Episode 72: Reviewing the White Sox

You can put it on the board… YES! This week we are joined by lifelong Chicago White Sox fan Tom Flynn (@Mighty_Flynn) to check in on what’s been happening on the South Side of Chicago since the season came to a close. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

HawkBoard

We check in on just about every relevant ex-Twin, including Johan Santana, who threw off a mound for several teams and Matt Garza, who signed with the Brewers. Eric takes the gang through a quick round of pepper and eventually we get around to discussing other happenings in baseball, including the new rule concerning collisions at home plate. Strangely enough, Drew Butera is mentioned a handful of times throughout the podcast and there is even talk of a dog running a sausage race.

Thanks for the download. You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs, and you can find Jay Corn on twitter @Jay__Corn! 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 Johan regain some of his Cy Young prowess.

Thanks for listening!

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews will help Jason Bartlett make the 25-man roster.

Episode 63: Winter Meetings Edition

Episode 63 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

winter-meetings-2013

This week we delve into the winter meetings, or rather, we get together and speculate wildly about things that may or may not happen. Will Bronson Arroyo or Mike Pelfrey end up in a Twins uniform in 2014? What about Stephen Drew? We also attempt to discuss the moves other teams are making around the league. Later on we attempt to give Joe Mauer a nickname, but despite many great submissions we never settle on something we can all agree on. Finally we take an in depth look at Twins prospect Lewis Thorpe.

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

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, which are probably useless.

Episode 59: Joe Mauer Moves and Cory Provus Speaks

Episode 59 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer
Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

This week’s episode is a bit lonely as Eric is stuck in the backwoods of Minnesota deer hunting and dealing with a septic situation. Paul and Cody go it alone and discuss the Twins news, most notably the announcement that Twins uber-star Joe Mauer will transition to first base for the 2014 season and beyond. Later in the podcast Paul is joined by the radio voice of the Minnesota Twins, Cory Provus (@CoryProvus). We also discuss the news that the Braves are looking to move out of Turner Field, and Cody actually participates in an interview this week while we’re chatting with Twins double-A shortstop AJ Pettersen (@apettersen1), so be sure to give us a listen.

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

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, which helps the Pohlads fight off the ghost of Bill Smith.

Talk to Contact Episode 55: Canadian Meat Sticks and Infield Woes

Episode 55 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

Sep 3, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Minnesota Twins second baseman Doug Bernier (17) sprints home against the Houston Astros during the twelfth inning at Minute Maid Park. The Twins won 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 3, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Minnesota Twins second baseman Doug Bernier (17) sprints home against the Houston Astros during the twelfth inning at Minute Maid Park. The Twins won 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

We’re essentially geniuses, that’s the only conclusion I could come to after recording and listening to this week’s episode. Pure baseball genius. We talk about some issues surrounding the infield this off-season (The return of Justin Morneau? What Miguel Sano means to Trevor Plouffe and if anyone can or should challenge Pedro Florimon at SS), talk a little bit about the farm system and some possible trades that might develop. We also talk about beer. Eric was fired for drinking water, then immediately hired back, because he’s my brother. We also made a wager of 100 beers while debating if Doug Bernier will ever post an OBP over .330 again in his career.

Thanks for listening!

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

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).

Talk to Contact – Episode 52 – The Ryan Doumit Lovefest

Episode 52 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

Ryan Doumit Pumpkin

Eric spends most of this episode belittling Ryan Doumit and then trying to convince me that Doumit should play more often than I think is reasonable. We talk about Twins prospect Tyler Jones and wonder aloud what the roles will be for players like Doumit, Josh Willingham, Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee. Summer is officially over and pumpkin beers have arrived across America. Tune in to find out about Paul’s favorite pumpkin beer and a bunch of Twins talk.


 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

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).

.

Talk to Contact Episode 51

Episode 51 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

Twins-Farm-System-logo-300x252

 

The Minor League season has ended for all of the Twins MiLB affiliates except for the Rochester Red Wings.  We take a look at some standout seasons and team reviews around the Twins system.  We also spend a good deal of time discussing Aaron Hicks’ role in 2014 and the possible leadership void left in the wake of Justin Morneau’s trade to Pittsburgh.

84 minutes of cantankerous babble.

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

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).

Shut Down Joe Mauer. Now.

It occurs to me that since I’ve been a little preoccupied with writing about the Cedar Rapids Kernels the past five months, I have written very little about the Minnesota Twins.

Now that the Kernels’ season has come to a close, I’m going to try to remedy that situation and I’m going to begin by posing a question to the Twns’ front office: Why the heck have you not announced that you are shutting Joe Mauer down for the season?

I mean it. Shut Joe Mauer down and do it right frigging now!

I know he wants to play. I know he wants to put on the gear and get behind the plate again this season. I know he doesn’t like sitting and watching his team mates play (and frankly, many days, the rest of us aren’t enjoying it much either).

I don’t care. He is not (or at least he shouldn’t be) the one calling the shots.

Check out these quotes that Star-Tribune beat reporter LaVelle E. Neal III attributed to Mauer in Neal’s blog post Thursday:

“I start feeling symptoms when I start to get my heart rate up,” Mauer said between workouts at Target Field on Thursday.

Mauer is determined to return to the Twins lineup before the end of the regular season – but he has to wait until the symptoms go away for good.

“This process has been a little longer than I hoped,” Mauer said.

Tell me that doesn’t sound like something we might have heard Justin Morneau say during the summer of 2010.

That summer, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com authored a piece on the concussions of Morneau and Jason Bay, and quoted another former member of the Twins, Corey Koskie, extensively. This quote from Koskie should resound with Twins fans who think Mauer should return to the field for any part of what’s left of this third straight lost season:

Koskie doesn’t profess to know everything about concussions, but he’s compiled a list of “do’s” and “don’ts.” He advises any athlete with concussion symptoms to consult a doctor with no vested interest in the player’s return to the field. His blood pressure also spikes when he reads a news story that Player X suffered a “mild” concussion in the line of duty.

“That’s a pet peeve of mine,” Koskie said. “The brain is the most important organ in the body. You’d never hear somebody say, ‘This guy just had a minor heart attack. He should be able to play in two days.’ ”

When Morneau caught a knee to the helmet in Toronto three years ago, he was hitting .345 and had an OPS of 1.055. Last week he was traded for two guys 99% of us had never heard of.

Joe Mauer

Joe Mauer

Look, I’ve got plans to attend a Twins game a week from Saturday (assuming I survive the #GrandDrunkRailroad pregame festivities) and I’d like to see Mauer play. I don’t care if he doesn’t hit home runs, I appreciate what he does with a bat and he’s almost certainly going to be enshrined in Cooperstown someday. I want to see him play any chance I can get.

But Justin Morneau’s career path was just as promising as Joe Mauer’s three seasons ago and a concussion that was originally thought to be minor robbed Twins fans of getting to see him at his best in his prime… not to mention robbing us of the opportunity to see what difference he might have made in a couple of Twins’ postseason appearances in 2010 and 2011.

I want to see the Twins improve in 2014 and I want to see them return to contention in 2015 and beyond. The Twins organization has a number of very good prospects who will be arriving by then.

But if prospects like Miguel Sano or Byron Buxton had been concussed with three or four weeks left in their seasons, is there any way the Twins WOULDN’T just shut them down immediately rather than try to get them back on the field for a couple weeks at the end of the season, even if it might involve minor league postseason games?

There is no way they would take that kind of risk with such critical assets.

After all, the chances of the Minnesota Twins returning to relevancy in the next few years depend on a healthy Miguel Sano and a healthy Byron Buxton.

They also depend on a healthy Joe Mauer.

And the remaining games on the Twins’ schedule are every bit as meaningless as minor league games are, at this point. They simply do not matter at all, except for the purpose of evaluating players with an eye toward what, if any, roles they should play on a future Twins roster.

The Twins need to find out if Josmil Pinto and Chris Herrmann can handle catching at the Major League level. They need to find out if Chris Colabello and Chris Parmelee can hit Major League pitching well enough to take over at first base.

There may be a legitimate question as to what position Joe Mauer should play in the future, but there is absolutely no question concerning whether he’ll have a role somewhere – unless he tries to return too soon from his concussion and spends an offseason dealing with symptoms the way Morneau did leading up to 2011.

If the Twins’ brass ask Mauer if he wants to continue to work toward getting back on the field this season, of course he’s going to say, “yes.” He’s a competitor and you would expect no other answer.

That’s why the question shouldn’t even be asked.

The Twins should simply tell Mauer his season is over and he should focus on being ready to take the field when pitchers and catchers report to spring training in February.

Doing otherwise is illogical and perhaps even irresponsible.

- JC

Hindsight is 20-20: Joe Mauer

Since Twins catcher Joe Mauer landed on the 7-day disabled list for concussion victims after taking several shots to the mask and helmet recently, there has been a great deal of renewed social media chatter about the Twins star’s future behind the plate.

In a rare moment of idleness Wednesday, I took note of a Tweet by Pioneer-Press Twins beat reporter Mike Berardino and it reminded me of a question I’ve been gnawing on from time to time for at least a couple of years now.

Here’s Berardino’s Tweet:

Twitter contest: Most insightful comment re: Mauer situation/future will be immortalized on next Twinsights blog at http://twincities.com

It took some doing to get my thoughts on the subject reduced to under 140 characters (right now, somewhere, CapitalBabs is laughing at the suggestion I could even get my thoughts trimmed to the 1,400 words my typical blog posts seem to run, much less 140 characters – someone punch her in the arm for me, will ya?). Anyway, my response:

@MikeBerardino Wonder if Mauer is an anomaly ‘cuz most catchers can’t hit or ‘cuz most orgs won’t let their best hitters stay at catcher.

Of course, I knew full well that I never have the most insightful thought or comment concerning any subject, so my chances of winning Berardino’s “contest” and attaining the immortality of being featured in his Twinsights blog were practically nil.

Then I remembered – I have my own blog!

I know I haven’t written much about the Twins the past couple of months, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t, right?

There’s no doubt that much of the value the Twins placed on Joe Mauer when they agreed to pay him $23 million per year for eight years back in March of 2010 was because he was not only pretty decent with a piece of lumber in his hands, but also played a “premium” position. Frankly, baseball hadn’t seen a catcher as proficient as Mauer at hitting a baseball in almost forever.

Joe Mauer

Sure, he’d be a pretty good hitter if he played any other position, too, but as a catcher, he gave the Twins an edge over every other team in baseball at that position. That’s what made him worth, in the team’s view, such a large pile of money over so many years. (That and the sideburns, of course.)

Speculation about whether Mauer would or should eventually move out from behind the plate began long before he started getting the big bucks. Guys his size simply are not catchers. They’re first basemen, designated hitters and corner outfielders (usually poor fielding ones, at that).

From various reports, Mauer has always prided himself on his defensive abilities behind the dish and perhaps even resisted any attempts from within the organization to suggest he consider a move. That’s admirable. Whether it’s wise is another question, though.

Last season, Mauer began playing a few games at first base. With Justin Morneau’s future in the Twins organization clearly in doubt, there’s plenty of speculation that Mauer will be the Twins’ primary first baseman perhaps as early as 2014.

While I try not to be overly critical of the people running the Twins’ front office, I’m also not so naïve as to think they can do no wrong. In that vein, and with the admission that I’m being guilty of Monday morning quarterbacking to an enormous degree, I have to pose this question:

Should the Twins have pulled Mauer out from behind the plate years ago, probably during the brief time he spent in the lower minor leagues, and taught him to play a position that was… well… safer?

That essentially brings us back to the question I posed in my reply to Mike Berardino.

Does Mauer’s offensive proficiency stand out among the game’s other catchers because he’s so good at hitting a baseball or is it because most other organizations won’t allow their top hitting prospects to catch, regardless of whether that’s what the did in high school or college or wherever they spent their time before arriving at the Twins’ complex in Fort Myers for the first time?

Even the Twins have been known to move a top bat out from behind the plate. After all, wasn’t Justin Morneau a catcher, too?

Catching is dangerous. I figured that out by the time I was nine years old. That’s about the first time I heard my baseball coaching dad refer to catchers’ gear as, “the tools of ignorance.” Sure it’s a cliché, but here’s the thing about clichés: they usually get to be clichés by being true.

In youth leagues and even high school, catchers were often among the best overall athletes on whatever team I happened to play on. Come to think of it, most of the catchers I threw to in those days were also either football players or wrestlers. Tough guys, all of them, and most of them hit pretty well, too. I suppose that’s because good athletes that age who figure out they can’t hit usually stop playing baseball.

MauerST11kBut I have to tell you, if I ran a professional baseball organization and it turned out that a guy I signed really had a knack for putting the sweet spot of a bat on to a baseball on a consistent basis, I’d burn his catcher’s mitt and tell him to shag fly balls or take some infield because his catching days are over.

I’d do that when he was 19 or 21, not when he was 30.

I kind of shake my head a bit when I read fans suggesting Mauer should simply convert to third base, “next year.”

I just don’t think people have any concept of what it takes to be a proficient… or even an adequate… third baseman at the Major League level.

Go to spring training and watch the time players and their coaches put in over on the minor league infields in the back of the Twins complex working on the nuances of fielding. Sneak in to a minor league ballpark three or four hours before game time and watch as managers and coaches teach infielders how to shave a critical split second off the process of fielding a ball, getting it out of the glove and delivering it to first base.

Could Joe Mauer learn to do all that? I’ve seen enough of him to know better than to bet against him in any endeavor involving a ball made of leather, but it’s not a given that he could make a seamless conversion. Yes, I say that fully aware that guys like Johnny Bench pulled off that switch.

My point is simply that I think the time to make that move is years earlier, when the growing pains can take place in places like Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids, not in front of 38,000 people at Target Field.

More importantly, adopting the philosophy of protecting your best hitting prospects would mean you don’t subject them to a decade of unnecessary jarring foul balls off the noggin and you can focus on developing defense-first catchers throughout your organization.

I wouldn’t wish that kind of physical punishment on anyone, but so long as the game is going to need a catcher, I’d rather the guy I’m risking back there hit like Drew Butera than Joe Mauer, especially when the alternative seems to always be seeing a couple of Butera-like hitters elsewhere on the field, anyway.

I think it’s quite possible that catchers may become the running backs of Major League Baseball, in that they’ll be among the best pure athletes in the game, but will have, on average, the shortest careers. Just as there’s almost no way to fully protect the health of running backs in a game where it’s the job of huge men to hit them as hard as possible and take their legs out from under them, it’s also unlikely that there’s any way to make catching safe from blows to the head.

Seeing Morneau and Denard Span, not to mention Corey Koskie before them, go through some difficult times with concussions, it’s clear that there’s no way to completely protect your best ballplayers from the risk of concussion. But it’s pretty evident to me that the risk is far greater for catchers.

I hope Joe Mauer’s days as a catcher are nearing an end.

And I hope the next time the Twins sign a catching prospect who can hit like Mauer, I’m watching him play another position by the time he comes through Cedar Rapids on his way to the Show.

GameChat – Twins @ Angels #2, 9:05pm

The Twins just know how to win. Simple as that folks.  The Twins are just at the beginning of a string of 20 games against teams with records under .500, so they should play pretty competitive baseball for the next few weeks.  It will be fun while it lasts, as they run into the Tigers and Indians for what seems like two straight weeks after this is over.

Should be fun tonight with Kyle Gibson on the mound.

EDIT: Joe Mauer was a late scratch from the lineup and is headed back to Minnesota because his wife’s water broke. The babies were not due for another month, so let’s hope everything is okay for the Mauers.

 Minnesota Twins

@

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
 Dozier, 2B  Shuck, LF
 Carroll, 3B  Trout, CF
 Morneau, 1B  Pujols, DH
 Doumit, RF
 Kendrick, H, 2B
 Colabello, DH  Callaspo, 3B
 Thomas, C, LF  Trumbo, 1B
 Herrmann, C, C  Conger, C
 Hicks, CF  Cowgill, RF
 Florimon, SS  Aybar, SS
   Gibson, P    Hanson, P

Time to start a winning streak.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 7 10 15 0
LA Angels 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 10 0

What a finish!  For the 2nd night in a row the Twins almost give one away in late innings.  Tonight the Twins did give up the lead in the 9th, but stormed back in the 10th, capping things off with a Chris Herrmann grand slam to put the Angels away.

I was long asleep, but  Herrmann certainly gets BOD for his 3-5 night with RBI after not expecting to start tonight.

Chris Herrmann

 

Don’t Blame “Those Damn Yankees”

The Twins, according to legend, are afraid of the Yankees. And you know what, after some quick post-season exits at the hands of the Yankees, that is a pretty easy narrative to build.  Add in the fact that the Twins have struggled to beat the Yankees in the regular season, despite the Twins having fairly successful regular season teams for most of the 2000’s, and you begin to see how that narrative continues to grow.

Johan Santana

Johan Santana

In the 11 years between 2000 and 2010 the Twins compiled a .537 winning percentage, going 957-826.  During that same span the Twins went 25-57 against the New York Yankees, a .325 winning percentage.  Take out the 77 games against the Yankees and the Twins are 163 games above .500 instead of just 131.  That is a significant bump.  During that same time period the Twins played the Yankees four times in the post-season, managing to win just two games, while losing 12, swept in 2009 and 2010.  That brings the Twins’ 11-year record against the Yankees to 27-69 (.281).  That is bad, almost as bad as the 2003 Detroit Tigers (43-119), the worst team of the last 50 years.

During that same 11-year span the Yankees were 1060-718, only had a losing record against one American League team (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 45-54), and won two World Series titles (and losing in the World Series two other times).  So clearly the Yankees were a better team than the Twins over that same time period, but the Yankees’ .596 winning percentage is not so much larger than the Twins’ .537 that you would expect the Twins fail so miserably against the Yankees during the span.

Assuming each team’s regular season winning percentages represented their true talent over those 11 years, the Yankees should have beaten the Twins only about 53% of the time, not the nearly 72% clip they had over that same span.  So what gives?  Why did the Yankees perform so well against the Minnesota Twins, especially in the post season?

For me, it comes down to roster construction, and specifically the postseason pitching rotations, where teams often turn to only their top three or four pitchers.

2003

Game (score, winner) Twins (starting pitcher) Yankees (starting pitcher)
1 (3-1 Twins) Johan Santana Mike Mussina
2 (1-4 Yankees) Brad Radke Andy Pettitte
3 (1-3 Yankees) Kyle Lohse Roger Clemens
4 (1-8 Yankees) Johan Santana David Wells

The Twins, with a lack of depth in their starting rotation chose to go back to their ace on four days of rest, facing elimination in Game 4.  The Yankees, alternatively, felt strong enough to run out David Wells (4.14 ERA, 4.3K/9, essentially a league average pitcher in 2003 despite his 15-7 W/L record) knowing that should they be pushed to a decisive Game 5 they could turn to Mike Mussina, their ace, against Brad Radke (4.49 ERA and a pitch to contact friendly contact rate of 82.2%).

So while you would certainly expect the Twins to score more than 3 runs over their final 3 games in this series, outside of Santana the Twins certainly did not have a rotation that could even dream about keeping up with New York (and remember that the Kyle Lohse of 2003 (4.61 ERA) is a far cry from the pitcher he has been over the past three seasons).

2004 Continue reading