The Weeks Ahead

Labor Day Weekend is upon us and that means there’s but one month left in the Twins’ baseball season.

I’ve gotta be honest, though… the season is pretty much over already, where I’m concerned. I’m simply unable to muster enough enthusiasm to even listen to Twins games, at this point. Maybe I’d retain a bit more interest if I could actually watch their games, but since FSN isn’t carried on the local cable provider here and MLB blacks out Twins games (and those of five other teams) in all of Iowa, I can’t really put that theory to the test.

I’ll be mildly interested in seeing what some of the September call-ups do with the Twins. Again, I use the word “seeing” loosely, since all I’ll be able to “see” will be the results in the boxscores. I’m hoping that at least a couple of the newbies will be impressive enough in their auditions to provide a little hope for next year, but I’ll wait until Spring Training to really pay close attention to them.

So, for the next month, I’ll be focused primarily in three other areas.

First and foremost, I’m a fan and season ticket holder of the Iowa Hawkeyes and they get their season underway Saturday night against Northern Illinois over at Soldier Field. That game is followed by five straight home games (though there’s a bye week mixed in there somewhere, I think), so my Saturdays for the next several weeks will be spent in Iowa City. 

I’m not expecting great things from the Hawks this year, but I do expect a winning season with a midling bowl game at the end. Best of all, Iowa has several new assistant coaches, including both offensive and defensive coordinators, so at least there’s a chance that play-calling and defensive schemes won’t be as predictable as they’ve been for the past decade. Now if they can just find a running back somewhere.

I’m also a Vikings fan, so I’ll be starting to pay much closer attention to them, as well, this month. I did watch their final pre-season game on TV, for whatever that was worth (which wasn’t much).

I understand that the regular radio voices of Vikings football were doing “simulcast” broadcasts of the pre-season games on TV. Let me just say this… for all the crap I’ve heard from Twins fans about their TV and radio crews, I just hope none of the same people actually LIKE the two total bozos that are doing radio for the Vikings. If you give me a choice between signing up to listen to Bremer/Blyleven and Provus/Gladden for another ten years or having to listen to those Vikings broadcasters for one more game, put me down for the Twins. If I had to listen to the Vikings broadcasters, they’d probably force me to become a Packers fan within the course of a single season.

It did make me ponder the whole TV thing more, though. A Vikings game in which their top 25 or so players were not even dressed was shown live on local television in Cedar Rapids and not a single Twins game was on TV here all season. The Vikings and the NFL are lowering their attendance threshhold required to prevent a TV blackout in their actual local market. The Twins and MLB impose a blackout that extends hundreds of miles away from the Twin Cities, regardless of ticket sales or whether their broadcast affiliate has any coverage on cable systems in those areas.

The NFL shares their media rights relatively equally. MLB embraces a system where the Dodgers are expecting a TV rights contract exceeding 8 BILLION (yes, with a B) dollars, while other teams might be lucky to scrape in a few million due to their market size.

Gosh, I wonder why pro football has long ago passed Major League Baseball in terms of fan interest across the nation.

Anyway, I think the Vikings should be improved, but if they win six games, that’s about all I’ll be expecting. Of course, that means that by October, I’ll probably be ready for the brief distraction that will be provided by MLB’s playoffs. I do know I’ll be watching the single game Wildcard play-in games.  After that, I probably won’t pay much attention to the playoffs outside of “deciding games” and, depending on who makes it that far, the World Series.

Finally, over the next month, I’ll also be continuing to keep eyes and ears open locally as the mini-drama concerning the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ affiliation for next year and beyond unfolds. I’m still hoping we’ll be seeing the Twins’ young prospects playing for the Kernels, but at this point, I won’t be surprised by much of anything when that announcement is finally made late in September.

On the immediate front, my Labor Day Weekend is going to have a full day of sports on Saturday (Hawkeyes on TV in the afternoon, Kernels game in the evening) and I’m also planning on making it out to at least one of the two final Kernels games of the season Sunday and/or Monday afternoons.

I’m actually giving serious thought to making the drive over to Clinton IA on Wednesday for Game 1 of the Beloit Snappers’ playoff series with the Lumber Kings. It’s a bit sad to realize that will likely be my final opportunity to see a baseball game in person at least until Spring Training.

In the mean time, someone give me a little nudge or something if the Twins do anything worth paying attention to, ok?

- JC

CameChat – Mariners at Twins #4 12:10pm CDT

Day baseball is the best kind of baseball.  So I feel good about that.

Last night Samuel Deduno pitched 7 innings of no-hit baseball with ZERO walks and 9 strikeouts.  So I feel good about that.

Trevor Plouffe and Josh Willingham both hit home runs last night and Joe Mauer hit a triple.  So I feel good about that.

Jeff Gray was demoted to AAA Rochester and Chris Parmelee was called up and is starting in right field today.  So I feel good about that.

Brian Duensing is pitching today.  So I do not feel good about that.

Seattle Mariners

@

Minnesota Twins
 Ackley, 2B  Revere, CF
 Gutierrez, F, CF  Casilla, A, 2B
 Seager, 3B  Mauer, C
 Montero, C  Willingham, LF
 Smoak, 1B  Morneau, 1B
 Olivo, DH  Doumit, DH
 Robinson, T, LF  Parmelee, RF
 Thames, E, RF  Plouffe, 3B
 Ryan, SS  Florimon, SS
 _Beavan, P  _Duensing, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Seattle 1 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 5 6 0
Minnesota 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 4 6 1

Well that was pretty disappointing.  The Twins had just six hits, one of them a two-run bomb from Josh Willingham (his 33rd of the season), but a disastrous 6th inning from Brian Duensing and Casey Fien led to four runs and that was enough for the Mariners to secure the win.

Try again tomorrow in Kansas City.

-ERolfPleiss

Minnesota Twins Arizona Fall League Selections

The Minnesota Twins are sending seven players to the Arizona Fall League (AFL).  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the AFL, it is a six team league in (big surprise) Arizona that generally features some of the top prospects from the Minor Leagues.  Of the seven players the Twins sent to the AFL in 2011, three have played a significant role for the MLB club this season, Cole De Vries, Scott Diamond and Brian Dozier.

The crop of youngsters looking to make their mark in 2012 are Evan BigleyLogan Darnell, Kyle Gibson,  Chris HerrmannNate RobertsCaleb Thielbar and Michael Tonkin.  Outside of Gibson, and maybe Herrmann, many of these names are likely unfamiliar to all but the most hardcore Twins fans.  What follows then, will be a brief introduction to some of the Twins’ top Minor League prospects.

Evan Bigley Photo Credit: Seth Stohs, Twins Daily

Evan Bigley, 25, Right Field, Started 2012 at AA New Britain, Currently at AAA Rochester
Evan Bigley was drafted by the Twins in the 10th round of the 2008 draft out of Dallas Baptist University, alma mater of former Minnesota Twin  and current Baltimore Oriole Lew Ford.   Bigley started the year back in Double-A, his third consecutive year in New Britain, and while his batting average was slightly higher than it was in 2011, his on-base skills were exactly the same as they were the year ago (.311 OBP).  However, in 2012 he was hitting the ball with a lot more authority, slugging almost 70 points higher in 2012 before being promoted to Rochester.   Bigley has struggled to adjust to AAA pitching, hitting just .211/.241/.328, the worst batting line of his Minor League career.  As a corner outfielder in the Twins system Bigley is going to need to adjust to high-level pitching or he’ll quickly become an afterthought in an organization filled with high-upside outfield talent like Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, and Joe Benson.

Logan Darnell Photo Credit: North Dakota Twins Fan

Logan Darnell, 23, Left Handed Starting Pitcher, AA New Britain
Logan Darnell was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 6th round of the 2010 draft out of the University of Kentucky.  Darnell profiled as a reliever coming out of the draft, but the Twins have used him exclusively as a starter the past two seasons.  In 2011, despite mediocre numbers, Darnell moved quickly through the system advancing from Low-A Beloit all the way to AA New Britain.  He’s spent all of 2012 at New Britain and really struggled to find success.  While his ERA is down in 2012 (5.21 from 5.28), his WHIP, HR/9  and BB/9 all went up while his SO/9 and SO/BB rates went the other way.  Darnell is on pace to pitch more than 150 innings for the 2nd consecutive year, so he certainly has the arm strength to remain a starting pitcher, but if he cannot find greater success against talented hitters he’ll need to move to the bullpen to extend his career.

Kyle Gibson

Kyle Gibson, 24, Right Handed Starting Pitcher, Started 2012 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Currently at AAA Rochester
Kyle Gibson was the Twins’ first round draft selection (22 overall) in the 2009 draft out of the University of Missouri and went from High-A Fort Myers to AAA Rochester in his first year in the Minor Leagues in 2011.  In 2011 Gibson pitched fairly well in the first half of the year before being shut down with elbow inflammation before eventually requiring Tommy John surgery.  Gibson rehabbed for the first 2/3 of the 2012 season spending time with the Twins Gulf Coast and High-A squads before returning to Rochester earlier this August.  Reports on Gibson are that he’s throwing the ball as hard, if not harder, than he was before his surgery and his control is as good as it has ever been.  Gibson was rated as high as the number 34 overall prospect by Baseball America before the 2011 season, and if he pitches well in the AFL could have a chance to compete for a spot in the starting rotation when the Twins leave Spring Training in 2013.

Chris Hermann Photo Credit: Jim Crikket

Chris Herrmann, 24, Catcher, AA New Britain
Chris Herrmann was drafted by the Twins in the 6th round of the 2009 draft out of the University of Miami (along with teammate David Gutierrez, who did not sign in 2009,but signed in 2010 when the Twins drafted him again).  Herrmann spent most of 2011 in New Britain and has been there for the entire 2012 season.  Herrmann is probably the Twins best hitting catcher in the system, but he’s also been getting playing time as an outfielder and DH in order to keep his bat in the lineup for the Rock Cats.  He’s hitting .268/.342/.385 with a career high 10 HR and 23 2B.  The Twins will likely be watching how Herrmann calls games in the AFL and how his bat plays against some higher-level pitching.

Nate Roberts Photo Credit: Jim Crikket

Nate Roberts, 23, Corner Outfielder, Low-A Beloit
Nate Roberts was drafted by the Twins in the 5th round of the 2010 draft out of High Point University.  High Point University has only produced 1 Major League Players,  RHP Cody Allen, who made his Major League debut in 2012 for the Cleveland Indians despite being drafted a year after Roberts.  Roberts is repeating Low-A Beloit in 2012 after spending all of 2011 there despite posting a .302/.443/.446 line in his first year above rookie ball.  Roberts has posted another impressive line in 2012, .306/.438/.438, but he’s 23, about a year older than the average player in the Midwest League, so with his success at Low-A he’ll likely be promoted to Fort Myers for the 2013 season, regardless of how he preforms in the AFL.

Caleb Thielbar

Caleb Thielbar, 25, Left Handed Relief Pitcher, Started 2012 at High-A Fort Myers, Currently at AAA Rochester
Caleb Thielbar was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 18th round of the 2009 draft.  Thielbar failed to get past Low-A in the Brewers system and found himself playing Independent Baseball in 2011 for the Saint Paul Saints.  The Twins plucked Thielbar from the Saints at the end of 2011 and he made 3 appearances for the Fort Myers Miracle before the season came to an end.  According to Seth Stohs of TwinsDaily.com, Thielbar throws between 88 and 91 MPH with a good slider/curve.  As a 25 year old starting the 2012 season, Thielbar was two years older than the average High-A Florida State League player.  He’s moved quickly through the season posting SO/9 rates of 11.7 at High-A, 9.4 at AA, and while he is struggling a little bit at AAA, he’s still managing 7.1 SO/9, a strike out rate that would make half of the Twins’ current bullpen green with envy.  Thielbar will likely need another year at AAA before he has a chance to be a realistic option for the Twins, but as a 25 year old with just barley a year in the Twins’ system, the Arizona Fall League gives the Twins additional opportunities to see what Thielbar can really do.

Michael Tonkin Photo Credit: Jim Crikket

Michael Tonkin, 22, Right Handed Relief Pitcher, Started 2012 at Low-A Beloit, Currently at High-A Fort Myers
Michael Tonkin was drafted by the Twins in the 30th round of the 2008 draft.  Tonkin signed quickly and spent the end of 2008 and all of 2009 in the Gulf Coast League.  In 2010 Tonkin split time between the Elixabethton Twins in the Appalachian League, and ended the season with the Low-A Beloit Snappers.   Tonkin was promoted to Fort Myers about midway through the 2012 season and he’s continued to strike out more than 12 batters per 9 innings.  According to Kevin Goldstein, Tonkin has a big fastball that sits in the mid 90s and a low 80s slider that helps him reach those lofty strike out numbers.  It will certainly be worth following Tonkin in the Arizona Fall League against significantly more advanced hitters.  A solid showing in the AFL and Tonkin could start 2012 in AA as a 23 year old.

And that’s about it.  I’m certainly not an expert in the Minor Leagues or scouting, but hopefully this gives you a little bit of information about the Twins 2012 Arizona Fall League participants.

-ERolfPleiss

PS: For those of you interested in listening to another Twins podcast, I recently started one.

GameChat – Mariners @ Twins #3, 7:10pm

Ok, I’m actually able to join the gamechat tonight so I would sure as heck love it if the Twins could put on a better game than they did last night while I was actually in TARGET FIELD. *sigh*

Seattle

@

Minnesota
Ackley, 2B Revere, CF
Robinson, T, LF Carroll, 2B
Seager, 3B Mauer, DH
Jaso, DH Willingham, LF
Smoak, 1B Morneau, 1B
Thames, E, RF Doumit, C
Olivo, C Parmelee, RF
Figgins, CF Plouffe, 3B
Kawasaki, SS Florimon, SS
  Vargas, P   Deduno, P

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Seattle

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

1

Minnesota

0

0

3

2

1

0

3

1

x

10

16

0

WOOHOOO!!! I finally have a chance to sit and watch a game and join the chat and they have a fantastic one! A little piece of me wishes they had played this game LAST night while I was there but I’ll take a win regardless.

And this game is a no-brainer for the difference… Deduno just pitched better than Scott Diamond did. Oh yeah, and Deduno? holy crap! 7 shutout innings and 9 k’s.. and NO WALKS! yes, from Mister Not Sure Where The Pitch Will Go. It was so great that even though Plouffe finally got another Homerun, Samuel STILL gets a unanimous vote for BOD.

Sam Deduno (Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

GameChat – Mariners @ Twins #2, 7:10 pm

I can understand the Twins struggling to beat the Yankees… or the Rangers… or even the Tigers and White Sox this season. Those are good teams this year. But losing six straight games (and 6 of 7 games on the season) to the friggin Mariners? Hard to excuse that.

Let’s hope Scott Diamond can do something about that trend in his final start before he begins serving his MLB-imposed six-game suspension for buzzing Josh Hamilton’s tower last week. He’ll apparently have to do it without the help of Denard Span, who is a late scratch from the line up with… you guessed it… shoulder discomfort. It would be nice if someone would invent a clear plexiglass MRI machine for those, like Denard, who have a little issue with enclosed places.

Reports are that, regardless of results on the field, there will be some good news in Twinsville this week. The Twins and Major League Baseball are apparently set to announce Wednesday that Target Field will host the 2014 All-Star Game. Maybe that will make people think twice about not renewing their season tickets. Then again, maybe it won’t.

I’ll be at the final game of the Snappers/Kernels series tonight, but I hope those of you who come around for the GameChat enjoy tonight’s Twins game!

MARINERS

@

TWINS
Ackley, 2B Revere, CF
Gutierrez, F, CF Mastroianni, RF
Seager, 3B Mauer, C
Montero, DH Willingham, LF
Smoak, 1B Morneau, 1B
Olivo, C Doumit, DH
Thames, E, RF Plouffe, 3B
Robinson, T, LF Carroll, 2B
Ryan, SS Florimon, SS
  _Iwakuma, P   _Diamond, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Seattle 0 0 2 0 3 0 0 0 0 5 9 0
Minnesota 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 4 1

I didn’t see the game, but looking at the boxscore, I can see that the Twins managed a total of four hits off of five Mariners pitchers. Thus, they lost. To the Mariners. Again.

GameChat – Mariners @ Twins, 7:10

After that tough road trip, you have to imagine the Twins are really happy to be home again. The bad news is that they have to face Felix Hernandez tonight. That’s seldom a fun thing for your hitters.

Tonight, Joe Mauer will pass Earl Battey and become the player to appear in the most games as a catcher in Twins history. Mauer may say, “It’s a pretty neat little deal,” and I suppose that’s about as excited as Mauer gets about anything, but I hope this milestone somehow manages to remind fans just how good Battey was. If your Twins knowledge is lacking where Battey is concerned, do yourself a favor and remedy that situation by clicking here. In fact, while you’re there, if you don’t already own Jim Thielman’s “Cool of the Evening,” order it.

With no disrespect to former manager Tom Kelly, in the future when I see the retired #10 at Target Field, I’ll always think first of Battey.

On to tonight’s game… I’ll be away watching Beloit and Cedar Rapids do battle again, but enjoy the game, everyone!

MARINERS

@

TWINS
Ackley, 2B Span, CF
Gutierrez, F, CF Revere, RF
Seager, 3B Mauer, C
Montero, DH Willingham, DH
Jaso, C Morneau, 1B
Smoak, 1B Doumit, LF
Thames, E, RF Plouffe, 3B
Robinson, T, LF Carroll, 2B
Ryan, SS Florimon, SS
  _Hernandez, F, P   _Hendriks, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Seattle 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 3 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 1

Liam Hendriks pitched 9 innings, gave up just 3 hits and had 6 strike outs.  Unfortunately one of those hits went over the outfield wall and the Mariners (aided by a complete game gem from King Felix) kept the Twins off the scoreboard.

Denard Span had a fantastic outfield assist to get Carlos Guitierez at third base to end the top of the 9th but the Twins could not capitalize on the momentum.

Go get ‘em tomorrow.

-ERolfPleiss

Twins 2013 Class A Affiliation Gets Muddied

These days, it’s not often that I go more than a couple of days without getting asked whether I think the Twins will be the Major League affiliate of my home town Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2013. When I’m not answering that question, I’m the one asking it of pretty much anyone I can think of who might have some insight.

At the beginning of August, I was telling people I thought it was about a 50-50 proposition. The Twins and Cedar Rapids make a lot of sense for a number of reasons on both sides. Then again, The Kernels have been affiliated with the Angels for 20 years and that’s a long relationship to walk away from. The Angels have been reported as having indicated a desire to keep the relationship going.

Between early August and a week ago, my hopes for a watching Twins prospects playing for my home town team kept going upward. In fact, just a week or so ago, I was 90% certain that the Twins would be sending their prospects through Cedar Rapids for the next several years.

I kept hearing that it was all but a lock. But I was remaining just cautiously optimistic because you just never know about these things. Weird stuff happens.

Sure enough, in the past week, weird stuff has happened. Stuff that is not good news for a potential Twins/Kernels relationship.

First, you need to understand a little bit about the baseball loyalties in the greater Cedar Rapids area. We sit less than a 5 hour drive from six MLB ballparks. The Twins, Brewers, Cubs, White Sox, Cardinals and Royals are all about the same distance from CR, but the local loyalties are not at all equal.

First, among the group, are the Cubs and it’s really not all that close. Behind the Cubs, come the Cardinals, White Sox and Twins. Which order they fall in would be open to debate, but there’s a pretty strong base of fans for each organization in this area. Next, would easily be the Brewers and an argument could be made that they should be considered near-equals with the three teams above them. Finally, far at the bottom, would be the Royals. To find Royals caps and jerseys around town, you really have to be looking for them.

The Kernels clearly seem to have decided to look in to the possibility of aligning with one of the six MLB teams that are nearby geographically and, if so, have likely already informed the Angels of such. That would be the honorable thing to do, allowing a partner you’ve had a good relationship with to begin thinking about what their options might be on September 16, when teams can start negotiating with potential new affiliates.

A month ago, in looking at the six geographic fits for a new CR affiliate, you would immediately eliminate the White Sox, whose current affiliation with Kannapolis in the South Atlantic League is not up for renewal until 2014 and there’s no indication they won’t remain there in the future. Likewise, the Brewers are signed with with the Wisconsin (Appleton) Timber Rattlers through 2016. The Cardinals and Quad Cities were believed to be happy with one another and an extension was expected. Similarly, Kane County (Geneva IL) was believed to have a solid relationship with the Royals. There were some who weren’t sure the Cubs and Peoria were all that solid, but most people seemed to think they would end up renewing for two more years anyway.

That left the Twins, among the six closest MLB teams, for Cedar Rapids to partner with. It’s a natural fit, beyond just geography. The Kernels are very big on community involvement by their players, with programs in place with local schools, etc. The Twins are also well known for emphasizing community work among their players. It seemed like a match that could last a very long time, which is what the Kernels certainly should be looking for.

Then last week, it all blew up.

On Wednesday, August 22, Chicago Sun-Times reporter Gordon Wittenmyer reported that the Cubs were, “in the process of working out a player development agreement with the Kane County Cougars.”

That little ditty certainly must have set off alarm bells in a number of Midwest League offices and MLB team offices, not to mention the office of the Commissioner of Baseball.

First of all, under MLB Rule 56, teams aren’t allowed to even hint at a new affiliation with any team except the one they are currently working with until September 16. No negotiating, no public comments, nothing. If, indeed the Cubs and Cougars have been “negotiating,” that could cost the Cubs $500,000 and the Cougars $100,000 in fines. In any event, that article apparently caught the Cubs’ current affiliate, the Peoria Chiefs, by surprise, as well as Kane County’s current affiliate, the Royals. Both of whom supposedly were expecting to renew their agreements with their current partners.

(Here, I must add, however, that if you’ve had all year to renew an agreement that you want to renew, but your business partner hasn’t done so… I think you probably shouldn’t be too surprised to find out he’s exploring other options.)

Here in Cedar Rapids, where a significant number of the BOD are rumored to be Cubs fans, the news signaled that, whether or not they end up in Kane County, the Cubs may very well be in play. If so, you’d think a large faction of the Board may be likely to want to explore a Cubs/Kernels affiliation.

Personally, I don’t think the Cubs would consider moving their MWL affiliate further away from Chicago. But even if we assume the Cubs do eventually move to the Chicago suburbs of Kane County, that would leave the Royals as another potential geographic fit for the Kernels, in addition to the Twins.

Still, the Board would be foolish to sign on with the Royals over the Twins, given the significantly larger local Twins fan base, right? Yes, except…

Did you happen to catch the news that St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman dropped during a radio appearance a few days ago? He indicated that he expected news of approval of a new minor league stadium in St. Paul within the next two weeks. But he didn’t stop there. In addition to being the home of the independent (no MLB affiliations) Northwoods League’s CORRECTION: American Association’s St. Paul Saints, Coleman announced the stadium, which could be ready in 2 years, would meet MLB standards for Class A affiliates and he believed it could be used for both the Saints AND a potential Class A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.

St. Paul would fall a ways outside the existing MWL footprint and since existing MWL teams are guaranteed affiliations for as long as they maintain appropriate facilities and can stay financially viable, there are any number of reasons why a St. Paul MWL team might never happen. But it’s not impossible, so you’d better believe Mayor Coleman’s comments must have gotten the attention of people involved with the Kernels.

As demonstrated by their 20 year history with the Angels, Cedar Rapids is not likely to be interested in being any kind of two, or even four, year “stopgap” for the Twins before seeing them bolt for St. Paul. They should want another long-term relationship with an affiliate and, if so, you can be certain the Twins will be asked about their views on a potential move to St. Paul during their presentation in Cedar Rapids.

So how is this shaping up?

I still see the Cubs as a longshot in Cedar Rapids. They seem intent on moving closer to Chicago, not further away. Might they make a presentation to CR to deflect attention from their premature negotiations with Kane County? Sure. But if you’re a CR Board member I think you have to ask yourself if it’s a good fit. First, can you trust the Cubs not to go behind your back in a couple of years like they did with Peoria? Second, there are rumors that the Cubs require the local affiliate to pay their prospects for “community appearances.” That won’t fly in Cedar Rapids. Still… there may be people who would (foolishly, in my opinion) take the Cubs on any terms, even for just a couple of years.

I see the Twins as back to being a 50-50 proposition and maybe not that high. They are by far the best fit for Cedar Rapids, but if the Twins really are thinking that they would eventually like to place their MWL affiliate in St. Paul (and that may not be a bad decision on their part), I believe they are the kind of organization that would at least be honest with the Kernels in their presentation and admit that’s a reasonable possibility. If that is the case, I think that could chill interest on the part of the Kernels.

If the Cubs do move to Kane County, as it seems they’re intent on doing, and the Twins are not looking for a long-term partner, the Royals become the best bet for Cedar Rapids.

But if the Twins don’t land in Cedar Rapids, then where WOULD they set up shop in 2013?

If they think they’ve figured out a way to clear all the hurdles to get their team to St. Paul in two years, their best decision might be to stay in Beloit for a two-year extension. Otherwise, it sounds like Peoria might be the Twins only option, assuming they want to stay in the MWL’s Western Division. (I should note the Quad Cities and the Cardinals have not yet renewed, so QC could be in the mix, but the Twins relationship there did not end well eight years ago and new QC ownership may not be enough to interest the Twins in going back down that path.)

For months, any time officials of any minor league or Major League team have been asked about possible new affiliates, they’ve refused to go on the record with any predictions (except the Cubs and/or Cougars, apparently). After all the speculation, it looks like we’re all just going to have to wait another month to see where all the chips fall.

However, I’m REALLY bad at waiting, so you shouldn’t be surprised if this is not the last time I post on this topic.

- JC

A Long Weekend With the Snappers & Kernels

It seemed to me like the first game of this Snappers/Kernels series on Saturday night was a long one… and it was. The game took three hours and twenty minutes to play and since the Snappers pretty much dominated the entire game, on their way to a 13-2 rout of their hosts, there really wasn’t enough excitement to make the game feel like it was moving along.

Fortunately, I was in the “all you can eat and drink” picnic area, so I managed to stay well fed and well lubricated.

UPDATE: I also had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Horrorpants and his brother-in-law, who were down from the Twin Cities to check out the Snappers. You should go check out his Twins Daily blog post and his pictures from the night by clicking here.

Nate Roberts went 3-6 on Saturday night and three different Snappers (JD Williams, Tyler Grimes and Drew Leachman) hit home runs. Amazingly, Beloit scored 13 runs while their number 3 and 4 hitters, Eddie Rosario and Kennys Vargas, combined to go 0 for 10 on the night. Cole Johnson gave up 2 runs in his 5 innings of work. Corey Williams threw 3 shutout innings and DJ Baxendale finished off the night with a scoreless inning, as well.

Twins uber-prospect Miguel Sano was not in the lineup Saturday night, but he seemed healthy during pregame workouts, so there seemed little cause for concern. Sure enough, Sano returned to his spot at third base for the game Sunday afternoon.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing Sano and Eddie Rosario in the field during the series to gauge how much they’ve progressed defensively. Through the first two games, however, Rosario hasn’t taken the field. He DH’d  on Saturday night and was not in the lineup Sunday.

I’ll say this about Sano, however. He made several plays in the field on Sunday that I don’t believe he would have been capable of making when I saw him here in Cedar Rapids back in April. He may never be another Brooks Robinson at third base, but he has improved this season. If he works hard and continues to improve every season, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him sticking at the hot corner by the time he’s playing ball at Target Field.

Sano was certainly an offensive star of the game on Sunday. He had four hits in six at-bats, including two doubles and his 27th home run. Vargas and Stephen Wickens both homered in the game, as well.

The game itself was one of the better games I’ve seen in person this season… and I arrived too late to see the first highlight of the afternoon. I was late getting to the ballpark and arrived during the top of the second inning. Moments before I arrived, Vargas got the Snappers on the board with a solo home run that cleared the top of the Kernels’ video board in right center field. I haven’t seen that done in the 11 years the Kernels have been playing in this version of Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The Snappers put up three runs off of Kernels starter Cam Bedrosian and continued to nick a string of relief pitchers. Snappers pitcher Jason Wheeler gave up four runs in his six innings of work before Mason Melotakis came on to throw 1.2 hitless innings. Melotakis was consistently hitting 94 mph according to the scoreboard speed sign. That sign has a reputation for being a bit over 1 mph slower than scouts’ speedguns. Zach Jones came on to relieve Melotakis and three a couple mph harder. Unfortunately for the Snappers, he lacked Melotakis’ control and ended up giving up three runs and sending the game in to extra innings.

Taylor Rogers went 2.1 innings without giving up a run to the Kernels as neither team could push a run across the plate in the 10th, 11th or 12th inning. In the 13th, Wickens lifted a fly ball to the outfield with Nate Roberts on third base. That’s when things got interesting. The throw was on target and beat Roberts to the plate, where Kernels catcher Zach Wright was blocking Roberts’ path… but the ball came out of Wright’s glove… but Roberts went over the top of Wright and never touched the plate… but it took a moment for Wright to get the ball back. Wright and Roberts did a little dance together as Wright attempted to tag Roberts and Roberts attempted to get a toe on the plate. In the end, umpire Dustin Klinghagen declared Roberts safe and the Snappers had the lead.

The weirdness that inning did not stop there. With JD Williams at 3B, the Kernels pitched around Sano, walking him to bring up Kennys Vargas. On a full count, Sano broke for 2B, Vargas struck out and Wright threw to second, attempting to throw Sano out. Williams broke for home, the throw to 2B was cut off and thrown home, nailing Williams at the plate, for one of the more peculiar “strike em out, throw em out” double play I’ve ever seen.

In the 13th inning Tim Atherton  walked Wright to start the inning and then threw two wild pitches, moving Wright to 3B. One out later, Drew Martinez singled in the tying run and stole second base. From there, he scored on an Alex Yarbrough walk-off single, giving the Kernels the 9-8 win.

The game, which started a half hour late due to rain, took 4:19 to play.

Quite a game… quite a weekend. And there are two more games left in this series.

With that, I leave you with a few pictures from my weekend at the ballpark.

Some of the Snappers indulge a game of “pepper” prior to Saturday night’s game.

Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium from the left field picnic area

Pitcher Jason Wheeler and third baseman Miguel Sano

Kernels pitcher Cam Bedrosian, son of former MLB pitcher Steve Bedrosian

Jason Wheeler

Snappers first baseman Drew Leachman

On Sunday, Eddie Rosario got a day off, but did coach first base.

Snappers relief pitcher Mason Melotakis

JD Williams in left field

Shortstop Stephen Wickens flashes a sign to his middle infield partner

Zach Jones was hitting 96 mph

Leadoff hitter Nate Roberts

Catcher Jairo Rodriguez

Relief pitcher Taylor Rogers

Miguel Sano looks more comfortable at 3B to me.

Kennys Vargas went very, very deep in the 2nd inning.

The scoreboard tells the story at the end. Oh… and Vargas’ home run cleared the “Perfect Game Field” sign at the top of the scoreboard, which is set several feet behind the 390 ft wall.

I also had a few conversations this weekend with various, “sources close to the Kernels,” as they say in the trade, about the upcoming discussions between the Kernels and various potential MLB affiliates. But we’ll talk about all of that in another post, another time. :)

- JC

GameChat – Minnesota Twins @ Texas Rangers #4, 2:05 pm CDT

The Minnesota Twins have not won a game since Monday, August 20, and the closest they’ve come was the following day in a 4-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics.  Since then the Twins have lost by 4, 4, 8 and 6 runs, bringing their season-long run differential to -111, only the Cleveland Indians (-134) have a worse run differential in the American League.

A win today does nothing to help Minnesota in the standings, but it will go a long way toward bringing up morale in the clubhouse of a team that’s been clobbered for the better part of a week.  Cole De Vries has a 10.64 ERA over his last 3 starts, he will need to turn things around this afternoon or the Twins will be in another big hole against a high powered Rangers offense.

 Minnesota Twins

@

 Texas Rangers
 Span, CF  Kinsler, 2B
 Revere, RF  Moreland, 1B
 Mauer, 1B  Hamilton, LF
 Willingham, LF  Beltre, A, 3B
 Morneau, DH  Cruz, N, RF
 Plouffe, 3B  Murphy, Dv, DH
 Carroll, 2B  Soto, C
 Butera, C  Gentry, CF
 Florimon, SS  Hernandez, L, SS
 _De Vries, P  _Feldman, P

Let’s get it!

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 1 1 1 0 2 1 0 0 0 6 11 0
Texas 2 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 5 6 2

Here is something that happened earlier today: The Minnesota Twins, previously referred to as a professional baseball team, won a contest of baseballing against an actual real-life baseball club.  A club, known as none-other than the Texas Rangers.  It was pretty fun.

BOD Voting?

Ben Revere had his 6th career 4 hit game and was on base 5 times, despite only hitting the ball out of the infield once.  For his performance this afternoon the fans in the Knuckleballs blog GameChat (BaseballPirate and myself, though BaseballPirate was inactive, so really I just picked whoever I wanted), decided to give Ben Revere a nice warm German style beer.  Enjoy that beer, Ben.

Jeff Gray pitched a third of an inning and gave up 3 runs, which was pretty impressive for a guy who has no business being on a Major League Baseball team.  Anyways, his run-surrendering performance woke up the bullpen and then Casey Fien, Jared Burton and Glen Perkins closed out the game against the high-powered Rangers offense without surrendering another run.  For his wake-up performance, Jeff Gray is the BOD.  Hopefully he woke up Terry Ryan and Ryan outrights Gray and assigns him to some lesser level of baseball, perhaps Triple-A baseball.

Anyways, enjoy it Gray, you earned it.

Jeff Gray, IRONIC HIPSTER BOD SELECTION  (Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)