Episode 101: A Fan’s View, with Howard Sinker

This week Eric and Jay are joined by long time podcast friend Chuck Ruether and new podcast friend Howard Sinker, from the Star Tribune.

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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.

Lots of chatter about the end of the season, what to look forward to in 2015, and how the Twins might go about finding a new manager, if they ever get around to getting rid of their current one.

Then plenty of the regular beer, baseball, and the news.

Thanks for listening, folks!

Enjoy the show.

If you enjoy our podcast, please tell your friends about us and take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are how we pay for beer when we’re between paychecks.

If I Owned the Twins

I’ve been a bit out of touch with Twinsville for a couple of weeks as I’ve had some business travel and other non-Twins-related matters to occupy most of my time.

I did catch up a bit on my Twins reading in the past day or so, however, and – well – let’s just say I’ve been much more interested in the writing about the Twins than I have been with what’s transpired on the field with the Twins.

I read the columns by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s baseball writers and columnists recently, in which they were asked to share their ideas concerning what the Twins need to do to “fix” the sorry state of affairs at Target Field.

Jim Souhan believes manager Ron Gardenhire has to go.

Patrick Reusse believes the Twins need coaches who relate better to the increasing (and increasingly important) Latino segment of their roster.

LaVelle E. Neal wants the Twins to do whatever it takes to add an “ace” at the top of their rotation.

Phil Miller says, as hard as it may be to do so, the answer is patience, as we await the imminent arrival of some outstanding young prospects.

Their respective articles reflect opinions I think we’ve all heard voiced many times as this fourth consecutive 90-loss season has been completing its death spiral.

The only near unanimous opinion is, as TwinsDaily’s Nick Nelson penned this week, “The Twins Have a Problem.”

After doing all that reading, I paused and contemplated what it must be like right now to be Jim Pohlad.

I honestly believe he’s embarrassed by what his team has become – an irrelevant organization. The Twins are irrelevant among their MLB brethren. They are irrelevant within the Minnesota professional sports scene.

Owner Jim Pohlad, GM Terry Ryan and President Dave St. Peter

Owner Jim Pohlad, GM Terry Ryan and President Dave St. Peter (photo: SD Buhr)

Say what you will about the Pohlad family, they did not get to where they are in life by being irrelevant.

I began to wonder what was going through the Twins’ owner’s mind these days as he prepares for, perhaps, the most difficult offseason since the passing of his father, Carl. Maybe Jim is asking himself, “WWCD?” What Would Carl Do?

Naturally, that led me to ponder what I would do if I were in Pohlad’s shoes. What steps would I take to make sure I never, ever, felt like this going in to an offseason again.

One awful season was an unpleasant aberration. Two was uncomfortable. Three was painful. Four is… I don’t even know, but you wouldn’t want to be around me much if I owned a team with the record of abject failure that the Twins have had so far this decade.

I thought all four of the Strib’s writers had good thoughts. I also believe there isn’t a single one of those ideas that would satisfy me if I owned the Twins.

If the four Strib guys worked for me and came to my office with those ideas, here’s what I’d say:

I think you’ve all made valid points. But here’s my problem.

Patience, Phil? I’ve been patient for three years. Don’t talk to me about prospects. Until they prove themselves at Target Field, those guys are nothing but business assets. They represent fluxuating inventory with short shelf lives. You’re not asking me to be patient, you’re asking me to be comatose.

You want me to buy (in money or prospects) an ‘ace,’ LaVelle. Great idea. I’ve been telling my General Manager to feel free to spend more money on whatever he thinks will improve this team. But we can’t force players to sign with us and pretty much every long term, big money, contract for an ‘ace’ that has been signed has turned out to be a bad contract for the team. And I may not be in love with prospects, but I’m not going to give them away in return for an aging pitcher who my stat buddies tell me has seen his best days behind him. If my GM can find an ‘ace’ available on the market who is willing to come to our town or one with enough tread on the tire left to be counted on for a few years of ace-hood that’s available for any trade even close to reasonable, we’ll go get him.

Jim, I really don’t think any manager in history could have won half his games the past four years with the collection of has-beens, wanna-bes and never-weres wearing a Twins uniform, so if you really believe firing Ron Gardenhire is going to fix things, you know a lot less about baseball than most baseball fans. And that’s a tough bar to get under.

Pat, same for you. I think it makes a lot of sense to have more of a Latin-American presence in the clubhouse. But do you think having a dozen Latino coaches would make this team a winner? I don’t. By the way, between the four of you guys, there must be about a zillion years of covering baseball between you, right? How’s your Spanish? I think every coach in our organization should learn Spanish, but I also think every media member who covers baseball should, too, and until you do, you’ve got very little room to criticize.

The problem is that none of your ideas will fix things. Not if that’s all we do.

Our fans aren’t stupid enough to believe that any one player, no matter how good he is, will turn this team in to a contender. Not if he’s a current Tigers ace, LaVelle, and not if he’s a near-certain future Hall of Fame center fielder who hasn’t completed a full game (much less a season) above high-A ball, Phil.

Many of them want Gardy gone. I understand that. But even the Gardy haters don’t really believe replacing him will turn a 90-loss team in to a 90-win team. Replacing even an unpopular manager won’t put butts back in the seats and replacing his staff with five guys from Venezuela won’t, either.

So, no, we’re not going to do a single one of these things.

We’re going to do all of them.

And more.

That’s when I would thank the Strib guys for their time, give them some drink tickets and send them to Hrbeks for a couple of refreshments while I talk to my President and General Manager.

With Dave St. Peter and Terry Ryan in my office, here’s what I lay out for them.

“Gentlemen, the good news for you is that neither of you are fired. Yet.

But I’m tired of losing. I’m tired of losing games and I’m tired of losing fans. And you two may think I don’t know crap about baseball, but I suspect that just maybe losing games and losing fans might be related.

Terry, I tried to tell you a year ago that I was tired of people telling me I’m cheap and won’t spend money for top talent. Some bozo on the internet even made up a parable about it. I want you to go read it and then, Terry, use the damn ladder!

I’ve got a list of the top 20 starting pitchers in baseball, ranked by some goofy thing called WAR. By the date season tickets have to be renewed, one of those guys is going to be working for me, Terry – or you won’t be. Do we understand one another?

Speaking of people working for me, you’re going to go tell Ron Gardenhire that he doesn’t. At least not as my manager.

Gardy’s a helluva guy and he’s had some good days as our manager. We’ll give him a nice watch, but I don’t believe he’s the guy to lead this team for the next 10 years and neither do our fans. Who you hire is your business. I’m just telling you who you’re going to fire.

I take that back, I am going to tell you a little bit about who you’re going to hire.

When spring training opens, I want at least two Latino members on the bench staff.

I mean it, Terry. And I’m not talking about a couple guys who took Spanish class in junior high. I’m going to send Tony Oliva to talk to whoever you hire and they’d better be able to keep up with him in a conversation.

Every company in every industry in this country has been getting on the diversity bandwagon for years. Everyone figured out long ago that having management that can communicate in Spanish is critical to attracting and retaining top Spanish speaking employees. I don’t know why you haven’t figured this out on your own yet, but now I’m telling you.

One more thing, Terry.

If they’re healthy, Alex Meyer, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton will open 2015 with the Twins. How do I know? I heard all about it in the giant advertising campaign that St. Peter and the marketing folks are putting together the moment he walks out of this meeting. Right Dave?

That ad is going to run on the local affiliate carrying the Super Bowl. I want everyone in town talking about the Twins the next day and I want them buying tickets. Lots of tickets.

Dave, I keep reading about how attendance is going to drop next year. I’m telling you that it won’t. If it does, the attendance in your office will drop by one.

Our season ticket holders have been paying Major League prices for minor league performance for four years. I don’t care how far you have to slash prices, you put butts in the seats.

Next summer, people may call us crazy for what we’ve done. They may say we’ve lost our minds. But if they’re still saying the Twins are irrelevant, you two will not be calling me your boss.

Give my love to your families.

And then I think I’d take a very long cruise around the world on a very large boat and look forward to seeing what my team looked like when I got back.

– JC

Episode 100: Remembering the First 100 Episodes (and Derek Jeter)

Welp, we made it to 100 episodes. Thank you to everyone that has listened to us ramble over the past two years. We’ve come a long way from Episode 1 and we’re happy to have you along for the ride. Along the way we picked up a couple of hitch hikers in Cody Christie and Jay Corn, and we have fun every week talking Twins baseball.

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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.

This week we talk about Trevor May, Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco, who all turned in strong performances, and we talk about the trio of Danny Santana, Oswaldo Arcia, and Kennys Vargas forming a young core of talent for future Twins teams.

We spend some time Down on the Pond talking about the most productive Minor League seasons in the Twins system.

Before we sign off we gave Jay time to wax poetic about Derek Jeter as he comes upon the end of his career (sparked by this new ad) and we wrap up Episode 100 talking about beer.

Thank you again for listening to us ramble, and be sure to check out Egon’s Unicat, who have been providing us music for the podcast the entire time we’ve been around!

You are all awesome!

If you enjoy our podcast, please tell your friends about us and take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are how we pay for beer when we’re between paychecks.

“We’ve got to, otherwise we’re dead”

The Minnesota Twins’ front office is going to be faced with making some difficult decisions this offseason – decisions they are woefully ill-prepared to make.

Ron Gardenhire and Tom Brunansky  (photo: Knuckleballs)

Ron Gardenhire and Tom Brunansky (photo: Knuckleballs)

Many professional sports organizations change their on-field management at least as often as they change accounting firms. It’s just part of the way they do business. When you lose more games than you win for a couple years in a row, you change managers/head coaches and even front office leadership.

It just becomes second nature. Much the way swimming becomes second nature to anyone who has spent much time in the water.

But the very idea of changing field management/coaching staff must, for the Twins ownership and front office, seem as incomprehensible as diving off a cliff in to a river would be to someone who doesn’t know how to swim.

For those of you who don’t know how that scene of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid turned out, both outlaws survived their jump and their trip down river just fine and lived happily ever after (at least until they decided to move to Bolivia).

The most famous quote from that movie scene is, “the fall will probably kill you.” But, for the Twins’ purposes, I’d focus on Butch’s earlier point. “We’ve got to, otherwise we’re dead.”

I think the same is true of the Twins if they foolishly decide to keep the status quo regarding their field management.

I know that changing managers and coaching staff just is not something the people who run the Twins are comfortable with.

They know the guys they have. They may not be winning much, but they HAVE won in the past, so they MIGHT win again, no matter how hopelessly unlikely that may seem to be at the moment.

If the people who run the Twins decide to (shudder) make changes, there is no guarantee that the new guys will be any better. After all, how many people in the Twins front office have actually gone swimming in the deep waters that go along with the process of interviewing candidates for a Major League manager?

Figuratively, they don’t know how to swim!

At some point, though, they’re going to have to realize that NOT taking that leap means the organization is almost certain to continuing their current death spiral. Once you consider that the worst thing that can happen when you take that big jump off a cliff is the same thing that’s going to happen if you don’t, it’s really not that hard to just holler, “Ohhhhh Shiiiiit,” and make the leap.

Once you’ve taken the leap and decided you will not simply go on doing business the same way you have for the past three decades, you can get down to the business of figuring out who is best suited to turn the next group of raw-but-talented young ballplayers in to a contending Major League team.

Maybe it’s someone on the Twins’ current big league bench, such as Paul Molitor or Tom Brunansky. Maybe it’s one of the organization’s excellent full-season minor league managers (all four of which guided their respective team to a winning record in 2014, by the way). Maybe it’s someone from outside the Twins organization altogether.

But first things first.

If they haven’t already, the Twins’ decision makers need to conclude that there is literally nothing that can happen that would be any worse than continuing to fight it out with the status quo.

To do so would send a terrible message to a fan base who simply will not tolerate another do-nothing offseason and continue to buy tickets for a 2015 season that does not come with the benefit of All-Star Game tickets.

There is a lot of talent set to arrive at Target Field in the next couple years. Names, both familiar and unfamiliar to Twins fans, like Buxton, Sano, Meyer, Berrios, Polanco, Gordon, Burdi, Kepler, Harrison, Kanzler, Stewart, Thorpe, Gonsalves, Turner, Garver, Walker and many more, could well become cornerstones of the next great Minnesota Twins team.

The class of Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Baker, et al, has been wasted. We could discuss “why” this class failed to bring a championship to Minnesota, but that’s pointless.

What matters now is making sure that the upcoming class is not similarly wasted and that process begins with asking ourselves who would be the best choices as manager and field coaches to get the most of their talent.

I’m not sure who that person is, though I certainly have some favorites among the likely possibilities.

What I think has become abundantly clear, however, is that manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson are not the right choices.

The decision to dismiss them is not easy for a front office like that of the Twins.

I respect that, actually. Letting go of loyal and, at times, effective employees should not be easy – certainly not as easy as it seems to be for many owners and General Managers in professional sports.

But sometimes, it’s absolutely necessary.

Even the most devoted fans of Gardy and Andy in the front office must, by now, be having a hard time envisioning that duo effectively leading the upcoming group of 20-year-olds to championships.

With fresh talent, fresh eyes and fresh approaches are necessary. It’s possible (and perhaps even quite likely) that Gardenhire and Anderson could provide that fresh approach to another organization. I hope they can (as long as it’s not in the AL Central), because I think they’re good men who know something about baseball.

But just as a young Tom Kelly was the perfect fit for a young group of Twins in the mid-late 1980s, it’s time to find new management to work with the next wave of young Twins.

There’s no reason to wait another year, prolonging the inevitable.

It’s time for the Twins’ front office and ownership to take the leap off that cliff and live to fight another day.

(Just don’t move the team to Bolivia. That would not end well.)

– JC

Episode 99: The Twins are Bad at Baseball

There hasn’t been a lot of good things to talk about with this ball club. That doesn’t mean we don’t have things to talk about, and we even got into a couple of spirited conversations this week, most notably about the coaching staff and their uncertain future in Minnesota.

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.

bad baseball

Mike Trout and the league leading Angels came to town and swept our hometown heroes, but at least Target Field faithful were reminded what winning baseball looks like.  We also discussed what it is like to watch bad baseball, and talked about the great article, “The Truth of Rooting for a Terrible Team” from The Hardball Times’ John Paschal.

The Twins released their minor league hitting coordinator, Bill Springman. What does that mean, if anything, going forward? The front office cited “organizational differences” which could mean just about anything and everything. We speculate exactly what it means.

We also talk about Jay Corn’s adventure with beer steins, and the upcoming MN Oktoberfest. And don’t forget about the #TwinsHelmetChallenge happening on Monday the 15th at Target Field.

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are the currency we use to pay for helmets full of food at Target Field.

Kernels Alums Closing in on FSL Title

While the current edition of the Cedar Rapids Kernels have been making their way through the Midwest League playoffs this week, a group of 20 Kernels alumni are on the verge of claiming the first Florida State League championship in franchise history for the Fort Myers Miracle.
Adam Brett Walker lines a home run vs Clinton on September 2, 2013. Walker led the FSL in HR and RBI this season for the Fort Myers Miracle

Adam Brett Walker lines a home run vs Clinton on September 2, 2013. Walker led the FSL in HR and RBI this season for the Fort Myers Miracle

Since their permanent home, Hammond Stadium, is undergoing major remodeling, the Miracle won the first two games of their best-of-five championship series with Daytona (Cubs) on Thursday and Friday in their temporary home park, JetBlue Stadium. They will need to win one of the next three games, all in Daytona, to claim the championship title.

Thirteen active members of the Miracle suited up for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2013, when the club put together an 88-50 overall record before getting bounced from the Midwest League playoffs by eventual MWL champion, Quad Cities. Two additional ‘13 Kernels are currently on the Miracle Disabled List. The Kernels can also claim Fort Myers pitching coach Gary Lucas as an alum. Lucas was the Kernels’ pitching coach a year ago.
Six current members of the Miracle (and one on their DL) were promoted to Fort Myers this season after spending time with the Kernels.
The recent addition of outfielder Jeremias Pineda to the Miracle roster from Elizabethton accounts for the 20th former Kernel on their roster. Pineda spent time on the Cedar Rapids roster in both 2013 and 2014.
Here’s a list of the Kernels alumni currently pursuing a FSL championship ring:

2013 (1 coach, 13 active, 2 DL)

Gary Lucas – pitching coach

Madison Boer P

Steven Gruver P

David Hurlbut P (DL)

Tyler Jones P

Zack Jones P

Brett Lee P

Tim Shibuya P (DL)

Matt Tomshaw P

Tyler Grimes C/IF

Jairo Rodriguez C

Niko Goodrum IF

Dalton Hicks IF

Travis Harrison OF

Max Kepler OF

Adam Brett Walker II OF

 

2014 (6 active, 1 DL)

Nick Burdi P

Ethan Mildren P

Alex Muren P (DL)

Brandon Peterson P

Todd Van Steensel P

Bryan Haar IF

Jason Kanzler OF

 

BOTH 2013 and 2014:

Jeremias Pineda OF

JC’s ALS Icebucket Challenge

Over the Labor Day Weekend, John Bonnes (aka TwinsGeek) over at TwinsDaily.com issued an ALS Icebucket Challenge to all of the TwinsDaily writers. Since I write a weekly Cedar Rapids Kernles report (most weeks anyway) at TD, I assumed this included me. Maybe I should have clarified that to make sure, but I didn’t.

Besides, John pledged $50 to ALS for each of the TD writers who accepted his challenge and, if nothing else, I like the idea of dipping in to Geek’s pocketbook.

With that said, here’s my challenge video:

As you heard, assuming you played the video, I’ve challenged each of my fellow Knuckleballs bloggers (Eric, Kristie and Babs) to follow suit.

In hindsight, I realized that perhaps Eric was included in the TwinsDaily challenge, since he, too, contributes at TD.

In any event, as John did, I’m pledging $50 to the ALS Foundation for each of my fellow Knuckleballs bloggers that follows through on the challenge.

In the event any/all of them have already done the challenge, all I’ll need is video evidence of such and I’ll make good on the pledge.

– JC

 

Sunday Morning Comic Relief

I’m fairly sure that this wasn’t INTENDED to be as funny as it comes across… especially since it is Kevin Correia pitching.. Can you imagine what the guys are thinking? wonder what their reaction was to putting this in the play book! That would have been HILARIOUS to listen to radio play x play guy try to describe that! At least the TV guy helped with scoring instructions.

If you want to see Bleacher Report’s write-up.