Hiring the next big thing is an exercise in research and perceptiveness, and it is difficult. When MacPhail left the Twins after the 1994 season to run the Cubs as one of baseball’s most respected bosses, he wanted to hire a general manager to work below him. On the flight to Chicago, he showed me a list of potential candidates that included Sabean, who has won three of the past five World Series with the Giants. Then he hired Ed Lynch.
On Monday, Pohlad did not sound like someone who is ready to hire the next big thing. He sounded like someone who would need a lot of help to avoid hiring the next Ed Lynch.
Perhaps the Dodgers will keep Puig, buying into his latest surge and banking on the fact that he is only 25. Or perhaps they finally are at wit’s end with his performance if not his personality, and will try to sell relatively high, assuming Puig does not regress in the next two weeks.
Terry Ryan was relieved of his duties as Twins executive vice president and general manager on Monday, with assistant GM Rob Antony replacing him on an interim basis.
“Since joining our organization as a player in 1972, Terry has been a dedicated, loyal and respected member of the Minnesota Twins family,” Twins owner and CEO Jim Pohlad said in announcing the dismissal. “Terry has been a gifted leader of the baseball department for over 18 seasons. It is impossible to overstate his contribution to our game, our team and the Upper Midwest baseball community.
“The decision to part ways with Terry was difficult, painful and not obvious. We are extremely grateful and very thankful to Terry, his wife Karilyn and their family for being a part of the Minnesota Twins.”
The Twins are hopeful about their current group of prospects.
The Twins like their current stable of starting pitching prospects. Berrios had a rough baptism when called up in May but has made adjustments at Rochester and is close to a promotion.
Jay, a lefthander taken sixth overall last year; Kohl Stewart, a righthander drafted fourth overall in 2013; and lefthander Stephen Gonsalves, taken in the fourth round in 2013, all have been promoted to Class AA Chattanooga.
Internationally, righthander Felix Jorge recently was promoted to Chattanooga. Righthander Fernando Romero is at Class A Fort Myers and throws a mid-90s fastball with a good slider. Lefthander Randy Rosario hit 96 in spring training and is making progress at Fort Myers.
Australian lefthander Lewis Thorpe has a lot of promise but has been slowed by Tommy John elbow surgery last year and, more recently, mononucleosis.
Overall, it’s a group the Twins believe could make up the majority of the rotation in the coming years — a homegrown splash for which they are desperate.
“I think you’d probably have to go back to the Liriano, Garza, Glen Perkins, Kevin Slowey, Anthony Swarzak group in 2005 for a good comparison [to the current class of minor leaguers],” Twins minor league director Brad Steil said. “I don’t know if we have anyone right now that has the pure stuff that Liriano had before his injury, but our depth might be a little better now than it was back then.’’
It seems almost inconceivable now, given the risk of injury and the overall unwillingness of most big leaguers to give up a precious day off. Back then, though, two years after a players’ strike wiped out the World Series, in-season barnstorming trips to minor league affiliates weren’t uncommon.
The Mariners, fresh off an appearance in the American League Championship Series in 1995 and contending again in ‘96, were set to play a doubleheader July 30 in Milwaukee. After wrapping up a homestand on July 28, they traveled to Appleton, where the Timber Rattlers had demonstrated their commitment to the Mariners by building a new ballpark two years earlier.
JOHN McLAREN, MARINERS THIRD-BASE COACH: The word was we weren’t going to be able to play but we’re going to try to give the fans something to grasp onto. Someone came up with the idea of doing a home run derby, so we went looking for hitters.
Rodriguez, who hit 14 homers in 248 at-bats in Appleton’s old ballpark in 1994, volunteered to participate. And by popular demand, Griffey was talked into competing, too. The Timber Rattlers countered with outfielder Luis Tinoco, hitting coach Joaquin Contreras and Ortiz, who was in the midst of a breakout season in which he batted .322 with 18 homers, 93 RBIs and a .901 OPS.
ORTIZ: I was hitting balls onto the highway, bro. Like, it was crazy. I could see they were impressed with what I was doing, and they were the guys in the big leagues. I was just playing A-ball. It was fun. I’ll never forget that.
[GARY HORCHER, TV REPORTER FOR WBAY, ABC AFFILIATE IN APPLETON]: Ken Griffey Jr. was standing by A-Rod when Ortiz started hitting his first couple shots. It was a different noise. Some guys, it sounds like a thunderclap, and other guys it doesn’t generate the same sound. This was like a hammer clattering against something really percussive. I remember everybody kind of winced. We looked over for Griffey’s reaction, and I remember Griffey kind of looking up and smiling. But A-Rod was going, “Oh my god!” I remember after one of Ortiz’s shots, A-Rod was like, “Look at that guy! I ain’t got a chance.”
RODRIGUEZ: I think we were all wondering why he wasn’t coming back with us to the Kingdome. We wanted to take him on the plane with us.
[MIKE GOFF, TIMBER RATTLERS MANAGER]: I can’t remember how many he hit, but I know he hit a bunch. He wasn’t just hitting them to right field. He was hitting them all over the ballpark, and it was a good-sized yard. It wasn’t a small yard. To hear that Alex said, “We should take him back to the Kingdome,” I think that’s bulls—- to be honest. I think some of [the Mariners] were embarrassed by what Davey did to them in that competition—and I loved every single minute of it.
Last year’s team overperformed. It happens. Instead of recognizing it as such, some people thought the team had turned a corner. This led to unrealistic expectations for this season. With the team’s play this season, people are now talking about what a mess the team is when, in actuality, it’s probably underperforming. It’s true talent level is somewhere in between. From where I sit, the team is on an upward slope overall but still not progressing as quickly as its fans want.
Pohlad added that he, along with a lot of other people in the organization and around baseball, didn’t expect a team that went 83-79 last year and challenged for a playoff spot to fall off so badly.
“No, nobody did,” he said. “I know that sounds trite to all the fans out there, and any time there’s a season that doesn’t go well you can always say that. But I think everybody would agree that we all had, certainly the organization had, high expectations for this year and they clearly have not come to pass.”
Losing has a way of grating on you, though, and with the Twins a MLB-worst 11-34 heading into Wednesday’s game against Kansas City, there’s been plenty of losing to go around. That may have been what led to the incident Bremer described to Fargo, North Dakota radio host (on 970 AM WDAY) Mike McFeely last week:
Surprisingly, Bremer said one player has confronted him this season about being too critical of the team. Bremer wouldn’t name the player.
“I make it a practice to go in the clubhouse every day and go down on the field, so if a player has a complaint about something I’ve said on television they have that opportunity,” Bremer said. “I was confronted in the clubhouse in the last homestand. I didn’t say what I wanted to say, which was, ‘Well, play better and the commentary will be more positive.’ You can’t mask the fact this team is a quarter of the way through the season with 10 wins.”
Last year’s fluke record raised expectations to unrealistic levels. The Twins, as they were at the start of last season, are in the middle of a rebuild.
Amid all the losing the Twins have assembled a highly rated farm system. The young core—first-round picks Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios, plus Smith-signed international prospects Miguel Sano and Max Kepler—is one they can potentially build around. This is a team on the rise, albeit with a massive step backward taking place this season. The question is not whether a Ryan-led organization can successfully rebuild and return to contender status within the next 2-3 years, but rather whether Twins fans should want Ryan and his right-hand men leading the organization when that happens. It’s increasingly difficult to make a compelling case for him keeping the job without pointing to positive things that happened a decade (and a whole lot of losing) ago.
Terry Ryan is a Well-Respected Baseball Man™, but when does that cease being enough?
As someone who doesn’t hit for a notable amount of power, the lefty has always seen success through his ability to command the zone and take the ball to all fields, which allowed him to hit for a high average. So when Mauer’s plate discipline profile started to decline, it is no surprise that his overall performance fell as well. Instead of a player who consistently challenged the .300 mark for batting average and .400 mark for on-base percentage, the 2015 version of Joe Mauer batted .265 and reached base at a .338 clip. His 2014 season was slightly better, but the general principle remained—Mauer’s struggles with the zone kept him off base more than usual, and led him to strike out more and walk less. Then came 2016.
The St Paul Splendor is taking more bad pitches, making more contact, and hitting the ball harder than he has in years. It seems that maybe—just maybe—he’s finally recovered from a concussion he sustained three seasons ago.
Murphy’s line-drive rate had dropped to just 7.4 percent, well off his career average (22.1 percent). His flyball rate was 48.1 percent, well above his typical 35.0 percent, and his hard-contact rate had dropped to 17.1 percent from a career mark of 27.1 percent.
This, too, it seems he’d rather not know.
“The way the game is now, there’s probably an overload of information,” he said. “I think every player is a little bit different. You have to understand what works for you and what doesn’t work for you.”
When most fans of Major League Baseball (MLB) think of players from the Pacific Rim, players imported from Japan’s professional league tend to come to mind. Whether it be Ichiro or for a period Dice K Matsuzaka, there have been a string of high profile players coming from Japan to the United States. That perception may be about to change. While more Japanese professionals have played in the major leagues, players from Korea are increasingly making their mark in MLB as well.
Because of the thriving professional leagues in Korea and Japan, a posting system remains in place that limits the flow of talent to the majors from Korea and Japan relative to what the overall level of talent in either country would warrant than in comparison from Latin America. This has begun to change somewhat in the last decade or so thanks in part to the success of players such as Ichiro and more recently to Koreans such as Choo Shin-soo with the Rangers and Ryu Hyun-jin with the Dodgers.
In the case of Korea, this all began with Park Chan-ho. Park became the first Korean to play in the major leagues when he briefly made his debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1994, but would go on to become a star once he had established himself in the majors by 1996. Park’s success helped to pave the way for other players from Korea to come to the United States, with a peak of 8 Koreans playing in the majors in 2005.
While the number of Koreans playing in MLB tailed off after 2005, the 2016 season has seen a resurgence in Koreans playing in the majors. Five Korean-born players have already made their debut this season and the number of Korean-born players on MLB rosters is again at an all-time high of eight. However, if prospects such as Lee Hak-ju of the San Francisco Giants make their debut this season, 2016 could represent a high-water mark for Koreans in Major League Baseball.
The following is a brief look at the five Korean-born players to have made their debut this season in the majors:
Sunday’s game had everything a game could offer, from dramatic highs to head-shaking oddities. Bench coach Chris Speier, first base coach Davey Lopes and Baker, in his 21st season as a manager, have seen thousands of games combined, and the three agreed this was the wildest game they had been a part of.
It was definitely not the cleanest game ever played, but there were so many uncommon events that this one will be remembered for quite some time.
For that resurgence, at least some of the credit must go to the discontinued, goggle-like glasses Nike sent him this offseason. Mauer brought them to spring training and showed them to hitting coach Tom Brunansky, who became an instant believer.
Young Twins hitters such as Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario have been using the dark, wraparound glasses that include a small control switch on the frame to alter the speed at which the internal strobe light flashes. Korean slugger Byung Ho Park has tried the technique, as well.
“It makes it a lot tougher visually for you to see the ball because you only get pictures of it,” Mauer said. “The strobes can go faster or slower. We only do it off the tee or flips — short toss. When you take them off, it seems to slow it down actually so you can focus in on the ball.”
But in a new book titled, “Home Game: Big League Stories from My Life in Baseball’s First Family,” set to go on sale May 10, Boone reveals that it was more than a simple matter of aging that caused him to fall so fast. Instead, he writes, he was a “substance abuser” whose alcohol problem grew worse during that period.
Later in the evening, a handful of players changed their walk-up music to Prince songs, including the Reds’ Brandon Phillips, the Orioles’ Adam Jones, the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez and the Rangers’ Bryan Holaday.
As a rule, I don’t get worked up over celebrity deaths. But this one hurts.
“Every day is a lesson for me. I’m still learning. But I’m not going to sleep on this and stress about it. I’m going to take a good day off (Tuesday), and when I show up here on Wednesday, it’s a new day, a new game. I’m going to focus on my game.”
And yet there’s a contemporary scene that makes all the sense in the world for the musically inclined sports figure. Say what you will about electronic dance music—and I say it’s generally more great than not from “Sharevari” onwards—but its longtime reliance on The Beat over a personality cult and preference for collective-driven anonymity over marquee stardom makes it one of music’s greatest places to escape. Detractors say it’s “faceless,” but when your face is on millions of Topps baseball cards, that probably sounds pretty ####### great.
This is why I was more heartened than shocked to learn that Twins pitcher Trevor May, sixth-starter hopeful and possible solution to the team’s generation-spanning middle-relief malaise, is still continuing an EDM career that was pointed out as a weird footnote when the then-Phillies prospect was dealt to the Twins in the 2012 Ben Revere trade.
What an horrific ordeal for anyone to go through. I can’t even imagine the pain of losing a child.
“It was hard,” the Twins right fielder said Sunday morning. “I would cry every day about that. My first baby. She died.”
Angelica Sano, born in late November 2014, was one week old when she died of a heart defect in the Dominican Republic. Sano, rehabbing in Fort Myers after having Tommy John surgery that spring, flew home after his daughter’s birth and had returned to Florida when his mother called him with the horrible news.
Park, 29, went down swinging his first two times up, swinging through four pitches, including a high fastball from Red Sox left-hander Henry Owens to leave the bases loaded in the first inning. Facing righty Noe Ramirez in the third, Park struck out on three pitches.
He went down looking at a curve in the fifth after fouling off a changeup from right-hander Anthony Varvaro.
Of the 11 pitches Park saw on the day with Tim Timmons behind the plate, just two were called balls.