Since we had TwinsFest this weekend (and the TwinsDaily Winter Meltdown for those lucky enough to attend), I thought this was very representative as a “comic” summation of all the talking heads and opinions we heard over the weekend!
Ok, so it’s not my usual comic break today.. I’m a little focused! Believe it or not, while the rest of the world is watching hockey and football and going nuts (ok, yes, I’m probably doing that too), I’m looking forward to the first live MN Swarm game!!!!!
If you haven’t ever seen box lacrosse in person, you really need to find an opportunity to do so. The hubby and I are season ticket holders (a much cheaper option than the bigger pro-sports teams) and every single person we bring to a game ends up coming again on their own – and/or becoming ticket holders as well! While baseball is all the strategy, intrigue, planning and set up of well-played chess, box lacrosse is playing slap jack with your nephews while high on sodas and cookies. It’s SO much fun and so high energy … it’s genuine all ages family fun.
If you are free today and in the area, you should definitely check out the game today – starts at 2pm in Xcel Center. Get there a bit early if you want to really check out all the fun you can find! Heck, keep your eyes out for me because our seats are right on the glass and the size I am these days with Baby Smith on the way, I’m kind of hard to miss! If you can’t get to the game, you should check it out online as well – all the info you need can be found on the MN Swarm website.
This week’s episode is highlighted by a candid interview with Minnesota Twins pitching prospect Trevor May (@trevmay54, or on soundcloud: DJ MAZR). Aside from talking with Trevor, we have a lively discussion concerning who we think will be on the 25-man roster when the Twins break camp and leave Florida this spring (the first, of what will likely be many such discussions as the first game of the season approaches). Also discussed are the non-roster invites to big league camp, listeners from around the globe, and the usual banter and beer talk.
Come for the Trevor May interview, stay for the beer. Or vice versa.
If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews do nothing for us, we just like talking about them.
UPDATE: After publishing just the pictures last night and sending out a few quotes via Twitter, I’ve now updated this post with some additional observations and quotes from the Caravan participants. The updates are all in this cool blue color, so you can tell what’s been added. – JC
For the second straight year, the Cedar Rapids Kernels and Minnesota Twins joined forces Monday night, combining the Kernels’ annual Hot Stove Banquet with a stop on the Twins Caravan.
Pitchers Brian Duensing and Ryan Pressly joined new Twins coach Paul Molitor, Kernels manager Jake Mauer and, of course, TC Bear, in Cedar Rapids. The emcee for the evening was Twins broadcaster (and former Cedar Rapids sportscaster) Dick Bremer.
I had a chance to talk to Molitor, Duensing, Pressly and Mauer before the event got underway and, as is part of the Caravan routine, they all answered questions posed by Bremer as part of the program. They also answered a number of questions from members of the crowd.
Without a whole lot of thought, formatting or context, below are some of the comments from the Caravan participants during the evening.
Paul Molitor talked about his move from minor league roving instructor to full-time Major League coach with the Twins. Cedar Rapids Gazette reporter Jeff Johnson and I kind of double teamed Molitor during the media interview session before the night’s festivities. Rather than me typing a bunch of quotes out, you should just click here to go to Johnson’s story at the Gazette’s site and watch the video he recorded of Molitor talking about his new gig.
During the question and answer segment of the Caravan program, Molitor was asked from the crowd for his feelings concerning expanded use of instant replay in Major League Baseball. He’s clearly not a fan.
“I don’t like it. I had trouble with the home runs, originally. I understand why they want to do it, because of football leading the way and we have the technology. I’ve already gotten emails from Terry Ryan about this list of what you can contend against and what you can’t and you can throw the flag once before the sixth inning and twice after the seventh inning. I don’t know where it’s going to go, but I, I don’t like it.”
Molitor was also asked what other moves he thought the Twins might still make before the season starts to add more offense to the lineup.
“I know Terry is still out there looking at the free agent list. Some of the better hitters remaining, Morales and (Cruz), have a draft choice attached and really aren’t very good fits for our club. There’s some potential trades out there, but Terry’s very protective of the players in our minor league system. He’s not going to give up some of our top guys to improve our offense.”
“Last year was a rough year offensively. We struck out too much. We didn’t hit the ball over the fence enough. Baserunning wasn’t very good. There’s a lot of room for improvement. But that doesn’t mean the guys who are coming back won’t have a chance to improve in some of those areas, either, through experience, through whatever it takes for them to get better. We have to find a way to score more runs, that’s the bottom line.”
After you check out the Molitor video and while you’re clicking, go on over to MetroSportsReport.com and read through Jim Ecker’s story on Jake Mauer. Jake and his wife, Rachel, are due to have a baby on February 4 and Mauer said all’s going well on that front.
During the question and answer segment, Mauer was asked whether he thought the addition of starting pitching via free agents might potentially block some of the young pitchers moving up through the organization.
“I think having too much pitching is a pretty good problem to have. I think I speak for everybody (saying) we would definitely love to have that problem. The cream kind of always rises to the top and sometimes it’s not a guy that you expect. It’s always good to go in to spring training with competition. If pitching’s one of those competitions, that just makes the ballclub a lot better.”
Mauer’s best line of the night may have come during the question and answer segment when a member of the crowd asked if he thought his brother Joe might return to his MVP form with the move from catcher to first base.
“I hope so. He’s a lot easier to deal with when he’s on the field, I can tell you that. He’s an ornery guy when he’s not playing.” The crowd laughed, appreciating the candor.
“I think the move to first base will be a very good one for him. I know the concussion that he had last year, plain and simple, scared him.”
“I think he still feels he’s a catcher and he still feels he can be a very good catcher. But I think he understands what could happen if he gets dinged in the noggin again. That’s probably my fault from beating on him when he was a little kid.”
“I think it will be good for him. Not to say he doesn’t like first base, but I think he’s going to fall in love with it in August and September when his body feels pretty good and the bat speed is still there. I know he’s looking forward to getting back on the field with these guys and hopefully making something good happen.”
I talked to Brian Duensing and Ryan Pressly about their impressions of the moves Terry Ryan has been making in the offseason to add a number of pitchers to the roster (and the relative lack of moves to shore up the offense) and about the number of pitchers who will be in the Twins’ spring training camp when it opens.
Duensing: “It’s tough. I think the situation we’re going to be in, it’s got to be heavy one way or the other, in order for us to get back (where we want to be). We need to focus on more or less one spot and then try to fill the bats back in. I think Terry Ryan’s up to going with starting pitching. That’s our most important aspect we need to improve on and then we’ll find hitting as we get confidence going deep in to games. I think that’s maybe how we’re going about it. As relievers, I think we’re excited about it.”
“Unfortunately, our starters kind of struggled last year so we got worked pretty good. Maybe if we get a little deeper in to games, we can be even better.”
I brought up the fact that, although the new pitchers being added thus far are rotation help, there are a number of pitchers who started last year who are out of options going in to 2014 and they could find themselves competing with last season’s relief corps for spots in the bullpen.
Pressly: “You’ve got to love competition. I look forward to going to spring training and seeing what everyone’s been working on in the offseason. But yeah, not having a lot of options I guess can kind of hurt you in the long run.”
Duensing: “Unfortunately, it’s part of the business. A lot of these guys coming in to camp that don’t have options are our friends. We hang out with them a lot. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the beast. But competition doesn’t hurt anybody.”
I asked Pressly for his thoughts on the Rule 5 draft experience last year:
Pressly: “It all kind of sparked in the Arizona Fall League. I went out and threw really well there and the Twins picked me up in the Rule 5. I came to spring training and it just kind of carried over to that. It was an awsome feeling having Gardy tell me, especially at the Red Sox facility, ‘hey you made our team.’ I didn’t even get one step in to the dugout and he told me, so it was pretty fun.”
Finally, pictures from the festivities:
I know, you’re tired of talking about Alex Rodriguez and his war with Bud Selig and Major League Baseball over his use of Performance Enhancing Drugs.
Still, we all knew we were going to have to go through another bombardment of stories about the subject whenever the arbitration system played itself out and a final decision (and I use that term loosely, because I’m not all that convinced this decision is “final”) was announced concerning ARod’s suspension for using PEDs.
That decision came down over the weekend and the tie-breaking member of the panel ruled that a reduction from the MLB-imposed 211 game suspension would be reduced to 162 games. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that baseball plays 162-game seasons.
As I read and heard the details of the decision, I couldn’t generate even a little bit of enthusiasm for it. Even the promotional spots during CBS’ NFL Playoff game Sunday afternoon for the big “60 Minutes” interview of ARod’s one-time PED supplier, Tony Bosch, couldn’t get me to care about what any of the parties had to say. I wasn’t even going to watch the interviews that CBS magically had conducted, edited and prepared for airing the same weekend as the announcement of the arbitrator’s ruling.
I channel surfed a bit after the football game ended, but I found nothing I really felt like watching. So I watched “60 Minutes.” After the half-hour segment in which Bosch, Bud Selig, Selig’s likely heir as MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and ARod’s attorney Joseph Tacopina all got face time, I came away with one thought on the whole thing.
Nuke ‘em all.
I don’t believe any of them. Every one of them is lying or, at best, not revealing the entire truth.
Bosch is the embodiment of sleaze.
Selig did nothing to change my feelings about him. I thought he was a sanctimonious, incompetent ass before and his small bit of camera time on the show reinforced that view. Manfred is nothing more than a Selig lap dog.
Tacopina has a job to do, I know. If serial killers are entitled to the best legal representation they can afford, then certainly a baseball player who finds himself on the opposite side of the Commissioner of Baseball deserves the same. But he still came across as a slimy lawyer representing an even slimier client.
CBS and their interviewer, Scott Pelley, couldn’t have possibly created a more one-sided piece than what they ended up airing. I grew up watching Mike Wallace and others on “60 Minutes” play hardball with interview subjects. Bosch, Selig and Manfred got slow-pitch Nerf balls.
What a joke.
Some media are saying there were no winners in this debacle – that it made everyone look bad. I disagree. There was a winner. The New York Yankees escaped the “60 Minutes” segment without so much as seeing anyone have to answer a question over their obvious motives for wanting Rodriguez to be assessed the longest possible suspension.
But, as everyone who is not a Yankees fan knows, any time the Yankees win at anything, everyone else loses (at least everyone else who isn’t in the business of making money from the Yankees winning a lot of baseball games).
In fact, the Yankees are having one helluva party right now.
With Rodriguez’’s suspension, they’re off the hook for the $25 million salary he was due for the 2014 season. That means they can either spend that money on someone who, unlike Rodriguez, is actually still good at baseball or they can use the savings to meet their stated goal of remaining below the league’s luxury tax limit for payroll this year.
There’s a bit of speculation over how the team might manage to keep the player out of their Spring Training camp without violating the terms of the player agreement negotiated with the MLBPA, but here’s a point I haven’t seen mentioned in the media: If the Yankees manage to qualify for the postseason, I don’t think there’s any reason they couldn’t activate Rodriguez at that point.
Would they want the pariah in their clubhouse and in their dugout?
Don’t kid yourself. If there’s anything the Yankees organization wants more than to rid themselves of as much as possible of the stupid contract Rodriguez was handed by George Steinbrenner on his way to his everlasting resting place, that thing is winning another World Series. If they believe Rodriguez can help them get that with his bat in the postseason, they may posture and moan about it, probably telling the world that they’re only doing it because they “have to” for legal reasons, but then they’ll suit him up.
[NOTE: A review of the actual arbitrator decision, now made public as an exhibit in Rodriguez's lawsuit against MLB and the MLBPA, clarifies that his suspension is for the entire 2014 regular season AND the 2014 post-season.]
As Ed Thoma at Baseball Outsider reminded us in his piece on Monday, this isn’t the first time the Yankees have attempted to escape responsibility for a badly thought out long-term contract. In 1990, Commissioner Fay Vincent banned George Steinbrenner from baseball for life* after an investigation revealed that the Yankees’ owner paid a sleazeball informant to provide dirt on Dave Winfield in the hope that it would provide sufficient grounds to void his contract.
* As it turned out, “for life,” in this case, turned out to be a bit over two years, after which Vincent gave in and lifted the ban. Too bad Pete Rose couldn’t have had the same kind of “lifetime” ban. Even more so, it’s too bad Steinbrenner didn’t have the same kind of “lifetime” ban that Rose has had enforced upon him.
So one Commissioner banned a Yankees owner for life for paying a scumbag for dirt on a player, in an attempt to void the player’s contract.
Now, over 20 years later, a different Commissioner pays a different scumbag for dirt on a player, in an attempt to suspend that player for a full season of games, far more than anything called for under the terms of the current negotiated drug plan with the players’ union. In doing so, the Commissioner gets the Yankees off the hook for $25 million of salary owed to the player otherwise.
But I’m sure that’s just a very happy coincidence for the Yankees.
I agree with Thoma’s conclusion. The lesson here is that, if you want to get off the hook for your stupid decisions and get out of a contract, you don’t take action yourself – you get the Commissioner’s office to do it for you.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel at all sorry for Rodriguez. He made his bed and he can lie in it. He’s about as unlikeable a player as there has probably ever been in baseball (and in a game that’s given us Ty Cobb and Barry Bonds, that’s saying something).
But this action by MLB sets a dangerous precedent and the next player they decide to go after with another “the ends justify the means” vendetta may not be someone as universally despised as Rodriguez. Now, when that happens, they will have precedent on their side and it will be challenging, at best, for the player or the union to do much about it.
In addition, as John Paul Morosi pointed out on Monday, Selig’s actions seem to have turned the players and their union from allies in his war against PED use in to adversaries again. While clean players and the MLBPA have been on board with tougher testing and attempts to clean up the game, they certainly are not going to stand by and let the Commissioner unilaterally blow past the penalties called for in the negotiated agreement. Frankly, nor should they.
Morosi speculates – and I think he’s right – that Selig’s actions, by turning the relationship with the Players Association in to something much more adversarial in nature, pose a risk to future labor peace.
Those who have stood up most often to defend the overall record of Bud Selig’s reign as Commissioner have consistently pointed out that he has overseen a long period of relative stability in labor relations. In many minds, the labor relations peace alone is more important than his failures (including, perhaps most damning, the way he and the rest of the league turned a blind eye to PED use in the first place).
It would be ironic if one of his last, and most dramatic, actions as Commissioner turns out to undo whatever previous good he may have done in the labor relations area.
Anyway, you can tell me you hate Alex Rodriguez; or you can tell me you hate Tony Bosch; or you can tell me you hate the lawyers involved; or you can tell me you hate the Yankees; or you can tell me you hate Bud Selig
I’ll agree with you.
We snuck in some hall of fame talk towards the end of the podcast, but for the most part we stayed away from the hall (Just like Jack Morris – ZING!). This week we feature Stuart Turner, the Twins 2013 3rd round draft pick, we talk about what Eddie Rosario‘s 50 game suspension and Miguel Sano‘s possible Tommy John surgery could mean for their development and Twins debuts and argue over whether the Twins should sign a couple of the free agents who are still out on the market, most notably Johan Santana and Stephen Drew.
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Episode 65 is out for your listening enjoyment. Happy New Year from all of the gang at Talk to Contact. We debated titling the podcast after Twins Coach Nelson Prada who wore #65 a few years ago, but anytime Tom Kelly‘s zubaz come up on conversation you are required to title said conversation after those wonderful pants. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.
After a holiday hiatus the Talk to Contact podcast returns will all of the usual contributors. Up for discussion this week is Chris Colabello declining a trip to Korea, the make-up of the Twins opening day outfield, former Twins making comebacks and a rousing of debate of whether or not Kurt Suzuki will play a meaningful role for the Twins in 2014.
We go down on the pond and take a look at the Twins 2013 4th round draft pick, Stephen Gonsalves (LHP), discuss whether a shandy should even be considered a beer and talk about moves from around the rest of the MLB, including possible landing spots for Masahiro Tanaka and the potential for the Houston Astros to contend in the AL West this coming season. All of that and more on this week’s podcast.
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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 Liam Hendriks make the major league club in Baltimore and hopefully pitch against Danny Valencia and the Royals, beaning him in the middle of the back.
2013 is now officially behind us. All the disappointments of the last baseball season, the frustrations with management and the starting roster we’re used to seeing for that matter are all officially in the past of “last year”… that being said, this is the day when we as a culture seemingly are addicted to saying what one thing we want to do better.
So I’m curious. What baseball related resolution have you made? What one resolution do you think the Twins should make?
And of course, we all realize that resolutions rarely make it 3 months into the new year so congrats to any and all resolutions that actually make into the start of baseball season.
MY resolution is: See a minor league game in person. (that gives me plenty of time to work on it).