GameChat – Twins @ White Sox #2, 7:10 pm

Two of the worst baseball teams in the American League are playing one another tonight. Here are the lineups:

TWINS

@

WHITE SOX
Mastroianni, CF De Aza, CF
Dozier, 2B Ramirez, Al, SS
Plouffe, 3B Viciedo, LF
Arcia, RF Dunn, A, DH
Doumit, DH Konerko, 1B
Willingham, LF Danks, Jd, RF
Pinto, C Beckham, G, 2B
Colabello, 1B Phegley, C
Florimon, SS Semien, 3B
  _Pelfrey, P   _Quintana, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 3 10 0
Chi White Sox 0 1 0 0 2 1 0 0 x 4 11 3

The Twins lost again. Let’s all pretend it’s a shock. Please let this season end soon.

GameChat – Twins @ White Sox, 7:10 pm

The Twins haven’t been better than many teams this season, but the White Sox are one of the few. That’s good with me. If there’s one thing worse than a really bad year, it’s a really bad year and losing a lot to the White Sox.

No Brian Dozier in the lineup tonight, which is different.

TWINS

@

WHITE SOX
Presley, CF De Aza, CF
Escobar, E, 2B Ramirez, Al, SS
Plouffe, 3B Gillaspie, 3B
Arcia, LF Konerko, 1B
Willingham, LF Dunn, A, DH
Parmelee, 1B Viciedo, LF
Pinto, C Danks, Jd, RF
Herrmann, C, RF Beckham, G, 2B
Florimon, SS Anderson, B, C
  _Hendriks, P _Johnson, E, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 8 0
Chi White Sox 7 0 0 2 0 2 1 0 x 12 13 1

I watched the first 1/3 of an inning. It’s all I could take. No idea what happened after that, but it couldn’t have been good.

I Survived #GrandDrunkRailroad

It probably shouldn’t warrant a headline, but given that I have 20-30 years on almost everyone else who participated in the light rail pub crawl co-organized by the folks at TwinsDaily.com and Aaron Gleeman, I know there were some people out there that did not believe my survival was going to be a given. Some of them are related to me.

I can honestly say that I have never had such a great time attending such a really bad baseball game.

I drove up from Cedar Rapids Friday night and by about nine o’clock Saturday morning, I was ready for breakfast. I grabbed an all-day light rail ticket at the Mall of America and by 10:30 or so, I was sitting down at a table at Hell’s Kitchen, which has become my favorite restaurant in the Twin Cities and especially so for breakfast on the weekends.

HellsKitchenBreakfastI’m no rookie at this pub crawl kind of thing (though I’m certainly a bit out of practice). We didn’t have a name for it back then, but I’ve been moving from one bar to the next with a group of friends since the early 1970s and I learned early on that if you know you’re going to be doing that kind of thing, eating first is a really good idea.

Thus, the breakfast quesadilla, bacon and bison sausage from Hell’s Kitchen. When you’re listening to a guy on stage singing “Sitting on the Dock at the Bay” as you’re being seated for breakfast, you know it’s going to be a good day. I probably didn’t absolutely need the second screwdriver with breakfast, but I figured, “what the heck.”

After breakfast, I hopped back on the rail to head back out to the Fort Snelling stop, where we were scheduled to “check in” before moving on to the first stop on the crawl. I’ve never “checked in” to go drinking before so I wasn’t sure what this involved, but the Twins Food Truck was supposed to be there (not that I was feeling the need to eat more).

Upon arrival, I immediately found a couple of familiar faces in Jeremy Nygaard and Topper Anton. I was relieved to discover they didn’t know any more about what getting “checked in” meant than I did.

I was also relieved that I didn’t count on getting my pre-crawl food from the Twins Food Truck, because they were a no-show. The word we heard was that the truck showed up and left because they couldn’t find a place to park, despite a half-empty parking lot next to the light rail stop.

Before long, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson and John Bonnes of Twins Daily showed up and we all filled out name tags. So checking in wasn’t too complicated, after all.

My plan going in to the day was simple. I would have a beer at each of the four stops, maybe some water, as well, and generally just pace myself.

That plan worked well right up to the point where we bought pitchers instead of individual beers at the Cardinal Bar across the street from the 38th Street Station. Oh well, best laid plans, etc.

Harriet Brewing, near the Lake Street Station, was the next stop and I was doing a much better job of limiting myself to one beer, partially because there was a pretty long wait to use the one uni-sex restroom. But then Bonnes made me buy another beer, so again my plans were going down hill. The Korean BBQ from the Gogi Bros food truck was excellent, though.

Waiting for a beer at Harriet's. The line for the restroom was longer.

Waiting for a beer at Harriet’s. The line for the restroom was longer, but just as gender-diverse.

Moderation was finally achieved at the Franklin Street stop due in large part to the lengthy walk from the station to The Joint. By the time I finished one beer, it was pretty much time to hike back to the rail line and the ride to the Warehouse District stop and Mason’s Restaurant Barre.

By this time, the Iowa-Iowa State football game was starting and it’s pretty much impossible for me to watch the Hawkeyes these days without drinking to excess, so there was no way I was going to get by with one beer, even though I’d only be able to watch about half the game before the Twins game was scheduled to start.

Of course, the fact that the organizers had arranged keg of free beer for everyone wearing the GrandDrunkRailroad t-shirts made sticking around for a few rounds a pretty easy decision.

I did find some fellow-Hawkeye fans in the group (and even a table of women who were Cyclone fans, but at least one of them had the smarts to marry an Iowa fan and they were on a Twins pub crawl so I guess they weren’t all bad) and even one of the crawlers wearing a Cedar Rapids Kernels’ cap.

It started to rain, so that meant an even longer stay at Mason’s than planned. Eventually, I did make my way over to Target Field and to the center field section where our group had tickets. I picked up some Walleye and fries, which was very good, despite being pretty wet by the time I finished eating it. I also did, finally, have that water that I’d been promising myself I would drink.

It’s funny. I’ll sit in rain and watch football, but I have trouble bringing myself to enjoy doing that when it’s baseball I’m watching. If it’s a good game, sure, but on Saturday night, the Twins were not playing a good game. So I found one of the phone-charging stations located on the concourse and had a beer while I charged my phone.

That’s where I was when the umpires apparently decided they didn’t want to watch the game in the rain any longer, either, and imposed a rain delay. It’s also when a number of our group migrated to Hrbek’s bar, just inside Gate 14 at Target Field.

I had pretty much decided I’d had enough beer for the night when it turns out Twins closer Glen Perkins had sent word to Hrbek’s to buy a round of beer for our party. How many times do you get a beer bought for you by a Major League Ballplayer… during a game? So, I obviously had no choice but to have another.

That’s about the time someone had the bright idea to get a group picture.

GrandDrunkRailroad2013Now, I’ve heard there were something in the neighborhood of 100 people participating in #GrandDrunkRailroad and there were fewer than 20 in the bar for that picture, but it was a representative sample of the group. Men, women, bloggers, readers of our blogs, young and… thanks to me… old.

It was a great time. I needed some tylenol on Sunday, but it was more for my back than my head. I realized I haven’t stood so much in a really long time.

It was fun to talk to a number of people I’ve met at prior gatherings and to a number of people I haven’t met before. I’d like to thank Parker, Nick, John and Aaron for putting together a really fun event and for making an old Twins fan feel welcome. Of course, I also want to thank Glen Perkins for the beer!

- JC

The Twins Way

How many times have we heard someone say, “The Twins need to get back to emphasizing the Twins Way?” Or, perhaps just as often we hear, “the Twins need to forget about the Twins Way crap… it doesn’t work.” Either way, “The Twins Way” has become a cliché and a pretty tired one, at that.

But what is The Twins Way? We have some vague idea that it’s about playing good defense, running the bases intelligently, moving runners effectively and, yes, “pitching to contact” (how’s that for using one tired cliché to define another one?).

TwinsWayBut I think it goes much, much deeper than all of that. I think The Twins Way is a philosophy – a culture that is imbedded at every level of the organization.

It is a culture that has led to a fair amount of success for the Twins over the years, as a Major League Baseball team and as a privately owned and operated for-profit business.

It’s also a culture that has driven many Twins fans to such a level of frustration that they’re almost incapable of having any discussion about the ballclub that doesn’t include a loud cry to get rid of the ownership, the front office executives, the manager, the coaches or, quite often, all of the above.

Of course, taking issue with how those in authority run things is almost as ingrained in American culture as baseball, itself. On the other hand, whether the subject is government, business or sports, those with no clue about how to actually run something are often the most vocal critics of those who do.

But if we’re going to have a dialogue about the pros and cons of The Twins Way, I think we should get our arms around what that actually means, so at least we all know what we’re talking about when we hear the term used or, heaven forbid, use the term ourselves.

In my mind, The Twins Way starts with the concept of getting the best possible efforts and results out of whatever level of talent specific players might possess. The 1987 World Champion Twins. The “piranhas.” Brad Radke and Nick Punto.

Terry Ryan discusses the "Twins way" with a minor leaguer during spring training in 2010. The player quickly tucked his jersey back in his pants.

Terry Ryan discusses the “Twins way” with a minor leaguer during spring training in 2010. The player quickly tucked his jersey back in his pants.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this concept. It’s what every organization SHOULD strive to achieve, isn’t it?

And if you have a baseball team filled with overachieving mid-level talent, you can occasionally catch lightning in a bottle and accomplish great things. When that happens, the entire community and fan base rightfully takes great pride in the accomplishment.

Sometimes, however, it causes those in charge to conclude that catching that lightning is something that can be repeated consistently or, even worse, that what’s been accomplished is not due to something as random as lightning strikes, but was actually accomplished by intentionally identifying potential new piranhas or the “next Brad Radke.”

In fairness, this aspect of The Twins Way has its roots in necessity. Going back to the near-contraction days, the Carl Pohlad-owned Twins had to find inexpensive ways to compete with the rich clubs. They weren’t going to get Roger Clemens, so they needed to figure out how to win with Radke-types.

Scouts looked for a certain sort of “make-up” in high school and college players, not to mention minor leaguers. “Toolsy” position players and “pitch to contact” pitchers with good “make-up” were perhaps deemed more affordable, short term and long term, than top-tier talents who would not only be more costly to sign initially, but would be more likely to bolt for major market teams as soon as they could escape their serfdom with the Twins.

Shopping the free agent market meant picking through the bargain bins once the teams with real money to spend signed all the best available talent. There was never enough money in the coffers to retain the Twins’ own free agents, much less pay for those hitting the market from other organizations.

The move to the Target Field was supposed to change things and, in many ways, it has. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some of the people running the show and they are smart people. They know baseball and they know they need to put a better product on the field. To their credit, they’ve made some of the necessary cultural changes.

Starting with the draft and international signings, the Twins have begun to spend money. The Twins outbid the Pirates for Dominican Miguel Sano and they’ve used the early draft picks that come with having really bad seasons to select what are arguably the best athletes available, such as Byron Buxton, rather than use “sign-ability” as a code word for spending as little as possible on new talent.

They re-signed the players they deemed the most critical to retain from among their own group of free agents, including a significant extension for Justin Morneau and an eight-year contract for Joe Mauer at $23 million per year.

They’ve dipped their toes in the mid-range levels of free agency, signing players like Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia to multi-year contracts at mid-seven digit levels annually.

As the Twins complete a third consecutive season in which they’re likely to lose at least 90 games, it may not seem like it but The Twins Way is changing.

They’re still teaching the importance of fundamentals at the lower levels of the minor leagues, but they’re teaching those fundamentals to, on balance, a group of ballplayers with more pure talent than used to be the case. In time, we should see these talented players working just as hard as the piranhas did and winning more games, as a result.

As I see it, there’s really one remaining major cultural paradigm within the organization that needs to change and it’s probably the most difficult change for the organization to make. It has to do with being prepared to spend significant money on top-tier free agents from other organizations, even if it means having to risk paying more for their talents than your best judgment tells you they are worth.

Not doing so won’t prevent the Twins from eventually becoming competitive again. Three years from now (maybe even two, if everything falls right), the talent in their minor league pipeline could well have the Twins competing for an AL Central Division title again.

But if they show their historical patience, how many fans will still be showing up at Target Field by then? It’s a lot harder to get fans to come back than it is to keep them, but you need to be willing to give them a reason to keep showing up.

It doesn’t take a baseball genius to figure out what the Twins need to improve significantly next season. It will require the same thing everyone knew it would take a year ago… and the year before that. It will take better starting pitching – much better starting pitching.

Adding the kind of pitching required won’t be easy. They’ll have to outbid teams that have had more recent success for one or more of the best available free agent arms and/or they’ll need to let go of some of their highly coveted young prospects to get pitching help via trade. Either way, they’ll need to be willing to spend money, perhaps a lot of it.

If they add nobody of significance to their roster, they’ll start 2014 with a payroll just slightly more than half of what they had committed to their Opening Day roster in 2011, so there’s no argument to be made that money isn’t available.

The only remaining question is whether General Manager Terry Ryan and others running the organization are prepared to let go of the last remaining tie to the old culture and spend that money.

In his excellent article at TwinsDaily.com, Nick Nelson laid out a number of reasons Twins fans should be optimistic that Ryan will do exactly that.

I hope he’s right. I want so badly to believe he’s right.

But after expecting more aggressive moves the past two winters and being left thoroughly disappointed, I just can’t convince myself to believe it until I see it.

- JC

GameChat – A’s @ Twins #2, 7:10 pm

After losing a couple million games in a row at home, the Twins are now on the verge of one of those… what are they called?… oh, yeah… winning streaks!

That’s what winning three games in a row would constitute.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, there’s a little matter of actually playing the game.

Josh Willingham is back in the number 6 spot in the batting order, so he should be good for two more home runs tonight, right?

Eduardo Escobar makes his first appearance in the line up in, well, longer than I can remember anyway. He’s playing third base instead of shortstop, however, and Trevor Plouffe is the DH.

Mike Pelfrey is on the hill for the Twins. His 4.97 ERA is roughly twice that of A’s starter Sonny Gray (2.51), so naturally with how backwards things have gone for the Twins lately, they should win this game handily.

ATHLETICS

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TWINS
Crisp, CF Presley, CF
Donaldson, 3B Escobar, E, 3B
Lowrie, SS Dozier, 2B
Moss, RF Arcia, RF
Cespedes, LF Plouffe, DH
Barton, 1B Willingham, LF
Smith, S, DH Parmelee, 1B
Vogt, C Herrmann, C, C
Sogard, 2B Florimon, SS
  _Gray, S, P   _Pelfrey, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Oakland 0 1 2 10 3 0 0 0 2 18 22 0
Minnesota 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 3 5 1

Well, that happened.

Hey Shairon Martis worked a 1-2-3 inning and struck out two batters!

GameChat – Blue Jays @ Twins, 1:10 pm

The Twins will try to avoid a sweep today.

Doesn’t it seem like we’re saying that a lot lately?

I’ll be watching the Vikings, so I probably won’t be paying much attention to what’s going on at Target Field today. Then again, thanks to the Twins and MLB’s blackout policy, it’s not like I have the option of watching the Twins anyway.

As baseball matters go, I’m actually a lot more interested in how the Rochester Red Wings do today. They’re in the 5th game of a best-of-five playoff series with Pawtucket and playing for the chance to advance in the International League postseason.

Anyway, let’s see how Andrew Albers does today. Given how much use the Twins bullpen has gotten lately, I’m sure they could use a 7-8 inning day out of Albers.

 

BLUE JAYS

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TWINS
Reyes, SS Presley, CF
Davis, R, CF Herrmann, C, C
Lawrie, 3B Dozier, 2B
Lind, DH Arcia, LF
DeRosa, 1B Doumit, DH
Sierra, RF Plouffe, 3B
Arencibia, C Colabello, 1B
Goins, 2B Thomas, C, RF
Pillar, LF Florimon, SS
  _Rogers, E, P   _Albers, A, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Toronto 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 7 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 1

Andrew Albers did very well today. Almost everyone else in a Twins uniform did not.

The Twins have now lost 10 straight games at home. Not too hard to understand why there were some audible boos from the Target Field crowd.

GameChat – Blue Jays @ Twins, 6:10 pm

I’ve been so wrapped up in college football today, I almost forgot there was a Twins game tonight.

It’s “Deckstravaganza” at Target Field tonight and there are a number of famous, infamous and notorious Twins social media types enjoying the game from the Budweiser roof deck at the ballpark.

I’m not sure what that has to do with the game itself, but I hope they are all having a good time.

P.S. Per the Strib’s LaVelle E. Neal III’s pre-game blog post, Kernels’ hitting coach Tommy Watkins has joined the Twins’ coaching staff for September. Tommy’s a great guy and it’s terrific that he’s getting this opportunity! – JC

BLUE JAYS

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TWINS
Reyes, SS Presley, CF
Kawasaki, 2B Mastroianni, RF
Encarnacion, DH Dozier, 2B
Lind, 1B Willingham, DH
Lawrie, 3B Plouffe, 3B
Sierra, RF Arcia, LF
Arencibia, C Colabello, 1B
Gose, CF Pinto, C
Pillar, LF Florimon, SS
  _Happ, P   _Correia, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Toronto 5 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 3 11 15 1
Minnesota 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 11 0

That was a game that started badly and never got better.

Shut Down Joe Mauer. Now.

It occurs to me that since I’ve been a little preoccupied with writing about the Cedar Rapids Kernels the past five months, I have written very little about the Minnesota Twins.

Now that the Kernels’ season has come to a close, I’m going to try to remedy that situation and I’m going to begin by posing a question to the Twns’ front office: Why the heck have you not announced that you are shutting Joe Mauer down for the season?

I mean it. Shut Joe Mauer down and do it right frigging now!

I know he wants to play. I know he wants to put on the gear and get behind the plate again this season. I know he doesn’t like sitting and watching his team mates play (and frankly, many days, the rest of us aren’t enjoying it much either).

I don’t care. He is not (or at least he shouldn’t be) the one calling the shots.

Check out these quotes that Star-Tribune beat reporter LaVelle E. Neal III attributed to Mauer in Neal’s blog post Thursday:

“I start feeling symptoms when I start to get my heart rate up,” Mauer said between workouts at Target Field on Thursday.

Mauer is determined to return to the Twins lineup before the end of the regular season – but he has to wait until the symptoms go away for good.

“This process has been a little longer than I hoped,” Mauer said.

Tell me that doesn’t sound like something we might have heard Justin Morneau say during the summer of 2010.

That summer, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com authored a piece on the concussions of Morneau and Jason Bay, and quoted another former member of the Twins, Corey Koskie, extensively. This quote from Koskie should resound with Twins fans who think Mauer should return to the field for any part of what’s left of this third straight lost season:

Koskie doesn’t profess to know everything about concussions, but he’s compiled a list of “do’s” and “don’ts.” He advises any athlete with concussion symptoms to consult a doctor with no vested interest in the player’s return to the field. His blood pressure also spikes when he reads a news story that Player X suffered a “mild” concussion in the line of duty.

“That’s a pet peeve of mine,” Koskie said. “The brain is the most important organ in the body. You’d never hear somebody say, ‘This guy just had a minor heart attack. He should be able to play in two days.’ ”

When Morneau caught a knee to the helmet in Toronto three years ago, he was hitting .345 and had an OPS of 1.055. Last week he was traded for two guys 99% of us had never heard of.

Joe Mauer

Joe Mauer

Look, I’ve got plans to attend a Twins game a week from Saturday (assuming I survive the #GrandDrunkRailroad pregame festivities) and I’d like to see Mauer play. I don’t care if he doesn’t hit home runs, I appreciate what he does with a bat and he’s almost certainly going to be enshrined in Cooperstown someday. I want to see him play any chance I can get.

But Justin Morneau’s career path was just as promising as Joe Mauer’s three seasons ago and a concussion that was originally thought to be minor robbed Twins fans of getting to see him at his best in his prime… not to mention robbing us of the opportunity to see what difference he might have made in a couple of Twins’ postseason appearances in 2010 and 2011.

I want to see the Twins improve in 2014 and I want to see them return to contention in 2015 and beyond. The Twins organization has a number of very good prospects who will be arriving by then.

But if prospects like Miguel Sano or Byron Buxton had been concussed with three or four weeks left in their seasons, is there any way the Twins WOULDN’T just shut them down immediately rather than try to get them back on the field for a couple weeks at the end of the season, even if it might involve minor league postseason games?

There is no way they would take that kind of risk with such critical assets.

After all, the chances of the Minnesota Twins returning to relevancy in the next few years depend on a healthy Miguel Sano and a healthy Byron Buxton.

They also depend on a healthy Joe Mauer.

And the remaining games on the Twins’ schedule are every bit as meaningless as minor league games are, at this point. They simply do not matter at all, except for the purpose of evaluating players with an eye toward what, if any, roles they should play on a future Twins roster.

The Twins need to find out if Josmil Pinto and Chris Herrmann can handle catching at the Major League level. They need to find out if Chris Colabello and Chris Parmelee can hit Major League pitching well enough to take over at first base.

There may be a legitimate question as to what position Joe Mauer should play in the future, but there is absolutely no question concerning whether he’ll have a role somewhere – unless he tries to return too soon from his concussion and spends an offseason dealing with symptoms the way Morneau did leading up to 2011.

If the Twins’ brass ask Mauer if he wants to continue to work toward getting back on the field this season, of course he’s going to say, “yes.” He’s a competitor and you would expect no other answer.

That’s why the question shouldn’t even be asked.

The Twins should simply tell Mauer his season is over and he should focus on being ready to take the field when pitchers and catchers report to spring training in February.

Doing otherwise is illogical and perhaps even irresponsible.

- JC

Several Kernels Shooting for Two Rings in Two Years

In baseball’s postseason, “every single pitch is so important; every at-bat, no matter what inning.”

That was Cedar Rapids Kernels third baseman Travis Harrison talking after Monday’s regular season finale about the playoffs, which start for the Kernels Wednesday night in Davenport against the Quad Cities River Bandits.

Harrison knows what he’s talking about, too. He was a member of the rookie level Elizabethton Twins team that won the Appalachian League a year ago.

Travis Harrison and Niko Goodrum are going for back to back championships

Travis Harrison and Niko Goodrum are going for back to back championships

Elizabethton won two “best-of-three games” series to claim the league title last year, but Harrison and his teammates will need to do that much this year just to earn a berth in the Midwest League Championship Series as the representative of the league’s Western Division.

If they can best the River Bandits in the first best-of-three series, they’ll take on the survivor of a similar series between Clinton and Beloit in another best-of-three challenge. The Championship Series between the Eastern and Western Division representatives is a best-of-five games series that will decide who wears the Midwest League crown for 2013.

Cedar Rapids has not worn that crown since 1994 and has not qualified for the league Championship Series since 1997.

The Kernels finished the 2013 season with an 88-50 record overall. They secured a playoff spot with a second place finish in the first half of their season with a 40-28 record and then improved to a 48-22 record to finish first in the Western Division in the second half of the season.

Their 88 wins equals the most wins for a Cedar Rapids team since joining the Midwest League in 1962. To provide context, if applied to a Major League team’s 162 schedule, the Kernels’ winning percentage would have them on pace to win 103 games.

This playoff thing may be relatively new to Kernels fans, who haven’t seen their team play in the postseason since 2010, but almost half the Kernels’ current roster were with the Appalachian League Champions in Elizabethton a year ago.

In addition to Harrison, infielders Niko Goodrum and Jorge Polanco, outfielders Max Kepler and Adam Brett Walker, catcher Bo Altobelli and pitchers Brett Lee, Jose Berrios, and Hudson Boyd all saw playoff action with Elizabethton. Mason Melotakis, Dallas Gallant and Michael Quesada were also members of that Championship team during the course of the 2012 season.

Melotakis made two postseason appearances with the Beloit Snappers’ Midwest League playoff team at the end of 2012.

A number of other players that spent time with the Kernels this season, including Byron Buxton and Dalton Hicks, were also members of the champions from “E’town”. Hicks hit a walk-off grand slam home run in the 12th inning of the deciding game of the championship series.

Walker believes the postseason experience he and his teammates are getting is part of their development. “Going out there and having a series where everything’s on the line. I think it’s pretty important. It’s an exciting feeling to be able to get that experience.”

With a smile, Walker added, “I know if you get in the big leagues it’s going to be a little bit different.”

Adam Brett Walker lines a home run vs Clinton on September 2

Adam Brett Walker lines a HR vs Clinton on September 2

It has been a long season for the Kernels players, especially those such as Harrison and Walker, who have both been a part of the Kernels since Opening Day, 138 games ago.

That doesn’t matter, according to Harrison. “The playoffs are totally different. You just have to grind it out. If you’re sore, it just goes away. You’ve got so much adrenaline, you’re just ready to go. It’s a good time.”

Quesada believes the Kernels are ready. “We’ve got all the confidence in the world, especially after last year. We’ve got the pitching, got the hitting. It’s all ready to come together at one time.”

Walker remembers that championship feeling and is ready for more. “We know what it feels like. It’s a really great feeling to be able to go out there and win a championship.”

Harrison perhaps summed up the feelings best. “First two years, two rings. That would be pretty cool.”

- JC

Ghost of Twins Past Haunts the Twins’ Future

Scott Baker, Kane County Cougar

Scott Baker, Kane County Cougar

Almost exactly six years ago, I sat several rows up from home plate as Scott Baker took a perfect game in to the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals. While he didn’t complete his date with immortality, it was the closest I’ve ever come to seeing a Major League no-hitter in person.

On Wednesday night, I watched Baker continue to try to work his way back to the Big Leagues with the Chicago Cubs with a rehabilitation start for the Kane County Cougars against the future Twins suiting up for the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

I never saw Baker get above 86 mph on the scoreboard, so even giving him an extra tick or two due to the Cedar Rapids scoreboard’s reputation for being slightly slower than the speed guns of the scouts who perch directly behind home plate most nights, the former Twins pitcher never hit any higher than 88 mph and he didn’t mix in more than a couple of off-speed pitches each inning.

But on this night, that was good enough to handcuff the Kernels as only a fifth inning infield single by Adam Brett Walker kept Baker from completing five perfect innings. Jorge Polanco and Travis Harrison each reached the warning track off of Baker in their first plate appearances of the night, but that was the closest anyone came to doing any damage to the former Twins star.

Jose Berrios

Jose Berrios

Jose Berrios, the 19-year-old that Twins fans hope will be one of the anchors of a future Twins rotation, fared far worse.

Berrios has been tabbed as the starting pitcher in the first game of the Kernels’ postseason next Wednesday, but tonight he struggled with his control. Berrios walked three hitters and gave up five hits, including two home runs, as the Kernels fell 9-1 to Baker’s Kane County Cougars.