Paying to Bring Us the Playoffs

This is what it has come to. I don’t have anything all that interesting to post about so tonight, you get “Jim Crikket Reviews the NLCS… Commercials”.

That’s right, I don’t even have enough material about the Cardinals/Brewers game itself to fill a post… so I’ll sprinkle a comment about the game here and there, but for the most part, you get my impressions about the sponsors who are allowing us to see this game without having to pay for it.

And here we go…

I’ve been drinking Southern Comfort for over 35 years (no… not CONSTANTLY) and I like the relatively new SoCo Lime. But Southern Comfort Fiery Pepper (SoCo and Tobasco)? Um. I think not.

Seeing Brian Wilson eating at Taco Bell does not make me more inclined to eat there. I also have to concur with someone (Posnanski maybe?) who tweeted recently something to the effect that Brian Wilson might be the least likely ballplayer to fit the “Black Ops” mold.

I’ve been inside the Transamerica Pyramid building in San Francisco a few times. Trust me, it looks nothing like the new “Tomorrow Makers” commercials inside. I like the ads, though.

Holliday hit a home run… I thought he was hurt.

I don’t think the gal being driven by her boyfriend frantically around a city in his Chevy Cruze Eco is ever going to see the airplane with her boyfriend’s proposal… and if she does, she’s going to turn him down. Now… if he had just done something original, like proposing on a JumboTron at a baseball game…

James Beresford. Australian for "ballplayer"

I saw that Twins prospect James Beresford, who is from Australia, tweeted that he was glad to get home and not have to see the Foster’s “Australian for beer” commercials… but some of them still make me laugh out loud. I’ve been told I have an odd sense of humor. The “free agent” commercial where the Aussie footballer changes teams for the beer reminds me a bit of my 16″ slow pitch softball days.

Home run by Allen Craig (who the hell is Allen Craig?).

The Pepsi commercials in the middle of the cornfield aren’t great, but wouldn’t it have been a blast sitting around with all those former players in between takes on the set? I’d want a digital recorder just to capture the stories.

I’ve never watched “Big Bang Theory”, but after all the saturation advertising TBS has made us endure, if there ever was a chance I would watch it, that has disappeared. Enough, already! It’s almost enough to make me look forward to FOX broadcasts. (I said “almost”.)

Helluva head first slide by Hairston to score the Brewers’ first run.

All of the people in the “what am I going to do about retirement?” commercials seem to be younger than I am. It’s making me wonder if perhaps I should have started planning for that by now. Good thing I have this blogging thing to fall back on.

Conan O’Brien commercials: See “Big Bang Theory” paragraph above. Yes, the only thing worse than BBT and Conan commercials is BBT and Conan commercials running back-to-back.

The State Farm commercial where the wife “catches” her husband talking to “Jake from State Farm” in the middle of the night is hilarious. “She sounds hideous!” “Well, she’s a guy, so…”

Kyle Lohse leaves in the 5th inning with a 2-2 tie game and a man on 3rd.  LaRussa would never cut it as Gardy’s pitching coach. Doesn’t he know you don’t pull your starter until he’s coughed up the lead and fallen behind by 4 runs?

Over the years, Budweiser has come up with some memorable and imaginative ad campaigns. The one they’re using during the LCS is not one of them. I’m betting most of you reading this right now can’t even picture the commercial I’m talking about.

Another excuse to post this picture (Photo: Craig Lassig/AP)

The new Captain Morgan ads are fun, but the womenfolk in the ads have a ways to go to measure up to the ladies that accompanied the Captain to Target Field last year. But I love the new commercials. In fact, if I ever get drunk enough to get a tattoo, “To Life, Love and Loot” might find itself forever captured on some part of my body.

Speaking of rowing, the GEICO commercial with the gerbils rowing doesn’t do as much for me.

Did I mention the Conan commercials are just plain stupid? My first thought was, “he has to be flat out embarrassed to have to do those commercials.” Then I remembered. It’s Conan.

Ouch. That shot on the bicep taken by plate umpire Mike Everett had to hurt.

The “pay it forward” themed commercials by Liberty Mutual are kinda cool.

Arthur Rhodes is still pitching in the Major Leagues… and in the playoffs. Mothers and fathers, for God’s sake, if you have left handed children, teach them to PITCH!

The Allstate commercials with the guy from HBO’s “Oz” prison show (and narrated by Pedro Cerrano of “Major League” fame) are great. I’m starting to notice a trend. I really like a lot of insurance company ad campaigns. Wonder why that is.

I like Tommy Lee Jones, but I don’t recall seeing his eyes move to read cue cards in MIB the way they do in his Ameriprise commercials.

Yes, lady, your mother was probably right. You should have married John Clark instead of the hubby who paid AT&T for unlimited messaging just so your family could get unlimited calling.

Hey, did you hear “Big Bang Theory” is coming to TBS?

Little Nicky Punto did not look much like a Tiny Superhero with that pinch hit K in the 7th.

Will you just throw Conan out the window of the damn blimp, already?

The ETrade commercials with the babies talking investments (and wildebeasts propagating the heard) are still funny, but those kids must be about ready to graduate from college by now, aren’t they?

The girl in the pink dress doing the T-Mobile commercials looks strikingly like an old girlfriend of mine. Of course it’s not her. Daughter maybe? Hell, probably a granddaughter. Crap, I’m getting old.

Carlos Gomez looks weird, but better, with short hair.

Those guys are right. That thing really does not like Dwayne. But if the only reason I need State Farm insurance is in the unlikely event a giant robot terrorizes my neighborhood, I think I’ll take my chances going uninsured. Turns out I don’t like all the insurance commercials, after all.

Now that I think about it, I don’t think I like any of the GEICO commercials at all. Rowing gerbils, dunking 5 year old… nope. Bring back the little green thing that talks funny.

Note to Nissan: If you have to create fake stunts for your four-wheel drive pickups in your commercials, what does that say about your four-wheel drive pickups?

If the Cardinals don’t go to the World Series, it won’t be because David Freese (did I spell that right?) didn’t do his part.

OK, the last two innings brought no notable commercials that I hadn’t already commented on, so I guess that’s a wrap. If you feel inclined to share your thoughts on these or any of the other commercials we are getting to know very, very well during the postseason, please leave a comment.

Oh yeah… the Brewers beat the Cardinals 4-2. I’m sure my mother is not happy.

- JC

Enough About Target Field – Just Fix It

I’m sure almost everyone is familiar with the parable about the semi-truck that got stuck going under a low bridge. The driver and several emergency personnel stood around trying to figure out some way to get the truck unstuck. Meanwhile a little girl who came across the scene simply asked, “Why don’t you let the air out of the tires?” Problem solved.

Which brings us to today’s idea that, like every other idea anyone from outside the Twins front office might have, is all but certain to be ignored by the organization.

Right Field @ Target Field... Where baseballs go to die? (Image: Twins)

I’m growing a bit tired of all the discussion about how difficult it is to hit in Target Field. The power alleys kill long balls. The out-of-town scoreboard in RCF is too tall. The only way to hit home runs is to adjust your swing and become a dead-pull hitter. Therefore, the Twins need to totally re-tool their roster and adjust their amateur draft philosophy to prioritize speed in order to take advantage of the way Target Field plays.

Bull.

Let me ask this question…

IF you decided this approach was appropriate… that you should build a team to fit your pitcher-friendly ballpark, just how long do you think it would take to do so?

If you have an unlimited payroll, the answer might be, “not too long.” MAYBE.

But the Twins don’t have an unlimited payroll, so they’ve apparently decided to go about the process gradually. Last year, they traded JJ Hardy away for a couple of magic beans and let Orlando Hudson walk away so that they could be replaced with middle infielders whose games were more suited to the way Target Field plays.

How well did that work out for us? If this off-season brings Phase 2 of their “remaking the roster to fit the ballpark” project and it’s anywhere near as “successful” as Phase 1 was, 2012 is going to be a very long season.

Parker Hageman, of the TwinsCentric crew, points out quite convincingly that it is possible to generate offense in Target Field. Of course, he’s right. Anything is possible. And Parker offers a recipe for doing so. He recommends acquiring hitters who have tendencies to hit high percentages of line drives from gap to gap and hit with power down the line. He even mentions a couple of pending free agents that might fit that bill.

But let me offer another suggestion.

Instead of totally remaking your roster… instead of trying to find free agents who can not only hit line drives to the gap, but also home runs down the lines… instead of having your existing hitters try to adjust their approach at the plate to fit their new home ballpark… instead of filling your amateur draft board with future Ben Reveres… how about we change the ballpark, instead?

Have you looked at the MLB “Park Factors” (the ranking of which ballparks are “hitters parks” and which are “pitchers parks”)? No? Go take a look… and while you’re there, take a good look at what kind of ballparks the Division Champions play in.

Too lazy to go look for yourself? OK… I’ll tell you what you’d see. There are 30 MLB ballparks. The grand total of 2011 Division Champions who play in “pitchers parks” is zero. None of them. In fact, none of the Division Champions play in the lower 60% of the rankings. (In fairness, the two Wild Card teams, the Rays and Cardinals do play in “pitchers parks” that are even more difficult to score in than Target Field, but if the Cards and Rays had not pulled off their miracle finishes, none of the 2011 playoff teams would play their home games in a true “pitchers park”.)

For years, organizations like the Padres, Mariners and Mets have tried to construct teams to take advantage of their “pitcher-friendly” ballparks. But I ask you, are those the organizations you want to model the Twins of the future after?

I’ve read, however, that it would be too difficult to reconfigure the outfield by bringing in the fences. It would destroy the aesthetics of the overhang in RF, the scoreboard in RCF, the bullpen in LCF and the bleachers in LF all being right up against the outfield grass. I’ve also read that, with the Twins pitching issues, it might not be a good idea to give opposing hitters even more of an advantage than most of them already have just considering their comparative talent levels. Some even take that argument further by pointing out that top level free agent pitchers are more likely to want to sign with the Twins because of Target Field’s “pitcher friendliness”.

The last one actually makes me laugh. Seriously. Who was the last top of the line pitcher to sign with the Twins as a free agent? How soon do think the Twins are going to start opening up the checkbook to pay $20 million a year for one of those arms? OK… then enough about how Target Field could help sign those guys.

Do you know who DOES make a point to sign contracts with teams that play in “pitchers parks”? Mediocre (or worse) pitchers, that’s who. Pitchers who know they need the extra distance or wind shears to knock down long fly balls in order to prolong their careers. I think we have enough of that particular variety already, don’t we?

The other two issues… the reconfiguration challenges and the concern over taking away whatever small advantage the current talent-deficient pitching staff might have… can be dealt with as easily as letting the air out of a truck’s tires.

You don’t change the fences. You change the field.

You simply move home plate a few feet further out toward center field. For the sake of argument, let’s say eight feet. What would this accomplish? Here are just a few things:

  • More home runs. Using just a little bit of my 10th grade level geometry, the new outfield dimensions would be approximately 333’ down the LF line, 370’ to the bullpen in LCF, 396’ to straightaway CF, 360’ to the tall scoreboard in RCF and 322’ down the line to RF. That’s 6 ft closer down the lines, 7 ft in the gaps, and 8 ft closer to dead center. Someone with access to the season’s scatter-chart, go check to see how many more HRs that would have produced this season, will ya?
  • More foul territory. Target Field already has to have just about the least foul ground among MLB stadiums, resulting in very few foul pop-outs. More foul territory means more foul balls become outs, partially negating the negative effect closer fences might have on a pitcher’s stats. With all the foul balls hit off of Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey alone, this could be significant!
  • Improved sight lines for fans. Admit it, from about half of the seats in Target Field, it’s impossible to see all the fair territory down the lines in both outfield corners. In my view, this is a major design flaw of Target Field. Those lines would both move inward about six feet, giving a lot more people a chance at seeing the action in the corners.

I think those are compelling reasons to make what would be a relatively easy and cheap adjustment to the playing surface. Cut out a bit of sod here, lay down a little bit of sod there. Done.

But even if the change ended up having no effect on offensive productivity at all, it should still result in the one thing that would, in my opinion, make it well worthwhile.

There would be less whining.

Honestly, whether your name is Span, Mauer, Morneau or Valencia, if you can’t hit a baseball out of a ballpark with dimensions no deeper than most legitimate high school fields, at least have the decency to admit you have no power and shut the hell up about the field.

- JC

“Most Disliked” In Twins History?

It’s really not easy to come up with things to fill space in a Twins blog these days, so I’m resorting to stealing other peoples’ ideas.

I came across this post from the folks at BleacherReport.com. Someone with a lot more time on their hands than I have went through and listed the “most disliked” player among fans of each MLB team. There’s definitely a tendency toward players of relatively recent vintage, which isn’t surprising given that the list was put together based on searches of various team blogs and message boards.

Chuck Knoblauch

Chuck Knoblauch got the “honor” of being listed as the least popular Twins player. It’s certainly hard to argue with that choice, although I personally have always held less animosity toward Knoblauch than most Twins fans. From my perspective, he expressed a desire to get the hell off the Twins mid-1990s roster as soon as it could be arranged. Granted, that’s not how you endear yourself to the local fan base, but in all honesty, if I’d have been a member of those Twins teams, I’d have done just about anything I could do to get traded, too.

I try to generally be a supportive fan of whoever happens to be a member of the Twins at any given time, so I don’t look for reasons to dislike players. There are certainly those that I have not particularly enjoyed seeing enter games at critical times (that would include you, Ron Davis). But even players who you know you would hate if they played for another team tend to be embraced when they’re on the home town team (Barry Bonds, anyone?).

If anything, there seems to be a fairly large (or at least very vocal) segment of the Twins fan base who seem to take a particular dislike for any player that most fans choose to like. Guys like Nick Punto and, most recently, Michael Cuddyer have had their share of persistent detractors, but by and large they were well liked by most Twins fans. Then again, we all have our personal biases. I was never as big on Torii Hunter as most fans were, for example, so if I had been blogging back during Torii’s time with the Twins, I probably wouldn’t have always been viewed as 100% fair in my criticisms.

This is also probably a bad time to pose a question to fans concerning who their least favorite Twins player is. Pretty much everyone who spent time on the 2011 Twins roster would quite possibly earn some level of “support” from current fans… and deservedly so. Yes, the general suckage was indeed that broadly spread around this season.

You’re certainly welcome to use the comments section share your thoughts concerning your least favorite Twins of all time, but that’s not really why I’m bringing the BR list to your attention.

As I read through the list, it struck me just how many of them had spent time as Twins. Apparently, this organization has not only had its share of surly, unfriendly, antagonistic, overpaid, underperforming and just generally unpopular players, but the share of several other teams as well.

In addition to their own nominee, Knoblauch, here’s a list of players that made the list of least favorite players among fans of other teams:

Sidney Ponson (Orioles) Twin: 2007 Apparently being released for violating the terms of the “morals clause” in your contract is only good enough to warrant getting you a share of the “most disliked” title in Baltimore. Ponson shares the designation with Armando Benitez.

Jose Offerman (Dodgers) Twin: 2004 Seriously… going back through the history of the Dodgers, they couldn’t find anyone more disliked by the Dodger fans than Offerman?

Carl Pavano (Yankees) Twin: 2010-current Again, I find it hard to believe Pavano is the most disliked in Yankee history. Heck, this is the fan base that booed and heckled Roger Maris the season he broke Babe Ruth’s HR record!

Phil Nevin (Padres) Twin: 2006 Yes, Phil finished his career as a Twin. I guess I just never realized he was so unpopular with the Friars.

AJ Pierzynski (Giants) Twin: 1998-2003 It says something that AJ would be the choice for a franchise with the rich, yet largely unsuccessful, history that the Giants have.

Toss in Knobby and the Twins can claim six of the 32 “most disliked” players in the history of their respective franchises. But why stop there? There’s a pretty good selection of unpopular talent still playing Major League Baseball who still haven’t had the honor of wearing a Twins uniform!

Someone tell Bill Smith to make a few phone calls. Let’s see how many of these guys we can get on the cheap: Milton Bradley (Cubs), Juan Uribe (WSox), Hanley Ramirez (Marlins), Jose Guillen (Angels), Rafael Soriano (Rays), A-Rod (Rangers) and Nyjer Morgan (Nationals/Expos). OK… yeah some of those guys may not be so cheap after all.

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Finally, because we all know that no matter how bad we may be feeling, it always helps to be able to make fun of someone else, keep this in mind, fellow Twins fans:

Even if the Twins suck again next season, we can be thankful that the Twins organization won’t be forcing us to wear something like this in order to show our support. Marlins fans aren’t so fortunate.

Yes, apparently this is the new "Miami Marlins" cap for 2012

 

 

 

Are the Twins a Baseball Team or a Camel?

I’ve worked in a corporate office environment since I was 21 years old. Over the subsequent 30-some years, when it comes to management styles and philosophies, I’ve pretty much seen (endured?) them all.

I remember back in the 1980s and early 1990s, my company had a big push toward what I call “group think”. We had previously had a very autocratic, control freak-type president, so I suppose this may have been a bit of an over-reaction to that. In any event, everything became “team” oriented. We had teams (which is just a nicer way of saying “committees”) for everything. If you weren’t a member of at least half a dozen teams, you just weren’t trying very hard.

It wasn’t a total disaster, of course. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with tossing ideas around with a group of smart, progressive experts on whatever the subject matter assigned to that team might be. Some very good ideas came out of those meetings and if you ever did arrive at a consensus decision, it was helpful for implementation purposes to have gotten buy-in from around the table. Even if you didn’t happen to agree with the decision, you liked feeling your input had been considered. We all like that.

And when it turns out that your team made a good decision, it’s a great feeling to know you share the credit with your other team members. It’s a natural high to have the president of your company tell everyone what a great job your team did and how important that work was in the ultimate success of the company over the course of the year.

(Image: art.com)

But you know what’s coming next, don’t you? Yeah… how many committees are really made up completely of smart, progressive experts? Most aren’t and, as a result, the finished product is seldom smart or progressive. Often, the results are a disaster.

When that happens, good luck finding anyone willing to stand up and be accountable for the decision and taking responsibility for fixing things. Accountability can be a real problem in a “group think” organization.

Fixing things becomes problematic, too, because that assignment falls back on the team (or gets pushed to yet another team). That’s all well and good unless the problem needs fixing immediately, because while committees have some things they may do well, doing anything quickly is not generally one of those things.

There’s a reason that they say the definition of a camel is a “horse designed by a committee.”

All of which finally brings me around to the Minnesota Twins.

Since I don’t have an office in the Twins front office suite, I admit I have no first-hand knowledge about how they do things there. But from most accounts, it sure seems like they take the “management team” approach to an extreme, at least where it comes to the actual baseball operation (from all accounts, Jerry Bell pretty much took on responsibility for getting Target Field built and that turned out pretty well). Bill Smith isn’t so much “General Manager” as he is the “Team Leader” of the management group, which is made up of people like Mike Radcliff, Rob Antony, Jim Rantz, Terry Ryan and, of course, Ron Gardenhire.

All of these people have their respective areas of expertise, of course, but the public sense of how things work is that this group of people work together as a team to chart the course the Twins will follow in any given season and beyond.

It’s worked out great for most of the past decade or more, too. Most of these same people have been around in one capacity or another throughout a period of considerable success on the field. Terry Ryan,  Bill Smith and Ron Gardenhire may be the guys most often credited for all the winning seasons this millennium, but they’ve all been quick to point out what a “team effort” it’s been by all of the management group as they’ve developed players, promoted from within, and watched as those guys have won division title after division title.

(Image: cafepress.com)

But the Twins didn’t win the division title this season. They didn’t even compete for it. They finished 8 games back… of the Royals… in the competition to not finish last. This comes just one year after winning the division.

And as fans, we want to know who’s responsible.

In typical “group think” fashion, however, the answer coming from the Twins front office is, “nobody”.

I suppose in some way it’s noble that people in authority aren’t throwing others under the bus… not directly, anyway. And some changes are being made. The AAA manager and hitting coach have been relieved of their duties, but that’s kind of like an executive committee responding to their company’s stock tanking by firing the manager of their mail room and issuing a press release to assure stockholders that they’re taking action. It’s nice to know they noticed something is wrong, but hardly reassuring that they know what to do about it.

Look around. The Red Sox won 90 games and their manager is gone… perhaps followed shortly by their GM. The Angels only won 86 games, so their GM and his top two assistants are excused… even though they have a manager who’s probably got even more say over his roster than Gardy does. We may or may not agree that those teams made the right decision, but the message sent to their fans is that they do hold people accountable when results do not meet expectations, especially when the owners have spent competitively on payrolls.

I’m not suggesting the Twins fire everyone… or that anyone needs to be fired, for that matter. But I do believe that the people running the team should have specific responsibilities and they should be accountable for the decisions made within their respective realms.

Everyone makes mistakes. But if one of my managers makes a mistake, I tell them to learn from it, don’t do it again, and move on. If mistakes are continuous or especially egregious, we’ll need to find someone else to do that job. But don’t tell me that you and your team got together and all agreed this is what we should do so none of you are really responsible.

Maybe Dave St. Peter has told Bill Smith exactly that… that he screwed up and he needs to fix things. Maybe the conference call with the season ticketholders was one way Smith was directed to address issues with fans. Maybe St. Peter was on the call primarily to make sure Smith did exactly that.

Maybe Smith’s acknowledgment that the team missed JJ Hardy most of all and now needs a shortstop was his way of telling Gardy, “that was your idea, it didn’t work, and now we’ll do things my way.”

I certainly don’t expect the Twins to suddenly start broadcasting every detail of their internal discussions. Maybe there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than what we’ve seen and heard.

Maybe we’ll see changes. Maybe we’ll see some accountability.

Let’s hope so.

Or they might as well just rename the team the “Minnesota Camels”.

- JC

 

Minor (League) Thoughts

Yes, I know, most of my thoughts these days can only be described as “minor” in nature. But I’m going to share a few of them with you, anyway.

My home town Cedar Rapids Kernels announced their 2012 schedule this week. The first thing I checked was to see how many home series the Kernels have with the Twins’ Midwest League affiliate, the Beloit Snappers. I was happy to see the Snappers will be coming to Cedar Rapids for three series next year… May 2-4, June 22-24, and  August 25-28. The May series is a mid-week series but the June and August series are weekend series.

I’m hopeful that some of the Twins’ better young prospects will be starting the season in Beloit and I always enjoy getting a look at the Snappers. By the way, I’m pretty sure Cedar Rapids is the Midwest League city closest to the Twin Cities. I only mention that in case some of you feel like a road trip. After all, it’s only fair… I have to make the same drive up to the Twin Cities to watch the Big club!

Speaking of the Midwest League, The Quad Cities River Bandits swept the Lansing Lugnuts to win the MWL Championship. So what? Glad you asked.

I mention this only by way of pointing out that runner-up Lansing finished the season 77-60, before advancing in the playoffs by winning the MWL Eastern Division title. Again, you ask, “so what?”

Well, I’d just point out that the Blue Jays’ farm club did quite well under their first year manager; a guy you may remember… Mike Redmond.

Lugnuts manager Mike Redmond (Photo: Rod Sanford/Lansing State Journal)

Yes, Red Dog not only led his young team to the championship series of the MWL in his first year of managing, he was also named the Midwest League Manager of the Year.

It sure is too bad the Twins’ minor league managing/coaching staff was too full of great baseball minds to find room for Redmond, isn’t it?

I’m sorry, that was a bit snide, I know. But I can’t help but wonder what a combination of Redmond, as manager, and Tom Brunansky, as hitting instructor, would do with an opportunity to run things in Rochester next season.

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I noticed an item over at springtrainingonline.com about the good folks who run Lee County (FL) making plans to work with the Twins on upgrading their Spring Training home, the Lee County Sports Complex. (It’s also the home of the Ft. Myers Miracle… to continue with the minor league theme of this post.)

Outside Hammond Stadium

Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers is a nice stadium. Not great, but nice. From the outside, it’s actually pretty impressive, with Churchill Downs-type spires. But inside, it’s just not really anything special. The stadium was built in 1991 and it could definitely use some updating, but it’s nowhere near the worst spring training stadium in the Sunshine State (the Blue Jays’ stadium in Dunedin would get my vote for “worst” stadium, from among the nine I’ve visited). But Hammond is far from the nicest, as well.

The point that captured my attention in the article was a brief mention that the Twins’ lease, which runs through 2020, includes a clause that requires Lee County to maintain the facility, “at the same level as the five newest Florida spring-training facilities.”

Lee County just built the Red Sox a new $75 million facility down the road from the Twins’ complex, so I’d guess Lee County just raised their own ante a bit. I haven’t been to the five newest stadiums, but I can say with certainty that the Twins do not currently train in one of the five best facilities in Florida.

I’m not exactly sure how they would determine what the five “newest” stadiums are, for that matter. If it’s based purely on when the stadium was built, that’s one thing… those stadiums would range from Boston’s new facility that opens next spring to the Yankees’ Steinbrenner Field in Tampa which was built in 1996.

But a number of stadiums have had major face-lifts much more recently than that. If you measure based on the year a stadium underwent a major remodeling job, the most recent (after the Red Sox) would be the Orioles facility in Sarasota, the Rays’ park in Port Charlotte, the Phillies’ facility in Clearwater and the Tigers’ Lakeland complex. I haven’t been to the Lakeland ballpark, but the other four would rank above the Twins’ in my view. So would the Yankees’ Tampa facility and the Mets’ park in Port St. Lucie.

The Twins have been selling out just about every spring training game the last couple of years, so in the unlikely event that the Twins decided to start looking for a new spring home, communities across Florida and Arizona would trip all over themselves to bring the Twins in. I doubt that the Twins would get in to a serious battle with Lee County over an escape clause in their lease, but they have every right to expect to see the county make an honest effort to live up to the terms of their agreement.

OK, that’s enough on that subject. Thinking about it just makes me anxious to get down to Ft. Myers in March and the Twins have a whole lot of work to do before then.

- JC

 

 

Is Winning No Longer the “Twins Way”?

I thought initially that it had to be a misquote… or at least a quote taken out of context. But Jim Mandelaro of the Rochester Democrat-Chronicle has not, in my experience, been prone to playing fast and loose with that kind of thing.

I WAS VERY DISAPPOINTED to read former Red Wings shortstop Trevor Plouffe’s comment about playing in the minors: “There’s a bit of wanting to win, but it’s kind of a game where you want to perform so you can get to the big leagues.”

Trevor Plouffe

I almost feel bad even attributing the quote, because Trevor Plouffe has perhaps been the subject of more criticism than any one member of the sorry excuse for a baseball team the Twins trotted out on to Target Field should get. Plouffe made his share of rookie mistakes (and, arguably, the share of two or three other guys), but he was far from the only player prone to screwing up this summer.

Mandelaro didn’t mention in his blog post where he had picked up on Plouffe’s quote, so I decided to Google it… just to see if there was some context I was missing out on. It turns out, the quote came from a September 23 column by the Star-Tribune’s LaVelle E. Neal III and there actually was an additional sentence added by Plouffe, but I’m not sure it makes his comment any easier to swallow. “Once you are here, it is all about winning. I could care less if I go 0-for-3 or 0-for-4 if we are winning. That’s my honest answer.”

It’s nice that, once Plouffe got to Minnesota, he discovered that winning is more important than his individual stats, but am I the only person who thinks maybe that kind of approach should be ingrained in to the minds and habits of players BEFORE they put on their first Big League uniform?

Then again, I suspect that it comes as no surprise to Red Wings fans to find out the players there have barely cared about winning the past few years. The Red Wings have lost more than 90 games in each of the past two seasons. Is it any wonder that many Rochester baseball fans are clamoring for their organization to dump their affiliation with the Twins? Next summer, the Yankees’ AAA team will be playing a lot of their “home” games at Rochester’s Frontier Field while their own stadium gets a face-lift. It’s going to be pretty embarrassing for the Twins when Rochester fans turn out in greater numbers to cheer on the future Yankees than they do the Red Wings.

Look, we all understand that the primary function of the minor league system is to develop talent to feed the parent ballclub. But isn’t part of developing players supposed to be instilling something deeper than just a “bit of wanting to win”?

I really am not intending to come down hard on Plouffe. When has he ever played for a winning team on his way up in the Twins organization? He’s been part of both of those 90+ loss Red Wings teams the past two years, as well as the 70-74 version in 2009. He did get some time with the Wings in 2008, as well, when they went 74-70, but he spent half of that season at AA New Britain where the Rock Cats went 64-77. He also spent all of 2007 with the Cats when they went 69-72.

That makes this the fifth straight season Plouffe has played for losing teams. The 80-60 season he spent with the Ft. Myers Miracle in 2006 must seem like a lifetime ago. By the way, if you go back and look at the rosters of the futile teams Plouffe played on coming up through the organization, I think you’re going to see guys like Luke Hughes, Danny Valencia, Drew Butera, Rene Tosoni and Brian Dinkelman on a lot of those teams, as well.

Talk about playing the “Twins Way” has become almost a joke. I’m not sure what it even is supposed to mean any more. It used to mean playing the game the right way. It used to mean players that knew how to move runners, run the bases with a bit of intelligence and avoid making mental and physical errors in the field. In other words, it used to mean recognizing that the purpose behind playing the game was to win, through whatever means necessary.

So have the players changed? Have Twins affiliates stopped winning because the players only care about their stats? Or do the players only care about their stats because that’s all the organization looks at when they pass out promotions to their minor leaguers?

I’m not smart enough to know the answer to that. But I’ve been around enough sports teams in my life to know that both winning and losing become habits and after spending years only wanting to win “a bit”, it’s got to be pretty damn tough to flip a switch and suddenly know what it takes to win at the highest level of competition.

From here, it looks to me like the Twins have been all about teaching “pitch to contact” and hitting to all fields… but virtually nothing about teaching how to win.

It also feels to me like there’s a sense of entitlement among this crop of young Twins. They’ve put up stat lines in the minor leagues to earn promotions, so now they just assume it’s their turn to be handed a roster spot with the Twins.

I’d like to say it doesn’t work that way, but maybe with the people running the Twins front office these days, that’s exactly how it does work. If that’s the case, Twins fans better get used to last place finishes and celebrating .500 seasons as a major accomplishment, because that’s pretty much what the Twins have given their minor league affiliates lately.

- JC

 

From the Twins to Fans

We will rally.

It wasn’t exactly the season we had in mind either. Coming off our sixth division title in nine years, we approached 2011 with our sights set on repeating and exceeding. Unfortunately, we fell far short of those expectations. Yes, there were injuries. Yes, there were some heartbreaking losses. But ultimately, this season failed to live up to the high standards of baseball for which the Minnesota Twins organization has become known. And we are just as disappointed as you are. But we promise to use this disappointment to motivate us to a better 2012. We will rally.

This season was not absent of some incredible moments. We cheered future Hall-of-Famer Jim Thome as he blasted his way toward 600 career home runs, a feat matched by only seven other players. We celebrated a Francisco Liriano no-hitter. We marveled at Ben Revere’s over-the-shoulder, Willie Mays-esque catch. We witnessed Joe Nathan return and notch his team record 255th save, And we all rejoiced as Bert Blyleven earned baseball immortality by finally gaining his rightful place in Cooperstown.

But perhaps the most incredible moments were provided by you. As your smiles showed, Target Field continues to be the shining jewel of Major League Baseball. Day in, day out, through wins and losses, snow, sunshine and rain, even hail, you were there – showing off your Twins colors. You proved to all the world that loyalty, indeed, lives in Twins Territory. We are eternally grateful.

So, fans and friends, let’s all turn our hats and rally toward 2012. After all, there are only 139 days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. 

GameChat – Oct 2nd Post-Season

Not sure if I’ll get to watch any of the baseball today since it’s “home improvement day” as well as football but I wanted to be sure that anyone who WAS watching had a chance to chat with whoever else was available.

 

 

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Arizona

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Milwaukee

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12

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Detroit

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9

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NY Yankees

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St. Louis

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1

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13

0

Philadelphia

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1

0

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0

0

0

0

0

4

6

0

 

hehehe… even though the Tigers almost gave their game away in the final inning, they managed to hold on and take down the Yankees IN New York… I’m at least glad that someone can. And yeah, the Brewers and Cardinals are actually looking pretty strong!