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.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan has confirmed that Mauer’s days as a catcher are done.
“If we would ever get any OK from a physician, we would consider it,” Ryan said (via twincities.com) during a weekend fan forum. “Unfortunately, there isn’t a physician, especially concussion experts, that could trust he’s not going to take another bop in the head on a foul tip or a collision at the plate, although the collisions are pretty much a foregone conclusion nowadays.”
Mauer, a former No. 1 overall pick and Minnesota native, has three years remaining on his contract worth $69 million, meaning it’s likely he’ll finish his career with the Twins. He’ll turn 33 in April.
Catching is just too dangerous. So get in there, Kurt Suzuki!
In the end, both Nero and the Twins are confident Park will be able to replicate the sort of success Kang enjoyed last year.
“We saw a lot of (Kang) in spring training,” Ryan said. “He looked like he made that transition rapidly. We’re hoping the same will be true here.”
Added Nero: “This is an outstanding young man. He’s very motivated. There’s not going to be any concern over him transitioning. He’s a good family man. He’s got a good marriage and a beautiful young son. He’s highly, highly motivated. We don’t expect a blip on the screen at all.”
If the billionaire Pohlads had been willing to take a short-term loss, they could have made their way out of the Metronome years earlier without taking the public for such a ride. Instead, Pohlad and Selig played games with the public to service their own greed. The threats of contracting the Twins were never about Minneapolis’s “growth potential” or any of Selig’s typical economic concerns. Those threats were about bullying the people of Minneapolis and creating a culture of fear outside of the untouchable cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. And in that sense, even though the contraction plan never went through, the gambit worked perfectly.
“I don’t think I’m as nervous as some people—he’s athletic enough,” Molitor said. “Once we signed (South Korean Byung Ho) Park, we knew we were going to have to do something different. You look at your personnel and see how it fits together, and I’m not taking (Trevor) Plouffe off of third (base).
With a week remaining in their exclusive negotiating window to sign Byung-ho Park the Twins have agreed to a deal with the Korean slugger. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that it’s a four-year, $12 million contract, on top of which the Twins will pay Park’s old team a $12.85 million posting fee for those negotiating rights.
Four years and a total commitment of $24.85 million is certainly a sizable investment, but it’s significantly less than most projections had the Twins spending to get Park under contract.
“We were coming through security at [Los Angeles International Airport],” Devon says, “and the guy there asked Dad if he knew what a ‘Rod Carew’ was on Urban Dictionary.” (It’s a vulgarism that involves going from first base to third base without touching second.) Rod shakes his head in mock dismay upon hearing this, like a put-upon dad in a sitcom, which he often appears to be.
“When he’s getting ornery,” Rhonda says, “we know he’s getting back to normal.”
Hicks turned his career around this year, hitting .256 with 11 homers and a .721 OPS in 97 games for the Twins to show some of the promise that made him a top-100 prospect before back-to-back rough seasons in 2013 and 2014. He’s a speedy center fielder with a very good arm and the potential to be an above-average hitter, although so far the switch-hitting Hicks has struggled against right-handed pitching enough to question if he should be playing every day. He could fill Chris Young’s old platoon role or make Brett Gardner expendable.
Murphy has served in a backup role for the Yankees, hitting .267 with four homers and a .685 OPS in 115 total games from 2013-2015. His numbers in the minors are similar, including a .259 batting average and .736 OPS at Triple-A, so the 24-year-old Murphy is unlikely to be a standout hitter. He’ll split playing time with veteran Kurt Suzuki, whose struggles this year convinced the Twins they needed to find outside help at catcher.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the Twins submitted the high bid at $12.85 million, which is amusing because the Twins were one of the few teams not linked to Park in various reports. No one saw this coming.
Minnesota now has a 30-day exclusive negotiating window with Park, who hit .343 with 53 homers, 146 RBIs, and a 1.150 OPS in 140 games for Nexen this season and has topped a 1.000 OPS in each of the past three years. Pirates shortstop Jung Ho Kang had similarly amazing numbers in the same league two years ago and went on to hit .287 with an .816 OPS in 126 games as an MLB rookie.
As a first baseman Park would be a bit of an odd fit in Minnesota given the presence of Joe Mauer at first base and Miguel Sano at designated hitter, but Sano played third base in the minors and the Twins have talked recently about getting him some reps in the outfield too.
Last season, Orlando Cabrera batted .238 with the Indians and Giants, posting a 61 OPS+. The season before that, he posted a 76 OPS+. The season before that, he posted an 85 OPS+. Orlando Cabrera has been declining, and just turned 37 years old. As a free agent, Cabrera didn’t drum up much interest, which I’m guessing is why he’s intending to hang ‘em up. Enrique Rojas:
“Orlando Cabrera to retire from baseball, he said in Colombia radio station. Thanks for memories!”
Cabrera had a long career that’ll be difficult to forget. He debuted with the Expos in 1997, and remained there until the giant Nomar Garciaparra three-way trade in 2004. That year, with the Red Sox, Cabrera won a World Series. He wound up with the Angels, earning the unfortunate nickname “The Wizard of O.C.”, and then he wound up with the White Sox, and the A’s, and the Twins, and the Reds, and the Indians, and the Giants ... He remained a shortstop to the end, and collected 2,055 hits. He will always be remembered as a pest. An absolute pest.
The Tigers could end up seeing a lot of Joel Zumaya this year after all. It’ll just be in a different uniform, albeit an awfully familiar one.
After throwing for teams in December and holding out for a roster spot and the right situation, Zumaya has agreed to terms with the Minnesota Twins, the reliever told MLB.com. The two sides spent Saturday putting together a deal that could pay him anywhere from $800,000 to $1.7 million if he reaches incentives.
A Twins official would neither confirm nor deny the deal to MLB.com, but said they’ve been in negotiations since December.
Zumaya weighed what he called “good offers” from three other clubs, but the Twins included guaranteed money rather than a minor-league deal with a Spring Training invite. If he’s healthy, they’ll bring him to the same mound at Target Field where he last threw a Major League pitch. He fractured his elbow throwing for the Tigers against the Twins on June 28, 2010.