Hosken Bombo Disco reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Houston, Does the Central Have a Problem?
Last season the Minnesota Twins played Houston in a three-game series and was swept, scoring just two runs in 18 innings of work. The 2020 club wasn’t the 2019 Bomba Squad, but they still won the division over Chicago and Cleveland while playing at a 97-win clip. The Twins looked well-positioned, with Kenta Maeda pitching like a Cy Young and Jose Berrios being a formidable starter in his own right. The lineup was still plenty scary, and distancing themselves from an insufferable Postseason losing streak was no doubt the goal.
That didn’t happen. Unfortunately, they needed to break in rookie Alex Kirilloff out of necessity, and star third basemen Josh Donaldson couldn’t go. Jorge Polanco made a critical throwing error, and the Twins were done in mainly by their ineffectiveness. This season, they were expected to compete for a third straight division title, but after fumbling out of the gate, the Chicago White Sox represented the Central against the same foe.
This time around, a Chicago team looked plenty capable of knocking off Houston but yet has thus far suffered the same fate. Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito should both get Cy Young votes this season. Along with Carlos Rodon, the South Siders have a trio of talented arms. Defense isn’t Tony La Russa’s club’s calling card, but the lineup is plenty potent. With Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert back, Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal get help with the heavy lifting.
It shouldn’t have been expected to go this way, but now down 2-0, Chicago is backed up against the wall. They won’t have a pitching advantage in game three but will get the game back at home. Barring a miraculous three-in-a-row run, the Central division winner will bow out quickly for the second year in a row.
I’ve seen it suggested that the White Sox, and probably Minnesota last season, are just division-winning good. The AL Central was expected to be down this year, and given the Twins performance, it wasn’t as top-heavy as expected, but it’s hardly the doldrums of baseball. No team in the Central lost 90 games, the Royals got off to a strong start, and the Tigers finished playing good baseball. While the group as a whole didn’t have a herculean frontrunner, there’s no denying it played competitive baseball on a nightly basis.
Suggesting that the White Sox weren’t in the same tier as Houston falls on deaf ears for this writer. The lineup, rotation, and pieces of the pen can compete with anyone. I think the Astros are being slept on some as they look to fly under the radar following the fallout of their cheating scandal. What takes place in a five-game series doesn’t define the body of work necessary to reach this point. Chicago dealt with some of the most crippling injuries this season and still ripped off 93 wins. Minnesota battled through a weird year a season ago and lost two in a row at the wrong time.
Houston is good, the Central is OK, and the only problem may be Chicago returning this core next season. The Twins, and everyone else, are on notice.
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Hosken Bombo Disco reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Andrew Albers Remains Appreciative, Hopeful
Andrew Albers grew up in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada. It isn’t exactly a baseball hotbed. As Albers said during a Saints press conference on Friday, “Most (Canadian) ballplayers come from BC (British Columbia) or Ontario.”
However, scouts found him and he was drafted out of high school but chose to attend the University of Kentucky. The Padres drafted him in 2008 and he pitched in a handful of games for their rookie Arizona League team. He got hurt, missed the 2009 season and was released. He pitched some for Quebec in the independent Atlantic League.
That could have been the end of Andrew Albers' baseball career. Instead...
The next offseason, he pulled a lot of strings, made a lot of phone calls and sent a lot of e-mails in an attempt to sign with an affiliated team including driving from Saskatchewan to Arizona,
In fact, as the story goes, the Twins said they might be interested, but they wouldn't be able to have anyone see him in Arizona for a couple of weeks. Albers gave it some thought, called the Twins scout back and said he would drive from Arizona to Ft. Myers for the tryout. If they liked him, they would sign him and reimburse his travel expenses. If not, he would say Thank You and, well, probably just hope for some travel expense reimbursed.
The Twins gave him a shot. In 2011, he spent time in Ft. Myers and Double-A New Britain. He spent 2012 with the Rockcats. He began the 2013 season at Triple-A Rochester, but he was pitching well, and the Twins called him up to make a couple of starts.
In his MLB debut, he tossed 8 1/3 scoreless innings. In the next game, he threw a complete game shutout.
Not promised a big-league spot in 2014, he signed with Hanwha in the Korean Baseball Organization.
In 2015, he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and got to pitch in one game for the team from his home country. He pitched in Venezuela that offseason and then returned to the independent leagues in 2016 for Lancaster to start the season, but he quickly signed with the Twins and went to Rochester before pitching in six games for the Twins.
In 2017, he went 12-3 with a 2.61 ERA in Gwinnett (Atlanta AAA) but was traded/sold to the Mariners in August. They called him up and he went 5-1 with a 3.51 ERA in nine games and six starts.
He went to Japan in 2018 and went 9-2 with a 3.08 ERA. He received an offer to extend his deal for two years and accepted it. Unfortunately, he was “nicked up” and didn’t pitch as well as he would have liked.
Albers thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity he had in Japan. ““I really enjoyed the experience there. Was treated very well by the organization. It was great to immerse yourself in a different culture. I enjoyed my experience in Japan much more than I did in Korea. Really enjoyed the way they played the game. The fans there are tremendous. They just do a tremendous job creating a great atmosphere. It’s all really positive. They’re extremely respectful. The team itself, they take really good care of you. I had a really great time there. Was very thankful for that opportunity. I was glad that I was able to go over there and do that.”
Late this offseason, he and his agent sent out e-mails to several teams to see if any might be interested in his pitching services for this season.
“The Twins showed some interest, so it was a pretty easy decision for me to end up back here. Obviously have some fond memories here with the organization. Some things have happened in the past and couldn’t be happier to be back.”
While he got to spring training late due to visa issues, Albers feels like it only took him a couple of weeks to feel as if he had caught up.
Albers is currently in St. Paul, working out at the alternate site. His manager with the Saints in 2021 will be Toby Gardenhire.
Gardenhire’s final season as a player in the Twins organization was 2011 when he played 103 games in Rochester. That was Albers first year in the organization, and he split the year between Ft. Myers and New Britain.
While they never played together, they both recall a time they played against each other. In September of 2012, there was a WBC Qualifier tournament in Germany. Gardenhire (and a 19-year-old Max Kepler) played for Team Germany. In the championship game, Germany faced Team Canada. Andrew Albers made the start for Canada and gave up one run over six innings and Canada advanced to play in the 2013 WBC.
Gardenhire recalls, “I think I was like 0-for-3 off of him in the game. So it’s funny that now we’ve come full circle, I’m managing and he’s still pitching.” (online research shows that Gardenhire was indeed 0-for-3 in the game.)
Albers said that he certainly remembered that game. “Any time I get to play for Team Canada, I treasure those moments. It was a lot of fun.”
Albers is just three years younger than the 38-year-old Gardenhire. “Obviously I played for his dad in ‘13, so that’s a really interesting relationship there. I guess that’s when I really know that I’m getting up there in age when I start playing for both father and son as managers. I try not to think about it that much.”
But there is value in having a guy like Albers on the roster. Gardenhire has seen it already in their brief time together. “It’s cool having Albers around because he has so much experience, and he’s been around and done so much. He’s had conversations with all the guys about different things. I’ve heard him talk to guys about playing in Japan. He’s been around so much.”
He continued, “It’s cool having a guy like that. He knows how to get his work done. He knows everything he has to do. He’s just staying ready to go. Once the season starts, he’s a guy that’s reliable. You know what you’re going to get from him because he’s done it so many times. He’s been in those situations before.”
Albers relishes the role of a mentor for other players, but he doesn’t push anything on his teammates.
“I think that’s an important part to play. Obviously you hope that you can provide some experience to help the younger guys.” He continued, “If somebody comes up and has a question for me or we can just have a discussion about baseball. I love that. I think the biggest thing is just to be open and approachable. You’re a little bit older now, but at that same time you try to be one of the guys and have fun with them. Obviously I think I appreciate it more now having spent some time internationally where you can’t necessarily communicate with a lot of your teammates. So that part of it’s a lot of fun.”
All that said, Albers may not throw hard, but he can pitch, and he can keep batters off balance. He hopes to help whichever team he is playing for, be it the Saints or the Twins.
“Anything I can do to help the club, right? Whatever role they see me in. We’ve talked a little bit about that, whether it’s going to be a middle to long guy, or a starter. I’m trying to get extended a little bit here in St. Paul right now just so that I’m available if the need arises, and if they feel I can contribute hopefully up there with the big league club at some point this year. It’s one of those things where you’re just trying to get yourself ready as best you can. Trying to prepare yourself for whatever role that they think you can help in. That’s what I’m doing. That’s my approach.”
Andrew Albers is 35 and has had some great experiences and memories throughout his baseball career, a career that could have ended 12 years ago when he was hurt and released. Despite a fastball that likely won’t hit 90 mph, he has had four stints in the big leagues with three different organizations. He’s represented Canada in several international competitions. He’s played in Japan and Korea, and he’s now back with the Twins for a third time. This is a guy who is appreciative of his opportunities.
“I’m just thankful that I have an opportunity and then hopeful that I get an opportunity up there. Just going to try to prepare for whatever that opportunity may be.”
There are currently four Canadians in Twins minor league spring training in Ft. Myers. Right-handed pitchers Jordan Balazovic and Landon Leach, infielder Edouard Julien and catcher LaRon Smith. Albers noted the age gap between him and those players, so he hadn’t met any of them until this spring when he met Balazovic at big-league spring training. “I met Balazovic this spring, was really impressed with him. Impressive character, seems like he has a good head on his shoulders, obviously throws the ball real well.
He then gave a lot of credit to Greg Hamilton who has been very instrumental in the Canadian Junior National team which has helped player development in the country. Albers mentioned Josh Naylor. Mike Soroka. Cal Quantrill and Tyler O’Neill as big-league guys from that program.
MY HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED
Albers was in the Twins organization from 2011 to 2013, in 2016 and now in 2021. It’s fair to say that things have changed quite a bit since his previous stints.
“It’s almost like it’s a whole new organization. Obviously with the new front office and bringing in some different guys, the philosophy’s changed from what it used to be, certainly from 2013 and then even from ‘16. The last few years, there have been a lot of changes, or at least it seems like a lot of changes to me.”
While he hadn’t previously been brought up with the analytics and technology that the Twins now use, he is excited about it and how it is being communicated and how he’s able to put what he’s learning into action in St. Paul.
“I think they’re doing a great job here getting guys that are extremely knowledgeable with the analytics. Obviously that’s part of the game now. You get the older guys like me where it’s a lot of new information, but they're doing a great job communicating to me what they’re looking for, what they think can help me improve."
He gave a real-life example of this. "That’s the great thing about being here in St. Paul right now. I’m getting the opportunity to work on some of those things in a low-stress environment. If you’re trying to work on increasing the depth on your slider, you can go out and do it in your game and you don’t have to worry if you give up a couple of hits or some runs."
We have heard a lot about how the Twins now have individual improvement plans.
"I think they’re doing a good job giving guys plans going forward on what they think they can improve on in order to give themselves a better chance of not only getting to the big leagues but being successful once they get there."
Yes, Albers plainly sees that changes in the organization since his previous stints and again points out the importance of how the information is communicated. How can a player improve? What can they tinker with or alter or add, but also what is it that has worked for you in the past?
"When I first got here in ‘13, they weren’t very analytically based. I would say that’s changed substantially over the past three or four years. They do a great job communicating it to us. Certainly they rely heavily on it not only in the big leagues but even at the minor league level. The thing that I really appreciate as someone new here, they do a great job communicating their expectations, communicating what they want you to try, and at the same time they realize you’ve had some success in the past a certain way and they don’t want you to change exactly who they are.”
THE SAINTS EXPERIENCE
Finally, Albers has played in the independent leagues and appreciates those opportunities. He was well aware of the St. Paul Saints and looks forward to playing in front of fans at CHS Field.
“The ballpark looks like it could be great. Obviously it’ll be a lot nicer once you get fans in here. I’ve heard nothing but great things about how the Saints run their program, they draw really well here in the summer, and that was as an indy league team. It will be interesting to see as a Triple-A team. I wouldn’t expect there not to be a fall off, maybe even an increase. I’ve heard a lot of great things about their on-field promotions and how they get people to the ballpark. I’ve heard they create a great atmosphere. So I’m really looking forward to seeing that. Really looking forward to getting to be a part of it and hopefully have some success along the way.”
For More Twins Minor League/Saints Content at Twins Daily, click these links:
Kirilloff Preparing for Big-League Opportunity The Brightest, Anonymous Superstar: My Conversation with Tzu-Wei Lin Twins Minor League Report: Depth Camp Opportunities Twins Minor League Report: Follow the Affiliates Toby Gardenhire is Following in his Father's Footsteps
Hosken Bombo Disco reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Letting Byron Buxton Walk Will Haunt
In Minnesota baseball lore, David Ortiz is the equivalent of Boston's Bambino, or Wrigleyville's billy goat. The very mention of Big Papi causes a visceral shudder for any Twins fan within earshot, surfacing deep feelings of regret and lament. How differently things might have gone for the Twins had Ortiz stayed in Minnesota. (Aaron Gleeman wrote a fun "what if" article about this last year.)
Naturally, the Ortiz example is invoked any time a promising Twins player departs unduly – the sports fan's equivalent of a PTSD reaction. Lingering fear of a recurrence envelopes us, clouding our judgment. In most cases, this apprehension proves unwarranted. Nonetheless, the Curse of Papi persists.
You all know where I'm going with this: Is Byron Buxton the next David Ortiz??
In some ways, it's a fitting parallel. Ortiz left Minnesota in his late 20s, having shown flashes of standout ability, before immediately blossoming elsewhere. In Boston, he emerged as a perennial MVP contender, postseason legend, and franchise icon. It's all too easy to envision the same path for Buxton, except therein lies the difference: you don't need to imagine it. Buxton already IS that guy. He was the AL Player of the Month in April and has been one of the game's best players on a per-game basis for the last three years. After a long and meandering path, he has finally reached his true potential as a top-shelf elite MLB player.
Yes, the injuries have remained a constant. But that's exactly why a long-term extension with Buxton would even be attainable right now for a team like the Twins. If not for the implications and associated risk of his health history, he'd likely be eyeing a deal outside of Minnesota's realistic scope.
It might seem odd when you're talking about offering more than $100 million to a player whose track record is as sparse as Buxton's, but the Twins should theoretically be able to secure a relative bargain here due to the circumstances.
Alas, the front office seems a tad too ambitious in its hunt for a bargain. The allure of signing Buxton long-term is that he can offer a potential impact on the level of a Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, or Fernando Tatis Jr., but at a fraction of the guaranteed commitment.
That said, the clear value needs to be there for Buxton, who knows his level of ability, and it is evidently not. His camp rejected Minnesota's offer, which reportedly elevated from $73 million to $80 million in guaranteed money with a "unique incentive package." Sounds like those incentives were the sticking point. At this juncture we don't what was proposed or countered, so analyzing the negotiation is murky.
Then again, it's also difficult to fathom what kind of request or suggested terms from Buxton's agent would make the Twins balk to the point they're giving up on an opportunity to secure this generational talent, at the precipice of true superstardom.
A somewhat similar dynamic is at play with José Berríos, who was drafted the same year as Buxton and is also looking ahead to free agency at the end of 2022. One can certainly argue that Berríos is more critical to the Twins' future, given their scarcity of high-quality arms.
But in a way, he is the antithesis of Buxton: ultra-reliable with a capped ceiling. Berríos has been one of the most durable and consistent pitchers in the game – steadily very good, just short of great, always available. Meanwhile, Buxton has improved every season in a setback-riddled career that's been full of ups and downs. He's just now reaching his full form, displaying game-changing greatness that is almost unparalleled.
Yes, Berríos will be difficult to replace, in that arms like his don't come along often. The Twins certainly haven't proven adept at finding or developing them. But Buxton is irreplaceable in a more absolute sense. Athletes and human beings like him almost NEVER come along. His speed, power, and defense are off-the-charts good. He's one of the most entertaining players I've ever seen. And he's still getting better.
I can see the rationale in moving on from Berríos. He's clearly intent on testing free agency and maximizing his earnings. There will be no discount or bonus-contingent contract in play there. And it's awfully hard for a mid-market team to build balanced contending rosters when paying one of their five starting pitchers $25+ million annually.
Their everyday center fielder, though? One who's proven to be an MVP-caliber talent while on the field? And who won't even be reaching that salary range unless he's staying on the field enough to trigger incentives?
I'm struggling to understand why the Twins aren't stepping up here. Target Field was ostensibly built for the exact purpose of keeping a player like this. From available evidence, it doesn't seem like the team is making a particularly hearty effort to do what it takes to retain him. Whatever Buxton's side is asking for – $30-plus million in annual achievable salary, an early opt-out clause, lower-than-desired bonus thresholds – none of those should be deal-breakers.
Maybe there's still a way. Buxton said on Monday "it's not the end," leaving some faint cause for hope. But at this point, the outlook is grim.
It's true that signing Buxton long-term would entail some risk. But it pales in comparison to the risk of watching him go elsewhere, shake off the snakebitten injury luck, and emerge as a late-blooming legend while Twins fans spend another decade lamenting the one that got away. In this case, it'd be a much less excusable gaffe than releasing David Ortiz.
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Hosken Bombo Disco reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Reflecting on the Best and Worst First Half Ever
I love baseball in all of its dissectible minutiae. I delight in overthinking every at-bat, sweating every intense moment, and debating pointless frivolities. I get a kick out of analyzing and opining on the many twists and turns of a marathon season. And offseason. (If you frequent this site, you might have noticed.)
But more than all that, I just love the baseball experience. Removing all of the stats, trends, trades, analytics, and hot takes, I am plain and simply a baseball fan to the core. I feel at peace in the ballpark, or with sounds of the game droning on my TV or radio.
When I was a young pup riding the bus down Cedar Avenue to the Metrodome, I didn't care much about Kirby Puckett's OPS or Brad Radke's trade value. I was just happy to be wandering through this majestic Dome, eating a hot dog and staring on at the action alongside thousands of other contented folks. If the game went long, maybe I'd even get to stay out late on a school night.
Much has changed since those days, but the fundamental source of my passion has not. And I was reminded of this very starkly in 2020, when a cherished annual summer routine – uninterrupted since I could remember (mind you, I was 9 years old when the '94 strike took place) – fell apart.
As the pandemic unfolded two springs ago, I was highly skeptical a season of record could be salvaged. Happily I was wrong. Major League Baseball managed to pull off a shortened 60-game season, and it was entirely fine. Much better than nothing.
But it never quite felt authentic, and was over almost as quickly as it began. (The Twins played their 60th game of this season five weeks ago.) Most crucially, like so many diehards across the country, I never got to attend a game. It's an irrelevant footnote in the face of all the tragedy and trauma faced by so many last year, but losing the ballpark experience was a bummer. I promised myself that when we emerged from it all and congregated once again at the stadium, I'd savor the hell out of it.
And that I have. I've attended more Twins games at Target Field in the first half of this season than any previous. (And a couple at Kauffman Stadium!) I've run into random friends, heckled opposing outfielders, inhaled messy brats, beat the buzzer on bottom-of-seventh beers, and gazed wordlessly from my seat for indefinite stretches at the beautifully bland cadence of baseball, in all of its calm and rhythmic glory.
Lord, did I miss it.
I attended two games this past weekend, during a sweep of the Tigers to close out the first half. Let's just say it cemented my deep gratitude for the return of (relative) normalcy in the realm of baseball. On Friday I grabbed bleacher seats with high school friends and felt the electricity of the year's biggest crowd. The place was alive. Sunday, I joined up with a whole gaggle of Twins Daily writers – many of whom I'd scarcely had met before, what with the absence of events for 16 months – and we had a ball milling about on the Gray Duck Deck. Considerable Bomba Juice was consumed.
These times are golden. They're what fuel my fandom and love for the sport, through thick and thin. I don't know if this year's Twins season would be described as thick or thin (kinda weird descriptors?), but what matters is we're all trudging through it together, and Sunday was an excellent reminder of that: a perfect punctuation to the best and worst damn first half of Twins baseball ever.
The return of baseball as we know and love it would be way more fun, obviously, if our favorite team did not fall flat and completely erase any pretense of contention by the All-Star Game. But them's the breaks.
The home team hasn't won much, and it's a shame.
Still, those eternal words ring truer than ever: Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out with the crowd.
Hosken Bombo Disco reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, BREAKING: Almost Half a Season Left
Last Saturday’s 6-3 loss to Kansas City was already another unremarkable defeat in a wildly disappointing 2021 Twins campaign. But in a stunning revelation confirmed by team and league officials, it also marked the halfway point of the MLB season.
“There are 162 games in the season,” said a Twins executive who asked not to be identified. “Saturday’s loss was the 81st game. Half of 162 is 81.”
Reaction in Twins Territory ranged from disgust and anger to a world-weary resignation often only found in ER nurses, veterans of war, and Vikings fans.
“You mean I’ve got another 75-80 games of this [expletive],” said Rev. Marshall Lemire of Forestview Presbyterian Church in Baxter. “Unbelievable. I’m a man of faith, but this is a profound test of it. [Expletive.]”
“You know how when a good high school basketball team drills some podunk team from the sticks and they keep the clocks running,” asked Thom Sprouls of Cook. “Can they do that in baseball? Why don’t they? They should totally do that. This is a travesty.”
MLB officials say there are no plans to cancel any games or enforce a slaughter rule for teams like the Twins and Diamondbacks who still have a frankly shocking number of games left to play.
“We get that it seems like there are a remarkable amount of days left in the season,” said Ethan Nguyen, a spokesperson for the Commissioner’s office. “But what if you took the family on a vacation all August, like they do in Europe? Just disconnect, bring some books and board games to the cabin, and when you get back you’ve just wiped out like a third of it, slugger. You can see the finish line from there.”
This is cold comfort to fans like Maggie Dietmann of Worthington.
“I don’t even remember when I switched from optimism about this team to wondering how much we could get back for (Jose) Berrios,” said Dietmann. “It seems like a hundred years ago. And now these people have the gall, the absolute, unfounded gall, to tell me there’s almost half a season of this left. They’ve got some brass.”
In a written statement to the media, the team said that there are 162 games in a standard major league season. Twins Daily has confirmed that this is accurate. Still, the sheer burden of three more months of poor pitching, injuries, and regression weighs heavy on a sullen fanbase.
“[Expletive] that,” said Rev. Lemire.
Hosken Bombo Disco reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, NASA: Newly Discovered Asteroid Will ‘Definitely’ Land on Byron Buxton
When NASA astronomer Steve Bland observed a new asteroid hurtling through space earlier this month, he was alarmed. The object was clearly on a path that would send it directly towards Earth. “Obviously, that’s a nightmare scenario,” said Bland. “Even a relatively small object could wreak havoc on the impact area.”
Further study relieved Bland and his co-workers when it was determined that the asteroid, named 2021 SB, would disintegrate rapidly upon entering the planet’s atmosphere. However, there was one note of concern.
“Just from following the course it’s travelling through our solar system, there is zero doubt in my mind that it’s definitely going to land on top of Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton,” said Bland.
It’s estimated that 2021 SB will be the size of a golf ball once it reaches Buxton and will likely end its grand celestial journey on his throwing shoulder or right big toe.
“I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like this before,” admitted Bland. "Most asteroids do not target individuals."
The Twins say they’ve been notified by NASA of the situation.
“It’s not an existential threat to all human life but Byron is for sure going to be out indefinitely,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “We spoke with Byron and he’s as disappointed as we are.”
Officials say the asteroid will likely reach Buxton immediately after his left hand is fully healed from the fracture suffered during Monday’s game versus Cincinnati.
“2021 SB actually appeared to slow down on Monday evening,” said Bland. “It was on pace to get here on Wednesday but now looks like it’s taking its sweet time. Yes, that’s unusual.”
Although Bland didn’t want to speculate on the actual date, time, and location, sources close to the team say they expect the space object to injure Buxton on his first day back with the Twins or on a St. Paul rehab assignment when he’s signing autographs for impressionable young children.
Hosken Bombo Disco reacted to John Kelsey for an article, The Kansas City Road Trip Journal
I’ve always thought of Kansas City as an underrated road trip destination for Twin Cities folks, and it seems that most people don’t realize that it takes roughly the same amount of time as driving to Chicago (6 hours, 15 minutes give or take) and only an hour more than Milwaukee. This time around, my fiancée Sophie was the co-pilot on the trip and we were on the road by about 8:30 on Friday morning.
Before I hype up the road trip to Kansas City too much, I should mention that it does require you to drive through Iowa. I looked at every possible route option to see if this was avoidable and unfortunately all roads went through the Hawkeye State. We did stop at a good sandwich spot called Manhattan Deli in Des Moines, which was a perfect place to stop if you need to break up the trip. Also, I’ve done the drive to Cedar Rapids to watch the Kernels and can’t wait to do it again, so Iowa ain’t all bad and I was mostly kidding in that first sentence. However, to give you a sense of the visual stimulation level while driving through Iowa, there was a point where the phrase “Hey, there’s hills now!” was uttered in the car around the time we crossed the Missouri border.
Before stopping at our hotel in the Crossroads neighborhood in Kansas City, we drove straight to the original gas station location of Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que to get our fill before the game. We arrived around 3:30 pm and the line was about 20 minutes long despite arriving during the weird not quite lunch, not quite dinner time. Joe’s is a Kansas City BBQ institution and was one of the few Kansas City spots I’d actually been to before, but I had to make a point to stop there again. The food is as good as advertised and it’s also in a gas station that’s serving tap beers, so it provided a great “We’re not in Minnesota anymore” moment to start the trip.
After the BBQ feast, we checked in to our hotel, tried to work off some ITIS and had to get moving towards Kaufmann Stadium for the game. We were moving slow and running a tad late so I have to give a special shoutout to our Lyft driver Sam, who took us to the game. I’ve long held a theory that the louder a Lyft/Uber/cab driver’s music is, the faster they will get you to your destination. If they are listening to the band Bread at low volume, it is going to be a long trip. I can say with confidence we heard Sam before we saw him. He picked us up around 6:35, blasting reggaeton and when we told him the game started at 7 he replied, “Oh that won’t be a problem” and proceeded to gun it the entire way.
I had heard the stadium was out in the middle of nowhere and was thinking it would have a similar vibe to the stadium formerly known as Miller Park, knowing it’s a ballpark with a large tailgating parking lot outside the city, but Kaufmann is REALLY in the middle of nowhere. On top of that, the transportation situation seems to be a bit of a cluster**** based on my very limited experience, especially if you’re not driving your own car. I was hoping there would be some sort of bar shuttle from downtown Kansas City to the stadium that we could hop on, but didn’t find any such options. I rarely have to utter the phrase “be more like Wisconsin” but when comparing the availability of bar shuttles and logistics of transport from Milwaukee out to their baseball stadium, Kansas City lagged way behind. (By the way I'm fully expecting someone in the comments to point out that I'm an idiot and missed an easy way to get there).
We found out later there was a rideshare drop-off area that somehow neither of our Lyft drivers knew about or knew how to find. There’s no signs for it and it’s just a row of orange cones in the middle of the parking lot. Because our driver didn’t know about it, we just hopped out of the car and hoofed it about 5 minutes to the stadium instead of waiting in a huge line of cars when we were about a half mile away.
Upon entering the stadium we found out it was Jorge Soler bobblehead night and dollar dog night. At this point everything was coming up Milhouse for me, as bobbleheads and dollar dogs are two of my favorite promotions. Now I can finally say I am the proud owner of a Jorge Soler light-up bobblehead that I will undoubtedly throw away in a year or less.
Notice how the box conveniently lists his 2019 stats instead of mentioning that he’s currently hitting well below the Mendoza line and has been one of the worst players in baseball this year with a WAR of -1.4. I guess that doesn't mesh with the "Soler Power" marketing campaign. Regrettably, I never found room for any dollar dogs, and as a person who regularly pounds five or six dollar dogs at Twins games, it pained me to have to pass on those all night with Joe’s BBQ still kicking around in my stomach.
You may have already noticed this, but I’m making a concerted effort to not discuss the actual game that was occurring on Friday night in this article. You all know what happened, and Twins Daily has great game recaps if you really want to read up on the disaster that took place. I will say I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed history, albeit a historically awful start from Matt Shoemaker and possibly the worst first two innings of a game I’ve ever seen in my life. I even had to snap a picture because I couldn't believe what I was seeing on the scoreboard.
For those who haven't seen a game at Kauffman Stadium, it is a legitimately great ballpark to watch a game, especially when you consider it was built in 1973. There have been some significant renovation projects since that time, but there are still great quirks that give it character. The fountains are the obvious one; the concept of having giant fountains in the outfield is maybe a little dated and sure, they look like something that Tony Montana might have included in the design of a ballpark, but they are still charming, especially when you consider how much space they take up in what would be prime seating areas. It is hard to imagine a major league stadium designed today would ever consider using that space in the same way.
I’m a sucker for between-inning crowd participation games and the best one featured a guy pulled from the crowd who had thirty seconds to guess the exact prices down to the cent of two items from local grocery store chain “Price Chopper”. The first item was a Red Baron pizza, which took about ten guesses and 12 seconds to guess the exact price. When he guessed over the price host would say “Over”, and when he went under the price the host would say “Under”, until the actual price was reached. This was a strong start and he was well on his way to a victory here, but better things were yet to come. The next item was a pound of cherries. I could probably ballpark the price of frozen pizzas pretty well, but you’ve lost me if I’m guessing the price of bulk cherries, but not this Kansas City legend. He grabbed the mic and proceeded to guess the exact price of a pound of cherries at $2.99 on his FIRST GUESS. The crowd went bonkers, but it still wasn’t enough of a reaction for me. I thought the game should have ended and we should have all just gone home at that point. This was honestly the highlight of my night and I hope they sell the team to this guy, clearly he knows the value of a dollar.
John Fogerty, the Mayor of Kansas City
Speaking of the crowd going crazy, I’ve never seen a crowd get so excited for “Centerfield” by John Fogerty coming on over the loudspeakers. You would have thought George Brett had just teleported into the stadium based on the crowd reaction when that song came on. I took some basic notes on my phone on Friday night because I was thinking about putting this article together afterward, and my note for this just says “Kansas City really likes John Fogerty?”
Other Kansas City stuff
With very little desire to subject ourselves to another potentially awful Twins game, on Saturday we just explored the city. In the morning, we walked over to the City Market in the River Market neighborhood (about a 30-35 minute walk from downtown). The Farmer’s Market in Lowertown St. Paul would be a good comparison but this one was quite a bit larger and featured better food vendors. This also was my only meal all weekend that wasn’t BBQ so I relished the opportunity to eat some vegetables and had a nice chicken shawarma wrap with salad and rice at a vendor called Tikka House.
Afterward, we stopped at a nearby bar called Harry’s Country Club that I would wholeheartedly recommend if you’re in the area. The drinks and beer selection were great and affordable and it also was where I overheard this conversation featuring a guy in a Royals jersey and another guy who was asking him about the game from the night before.
Guy 1: “Good game last night, right?”
Royals jersey guy: “Yeah, we were up 9-0 after the first inning and I heard that was the most runs the Royals have scored in a first inning ever”
Guy 1: “When did they pull the starting pitcher?”
Royals jersey guy: “He only got one out before they pulled him, he probably doesn’t have a job anymore”
Me, to bartender: “I’ll have another old fashioned, please”
We finished out the day by heading over to the Westport neighborhood for a BBQ spot called Char Bar that had a huge outdoor patio area outside the restaurant. There were a strange amount of people in Twins jerseys there, so apparently this place is no secret for fellow out-of-towners. The food there was still great and it was a great hangout spot. However, it didn’t quite match up to the solely BBQ-focused spots we visited, the previously-mentioned Joe’s and a place called Slap’s, which is where we stopped on our way out on Sunday. So after eating barbecue all three days I spent in Kansas City and still somewhat regretting it on Monday while writing this, I present to you my final rankings and hope it prepares you for a Kansas City-based Twins road trip in your future.
Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que Slap’s BBQ Char Bar
Hosken Bombo Disco reacted to Parker Hageman for an article, Rob Refsnyder. He's So Hot Right Now.
In 2016, Refsnyder was a 25-year-old floating between Triple-A and the New York Yankees. The Arizona State alumni -- a former College World Series’ Most Outstanding Player to boot -- had yet to make an impact on his club. He had a brilliant idea: He would add power to his game.
His idea involved mirroring the approach of Minnesota Twin Brian Dozier. He noted that Dozier’s short, compact swing provided him with a high pull rate. The spray-to-all-fields approach wasn’t going to give him the requisite direction to hit home runs in bunches, he believed. So, over the next few years he tried to pull the ball.
Refsnyder would finally pop his third career home run on April 27, 2018, by this time in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform. He would do it again on May 30 in Oakland but would not enjoy the slow jog around the bases again for almost three years.
A lot has happened between major league home runs. Refsynder has been with four different organizations. He didn’t see any MLB time in 2019 while with the Diamondbacks and Reds. The following year, he was a member of the Rangers’ alternate site in 2020 and received 35 plate appearances in Texas. He would do a stint in St. Paul, first at the Twins’ preseason alternate site, then as a member of the Triple-A Saints.
Notably, his swing morphed from a loosy, leg kick with multiple parts (left) to an inward twist (middle) and then back to a hanging leg kick with more stability bridging the upper and lower half while creating a stretch with the front and back (right).
You can see the drastic change between his previous swing with Texas and his recent one with the Twins.
You would understand that, after all those years of not being able to trot around the bases, that Refsnyder would take a moment to bask in the adulation for destroying a Triston Mckenzie fastball left up. But he did not. What did Refsnyder do? He thanked his Triple-A hitting coach.
“I was working on a couple things with Borgs,” Refsnyder told the media when asked about his swing, “and, thankfully, it has been working out.”
Matt Borgschulte, or Borgs as Refsnyder called him, said that it is a testament to what type of person Refsnyder is to take the time to give recognition to those who have helped him.
“All the credit goes to Rob, I’ve learned a lot from him as well,” says Matt Borgschulte, pointing out that Refsnyder’s career through multiple organizations comes with tacit knowledge on hitting. Each stop gives him a new perspective from different coaches and players. Smart players are able to retain and transfer that to their next destination.
Refsnyder was signed by the Twins in November and invited to spring training. He wasn’t thrilled with his performance in March, deriding the pull-side ground balls he hit, so he and the Twins’ staff reviewed video of his swing and re-wrote the plan. He said he was able to try some things while in the alternate camp without the worry of what his performance looked like.
“Not having to worry about games means not worrying about numbers or statistics that are on the back of baseball cards,” says Borgschulte, emphasizing the process over the outcome.
The Twins work on fitting hitters with their best movements. But in doing so it becomes a conversation between the player and the staff. Refsnyder had a vision and, as they rebuilt his approach, they would have a back-and-forth on what felt good, what was working and what needed adjustments. Borgschulte highlighted Refsnyder’s load as an important component of his swing, setting him up to be in a good position to attack good pitches.
When asked about the physical changes to his swing and how that impacted his ability to drive the ball, Borgschulte deferred and spoke toward Refsnyder’s overall approach: “Thinking too much about mechanics can be difficult on your approach,” he said. “Rob worked on trying to stay on the ball, going up the middle with it to the right-center field gap.”
That’s very different from the approach Refsnyder outlined in 2016 when he began to be hyper-focused on pulling the ball. In his limited time with the Twins, the majority of balls off his bat have gone to center field (52%) while less than a quarter have been pulled. Maybe more importantly to Refsnyder’s results, just 24% of batted balls have been on the ground.
The Twins organization has implemented a system for communication between coaches at different levels, so after Refsnyder left the Saints, hitting coaches Edgar Varela and Rudy Hernandez were able to continue with -- and enhance -- the preparation plan for him when he arrived at the big league club.
To be fair, getting excited over less than 40 plate appearances is not advised. After all, Refsnyder’s line (.438/.472/.719 with 2 HR) looks an awful lot like Robbie Grossman’s (.361/.452/.694 with 2 HR) after 11 games in a Twins uniform. Still, there are signs that this might be the culmination of Refsnyder’s 2016 plan to add power and, if that is the case, having a right-handed outfielder with some pop isn’t a bad addition.
Enjoy the ride.
Hosken Bombo Disco reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Tyler Wells Looking Forward to Competing Against the Twins, Friends
Following a series against the Nationals, the Baltimore Orioles flew to Minnesota where they will take on the Twins in a three game series starting tonight. The teams enter the series with an identical 17-29 record.
For one member of the Orioles bullpen, the experience will be very special. Right-hander Tyler Wells said this afternoon, “I’m looking forward to moving forward. Even right now, playing the Twins, it’s kind of like a homecoming. It’s a bittersweet thing because I have a lot of friends over there. It’s going to be great to see them, but I’m also looking forward to competing against them.”
The Twins drafted Tyler Wells in the 15th round of the 2016 draft out of Cal State-San Bernadino. The Twins scouts saw him and determined they definitely wanted to draft him.
Deron Johnson, who was the Twins Scouting Director in 2016, told Twins Daily that he had traveled with Twins area scout and now West Coast Supervisor Elliot Strankman. “Elliot and I were going to see a junior college kid at another college. He said, ‘Hey, I like this reliever at Sonoma State. Let’s go see him on the way there.’ So we go there and they’re playing Cal State-San Bernadino. We see this big giant on the mound throwing up to 94 with a nice breaking ball. John Leavitt, our area scout, had him in (his reports), but he wasn’t a guy for me to see. We just stopped in there on a whim. John had seen him, but he hadn’t seen him throwing that hard. We just kind of had him on our radar after that. We didn’t hide him out, but we didn’t show a lot of interest. We knew there were two other clubs that had interest in him. We targeted him in the draft and thought, let’s not lose this guy.”
Wells was the 2018 Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year. Between High-A Ft. Myers and Double-A Chattanooga, he went 10-6 with a 2.56 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. He also had 121 strikeouts and just 31 walks over 119 1/3 innings.
Unfortunately, the next spring training, he felt a pop in his elbow and ultimately had Tommy John surgery which cost him the 2019 season. He would have likely been rehab to come back sometime during the 2020 season, but as we all know, there was no 2020 season.
And most likely, that is why the Twins decided not to add him to their 40 man roster in November.
The Orioles took Wells with their second round Rule 5 pick. But even then, it didn’t necessarily mean that the Twins would lose him long term. Wells had to make the Orioles big-league roster out of spring training and still has to stay on the big-league roster throughout the entire 2021 season or be offered back to the Twins.
Earlier in the Rule 5 draft, Wells’ good friend and fellow 2016 draft pick Akil Baddoo was selected by the Tigers. “We went through Tommy John surgery together and through that whole rehab process. We got pretty close. I was unbelievably happy for him. I hope he continues to absolutely rake and hope to see him up in Detroit.”
Wells reported to Sarasota for his first major-league spring training. Wells pitched nine innings over five appearances. He gave up six hits, walked three and struck out 12 batters. He pitched well.
Wells said this afternoon, “It was a lot of fun. A lot of the guys were super nice. It took a little time to get my feet wet, to understand how everything is going, how to go about my business. A lot of learning experiences. Got acquainted with a lot of the guys. As I continued to pitch, I learned more about myself and how my arm was feeling. I had an uptick in stuff from before I had Tommy John surgery. Everything went really, really well.”
The Orioles decided to keep him on their roster for Opening Day. Getting the news was something that Wells will never forget.
“I got called into the manager’s office on the last day of cuts. The GM and the manager are there. The first thing they said to me was ‘You ever been to Boston?’
Wells responded, “Nope.”
They said, ‘Would you like to go?”
Wells noted, “Obviously right then, I knew I made the team. It was an incredible moment.”
On April 4th, the Orioles had an 11-3 lead over the Red Sox heading to the bottom of the ninth. Tyler Wells found himself jogging in from the Fenway Park bullpen to make his big-league debut. He gave up one hit, and he walked one, but he got three outs without allowing a run to end the game.
“We were winning by a substantial amount, so they brought me in for the ninth and I got to finish the game. I ran out there and about halfway to the mound, I lost feeling in my feet. I started thinking I’ve got to remember how to do this pitching thing real quick.”
In addition, he noted that the Red Sox fans in the right field corner were chanting his name. When he was warming up, fans were razzing him. “Wells… why are you not playing basketball? You should be playing tight end for the Patriots. Why are you even here?”
Wells thought those aren’t even insults. “They were compliments. I appreciate that. I was keeping a straight face the whole time, and they liked that I didn’t even blink an eye. So they started chanting ‘Ty-Ler-Wells! Ty-Ler-Wells!’ as I was entering the game.”
Since then, he has pitched in four more games against the Red Sox. His second MLB appearance came at Yankees Stadium. Primarily, he has pitched in low-leverage situations. He has completed two innings in seven of his 12 outings.
Wells said, “The coaches have been pretty open about my situation. As a rookie, it’s low-leverage situations. I’m starting to get more comfortable in going in and hold games, certainly building more confidence in myself to be able to do that. I think that getting more innings as of late is really helping with that. I’m mostly a two-inning game. They try to bring me in and hold the game. I think they do have a lot of confidence in me doing that. I’m trying to help the team out as much as I can. Trying to help the bullpen as much as I can. Right now, they just want me to get more comfortable.”
Overall, he has pitched in 12 games. He has a 5.14 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. In 21 innings, he has given up 16 hits, walked seven and struck out 26 batters (11.1 K/9).
One issue he has had is giving up home runs. He has already given up six homers (to Enrique Hernandez, JD Martinez, Jed Lowrie, Clint Frazier, Xander Bogaerts and Mike Zunino).
This will not be Wells' first trip to Target Field. He’s been there one other time, but “not for the reasons I wanted to be. With my injury, I had to see the team doctor and got to attend a game.”
On Monday night, the Twins will face left-hander John Means. As a rookie in 2019, he was the Orioles representative at the All Star game. In 2021, he has become a legitimate star. To this point, he is 4-0 with a 1.70 ERA and a 0.75 ERA.
Means is a guy that Wells has talked to and learned from already. “He’s been a guy that I’ve looked up to a lot. Very level headed. That is really what makes him so go. He’s level headed because of the experiences he’s been through. He considered retiring in 2018. He ended up making his major-league debut that year. Baseball is already difficult enough, and when he got the opportunity, he didn’t waste it. He’s a great leader in the clubhouse. For me, personally, I talked to him a lot in spring training. I’ve talked to him throughout the course of the season so far. He provides a lot of insights to the pitching, the lifestyle, how to take care of yourself. He’s been a huge help for, but he takes the stuff that he tells me and he applies it. Everything he tells me, he does. He doesn’t get too up or too down. He’s just cruising.”
Another teammate that Wells really admires is Trey Mancini. As you know, the O’s first baseman first baseman missed the 2020 season fighting colon cancer. He has returned this year, and through 46 games, he is hitting .280/.352/.520 (.872) with 12 doubles, ten homers and a league-leading 41 RBI.
Wells says, “You aren’t going to find a lot of better people in baseball than him. He’s such a down-to-earth guy. He’s another leader in our clubhouse. The word to describe him is ‘Incredible!’ He’s pushed. He’s fought. And I think you see a lot of that in his game. He’s continued to push himself and I’m so happy for him. He’s a phenomenal human being. He does everything with a purpose. He’s so resilient. It’s very inspiring, not just for me, but for the entire team, the entire league.”
Hopefully Tyler Wells will be able to make an appearance this week on the Target Field mound. One of his best friends from the Twins organization is Twins star rookie Alex Kirilloff. “AK and I have the same type of conversation every week or two. We’ll see what’s going on in our lives. I keep up with him on how his daughter is doing, and see how his wife and the rest of his family are doing. We don’t really talk a lot about baseball, just about life and how things are going. It’s cool to take a step back and realize this game has brought a lot of great people into your life. It’s such a cool thing to see him grow into a bigger person, beyond just baseball. I’m looking forward to reconnecting to him.”
He pointed out the the Orioles just finished a series with the Washington Nationals. He had forgotten that another former Twins minor leaguer Sam Clay is working out of the Nationals bullpen this season. He said it was nice to reconnect with him as well.
Wells has been teammates with Luis Arraez, Cody Stashak and others. Wells is good friends with Travis Blankenhorn and Aaron Whitefield who are close to Trevor Larnach so he has had a chance to get to know him as well.
“It’s going to be hard, with Arraez and AK, as soon as I see them walking into the box, it’ll be hard not to smile at them. It’s cool. It’s a lot of fun. It’s going to up the ante. It’s going to make you want to perform better, and I think it’s going to do the same for those guys. It’s a lot of friendly competition.”
Wells noted, “It’s awesome to be able to come back and see everybody. I think that’s what I’m looking forward to most. Baseball is still baseball. I have a job to do. I still compete. It doesn’t matter what stadium it’s in. It’s game time. You lock it in. You go out there and do your thing. I don’t think it’s so much the place as it is the people.”
Wells’ goal for the rest of the 2021 season may seem simple, but it’s important. “Stay healthy! That’s the big one because after not pitching for two years and coming from AA straight to the big leagues, it’s certainly a jump, but at the same time, you’re getting more intense innings. You have 162 games a year. You want to stay healthy, and that’s my #1 goal this year. I’d like to avoid any IL stints. And, on top of that, Win some ball games. I want to compete for the team and help the team win. If they ever need a guy, I want to be that guy.”
Akil Baddoo understandably caught our attention early in the season when he got off to a fast start, and hit a grand slam, and a triple, and had a walkoff single against the Twins in the season’s first week. But the Twins lost two players in this past Rule 5 draft and both are finding means of success in their rookie big league seasons.