Thomas U. Tuttle

Arizona Fall League

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by Thomas U. Tuttle

 

Scottsdale, Arizona

The sun has been shining daily out here in Phoenix, Arizona as yours truly enjoys high quality fall baseball courtesy of the remarkable Arizona Fall League, where Major League Baseball’s top prospects gather every year – since 1992.

Yes, that’s the year that legendary baseball man and long-term top executive Roland Hemond was able to convince baseball front-offices across the land that a developmental “short-season” from October into November would be of exceptional value to every franchise in MLB.

And boy was he right!

Out of the roughly 4,000 players who have played for one of the six PHX area squads (located in Mesa, Scottsdale, Peoria, Surprise, Glendale and “Salt River”) over 2,000 have seen time in the Major Leagues. That’s more than 50% of some of the best prospects in the game!

A number of the players baseball fans are given the opportunity to watch are going to be outstanding MLB’ers, too. How about Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who I watched crush one out of the park at the All-Star game in 2015? Or LA Dodger rookie sensation Cody Bellinger, who was tending first base for Glendale in the fall of 2016? The scouts (who attend games by the dozen and occasionally outnumber the fans) were in hog-heaven watching the former can’t-miss prospect.

Hey, 39 homers in his first Dodger season? Not too bad. In an interview after a Scottsdale game, the soft-spoken, powerful slugger revealed that he was originally from the area and had watched a lot of games in his youth out in Glendale – where he was part of a team that went to the Little League World Series in 2007. (He grew up watching and admiring Larry Fitzgerald Jr, wide-receiver son of GDG top-shelfer Larry Sr.)

A few other luminaries?

How about Mike Piazza (the first AFL’er in the Hall-of-Fame) or future HOF’ers Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols? The list goes on and on…
Max Scherzer, Kris Bryant, Mike Trout, Corey Seager and Aaron Judge, just to name a few of the young guys.

And all players you could watch for six bucks, in the AZ sunshine, munching popcorn, down at the local ballpark. Best deal in sports for my money – or my press pass!

How does it work? Well, without getting into TOO much detail, the AFL is a showcase league, kind of a “graduate school” for top prospects. So the players know what they are getting into, their performance becomes meaningful, with 50 or 60 (or more) MLB scouts watching their every move – and sharing evaluations with each other.

Think about it – you gather 200 high quality players in one negotiable city (Phoenix) and just about every day there are three games going on around town with top-notch ballplayers who are wise to show good energy and hustle. That adds up to quality observation, the very essence of scouting.

For the weathered baseball scout, there is no driving all over creation to file a report on Suspect A or Prospect B. Just drive around beautiful central Arizona in the fall, hanging out with other baseball men (General Managers, top brass and coaches, too) – not a bad gig if you can get it!

It’s efficient and provides consistent insight – as one MLB scout told me; “Once I’ve seen a guy six or seven times, it’s up to me to really know that player. That’s the advantage of seeing them on a regular schedule.”

And as former Phillies great Del Unser (head of their scouting system for years, World Series champ in 1980) told me, “you can’t scout a player when he’s riding on the bus. I’ve done a lot of runs from Little Rock to Midland (Texas League) and this really is efficient.”

Unser, by the way, one of the true gentlemen in the game, retired this week.

So, hats off to future Hall-of-Famer Roland Hemond, one of the greatest people to ever help run the Grand Old Game. The Arizona Fall League was a genius call, and not his only one. As GM of the White Sox, I saw his handiwork in person as a boy. Fellow GDG’er and Chicagoan Larry Fitzgerald (whose son is absolutely the #1 hero out here) remembers when Roland went and picked up Dick (don’t call me Richie) Allen after his run in Philadelphia. What a player and what an entertainer! The Go-Go Sox were awesome, and should have won it all!

Well, at least that’s the view from Scottsdale, in the warm and bright sunshine, where maybe the sun is getting to me…

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Thomas U. Tuttle

Instant Classic World Series

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by Thomas U. Tuttle

The expression “instant classic” has become vastly overused in the sports world, started by some creative folks in the back room of ESPN and furthered by media talking heads everywhere. When there are too many so-called classic games, it changes the definition of what is truly amazing and rare.

If everything is a classic, then nothing is a classic…

Well, the 2017 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers has a chance to go down in history as the greatest Series ever, particularly if the Dodgers can rally to win a couple games at home to win this best-of-seven.

And as I write this piece before game six, I’m calling it in: LA can do this and will win a couple of ballgames at Chavez Ravine, home of Dodger Stadium. Yes, I’m saying they can beat Justin Verlander (10-0 with Astros) Tuesday night behind one-time semi-professional pitcher Rich Hill (think Saint Paul Saints) and his tough-breaking lefty stuff.

Of course, game five was a ridiculously great baseball game, one of the most exciting contests I’ve ever seen in 35 years of covering baseball within a 50-year baseball life. Utterly amazing.

Yes, the Dodgers blew three different leads in spectacular fashion enroute to a 13-12 defeat over five-plus hours and seven home-runs, as their vaunted bullpen was again thoroughly trashed – a fact thought inconceivable before the Series.

Game two was called an instant classic (by ESPN) with some back-and-forth, a record eight homers, and a 7-6 Astros victory – but game five took things a big step further. In 657 previous World Series ballgames, only one has produced more runs – and none more excitement and thorough disbelief in the wee hours of the morning!

When it finally ended with a run-scoring base hit, Houston had received homers from five different players, proving the validity of their Major League leading overall slugging percentage. LA couldn’t hold against that onslaught of abrupt power.

And to think when the night started we were all settling in to watch two league-best pitchers, Dallas Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw engage in a pitchers duel! Classic!

But you heard it here first. Despite Houston’s tenacity and amazing offensive prowess, and regardless of the “juiced” 2017 playoff baseballs that are the talk among many smart baseball minds – and lots of pitchers – look for the Los Angeles Dodgers to pull this off and win this World Series.

Houston is a great baseball team, but so too are the Dodgers. That’s what makes this a classic series, with classic games, instant or otherwise…

And Los Angeles can do this, against the odds. Which will make the payoff all the greater – and all the sweeter. Dodgers in seven games.

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World Series: Houston vs. Los Angeles!

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By Larry Fitzgerald
October 24, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@FitzBeatSr

It’s the Fall Classic with a rare match-up in the World Series. Houston vs. Los Angeles sound like two National League teams, but we are reminded that Major League Baseball (MLB) years ago moved the Astros to the American League to balance the Divisions.

As recently as 2005, the Astros were in the World Series as members of the National League. Chicago’s other team, the White Sox, swept Houston 4-0 to win the first World Series for the city of Chicago in 95 years.

We are all aware that last year the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in seven games over Cleveland, the Cubs’ first World Series win in 108 years. The run-away Los Angeles Dodgers eliminated the Cubs in five games in the National League Championship and have reached their first World Series since 1988.

The Dodgers were 104-58 in the regular season, the best record in MLB. The Astros were also outstanding, winning 101 games, the third-best record in baseball. Cleveland led the American League in wins with 102-60 record. This is the first time since 1970 the World Series has two 100-or-more-win teams in the World Series.

Both of these teams are loaded. The Dodgers are 7-1 in the playoffs. Houston just beat the New York Yankees in game seven of the American League Championship to reach the World Series. They scored 896 runs during the regular season and allowed 700; their plus/minus was +196.

The Dodgers shut you down with pitching. They allowed the fewest runs in MLB in 2017— just 580. The Dodgers are managed by Dave Roberts. He is really good.

I have always favored the American League game of baseball with the designated hitter. The Dodgers obviously play the National League game with the pitcher hitting. Los Angeles has the home-field advantage by virtue of winning more games.

Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish lead the Dodgers. Houston traded for pitcher Justin Verlander from Detroit, and since then he’s been dominating 9-0. Get ready for what should be a great World Series.

I saw the Astros and Dodgers both play the Twins. Houston, I believe, is just a little bit better.

 

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Thomas U. Tuttle

Molitor To Return

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by Thomas U. Tuttle

 

The Minnesota Twins held a press conference the other day to announce that manager Paul Molitor had agreed to terms on a three year deal worth about four million dollars, or roughly one-sixth of what Joe Mauer makes in one year.

And while Mauer had a good year and earned his money (???) it was Molitor who held things together, forged trust and confidence among his diverse band of players, survived the use of 36 – yes, 36! – pitchers over the course of the season, won 26 more games than the previous year – and ultimately made the American League playoffs.

Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey followed Molitor to the podium and made it clear that he and GM Thad Levine were ultimately convinced that, via the long path of 162 games, the current manager of the ballclub was the right leader to take the Twins into the future.

“Over the course​ of the year, it felt like we were building a relationship,” Falvey said early is his remarks. And he followed that important comment with another revealing statement: “I’m not surprised by the class shown by Paul, given who he is as a person, that he handled things so well” – words spoken in recognition of the difficult position Molitor was in, essentially all year, working the final year of his contract.

And knowing, without much doubt, that expectations were that the new, post Terry Ryan braintrust would bring in their own brand-new outside guy to manage the club.

But Falvey and Molitor, as a pleased owner Jim Pohlad said Tuesday, “built a relationship over time (and) I had heard over the course of the year that was how it was going.” Indeed, growing mutual respect between the 61-year-old field general and the 34-year-old CBO was the theme of the day. “I understand that he (Falvey) is looking to build a long term, sustained, championship type program – and I’m all in with that!”

Paul Molitor and Sid Hartman in the Minnesota Twins clubhouse.

October 10, 2017 – Paul Molitor is interviewed by legendary Minnesota journalist Sid Hartman after signing a three year contract extension to manage the Twins.

Some press conferences don’t tell you much, but this one did. Paul was fairly relaxed and reflective, on a season recently ended and a future that could be bright. These guys can work together; Falvey was credited by Molitor with never really commenting, let alone interfering, in a game situation. And at the same time, the young chief respects Mollie enough to expect his observations and potential insights on player decisions, including additions and subtractions from the squad.

Thirty six pitchers is not necessarily a good thing, of course, although Molitor noted that it did give him a chance to evaluate “a lot of arms.” Indeed. The Twins put a stable team on the field, with ten players getting 400-plus at-bats – the most in all of baseball. But – and it’s a big but – the pitching MUST improve significantly or great hitting, like exceptional managing, won’t be able to overcome weak starters and a very modest bullpen.

It was interesting for me to watch Hall-of-Famer Molitor coach against my fellow Northwestern Wildcat baseball alum Joe Girardi. Paul was the greatest shortstop of his time while at Minnesota (and arguably the best ever in the Big Ten) while Girardi earned All American honors as well, behind the plate, about a decade later. He has won rings with the Yankees as a player and manager.

Paul was a big part of my book STATE OF THE GAME which came out in 2000. In it, I devoted a chapter to his special nature as a player and leader – but more than that, as a baseball man. My projection was that he would eventually manage, and manage well. Not that difficult a prognostication, I guess, although it took almost 15 years longer than I thought it would for him to take the helm. (He was offered the Toronto job years ago, but the timing wasn’t right.)

Girardi was much the same, and to watch them square off in a one-game playoff contest was a treat for me. I almost flew out to New York, but I’m glad I didn’t. Mr Confidence, Ervin Santana, laid an egg after being given a three run first inning lead. Walked the leadoff man, gave up a three-run homer minutes later, and deflated his team like a bench-clearing gasser.

Girardi heads to the AL championship behind excellent starters and a powerful bullpen. I’d sure like to see a 5-game or 7-game matchup between the two Big Ten all-star managers, maybe next year. But you have to get batters out at critical times, and the Twins are going to need to vastly improve in that critical department.

I’ll let you in on a little something; In July, I caught up with youthful (43) Chicago Cubs World Series winning General Manager Jed Hoyer. It was at the Society For American Baseball Research (SABR) conference in NYC this summer. His words to me, when I asked about Minnesota’s new hire Derek Falvey, were these: “He will be a great fit, and he really knows how to build pitching.”

Let’s hope so. It would be good for Molitor to be able to get the number of pitchers used per-season below 36…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: It’s time for the Minnesota Twins to jump into the free agent pool

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By Eric Nelson
October 11, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the North Star State…..

•Time to Commit: This is a critical off-season for the Minnesota Twins. The Twins arrow is pointing up and they have a young core of talent with building block players such as Brian Dozier, Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Jose Berrios. However, the Twins are not yet a polished product. They need another starting pitcher (preferably an ace) and have to improve their bullpen. Now is the time for owner Jim Pohlad to go all in and do whatever is necessary to make the team better..

•Upgrades Available: Historically the Twins do not chase marquis free agents. It is not in their DNA and there is no guarantee that forking out huge dough for someone will translate into post-season success. But, it is an avenue teams can use to get better, and it’s time the Twins travel down that road. Jake Arrieta (Chicago Cubs) and Yu Darvish (LA Dodgers) are the pitching plums on this year’s free agent market. Both will want multi-year deals for approximately $20-25 million per season. Both also can instantly become an ace in a rotation and sell tickets. It’s time for Minnesota to take the free agent plunge and sign an Arrieta or Darvish – the potential rewards outweigh the possible risk. Go for it Twins, the future is now…

•Closing Time: Another option is for Minnesota to pursue a lights out closer. The Twins could go after Wade Davis – who has been a key cog in the Cubs success. Davis’s price tag would not be as high as a Darvish or Arrieta, but he would bolster the Twins bullpen…

•Casualty List: With star players such as JJ Wattt, Odell Beckham Jr. and Travis Kelce all suffering major injuries this week, it’s another harsh reminder that pro football is a risky business. It’s also another reason why players should demand guaranteed salaries when negotiating the next collective bargaining agreement. Despite NFL efforts to make the game safer, players continue to go down like bowling pins…

•Hypocrisy: Too bad President Donald Trump and VP Mike Pence aren’t as focused on getting guns off the streets as they are on NFL athletes who take a knee. According to CNN, it cost taxpayers 250k for Pence to fly Air Force Two from Las Vegas to Indianapolis then to Los Angeles on Sunday. In a staged stunt, Pence showed up for the San Francisco-Indianapolis game, then left early because some 49ers did not stand for the star spangled banner…

•Just Asking: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says any Dallas player who does not stand for the national anthem will be benched. The Cowboys next game is October 22 against San Francisco in Santa Clara, CA. If the entire team takes a knee, will Dallas forfeit the game..?

•Evergreen State Success: In this week’s AP college football top 25, Washington is ranked fifth and Washington State is eighth. According to the Seattle Times it’s just the third time the Huskies and Cougars have been in the top 10 simultaneously. This year’s Apple Cup game between Washington State and Washington is November 25 in Seattle, and could have playoff repercussions…

•Signature Win: Btw, that’s the same Washington State team that Minnesota knocked off in the 2016 Holiday Bowl. Despite that impressive outing, HC Tracy Claeys was kicked to the curb by the current Gopher regime who did not want him in Dinkytown…

•Soccer Honor: Minnesota United midfielder Kevin Molino is the MLS Player of the Week. Molino scored a goal and had an assist in Minn U’s 3-2 comeback win last week against Atlanta United in Georgia. Molino has seven goals and a career-high nine assists this season…

•Trending Up: This season’s WNBA playoffs drew an average of 9,596 spectators per game, the most since 2010 (10,822). The WNBA Finals between Los Angeles and Minnesota on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 was the third most-watched Finals ever, averaging 559,000 viewers for the five-game series…

•Knight Time: Former Indiana coaching legend Bob Knight was in St. Paul last weekend for a Nike coaching clinic at the University of St. Thomas. Tommies HC John Tauer, Iowa State’s Steve Prohm and ex-NBA coach Mike Fratello were also at the clinic…

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Thomas U. Tuttle

Twins Have a Shot

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by Thomas U. Tuttle

 

The Minnesota Twins concluded their 2017 season with a 5-1 victory over Detroit and a 85-77 record for the full campaign.

Not too bad when you consider that in 2016 they posted the worst record in the majors at 59-103. The increase of 26 victories is among the greatest improvements from 100 losses in baseball annals.

The team stayed competitive through July and into August, then went 20-10 during an exceptional run that has culminated in the final Wild Card spot and a chance to play the New York Yankees in a single, winner-take-all Tuesday night contest.

This is no best-of-three or best-of-five – – the type of series where the Yankees might be expected to use depth, talent and playoff savvy to knock out the “comeback kids.”
After all, over the last few years the Bronx Bombers have won roughly three games to every one they have lost to Minnesota.

But here’s the beauty of the situation for Twins fans: this youthful ballclub with a couple of key veterans gets to rally behind tough Ervin Santana and throw offensive caution to the winds.

Get him some run support, play solid defense, let the pressure (which is surely on New York) mount – and win just ONE GAME to advance to a best-of-five versus Cleveland – a team that has occasional difficulty with Minnesota.

This is doable! Head out to NYC and simply steal one night game on October 3rd, take the luxury motor coach back to JFK and fly home to get ready for the Indians.

New York was occasionally brilliant this year and nearly caught the Boston Red Sox to avoid this challenge – but they did not. One-and-done is the reality facing a team that no doubt feels they deserve better than what they are facing.

Oh well… Super Slugger Aaron Judge and company better bring their A-game, or things could end quickly. The Twins have emerged from the depths to grab a spot at the dance, pulling off a couple near-miracles enroute.

Why not one more? This one is there for the taking – GET AFTER IT BOYS!

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The Minnesota Twins have a trio of outfield talent

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By Eric Nelson
September 1, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the Minneapple...

•Talented Threesome: There are many reasons why the Minnesota Twins are making a splash this season and three of them are in the outfield. LF Eddie Rosario (25 years old), CF Byron Buxton(23) and RF Max Kepler (24) are young, athletic and have plenty of upside. They can hit, catch, throw and run…

•Gap Coverage: Minnesota pitchers clearly benefit from having this trio roam the outfield. Rosario, Buxton and Kepler cover lots of ground. They routinely run down potential extra base hits in the gaps, or race in to catch would be bloop singles…

•Flashbacks: The Twins have not had an outfield this good since the “Soul Patrol” of Shannon Stewart, Torii Hunter and Jaque Jones, who played together from 2003-2005…

•Playoffs?: Apparently Twins Territory is not aware that their team has a legitimate chance of making MLB’s post-season. Target Field attendance for Tuesday’s Chicago White Sox-Minnesota game was just 20,530. On Wednesday the crowd was 21,172. Thursday’s match up drew 21,288…..

•Bidding Time: The Twins are doing their part to aid Hurricane Harvey relief in Texas. The Twins are holding a relief auction that runs through September 2. Items to bid on include, autographed cleats from Buxton, Kepler, Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano

•Giving Back: Minnesota United is also doing good things in the charity department. The Loons are hosting a back-to-school drive on September 9 before their match with the Philadelphia Union at TCF Bank Stadium. Supplies collected will be donated to St. Paul Public Schools – the district where Minn U’s future home, Allianz Field is being built. Fans who donate receive a buy-one-get-one ticket offer that can be used at the box office on the day of the Philadelphia match, or for either of the team’s last two games on September 23 against FC Dallas, or on October 7 against Sporting Kansas City…

•Raw Deal: There is plenty of hype surrounding new U of M football coach PJ Fleck – who could turn out to be a good hire. Of course, wins and losses will be the judge of that. That said, I believe Tracy Claeys did not get a fair shake from the Gophers and actually did a good job as HC…

•Claeys Data: For the record Claeys was 2-0 in bowl games and his Gophers were 9-4 last season. Minnesota’s Holiday Bowl win against Washington State in December was a signature win. Fleck is stepping into a good situation in Dinkytown. The cupboard is not bare and Claeys deserves credit for that…

•Fab Five: My top five NFL venues are … 1. Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City. 2. Lambeau Field, Green Bay. 3. CenturyLink Field, Seattle. 4. LA Coliseum. 5. Hard Rock Stadium, Miami…

•Shield Cathedrals: Arrowhead has incredible tailgating, cool architecture and fabulous gameday energy. Lambeau oozes history and is an NFL mecca. CenturyLink has a unique look, fantastic views of the Seattle skyline and is home base to Seahawk fans who shatter the sound barrier on a weekly basis. The Coliseum is an LA landmark that has plenty of tradition. Hard Rock’s new canopy protects fans from Miami monsoons and shields them from scorching South Florida heat, yet exposes the players to the elements…

•Stadium Criteria: Deciding on the top five stadiums was a challenge. There are plenty of fabulous facilities on the NFL map such as Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati), FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland), Heinz Field (Pittsburgh) and Levi’s Stadium (San Francisco). The only easy decisions were eliminating domes or retractable roof facilities. Blocking out the elements creates an artificial and sterile setting. Weather games usually garner huge television ratings because NFL Nation loves watching duels in the rain, ice and snow…

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Thomas U. Tuttle

A Few Thoughts on the Twins

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by Thomas U. Tuttle

Just when you think they are finished, wrapped up, cooked well-done and ready for slicing and dicing – here come the Minnesota Twins to surprise everyone but themselves! It’s been that way all year and has continued into the home stretch.

So here are a couple of thoughts on the 2017 season through late August:

* The fact that this Club is so resilient and determined makes it all the more difficult to accept the teams acquiring, and then jettisoning, a solid playoff run asset like Jaime Garcia – just the kind of accountable and tested starting pitcher a serious team acquires late in a contending season.

* It was also disheartening that new Twins management felt inclined to move closer Brandon Kintzler at the same time. The first time All-Star was having a solid year and seemed primed for a playoff push. His confident presence was also a big asset in the locker room/bullpen given Minnesota’s shaky reliever coterie.

* All of this has been hashed  over the past  few weeks, but the Boy Wonders (Derrick Falvey and Thad Levine) at the helm of the ballclub felt compelled to make moves that they believe will be beneficial to the future of the franchise. NOT the current squad. And that is a disconnect, according to one Twin, that speaks to disrespect.

* It’s the wait-till-next year attitude that has been around baseball for time immemorial. To essentially quit on a young team that has been entertaining – as well as competitive – for 100-plus games, well, that’s frustrated players, media, casual fans and season ticket holders alike.

* There is a powerful philosophy in baseball today that emphasizes Sabermetrics and cost-benefit analysis at the expense of baseball “feel,” if you will. It’s the old “Moneyball” philosophy first expounded by Bill James, executed (once) by Oakland’s Billy Beane, and accepted as Gospel by this new generation of baseball leadership.

* The Theo Epstein’s and Jed Hoyer’s of the world have dictated strategy to fellow leaders like Falvey/Levine, with the youth contingent coming out of  a mold that views baseball metrics as essentially infallible. One of the great moments at the 2017 SABR analytics conference was HOF lefty Randy Johnson shrugging at the onslaught of information and saying, “I just threw my best heat and let them try to hit it. Did pretty good, too, for a country boy.” Classic…

* The Twins do have the potential for one of the best outfields in baseball for years to come. Max Kepler is underrated and Byron Buxton is figuring things out and Eddie Rosario could really be a powerful star if he hits up to his capabilities. You have to appreciate some of the other guys, too, like Zack Granite who tore up AAA Syracuse en route to the Bigs.

* Miguel Sano needs to watch himself as he emerges into the star Miggy already believes that he is. While his batting practice boomers are reminiscent of David Ortiz, so too are the youthful weight challenges overcome by Big Papi in Boston. Ortiz was not a great player until he pushed himself to become a complete athlete and fulfilled his great promise.

* The Twins essential Latin American guys, along with the Clubhouse in general, have respect for manager Paul Molitor and appreciate his style, among other things. Mollie goes easy on players – up to a point. He demands accountability but doesn’t hound the player who is working hard and playing solid baseball despite adversity and occasional youthful mistakes.

* This team is Molitor’s and the Twins skipper was not done any favors by the braintrust that eliminated a couple of his weapons. It wasn’t intended as a slap in the face, but probably felt like one to a gentleman who has to wonder how he’s ultimately going to fit in with these new management guys, fellows who could be his kids. Suffice it to say that the first ballot hall-of-famer has youthful superiors who are still figuring things out.

* It’s been a great run, considering the starting pitching has been shaky all year and the bullpen generally worse. This team believes in itself despite everything and keeps playing entertaining baseball. Kudos to the squad for having that never-say-die attitude in the face of daunting challenges and roadblocks placed by the front office. It ain’t over until it’s over, though the fat lady will likely be singing soon.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The Minnesota Twins best move with Brian Dozier was no move

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By Eric Nelson
August 22, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the home of Post-It Notes...

•Status Quo: Sometimes the best move is no move. That is true for new Minnesota Twins bosses Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. Despite all the trade rumors swirling around 2B Brian Dozier, he is still wearing a Twins uniform – which is a good thing…

•Brian’s Song: It’s preposterous that Dozier was ever on the trading block. The guy is a cornerstone player and a key part of the Twins young foundation of talent. This season Dozier is batting .264 with 26 home runs, 71 RBI and 71 runs scored. He has also been solid defensively (just 4 errors in 534 chances) and is a leader in the clubhouse…

•Tater time: Dozier now has 143 career home runs, which is 10th on the Twins all-time list…

•Speed Thrills: Minnesota CF Byron Buxton has to be one of the fastest athletes in team sports. In a 100 meter sprint I would take Buxton over any of the Viking wideouts…

•Blair’s Revenge: It’s great that Seattle K Blair Walsh connected on a pair of 52-yard field goals last week against Minnesota and it’s great that Walsh apparently has his mojo back. Walsh even taunted his old team, gesturing to the Viking sideline after both kicks. But, the real test for Walsh will come in key regular season and post-season games. That’s when the kicks really count – not in the pre-season…

•Time Warp: According to ESPN.com, Atlanta HC Dan Quinn has a clock on his office wall with no numbers. Each of the 12 spots are replaced by the word “now,” reminding Quinn to stay in the moment…

•Dinkytown Depression: ESPN.com also ranked the happiest and most miserable college football fan bases. Minnesota is 107th on the list. Ohio State is number 1 and Texas State is last at 128…

•Long Trip: Rice and Stanford open the season on Saturday and it’s not in Houston or Palo Alto. Instead it’s in Sydney, Australia. For some odd reason the NCAA wants the Owls and Cardinal to travel to the other end of the globe to play a football game…

•Smart Move: Kudos to Notre Dame and Wisconsin for scheduling a home and home series. In 2020 the Irish and Badgers play at Lambeau Field in Green Bay and in 2021 they meet at Soldier Field in Chicago. It’s great to see teams play nonconference games with some juice…

•Badger Ball: Give Wisconsin credit, the Badgers usually face at least one power program in their non conference schedule. In recent seasons Wisconsin has played Alabama and LSU, and this year travels to BYU on September 16th…

•No DC for KD: No one should be surprised that Golden State’s Kevin Durant is not going to the White House if the Warriors are invited. Why go where you are not wanted or welcome? KD’s decision could open the flood gates for other athletes to ignore the polarizing POTUS…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Imagine how good the Minnesota Twins would be if the front office actually tried to win

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By Eric Nelson
August 15, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@Ericinminny44

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the North Star State...

•In the Mix: Imagine how good the Minnesota Twins would be if their front office actually acquired talent instead of trading away key players. Despite waving a white flag and becoming sellers in late July, the Twins have won seven of eight and are a half game behind the LA Angels for the AL’s final wild card spot…

•Rebound Season: Minnesota’s turnaround is one of the most remarkable MLB stories this season. In 2016 the Twins were 59-103, but this year they have bounced back in a big way. It’s mid-August and Minnesota has a legitimate chance to play post-season baseball. Paul Molitor is definitely in the running for AL manager of the year…

•Gold Rush I: Minnesota Twins CF Byron Buxton is a highlight waiting to happen. Buxton makes spectacular catches on a routine basis and covers more ground than a tarp. Buxton has already become one of MLB’s top defensive outfielders and has a chance to win his first gold glove…

•Gold Rush II: Twins 1B Joe Mauer could get a gold glove too. Mauer has been excellent in the field this season…

•Hall Call: OF Michael Cuddyer and GM Andy MacPhail will be inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame this weekend against Arizona. Cuddyer and MacPhail will become the 29th and 30th members of the team’s HOF. Cuddyer goes in on Saturday and MacPhail on Sunday…

•Intimate Gathering: Seattle and the LA Chargers played the first NFL game at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA Sunday night before a smallish crowd of 21,054. StubHub is the league’s smallest venue with a capacity of 27,000…

•Bad Sign: Granted it’s just the pre-season, but if the Chargers can’t fill up a boutique soccer stadium, then it means they are truly off the grid in So Cal. It’s not too late for the franchise to pack their bags, hop on I-5 and return to San Diego where they belong…

•Buyer’s Market: According to Vivid Seats, tickets for some NFL pre-season games are going for bargain basement prices. This week’s deals include, Baltimore at Miami ($3), Indianapolis at Dallas ($3), NY Giants at Cleveland ($3), Atlanta at Pittsburgh ($7) and Kansas City at Cincinnati ($8)…

•Wising Up: This is proof that NFL Nation actually gets it. Anyone who pays full freight for a meaningless exhibition game is throwing their money away…

•Sports Trifecta: There will be plenty of Minnesota-Seattle match ups in the next few days. On Wednesday the Lynx and Storm play a WNBA game at KeyArena in Seattle. On Friday it’s the Vikings and Seahawks in NFL pre-season action at CenturyLink Field. Then on Sunday, it’s Minnesota United against the Seattle Sounders in an MLS match at CenturyLink…

•On the Go: According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Golden State superstar Steph Curry has had a hectic off-season. Curry has gone to Hawaii, Los Angeles, North Carolina, Turks and Caicos, golfed at a celebrity tournament in Lake Tahoe and this week is hosting a tech summit in San Francisco…

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