Twins Prez Interested in Move from Cedar Rapids to St. Paul?

In September of 2012, the Minnesota Twins announced a four-year affiliation agreement with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, with the Twins’ then-Senior Director of Minor Leagues Jim Rantz telling the media, “We are confident that this relationship will grow into one of the strongest affiliations in minor league baseball.”

Less than two years later, the Twins organization appears to be flirting with another minor league ownership group with an eye toward moving their Class A Midwest League affiliation to nearby St. Paul, Minnesota, and potentially leaving the Kernels to shop for another new Major League affiliate when their current Player Development Contract expires following the 2016 season.

According to a story Tuesday in the Business Journal, Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter and Derek Sharrer, the General Manager the St. Paul Saints, an independent minor league team, expressed mutual interest in a future affiliation agreement between the two teams.

Their comments were made at the Business Journal’s Business of Sports Power Breakfast Tuesday morning.

But what about 2017 and beyond? (Image: Kernels.com)

But what about 2017 and beyond? (Image: Kernels.com)

“Long-term, there are aspects that make a lot of sense,” St. Peter is quoted as telling the group. “Short-term, it’s more challenging. We have a tremendous partnership with Cedar Rapids and the Kernels. It’s been a home run for the Twins. It’s been strategic for the Twins relative to marketing in the state of Iowa.

“I think it’s something that will require some additional discussions and I’m guessing that dialogue will take place.”

The Twins President did point out that the potential arrangement comes with challenges.

“It’s a bus league, and when you’re in St. Paul and there are teams east of Cleveland, that’s a tough bus trip for your players,” St. Peter said. “Things like that need to be addressed long-term.”

The Saints are in the process of building a new 7.000 seat stadium in St. Paul that’s being built to meet or exceed standards required by baseball for Class AA and lower affiliated teams. The stadium is scheduled to open in 2015.

The Saints are owned by a group that recently agreed to sell the Twins’ Class high-A affiliate in Fort Myers, Florida.

“Our organization has a tremendous amount of respect for Derek and his team,” St. Peter said of the Twins’ relationship with the Saints organization. “We’ve worked very closely with the Saints’ ownership … for 20 years.”

As the Twins President alluded to, there are a number of obstacles that the Twins and Saints would need to overcome before placing an affiliate in St. Paul.

The most likely arrangement would be for the Twins to place their Class A Midwest League affiliate in St. Paul. There are no high-A or AA leagues located in the Midwest and the new Saints stadium is not being built up to AAA standards.

However, putting a Midwest League team in St. Paul would not be a simple matter, either.

For the Twins and Saints to make the plan work, they would need to either seek to have the Midwest League expand by two teams (to keep the number of league teams at an even number for scheduling purposes) or acquire an existing MWL team and move it to St. Paul.

Every Major League team already has a full season Class A affiliate, which would seem to make expansion unlikely.

Acquiring a team and moving it would only be somewhat easier.

Under the current Professional Baseball Agreement between the Major and Minor League governing bodies, every current affiliated minor league team is guaranteed an affiliation. Baseball can’t just tell an existing affiliated team that they’re being kicked out of affiliated minor league baseball.

The Saints ownership would likely need to acquire an existing Midwest League team and relocate it to St. Paul, rather than looking to acquire a team currently competing in another Class A league.

While it would not be totally unheard of for a team to move from one minor league to another, the same scheduling issues that affect expansion would also require any movement between leagues to result in each affected league retaining an even number of teams.

With the eastward migration of Midwest League teams over the past two decades, virtually every club in the Eastern Division of the league is playing in relatively new ballparks and before generally larger crowds than is the case among their Western Division brethren. This would make it much more likely that a current Western Division club would be targeted.

With relatively new or recently renovated ballparks in Appleton WI, Kane County IL, Peoria IL and Iowa clubs in the Quad Cities and Cedar Rapids, it would be unlikely that the teams in those communities would go on the sale block.

That leaves Beloit WI, Clinton IA and Burlington IA, three teams with, perhaps, the most difficult stadium situations left among potential MWL targets.

However, all three of those teams are, like the Kernels, long-time MWL members. More importantly, also like the Kernels, all three clubs are community owned. Prying ownership away from those communities would likely be no easy task.

Finally, even if an existing ownership group were made an offer they can’t refuse, the team would need approval of the other members of the MWL to relocate. That hurdle might not be so easy to overcome, either.

St. Paul is well outside the current MWL footprint. Cedar Rapids is the closest current league city and it’s a good 250 miles from the Twin Cities. Every other MWL community, except Appleton (270 miles) is at least 300 miles from St. Paul.

South Bend IN, at 495 miles, would be the only MWL Eastern Division location less than 500 miles away.

That’s an important consideration for the league, too, because under the terms of the Professional Baseball Agreement rules, players must be given an off day any time they are bused 500 miles or more. Having a team that far outside the league’s current footprint could present a nightmare for MWL schedule-makers.

It also would increase travel costs, not only for the team that relocates, but for every other team in the league that would have to send teams to St. Paul on road trips. Those travel costs are primarily the responsibility of the local team, not their Big League affiliate.

St. Peter is certainly correct in cautioning Twin Cities fans that putting an affiliate in St. Paul would be difficult to arrange, but if the Twins were to decide to make such a move a priority, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that they could throw enough weight around to get what they want. It remains to be seen whether the Twins and Saints are truly interested enough in a marriage to overcome the obstacles.

The agreement between the Kernels and Twins will have young Twins prospects calling Cedar Rapids their summer home for two more years after the current season.

Nevertheless, it’s no doubt disappointing to Twins fans in Eastern Iowa to learn that at least one Twins executive may no longer be interested in seeing the relationship between the Twins and Kernels, “grow into one of the strongest affiliations in minor league baseball.”

Kernels General Manager Doug Nelson, reached Tuesday afternoon while in Comstock Park MI for the Midwest League All-Star game, was asked for his reaction to St. Peter’s statements to the Business Journal.

“The Kernels view our affiliation with the Twins as a long term partnership,” stated Nelson via email.

It is less clear whether the Twins continue to share that view.

- JC

GameChat – Twins @ Red Sox #2, 6:10pm

So I didn’t see last night’s game and I hear mixed reports about how it went.. box score tells the only story that really matters though.. *sigh*

Tonight my requests are few and I may get to hear some of it on the radio:

  1. Hughes to pitch a solid road outing that keeps us in the game regardless
  2. Actual offensive production enough to allow our pitchers room to maneuver
  3. Ortiz & Gomes to decide they don’t really want to play against the Twins tonight..

Ok, so that last one probably isn’t going to happen and if we do #1 & #2 right, #3 isn’t necessary.

Minnesota @ Boston
Santana, D, SS Holt, CF
Dozier, 2B Bogaerts, 3B
Mauer, 1B Pedroia, 2B
Willingham, LF Ortiz, D, DH
Morales, K, DH Napoli, 1B
Arcia, O, RF Nava, RF
Suzuki, K, C Gomes, J, LF
Escobar, E, 3B Drew, SS
Fuld, CF Ross, D, C
  Hughes, P, P   Lester, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 4 0
Boston 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 x 2 8 0

Again, I didn’t see this game, but the box score looks disturbingly similar to Monday night’s.

Phil Hughes throws a complete game and gives up just a couple of runs and you can’t get a win. At least he gave the bullpen a rest, I guess.

The Twins have now been outscored 3-1 in the last two games combined. – JC

Kernels’ Jason Kanzler Keeps Proving Himself

Go ahead and underestimate Cedar Rapids Kernels outfielder Jason Kanzler. He’s used to it. Having to show people they’re wrong about him is nothing new.

”I think I’ve done that my whole life, pretty much,” Kanzler said. “I was never really at the top on anyone’s priority list. I wasn’t recruited out of high school. I tried to walk on at Northeastern University and I was cut after two weeks.

Jason Kanzler

Jason Kanzler

“Then I went to Buffalo as kind of a recruited walk-on and I didn’t play. I guess my red-shirt freshman year, I got 10 at-bats.Then I platooned a little in left and right my sophomore year.”

That’s not exactly the kind of start to a college baseball career that you’d expect for a guy with hopes of playing ball professionally.

Things turned around for Kanzler his next two seasons at the University of Buffalo, however.

“I started in center field my junior and senior year and won two gold gloves so I kind of shoved it up in everyone’s faces.”

If you think it sounds like Kanzler has a little chip on his shoulder over people underestimating him, you would be correct.

Kanzler spent spring training with the Class A group, but got the word the last week of camp that he would not be heading north to Cedar Rapids with the others.

Asked how he felt about being one of the final cuts to the Kernels’ roster as spring training drew to a close in March, he quickly corrected the questioner and didn’t hesitate to say exactly how he felt about it.

”I was the last guy,” he said. And he said it without a trace of a smile.

“I was angry, I was really angry,” he admitted. “The coaches down in extended (spring training) told me to cool it and I’ll get my chance eventually.”

You get the sense from Kanzler that “cooling it” isn’t something that comes very natural to him on a baseball field. In fact, in the game the evening after giving the interview, Kanzler was ejected for arguing a called third strike late in the game.

In any event, he didn’t have to cool it for very long this spring before he was given a plane ticket for Cedar Rapids. Four games in to the season, Kernels center fielder Zack Granite was injured and Kanzler got the call.

Jason Kanzler

Jason Kanzler

Granite rejoined the Kernels last week, but it wasn’t Kanzler’s roster spot he took. Instead, Ivory Thomas was given his unconditional release by the Twins to make room for Granite and Kanzler in the same outfield.

At the Midwest League’s All-Star break, the halfway point of the Kernels’ season, Kanzler is hitting .293 with an .813 OPS. He has five doubles, five triples and one night after his ejection he hit his seventh home run of the year. He has also stolen 10 bases.

Kanzler was utilized as a top-of-the order hitter when he first arrived in Cedar Rapids, but the power he’s demonstrated has resulted in a move toward the middle of the lineup.

How could power go unnoticed?

“I’m not a ‘guy’ really. Just an ‘extended guy’,” Kanzler explained. “I was hurt for 14 days during spring training with a hamstring, so I really only got to play like ten spring training games.”

The pop in his bat may have surprised others, but not Kanzler. “I knew I had it. I think it makes me even more mad that no one else really knew,” he said.

Kanzler has let his play convince others he’s more than just a defensive specialist and slap hitter.

“I guess I could show it off in BP a little bit,” he said, “but they kind of figured I was just a speed guy with good defense and once you get pigeon-holed, it’s hard to kind of climb your way out.”

Kernels hitting coach Tommy Watkins knows Kanzler has a bit of a chip on his shoulder and that the player uses it to his advantage.

“I think that’s one thing that motivated him, being the last guy left off the team,” Watkins said. “From talking to him since he’s been here and in spring training, I think he’s been a guy that people have always told him he couldn’t do it, so he set himself out to prove everybody wrong.

“If you tell him he can’t do it, he’s going to work 10 times harder to prove you wrong.”

Asked about his goals for this season before the year started and whether they have changed at all with his performance in Cedar Rapids, Kanzler was thoughtful with his responses.

“I think my goals are just to play my game,” he responded initially. “I think if I play my game, everything will kind of work itself out. I guess my main goal is to play excellent defense and kind of be a spark plug. I kind of like to do a little bit of everything. So whether it’s hit a home run or steal a base or make a diving catch, I just like to play the game hard.”

Watkins thinks Kanzler’s on the right track with that goal.

“I think for him just to work on his overall game,” Watkins said. “He’s a guy that has tremendous tools, all of them. He can hit, hit with power, he can run, he can throw. He’s got all the tools, it’s just fine-tuning all of them and have them show in the game.”

Of course, Kanzler has longer term goals, too. “My goal is to get to the Big Leagues, but that’s more like a dream than a goal right now. Still a few too many steps away to be a goal yet.”

A native of upstate New York, Kanzler added another potential goal before he reaches the Big Leagues, “Fill up the Red Wings’ stadium.”

“Maybe my (short term) goal would be to make a post-season all-star team and help the Kernels win the second half and get in the playoffs and win the playoffs.

“I like that. I like to win.”

Jason Kanzler breaking up a double play

Jason Kanzler goes in hard to break up a double play

Kanzler and his team mates aren’t accustomed to looking at the standings and seeing their team near the bottom. They don’t like it much.

“Yeah, I think especially because we have, I think, a lot more talent than a lot of the teams that are above us. We have so many games where we can’t put everything together. One or two things go right instead of all three.”

As intense as Kanzler can be on the field, he’s capable of relaxing and enjoying his time away from the ballpark.

Recently, that included a trip to a local music store with team mate and Cedar Rapids native Chad Christensen.

“He (Christensen) bought a guitar and I bought a ukulele,” Kanzler related. “So I’ve been practicing my ukulele a little bit. Ryan Walker has a banjo and it’s amazing, It’s an instrument I’d like to learn.”

How’s that ukulele coming and does it sound good with Christensen’s guitar?

“No we haven’t tried that. The guitar is too loud and they don’t collaborate well I don’t think.

“Chad’s been learning mostly country songs and I’ve been learning video game songs, like Mario and Zelda. That’s my kind of thing. Just fun little stuff.”

You get the feeling that all it would take for Kanzler to become the best ukulele player ever would be for someone to tell him he can’t do it.

- JC

GameChat – Twins @ Red Sox, 6:10

Some sad news in the baseball world this afternoon as word came out that Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn has passed away. Gwynn was as pure a hitter of baseballs as you’re likely to ever see. During his career, I always felt he was under-appreciated. Maybe because he played for a lot of bad teams in San Diego and maybe because he wasn’t a noted power hitter. RIP Tony.

Kevin Correia is on the mound for the Twins in Boston tonight.

Minnesota Boston
Santana, D, SS Holt, LF
Dozier, 2B Bogaerts, 3B
Mauer, 1B Pedroia, 2B
Willingham, LF Ortiz, D, DH
Morales, K, DH Napoli, 1B
Arcia, O, RF Nava, RF
Suzuki, K, C Drew, SS
Escobar, E, 3B Pierzynski, C
Fuld, CF Bradley Jr., CF
  Correia, P   De La Rosa, R, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
Boston 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 x 1 6 0

Kevin Correia had another pretty decent start. That’s the good news.

The Twins got a total of 3 lousy hits. That’s the bad news.

Bad news prevails today.

GameChat – Twins @ Tigers #3, 12:08pm

ok.. sorry this wasn’t up earlier if you were here looking. Rubber match games are always interesting so while I’m moving a piano, let’s see if the boys can pull off a series win in Detroit!

Minnesota Detroit
Santana, D, SS Kinsler, 2B
Mauer, 1B Hunter, To, RF
Dozier, 2B Cabrera, M, 1B
Willingham, LF Martinez, V, DH
Morales, K, DH Martinez, J, LF
Arcia, O, RF Jackson, A, CF
Suzuki, K, C Castellanos, N, 3B
Fuld, CF Avila, C
Escobar, E, 3B Suarez, SS
  Nolasco, P   Porcello, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 3 7 1
Detroit 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 4 10 0

Tough way to lose a game to a Divisional rival as the Tigers take the game and the series in walk-off fashion. – JC

GameChat – Twins @ Tigers #2, 3:08pm

This is one of those rainy (in MN) Saturday’s where I’m doing my best to get some outdoor work done despite the rain. Actually my whole weekend is like that so I’m REALLY glad I got to see that fantastic game last night. I’ll be checking in and catching as much as possible on the radio. Let’s do this!

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 1 0 0 0 0 3 3 2 9 12 0
Detroit 0 0 7 1 2 1 1 0 x 12 19 1

Looks like the Twins’ bats woke up in the 7th, but it was too little, too late. – JC

GameChat – Twins @ Tigers, 6:08pm

I have to admit that I’m really interested to see how this series goes – it could be a bell-weather of the whole season. Both teams are kind of at a cross-roads with one on the upswing (I hope) and one sagging (so it appears).

Any predictions?

Roster update: Hicks is on the DL, Fuld is back and the Twins recalled Eric Fryer.

I’m also really interested to see how this new lineup order works AND how it gets adjusted when Dozier is back swinging a bat.

Minnesota @ Detroit
Santana, D, CF Kinsler, 2B
Suzuki, K, C Jackson, A, CF
Mauer, 1B Cabrera, M, 1B
Willingham, LF Martinez, V, DH
Morales, K, DH Martinez, J, RF
Arcia, O, RF Kelly, D, LF
Plouffe, 3B Castellanos, N, 3B
Nunez, SS Avila, C
Escobar, E, 2B Romine, A, SS
  Gibson, P   Smyly, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 4 1
Detroit 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 1

wow, that was actually a fun game to watch!

Of course it doesn’t hurt that we won but there were a lot of positives tonight – not the least of which is beating a division opponent and making progress back towards that .500 mark. We didn’t have a LOT of offense but getting that home run in the third from Escobar set up the win well. Only his 2nd HR of the year because he’s not a power hitter but I’ll take it regardless. And getting a walk off Joe Nathan in the 9th inning isn’t as hard as it used to be but it’s still nothing to sneeze at, especially when that walk sent in an additional cushion run! All your RBI’s are belong to Eduardo! I hope he enjoys the All-You-Can-Eat pastry buffet on us.

It turned out to be all that was necessary because Kyle really did a fantastic job tonight. And it wasn’t one of those “no one can touch him” kind of good jobs either. It was a night where he wasn’t perfect and figured out how to get the job done anyway – in some very big situations. He made life hard for himself in both the 5th and 7th innings and Gardy left him out there to figure it out. Had it all gone sour, we’d have been screaming that he once again left him in one pitch too long but I think it does a lot for a young pitcher to make it or break it on his own and we’ll be the better for it in the long run. This was an important game for Kyle because he statistically hasn’t done well on the road and he broke that “curse” tonight. With the 7 scoreless innings tonight, that is 15 consecutive for him without giving up a run. The bullpen was SOLID against this Tigers lineup with both Casey and Glenn putting out excellent innings but tonight was really all about Kyle and for that, he’s today’s BOD!

Kyle Gibson (photo: MiLB.com)

Kyle Gibson (photo: MiLB.com)

Episode 87: When Cats Attack, Reviewing the Draft

If you’re listening to this podcast, you probably have more than a passing interest in Twins baseball. You’ve probably read about all of their draft picks, even guys drafted after the first few rounds, like Minnesota native Pat Kelly, who was taken in the 12th round. 

Baseball-funny-picture

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

Jay is driving the episode this week, so prepare your ears for a little different sound, but have no fear, other than lots of cat noises in the background, the show is pretty stellar. We start the episode by saying goodbye to one of the most handsome red beards to ever grace the outfield grass in Minnesota, Jason Kubel. Kubel is gone, but highlighting this last week was the acquisition of Kendrys Morales who along with the emergence of Eduardo Escobar and Danny Santana gives the Twins arguably one of the best line ups in the American League. 

We talk a little draft, but save most of the draft talk for our guests from the Twins Hangouts (@TwinsHangouts), Jeremy Nygaard (@jeremynygaard) and Seth Stohs (@SethTweets). With the help of those two we dive into the draft and discuss the Twins moves and what it could mean for this club in the near and long term.

A lot of weird things have happened in the world of baseball this week, and we cover most of them when we go around the league, to include banana and mayo sandwiches, a Seminole Indian rain man and a “fatty mass with tentacles”. Yikes.

Thanks for listening.

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) 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 don’t pay our bills, but we don’t pay them anyways.

GameChat – Twins @ Blue Jays #2, 6:07pm

Another night where I don’t get to watch baseball.. I’ll be trying to catch scores and updates and plays during breaks and car rides.. wish I could enjoy the game since they didn’t do so well for the day I got to watch yesterday.. but I’ll take a win regardless tonight!

Let’s see how quickly Kendrys can settle in!

Minnesota @ Toronto
Santana, D, CF Reyes, SS
Dozier, 2B Cabrera, Me, LF
Mauer, 1B Bautista, RF
Willingham, LF Encarnacion, 1B
Morales, K, DH Lind, DH
Arcia, O, RF Lawrie, 2B
Nunez, 3B Navarro, D, C
Suzuki, K, C Francisco, J, 3B
Escobar, E, SS Gose, CF
  Correia, P   Happ, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 2 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 9 0
Toronto 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 7 1

Not having seen or heard the game, I’m going to simply give the BOD award to Brian Dozier for his first inning two-run home run, but four pitchers combining for a shutout of the Jays certainly warrants honorable mention! – JC

Brian Dozier

Brian Dozier