Twins to Affiliate with Cedar Rapids

After weeks of speculation, we’ve confirmed that the Cedar Rapids Kernels have agreed to accept a proposal to enter in to a player development contract (PDC) with the Minnesota Twins for the next four years. Twins officials toured the Kernels facilities Monday afternoon and met with the CR Board of Directors later in the day. A news conference may be held Wednesday in Cedar Rapids for the formal announcement.

The Twins, who have been sending their Class A prospects to Beloit for the past eight years, had been rumored to be favoring a move to Cedar Rapids for several weeks. Given that the Twins brass showed up for a meeting almost immediately after the two sides were allowed, by MLB Rule, to even communicate with one another, those rumors turned out to be well-founded.

At the same time, the Kernels were looking for a fresh start with a Midwestern Major League affiliate after notifying the Angels that they would be ending their 20-year affiliation with that organization. Cedar Rapids is the closest Midwest League city to the Twin Cities and, while there’s a sizable Twins fan base in Eastern Iowa, there certainly is potential for the Twins to expand their media presence in the area.

Beyond geography, however, the two organizations are viewed as a good fit on a number of other levels. Both the Kernels and Twins emphasize the value of community involvement by their players. Twins fans are certainly familiar with the value that organization puts on having their players get involved any number of local charities and causes. The Kernels will prove to be a good training ground for their prospects in this regard, as evidenced by their Summer Reading Program. The Kernels also have a significant “host family” program, which allows players to save money by living with local families during their stay in Cedar Rapids.

The reason for the Twins ending their relationship with the Beloit Snappers is widely believed to center on issues involving the facilities there. Pohlman Field is one of the older ballparks still utilized by a full-season affiliated minor league team and efforts over the past decade or more to get funding for a new ballpark in or near Beloit seem to have lost any momentum they might once have had. After eight years, the Twins apparently did not see the situation improving any time soon.

Overhead view of Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids

The Kernels are community-owned, with a Board of Directors essentially operating as the organization’s owners. They have played their games at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium since it opened in 2002. It was built on the site of their “old” Veterans Memorial Stadium. Next summer will be the Kernels’ 12th season in the facility. There are a number of newer ballparks in the Eastern Division of the Midwest League, but among the Western Division locations, no city has a newer ballpark than Cedar Rapids. Peoria opened O’Brien Field in 2002, as well. (Though not new, the ballparks in Appleton WI and Davenport IA have both undergone major renovations in recent years.)

This will be the first affiliation between the Twins and Cedar Rapids. In the past, the Twins have sent their Class A prospects to Midwest League teams in Wisconsin Rapids WI, Kenosha WI (which moved to Ft. Wayne IN while affiliated with the Twins) and the Quad Cities (Davenport IA) prior to Beloit.

Cedar Rapids Baseball has a long history extending back to the 19th century when Hall of Fame manager John McGraw played for the local team. Since the establishment of today’s MLB/MiLB affiliation-based relationship, Cedar Rapids has hosted minor leaguers sent by the Astros, Cardinals, Giants, Reds and Angels. Going back further, CR also had agreements with the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers. Former Twins John Rosboro, Chili Davis and Les Straker once called Cedar Rapids home, as did current Twins infielder Alexi Casilla.

For more information about the Cedar Rapids’ minor league organization, click on the following links to posts here at Knuckleballs last month that covered CR Baseball’s history and an interview with Kernels General Manager Doug Nelson.

This is obviously a bit of a windfall for us here at Knuckleballs and that windfall will be shared with our readers next summer, when we should be able to provide a considerable amount of first-hand coverage of the Twins’ Class A team.

– JC

GameChat – White Sox @ Twins #3, 1:10pm

The final game against the White Sox for the 2012 season is actually set up as a fairly interesting pitching matchup. Jake Peavy vs Scott Diamond could actually be a fun day if both of them are on their games.

More importantly, we have both Mauer & Doumit back in the lineup today! I’m a little surprised to see them both but I’m not going to complain. With Mauer at 1B, he doesn’t have to challenge the back overly much with the Catchers crouch. But Doumit is taking his strained oblique behind the plate so I hope both of them are able to do well. It’s helpful to have both of their bats back in the lineup.

Given the pitching match-up, the offense is just going to have to do better than they have in this series so far.

Chi White Sox

@

Minnesota
Wise, CF Span, CF
Youkilis, 3B Revere, LF
Dunn, A, 1B Mauer, 1B
Konerko, DH Morneau, DH
Rios, RF Doumit, C
Viciedo, LF Parmelee, RF
Ramirez, Al, SS Plouffe, 3B
Flowers, C Casilla, A, 2B
Beckham, 2B Florimon, SS
  Peavy, P   Diamond, P

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Chi White Sox 0 0 2 1 0 6 0 0 0 9 10 0
Minnesota 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 6 1

Joe Mauer’s return would have to be considered a success as he contributed his 30th double and his 10th home run of the season. Alexi Casilla came through with a couple of hits, including an RBI double. Kyle Waldrop, Jared Burton and Glen Perkins were good for 3.1 innings of pretty decent (read: scoreless) relief work. But that’s pretty much where the good news ends today.

Scott Diamond was not good. Anthony Swarzak was no better and arguably worse. All of that adds up to a sweep at the hands of the White Sox. On the season, the Twins managed to win just four of 18 games against Chicago. That pretty much sums up the season. – JC

GameChat – White Sox @ Twins #2, 12:10pm

hehehee…

Liriano vs Deduno!

*giggles uncontrollably*

no, really! I know that half of creation is in “college football” world today (including my husband) but come ON! Liriano vs Deduno has to rate somewhere on your “gotta see” list.

Still no Mauer or Doumit but I have a feeling that will take a little bit of time for both.

I’m going to take advantage of the Free Saturday to go get some work done on my car but after that, I’ll be back because listening to this on the radio is simply not going to be good enough – this I will have to SEE.

Chi White Sox

@

Minnesota
De Aza, CF Revere, CF
Youkilis, 3B Escobar, 2B
Dunn, A, 1B Willingham, LF
Konerko, DH Morneau, 1B
Rios, RF Plouffe, 3B
Pierzynski, C Parmelee, DH
Viciedo, LF Mastroianni, RF
Ramirez, Al, SS Butera, C
Beckham, 2B Florimon, SS
  Liriano, P   Deduno, P

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Chi White Sox

1

0

2

1

0

0

0

0

1

5

5

0

Minnesota

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

1

3

2

0

Apparently the only thing “gotta see” about today’s game was Ben Revere’s catch in the OF. The rest, yeah, you’ve seen that before.

GameChat – White Sox @ Twins, 7:10pm

So.. The White Sox are in town..

Mauer & Doumit are still out of the lineup.

Since DeVries is done for the year with a fractured rib, we have a start from Vasquez tonight. And since Sale got cheated out of his matchup against Verlander, this will have to do. LOL

Oh, and as JC predicted in the small amount of time he and I were both able to chat during last night’s game, the Twins have brought Chris Herrmann on board to be back-up catcher. I feel a little better about that and I bet Gardy does too.

Chi White Sox

@

Minnesota
De Aza, LF Span, CF
Youkilis, 3B Carroll, 2B
Wise, CF Willingham, DH
Konerko, 1B Morneau, 1B
Rios, RF Plouffe, 3B
Pierzynski, C Mastroianni, LF
Viciedo, DH Carson, RF
Ramirez, Al, SS Butera, C
Beckham, 2B Florimon, SS
  Sale, P   Vasquez, P

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Chi White Sox

0

1

0

1

0

1

2

0

1

6

9

0

Minnesota

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

0

Yeah, I’d maybe give the pitchers some crap but nothing they do matters if you can’t score even one run… shutouts suck.

Dave St. Peter’s Comments re: Possible Twins Affiliate in St. Paul

NOTE: I’m a bit bass-ackward today. Usually, I post an article here on our own blog, then… maybe… a day or so later I’ll also post it over at TwinsDaily.com with a “This was originally posted at Knuckleballs” disclaimer. Today, I’m doing it backwards. See… I started out just intending to start a new discussion thread in the Forum section of TwinsDaily’s message board. After doing so, however, I realized it was really long for a message board item, so I went ahead and created a TwinsDaily blog entry, too. Then I decided I really might as well post it over here, as well. So… here it is! – JC

Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press posted a column (click here) with a number of quotes from Twins president Dave St. Peter concerning the possibility of the Twins locating a minor league affiliate in St. Paul, now that the city has funding assured to move forward with building their new stadium. The stadium is being built to Class A standards (which basically deal with things like clubhouse and training facilities and a certain minimum seating capacity).St. Peter’s quotes and summary:
 
1) “I would certainly never say never to that… But I certainly don’t anticipate that being reality over the short term… Certainly in the next two to four years, I think it would be very unlikely that that would happen.” This makes sense because the stadium won’t be ready until 2015 and the Twins will be entering in to a new player development contract (PDC) with another Midwest League team next week which will have either a 2 year term or a 4 year term. Assuming the Twins don’t end up renewing with Beloit, it’s most likely going to be a 4 year term. It would be unusual for a first agreement with a new city to be just two years… those affiliates are not going to want to have to go through the process of finding a new partner again just 2 years down the road.
 
2) “The reality is that a lot of things would need to happen for that even to be considered.” He goes on to state that the biggest factor would be the territorial rights that the Twins own. No affiliated minor league team can set up shop within a certain distance of the Twins’ territorial rights without the Twins’ permission and St. Paul is definitely inside the restricted territory. I’m really not so sure that’s the biggest factor, however. The Twins could give approval conditioned on the minor league team remaining affiliated with the Twins. This is the deal Dayton has with the Reds, from what I’ve read. That’s why, even though Dayton’s PDC with the Reds has not yet renewed this year, there’s no chance Dayton could sign with another MLB team even if they wanted to.

Twins President Dave St. Peter (Photo: John Mowers)

It seems to me that the bigger issue for a possible St. Paul affiliate is that neither the Twins, nor the Saints, nor anyone else can just say, “we’re going to do this,” and make it happen. Existing affiliated minor league teams are assured affiliations under MLB rules and nobody can just tell the Midwest League they’re going to put a team in St. Paul. There are really just a couple scenarios that could result in a Twins MWL affiliate in St. Paul (forget about a AA or AAA team… There isn’t a AA league anywhere near the midwest and even the new stadium doesn’t meet AAA minimum standards, which require a 10,000 capacity stadium, at a minimum):

For a NEW team to be awarded to St. Paul, the MWL would have to petition baseball to be allowed to expand and it would have to be by two teams to remain an even number. Since every MLB team already has a full season Class A team, expansion won’t happen.

Someone could buy an existing MWL franchise or at least convince owners of a current MWL franchise to relocate to St. Paul. They would have to give 18 months notice of intent to relocate. But the real problem is finding a franchise willing to relocate. The MWL has a lot of newer stadiums and teams are generally doing OK financially where they are. There are a few older ballparks that could certainly stand to be replaced, but those teams are pretty much all community owned, I believe. The teams in Beloit, Clinton and Burlington, for example, aren’t going to relocate or sell out because, even if attendance isn’t huge, they’re at least breaking even financially. Peoria, if they did decide to sell or be relocated, would almost certainly move to another central Illinois community. (There are a number of Frontier League team owners that would probably welcome the opportunity to become affiliated minor league team owners.) There really don’t seem to be franchise options available for a possible move north.

Finally, even if these obstacles were overcome, the MWL itself would have to approve a St. Paul location. Could that happen? Yes, but it’s far from certain. The league rejected an ownership group that wanted to place a team in Marion IL (southern tip of IL) back in 2005-06 somewhere because Marion was far enough outside the league’s current footprint that the increased travel costs for other MWL teams would be significant (and those costs are paid by the minor league team, not the MLB affiliate). The league has subsequently admitted Bowling Green KY, but it wasn’t a slam dunk. BG was essentially a “transfer” from the South Atlantic League so an affiliated minor league team already was located there. Even then, it was resisted by some members of the league. Scheduling also becomes a problem because players must be given off-days any time they have to travel by bus more than 500 miles and about half the MWL locations would exceed that distance from St. Paul.

In the end, if I were the Twins, I’d certainly like the idea of putting an affiliate in St. Paul so I’d be saying the same things St. Peter is. But when he says, “…a lot of things would need to happen for that even to be considered,” he ain’t lyin’ because it’s not a decision the Twins can unilaterally make and almost all of the parties that would have to give approval have strong incentives not to.

– JC

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 4

Episode 4 of the Twins related baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact, is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

Talk To Contact: Twins Podcast
Episode 4 is easily the best of the 4 we’ve recorded so far, except for maybe the “lost” episode that Paul’s laptop ate before he was able to get it online, but other than that, this is the best Twins talk in town. In the latest episode Paul and I discuss Alexi Casilla and his future with the Twins, prospect BJ Hermsen, Real live Pirates, beer and we even had a guest appearance by Giles Ferrell who talked Joe Mauer with us. It’s 74 minutes of gold. I hope you take some time to let your ears enjoy the masterpiece, and leave us a review on iTunes, or drop a comment to let us know what you think.
You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at the  Puckett’s Pond.

-ERolfPleiss

*There is a slight audio issue with this episode, in which Paul’s voice only comes through on one side (the left I believe) of the recording.  I have no idea what caused this, but blame Paul, he work’s the tech side of things. :)

GameChat – Royals at Twins #3 7:10pm

The biggest baseball news in Minnesota today had nothing to do with the Twins.  The Saint Paul Saints are going to be building a brand new stadium.  Look out, Target Field!

Last night the Twins were let down by the starting pitchers, the bullpen and Ryan Doumit‘s defense.  Tonight they have a chance to salvage a win in a 3 game home series with the Royals.  In the first two games Minnesota has been outscored 19-6, so even keeping the game close would be an improvement.  The Royals are sending Luis Mendoza to the hill and the Twins are countering with the winless wonder, Liam Hendriks.  Mendoza is not very good, and Hendriks has not proven he is any good yet, so this could be a fun game for fans that like offense.

Joe Mauer and Chris Parmelee are still out of the lineup, but at this point I would assume that Ron Gardenhire and the Twins are erring on the side of caution and making sure these guys are 100% before putting them back in the line up.

 

 Kansas City Royals

@

 Minnesota Twins
Lough, RF  Span, CF
Escobar, A, SS  Revere, RF
Gordon, LF  Willingham, DH
Butler, DH  Morneau, 1B
Perez, S, C  Plouffe, 3B
Moustakas, 3B  Mastroianni, LF
Cain, CF  Escobar, 2B
Hosmer, 1B  Butera, C
Giavotella, 2B  Florimon, SS
 _Mendoza, L, P  _Hendriks, P

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
Kansas City 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 8 0
Minnesota 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 4 7 0

Well that sounded like a fun game (at least the last few innings) anyway. Liam continued to struggle, giving up a couple of runs in the first inning, but the Twins offense managed to stay within striking distance and ultimately took the game in to extra innings, winning 4-3 in the 10th.

The Twins bullpen did a real job tonight. Hendriks survived five innings, but that left five innings of work from the pen. Robertson, Fien and Burton not only worked one shutout inning each, but none of them gave up so much as a hit. Glen Perkins followed with two shutout innings, giving up just one hit. That’s some pretty impressive work and it would be quite easy to just give the Boyfriend of the Day award to that group.

You could also make a case for Denard Span. While he had only one hit, it was a walkoff double in the 10th inning and that’s pretty BOD-worthy. For that matter, Alexi Casilla, who entered the game as a pinch runner, led off the 10th with a double of his own and ended up scoring on Span’s double and that was pretty sweet work on Lexi’s part.

But tonight’s BOD award is going to Trevor Plouffe. Not only was Plouffe the only Twins hitter with more than one hit, one of his two hits was a home run in the 9th inning that sent the game in to extra innings. Beyond that, Plouffe made a diving defensive play in the 5th that saved a run. Without that play and the homer, this game was another loss. For that, Trevor is our BOD! – JC

Trevor Plouffe

Why We Watch – Losing and the Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins are 59-84, they’ve been officially eliminated from the Wild Card race and they will be out of postseason contention with three White Sox wins, three Twins losses, or some combination thereof.  There are 19 games left in the 2012 season, Minnesota has almost nothing to play for, and yet I continue to watch.

What Do You Watch For?

Last night’s 10-5 loss was actually a fairly exciting game for 7 innings.  While P.J. Walters only went 4 innings (he pitched to the first six batters in the 5th inning without recording an out), he was going along pretty well before running into some serious trouble in the 5th inning and giving up 6 earned runs.  While the bullpen eventually coughed up 4 more runs in the 8th to run the lead to 10-5, the Twins battled back in the bottom of the 5th and were within a single run until the 8th inning.  But why did I continue to watch a 10-5 game through the final out of the 9th inning?  Because I want to see which current players the Twins think will have a chance to be a part of the 2013 club.  Today I’ll talk about pitching, and Saturday I’ll come back and talk about what kinds of things I’m looking for from the position players.

Pitching:

Walters, given his performance last night, coupled with what he’s already done (or failed to do) earlier this year both with the Twins and in AAA, it is unlikely that he comes back as anything other than AAA roster filler.

Anthony Swarzak came in for Walters, pitched 2.2 scoreless innings, giving up just 2 hits, no walks and recording a strike out.  Swarzak’s ERA (4.93) is pretty high given the current depressed run environment in Major League Baseball, but his line looks drastically better if you only look at his performance as a reliever.  His ERA is under 4, his WHIP is just 1.218 and he’s striking out more than 6 batters per nine innings, all as a reliever.  Now, he’s certainly not great, but as a cheap, dependable long-reliever, Swarzak is exactly what you’d hope he would be.  I certainly hope he’s back in 2013.

Brian Duensing, Casey Fien and Tyler Robertson all gave up a run without pitching an entire inning (Fien and Robertson failed to even record an out).  Duensing probably still has a role in the bullpen, and Fien has pitched pretty well in 2012 in his 27.1 innings, so he likely sticks around and competes for a spot as well.  Robertson, however, has really struggled this year, posting a 6.00 ERA.  As a left handed pitcher he’s been really good against left-handed batters (.193 BA against), but he’s struggled to do much of anything against right-handed batters (.313 BA against).  He is still young (just 24 despite being drafted in 2006), and is likely being slightly misused by Gardenhire as he’d probably be a pretty valuable LOOGY (Left-handed One Out GuY) if the Twins limited his exposure to right handed batters, but more than a third of the time he’s facing opposite sided hitters, allowing the batter to reap the platoon advantage.  I’m note sure what the Twins will do with him going forward, he might just need some more time at AAA (only 28.1 innings at AAA, all coming in 2012).

Kyle Waldrop came into the 8th, gave up a couple of hits before retiring the side and the Twins went to the bottom of the 8th down 10-5.  Waldrop was not charged with any earned runs, but he gave up two singles that scored runs, then hit a batter before getting Lorenzo Cain to hit into an inning ending double play.  Certainly not the kind of performance the Twins were hoping for when they bring in a guy to try and keep an inning from getting out of hand.  Drafted out of high school in 2004, Waldrop is now 26 and has spent the better part of the last three seasons at AAA Rochester posting pretty solid numbers.  His career AAA ERA is 3.21 over 201.2 innings, so he likely has nothing left to prove in Rochester.  Waldrop’s real issue, like so many other Twins pitchers, is his inability to strike batters out.  After arriving in AAA with a 6.2 SO/9, he saw that rate fall in 2011 to  5.0 and all the way down to 4.1 in 2012.  With the Twins his strike out rate has been virtually non-existent, a minuscule 2.5, and he has more walks than strikeouts.  Waldrop has dealt with some injury in 2012, and the Twins will likely run him out a few more times this year to see if Waldrop has anything else, but I do not expect him to have a place with the Twins in 2013.

To close out the game the Twins turned to Luis Perdomo.  Perdomo pitched a perfect 9th inning, sending the Royals down 1-2-3 and recording 2 strikeouts along the way.  Of his 8 performances this year for the Twins, last night was his best, and his only appearance without allow a walk or a hit.  Perdomo is 28 and with his 5th organization, so he is pretty much a known commodity at this point.  The Twins obviously want to get a closer look at Perdomo, he was one of their two September call ups.  Whether or not he has a place with the Twins in 2013 will come down to Perdomo putting up more numbers like he did last night.

So those are my thoughts on the players from last night, and those are the sort of things I’m watching down the stretch.  19 games left, GO TWINS!

-ERolfPleiss

GameChat – Royals @ Twins #2, 7:10pm

Yeah, the weather isn’t nearly as good tonight.. It’s amazing how much a difference of 24 hours can make. It’s not even 60 out there right now and still a bit on the .. moist.. side.

Let’s hope that PJ can be on top of things.

Kansas City

@

Minnesota
Lough, RF Span, CF
Escobar, A, SS Revere, RF
Gordon, LF Willingham, DH
Butler, DH Morneau, 1B
Perez, S, C Doumit, LF
Moustakas, 3B Carroll, 3B
Cain, CF Casilla, A, 2B
Hosmer, 1B Butera, C
Giavotella, 2B Florimon, SS
  Hochevar, P   Walters, P

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Kansas City

0

0

0

1

5

0

0

4

0

10

14

0

Minnesota

1

0

2

0

2

0

0

0

0

5

8

3

Well this game wasn’t as bad at the beginning… In fact, Carroll did his best to keep us in it for a long time. I even had pretty good hopes after the 5th inning that we’d be able to make something go. But of course LOB was our demon yet again. And then the 8th…  That’s when the true bedevilment began – pitching. Boy, did that suck.

This is basically where we say we should be used to this by now..