ASG Weekend Reflections

The big All-Star bash in Minneapolis is behind us now and by most accounts, it was somewhere between very successful and close to perfect.

I saw the Futures Game/Celebrity Softball Game in person on Sunday and watched the Home Run Derby and ASG on the tube. My conclusion is that, while I wouldn’t say it was all perfectly staged and performed, the Twin Cities and those from MLB and the Twins who were involved all did themselves proud.

It was the kind of event that could make us feel proud to call ourselves Twins fans (and there haven’t been many events like that over the past few years).

A list of the things I didn’t like would be short. Too much Jeter (but we knew there would be) and too little Gwynn (none at all, really). I also really didn’t like the special caps for the ASG. That just seems like an over-the-top money grab by MLB to sell more stuff. I’d rather see the players in some version of their regular uniforms, including the cap.

The rain delay at the HR Derby on Monday sucked. But the rainbow over the Plaza almost made the rain delay worthwhile in itself. I’m sure there were a few people moaning about the lack of a roof, but I think most of us stopped listening to those idiots years ago.

The new HR Derby format didn’t exactly work the way people thought (or hoped) it would. Oh well, try something different next time.

I had some family with me this trip and that meant visits to the Mall of America on Friday night and Saturday.

I know a lot of people roll their eyes at going to MOA, but I’ve never been too averse to it. Walking around the Mall brings back some memories of visits there when our kids were young and it was a bit of an adventure.

I tire quicker these days, of course, but I’ve never had trouble finding an open bar stool for a rest and I rested at the Sky Deck Grille and Kokomos for quite a bit of my time at MOA.

Sunday, the family got in some pool time at the hotel before we hopped on the light rail to Target Field for the Futures Game. It was my 11-month old grandson’s first venture in to a swimming pool and his first time at a Big League ballpark. So that was cool.

grandson Jack

grandson Jack in the hotel pool

We pretty much took over the first row of Section C in the Legends Club for the Sunday activities. Getting through a full Futures Game, a half hour or more “intermission” and a six-inning softball game with various interviews slowing things down between innings was a bit much for me, so I have no idea how an 11-month old endured it, but he did.

My grandson's first trip to Target Field. Kind of gave "Futures Game" a different meaning to me.

My grandson’s first trip to Target Field. Kind of gave “Futures Game” a different meaning to me.

I enjoyed watching Kennys Vargas and Alex Meyer and I was really excited to see Jose Berrios start for the World team.

When the Twins announced their affiliation with the Cedar Rapids Kernels starting in 2013, I started looking forward to being able to see guys I’d been watching in Kernels uniforms play in Target Field.

Berrios was the first of the 2013 crop of Kernels I got to see there and it just has me even more anxious to see the arrival of a few of his Kernels teammates with the Twins in coming years.

All three of the Twins prospects did just fine in the game. Nobody “starred,” but that’s OK. Let’s not forget, these three guys aren’t the organization’s top 3 prospects, but they held their own (or better).

The future is bright for the Twins, if I can just manage to live long enough to see it.

Jose Berrios, former CR Kernel, future Minnesota Twin

Jose Berrios, former CR Kernel, future Minnesota Twin

The cramped rail-ride back to Bloomington was probably the worst part of the day, but at least I could collapse at the hotel when it was over.

Monday morning, we packed up and headed back to Cedar Rapids, getting there well before the HR Derby’s scheduled start. Of course, it turned out the actual start was delayed about an hour by rain anyway.

The ovations for Justin Morneau and Brian Dozier were terrific and I thought the crowd did a nice job of showing appreciation for all the participants.

I felt a bit bad for Yasiel Puig. I’m not sure if he just was too amped up or what. And did nobody tell him he should enlist his favorite BP pitcher to throw to him? Odd. Anyway, I suspect he’ll do better in a future Derby.

If I’m being completely honest, I was just really glad it wasn’t Morneau or Dozier that got shutout.

I watched the first couple innings of the All-Star Game itself at my favorite local bar. They had music playing, so I was spared the need to mute the TV. Of course, that meant I missed what most seem to think was a pretty good National Anthem (though FOX totally blew off the Canadian Anthem, which I thought was tacky on their part).

Looked like a great flyover, too. I love those.

I guess I have to give my thoughts on the Jeter-fest.

I’d like to get a real good case of Jeter-hate up, but I just can’t.

Yes, I hate the Yankees and that’s largely because of Yankee fans, so it’s usually pretty easy for me to really dislike individual Yankee players. But I reserve most of my dislike for the mercenaries who grab the Yankee dough after spending their best years elsewhere.

Jeter didn’t do that. And, at least at the ballpark, from what I can tell, he’s conducted himself in a pretty honorable manner through the years. I can appreciate that, even in a Yankee.

Is he over-rated? Oh yeah, definitely. But playing for the Yankees isn’t always easy, as others have found out, so maybe a guy who plays there and plays very well for 20 years should get a little credit for that.

That said, I would agree that his career warranted an ASG send off closer to the one Chipper Jones got. It just wasn’t realistic to expect that would happen.

So, I thought he, MLB, the Twins and the Target Field crowd did about the best job that could have been expected of balancing proper appreciation with he inevitable ESPN/FOX overkill of the situation.

I admit, too, that I was pleasantly surprised that Mike Trout got the ASG MVP award, rather than Jeter. Again, some bias there at seeing another former Kernels player out-do the “face of baseball.”

By the way, that whole “face of baseball” thing is a crock. First, there IS no face of baseball. This isn’t the NBA and we don’t need hyped up media megastars to survive.

Trout is the best player in the game and he’s only 22 years old (for about another month), but the media will never allow him to reach the hype level of Jeter – because he’s not a Yankee. It’s really that simple.

There will be no more “face of baseball” hype until the next time there’s a Yankee with the pedigree to allow Yankee fans, MLB and ESPN to bang the drum loud enough to proclaim him as such.

Hopefully, that will take a REALLY long time. Like forever.

It was good to see Pat Neshek participating. You can’t help but feel just how important this unimportant game was to him after all he’s been through.

Sure, there were more deserving pitchers that could have been selected (but not as many as some people think), but as long as you’re going to give the ASG manager some latitude on picks, you’re going to get some picks based on his emotions and if that’s going to happen, I’d rather see it happen to guys like Neshek than some others.

I did think he could have done without the bit of Twins front office-bashing he did to the media over the weekend, but he probably has good reason to feel the way he does. Heck, I really wish I could complain that letting Neshek go was the worst decision the Twins have made the last few years.

It’s too bad Neshek got saddled with the loss. His 3B (I don’t even remember who it was) sure didn’t do him any favors with his defense on Trout’s double down the left field line.

The game was at least interesting. Plenty of stars performed well under the spotlight. Some did not (I’m looking at you Robinson Cano).

All in all, as I said, it was an event Twins fans can be proud of.

I took a few pictures on Sunday, so I’ll share some of them here. – JC

Best thing about Budweiser beer

Best thing about Budweiser beer

Alex Meyer

Alex Meyer

Tony Oliva with the first pitch before Futures Game

Tony Oliva with the first pitch before Futures Game

Tony Oliva threw out the first pitch to Kennys Vargas

Tony Oliva threw out the first pitch to Kennys Vargas

Vargas FG

Kennys Vargas

The self serve beer machines seemed to really clog up the concourse. Not sure if it was the people using them or the people gawking at them.

The self serve beer machines seemed to really clog up the concourse. Not sure if it was the people using them or the people gawking at them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rollie Fingers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Larry Fitzgerald

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mike Piazza and Ricky Henderson

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Zach Parise

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Adrian Peterson

 

Episode 92: Reviewing the First Half

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here, and if you want to add the show to your non-iTunes podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.

"Peace to my All Star homies in West Fargo." - Cody Christie, probably

“Peace to my All Star homies in West Fargo.” – Cody Christie, probably

This week we talk all about the first half, the Twins best players and worst players before the All Star break, and what we think might happen in the second half. Jay Corn rags on Joe Mauer, Cody Christie praises Brian Dozier, and Eric Pleiss raves about his boyfriend Phil Hughes.

Join us for the Twins talk, stay for the beers and baseball chatter.

 

I hope you enjoy this special episode.You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs, and you can find Mr. Jay Corn on Twitter (@Jay__Corn)!
If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review our show on iTunes.  iTunes ratings and reviews is how to government funds unemployment.

GameChat – Twins @ Rockies #3, 3:10pm

Am I the only one wondering, “who the heck has time for baseball??”

For the record, I think that is officially the mark of “too busy” and I’ve well and truly passed it.

*sigh*

Minnesota @ Colorado
Dozier, 2B   Blackmon, CF
Suzuki, K, C   Gonzalez, C, RF
Morales, K, 1B   Tulowitzki, SS
Plouffe, 3B   Morneau, 1B
Parmelee, RF   Arenado, 3B
Willingham, LF   Dickerson, LF
Escobar, E, SS   Rosario, W, C
Fuld, CF   LeMahieu, 2B
Hughes, P, P   Anderson, B, P

GameChat – Twins @ Rockies,

Goodness there are a lot of familiar faces wearing the wrong colors tonight.. it’s going to be fun to see how this series goes!

Minnesota @ Colorado
Dozier, 2B Blackmon, LF
Suzuki, K, C Stubbs, CF
Morales, K, 1B Gonzalez, C, RF
Plouffe, 3B Tulowitzki, SS
Arcia, O, RF Morneau, 1B
Nunez, LF Arenado, 3B
Escobar, E, SS Rosario, W, C
Fuld, CF LeMahieu, 2B
Johnson, K, P De La Rosa, J, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 10 0
Colorado 2 1 2 0 0 0 1 0 x 6 11 0

.

GameChat – Twins @ Mariners #4, 9:10pm

Tonight could be interesting for the Mariners – their pitching is going to have to pull a pretty heavy load tonight. Let’s see if our boys can do their job and get the hits we need to give the new kid some support. He did a great job the last time – let’s see if he can’t pull it off again!

Minnesota @ Seattle
Dozier, 2B Chavez, En, LF
Suzuki, K, C Jones, J, CF
Parmelee, 1B Cano, 2B
Morales, K, DH Seager, 3B
Willingham, LF Hart, DH
Arcia, O, RF Morrison, 1B
Plouffe, 3B Saunders, M, RF
Escobar, E, SS Zunino, C
Fuld, CF Bloomquist, SS
  Pino, P   Wilhelmsen, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 4 9 0
Seattle 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 12 1

No, I didn’t make it the end of the game. I’m getting old; I am a wuss; I get up too early; whatever excuse works for you, the fact is that I decided sleep was more important than this game.

However, we WON and I think I saw all the important stuff because not much changed after the 7th inning. Pino continues to do a good job if not eye-broadeningly spectacular (pretty sure I just made up that term). Could the team use that spark if he was? yes. Do I need it to have confidence in his ability? no. I like that he is continuing to build on previous experience and do well when he’s out there. He’ll go deeper into games as he becomes more efficient with his pitches in each at bat. But he’s doing well in my book.

Last night’s win seems to fall on the shoulders of Kendrys Morales who is stepping up his game the way we had hoped he would be able to! It’s still in the early stages of the performance ability he likely expects of himself in this return to baseball but that boy can sure hit the ball and I hope to see a LOT more like it. For that, he is the BOD!

Photo Courtesy of: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy of: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

GameChat – Twins @ Mariners #3, 9:10pm

I think I like the idea of a win streak.. but yeah, gotta admit that staying up late for the end of these games when my mornings are earlier than ever? yeah, that’s rough. But I like seeing a winning boxscore regardless. Make it happen boys!

Minnesota @ Seattle
Dozier, 2B Chavez, En, LF
Nunez, SS Jones, J, CF
Plouffe, 3B Cano, 2B
Morales, K, DH Seager, 3B
Willingham, LF Morrison, 1B
Arcia, O, RF Hart, DH
Suzuki, K, C Saunders, M, RF
Colabello, 1B Zunino, C
Fuld, CF Miller, B, SS
  Gibson, P   Elias, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 1 4 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 8 9 0
Seattle 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 12 1

Nice win for our guys. Jumped on the M’s right from the beginning and didn’t let up.

Good to see Morales do some damage in front of a crowd that apparently isn’t shy about booing the former Mariner.

Kyle Gibson perhaps wasn’t as dominant as it may have appeared, but you can’t do a lot better than not allowing opponents to score. For that, he’s our BOD.

Photo Credit: Betsy Bissen

Photo Credit: Betsy Bissen

Episode 91: The All-Star Game and ERolf’s Solo Podcast

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here, and if you want to add the show to your non-iTunes podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.
doz bomb
For the first time ever we only had one Talk to Contact co-host available for a podcast.  Stepping out into unfamiliar territory, Eric managed to build a 40 minute podcast that wasn’t terrible.  He talked about Twins news from the past week, including Brian Dozier hilariously being added to the Home Run Derby, and talked a lot about what is going on with the pitching staff down in AAA Rochester.
He did the regular beer, news and internet segments, but as a thank you for listening to him babble for 40 minutes, he recorded a special audio production of Patrick Dubuque’s Waiting ’til Next Year for Godot.

I hope you enjoy this special episode.You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs, and you can find Mr. Jay Corn on Twitter (@Jay__Corn)!
If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review our show on iTunes.  iTunes ratings and reviews is how to government funds unemployment.

Hu’s on first? No, he’s pitching (for the Kernels)

The merry-go-round that is a minor league team’s roster continued to spin over the weekend in Cedar Rapids as the Kernels saw two pitchers promoted to high-A Fort Myers, one infielder put on the 7-Day Disabled list and two new pitchers arrive from Elizabethton.

The new pitchers, right handed starting pitcher Chih-Wei Hu and righty bullpen arm Jake Reed, were in uniform for Tuesday night’s series opener with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, won by the Kernels, 15-5.

The two will replace starter Ethan Mildren and co-closer Todd Van Steensel on the Kernels’ pitching staff.

Kernels pitching coach Ivan Arteaga and pitcher Ethan Mildren

Kernels pitching coach Ivan Arteaga and pitcher Ethan Mildren

Mildren has been dominant through his most recent pair of starts, throwing seven shutout innings against Clinton on June 29 and duplicating that feat on Independence Day against Beloit. He allowed just seven hits and three walks over that 14-inning stretch.

Van Steensel had not been charged with allowing a run, earned or otherwise, in his last seven appearances for Cedar Rapids. Overall, he put up a 1.30 ERA covering 34.2 innings of work in 23 appearances in a Kernels uniform.

If early impressions mean anything, Reed will be a capable replacement for Van Steensel in the Kernels bullpen.

The 21-year old righty, drafted in the 5th round out of the University of Oregon last month, threw nothing but shutout innings for the E-Twins in his first six innings of work this season. He struck out eight batters and held opponents to a .053 batting average.against him.

That scoreless streak, however, came to an end in Reed’s first appearance in a Cedar Rapids uniform on Tuesday night. Reed gave up one unearned run in an inning of work on Tuesday night when the first batter he faced reached on a two-base error and came around to score on a subsequent single.

Reed recorded his first strikeout as a Kernel to finish the eighth inning.

The man with the biggest shoes to fill with the Kernels, perhaps, will be Hu.

Cedar Rapids has struggled to find consistency from their rotation and Mildren was just beginning to provide much needed leadership in that area.

Hu will get Mildren’s spot in the rotation and should get his first start for the Kernels on Thursday against the Rattlers, in front of the home crowd.

Like Reed, Hu was off to a strong start for Elizabethton.

The Taichung, Taiwan, native had time to make just three starts for the E-Twins before being promoted. He was 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA. He threw six shutout innings of two-hit baseball in his last start, striking out nine batters in the process.

After watching Hu throw a bullpen session on Tuesday, Kernels pitching coach Ivan Arteaga pronounced the 20-year old Hu, “ready to go.”

“His fastball moves a lot and his slider’s got good rotation,” Arteaga added. “He really competes, according to the reports we got.”

The Kernels played Tuesday a man short on their roster as shortstop Engelb Vielma has been placed on the 7-day DL with concussion symptoms and no corresponding roster move was immediately announced.

Manager Jake Mauer indicated to media after the game that infielder Logan Wade would be re-activated from the DL on Wednesday to replace Vielma. – JC

GameChat – Twins @ Mariners #2, 9:10pm

ah, West Coast baseball… the bane of the working mid-westerner’s existence. Oh well. I guess there is still something to look forward to…

birthday cake

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JIM CRIKKET!!

Maybe the Twins can figure out how to win a game for you since they seem to be lacking in other motivation.

Congrats to Brian Dozier on getting into the Homerun Derby… I’m sure I’m not the only one giggling but I’m sure he’ll have a fantastic time regardless and have a whole heck of lot less pressure on him due to lower expectations. Have FUN Bull Dozer!

Minnesota @ Seattle
Dozier, 2B Saunders, M, RF
Nunez, 3B Jones, J, CF
Suzuki, K, C Cano, 2B
Morales, K, DH Seager, 3B
Willingham, LF Morrison, 1B
Arcia, O, RF Hart, DH
Colabello, 1B Ackley, LF
Escobar, E, SS Zunino, C
Fuld, CF Miller, B, SS
  Hughes, P, P   Young, Cr, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 2 8 0
Seattle 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 0

Well the Twins did, indeed, come through with one heck of a performance for my birthday!

Sam Fuld was 3 for 3, including his first home run in a Twins uniform, and Casey Fien & Glen Perkins combined for 1.2 innings of shutout relief work.

But 7.1 innings of 8-hit, 8-K work from a starting pitcher is something to really celebrate and that earns Phil Hughes our BOD award.

Hopefully, our guys won’t wait all the way until my next birthday before doing this kind of thing again. – JC

Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes

GameChat – Twins # Mariners, 9:10

Another late night series, as the Twins visit the Mariners.

Twins have had almost no luck vs Iwakuma in the past, but hey, you never know, right?

A bit late getting the chat up. Sorry about that.

Minnesota Seattle
Dozier, 2B Saunders, M, RF
Escobar, E, SS Jones, J, CF
Plouffe, 3B Cano, 2B
Morales, K, 1B Hart, DH
Willingham, LF Seager, 3B
Arcia, O, RF Morrison, 1B
Colabello, DH Zunino, C
Fuld, CF Ackley, LF
Fryer, C Miller, B, SS
  Correia, P   Iwakuma, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0
Seattle 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 x 2 5 1

When Kevin Correia gives you a start like that, you really need to take advantage of it and the Twins did not do that. Not sure what it is about Iwakuma that makes him totally unhittable by anyone in a Twins uniform.