2010-04-12T00:54:33.562-05:00For my entire life, my favorite team, the Minnesota Twins have played their home games indoors (the Metrodome opened for baseball 2 1/2 years before my birth) which means, despite witnessing hundreds of Twins games over the past 18 years or so, I have never seen the sun illuminate the Twins' home whites during a game that mattered. (I say this to exclude spring training/exhibition games.)That will all change tomorrow, April 12, when the Twins officially christen Target Field as the new home of Twins Territory. It promises to be an historic day, and one that I feel extremely fortunate to witness in person.Opening a new ballpark, Twins fans are learning, while a blast and probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience, is also a lot of work! You have to find a new "secret" spot to park (or find a new bus/train route), figure out which seats you like the most, which concession stands have the best food and even what innings to head for the restroom. But Target Field's prime location near Minneapolis' Warehouse District brings to light another, heretofore unknown dilemma for Twins fans -- where should I go for a drink/bite before and after the game?As a 20-something die hard fan, this is question I've been pondering for a surprisingly long time, but I think I might just have my answer: Rock Bottom Brewery in downtown Minneapolis.Saturday, Becca from Lola Red Public Relations invited myself and some other Twins bloggers out to witness a fun event they had staged at Rock Bottom -- a "Biggest Twins Fan" contest, in which an online poll selected four Twins fans to compete for a pretty-darn-spectacular grand prize -- a trip to 2011 Twins spring training in Fort Myers, valued at $1,500! With TwinsMVB.com blogger John Meyer one of the contestant and Rock Bottom only a couple miles from my house, it was a no-brainer -- a couple friends and I decided to check out the event (promises of 2-4-1 beers did not hurt, obviously...).I'll post a couple of videos that I shot on my Flip cam below, but needless to say, it was a pretty fun event. The four contestants (a woman named Michelle, John, eventual winner Ross and tattoo-guy Joel) competed in a series of contests ranging from spin-the-bat (see a video of John below) to math problems to giving their best angry Ron Gardenhire impressions (hilarious video below). Contestant Ross ended up the much-deserved victor and took home the trip, but there was an excellent crowd on hand and people were fired up for Twins season!It's interesting to see the various bars and restaurants position themselves to capture a portion of the inevitable Twins traffic - at least 3 million people will be making their way down to Target Field sometime over the next six months, which means a lot of potentially hungry/thirsty customers!I've always liked Rock Bottom and their custom-brewed beer (the Northstar being my person fav), and they gave away special T-shirts to those in attendance Saturday that entitle them to 2-4-1 beers on the day of any Twins home game throughout the season -- that certainly made my pre-/post-game outing decision a lot easier, since Rock Bottom is just a stone's throw away from the field and a quality establishment to boot.It remains to be seen if other places around the park begin holding similar promotions to woo Twins fans -- I think they're going to find that the competition for those dollars will be fierce, and differentiating yourself from the throng (like Rock Bottom appears to be doing) could really pay off in the end.Again, a heartfelt thanks to Becca for the invite -- I know that TwinsGeek (John Bonnes) and Kristen Brown (@kbrobaseball) also made appearances. I'll definitely be stopping by Rock Bottom with some friends on several occasions this season!The videos I referenced above are embedded below -- the actual contest itself was a hoot, as you can see!**ADDENDUM: Sarah from Oh It's THOSE Girls baseball blog has a far better recap of Saturday's event, complete with pictures (w/out all the pontificating that I am prone to) - check it out![...]
2010-04-11T22:35:31.384-05:00Okay, so I'm about a week late with this post (although bear with me, I'm going to put a couple things on here tonight), but I was in attendance at both of the Twins exhibition games against the Cardinals at Target Field April 2 and 3.
2010-03-11T22:31:19.423-06:00As I mentioned, I'm going to be only sporadically posting on Twins Chatter this season (which is fine, we don't get many hits these days anyway). I'm still working on updating that logo (I promise to have it done before Target Field opens though).
2010-02-07T23:31:29.159-06:00I probably won't be commenting on current Twins news/speculation here as much as I used to back in the day (that niche is plenty filled in the Twins blogosphere), but the most recent move I couldn't let slip by. The Twins signing Orlando Hudson to a one-year, $5 million contract to play second base is a fantastic move by the team and signals a big step forward for the franchise -- actually going out and procuring a veteran player at a position of need. And the best available player no less!
Hudson had an unusually strong year hitting from the left side, but even if he reverts to his previous form at the plate will give the Twins more baserunners and more thump from a position where they were getting marginally more offense than they'd have received from sending a good-hitting pitcher to the plate. Hudson was a premium defensive player while he was with Toronto, but spent the last four years with teams that emphasized defense less than the Jays did, and his defense suffered, with traditional evaluations and defensive metrics agreeing that he was average or even a tick below. It's possible that was just a function of age, but it's also possible that Hudson needs to be with a coach (or staff) who works with him constantly on his glovework for him to be effective on defense; it's one area of the game where coaching can make a huge difference, including areas like positioning. The Twins have generally run good defensive clubs out there the last few years, and they've been willing to sacrifice some offense for better defense -- it's mostly speculation on my part, but I think there's a good chance that Hudson rediscovers some of his lost defensive value in Minnesota.If there was any criticism of the Hudson signing, it's that, despite having an excellent offensive first half in '09 (he actually hit third for the Dodgers after Manny's suspension) and winning his fourth Gold Glove, he might be on the decline and in danger of falling off substantially. Law brings up an excellent point here -- even though the Twins defensive reputation as a "small ball" team that "does the little things right" has been undeserved for the past two years, it's hard to deny that Jerry White and the Twins' coaching staff makes a point to coach infielders; Corey Koskie, Jason Bartlett, Justin Morneau and others have made great strides defensively during the Gardenhire regime.
2010-01-29T15:56:57.285-06:00It's going to take me a while to get back into the swing of things with this blogging business, so please bear with me if these start off rather disjointed and difficult to read.
2010-01-27T15:06:34.771-06:00Hello super faithful readers! I know it has been a long, long time since Twins Chatter existed in any real form (pretty much since 2004-05), but I never really gave up the idea that I would start it back up.
2009-05-27T10:27:44.718-05:00Even though there hasn't been a real update on Twins Chatter for quite some time (I did, after all, retire from blogging in 2006), there has been a recent uptick in the traffic to this site due to a couple of links floating out there.
2008-04-17T00:11:36.965-05:00Sadly, this website, which was once the apple of my eye and one of the first Twins blogs out there, has fallen into disrepair - Lew Ford is now in Japan and I haven't posted regularly since the 2005 season.But tonight, that's about to change - for the 10 of you who still click on this URL (whether or not you are real people... I have a sneaking suspicion you are all simply spam bots) are in for a rare treat. My friend Doug Vose, University of Minnesota athletic communications extraordinaire and aspiring would-be blogger, was in attendance at Wednesday night's big 6-5 Twins win. Check out Doug's thoughts below in "Devil Rays By Any Other Name."The Twins returned to the Metrodome on Wednesday night to take on the Tampa Devil Rays after finishing off a seven-game, AL Central-flavored road trip that ended with the Twins’ bullpen squandering a pair of winnable games in Detroit. Buoyed by a three-hit performance by Joe Mauer and three shutout innings from their beleaguered ‘pen, the Twins pulled off a 6-5 win on Dollar-a-Dog night.The Twins were in need of a few breaks to wriggle out of their recent rough patch, and the Rays were apparently feeling generous.With the game knotted at five in the bottom of the eighth, the Twins began a threat when a bloop single by Brenden Harris moved fellow Rays refugee Delmon Young to third base with one out. Twins third-sacker Mike Lamb came to the plate and sent a soft fly into foul territory near the Twins’ bullpen, to which Rays’ perennial token All-Star Carl Crawford gave chase.With Crawford’s only option of snagging the Lamb flare coming in the form of a sprawling lunge, everyone in the building was expecting the veteran outfielder to let the ball drop with Young poised to tag and score from third base.However, Crawford demonstrated why the Rays are indeed the Rays - whether or not their new uniforms and new name say so. Crawford executed what would have normally been a Web Gem-caliber sliding catch. With no chance for Crawford to throw home lying on the carpet, Young trotted home to score the go-ahead tally.In the span of four seconds, Rays skipper Joe Maddon aged a decade.Closer Joe Nathan finished off the Rays in the top of the ninth inning, getting Crawford for the final out on a called third strike to secure the 6-5 win and to end the Twins’ brief three-game skid.In another close game between the two squads last season, Crawford was the culprit on another crippling late-inning baserunning gaffe that cost the Rays a win at the Dome. FSN promptly ran tape of the play during their post-game coverage that featured Crawford turning a sure double into an inning-ending, 9-4-2-6 double play last season.A player like Crawford illustrates the difference between a valuable fantasy performer and what makes a ‘winning’ ballplayer: Crawford has hit over .300 for each of the past three seasons and has stolen at least 46 games in each of his first five full seasons in the league in spite of the Rays’ perennial place in the sub-basement of the AL East. It is interesting how some fans often scoff at the notion of a ‘winning’ player when broadcasters make mention of the value of players like Kevin Youkilis and Chone Figgins, but games like tonight show why talent does not always translate into wins.* * *Wednesday also marked the much-anticipated (not really) return of Jason Bartlett to the Metrodome after the shortstop was shipped to Tampa along with formerly prized pitching prospect Matt Garza and farmhand Eduardo Morlan in November for the heralded Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and outfield prospect Jason Pridie.Bartlett has been handed the starting shortstop job with the Rays, and will look to add some pop at the plate and to shed a reputation as an inconsistent glove man. If Wednesday’s performance was any indication, this quest will be an uphill battle the 28-year-old.With Twins’ new[...]
2008-03-31T12:15:22.325-05:00Just like my last post (put up approximately six months ago) waxed poetically about the end of the Lew Ford Era of Twins baseball, today marks the start of a new one - the Livan Hernandez era! The early over-under on Livan's season ERA is 5.00... Any takers?
2007-10-08T16:05:59.664-05:00I realize I never post on Twins Chatter anymore, but last week such a monumental event occurred that it could not go un-commented upon. Lew Ford, the Official Player of Twins Chatter since early 2004, finally saw his roller coast career as a Minnesota Twin come to an unceremonious end on Thursday when he was dropped from the team's 40-man roster. As it turned out, 2004 was the high point of his career - in addition to the AMAZING .419/.471/.710 he hit during April (including 17 RBIs) he hit a solid .299 with 15 homers and 72 RBIs for the season. It truly was a dream season for Lew, the Twins (until that whole losing-to-the-Yankees-in-the-playoffs ending) and Twins Chatter.
2007-04-26T00:27:44.465-05:00The 2007 baseball season is only about 20 games old, but those handful of contests (approximately 12 percent of the entire season) have taught us a lot. We know that Barry Bonds will likely break Hank Aaron's career home run record sooner rather than later (he has six homers already this season), Alex Rodriguez has more talent in his little pinky than you do in your entire body (14 home runs already this year!) and Daisuke Matsuzaka may have been a smidge overhyped (but will still be solid).But what about when it comes to the hometown Metropolitans, the defending division champions? Through Wednesday, the Twins sported a decent 11-10 record, good enough for fourth place in the American League Central. Although it is too early to make any definitive statements (remember Henry “Hammerin' Hank” Blanco's red-hot start in 2004?), 21 games can serve to confirm or debunk some preseason expectations.Below are my thoughts on some key Twins performers so far in 2007:Ramon Ortiz: No one expected much out of this journeyman righthander, me least of all. Ortiz has been a revelation so far in April, turning in four outstanding performances and collecting three wins. He has been doing exactly what made him successful in Anaheim from 2001 through 2003: Keeping the ball down (i.e. in the ballpark) and letting his defense work behind him. Twins fans need to know that Ortiz isn't going to retain his current 2.45 ERA all season long – he will struggle at times, and you will wonder “How did that guy hit the ball that far?” when Ramon serves up another hanging slider in June.But it looks like playing for an improved team will help Oritz resurrect his previously-floundering career.Fearless Forecast: 13 wins, an ERA around 4.25 and $3.1 million well spent. Nice work, Terry Ryan.Nick Punto: I realize Punto has missed time with injuries, but his .186 batting average and .262 on-base percentage to start the year should send up red flags all over the place. An outstanding defensive player, Punto needs to make consistent contact in order to have success at the plate.When he was hitting well last year (May through August), Punto drew a walk nearly as often as he struck out (41 walks versus 46 strikeouts). His September slump last year (Punto batted just .252) saw him strike out 18 times while walking just three times. This year? Ten strikeouts in 64 plate appearances and only six walks. Punto needs to step up at the plate or last year's “Tiny Superhero” may find himself on the bench.Fearless Forecast: Punto doesn't regress completely, but can't replicate last year's numbers. Gardenhire stubbornly keeps him at third the entire year.Carlos Silva: Is “The Jackal” back? A 2.74 ERA through four starts might have you thinking Silva has regained his 2005 form, but that hasn't exactly been the case. The 2005 version of Silva walked just nine batters in 188 1/3 innings that year and threw complete games of 74 and 85 pitches.This year, Silva has already walked six in 23 innings and needed more than 100 pitches to get through five innings in two starts. For comparison, he only threw 100-plus pitches twice in 32 starts back in 2005. It's heartening to see that Silva hasn't been the worst starting pitcher in the American League this year (as he was in 2006), but I'm not ready to proclaim his comeback a success just yet.Fearless Forecast: Silva isn't the train wreck that he was in 2006, but never regains his 2005 form. An ERA around 4.75 is good enough to stay in the Twins' rotation, though.Sidney Ponson: Who can't say “I told you so” on this one? Last week's shellacking by the punchless Kansas City Royals (and last night’s equally unimpressive display) signaled the beginning of the end for this Aruban knight. Ponson simply doesn't have the stuff to overcome the lack of [...]
2007-04-20T00:17:55.938-05:00If you're interested in blogging and the decline of the newspaper industry, I recently wrote an article for my school newspaper. I've got sources within the Star Tribune and elsewhere, and I think it's an enjoyable read if you have the time.
2006-12-16T16:59:37.146-06:00Fear not, faithful readers (all 10 of you)! Twins Chatter is back, albeit for a limited time only. In fact, that time is limited to... Exactly one day! Before I get started on the post, I just want to go over why I am writing today, of all days. Here's the story: For the Journalistic Writing class I am taking, we recently held a class period on blogs. Naturally, being a *former* blogger myself, I professed to know a little bit about the subject. Our assignment for this week was to start a blog and write a short entry. I already have the blog started (and over 200 archived posts!), so I thought that I would simply add to that number and bring you a little bit of off-season chatter.I realize that it has been a few months since I posted anything new on Twins Chatter, but rest assured, I've been just as obsessively keeping up with all the latest Major League Baseball news. The playoff sweep, the Tigers roll, the Tigers roll over, Big Mac not in the Hall, price inflation, D-Mat signs.... You all know the storylines by now. It hasn't been a particularly eventful Hot Stove League thus far, but things have been happening pretty consistently, with much more to come no doubt.On the Twins' side of things, nothing too earth-shattering has happened (hey, imagine that!). Francisco is out for 2007, which we all kind of assumed back in September, and Morneau won the MVP award, which only the most die-hard fans saw coming (I know that I sure didn't). However, the signing of Jeff Cirillo the other day has made me stop and think about what the Twins' 2007 roster might look like. While no one expected Terry Ryan to make any major moves, I think that some fans half expected the team to have acquired a legitimate starting pitcher by now. Those same fans obviously did not anticipate the ridiculously high prices for mediocre starting pitchers this winter.My opinion? I honestly don't think that the Twins will sign viable starting pitcher to compete with the young kids in the rotation right now. And I don't necessarily think that is a bad thing. Yes, the rotation looks thin after Johan, but is it worse to take some chances with (very talented) kids or overpay for a veteran that will limit you financially when it comes to other priorities? Personally, I'll take my chances, and I think Trader Terry is likely to do the same. Here's the rotation that I see the Twins debuting in April:1. Johan Santana - No worries here... Cy Young frontrunner again in '072. Boof Bonser - How is it that a previously-unheralded guy like Boof is now "untouchable"? Such is the market these days.3. Carlos Silva - Yuck... But he almost looks like a bargin now.4. Matt Garza - This guy has all the talent in the world, and I have a feeling that he's going to put together a solid 2007 campaign. Not that he won't struggle at times, but the "Garz-dog" has the stuff to survive and thrive.5. Glen Perkins - Left-handed and throws 92-94 mph? What more could you ask for!? Okay, a little experience might help, but this guy knows how to pitch.Alright, I admit it would look a lot better if a name like "Jason Jennings" was penciled in there at number two or three, but the Twins' rotation still compares favorably with the rest of the American League. Ryan might be able to swing a deal for another starter (Joel Pineiro?) but I'm not holding my breath. We'll just have to wait and see what the rest of the winter holds.And that's it for today's chatter! There is a potential development that may allow and/or encourage me to actually start this blog back up in the coming months, but if that happens I will alert the proper channels. Thanks for stopping by Twins Chatter today![...]
2006-09-27T08:44:09.223-05:00Hi there folks, I realize it has been many, many months since I put something up on Twins Chatter. However, the fact that I have a new column available and the recent link from Will Young inspired me to put up a new post. Enjoy "That Magical Season." Make no mistake: Roller coasters aren’t for everyone. People with heart problems, weak stomachs and young children probably should avoid the unnecessary risk of these up-and-down thrill rides. But for the rest of us? Call me crazy, but I think today’s gravity-defying, nausea-inducing coaster rides are just about the most fun a human being can have on this earth. The 2006 Minnesota Twins season has been reminiscent of a crazy roller coaster ride in many ways. Things looked bright enough before the season began – the team returned every key player from a year ago and added a couple of veterans to plug various holes. But by May, instead of battling with the surging Detroit Tigers and World Champion Chicago White Sox for the AL Central crown, the Twins found themselves languishing near the Kansas City Royals with the other dregs of the American League. Yet as everyone in Twins Territory should know by now, the story since that time has been an absolutely incredible one. Lead by a pack of “Piranhas,” a hometown hero, a burly Canadian and two magical left arms, Minnesota has been nearly 40 games over .500 since June 8, shaving 12 games off the Tigers’ lead in the division and cruising to their fourth playoff berth in five years. I won’t go into the typical media-covered storylines in this space. By now, hopefully you know that Joe Mauer is a great hitter (and the dream husband of thousands of young Minnesota women), Justin Morneau should win the MVP award, Johan Santana is a lock for the AL’s Cy Young, and Mike Redmond has the olfactory fortitude to somehow “smell” RBIs (yeah… I don’t quite get that one either). If you’ve been paying any attention whatsoever, you’ve heard a dozen times how pesky Ozzie Guillen finds the Castillo-Punto-Tyner-Bartlett combination and that the Twins’ bullpen is the real secret behind their success. Instead, I’m going to point out something that these 2006 Twins have given us that isn’t necessarily obvious at first glance: The gift of relevance. Seems like an odd thing to say, doesn’t it? Let me break it down for you: Twins pre-June 8 = Not fun to watch at all. Twins post-June 8 = Story of the year/Most fun you’ll have all day. After reaching the playoffs three consecutive years (2002-04), for one 14-month stretch (April 2005-June 2006) it seemed like the Twins would challenge the Timberwolves for the title of “Most Irrelevant Sports Franchise in Minnesota.” World Series talk in ’05 translated into a mediocre (83-79) season, and after a 25-33 start to 2006, Vikings training camp was quickly becoming the most popular topic on local sports radio. My worst nightmares appeared to be coming true, as the performance of the local nine brought back memories I had repressed since those forgettable days when Scott Stahoviak roamed the artificial plains of HHH Metrodome. This gift, more than anything else, is what I will take away from the 2006 season. The Twins may go on to win the World Series, or they might get swept by the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter – the buzz of baseball is back and it’s here to stay. Even if the Twins can’t win it all this year, with young players like Mauer, Morneau, Santana, Liriano, Nathan, Cuddyer and Bartlett, they’ll undoubtedly field some excellent lineups for years to come. By the time the team’s new stadium opens in 20[...]
2006-05-03T21:14:26.420-05:00Wow, a column that is actually up-to-date! I just wrote this the other day, and it contains information that is actually current through today. If you're looking for more commentary on the stadium issue, Twins Chatter is your new source! Look for a response from my partner in the coming days.With the Minnesota Twins playing some of their worst baseball since the “Dark Years” of 1993-2000 (perhaps there are a few of you out there that still remember those infamous days of Scott Stahoviak, Rich Robertson and Butch Huskey), for much of the past month, baseball fans were able to console themselves with the fact that the Twins’ stadium deal seemed to be making real progress in the state legislature. Unfortunately, like the outcome of a typical Rondell White at-bat (the Twins’ designated “hitter” that has six RBI in 95 plate appearances), even that tiny bit of positivity seems to have been left stranded on base.Baseball supporters in the Northland have been fighting for a new outdoor venue for the Twins since 1997. Before the Minnesota Senate essentially killed the most promising stadium plan (to date) on Monday, it looked like 2006 might finally be the year our government actually got something done, for a change.Before this week’s events, there existed a palpable feeling of optimism amongst baseball purists (including myself) that openly despise the musty confines in which the Twins currently reside, a.k.a. the Metrodome.We should have known better.Despite the passing of a workable bill through the House last week, the Senate, in the true spirit of Minnesota political indecisiveness, has halted the plan’s momentum by bogging it down with numerous add-ons, all but nixing our already faint hopes for a solution.Nearly everyone who has ever taken in a baseball game at the Dome can agree on one thing: The facility is most assuredly not a suitable home for our national pastime. Baseball is meant to be played on green grass and under the sun, not on synthetic fibers with a dirty white roof obstructing the sky. The need for a new park is absolutely undeniable, but as is the case with every political issue, the real question is this: Who’s going to pay for the thing?The plan that was so rudely interrupted by the Senate calls for a .15 percent sales tax to be enacted in Hennepin County to pay for approximately two-thirds of the $522 million structure. What is controversial about the plan is that Hennepin’s citizens have no say as to whether or not they will be taxed – the original bill did not require a referendum. As un-democratic as that sounds, realists (i.e. those whose heads do not reside within a certain bodily crevice) know that a referendum would essentially kill the plan – it is nearly unthinkable that people will voluntarily raise their taxes for anything (including education), let alone for something as nonessential as a baseball stadium.Critics of the plan argue that billionaire owner Carl Pohlad should build his own stadium, and that this money would be better spent on more important things like education or healthcare.Do you know what I say to those people? You are absolutely, 100 percent correct.Pohlad is Minnesota’s second-wealthiest citizen, and with the sale of another bank or two, could undoubtedly afford to plunk down the half-billion dollars necessary for a new field. And the state of Minnesota could always use more money for education and healthcare, two areas that are woefully under-funded not only here but throughout the entire United States.However, the reality of the situation is that neither one of those things are ever going to happen. Pohlad, a notoriously stingy man, has absolutely no incentive to pay f[...]
2006-04-24T21:08:53.550-05:00I realize that this column, which was published last Thursday, is now a bit outdated, but I thought I'd put it up here anyway for your reading enjoyment. I don't write a ton of Twins-related stuff anymore (mostly St. Olaf-related stuff) but on occasion I do.And after that weekend sweep, I (unfortunately) look prophetic.Cautiously OptimisticI’ve learned my lesson.It seems as though every time I use this column to sing the praises of my favorite sports franchise, the Minnesota Twins, something inevitably blows up in my face.In early 2004, still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in my tenure as the Messenger’s sports editor, I proclaimed from my would-be pulpit that the Twins were a “force to be reckoned with” in the powerful American League, even dubbing them the “team to beat” in the 2004 playoffs.The Twins were then promptly toppled by the New York Yankees in four games during the postseason’s first round.Last year, still retaining the rosy glow of a cock-eyed optimist, I fell in line with the so-called national “experts” and tagged my Twins for their fourth-consecutive American League Central Division title.Unfortunately, I made the mistake of ignoring emerging powers like the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox, both of whom had left the punchless Twins in their wake by mid-season.But 2006 is a new year, one in which I am determined not to repeat my past transgressions. After all, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, right?So even though the Twins made a number of positive off-season acquisitions this past winter, I am most assuredly not going to pick them to overtake the World Champion White Sox and 93-win Indians in the highly-competitive American League Central.Even though three-time All-Star Luis Castillo (acquired for next-to-nothing during the Florida Marlins’ fire sale this winter) is a vast upgrade from the pitiful group the Twins trotted out at second base in 2005, I’m not going to say that his addition will drastically improve what was the league’s worst offense a year ago.Although new DH Rondell White (owner of a career .289 batting average despite his miserable start this season) should provide some much-needed protection for young hitters like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the Twins’ lineup, I’m not going to say that I foresee breakout seasons for these two rising stars.And even though the Twins have overcome a dismal 1-5 start by winning five of their last seven games, with the previously-questionable infield duo of Juan Castro and Tony Batista leading the way (a combined .319 batting average and nine RBI through 13 games) against contenders like the Athletics, Yankees and Angels, I am most assuredly not going to bestow the title of genius upon Twins’ general manager Terry Ryan for allowing these scrap-heap veterans to channel their inner (All-Star) selves.No, instead I’m going to use this space to repeat what you have heard from all the professional prognosticators this spring: These new-look Twins, despite some intriguing additions and one of the league’s top pitching staffs, don’t have what it takes to contend with the mighty White Sox and über-talented Indians in baseball’s toughest division.Even though the Twins have looked so impressive during the past week and a half, displaying surprising power and clutch hitting to go along with their trademark pitching-and-defense approach, I’m not going to get all excited and say that 2006 is the year the Twins will finally put it all together.Instead, I’m going to show a little bit of self-restraint this year, and I invite you to do the same. This isn’t to say you should stop “root, root, rooting[...]
2006-03-14T02:18:01.163-06:00I know I don't usually post here anymore, and I don't expect anyone to ever read this, but I wrote the piece below for my newspaper about Kirby. I thought it might be appropriate to put here as well. Thank you.To an outsider, one of the most peculiar aspects of our culture must be the way that we treat people after death. No matter what events had transpired during a person’s life, we are determined to focus on the positives after their passing, sometimes to a fault.With Kirby Puckett, however, this has not been difficult.Ever since the greatest Twin of all-time passed away last week at age 46, it seems as though almost every resident of Minnesota has been transported back to October of 1991 at some point or another. That fateful Game 6 when the Legend of Kirby Puckett was solidified forever. As artificially constructed as some of our modern day “heroes” appear to be, Kirby’s World Series performance was truly the stuff of legends.I hope that you have taken the time to read some of the pieces published in both the local and national media in the days following Puckett’s untimely passing. Both the quantity and quality of the Puckett tributes that have surfaced in the past week and a half has been nothing short of astounding. Almost everything that I have read (and I have read a lot) has been both tasteful and heartfelt, a difficult line to straddle when dealing with a public figure who was both as beloved and maligned as Kirby was.As merely a would-be sports columnist in a tiny student newspaper, I feel there is little I can add to the many fitting tributes that have been heaped upon our fallen star already. I can’t claim to have really met Kirby personally (outside a couple autograph requests, which he naturally fulfilled) and I am too young to remember his outstanding play during the prime of his career.As a diehard Twins fan and lifelong Minnesotan, however, I feel there is at least one area in which I am qualified to add to the conversation: Just how much the attitudes and practices of this one man meant to our entire state.In short, Kirby Puckett, more than any other player in the franchise’s 45-year history, exemplified the “Twins Way” of playing the game. Kirby played baseball the way it was meant to be played – one hundred percent full-tilt, one hundred percent of the time. A product of the Chicago projects, he never took a single day in the major leagues for granted, even when he was earning millions of dollars each season. In a time when so many ethical questions cloud our beloved national pastime, Kirby Puckett will forever stand as a lasting reminder of all that is great about sports – not the money, fame or accolades, but rather the unbridled passion, joy and genuine love for the game.Minnesota so loved Kirby Puckett not just because he was best player on the state’s only two championship teams. We didn’t love him only because he took Charlie Leibrant deep in Game 6, had a cannon for a throwing arm or smacked a franchise-record 2,304 hits in 12 big league seasons.We loved him most because he did it all with that magical smile on his face and twinkle in his eye."No one loved being a baseball player more than Kirby,” said Orioles Hall-of-Famer Cal Ripken about his longtime opponent, and you didn’t have to know Puckett personally to know he was telling the truth.On the baseball diamond, Kirby seemed invincible. He possessed the perfect combination of talent, work ethic and zeal for the game. Last week, we found out once and for all that, despite our fervent hopes to the contrary, this Minnesota legend was still just a man. And although the[...]
2005-10-06T21:50:43.086-05:00I know I said 'I quit' a few months ago, and I haven't really rescinded that comment just yet, but since the site is still up and all (and won't be going anywhere for a while... I paid for the domain name, after all) I thought I'd periodically post some new content that I write for other things (most notably the newspaper that I work for). I'm thinking about doing a weekly post this winter also, but I'll let everyone know if I do that.But for now, here's "Minnesota Misery".What a difference a year makes.One year ago this month, the Minnesota sports scene was flush with optimism. The Twins had just captured their third consecutive American League Central Division crown (in convincing fashion) and were favored by many experts to topple the mighty Yankees in the playoffs and advance to the World Series for the first time in 13 years.The Vikings had started their 2004 season with a 5-1 record and seemed like a lock to gain one of the top seeds in the NFL playoffs.The Minnesota Timberwolves were coming off the best season in franchise history, falling just one game short of the NBA Finals in 2003-2004 – they looked poised to capture the first NBA title in the team’s 15-year existence.Even the oft-maligned University of Minnesota football team (whose record was 5-0 last Oct. 2) had garnered some in-state whisperings as a potential Rose Bowl participant.Was it possible? Could every major sports team in town enjoy prosperity at the same time? It seemed that 2004 might finally be the year Minnesota lived up to its name as the "Star of the North."What a difference a year makes.Now fast forward approximately 365 days. What was once a proud and thriving sports landscape now consists of little more than battered dreams and drastically lowered expectations.The Twins, who just finished their season last week, have to be considered one of the biggest disappointments in baseball. The chic preseason pick to win it all, the team endured a fall from grace that made Gerald Ford look like Fred Astaire. Despite being blessed with arguably the league’s best pitching staff, the Twins’ offense was, well, offensive for much of the season. The punchless Twins plummeted into third place in the division and missed the postseason for the first time since 2001.What a difference a year makes.While the Twins managed to at least maintain a winning record lsat season, the Vikings haven’t even entertained such illusions of mediocrity. Since that 5-1 start a year ago, Mike Tice and Commpany proceeded to go 5-11 in their next 16 games, including three embarrassing losses already this fall (in which the Vikings have been outscored 91-31). The team’s summertime Super Bowl aspirations didn’t even make it to the first frost of winter.Lucikly, the Timberwolves won’t even get a chance to underachieve this year – they made sure of that last season. No team in the NBA did so little with so much in 2004-2005, as the Wolves went from potential title contenders to rebuilding mode in a span of less than six months. A 44-38 record kept them out of the playoffs for the first time in nine years and much expectations for the upcoming season. The Wolves start team practices this week with a new coach, a trimmed-down roster and with much hope for an influential title run.What a difference a year makes.Little was expected of the Golden Gopher football team this fall, but that all changed with a 41-35 double-overtime victory over nationally-ranked Purdue two weeks ago. Alas, the Gophers simply could not rebound from such a stirring victory and were promptly put back in their place last weekend in Happ[...]
2005-06-14T23:45:49.310-05:00In case you hadn't noticed by my utter lack of new posts recently, blogging has pretty much fallen by the wayside for me recently. There are simply too many things going on in the "real" world right now for me to dedicate the proper amount of time necessary to Twins Chatter, in order to give you the thought-provoking analysis you deserve. So as of right now, I will be on indefinite leave from Twins Chatter. Rest assured, I am not abandoning my favorite team - far from it. I'm still watching/attending every game that I can and reading up on the Hometown Nine when I get the chance. However, I've realized that I'm simply not cut out to be a blogger, especially after John quit and I attempted to go solo. I knew my days were numbered then... I just didn't realize how numbered.
2005-06-06T01:16:43.616-05:00Now that Twins Chatter has been restored, I had planned on winding the week down with a few pictures from my trip to the East Coast. It wasn't a baseball-centric trip (as most of my other ones are) but I did get to a couple games, as I said yesterday. Just so you know, I have been doing my best to keep up with the Twins (I listened to some of today's non-televised game on the radio) and I'll be rip-roaring ready to go next week with some Twins analysis, including my second-annual draft preview post (on the heels of last year's critically acclaimed version).
2005-05-31T23:42:46.806-05:00As you have probably figured out by now, the whole misguided "Red Sox Chatter" hoax was just that: a hoax. As I hinted a few weeks ago, I had planned a trip up to Boston and New York for late May (right after school got out) to attend a few ballgames and such. My roomie and I thought it would be sorta funny to play a little trick on the readers, so we concocted the new logo and alternate persona. You may not have thought it was super funny (and I didn't do my part by only posting twice as my alter ego, "Hacker T. Daniels") but we still got a few chuckles out of it :). Plus, the new logo did look pretty sweet.
2005-05-26T22:43:09.896-05:00Well, it seems that my masterful hacking job has not gone completely unnoticed in the Twins online community (some misguided fool, this so-called "Stick and Ball Guy" has discovered my handiwork... although we all know who the real "stick and ball guy" is, don't we?*) but the best is yet to come. My goal is to convert all of you heathen Twins fans to the one true way: the way of the bloody sock. Last year's victory has inspired me to spread my gospel to all 30 major league teams, and this blog is merely my first stop en route to world (i.e. American League) domination.
2005-05-25T20:15:36.420-05:00For those of you precious few that still check this long-forgotten blog, you are in for a big surprise: it has been HACKED!! You heard me correctly - the ill-fated and completely inadequate blog formerly known as "Twins Chatter" has been replaced by my newer, better and totally spectacular weblog, which will heretofore be known as "Red Sox Chatter". The BoSox are, after all, baseball's defending world champions, which automatically makes them the best team in the world.
2005-05-06T01:57:30.820-05:00It's been a busy week here at St. Olaf, as you may have surmised from the lack of posts here at Twins Chatter. Just to let you all know, it will probably remain that way until finals are over in a couple of weeks. I'll still post stuff when I have time (like I did on Wednesday with the stadium article) but it probably won't be more than about 2 or possibly 3 times a week. Once John gets done with school he may contribute a little more, but obviously no promises can be made.
2005-05-04T10:43:14.026-05:00Yesterday was a dark one in Twins Territory, and as some of you may have noticed, Twins Chatter was eerily silent. That trend will continue today, but not because I don't have something to say about Rincon's suspension. If you're looking for a well-written article addressing the issue, I highly recommend this one by Jim Souhan in the Strib. In the meantime, I encourage you to peruse my mass audience-oriented stadium post below. It's a pretty good summation of the present situation, and if you know anyone who's looking to become educated on this issue in a short period of time, I think you could do worse than have them read what I've written below.Postscript: I'd also like to direct your attention to this article, which Shane over at Greet Machine brought to my attention. It is an excellent primer for those of you looking for easy-to-follow stadium information.Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m proud to be a Minnesotan. Our state boasts a wealth of natural beauty, an excellent education system, a relatively low crime rate and robust social welfare programs. Plus, as most of your out-of-state friends have probably learned by now, the people here are just so darn nice it’ll make your face hurt.Yet there is at least one area where I am utterly ashamed of my fellow Gopher State residents: Our backwards views when it comes to building stadiums for professional sports teams. This state has a long and forgettable history when it comes to stadium policy, and recent events have led me to believe we've learned painfully little from our previous mistakes.Last week, it was announced that Hennepin County and the Minnesota Twins had come to an agreement on a brand new, 42,000-seat open air ballpark for the team, to be built in downtown Minneapolis' Warehouse District near the Target Center. Funding for the $478 million project would come from a couple of different sources, none of them directly involving state government. Twins owner Carl Pohlad would chip in $125 million and Hennepin County would enact a 0.15% sales tax (which would be in place for 25-30 years) to raise the additional funds. For those of you scoring at home, a 0.15% sales tax increase amounts to three cents on every $20, or less than a penny on your morning latte and $30 on a new car.“Great!” those of you unfamiliar with stadium politics in the Northland may be saying about now. “The agreement is beneficial for both sides, the logistics are all worked out, and the funding plan sounds relatively painless. What seems to be problem?”In short, just about everything.When it comes to stadium policy in Minnesota, there is only universal truth – the Twins cannot survive in the Metrodome in the long run. That 24 year-old concrete bowl in downtown Minneapolis is currently the worst overall stadium in major league baseball, and it’s not even close. The poor atmosphere, the ill-positioned baseball seats, the artificial playing surface, and the aesthetics are just depressing. Yet the Dome's most damning characteristic stems from its very outdatedness. Simply put, the Twins can not remain a financially viable major league franchise in their current stadium. The reasons are myriad, but the truth is undeniable.The stadium saga began nine long years ago, when, taking their cue from other teams in the league, the Twins went to the Minnesota state legislature and made their plea for a new home. The team was shot down tha[...]