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Thomas U. Tuttle

Twins at the Break…

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by Thomas U. Tuttle

Major League Baseball is now past the halfway point, with most teams having played well over half of their 162 game season. The Mariners and Rays have played 90 while the Angels have played 92. The Minnesota Twins are at 88, with a two-game losing streak heading into the All Star break while still a couple of games over .500 at 45-43.

The record would be good news, or at least better news, if the team wasn’t stumbling around the past 12 games or so (5-7), and revealing the overall pitching weakness that has plagued this club – for several years. With the starting pitchers, it is largely the same old story, with Ervin Santana consistently tough, followed by an emerging Jose Berrios, and then nothing but question marks among the starters.

In the final game of the first half against the Baltimore Orioles, starter Kyle Gibson reverted to the sorry pitcher he’s been for the past couple of years in self-destructing while unable to emerge from the fifth inning. Talk about a “head case” – – Sigmund Freud wouldn’t have a chance with this kid. Manager Paul Molitor is trying (watch the video of his intense mound communication during Gibson’s last outing), but remains frustrated by the lack of consistent performance from the talented, underperforming Gibby.

Now Minnesota has signed Bartolo Colon, the 19 year veteran who I wrote about in my book State of the Game when he was with the Cleveland Indians (of Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel and CC Sabathia) 16 years ago. I remember asking Twins utilityman Denny Hocking that year who was the toughest pitcher he had faced in the Big Leagues, and he replied without hesitation “Colon.” Well, that was then and this is now…

Forty-four year old Bartolo isn’t getting guys out throwing the hard (98 mph) heat like he used to. And while he has had success the last couple of years, it’s been while throwing all kinds of off-speed stuff with exceptional control (among the lowest ratio of walks to innings pitched over the past three years).

Former hard-thrower Phil Hughes now has to dink around like that, with limited success, but it says here we need to give Colon a chance. Why? Because it has come to that! Despite his failures (2-8) in Atlanta this year, the veteran will get a chance here – I can assure you of that!

And I respect the front office – Derek Falvey and his people – for being willing to take a small chance on something that could help this season. They obviously didn’t sign Colon for the future.

After last year, it has to be considered an upside surprise that the Twins are over the .500 mark (just as the World Champion Chicago Cubs offer the downside at a disappointing two-games-under…). But it does feel like things could be better, and that has led to Molitor’s belief that his squad has another gear that it should be able to access in the second half. Of course, that remains to be seen, especially with the pitching.

“We’ve been searching to round out the rotation,” said Molitor on Sunday, realizing that what he has are green prospects, injured veterans like Hughes and Hector Santiago, with shakiness sprinkled in here and there.

The manager has lost some patience with former top-pick Gibson; “The pace of the game today was terrible. It was hard to watch.” And as for his starter walking the first hitter on four consecutive pitches, Molitor said “that kind of thing gets your attention right away.”

Expect Colon to get his opportunity shortly after the break. And cross your fingers that he can make a significant contribution. Berrios has rebounded from last year, and perhaps Bartolo can surge in the second half. Poor Mollie is running out of options, so if Colon could give them something and Adalberto Mejia and Santiago give the squad a little success, the improving offense should keep them in games.

And one more quick story… Yours truly was playing senior ball for the Apple Valley A’s back in the early 2000’s, competing against some of the top old-guy teams in the state.
One day, down in Rosemount, we ran into former Twins reliever Juan Berenguer in a contest where the almost 50-year-old was still bringing it. Our squad agreed that he was surprisingly tough with a good mix of pitches.

I think he was selling Lincolns and real-estate, which he is still doing, but he was still playing. Mixing it up and gritty, too, for seven innings. Rather impressive, the great baller still playing for the love of the game.

Colon came to Minnesota rather than the Mets, it is said, because he wants to win now – his final shot. It’s not about the money at this point, winning is the thing. Hopefully he and his buddy Ervin Santana can motivate and rally Minnesota’s inconsistent starting staff.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Despite what the NCAA says, Minnesota played in the 1997 Final Four

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By Eric Nelson
March 30, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the home of Post it Notes…

• Eyewitness Account:  I don’t care what the hypocritical NCAA says, the Minnesota Gophers played in the 1997 Final Four. I know because I was in Indianapolis. I saw a quartet of teams – Minnesota, Arizona, Kentucky and North Carolina – play at the RCA Dome. It really did happen. That is why Gopher fans should celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Minnesota’s only trip to the Final Four – despite the fact that the NCAA wiped out the achievement because of an academic fraud scandal…

• Revisionist History: The ’97 Final Four run remains the pinnacle moment in U of M basketball history. But, the power-hungry NCAA airbrushed everything connected with that team from the record books. In their warped world, all those magical memories never happened and Minnesota forfeited every win. Cheating is wrong and the Gopher program suffered because of it. However, erasing  history makes no sense…

• Invisible Season: Of course, this is how the almighty NCAA operates when a school cheats. The Gophers are just one of many programs who saw their athletic accomplishments vanish in the wake of a scandal. USC’s remarkable run with Reggie Bush and Pete Carroll was expunged from the record books because of violations. Same with Michigan’s famed Fab Five. The penalties were doled out long after the NCAA profited from packed venues, huge television ratings and media attention generated by those schools…

• Money-Ball: Did the NCAA refund Minnesota fans who bought tickets to games that were forfeited? Did they return money to folks who snapped up Wolverine caps, Bush jerseys, Gopher jackets, Final Four pennants and other souvenirs associated with tarnished programs? No way. Those checks got cashed…

• Just Asking: Why can’t the Oakland Raiders share Levis Stadium with the San Francisco 49ers? Yes, the Raiders and 49ers are polar opposites. Yes, they are Mars and Venus when it comes to organizational philosophies. But Santa Clara is a lot closer to Oakland than Las Vegas. The NY Giants and Jets co-exist in the NJ Meadowlands, despite being an NFL odd couple, so it can be done. Besides, it would be good for Santa Clara to get a guaranteed 10 extra NFL dates in their $1.3 billion venue…

• Greener Pastures: For those of you keeping score at home, three NFL franchises have relocated in the past 14 months. The St. Louis Rams moved to Los Angeles in 2016. The San Diego Chargers moved to LA earlier this year. Now the Raiders are off to Vegas…

• Desert Digs: The Raiders new Las Vegas playpen will be a $1.9 billion, 65,000 seat retractable roof stadium. There will also be end zone windows that open and provide panoramic views of the strip. Too bad Minneapolis did not have this kind of vision with US Bank Stadium. Minnesota should have a roof that opens and shuts – not another dome…

• Super Stage: Look for Las Vegas to get a Super Bowl in the future. The NFL likes to reward cities who build new stadiums or renovate old ones. Just ask Arlington, TX, East Rutherford, NJ, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis or Santa Clara…

• Oakland Exodus: When it comes to pro sports, Oakland will soon be a one-team town. The Raiders are moving to Las Vegas in 2019 or 2020 and the NBA Warriors will cross the Bay Bridge and move into a waterfront arena in downtown San Francisco in 2019. The MLB A’s will be the only team left…

• New Digs: Like the Raiders, the A’s have wanted a new stadium for years. Now they have some leverage. We will see if Oakland builds the A’s their coveted new ballpark…

• Sputtering Start: No one is happier to see April come than Minnesota United. It was nothing but March sadness for the Loons in their first month of MLS play. Minn U (0-3-1) was outscored 18-6 and has given up the most goals in the league. The Loons host Real Salt Lake (0-2-2) on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The Minnesota Twins need a bounce back season

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By Eric Nelson
March 23, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

FT. MYERS, FL – Sports Nuggets from the southern tip of Twins Territory...

• On the rebound: The Minnesota Twins are hoping for a bounce back season in 2017. The Twins were historically bad in 2016 posting a 59-103 record and finishing 35 1/2 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central. Putting that debacle in the rear view mirror and not repeating it, is the team’s main goal this year…

• Spring Cleaning: Minnesota is busy prepping for the upcoming season here in the Florida Grapefruit League. The Twins are focused on fundamentals such as defense and base running, and are trying to put together a pitching staff that can elevate the franchise back into contention. Hope and optimism bloom in the spring like the lush, green SW Florida landscape. The Twins believe they will be better. Goodness knows they better be better…

• The Great Unknown: Plenty of questions are swirling around the Twins. Can Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano fulfill their potential? Can Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson become solid starting pitchers? Can Brandon Kintzler be an effective closer? Will new school, sabermetric front office guys like Derek Falvey and Thad Levine micromanage every move of old school manager Paul Molitor? The answers will be revealed in the coming months…

• Off the Grid: Because of their woeful ways, there is little buzz about the Twins in the sports-saturated Twin Cities. They are getting lost in the shuffle. The only way to change that is to start winning ASAP…

• March Mellow: While NCAA March Madness whips the nation into a frenzy, Spring Training in Arizona and Florida continues at its own leisurely pace. One cool thing about the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues is that games are played in smaller, intimate minor league venues. Fans often mingle with their favorite players and ticket prices are cheaper than the regular season…

• Saluting Dallas: The Twins defeated the Phillies 4-2 on Thursday in Clearwater, FL. Before the game Philadelphia paid tribute to former manager Dallas Green who died earlier this week. The 82-year old Green was the Phillies skipper when they won their first World Series title in 1980…

• Baseball Marriage: Philadelphia has definitely had more than a spring fling with Clearwater. The Phillies have been training in the city since 1947…

• Bolt City: Btw, Clearwater has more lightning strikes per capita than any city in the US. Clearwater is part of the Tampa Bay metro area which often gets hit by lightning. Guess it’s no surprise that the NHL team is nicknamed the Lightning…

That’s Creative: Ft. Myers is located close to the iconic Florida Everglades. So, the ECHL hockey team based in this city is known as the Florida Everblades…

• Spectacular Span: Going from Ft. Myers to Clearwater means traveling up I-75 to I-275 and crossing over Tampa Bay on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This spectacular span is the world’s longest cable-supported concrete bridge…

• Panoramic View: The apex of the SSB is 430 feet high. The Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg are all visible from the top…

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Podcast

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Gameday Gold Radio – April 27, 2017 – s.5

Tom Tuttle and the Guys Look Into the Twins’ Road Success

Segment 5: The Twins found some good swings in Texas after struggling at Target Field.  The GDG trio turn to the diamond to chat about the home nine.  What’s happened to Kyle Gibson?  Is Phil Hughes finding his old, successful form?  Can Byron Buxton ever get the bat going?  And how does the rest of the AL Central look?