piece is not to say that the Twins pitching would better if Kelly and Gardenhire had allowed them to throw more pitches, it is more for pointing out the peculiarity of how the Twins handle their starters versus how the rest of the AL league does.

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Twins to add Phil Hughes to pitching staff

Phil HughesIt appears that Twins fans have another present under the 2013 Christmas tree. Star Tribune writer LaVelle E. Neal III reported this past Saturday that the Twins have agreed on a three-year deal worth about $24 million with former New York Yankee RHP Phil Hughes. The deal apparently includes bonuses of up to $1MM per year for innings pitched. The Twins have not commented on the proposed deal as is normal for them until the player undergoes a physical.

The New York Yankees made Phil Hughes their first round selection (23rd over all) in 2004 out of high school and Hughes made his big league debut in April 2007. The 6’5″ Hughes goes about 240 and is only 27 but already has seven years of major league experience under his belt. During his Yankee career Hughes posted a 56-50 record with a 4.54 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP, not exactly stellar numbers but Yankee stadium isn’t exactly a pitcher’s park and a flyball pitcher like Hughes could and should have better success at Target Field.

The bigger concern with Hughes is his health as he has spent time on the DL four times. In 2007 he visited the 60 day DL with a hamstring issue, in 2008 he went on the DL with a stress rib fracture, in 2011 he spent time on the 60 day list again with right shoulder inflammation and he started the 2013 season on the DL with a back issue but he only missed four games.

Hughes throws a fastball that touches 92 or so to go along with a curveball, a change-up and a slider that he has started to throw while giving up on his cutter. Hughes is not exactly an innings eater having peaked at 191.1 innings and has only surpassed 145 innings in a season three times although all three of those took place during his last four seasons. As a Yankee, Hughes had a 7.6 SO/9 ratio but the bad news is that he has averaged less than 5 innings per start. The last thing the Twins need is more non quality starts.

Considering all the plusses and minuses I think that Phil Hughes will help the Twins and hopefully help to solidify the rotation. Who knows what getting out of the Bronx zoo and that ballpark will do for Hughes.

So now that the Twins have agreed to sign two additional starting pitchers it appears that it will add about $20 million to their 2014 payroll but in reality that is not the case. Keep in mind that the Twins reduced their payroll from last season by $23.5 million by not having to pay Justin Morneau $14 million, Nick Blackburn $5.5 million and Mike Pelfrey $4 million that they paid them last season. So at this point the Twins are still below their 2013 payroll. If they sign someone like catcher A.J. Pierzynski it is likely that Ryan Doumit may be traded and there is no assurance that Josh Willingham will be with Minnesota once they get to the trading deadline next year. I applaud the Twins for spending money on some starting pitching but don’t think that the Twins are spending money by the wheelbarrow here because they are not. Unless the Twins do something totally dramatic and unexpected, their 2014 payroll won’t be much different then it was in 2013. The Twins are not being big spenders, they are just reassigning their resources in a way that will help the team in the short run. In spite of that, the Twins are improving their team and making it a bit more watchable. It simply shows how over paid Justin Morneau was for the numbers he put up and how much the move of Joe Mauer to first base will help this team.

UPDATE December 5 – The Minnesota Twins announced that they have signed free agent right-handed pitcher Phil Hughes to a three-year, $24 million contract. It has been reported that just like Ricky Nolasco, Hughes also has a very limited (three teams he can say no to) no trade contract. The Minnesota Twins also announced that they have designated right-handed pitcher Liam Hendriks for release or assignment to free up space on the 40 man roster for Hughes. Hendriks was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2007.

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Not official but reports are that Ricky Nolasco is a Twin

Ricky NolascoThere have been reports circulating since Wednesday afternoon that the Twins and right-handed pitcher Carlos Enrique “Ricky” Nolasco have agreed on a four-year deal for $48 million deal that supposedly also has an option $13 million for a fifth season based on innings pitched in 2016-2017 or the Twins can buy out Nolasco after four years for $1 million. The financial specifics of this deal are not clear as yet and the Twins have had no comment on the reported signing. Regardless of how the final contract numbers come out, this is by far the most the Twins have ever paid a free agent to play in Minnesota.

The soon to be 31 year-old (December 31) Nolasco was a fourth round pick by the Chicago Cubs in 2001 and worked his way up the Cubs chain before being traded to he Florida Marlins in a December 2005 trade for Juan Pierre. Nolasco debuted with the Marlins in 2006 and put up a 11-11 record in 22 starts. An arm injury limited to Nolasco to just four starts in 2007 but since then Nolasco has stayed relatively healthy and has had 26 or more starts each season for the Marlins until they traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers this past July.

Nolasco reportedly throws six pitches: a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a splitter, a slider, a curveball along with a slow curveball. The 6’2″ 220 pounder apparently is not afraid to pitch inside as he hit 10 batters this past season and eight the year before. His consistency and experience should help the Twins pitching staff immensely. Nolasco has always worn the number 47 and that number was last worn by none other than Francisco Liriano. Kudos to the Twins organization for this addition.

Hopefully Terry Ryan has not yet put his checkbook into his back pocket and is still looking to add another starting pitcher through hook or crook and if I were to venture a guess I think it might come through a trade. One thing I hope the Twins do not do is spend money on the over-rated free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. For most of his career Salty was known for his hitting and his catching skills left a lot to be desired, not that he is a free agent all of a sudden he is reported to have good catching skills, I haven’t seen them. The Twins don’t need another catcher that can’t catch.

UPDATE December 3 – The Twins made it official today when they announced that they have signed free agent right-handed pitcher Ricky Nolasco to a four-year contract with a club option that could vest in 2018. Nolasco will earn a guaranteed $12 million salary in each year of the contract (2014-2017). There is a clause that states that if Nolasco pitches 400 innings between 2016 and 2017 he will earn another $13 million for 2018.

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The 2013 Twins Turkey of the Year is -

Turkey CartoonIt is that time of the year again, time to see who will take home the Twins Trivia 2013 Twins Turkey of the Year award.

The 2013 baseball season has been over for almost a month and in the case of teams like the Minnesota Twins, it ended long before that. The temperatures  have gotten colder and snow flakes have been seen over at Target Field but I still find it difficult to rid myself of the bitter taste of yet another wretched Twins season.  A season in which the home town team managed to lose 96 or more games for the third year in a row. Not once in franchise history going back to 1901 have any previous Washington Senators or Minnesota Twins teams managed to accomplish what the 2011-2013 Twins have done by losing 96 or more games three years in a row. The 1997-2000 Twins ball clubs who lost 94, 92, 97, and 93 games were pretty dismal but they fell short of the three straight 96 loss mark.

The depressing part of this is that we can’t even blame injuries for the Twins poor play, the team just plain under performed to what were already low expectations. Sure Joe Mauer missed the last 39 games and Josh Willingham missed 33 games and a few other regulars spent a couple of weeks on the DL but that was about it. A number of players that spent time on the Twins DL list didn’t belong in the majors anyway.

When your team plays this bad it should not be that hard to find candidates for this years Twins Turkey of the Year. I had a few minutes the other day and I start compiling a list of possibilities and here is who I came up with off the top of my head in no particular order. Worse yet, I know it is hard to believe but these guys didn’t even make the cut for the final five.

Rich Harden – The Twins signed this fraud in December 2012 and allowed him to rehab his surgically repaired shoulder but Harden requested his release at the end of July when even he could see he would not be pitching in the majors in 2013. The man last pitched in the majors in 2011. I am not sure what it says for the state of baseball today when teams keep giving pitchers like Harden chance after chance. In all or parts of nine big league seasons with three different organizations, Harden has already pocketed $23,586,500 and he has pitched in a total of 170 games and only twice in nine seasons has he ever appeared in more than 25 games. If there was a DL Hall of Fame, he would be right there. He will only be 32 later this month and he still wants to pitch again in 2014.

Joe Benson – The Twins selected Benson in the second round of the 2006 June draft, just a couple of picks ahead of Justin Masterson and Jon Jay. Benson passed on a football scholarship to Purdue and took the Twins $575,000 and started his career in pro ball. Benson finally got the call to join the Twins in September of 2011 and had 71 at bats in 21 games and hit .239 with no home runs and two RBI. The Twins kept trying to hand him a starting outfield spot in 2012 and 2013 but he just could not get the job done. With his propensity to strike out, Benson would have fit right in with the 2013 Twins. In May of 2013 the Texas Rangers picked Benson up on waivers.

Chris Parmelee – This Twins first round pick in 2006 was projected to be a big time home run hitter. Parmelee worked his way up the minor league ladder and got his first taste of big league ball as a 2011 September call-up and he knocked the cover off the ball by hitting .355 with four home runs and 14 RBI in jus 76 at bats. The Twins had high hopes for Parmelee in 2012 and he rewarded them with 5 home runs and a .229 average in 192 at bats. The Twins handed Parmelee the starting right field job in 2013 but by the time the all-star game rolled around he found himself in Rochester. Parmelee finished the 2013 season hitting .228 with 81 strike outs and just 8 long balls in 294 at bats.

Scott Diamond – This 2010 Rule 5 pick-up had a wonderful season in 2012 going 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA in 27 starts and was projected to be the Twins ace going into 2013. After undergoing elbow surgery in late December of 2012 Diamond started the 2013 season on the DL. When he joined the team later in April he was nowhere near the pitcher he was in 2012. Diamond crashed and burned in 2013 going 6-13 with a 5.43 ERA in 24 starts and by August found himself with AAA Rochester.

Josh Willingham – This Twins starting left fielder was born in the Yellowhammer state and goes by the nickname of The Hammer but in 2013 he played more like a toffee hammer then the sledge-hammer that the Twins expected. Coming off a 2012 season when he hit .260 with 35 home runs and 110 RBI Willingham slumped badly in 2013 hitting just .208 with 14 home runs and 48 RBI. Worse yet he played in just 111 games due to a knee injury which eventually needed surgery. The Hammer’s strikeout’ jumped from 27% of his 2012 at bats to 33% of his 2013 at bats.

Eddie Rosario – A fourth round pick in 2010 this Twins minor leaguer was expected to make his big league debut with the 2014 Twins and possibly fight for a starting spot but a week or so ago he announced that he would be suspended for 50 games for violating the minor league drug policy. Rosario claims that the positive test came from some pills he took to help recover from an arm injury but then again everyone that is caught has some excuse. Neither MLB nor the Twins have made an official announcement as yet. Rosario began his career as an outfielder but agreed to switch to second base in 2011. This past year Rosario played for Ft. Myers before being bumped up to AA New Britain. This past Fall the Twins sent him to play in the Arizona Fall League. If this suspension is a fact, this will really hinder Rosario’s climb up the minor league chain towards Target Field. Minor league teams only play around 140 games so missing 50 really hurts.

We have spent enough time talking about the nonqualifiers, so without further ado let’s get to the meat of todays festivities. Each and every one of the final five did his best this past season to win the 2013 Twins Turkey of Year award but we can only have one winner here.

Vance Worley

Vance Worley

The fourth runner-up is pitcher Vance Worley. Worley was a Phillies third round pick in 2008 and pitched in just 5 games for Philly in 2010. In 2011 Worley went 11-3 but in 2012 Worley went 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA in 23 starts.The Twins parted ways with center fielder Ben Revere to acquire the Vanimal from the Phillies in December of 2012. Worley started 10 games for Minnesota including the Twins home opener going 1-5 with a 7.21 ERA before GM Terry Ryan had seen enough and sent Worley to AAA Rochester. Worley was supposed to be a stalwart in the Twins 2013 rotation but he didn’t even make it to Memorial Day in Minnesota. The man talked a good story but he could not walk the talk. In Rochester he spent time on the DL and started just 9 games going 6-3 with a respectable 3.88 ERA but the call to return to Minnesota never came. Worley was the big acquisition by Ryan last off-season and he was supposed to eat innings and stabilize the rotation but he failed miserably in both. The man pitched like a turkey and earned his spot on this list.

Aaron Hicks

Aaron Hicks

The third runner-up is outfielder Aaron Hicks. Hicks was the Twins first round pick (14th  overall) in 2008. Hicks slowly worked his way through the Twins system and finally had a breakout season in 2012 with AA New Britain. He so impressed the Twins brass that during that off-season they traded both of their center fielders,  Denard Span and Ben Revere for pitching help and Hicks became the front-runner to be the Twins Opening Day center fielder in 2013. Hicks rewarded the Twins organizations faith in him by having a great spring training hitting .370 with four home runs (three in one game) and 18 RBI along with 3 stolen bases. But when they started playing for real Hicks got off to a horrendous start getting two hits in his first 48 at bats and worse yet, he struck out 20 times. The Twins had no one else to play center so they kept sending him out there everyday until he pulled a hamstring on a June 9th. At that point Hicks was hitting .179 with 6 home runs but he also struck out 56 times in 190 at bats. While rehabbing in Rochester Hicks was recalled by the Twins when Willingham went on the DL. On August 1st Hicks was still hitting .192 with the strike outs continuing to pile up and GM Ryan sent him packing to Rochester and Hicks never again put on a Twins uniform for the rest of the season. I really don’t like picking on rookies and the Twins probably did Hicks a disservice by having him in the major leagues without a single AAA at bat but the Twins were in desperate circumstances and so they threw Hicks in the deep end of the pool and he was just plain in over his head. But Hicks didn’t earn his was on this list because he couldn’t hit, he is here because his attitude left a lot to be desired at some points this year. There were times when he failed to run out ground balls, on some of his home runs he stood at home plate and admired it, and in the field he sometimes played so casually that runners took extra bases on him without too much effort. To me he looked like a player that thought he was a star now that he had reached the major leagues and he quit working and was just coasting along. A little humble pie should be on Aaron Hicks Thanksgiving table this year and hopefully he will become the player that we all hoped he could be. If he doesn’t show solid improvement this season he should look at sharpening his already strong golf swing and consider the pro golf tour.

Anthony Swarzak

Anthony Swarzak

Our second runner-up is pitcher Anthony Swarzak. Swarzak did not make this list because of how he did on the mound, he made the list in spite of having a career year in 2013. Swarzak appeared in a career high 48 games and threw 96 innings and posted a 3-2 record with a career best 2.91 ERA. So why was he invited to the Twins Turkey of the Year banquet? Swarzak is here because on January 25th while attending TwinsFest 2013 he and his teammates thought they would have a little fun and started practicing their wrestling moves and Swarzak ended up with two broken ribs. The non-injured participants were not identified and GM Terry Ryan said that he appreciated that Swarzak come forth and fessed up. I am sure that childish behavior like this goes on all the time in baseball locker rooms as Kent Hrbek can certainly attest to when he broke his ankle during some horseplay in the Twins clubhouse in September of 1990. With the Twins desperate for pitching this was a stupid move on the part of Swarzak and possibly cost him a chance to join the Twins starting staff. Swarzak missed most of spring training and did not pitch in a single ST game. Swarzak started the season on the DL but was activated on April 7th and went on to have his best year. Sometimes baseball players have some let’s say “unusual beliefs” and this Twins long reliever fits right in with that group with his passion and interest in Sasquatch, otherwise known as Bigfoot. He’s obsessed with it,” said fellow reliever Brian Duensing. “He believes they’re real. He really wants to find one. He is adamant that they are around.

Tom Brunansky

Tom Brunansky

Our runner-up turns out to be hitting coach Tom Brunansky. This former Twins player got into coaching in 2010 with the GCL Twins and the Twins quickly moved him up the ladder with stops at AA New Britain in 2011, at AAA Rochester in 2012 and in 2013 he became the Twins hitting coach. A number of Twins minor leaguers loved him as a hitting coach but in his one season in Minnesota he has shown nothing that indicates that he is a big league hitting coach if you go by the teams hitting numbers. The 2013 hitters were with a couple of exceptions the same players as the Twins sent to the plate in 2012 but yet Brunansky turned these hitters in to as Sid Hartman might say, real stiffs. Lets take a look at a couple of hitting categories and compare 2013 to 2012. The 2012 Twins hit .260 and under Bruno the 2013 Twins hit .242, fourth worst in team history. The OBP in 2012 was .325 and it was .312 this past season, only five Twins teams have done more poorly. The 2012 team scored 701 runs and in 2013 they scored 614, only the 1968 Twins played in 162 games and scored fewer (562) runs. The crowning achievement for Bruno was his teams 1,430 strike outs, a franchise record going back to 1901 and the next closest number was 1,121 by the 1997 Twins bunch. The 2012 boys went down swinging 1,069 times. But on the plus side he did increase the number of home runs from 131 to 151. It is hard to understand how the Twins justified renewing the man for 2014 who just by looking at the numbers, might be the worst hitting coach in team history. I am thinking he will be on a short leash in 2014 and if Twins hitters get off to another miserable start Dave Engle‘s brother-in-law will be looking for work and Joe Vavra will get his job back.

The entire Twins organization had another bad year and that makes three in a row. You can say what you want and dissect it a thousand different ways but the only way to measure success for any baseball team is in terms of wins and losses. If you don’t win, your season has to be considered a failure and you are not doing your job, it really is as simple as that. In baseball, like in life there are really no moral victories and I am tired of hearing that “the boys really got after it”, I want to see the win column increase and the loss column decrease.

In addition to being bad on the field the Minnesota Twins organization was equally bad off the field. Spring Training 2013 was year 2 of “Value” and “Premium” pricing and the tickets ranged from $13 for a “value” lawn ticket to $43 for a “premium” Dugout Box seat. In 2012, three of the 16 (18.8%) home games were designated as “premium”, in 2013 six of the 18 (33.3%) of the home games were classified as “premium” games. 2013 was the first time in a number of years that the Twins had not raised their spring training ticket prices at Hammond Stadium from the previous season but they doubled the number of their “premium” games so yes, they pocketed more money from ticket sales. YES, $43 to watch a ST game. How in the world can the Twins who were coming off of back-to-back 90+ loss seasons, dropping payroll, charge $43 to watch a team that will not even have big leaguers playing most of the time?

The 2013 regular season brought even more changes in Twins ticket pricing for Twins fans. The variable ticket pricing plan that was instituted in 2006 with two tiers jumped to three tiers in 2009 and jumped to five tiers in 2013 as the Twins came off back-to-back 96+ loss seasons. The tiers are called “extra value”, “value”, “select”, “premium” and “elite”. Six of the nine “elite” games were against the Yankees and White Sox, I wonder how they were chosen as the ”elite” games. Oh, by the way, the Twins record for “elite” games was 1-8. When you look back at the 2013 season how many of the games that the team played should have been classified in any of these five categories? According to Team Marketing Report the average MLB ticket price in 2013 was $27.73 and the Twins 2013 average ticket price was the 13th highest of the 30 big league teams at $32.59. To bad the Twins play was not that good, I can’t wait to see the Twins 2014 ticket prices.

Then on April 8th the Twins sent out a Press Release – Early Entry Program Coming to Target Field. The press release went on to say that early entry tickets will be sold on a walk-up basis at the main Target Field Box Office beginning 30 minutes before the early entry time for that game. Tickets will cost $15 dollars, and sales will be limited to the first 60 fans. Fans will also be required to have a normal entry ticket to the game, and will not be allowed to exit and reenter the ballpark after batting practice. When the Twins fans and the press saw this release the reaction in blogs, Twitter and sports talk shows went wild and it wasn’t positive.

Then a couple of hours later Twins corporate communications senior manager Chris Iles sent out another press release retracting the whole “early entry” offer from this morning. “My apologies as I sent a release out prematurely earlier today. The early entry program outlined in the release was not fully vetted across the Twins organization. To that end, please disregard the earlier release as the Minnesota Twins will not be offering an early entry program as stated earlier today. There will be no change in policy regarding gate opening times and season ticket holders will continue to be given early access priority as part of the Sweet Spot program. On behalf of the Twins, we apologize for a lack of internal communication which led to the premature release of this misinformation”.

Twins president Dave St. Peter

Twins president Dave St. Peter

So what happened? Twins President Dave St. Peter said the release was sent prematurely and hadn’t been approved by higher-ups in the organization. “It was released before it ever should have been. It’s hard to believe, but it was not pulled down because of fan reaction,” St. Peter said, adding this: “Our organization made a mistake.” We’re looking at ways to add more access to batting practice, but I’m not sure charging incrementally is the way to go about that.” When asked again if this 180 degree turn had anything to do with the roughly 95 to 99 percent of people who thought the plan was a bad idea and made their voices heard on Tuesday. “I heard from a few fans,” St. Peter said. “I know this: I know we provided a tremendous level of entertainment to the world of Twitter this afternoon. I don’t know if that’s good news.”

Dave St. Peter, a native of North Dakota became the fourth president in Minnesota Twins team history in November 2002 and has done great job in that role over the years. Dave has always been willing to help anyone that asks and he is one of the few MLB team presidents that I know of that is willing to make his e-mail address available to the general public and respond to your e-mail personally as quickly as he can. Although I am not a Twitter user, St. Peter is and I have heard that he is very active there.

Dave St. Peter needs one of these for his desk.

Dave St. Peter needs one of these for his desk.

Having said that, I am disappointed in how St. Peter handled to the pay for batting practice issue this season, my perception is that Dave St. Peter threw Chris Iles under the bus and did not take responsibility for the problem and then was less than honest about the reason for the change of heart. I also have the perception that a baseball teams president should be more of the face of the franchise to the general public then Dave St. Peter has recently shown. I know that Dave St. Peter shows up at many events but I am talking more about taking responsibility for the actual play of the team. I know that running the team is not his job, he has people for that like GM Terry Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire but St. Peter is the team president, as President Harry Truman one said “The Buck Stops Here.” The way I see it Dave St. Peter should stop spouting the normal baseball clichés and step forward and admit that “I am responsible for the state of this baseball team and I will do all I can to fix it.” The first part of that process is to instruct his GM to sign some players that will make this team more competitive. I know that it might be difficult to get good players to play for a team that is as bad as the Twins have been for three years but money speaks volumes and if the Twins have to over pay to get them, so be it. After all, Twins fans have been over paying to watch this team play for several years, now it is your turn to hand over your wallet. Another step might be to revisit ticket prices both for spring training games and for the regular season. The team has sucked for several years, maybe the organization should give the fans a break on ticket prices until things get better instead of bragging that you didn’t raise the ticket price but fail to mention that you have moved to five tier ticket pricing from three with higher prices for those two new tiers. For some reason Dave St. Peter’s name never comes up when members of the organization such as the GM, the manager or the pitching coach are criticized for their performance, the president of the Minnesota Twins appears to be the Teflon man. The entire Twins organization probably earned this award  but we need the leader of this organization to step up and accept responsibility. 2013 was not a good year for another president we all know but for your performance this year Mr. Dave St. Peter you are our 2013 Twins Turkey of the Year winner.

 

Previous Twins Turkey of Year Winners

2012 – Twins owner Jim Pohlad
2011 – Catcher Joe Mauer
2010 – Infielder Brendan Harris
2009 – Pitcher Glen Perkins
 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

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Twins off season starts with a bang

Joe MauerJoe Mauer

Joe Mauer

Joe Mauer

The Twins off-season got started with bang yesterday when the Twins announced that six-time All-Star and former AL MVP catcher Joe Mauer was leaving the tools of ignorance behind and moving to first base full-time. The Twins having been saying all along that Mauer was free of his concussion symptoms and that he was their catcher unless they heard differently. But yet GM Terry Ryan needed to know for sure where Mauer was going to play in 2014. Mauer is a foundation player the team needs to build around and they need to know what building blocks they need and the sooner that Mauer made a decision on his future, the sooner Ryan can begin to assemble his team. So I can’t help but wonder how much pressure the Twins applied to Mauer to get him to make a decision on what position he wanted to call home in 2014 and beyond. I know that Mauer is a great player but how many baseball teams have waited on one of their players to tell them where he wants to play?

Mauer said the decision was both difficult but yet easy, I think I can understand what he is saying. Mauer had to be thinking he had a shot at being the Twins catcher for as long as he wanted and that down the line the Hall of Fame would be calling. But then Joe’s life changed when he got married after the 2012 season and before he knew it, he was the father of twins himself. Later in the 2013 season he suffered through a serious concussion and his season ended 6 week earlier then he had planned. Mauer is a proud man and giving up catching, something he has done his entire life had to be hard. But Mauer is also a smart man and he understands that family and health always comes first. Money will never be an issue for Joe and his family but his health could become a problem if he continued to catch. Mix in what his good friend Justin Morneau went through, all the other catcher concussion issues in 2013 and all the recent reports of football players and their problems and Joe really had no choice. Joe Mauer, always the team player and being the good guy he is stepped up and informed the Twins that his decision was made.

The griping is rampant that first base is a power position and it normally is but there have been a number of very good first basemen since 1960 that hit 15 or fewer home runs, knocked in 90 to 111 RBI and hit for a high average. Players like Rod Carew, Keith Hernandez, Mark Grace, and Pete Rose come to mind and they were pretty good players. It will be interesting also to see if moving from a tough position like catcher to an easier position to play like first base actually makes Mauer an even better hitter. Something akin to a pitcher moving from starting to relief and picking up a few MPH on his fastball.

Mauer moving to first base has huge implications on numerous players. I doubt that Justin Morneau entertained thoughts of returning to Minnesota anyway but this move puts an end to that possibility. Chris Colabello might as well call his agent and ask him to pursue a trade. Chris Parmelee instantly became an outfielder and sometimes first baseman. But who is going to replace Mauer behind home plate? The Twins have four catchers on the roster at the present time, Josmil Pinto, Chris Herrmann, Eric Fryer and Ryan Doumit. Each and every one of these guys has some warts, Doumit is a decent hitter but a poor catcher plus he had his own bout with a concussion last season, you have to wonder if he wants to catch any more. Herrmann seems like he has been around for ever but he is only 25 but I don’t think the Twins envision him as a full-time catcher. The 28 year-old Fryer can’t hit a lick and the Twins are the fourth organization that he has played with. That leaves us with Josmil Pinto, 24,  who was a September call-up and appeared in 21 games hitting .342 with four home runs. With just 21 big league games under his belt and just 19 AAA games you have to wonder if he is ready to make the jump to the big leagues as a full-time catcher. Mauer only caught 5 games in AAA but Pinto is not Joe Mauer. You also keep hearing that Pinto’s catching skills still need work but you can use that excuse on most any catcher. The Twins could go out and sign a free agent veteran but does a team that lost 96 games two years in a row want to spend money on a veteran catcher? I am not sure I would but there is one catcher that I would sign if the price was right and if he was willing to come back to Minnesota. A.J. Pierzynski would be the one catcher I would be willing to spend a few dollars to sign. Why? Because the man comes to play every day, he can hit, he is a decent catcher that would help the Twins pitching staff, he can teach Pinto what it takes to be a big league catcher and most of all Pierzynski will teach the entire team what it takes to win. The Twins could do a lot worse than signing A.J. for a year or two.

Jason Bartlett

Jason Bartlett

Almost lost in all the Joe Mauer news is the fact that the Twins signed former Twins shortstop Jason Bartlett to a minor league deal. The Twins originally acquired Bartlett from the San Diego Padres in a trade for Brian Buchanan in July 2002. Bartlett played short for the Twins from 2004-2007 but did not earn a full-time gig at short until 2007. Then after the 2007 season then GM Bill Smith sent him, Matt Garza, and Eduardo Morlan to Tampa for Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, and Jason Pridie. Bartlett spent 2008-2010 in Tampa before being traded back to the Padres who had originally drafted and signed him in 2001. Bartlett spent 2011 as the Padres shortstop but injured his knee early in 2012 and missed the remainder of the season and didn’t play at all in 2013. Now that Bartlett feels that his knee is healthy again he wants to play again and the Twins are going to give him that chance.

What I find interesting about the Twins signing the 34 year-old Bartlett is that he only plays short. Bartlett has played ever inning of his big league carer at short except for one inning back in 2004 when he moved over to second base for the Twins. This does not Bartlett much of a candidate for the utility man role. That means that the Twins are bringing Bartlett to push Pedro Florimon for the starting shortstop job. Florimon was rated one of the leagues better fielding shortstops but hitting .221 in 134 games has left a lot to be desired. Every team including the Twins claims to value defense, particularly up the middle, but in reality offense trumps defense. Particularly with a team like the Twins who had trouble scoring runs, you sacrifice some defense to score some runs. If Bartlett is healthy and shows that he can still hit, he could well be the starting shortstop when the Twins open the 2014 season.

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