You can put it on the board… YES! This week we are joined by lifelong Chicago White Sox fan Tom Flynn (@Mighty_Flynn) to check in on what’s been happening on the South Side of Chicago since the season came to a close. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.
We check in on just about every relevant ex-Twin, including Johan Santana, who threw off a mound for several teams and Matt Garza, who signed with the Brewers. Eric takes the gang through a quick round of pepper and eventually we get around to discussing other happenings in baseball, including the new rule concerning collisions at home plate. Strangely enough, Drew Butera is mentioned a handful of times throughout the podcast and there is even talk of a dog running a sausage race.
Thanks for the download. You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs, and you can find Jay Corn on twitter @Jay__Corn! If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers that will help Johan regain some of his Cy Young prowess.
The win last night was the kind of win that reminds you why they play all nine innings. The Twins came back from an early hole, chipping away, and finally took the lead for the first time in the bottom of the 9th. Anything even half that exciting this evening will be excellent.
Ryan Doumit is back from the DL, and to make room for him the Twins optioned Chris Colabello, who never really looked like the AAA slugger he was early in the year, back to the Minor Leagues.
Episode 20 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
This week Eric and Paul are joined by Ken Boehlke from WBBM Chicago to take a closer look at the Twins division rival Chicago White Sox. After talking with Ken we discuss Bert Blyleven’s place in Twins history, the baseball HOF’s induction process (or lack thereof), and reveal each of our top ten prospect lists going into 2013. We discuss beer, baseball, and not a whole lot else, join us for the twentieth installment of the Talk to Contact Podcast.
If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us become mini-versions of Keith Richards.)
I’m taking advantage of a bit of extra free time I have this afternoon to do another post of random news items (if you use a very generous definition of the word “news”), most of it with an Iowa connection today.
I played hooky this afternoon and watched the Twins and White Sox. True, I had to deal with the Comcast broadcast out of Chicago due to the MLB blackout rules and that means listening to Hawk Harrelson, but that’s what the mute button is for, right? I hear he left the broadcast booth in the 7th inning of the Twins 18-9 blowout of the Sox on Tuesday night and I have to admit I wish I had witnessed that.
As this MLB season winds down, I’m rooting for two things: First, as many of you know, I’m a bit of an Orioles fan, so I still have a team in contention. I still think the Birds are doing it with smoke and mirrors, but I really don’t care how they get the job done, I just want them to beat the Yankees over in the AL East and get in to the playoffs. (Admit it, you wouldn’t mind seeing JJ Hardy and Lew Ford in the playoffs, either.) Second, I’m hoping that the White Sox end up on the outside of the playoffs looking in AND that they finish just close enough that their losses to the Twins this year account for their failure to qualify.
Speaking of playoffs, I’m driving over to Clinton IA this evening to catch game one of the best-of-three playoff series between the Twins’ Midwest League (Class A) affiliate Beloit Snappers and the Clinton LumberKings (Seattle’s affiliate). Clinton finished the MWL regular season on a 10-game winning streak (the last three of which came against my Cedar Rapids Kernels). I saw all three of the Clinton-CR games this past weekend and I think Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and their Beloit teammates have their work cut out for them. Either way, at least I’ll get to check off another MWL ballpark with my visit to Beloit tonight.
There’s nothing really new on the Twins’ affiliation front for 2013. Now that the minor league regular season is over, teams that are interested in exploring new affiliation options (both MLB teams and minor league teams) can notify the MLB Commissioner’s Office or the president of minor league baseball of such. The teams are not allowed to state publicly that they’ve submitted that notification, however.
The powers-that-be will provide a list of potential affiliates to those teams by September 15. Then, and only then, are the various MLB and MiLB clubs able to start negotiating possible new partnerships with one another.
There was a new article posted online at the website of one of the local CR TV stations (KCRG) this week, but it really didn’t tell us much we didn’t already know. KCRG is owned by the same company (SourceMedia) as the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the report was written by the Gazette writer, Jeff Johnson, that covers the Kernels beat. Johnson has written about the affiliation issue a couple of times already this season and I think he has a pretty solid sense of what’s about to happen.
I’m optimistic, at this point, that I’ll be watching future Twins play baseball at Perfect Game Field here in Cedar Rapids for the next few summers, but the Kernels Directors (essentially, the team’s “owners”) still have a few questions they should be asking the Twins (such as, “Are you planning on buying a MWL team and moving it to St. Paul in a couple of years?”) before anyone is going to sign a deal. As soon as I hear more, I’ll post something, but I don’t expect to hear a lot before the end of September.
Since this is an Iowa-centered post on a baseball-centered blog, I thought I would mention this little piece of news, as well.
How many of you have seen the movie “Field of Dreams”? Everyone? I thought so.
How many of you have visited the site near Dyersville, in Eastern Iowa, where the movie was filmed? Did you even know the site has been a mini-tourist attraction, complete with cornfield-bordered baseball field, pretty much ever since the movie was released? No? Well now there’s going to be even more of a reason for you to visit, especially if you have kids who play baseball or softball.
Go the Distance Baseball LLC plans to build a $38 million youth baseball/softball complex at the Field of Dreams site. The complex will include 24 ballfields of varying sizes (over and above the original field, which apparently won’t be altered). The company received approval of a $16.5 million sales tax rebate from the Iowa Legislature & Governor last spring and now have a $5.1 million property tax rebate from the Dyersville City Council, as well.
Here’s the artist’s rendering of the site:
Sounds like Ray Kinsella is hearing more voices, doesn’t it? He and his tractor are going to be kept awfully busy plowing under all those other fields. Almost makes me want to get back in to coaching youth baseball. Almost.
This is rivalry week down here in Iowa. It’s the week of the annual Iowa – Iowa State football game, which I know is of very little interest to much of anyone outside our state’s borders. But it’s a big deal here. It’s in Iowa City this year, which means that’s where I’ll be spending most of my Saturday.
I’m a Hawkeye season ticket holder, but I’m not “anti-ISU” like a lot of people are. I went to high school over in central Iowa, about 40 miles from Iowa State’s campus in Ames. My parents were even ISU season ticket holders for a few years (back in the days when Johnny Majors coached the Cyclones), so I saw a game or two back then. I enjoy taking jabs at my ISU-fan friends and co-workers, but I really don’t mind them having some success on the football field from time to time.
But not this Saturday.
The trophy case in the Iowa football complex that is built to hold the various traveling trophies that the Hawkeyes play for is empty at the moment, with all three of them currently in the possession of various rivals. It’s time the Cy-Hawk Trophy resumes its rightful place in Iowa City.
It may feel a bit lonely for a while, but come September 29, after the Gophers have been sent packing, Floyd of Rosedale will be there to keep it company.
There are six teams in the American League with losing records, and three of those teams are in the American League Central. In fact, the three teams with the worst records in the AL are all in the Central, the Indians 54-65, the Royals 52-66, and the Twins bringing up the rear at 50-68. While none of the other AL division races are particularly close (Yankees lead the Rays and Orioles by 6 and 7 games respectively, and the Rangers lead the Athletics and Angels by 5 and 7 games respectively), the top two teams in the Central are separated by just a game and a half. The White Sox are 65-53 while the Tigers 64-55 (and tied with the Orioles for the 2nd Wild Card spot).
Overall the standings in the AL Central look like this:
Chicago White Sox 65-53, 5-5 in their last 10, +72 run differential, 92% chance to make the postseason
The White Sox lead the Central on the strength of their pitchers. They lead the Central in runs against per game at 4.12 (more than a full run per game ahead of the Twins 5.19) and are the only team in the division with an ERA under 4, despite playing half of their games in the homer-friendly environment at US Cellular Field.
Detroit Tigers 64-55, 1.5 GB, 5-5 in their last 10, +27 run differential, 64.5% chance to make the postseason
Despite having Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer (who are 1-2 in the AL in Strikeouts (180 and 178), the rest of the Tigers pitching staff, combined with a terrible defensive lineup are making it too easy for their opponents to put runs on the board. Detroit is winning despite their pitching and defense thanks in large part to their offensive performances. The Tigers lead the AL Central in batting average (.270), On Base Percentage (.338) and Slugging (.428).
Cleveland Indians, 54-65, 11.5 GB, 4-6 in their last 10, -113 run differential, 0.1% chance to make the postseason
The Tribe again started off the 2012 season playing good baseball (44-41 in the first half) as they had a year ago, but just like in 2011, the wheels have fallen off for the Indians are the All-Star Break (10-24). Cleveland has given up as many runs per game as the Twins (5.19), and they’ve been pretty bad offensively as well, leading to a division and American League worst -113 run differential (in all of baseball, only the Rockies, -114, and the Astros, -154 are worse).
Kansas City Royals, 52-66, 13 GB, 7-3 in their last 10, -51 run differential, 0.1% chance to make the postseason
2012 was supposed to be the year the Royals starting putting everything together, right? Most of the talent from their loaded farm system was going to making the transition to Major League Baseball and the team was a popular preseason pick to surprise. Maybe the baby-Royals are still adjusting, they’re one of the worst fielding teams in the American League in terms of Fielding% and have committed to most errors in the Central. The Royals have struggled to produce front of the rotation starters and once again Royals fans must endure another year of failure and hope for the best in 2013.
Minnesota Twins, 50-68, 15 GB, 3-7 in their last 10, -86 run differential, 0.1% chance to make the postseason
And then there are the Twins. You know all about their struggles in 2012. Poor starting pitching, streaky offense, mediocre defense, and the Twins’ 7-8-9 hitters are batting a combined .235. September is coming, and with the turn of the calendar will come plenty of Minor League prospects hoping to impress down the stretch and captivate Twins fans while the season continues to spiral down the tubes.
The White Sox and the Tigers can realistically both make the playoffs and should still be playing meaningful baseball into the last week of the season. For the rest of the division, it is time to start looking to the future.
Not surprising really that the White Sox released the news before the Twins did so, but regardless, Francisco Liriano is now a Chicago White Sox (Sock?).
In return, the Sox sent two young players who have primarily been minor leaguers, though both have already spent some time in the Big Leagues with the BitchSox.
Lefty pitcher Pedro Hernandez recently made his MLB debut with a four-inning start. He gave up 8 runs (3 homers). I guess his 18.00 ERA is bound to improve, right? The 23 year old Venezuelan has been a starting pitcher pretty much his entire minor league career. He’s got a 3.42 career MiLB ERA and a 1.240 WHIP in his six minor league seasons. In rookie leagues, he was striking out about a hitter per inning, but that rate has dropped as he’s progressed through the levels. Thus far in 2012, with time in AA and AAA, he’s sporting a 5.7 K/9 rate and walking 2.2 hitters per 9 innings. Hernandez is just 5′ 10″, but he weighs in at an even 200 pounds.
The other player coming to the Twins is also a 5′ 10″ 23 year old Venezuelan. However, infielder Eduardo Escobar is just 165 pounds. That’s a good thing, because if he carried Hernandez’ weight, he wouldn’t be “hitting his weight” this season (he’s hit .195 in 32 games for Chicago this season). He has just 99 career plate appearances for Chicago (92 this season). He appears to essentially be a utility infielder, but he’s going to have to learn how to do something with the bat if he’s going to have any kind of career. Escobar has a .270/.315/.351 split in 6 minor league seasons.
I’m sure we’ll learn more about these players in the coming hours and days. Frankly, if Hernandez turns out to be at least a replacement level starting pitcher, then this return is about all I was expecting for Liriano. There’s no doubt in my mind that his implosion in hs last start cost the Twins something in trade value.
Thanks for the memories, Frankie. I wish I could wish you good luck in the future, but given where you’ll be playing, I just can’t bring myself to do so. I do thank you for the good times and I’ll try not to think too much about the bad times.
Matt Capps has been officially placed on the Disabled List and Tyler Robertson has been called up from AAA Rochester to join the Twins. Wether or not he makes his MLB debut tonight will depend on Francisco Liriano‘s ability to work effectively and efficiently (the latter something he rarely accomplishes). In addition to beating Jake Peavy and his 2.74 ERA the Twins will have to battle Chicago’s newest addition, Kevin Youkilis, batting in the 2 hole for the south-siders.
Ruined the big first game of Kevin Youkilis as a White Sox… check. Put an end to the “Jake Peavy has a perfect 0.00 ERA at Target Field” nonsense… check. Beat the Bitch Sox… CHECK!
The top 3 guys in the order combined for nine hits tonight but the obvious Boyfriend of the Day award winner was Francisco Liriano. It wasn’t a no-hitter like the last time he started a game against the Sox, but he arguably actually pitched better tonight. Seven innings, 4 hits, 5 Ks, only one walk and just one run. Can’t beat that! – JC
That’s the worst record in baseball. All of the hopes that Twinsville had for this team to at least be competitive coming in to the season have pretty much been flushed down the drain. I don’t think you’ll find any writer or fan holding on to the, “we’ll be fine if we can just turn this thing around,” lifeline at this point. Everyone seems to want GM Terry Ryan to just blow this thing up and start rebuilding for 2014 and beyond, right?
Well… maybe not quite everyone. At least not quite yet.
I’m as frustrated as anyone, especially with some of the flat out ugly baseball being played by the Twins. I’ve seen and heard enough of the Target Field Circus, thank you very much. For that reason alone, I’m on board with many of the roster moves that the Twins have made recently.
But before we completely write off this season, I think we need to ask ourselves two questions.
First… has anything gone right?
The reason you ask that question is to attempt to identify what’s gone wrong. If you can’t identify anything that’s gone right, then fine… blow up the roster and start over. But I don’t think that’s really the case.
Going in to the season, there were a handful of things that I felt needed to fall in to place for the Twins to be anything remotely resembling a contending baseball team:
Mauer, Morneau and Span needed to be healthy and productive;
They needed Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit to adequately replace the bats lost in Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel;
They needed improved defense, especially up the middle of the infield and in at least one corner outfield spot;
They needed to hope they could find enough arms to piece together a bullpen that would be able to hold leads and keep games from getting out of hand late; and
They needed improved starting pitching.
Obviously, the jury is still out on Justin Morneau, but I have to admit that if you had told me going in to the season that Mauer and Span would be putting up the numbers they’re putting up while playing almost every game, I’d have been happy to take those results. I’m also quite satisfied with Willingham and Doumit, at this point. The middle infield play has been far better than it was a year ago and while the outfield hasn’t been spectacular, I don’t hold my breath every time a ball is hit to one of the corner OF spots, so that’s a step up. The bullpen has actually been a pleasant surprise. (Be honest… how many people would have been willing to bet Matt Capps would not have blown a save yet at this point in the season?)
Frankly, while you can certainly improve other things here or there, it has been the rotation that has been almost exclusively responsible for where this team is sitting in the standings right now.
The second question we need to ask ourselves pertains to our expectations. How far behind the Division leaders did you think the Twins might possibly be by this point in the season?
When I looked at the goofy schedule that MLB put together for the Twins’ first six weeks, there was little doubt in my mind that they’d be at least 6-7 games out of first place at this point. True, I would have predicted that the Detoit Tigers would be at least six games over .500, while I don’t think anyone would have looked at the scheduled opponents for the Twins’ first 34 games and predicted a .500 record. Instead, the Tigers are right at .500 with a 17-17 record, while the Division-leading Cleveland Indians are just one game better at 18-16.
The Twins have faced AL East teams 17 times already. The Tribe: 7 games against the East. Detroit just nine games. At the same time, Cleveland has already accumulated an 8-7 record against other AL Central teams and Detroit is 7-4 within the Division. The White Sox, sitting in 3rd place in the Division at the moment, have already faced Divisional foes 18 times, putting up a 9-9 record. None of those intradivisional records include any games with the Twins, yet, as Minnesota’s played just two games within the Division, splitting a pair against the Royals.
So, what’s my point?
That’s a fair question.
My point is not to say that this is a Twins team destined to bring home a Championship. It’s not even to say that this team looks like it has the potential to be a very good team. But then, I didn’t believe this team would fall in to either of those categories when they broke camp in Fort Myers.
What I believed then was that, if things fell in to place and management was willing/able to make key adjustments when necessary, this team could be competitive within their Division (at least competitive enough to make them remain fun to watch)… provided that the Tigers didn’t run away and hide from everyone (which I really didn’t expect them to do).
So I guess my point is that I still believe that’s possible.
The Tigers have certainly done their part by underperforming against expectations and nobody else in the AL Central is very good.
If the Twins can get more performances out of their rotation like they’ve gotten out of Scott Diamond and PJ Walters, and fewer like they’ve gotten out of Francisco Liriano, the next couple of months could be very interesting to watch.
The Twins spend the next eight weeks playing games within their division and interleague games. Of their six interleague series opponents, only the Reds (17-16) have won more games than they’ve lost. Meanwhile, Cleveland will spend the last week of June and most of July facing AL East teams and interleague games include series against the NL Central leading Cardinals, as well as two other teams with winning records (two series with the Reds and one vs. the Marlins). The Tigers spend the end of May and first few days of June matched up with the Red Sox and Yankees and after interleague play (which also includes a series against the Cardinals) finish the month of June by spending a week visiting the Rangers and Rays. Their July is sprinkled liberally with other AL East teams, as well as the Angels. Meanwhile, the only series the Twins have with an AL East team between now and August is a mid-July series in Target Field against the Orioles.
If the Twins only win 10 of their next 34 games, then I’m on board with everyone else… put up the Yard Sale sign and sell off any asset you can get a fair return for.
But the more I look at the schedule… and what other teams in the AL Central Division have done… the less I feel like there’s any real rush to make drastic and irreversible decisions. The starting pitching needs to be better than it has been… pure and simple. But if that can be accomplished, I see no reason this Twins team shouldn’t still be able to live up to our limited expectations of them before the season started.
UPDATE (2/14/2012): We can’t say the White Sox haven’t added anybody any more. They signed Kosuke Fukudome. It’s tempting to make fun of the deal, but it’s really a no-risk deal for the Sox since they got him for little more than the league minimum in 2012 and have an option for 2013 that would cost them just another $500K to buy out. – JC
Sometimes I wonder if the Twins actually have a true “rivalry” with any other MLB team. I think we’re all tired of getting our brains beat in by the Yankees every series, whether in the regular season or post-season, but everyone hates the Yankees and, after all, a true rivalry requires some level of mutual dislike, doesn’t it? I’m not altogether sure that Yankee fans even realize the Twins play in the same league as their team.
The closest thing to a rivalry the Twins have probably has to be with the White Sox (or BitchSox, as Batgirl taught us to refer to them). I admit that they’re the AL Central Division team I’ve come to know and despise the most.
I look at the SouthSiders as pretty much the “anti-Twins” organization. Even the way their front office operates has pretty much been the polar opposite of the Twins’ method of operating. Their approach seems to be to headline-making trades, without regard for fiscal issues, in a nearly annual attempt to “win it all” and if (more like “when”) that doesn’t work, blow things up and do it all over again.
GM Kenny Williams has been making noises about blowing the team up this off-season, but has he really done that? Let’s take a look.
Standings: 3rd place AL Central by 16 games behind Tigers
Playoffs: None. Their last playoff appearance was in 2008 (a memory Twins fans would just as soon forget)
Players of Note Lost: P Mark Buehrle, OF Carlos Quentin, P Sergio Santos, P Jason Frasor
Players of Note Added: Nobody whatsoever
M*A*S*H unit: P Jake Peavy has yet to prove healthy enough to make any significant contribution to the White Sox. Other than that, however, the Sox really can’t blame their misfortunes on injuries. Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham all stayed quite healthy in 2011… they just sucked at baseball.
Outlook: Between the four players noted above and Edwin Jackson, who the Sox shipped away during the middle of 2011, Williams has cleared about $40 million of payroll. If they open the season with what’s currently on their roster, they’ll be shelling out close to $10 million less in salary than the Twins will. Well over half of the Sox current contractual commitments for 2012 is wrapped up in four players. Ordinarily, that may not be such a big deal, but when three out of those four big ticket ballplayers have produced the way Peavy, Dunn and Rios have, that’s a problem.
While Twins fans fret over whether Justin Morneau will return to health sufficiently to see a reasonable return on the team’s remaining financial commitment ($15 million in 2012 and again in 2013), the Sox faithful are left wondering whether Adam Dunn will produce at a level to earn his $15 million salary this season… or next season… or the season after that.
And if you think it’s tough wondering whether Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano and Nick Blackburn will bounce back from their struggles a year ago, I’d rather take my chances with that trio than hoping that Jake Peavy will finally earn the money the Sox are paying him… an amount, by the way, that will be half a million dollars more than what the Twins will pay Baker, Liriano and Blackburn, combined.
The Sox still have Paul Konerko anchoring the middle of their batting order, but unless Rios and Dunn find their grooves, it’s difficult to imagine where their offense will come from. They also still have Gavin Floyd and John Danks in their rotation and it sounds like they’ll be adding Chris Sale. That means, however, that Sale won’t be available out of the bullpen and without Santos (last year’s closer), former Twin Jesse Crain could finally get his shot at being a closer. Lefty Matt Thornton may be another option.
Of course, the guy Twins fans may miss the most isn’t even a player. Manager Ozzie Guillen has taken his talents to South Beach (along with arguably his best pitcher, Mark Buehrle), so we’ll all miss Ozzie’s colorful post-game press conferences. Robin Ventura, who has zero managing experience, will take over the Sox clubhouse.
In the end, the White Sox have perhaps even more question marks than the Twins do and I don’t think they’re going to like how those questions are answered. I’m picking the Sox to pull up the rear of the AL Central in 2012. They may not lose 99 games the way the Twins did while finishing last in 2011… but then again, they might.
The last ten games have not been kind to our Twins and after Monday night’s fiasco, I’m not sure this countdown exercise is even worth doing any more, but we’ll give it one more shot.
With eight of the last 10 games coming against the two teams at the top of the AL Central Standings, they had an opportunity to make some real headway, but the lack of anything resembling MLB-caliber hitting in those series pretty much ended any chance of closing ground.
I still maintain that these series weren’t as critical as others made them out to be, but there’s no doubt it was an opportunity lost. And what’s particularly disheartening is just how flat-out BAD the Twins have looked in virtually every aspect of the game of baseball.
We started this countdown when the Twins had 100 games remaining to their season and trailed the Tigers by 10 games. The theory was that they need to gain one game every ten games through the rest of the season in order to win the division.
Once again, since I’m maintaining my stance that Cleveland will not remain in contention throughout the season, let’s check in on the REAL AL Central Standings with the Twins having 60 games remaining.
TWINS GAMES REMAINING: 60
Not surprisingly, the Twins lost ground over the past 10 games to both the Kitties and the BitchSox. They’ve now fallen behind the pace they needed to set when we started this… gaining an average of one game every ten games played. They’ll need to make up some ground over the next ten games to get back on pace.