GameChat – Indians @ Twins #3, 12:10pm

Ok, rubber match time. It’s phenomenal baseball weather here in Minnesota so for all those fans lucky enough to sneak out of work for a little midday baseball, I hate you and I’m jealous.

Perhaps that is too harsh but maybe I will re-evaluate my feelings based on the result of today’s game?

Good luck to Anthony Swarzak who is leaving the bullpen however temporarily to make his first start in quite awhile. *crosses fingers*

Cleveland @ Minnesota
Kipnis, 2B Fuld, LF
Ramirez, Jo, SS Dozier, 2B
Brantley, CF Plouffe, 3B
Santana, C, 1B Morales, K, DH
Chisenhall, 3B Colabello, 1B
Swisher, DH Arcia, O, RF
Murphy, Dv, RF Nunez, SS
Perez, R, C Fryer, C
Dickerson, LF Santana, D, CF
  Bauer, P   Swarzak, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cleveland 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 5 1
Minnesota 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 x 3 8 1

WOOOHOOO!!! A series victory and redemption for all work-skippers.. Boy did the boys have a nice day to entertain MN fans. I just wish I had been able to be one of them.

For all around awesomeness that makes us look forward to boxscores in the future, Danny Santana is our BOD! (boy do we need to get a few more Knuckleballs pictures!)

Daniel Santana

Daniel Santana

GameChat – Indians @ Twins #2, 7:10pm

I wouldn’t mind more than one win – sequentially is cool too. Just saying.

Cleveland @ Minnesota
Kipnis, 2B Santana, D, CF
Dickerson, LF Dozier, 2B
Brantley, CF Plouffe, 3B
Santana, C, 1B Morales, K, 1B
Chisenhall, 3B Willingham, DH
Swisher, DH Suzuki, K, C
Gomes, Y, C Arcia, O, RF
Murphy, Dv, RF Escobar, E, SS
Aviles, SS Fuld, LF
  Salazar, P   Pino, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cleveland 0 3 0 0 1 0 0 0 4 8 11 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 2 9 0

that was just ugly..

Alex Swim Swinging a Hot Bat for the Kernels

The Cedar Rapids Kernels dropped an ugly 5-2 game to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers back on July 9 and Kernels manager Jake Mauer clearly was not a happy man afterward.

His line up had left eight runners stranded in scoring position on the night and played some shoddy defense in a loss on a night when Kernels pitching combined to strike out 13 opposing hitters.

“We’re going to have some changes,” Mauer promised that night, in a post-game interview.

Catcher Alex Swim went 1 for 4 as the team’s designated hitter in that loss and he has not DH’d since.

Then again, he hasn’t done much catching, either.

The next night, July 10, again against the Timber Rattlers, Swim was inserted as the Kernels’ right fielder.

Alex Swim

Alex Swim

Maybe Mauer was just trying to give some of his regular outfield crew a wake-up call or maybe he knew something nobody else did, but Swim gunned down Rattler baserunner Omar Garcia at home in that game and he has been the starting right fielder for the Kernels on every line up card Mauer has filled out since.

He’s put on the catcher’s gear for a game in that stretch only twice. Once to finish a rain shortened game in which he had started as the catcher (he played right field in the full game following the completion of the postponed contest) and he made one appearance at catcher late in a game after starting catcher Michael Quesada was removed for a pinch runner.

Swim was already riding a six game hitting streak pieced together starting June 30 as he rotated between catching, DHing and taking his turn riding the pine as part of what was, for a time, a four-man catching rotation that included Mitch Garver and Bo Altobelli, along with Quesada and Swim.

After being inserted in to the every day line up, Swim swatted hits in another eight consecutive games, making him the proud owner of a 14-game streak, the longest by a Kernels hitter this season, before the streak was snapped on July 21.

On the season, Swim is batting .341 in the 26 games he’s suited up with the Kernels.

Alex Swim in the Kernels special “Duck Dynasty” camo jersey

In an interview late last week, Swim said he played some outfield during his junior and senior years at Elon University in North Carolina, “just to get a little break from behind the plate.”

Coming in to the season, though, he wasn’t expecting to see this much time on the outfield grass.

“During (extended spring training), they asked me if I had an outfielder’s glove and I did. They said, ‘get a few reps out there just in case,’” Swim recalled.

Acknowledging that he’s been out there every game lately, he added with a smile, “maybe (the Twins organization) gave me a position change and didn’t tell me, I don’t know.”

He’s not complaining.

“I’ll play anywhere,” he said. “I love throwing the ball and showing off the arm a little bit.”

That’s a healthy approach to have for a player in Swim’s position with the Twins organization.

Swim, Garver and the current catcher for the Class high-A Fort Myers Miracle, Stuart Turner, were all college catchers selected by the Twins in the same draft class a year ago. Turner was the Twins’ third round pick, Garver was picked in the 10th round and Swim in the 22nd.

The Twins also selected a high school catcher, Brian Navarreto, in the sixth round. Navarreto is currently with the Twins’ Elizabethton short-season rookie level affiliate.

As if that weren’t enough, the Twins drafted six more catchers in the 2014 draft, though none were higher than the 19th round and not all were inked by the Twins before the signing deadline on July 18.

Still, Swim recognizes that he’s up against some tough competition as he tries to work his way up the organizational ladder, not only from other recent draftees, but from players with more professional experience, such as his Cedar Rapids teammate Quesada.

“Obviously, I know who’s there,” Swim conceded. “But I think everyone is good in their own way. If you’re meant to keep going and playing, you’re going to get there.

“I try to make it where I can play different positions to help me out. If you need a right fielder, I’ll play right field. If you need a first baseman, I’ll do that. Whatever they need.”

In baseball, hitters can run hot and cold, but in his first month as a Kernel, Swim has definitely been hot with the bat.

Alex Swim

Alex Swim

“I feel pretty comfortable in the box and the ball does look a little bigger right now,” he admitted.

Fellow Kernels catcher Garver hit three home runs in one game on Monday, but Swim doesn’t expect to be putting on that kind of power display any time soon.

“Generally, with my swing, I’m not going to hit the ball out of the park or drive a bunch of balls in to gaps, so I just try to really stay up the middle and just stay short and sweet to the ball and just try to get on base.”

Swim worked out with the Class A group during most of spring training, but when the time came to head north to start the season, he was left behind in extended spring training.

That sort of thing can be disappointing to a player, of course, but Swim pointed out that there were some benefits, too, for a guy from Greensboro, North Carolina.

“It’s not that big of a deal when you’re playing in 85 degree weather in the spring down in Florida, so that was the good part,” he recalled with a bit of a laugh. “I was texting a few of the guys and they were saying it was 30 degrees and they had four layers on. I was, like, I’m in a pair of shorts and sandals right now.”

Swim had the opportunity to turn professional after his junior year of college when the St. Louis Cardinals made him there 36th round selection in the 2012 draft, but he opted to pass at the time.

“Right around draft time my junior year, mom was sick, was in the hospital,” Swim explained. “I really didn’t know how that was going to affect her as far as what was going to happen. I didn’t want to push it by leaving at that time, so I decided to forgo the draft, stay at home, work a little bit, try to help out around the house and get things situated.

“Honestly, I don’t have any regrets. I would do it the same way every time. She’s doing well right now. She’s getting healthy. She’s staying at home and listening to the games (over the internet).”

Away from the ballpark, Swim escapes the daily grind of the game with a good book.

“I like biographies and stuff like that,” he explained. “That kind of gets me away from the game and not thinking about anything really about baseball.”

- JC

GameChat – Indians @ Twins, 7:10pm

Time to see what the new kid has again.. against a team that nearly took out Detroit in a very solid way.

Cleveland @ Minnesota
Kipnis, 2B Santana, D, CF
Cabrera, A, SS Dozier, 2B
Gomes, Y, DH Plouffe, 3B
Santana, C, 1B Morales, K, 1B
Raburn, LF Willingham, LF
Swisher, RF Suzuki, K, C
Perez, R, C Colabello, DH
Chisenhall, 3B Parmelee, RF
Aviles, CF Escobar, E, SS
  House, P   Johnson, K, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cleveland 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 3 8 0
Minnesota 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 x 4 9 2

Finally got a post-All Star Game win!

Couldn’t manage to have the lead stand up to get Johnson the W before he gets sent back to Rochester to make room for Pino tomorrow, but at least it’s a win.

And that win comes thanks to our BOD, Josh Willingham and his 8th inning dinger. – JC

Josh Willingham

Josh Willingham

GameChat – Rays @ Twins #3, 1:10

Let’s see if the boys can avoid a sweep today.

This has not exactly been the way anyone wanted the Twins to come out of the All-Star break.

Tampa Bay Minnesota
Jennings, D, CF Dozier, 2B
Zobrist, 2B Nunez, 3B
Joyce, LF Plouffe, DH
Longoria, 3B Morales, K, 1B
Loney, 1B Arcia, O, RF
Guyer, DH Willingham, LF
Escobar, Y, SS Escobar, E, SS
Casali, C Fryer, C
Kiermaier, RF Fuld, CF
  Archer, P   Correia, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Tampa Bay 2 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 5 11 2
Minnesota 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 3 6 1

That was an ugly series.

GameChat – Rays @ Twins #2, 6:10pm

SERIOUSLY BEAUTIFUL DAY FOR BASEBALL!!!  Let’s see if the Twins can’t try to win this one and it will be even better. Of course, I have finally arrived at the family cabin and intend to spend the beautiful weather grilling out and fishing. Die hard Minnesotans have to spread their time around. But hopefully I’ll be able to catch the game on the radio while I enjoy a frosty adult beverage on the beach… Life is rough road.

Tampa Bay Minnesota
Jennings, D, CF Santana, D, CF
Zobrist, RF Dozier, 2B
Guyer, LF Plouffe, 3B
Longoria, 3B Morales, K, DH
Loney, 1B Suzuki, K, C
Forsythe, 2B Colabello, 1B
Escobar, Y, SS Parmelee, RF
Molina, J, C Escobar, E, SS
Rodriguez, S, DH Nunez, LF
  Price, P   Hughes, P, P

GameChat – Rays @ Twins, 7:10pm

Now that the whole country knows how gorgeous Target Field is, it’s time to go back to playing regular baseball… and sadly, baseball between a couple of teams who aren’t playing the best baseball in their histories.

Tampa Bay @ Minnesota
Jennings, D, CF Santana, D, CF
Zobrist, LF Dozier, 2B
Joyce, DH Morales, K, 1B
Longoria, 3B Plouffe, 3B
Loney, 1B Arcia, O, RF
Escobar, Y, SS Willingham, DH
Figueroa, C, 2B Suzuki, K, C
Casali, C Escobar, E, SS
Kiermaier, RF Fuld, LF
  Cobb, P   Gibson, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Tampa Bay 0 0 3 0 2 0 1 0 0 6 11 0
Minnesota 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 6 0

..

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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 – 2014 All Star Game

Just in case you’re not AT the game or not on Twitter…

NL All-Stars @ AL All-Stars
McCutchen, CF Jeter, SS
Puig, RF Trout, LF
Tulowitzki, SS Cano, 2B
Goldschmidt, 1B Cabrera, M, 1B
Stanton, DH Bautista, RF
Ramirez, Ar, 3B Cruz, N, DH
Utley, 2B Jones, Ad, CF
Lucroy, C Donaldson, 3B
Gomez, C, LF Perez, S, C
  Wainwright, P   Hernandez, F, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
NL All-Stars 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 8 1
AL All-Stars 3 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 x 5 7 0

It was actually a BEAUTIFUL night for baseball… for Minnesotans, there was a lot of love about this game. It really showed off Target Field to the rest of the nation in a fantastic way and our boys, both former and current, looked great and had a lot of fun.

And Jeter is officially done with Minnesota!

And Mike Trout is our All Star Game MVP – earned well enough. We would likely have given him the BOD but I think he is likely more impress with the Corvette… just saying.

Mike Trout just over four years ago

Mike Trout just over four years ago