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  1. If you haven’t seen the news in recent weeks, retail-giant Fanatics has made massive waves in the card collecting world, and while we’re still sorting through the details, change is coming. A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Fanatics would become the exclusive licensee for baseball cards. It wasn’t there where things stopped, though. The NBA and NFL also joined in the venture. That means over the next few years, it will no longer be Topps or Panini that produces sports cards, but instead this new brand entering into a completely new venture. Specifically looking at baseball, Topps is the only player to be considered. Their current deal with Major League Baseball runs through 2025, but the license with the MLB Players Association expires following the 2022 season. Whereas Panini can produce unlicensed cards with big-league players, Topps would no longer have rights to major leaguers for their cards. The lone SKU they’d be able to make in 2023 would be the Bowman line featuring minor leaguers. The blow to Topps is substantial, and the impending public merger with Mudrick Capital was called off following the news. Also notably, Alex Rodriguez’s intentions to buy Topps’ competitor Panini were also called off. For the New York-based card company, the exit from MLB leaves Topps holding only soccer as their notable sport-based license. Rob Manfred is looking out for the almighty dollar here. Fanatics' purchase price is reportedly ten times larger than any previous deal agreed to by the union. It also directly benefits Major League Baseball and those within the MLBPA. The league owns equity in Fanatics and effectively allows all parties to further capitalize from one another. A recent report from CNBC suggests that Fanatics' interests span far more than just cardboard. The retail giant is looking to create a whole new pillar within its company. From grading to selling, the company wants to have avenues for every aspect of the lifecycle of card collecting. Based on the report, it appears that the new giant entrant will explore any potential opportunity within the hobby. The rub is that Fanatics and the leagues themselves seem to be betting on the popularity and collectibility residing with the product rather than the brand. Topps and Panini have done themselves no favors over the years. Poor customer service, slow redemption turnarounds, and dated websites are just touching the surface of current problems. What they do have, however, is an established identity. Topps is celebrating 70 years of baseball cards this season, and the iconic offerings being paid handsomely for are as much because of the subject as they are the established desire rooted in the brand. Vintage cards have soared due to their scarcity. Key rookies have experienced a boom because of the sets Topps included them in. Lesser competitors such as Leaf and Onyx have seen little success in driving desire to the same levels despite similar subjects and chase offerings. Fanatics will have to buck that trend. We’re still months, and potentially years, from understanding how this all will look. For the sake of Topps and Panini, being bought and allowing their brands to be used under the Fanatics umbrella seems like a promising avenue to pursue. Maybe that’s not one the new head honcho will be agreeable to. I find it hard to get excited about an entirely new offering from my collecting seat, no matter how much of a draw the shiny feeling may bring. Topps is iconic with baseball cards, and while I enjoy the hobby, it’s an unnecessary venture into disposable income. Years down the road, some may consider this era vintage, so maybe I just shifted my focus. I’d love to be surprised by Fanatics and find myself drawn in, but for now, I’m more than comfortable sitting on the sidelines and working through the bewilderment of what just took place. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  2. A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Fanatics would become the exclusive licensee for baseball cards. It wasn’t there where things stopped, though. The NBA and NFL also joined in the venture. That means over the next few years, it will no longer be Topps or Panini that produces sports cards, but instead this new brand entering into a completely new venture. Specifically looking at baseball, Topps is the only player to be considered. Their current deal with Major League Baseball runs through 2025, but the license with the MLB Players Association expires following the 2022 season. Whereas Panini can produce unlicensed cards with big-league players, Topps would no longer have rights to major leaguers for their cards. The lone SKU they’d be able to make in 2023 would be the Bowman line featuring minor leaguers. The blow to Topps is substantial, and the impending public merger with Mudrick Capital was called off following the news. Also notably, Alex Rodriguez’s intentions to buy Topps’ competitor Panini were also called off. For the New York-based card company, the exit from MLB leaves Topps holding only soccer as their notable sport-based license. Rob Manfred is looking out for the almighty dollar here. Fanatics' purchase price is reportedly ten times larger than any previous deal agreed to by the union. It also directly benefits Major League Baseball and those within the MLBPA. The league owns equity in Fanatics and effectively allows all parties to further capitalize from one another. A recent report from CNBC suggests that Fanatics' interests span far more than just cardboard. The retail giant is looking to create a whole new pillar within its company. From grading to selling, the company wants to have avenues for every aspect of the lifecycle of card collecting. Based on the report, it appears that the new giant entrant will explore any potential opportunity within the hobby. The rub is that Fanatics and the leagues themselves seem to be betting on the popularity and collectibility residing with the product rather than the brand. Topps and Panini have done themselves no favors over the years. Poor customer service, slow redemption turnarounds, and dated websites are just touching the surface of current problems. What they do have, however, is an established identity. Topps is celebrating 70 years of baseball cards this season, and the iconic offerings being paid handsomely for are as much because of the subject as they are the established desire rooted in the brand. Vintage cards have soared due to their scarcity. Key rookies have experienced a boom because of the sets Topps included them in. Lesser competitors such as Leaf and Onyx have seen little success in driving desire to the same levels despite similar subjects and chase offerings. Fanatics will have to buck that trend. We’re still months, and potentially years, from understanding how this all will look. For the sake of Topps and Panini, being bought and allowing their brands to be used under the Fanatics umbrella seems like a promising avenue to pursue. Maybe that’s not one the new head honcho will be agreeable to. I find it hard to get excited about an entirely new offering from my collecting seat, no matter how much of a draw the shiny feeling may bring. Topps is iconic with baseball cards, and while I enjoy the hobby, it’s an unnecessary venture into disposable income. Years down the road, some may consider this era vintage, so maybe I just shifted my focus. I’d love to be surprised by Fanatics and find myself drawn in, but for now, I’m more than comfortable sitting on the sidelines and working through the bewilderment of what just took place. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. What does Bonds, McGwire, or Sosa's home run records mean in a game that is just another version of video game? Set their record up as per cent of HRs hit. Ruth hit 60 and the teams averaged 58, Bonds hit 73 and teams averaged 185. Time to get some real perspective. Bonds would have needed to hit 191. In an era where we seem to forget how great baseball has been and have instead focused on the "three true outcomes" we have also lost the three great values - excitement, speed, and drama. I do not want to watch 3 hour and 7 minute versions of HR derby where only three HRs are hit. No wonder BB is losing out on fan response. Put it next to Basketball and football on TV and there is no comparison. I have always preferred radio for my baseball fix, but if I went back to my childhood with my transistor under my pillow I could no longer stay awake long enough for the extra 45 minutes, nor would I be captivated by the potential to steal, to hit and run, to bunt. Strike outs are just a prolonged whack-a-mole game. In 2019 the best pitcher in baseball - Gerrit Cole struck out 326 hitters and there were 21,415 strike outs in the AL. In 1946, Bob Feller the best pitcher in baseball struck out 348 batters and the AL had 5225. Cole struck out 0.015% while Feller struck out struck out 0.06% of all the batters who had a K in the AL that year. https://www.baseball-almanac.com/hitting/histrk4.shtml Yes, I like the bunt, the stolen base, and the hit and run. I do not mind the shift because in the past the batters would have adjusted. I do like BA/RBI/OBP/Slugging but I hate to see a percentage like Miguel Sano with 90 Ks in 186 AB - .483 average versus his real BA of .204. Miguel is projected for 2021 to bat 227 with 185 Ks. Baseball Reference. Here is the list of top strikeout percentages (lowest) for 1000 batters in MLB history. https://www.baseball-almanac.com/hitting/histrkop1.shtml or https://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/at_bats_per_strikeout_career.shtml MLB has now hired Theo Epstein to help make the game more marketable, more appealing. I know - the true BB fan loves the game and does not need change. If we are going to attract the best athletes, the most fans, the most income for the game then we need to address more than the hardline stathead. In honor of my favorite player of all time - Hank Aaron never had a season with 100 strikeouts! He came close with 97 and 96 in 1966 - 67, but never reached 90 in the other 21 years! In 1958 he hit 44 HRs and struck out 58 times! The Minneapolis Tribune had this note - 0 Times Aaron struck out 100 times in a season; in 23 seasons he struck out 1,383 times, an average of 60 per season. Jason Stark adds, "And as long as we’re talking active hitters, you know how many have already had more multi-strikeout games than Hank Aaron had in 23 seasons? How about 51! That group includes the likes of Miguel Sanó (70 more multi-K games in 2,759 fewer games than Aaron) … and Mike Zunino (246 multi-K games despite 647 fewer homers than Aaron). … And coming right up, it’s Joey Gallo (202 multi-K games in the first 473 games of his career)."
  4. Last night Fernando Tatis Jr. got a grooved fastball in a 3-0 count and sent it into orbit. The San Diego Padres were already up seven late in the game, and with the bases loaded, his grand slam put it way out of reach. Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward, he of the crotchety old age of 44, took exception to it. Woodward told reporters after the game, "I didn't like it personally. You're up by 7 in the 8th inning, it's typically not a good time 3-0. It's kind of the way we were all raised in the game. But ... the norms are being challenged." He literally was asking for his opponent to quit playing. After Major League Baseball marketed their young talent wonderfully during the 2019 season with the slogan “Let the kids play” this is where we’re at. I have no problem with baseball having unwritten rules. I think there’s a certain level of affection I have reserved specifically for the nuances in the sport. By and large though, the vast majority of said unwritten rules are dated and should be re-evaluated. Retaliation in the form of beanballs has long been silly. Bunting late in a game solely to break up a no-hit bid is one I think should draw some ire. If a pitcher wants to get on you for walking unnecessarily over his mound, so be it. Suggesting there’s counts in which the pitcher should know what the batter is doing though, and even further, completely expecting them to give up, is not a good look. More often than not a 3-0 count results in a take due to the game scenario. Unless the pitch is absolutely grooved, that’s not a situation in which you want to miss and make an out. If a pitcher is going to throw a get-me-over fastball though, by all means the batter should be locked in and ready to ride it into orbit. When Fernando Tatis Jr. did just that, his own manager Jayce Tingler missed the mark in defending him. Instead of noting that there was a sign missed, he simply could’ve said that he put a great swing on the pitch. Sure, missing signs is suboptimal, but that’s not the talking point in that specific spot. It’s like the basketball coach wanting the guard to work the offense, but he steps back and drains a three, which then causes exhale anyways. There were takes all over the place in the wake of Tatis’ performance. Many of them correctly called out Woodward as off base and old school. Former Twins pitcher Phil Hughes chimed in comparing the situation to that of a football team taking a knee. The difference between all of those types of comparisons however is that baseball is the lone sport not dictated by time. When you’re up against a clock, strategy involved suggests killing the seconds and minutes in order to get you closer to victory. Baseball has outs, 27 of them, all finite. The only strategy when it comes to results in baseball is scoring more than the opposition before your self-inflicted missed opportunities run out. If you want to be mad at a guy for swinging 3-0 at a bad pitch and giving up an opportunity to get on base, so be it. If you want to get mad at a guy for putting the ball in the seats, under any circumstances, by all means hop aboard the leather and ride it right on outta here. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  5. While women are vastly underrepresented throughout the game, it’s also worth noting that talented individuals are present in virtually every organization. The Minnesota Twins aren’t an exception here. Kate Townley was immediately offered up as someone to highlight and having been a part of Twins Territory now for nearly 15 years there’s no stopping her impact with the club. Paving a Path Part 1: Britt Ghiroli Paving a Path Part 2: Melanie Newman Paving a Path Part 3: Rachel Luba Paving a Path Part 4: Emily Waldon Townley graduated with a degree in Human Development and put that to work initially in a position focused on Minor League Administration for the Twins. She dabbled as an Administrative Assistant within Scouting and has since taken the title of Director, Baseball Administration with the club. Having seen a significant amount of baseball with Minnesota and through the eyes of a woman, a conversation seemed like a perfect opportunity to get her perspective. Twins Daily: You've been with the Twins for nearly two decades and while you were an athlete your sport was basketball. What drew you to baseball and how did you know Minnesota was the right fit? Kate Townley: In full transparency I wasn’t specifically drawn to baseball at first. Right out of college I would have loved a job in basketball, mainly because I was most familiar with that sport. But I was looking for any job in sports, to be a part of a team again, and at the time the Twins were one of the few organizations that paid for internships, so I applied. Once I got into the organization though, I quickly realized how much I was I was going to like working in baseball and specifically working for the hometown team. It felt like a family right away. TD: In your roles since joining the Twins organization you've dealt with the minors, scouting, and major leagues. What does your title actually mean you do, and how has your role evolved in the time you've spent with the organization? KT: Titles can always be a little confusing since the responsibilities vary from team to team, so here’s my best explanation. I compose all Major and Minor League contracts / agreements for players and staff. I administrate all Major League contracts, tenders, player transactions, waivers, and maintain our Club’s 40-man roster. I prepare, submit, and maintain all Major League budgets. I oversee the Baseball department purchasing for both front office and the Major League team with the assistance of our Home Clubhouse Manager. I’m part of the team that works on our Arbitration process, and I handle some of the negotiations with players. Most recently, I have been tasked with leading our Diversity and Inclusion initiatives specifically in the Baseball department but also expanding into our Front Office practices. My role throughout the years has changed quite a bit but it still just revolves around making sure things get done and that the ship runs smoothly. I’ve been on the administrative side of things my whole career; I guess now I’m just leading a lot of those areas. TD: Women in baseball, and sports in general, has become more of a front and center topic in recent years. You've been doing this for a while, how has the minority representation changed over the years and how do you feel accountable for what opportunities come to the next generation? KT: I think we’ve seen a very small change as it relates to women working specifically on the baseball ops side of our industry. I think the biggest and most visible changes have been the few females we have seen get field staff positions, because those have been real firsts for baseball. We at the Twins are proud to say that we hired the first ever full-time female strength coach, Andrea Hayden, at the Major League level, and you’ve seen others like Alyssa Nakken with the Giants at the ML level, but we’re still so far from where I think we need to be for female representation under the Baseball umbrella. We need to see more women in front office, scouting, performance, and coaching roles. We specifically need to see more women get opportunities at leadership positions. As with many industries, women for a long time assumed only roles that would be associated with secretarial or administrative type work and although those roles are hugely important to keep everything running smoothly, we have yet to see a real change at the top where decisions are being made. This is where my accountability comes into play. I believe it’s part of my responsibility to continue to strive for more in my career and to lift and encourage other women do to the same. To that point, I’m excited to say on August 13th we will be hosting our second round of a Twins Diversity Roundtable that will feature women with roles within Baseball Ops in order to highlight their contributions and give them a platform. TD: Having been with Minnesota for so long you've seen a lot of change. How has the front office and positions you've held been influenced by new voices and how have your positions been impacted over the years. KT: I have seen a lot of change in my career and I would be lying if I said I didn’t benefit from the change at the top of our group. I have a deep respect for our previous baseball leadership, but I will say when Derek Falvey and Thad Levine came on board was when real change happened specifically for me and my career. I had been working on the administrative side of the Minor Leagues for about 10 years and had not had much movement from a responsibility or title perspective until they joined. About a year into their time with the Twins I found myself transitioning from the Minor League side of operations to the Major League side and being given more ownership of certain areas. They challenged me to learn the arbitration process, tasked me with mastering the ML rules, encouraged me to lead our Diversity and Inclusion efforts, gave me a seat within some of our decision-making processes and changed my title to Director. I’ve been invigorated by these new challenges and look forward to seeing how my role will evolve even further. TD: We've seen hurdles come to light much more publicly in recent times when it comes to women in sports. Was that something you ever considered when venturing down this career path, and how did you convince yourself that this was the right choice and there was no stopping you? KT: It never occurred to me to not get into sports because of the possible difficulties I would face being a woman in this industry. I’ve always been passionate about sports, and my parents taught me at a very young age that you have to do what you love no matter how hard it may be. I’m a competitive, stubborn person so even if I knew all the obstacles I might face I still wouldn’t have backed down. It fueled me knowing that there weren’t many women working on the baseball side of things when I first started and knowing that I can be a part of changing that landscape continues to fuel me. TD: What about the Minnesota Twins have made them the perfect employer and an organization that you've chosen to stick with all of these years? KT: I tend to pride myself on being passionate and caring for others, and the Minnesota Twins embody those same characteristics. The organization has always felt like a family and everyone, starting from Ownership down truly care about people and doing good within our community. Lots of people say when they get into the work force that they want to do something they are passionate about and that makes them excited to go to work each morning, I’m lucky enough to say both of those statements came true for me. I legitimately wake up most mornings excited to get into work, because I get to be surrounded by great people from the front office all the way through our coaching staff and players. We may be known as a baseball team, but we’re much more than just what you see on the field on TV. We’re a family. TD: When looking at what you've accomplished and sending a message for who may come after you, what would be some of the best advice you could give to a female looking to get into this arena? KT: I would tell her she’s fully capable of doing anything she puts her mind to, to lead with confidence, and get out of her own way. Just because our industry doesn’t have a large representation of women right now doesn’t mean it’s not possible and it absolutely doesn’t mean there’s not a need for it. I think women bring a unique perspective to professional men’s sports and I would tell a young woman to embrace that and drive from that perspective. TD: Let's wrap with this, 2020 has been weird in so many different ways. What are you most cautious about as it relates to a great Twins team repeating as AL Central champs, and what are you most looking forward to? KT: Currently I would say I am most cautious about the season being cancelled again. I think our team is poised for another great season, no matter how truncated it is, but we can’t control the virus and I worry for our players’ health and safety. On the flip side, if we can keep everyone healthy, I’m really looking forward to showing people that last year wasn’t a fluke. It was incredible to watch how our team came together last year. We did have a lot of talent but more importantly, we had comradery. We had a group of individuals who came together as one team because of great leadership and a shared goal to succeed. They had each other’s backs, and I think it will be fun to watch that play out again this year. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  6. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. When I went down to Fort Myers in early March to cover the Twins, I wasn’t supposed to leave under the haze of a global pandemic. My office has been closed for months. Sports have been shelved just as long. The Twins defending the AL Central crown wasn’t intended to take place in just a 60-game sprint. None of this was supposed to happen, but here we are, and we have baseball. I don’t know if we’ll get through the entire schedule. I think MLB has done a decent job making sure they have significant protocols in place. My hope is that even while a 16-team Postseason is looney, we’ll see it play out. For one day, one night, tonight, things stand still though. Opening Day presents an opportunity for everyone to begin anew. Last year’s 307 home runs hold no weight as to what takes place in 2020. The Bomba Squad and their 101 wins don’t carry over. Rocco Baldelli has won a Manager of the Year award and Nelson Cruz has gone over the hill. All of that is in the past now, and the Twins future remains bright as ever. Brimming with the best lineup in the sport, equipped with a lights out relief corps, and bolstered by a rotation chocked full of depth, this could be the year. A World Series ultimately defines a team’s season, but it doesn’t negate the quality along the way. Because the Twins didn’t bring home a ring in 2019 doesn’t take away from what they accomplished. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine haven’t been building to look back on those accomplishments however, and the step they’ve put forward this season is their best year. The roster is primed to make serious noise, and even with the oddities that will follow this year, the Twins are in as good of a position as anyone. I appreciate you all for reading, following, and trying to make it through this lull. Now we’ve got that in our rear view too, and Opening Day allows us to dive full speed ahead into what could quite possibly be the best season in Minnesota Twins history. We weren’t supposed to get here this way, but we’ve arrived, and Opening Day is just as beautiful as it’s always been. Settle in, it won’t be as long, but you can be assured it will be every bit as fun. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  7. With this being the final installment in the Women in Baseball series I wanted to make sure we could wrap it with a nice bow. Moving from a beat writer to a broadcaster and then an agent, Emily Waldon represents something reflective of a perfect combination. One of the biggest names in the industry, she’s more than paving a path.Similar to Britt Ghiroli before her, Waldon contributes to The Athletic. While Ghiroli works the Nationals beat, Waldon is called upon for prospect and Tigers related content. She’s a prospect guru, knowing the entire farm as well as the national landscape, and she’s become a voice for the under-represented minor leaguers across the sport. Emily has long been putting her stamp on the game of baseball and has put out quality coverage for the last handful of years. It was on March 15, 2019 that things exploded however, and all behind the headline reading, “I can’t afford to play this game.” Her status has since exploded, and she’s only continued to raise the bar. Paving a Path Part 1: Britt GhiroliPaving a Path Part 2: Melanie NewmanPaving a Path Part 3: Rachel LubaExtremely busy, I was grateful for the opportunity to grab a quick conversation with her: Twins Daily: A Michigan girl turns professional Detroit writer. Was that always the goal? Was it always baseball? Was the hope always the Tigers. What does your path into the sport look like? Emily Waldon: My path would be considered highly unorthodox in comparison to the way most people get into journalism or player evaluation. I didn’t have the internships or the college degree, and it wasn’t until I realized what I was really passionate about that I wondered if I could make my writing into anything. I had always been a writer because I was extremely shy as a kid. It was an outlet for me to express what I was thinking and feeling. My step into baseball was a fairly simple one. I had grown up in a baseball family, and it was a game I knew well. The thought of being able to spend more time around it made it a pretty simple decision. TD: There's very few national writers that know a system as well as you do. While covering prospects is something you broke in doing, and scouting is part of your background, the Major League club is equally as much in the wheelhouse. Was it a conscious decision to be so knowledgeable across an entire organization? EW: It’s funny, I never had any aspirations to cover Minor League Baseball or prospects. My first year was 2015 and that was not a year where the Tigers farm system was anything remotely close to being worth discussing. It ranked among the bottom in the whole league, and there weren’t any major names to think of. When I started covering Single-A West Michigan people wondered who I was and why I was doing it, and on top of it I was a woman in this odd role. It was somewhat of divine timing as I jumped into prospect coverage a touch before a lot of people did. Not only was I in a niche part of the industry, but here comes this girl that knew baseball but was learning the ins and outs of journalism on the fly. I realized while covering the Midwest League, and being a workaholic when it comes to passions, I need to cover the Tigers from top to bottom. That led to my networking skills pushing me all over the system. I got to know the staff, scouts, players, and families. I was always around in some capacity and being exposed into the minor league scene it eventually transitioned into me doing national coverage. TD: Seeing you take on projects outside of the Tigers organization, it's clear your creativity is only limited by the subject matter. How much time do you put into preparing for a national story? What highlights your creative process? EW: I think this really comes down to utilizing my contacts and network. My goal when I travel is to always try and make some sort of new connection. I want to get my name out there and have people know what I’m about. My reputation and integrity are the driving forces behind what I do. I want people to know above all else, I will follow through. I don’t want people to see me as a girl in baseball. I want people to know me for my work, and nothing more. Say for example I want to write up a story about Royce Lewis, I can utilize my connections to find out who I need to know. Is that coaches, scouts, front office people, whoever it is I want to get the fullest perspective so I can bring the player to the most attainable viewpoint for fans reading my work. TD: It's not unexpected that you'd have ties with so many minor leaguers given your prospect background. Was the goal always to act as an advocate? When did you see your platform could be useful for more, and why did you decide that providing a voice was necessary? EW: I think it really became a thing in 2017, my third year, as I had been deeply immersed in that lifestyle (MiLB) and thought, “there is so much here that’s not being talked about.” I know there had been people before me writing about certain topics, but the national attention hadn’t been there yet. When the “I can’t afford to play this game” piece dropped in 2019 I was flying to Arizona for Spring Training and remember being terrified. I thought, “what did I just do? Is the league going to blacklist me?” Then I realized that I brought facts to the surface, and the hope was fans would understand everything these players endure and how hard they work to get to the majors off the field as well. TD: Women are far less represented in baseball than men. How do you go about not letting that impact the work you do, and does it fuel an additional emphasis to pave a path for others? EW: I think any time, in any industry, that you’re in a minority there’s an opportunity for you to make an impact. It’s up to you whether that impact is positive or negative. I think there’s been opportunity to reflect on how many women were just like me in that they really love baseball, but the industry skews towards it being abnormal. The idea that women don’t really do this, why would I do it? That creates plenty of second guessing, especially for those looking to break into the game. When I share my experiences with other young women I say, “nobody gets to derail you but you, you’re the only person that gets to call the shots about your pursuits.” I’m so thankful to have been raised by parents that never told me I couldn’t do something because I am a woman, but instead instilled that integrity and application in my work would allow me to do whatever I wanted. It’s been cool to see other young ladies make pursuits of their own and share their stories with me. My hope is other girls will have the courage to do the same. TD: What about The Athletic helps to set your work apart? It has quickly grown into a sports juggernaut, and some of the most powerful female voices in sports call it home. What about the outlet aligned with where you wanted to be professionally? EW: My favorite thing about The Athletic is they cultivate creativity when it comes to sports writing and they don’t require you to do cookie-cutter type work. Being somewhat of an outlier with my unique background, The Athletic gave me a voice to be not only a woman in baseball, but also one that covers prospects and does player evaluation. It’s such an empowering feeling, and it allows me to pitch ideas and come up with creative ways to approach stories. Having an editor in Emma Span, who is a legend in her own right, she is someone that has always spoken life into my career. Those are the types of voices I hope I can become one of for the next generation. Having someone like Emma in my corner has really inspired me to keep going. TD: While baseball was shelved and we struggled with the relationship provided to us by the sport, what did you do to keep busy? Any go to hobbies away from the game that provided a good reset? EW: It definitely was a challenge, and I think everyone has been challenged with finding their own outlets throughout 2020. For me personally, fitness was the biggest thing. I got back into running every day and fine tuning some of my eating habits. Getting back into that workout routine helped to keep my head clear just because there’s so many thoughts about what’s going to happen next. Focusing on mental health is such an important factor. I know firsthand what that battle with anxiety can feel like, and my hope is that while I’m trying to inspire others through baseball, if you struggle with anxiety or depression I want to listen and encourage there as well. Knowing that you’re never alone is a big thing, other people can always relate. Follow Emily and check out her work here. Thank you for reading through this Women in Baseball series, hope you enjoyed it! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  8. Similar to Britt Ghiroli before her, Waldon contributes to The Athletic. While Ghiroli works the Nationals beat, Waldon is called upon for prospect and Tigers related content. She’s a prospect guru, knowing the entire farm as well as the national landscape, and she’s become a voice for the under-represented minor leaguers across the sport. Emily has long been putting her stamp on the game of baseball and has put out quality coverage for the last handful of years. It was on March 15, 2019 that things exploded however, and all behind the headline reading, “I can’t afford to play this game.” Her status has since exploded, and she’s only continued to raise the bar. Paving a Path Part 1: Britt Ghiroli Paving a Path Part 2: Melanie Newman Paving a Path Part 3: Rachel Luba Extremely busy, I was grateful for the opportunity to grab a quick conversation with her: Twins Daily: A Michigan girl turns professional Detroit writer. Was that always the goal? Was it always baseball? Was the hope always the Tigers. What does your path into the sport look like? Emily Waldon: My path would be considered highly unorthodox in comparison to the way most people get into journalism or player evaluation. I didn’t have the internships or the college degree, and it wasn’t until I realized what I was really passionate about that I wondered if I could make my writing into anything. I had always been a writer because I was extremely shy as a kid. It was an outlet for me to express what I was thinking and feeling. My step into baseball was a fairly simple one. I had grown up in a baseball family, and it was a game I knew well. The thought of being able to spend more time around it made it a pretty simple decision. TD: There's very few national writers that know a system as well as you do. While covering prospects is something you broke in doing, and scouting is part of your background, the Major League club is equally as much in the wheelhouse. Was it a conscious decision to be so knowledgeable across an entire organization? EW: It’s funny, I never had any aspirations to cover Minor League Baseball or prospects. My first year was 2015 and that was not a year where the Tigers farm system was anything remotely close to being worth discussing. It ranked among the bottom in the whole league, and there weren’t any major names to think of. When I started covering Single-A West Michigan people wondered who I was and why I was doing it, and on top of it I was a woman in this odd role. It was somewhat of divine timing as I jumped into prospect coverage a touch before a lot of people did. Not only was I in a niche part of the industry, but here comes this girl that knew baseball but was learning the ins and outs of journalism on the fly. I realized while covering the Midwest League, and being a workaholic when it comes to passions, I need to cover the Tigers from top to bottom. That led to my networking skills pushing me all over the system. I got to know the staff, scouts, players, and families. I was always around in some capacity and being exposed into the minor league scene it eventually transitioned into me doing national coverage. TD: Seeing you take on projects outside of the Tigers organization, it's clear your creativity is only limited by the subject matter. How much time do you put into preparing for a national story? What highlights your creative process? EW: I think this really comes down to utilizing my contacts and network. My goal when I travel is to always try and make some sort of new connection. I want to get my name out there and have people know what I’m about. My reputation and integrity are the driving forces behind what I do. I want people to know above all else, I will follow through. I don’t want people to see me as a girl in baseball. I want people to know me for my work, and nothing more. Say for example I want to write up a story about Royce Lewis, I can utilize my connections to find out who I need to know. Is that coaches, scouts, front office people, whoever it is I want to get the fullest perspective so I can bring the player to the most attainable viewpoint for fans reading my work. TD: It's not unexpected that you'd have ties with so many minor leaguers given your prospect background. Was the goal always to act as an advocate? When did you see your platform could be useful for more, and why did you decide that providing a voice was necessary? EW: I think it really became a thing in 2017, my third year, as I had been deeply immersed in that lifestyle (MiLB) and thought, “there is so much here that’s not being talked about.” I know there had been people before me writing about certain topics, but the national attention hadn’t been there yet. When the “I can’t afford to play this game” piece dropped in 2019 I was flying to Arizona for Spring Training and remember being terrified. I thought, “what did I just do? Is the league going to blacklist me?” Then I realized that I brought facts to the surface, and the hope was fans would understand everything these players endure and how hard they work to get to the majors off the field as well. TD: Women are far less represented in baseball than men. How do you go about not letting that impact the work you do, and does it fuel an additional emphasis to pave a path for others? EW: I think any time, in any industry, that you’re in a minority there’s an opportunity for you to make an impact. It’s up to you whether that impact is positive or negative. I think there’s been opportunity to reflect on how many women were just like me in that they really love baseball, but the industry skews towards it being abnormal. The idea that women don’t really do this, why would I do it? That creates plenty of second guessing, especially for those looking to break into the game. When I share my experiences with other young women I say, “nobody gets to derail you but you, you’re the only person that gets to call the shots about your pursuits.” I’m so thankful to have been raised by parents that never told me I couldn’t do something because I am a woman, but instead instilled that integrity and application in my work would allow me to do whatever I wanted. It’s been cool to see other young ladies make pursuits of their own and share their stories with me. My hope is other girls will have the courage to do the same. TD: What about The Athletic helps to set your work apart? It has quickly grown into a sports juggernaut, and some of the most powerful female voices in sports call it home. What about the outlet aligned with where you wanted to be professionally? EW: My favorite thing about The Athletic is they cultivate creativity when it comes to sports writing and they don’t require you to do cookie-cutter type work. Being somewhat of an outlier with my unique background, The Athletic gave me a voice to be not only a woman in baseball, but also one that covers prospects and does player evaluation. It’s such an empowering feeling, and it allows me to pitch ideas and come up with creative ways to approach stories. Having an editor in Emma Span, who is a legend in her own right, she is someone that has always spoken life into my career. Those are the types of voices I hope I can become one of for the next generation. Having someone like Emma in my corner has really inspired me to keep going. TD: While baseball was shelved and we struggled with the relationship provided to us by the sport, what did you do to keep busy? Any go to hobbies away from the game that provided a good reset? EW: It definitely was a challenge, and I think everyone has been challenged with finding their own outlets throughout 2020. For me personally, fitness was the biggest thing. I got back into running every day and fine tuning some of my eating habits. Getting back into that workout routine helped to keep my head clear just because there’s so many thoughts about what’s going to happen next. Focusing on mental health is such an important factor. I know firsthand what that battle with anxiety can feel like, and my hope is that while I’m trying to inspire others through baseball, if you struggle with anxiety or depression I want to listen and encourage there as well. Knowing that you’re never alone is a big thing, other people can always relate. Follow Emily and check out her work here. Thank you for reading through this Women in Baseball series, hope you enjoyed it! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  9. You may not yet know Rachel Luba’s name, but you absolutely know who she represents. Former Cleveland pitcher and current Cincinnati Reds hurler Trevor Bauer met the founder of Luba Sports during his time at UCLA. In 2020 Rachel successfully negotiated the second highest contract for an arbitration-eligible pitcher in MLB history. At $17.5 million it was a number that trails only David Price’s $19.75 figure from 2015. Paving a Path Part 1: Britt Ghiroli Paving a Path Part 2: Melanie Newman The former gymnast set out to create her own path in a very male dominated industry and is doing so by taking non-traditional steps to differentiate the experience and set herself apart. With a branding and content strategy pushing the envelope for a connection between clients and fans further on a daily basis, it’s clear to see why she’s among the brightest names in the sport. She took some time to answer a few questions, and there’s a ton to dive into: Twins Daily: Being a former Division 1 gymnast and longtime athlete yourself, it's not surprising that you'd find a career within sports. When did that path become baseball and how did you know being an agent was your calling? Rachel Luba: I was an athlete my entire life, I started gymnastics at the age of two. Unfortunately, gymnastics isn’t a career you can have into adulthood and make money off of, so I knew once I was retired, I needed to find something else to do within sports. I was always drawn towards the individual athlete rather than working for a team, which tends to be the more popular route, but for me being an individual athlete my entire life it was the path I realized that I was passionate about. In college as a student athlete myself, I became good friends with a lot of the UCLA baseball players helping them manage their daily lives and schoolwork. I enjoyed learning about their industry which was very different than anything I had grown up with in the sport of gymnastics. Learning more about it, that’s when I really decided I wanted to work in baseball. TD: With representation I'd imagine the process involves a good deal of networking as well as talent evaluation. What do you feel like drives clients to Luba Sports specifically? RL: It’s a very different type of agency compared to the many others out there. Most agencies offer plenty of services, take a percentage of the contract, and everything is the same across the board. What clients tend to end up feeling is that they aren’t necessarily getting all of those services they were promised prior to the contract. Really the money an agency generates comes from the on-field contract, and once that contract is locked in, that’s all taken care of regardless whether the player leaves the next day. My client Trevor Bauer for example, has additional services that have tied incentives for me as an agent, that then ensure the relationship extends beyond that initial contract. Players create a certain value on the field and then pay a portion of that to an agent when signing a contract. Tying it more into a service provided structure, there’s opportunity to utilize the agency in whatever way best suits the athlete’s needs. As the industry and valuations of play on the field has changed, players see a benefit to pay for the value of services provided by an agent rather than just a set percentage of their negotiated contracts. TD: Trevor Bauer is obviously the most notable player you work with. You both have worked tremendously to create revenue streams and channels of interactivity outside of the game. How important has that diversification been, and where do your creative strategies come from? RL: This is something that we have been tremendously focused on. Trevor’s five-year goal was to be the most internationally recognized name in baseball, which means we needed to start getting his brand out there and expanding his audience. One of the initial hurdles was that Trevor Bauer’s story was often originally told by the media and misrepresented who he was. He has so many different interests and we wanted to find the niche audience where he could express and explore each of those. He needed to start talking more. Without his voice, the media or whoever else, was allowed to create the stories they thought were reflective of him. Trevor is passionate about teaching, and it’s derived from his engineering background. The way in which he uses Twitter, Instagram, and now YouTube as a resource to explore that creativity seemed like the perfect match. Getting his message, values, and personality out there was the goal, and is something we’ve done a great job of thus far. TD: As a female in a male dominated industry have you felt an uphill battle to establish yourself, and is there an additional sense of pride in earning and deserving a seat at the table? RL: It’s been an uphill battle from the very beginning. People told me “that’s cute” and didn’t take seriously that this was what I really wanted to do. Some offered their “advice” in warning me this wasn’t a great path or in an effort to deter me from the decision. A mentor of mine told me that in baseball, when a man walks into a room it’s viewed that he belongs there and knows what he’s doing. When you walk into a room, it will be assumed you’re a secretary, girlfriend, or a wife. You have to prove otherwise. Whether diving in depth into analytics, having a substantial among of arbitration credentials, or something else entirely, I set myself up to be overly qualified in order to prove my worth. I feel like getting Trevor the second highest salary for a starting pitcher in arbitration validates my place, but there will always be people questioning how I got here. The reality is people will always be looking to question my validity. In a specific YouTube video, I found myself unsure of an answer (as did Trevor), and upon checking with the MLBPA, they too told me they’d need to get back after double checking they had the right information. Being a female, my uncertainty was labeled as stupid, wrong, and out of place. Absolutely there’s pride involved. It took me several days to soak it in upon landing my first client and doing my first contract. I reflected a few days later on all of the people up to this point that continue telling me I can’t or it’s not possible. A lot of work went into this and a lot of people doubted you, be proud of yourself. I’m not done though, so while there is pride, it’s just part of the process and we have a long ways to go. TD: Being that baseball is currently shelved, what does that do for the life of an agent. While being involved with the resumption of the sport at least in a secondary sense, is some of the job now playing counselor or therapist and listening to frustrations in a difficult time? RL: It’s been a rollercoaster and you never really know what the days hold for you. Whether calls with the union or discussing implications with players, each day you have a plan and then it can end up being totally different. This isn’t what I expected for my first year of starting an agency, but I’m enjoying all of the curveballs being thrown my way. Being there for your clients, whether daily life situations or the mental aspects of an unprecedented time, was certainly an additional job responsibility no one saw coming. TD: What's next for you? Is the goal to continue creating a larger brand? Expanding into different sports or forms of representation? RL: First and foremost, I want to keep growing my agency and my brand. The latter is a stress I make to players, so it’s something I remain aware of for myself and intend to be an example. I hope to grow in the baseball industry as well as branching into other sports. I want to take Luba Sports and this type of representation to other sports. My vision is that I would have different divisions for each sport all utilizing the same unique financial fee structure. TD: It's not only baseball that's on hold, and with sports paused completely, what have you been doing to keep yourself busy. California obviously lends itself to nice weather, but what are some of your favorite hobbies outside of the game? RL: I’ve been back and forth between California and Arizona. Baseball has kept me busy enough, it has not been slow, and probably has been busier than during the actual season. Lots of work, and a lot of content helping Momentum with some of their things. I’ve done a lot of foundational work for my website and agency as a whole. Working out has always been a huge part of my life and has helped to keep me sane. Follow Rachel and check out her work here. Check back in next week for the final entry in this Women in Baseball series. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  10. For month we watched a public mudslinging fest take place between MLB owners and the Players Union. While the two sides have always been at odds, it’s leadership that the sport’s commissioner is supposed to provide. Rob Manfred may be a very intelligent man, but you wouldn’t know if looking at the results of his actions. Major League Baseball owners are represented by one man, Manfred. He was chosen having come from a labor negotiations background. With the sport likely coming to an ugly labor dispute following the conclusion of the 2021 season, it was Manfred who would be tasked at following in Selig’s footsteps but not making the same mistakes. Unfortunately, we are now here, a place that has given us an unprecedented set of parameters, and a terribly worse set of mistakes. While money was made out to be the reason players were publicly disparaged by those who own the teams, a reality is that any season in 2020 would be played during a worldwide pandemic. Although the rest of the world has done an exemplary job of flattening their curve and combatting the virus, this one is still seeing new records every day. For baseball to be played in that structure, players wanted their fairly agreed upon pay, but more importantly a safe environment in which to work. After the dust settled on economical issues, we were given resumption. Now six days into the new Summer Camp (which mind you, has a sponsor and branding intended to drive those owner’s immediate revenue), we’ve already got a long list of avoidable mistakes. Manfred and MLB have not come through with the necessary PPE in order to properly protect those within the game. Testing is being done, but results aren’t streamlined to meet deadlines, which has now caused multiple organizations to cease operations during a three-week sprint to get ready. The way these five days have gone is reflective of a very ugly reality. It’s a lack of leadership and follow through that paints the picture as a “set it and forget it” type of scenario. We were given a date for resumption, so everything was just going to fall into place. Major League Baseball is set to unveil the 2020 schedule tonight, but we have no reason to believe we’ll logically make it to that point. Whether now or in the future, whether the league gets its act together or not, Manfred needs to begin asking himself for accountability. He’s banged a drum for years that the game must be changed. Pace of play initiatives and poorly thought out marketing strategies have done little to benefit even the intended bottom line. While routinely chomping on his own feet whether by calling the World Series trophy a piece of metal, or publicly suggesting the league never intended to play anything more than the minimal amount of games, he’s become more court jester than duly appointed judge. Other sports have returned thus far, and while we’re still going up against a relatively unknown enemy, the reason to believe in positivity on those fronts is because leadership has ensured a strong plan of action. Rather than denigrating the product and squabbling over who will make more money, the first course of action was how would this be accomplished, and then everything else was allowed to figure itself out with proper runway to ensure follow through. I certainly hope we have a 2020 Major League Baseball season to watch. The Twins are going to be very good, and the nightly drama of a 60-game sprint should be a blast. If we don’t though, it won’t be on the players opting out or the virus causing them to consider that action. It will be on leadership, specifically that of one man, who fell completely short. For more from Off the Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  11. As a follow up to someone that writes about the game, it only seems natural to check with a woman that tells stories through a different medium. Having made her own trek through the minor leagues before debuting in The Show, Melanie Newman can now (or will as 2020 gets underway) call herself a big leaguer. Paving a Path Part 1: Britt Ghiroli The Georgia native has worked as a broadcaster at both the High-A and Double-A levels. She’s been a sideline reporter for Division 1 college athletics, and both MLB and ESPN have employed her directly. Now the long time Red Sox fan joins the Baltimore Orioles and calls a new team home. I caught up with her recently to talk about the journey: Twins Daily: You've been multi-talented and focused on a plethora of sports since breaking into the media scene. When did it become clear that baseball was your calling and that's where you wanted to focus? Melanie Newman: I always knew I wanted to specialize in baseball but also had learned in college that performing as a multi-sport journalist widened my chances of employment. Bob Rathbun sat down with me to review my work and chat soon after graduating and he affirmed to me I needed to give baseball a bigger piece of my attention. So, while I always stayed vigilant in studying other sports right down to cornhole, I've fought the hardest to have just about any role in baseball. TD: Everyone in baseball understands the ladder progression through a system. In your baseball career you've gone from minor league positions to now working with a big-league club. How has that helped to shape your drive, and what challenges does each new level present? MN: I will always adore my time in the minor leagues because it is so unique and a chance to really understand not just the game but the players. You see the sacrifices and the grind at a new level on those 12-hour bus rides. Broadcasters aren't exempt to those conditions. Sometimes the late hours and no days off catch up to you, but once you find your stride (usually the fifth week every season), things smooth out, you adjust to those 3-hour sleeps. If anything, it's proven to me that I DO want to be here and how much I appreciate this world. I also better understand what it takes for a game to even happen, from the sales staff to the groundskeepers, then multiply that immensely at the Major League level! I could not do an ounce of my job without the village of staff who make it happen, including PR, digital media, producers and editors. TD: Now working with a Major League club, do you feel like you need to re-establish yourself all over again, or is credibility built on your brand? As a female, is there an additional sense of responsibility being representative of opportunity beyond just yourself? MN: Breaking into the Majors feels two-fold: I absolutely am not changing who I am, because who I am is why I was hired. If I tried to be like another big league broadcaster, that just creates a duplicate in the industry and the beauty of every single broadcaster in any sport is while we might have similarities, we are each unique because we found certain aspects of how to do the job that speak to us on a personal level more than others. For example, I felt called to the humanizing niche of story telling, why humans are the way they are and how that shapes them into the athlete they are - what makes them laugh, the people in their life who got them here, etc. The second side is that while I am sure of who I am, that doesn't mean I can't develop and improve. I'm lucky to have a good team of peers and mentors to help me better my craft every day. According to the outside world, you are supposed to have more responsibility as a woman. While I am aware that my actions are more heavily scrutinized, I know how I was raised as a person and how I was trained to be a professional, I expect to behave at the same high caliber as every other respectable broadcaster, regardless of gender. TD: We're starting to see a female presence emerge in coaching and gameday operations for teams. You have been a pioneer on the broadcasting scene in multiple different stops. Do you feel like your success has helped contribute to that, and how can you continue using your platform so we can see talent no matter where it comes from? MN: I really would never take credit for females enterprising in the various roles of any sport. I will say it's so awesome that it's becoming more frequent to run into a female counterpart whether in the offices or at the facilities and getting to further pick their brains on how their particular role is unique and why they've pursued it. Going out every day and doing my job at a high level, that's what speaks and engages others to know that no matter their orientation or background, your dreams don't discriminate. It's also important to go out into the community, to engage with younger kids and just be a friendly person, there's no need to have a wall up around children. TD: Knowing that you have Red Sox fandom in your blood, it has to be different working for an organization in a division you grew up getting to know. How exciting is it to learn the Orioles organization from the inside, and what are you most looking forward to when we get back on the field? MN: I am very appreciative of my time in the Boston organization, especially to have grown up with New England family roots. I have had the pleasure of working for multiple organization's and I'm fortunate that a professor taught us to set aside fandoms in job hunting because the wealth of amazing people I've come to know across the entire country fills my heart. Baltimore's enthusiasm and the immediate synergy was hard to ignore. I felt like family within an hour of meeting the staff and hoped they felt the same (which I would argue now, they did). I just can't wait to step into Orioles Park at Camden Yards, knowing I am a part of this amazing organization and to see the incredible memories we will get to build together. TD: Baltimore has struggled at the big-league level of late, but have some really talented prospects. As someone who's worked on the minor league scene, how excited are you to be able to cover those stories and monitor that progress? MN: The minor leagues will always hold a special place in my heart and there is a deeper appreciation when you've been in the bottom levels to work your way up. I was fortunate to call games against two of Baltimore's affiliates last year so oddly enough when I was hired, it felt like I was more familiar with more of their minor leaguers than their major leaguers. The work Mike Elias and his team have done to select the best talent out there in building the future is absolutely exciting, the way they are training and honing each player's talents is a multi-level process that is developing both the athlete and the human being. TD: Let's end it with a surviving quarantine question. We all want baseball back and living through this sports-less time for the country has certainly been suboptimal. What have you been doing to keep busy? On off days, how do you give yourself a reset? MN: My days are pretty consistent between Spanish lessons, reading baseball articles and listening to other broadcasts/broadcasters, going for runs and spending family time. It's not flashy or exciting but the consistency of routine has been key! Follow Melanie and check out her work here. Check back in next week for entry number three in this four-part series. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  12. Monday represented a day in which Major League Baseball could’ve announced a season. Fed up with the same offer being sliced different ways, the MLBPA had broken off negotiation talks and said simply, “We’re ready, let us know where to be.” The response to that from the owners and Manfred was to threaten a season taking place at all. The impasse here is that any season without a negotiated agreement would come under an imposed ruling from the Commissioner, which was agreed to in the players March discussions. The caveat however was that the season would be implemented with the intention of playing the most games possible, something the owners have actively campaigned against. Right now, Manfred could implement a calendar of roughly 70 games, but that would be roughly 20 more than those paying the checks want to play. We don’t know for certain whether this is another stall tactic or an effort by Manfred to get the sides back at the negotiating table. Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer is calling it like it is, and sees the mandate to withdraw any notion of a grievance as Manfred leveraging a season of baseball to give the owners what they want. https://twitter.com/BauerOutage/status/1272641345941721088 There’s plenty of reasons to believe this is what’s happening. There’s been rumblings that some owners would be fine with no season at all, and the reality for most is that baseball teams are simply another avenue for cash flow within their portfolio. It’s not about being profitable as much as it is how much profit is actually being generated. For the last twenty years revenues have skyrocketed in the sport, and now because the green may not be as large for a calendar year, it’s apparently worth blowing it all up. On Monday night ESPN aired a segment called “The Return of Sports.” Rob Manfred was invited alongside several other league commissioners. It’s only his league that can’t figure out how to get back on the field though. In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s not a health scare that’s keeping baseball on the shelf, but instead one man and the thirty ownership groups he represents. As fans, we’re all the losers here. The Minnesota Twins are set to field one of their best teams since winning the World Series. Mike Trout is in the middle of his prime and could go down as the best to ever play the game. Heck, Albert Pujols is chasing down Babe Ruth at the tail end of his career. Because baseball’s profitability is being impacted, and mind you we don’t know to what extent as books are kept private, those who run it are ready to throw this all away. For the past few years Rob Manfred has set out to increase the popularity of his sport. He’s sought out avenues to draw in new fans and speed up the pace of play. While many of those ideas have been futile at best, he’s found a way to take a large steaming dump on any positive momentum in the matter of a couple weeks. Baseball diehards will return, but the casual fan couldn’t be more apt to throw up their hands at this mess. Over the weekend Long Gone Summer gave us a glimpse into the home run race of 1998. Bud Selig and the owners turned a blind eye to steroids and drug testing because it saved baseball after the 1994 strike. That won’t be an avenue for rebound this time, and nothing suggests Manfred has the capabilities to lead out of this dark time. A mandated 50 game slate in a couple of weeks would prove Bauer right. A cancelled season would drive a nail into the coffin of those running the sport forever. What was once a “both” issue is now squarely on the shoulders of those running the show, and it’s time for MLB to show us that baseball is better than this. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  13. For a while you could make the argument that the resumption of baseball not getting off the ground was a “both” issue. Players and owners were dug in. Now, as Rob Manfred suggests a season may not happen, that’s no longer the case. Is this really all the better Major League Baseball is? It can’t be, right?Monday represented a day in which Major League Baseball could’ve announced a season. Fed up with the same offer being sliced different ways, the MLBPA had broken off negotiation talks and said simply, “We’re ready, let us know where to be.” The response to that from the owners and Manfred was to threaten a season taking place at all. The impasse here is that any season without a negotiated agreement would come under an imposed ruling from the Commissioner, which was agreed to in the players March discussions. The caveat however was that the season would be implemented with the intention of playing the most games possible, something the owners have actively campaigned against. Right now, Manfred could implement a calendar of roughly 70 games, but that would be roughly 20 more than those paying the checks want to play. We don’t know for certain whether this is another stall tactic or an effort by Manfred to get the sides back at the negotiating table. Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer is calling it like it is, and sees the mandate to withdraw any notion of a grievance as Manfred leveraging a season of baseball to give the owners what they want. There’s plenty of reasons to believe this is what’s happening. There’s been rumblings that some owners would be fine with no season at all, and the reality for most is that baseball teams are simply another avenue for cash flow within their portfolio. It’s not about being profitable as much as it is how much profit is actually being generated. For the last twenty years revenues have skyrocketed in the sport, and now because the green may not be as large for a calendar year, it’s apparently worth blowing it all up. On Monday night ESPN aired a segment called “The Return of Sports.” Rob Manfred was invited alongside several other league commissioners. It’s only his league that can’t figure out how to get back on the field though. In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s not a health scare that’s keeping baseball on the shelf, but instead one man and the thirty ownership groups he represents. As fans, we’re all the losers here. The Minnesota Twins are set to field one of their best teams since winning the World Series. Mike Trout is in the middle of his prime and could go down as the best to ever play the game. Heck, Albert Pujols is chasing down Babe Ruth at the tail end of his career. Because baseball’s profitability is being impacted, and mind you we don’t know to what extent as books are kept private, those who run it are ready to throw this all away. For the past few years Rob Manfred has set out to increase the popularity of his sport. He’s sought out avenues to draw in new fans and speed up the pace of play. While many of those ideas have been futile at best, he’s found a way to take a large steaming dump on any positive momentum in the matter of a couple weeks. Baseball diehards will return, but the casual fan couldn’t be more apt to throw up their hands at this mess. Over the weekend Long Gone Summer gave us a glimpse into the home run race of 1998. Bud Selig and the owners turned a blind eye to steroids and drug testing because it saved baseball after the 1994 strike. That won’t be an avenue for rebound this time, and nothing suggests Manfred has the capabilities to lead out of this dark time. A mandated 50 game slate in a couple of weeks would prove Bauer right. A cancelled season would drive a nail into the coffin of those running the sport forever. What was once a “both” issue is now squarely on the shoulders of those running the show, and it’s time for MLB to show us that baseball is better than this. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  14. Here’s the thing, baseball is a business for the 30 groups that lay claim to an organization. While that’s a worthwhile reality, there’s also little shred of fandom in regards to those groups as well. By and large, Major League Baseball owners are not representative of the Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban per say. In fact, Cuban was actively campaigned against when trying to break into the ownership ranks for this sport. Why does that matter? An owner like Cuban is also an active participant in the on-field excitement of his investment. While looking to turn a profit, it’s not just another vehicle to generate revenue for an owner like that. Many across baseball have a team as part of a much larger portfolio, and it’s something they simply count dollars from as a hobby. What’s problematic is that viewpoint is where these labor negotiations break down and the sport suffers unrepairable damage. Though there are some hardcore fans that could be dismayed by all of this, it’s more the casual fan that Major League Baseball should be worried about. If you live, breathe, and sleep the sport you’ll also be aware that labor strife is part of it, and ownership digging in has long been part of the problem. When the rosin bag is flipped again and the pill is tossed across the dish, you’ll be there for it. The fan that tunes in because it’s a lovely Saturday afternoon however, well, they’ve now found new hobbies. https://twitter.com/jjcoop36/status/1270351426636484608 For the past few seasons, we’ve seen Rob Manfred actively seek ways to change the game in hopes of capturing the casual onlooker. How do we make it more exciting, quicker, or quirkier? Those questions have resulted in some significant shifts throughout the 27 outs we’re given, and there’s been ever more off-the-wall proposals that we haven’t seen come to fruition (yet). It’s long been noted that Manfred was brought in because of his labor and employment law background. He was to be an advocate for the owners, which is understandable as it’s the group he reports to, but he’s failed miserably to connect with players and the union. While attempting to do the latter and leaning heavily towards the former, a massive chasm has been created between the two sides and it’s likely one he’s over his skis when trying to fix. Despite these 2020 restart discussions having gone on for weeks at this point, it’s very clear that none of this is a result of the global pandemic wreaking havoc on the world. No, this was a jumpstart for ownership to posture in relation to the expiring CBA in 2021. Cities that are supposedly set to host games have no idea what the health protocols will actually be, and it’s been noted multiple times that health related issues (the reason we aren’t playing right now in the first place) won’t be the cause of a season without liftoff. https://twitter.com/mikeaxisa/status/1270007214208679936 So, what happens from here? It’s pretty clear that no matter how many proposals MLB ownership provides they’ll continue to offer the players the same $20 value cut up in different forms of payment. Whether it’s one $20, two $10’s, or twenty $1’s, there’s been little to no progress made. All of that trends towards owners’ eventual goal of a season mandated by the commissioner. Neither side comes to an agreement, owners pay out the lowest possible amount of prorated dollars, they rake in the benefits of Postseason play, and somehow their books stay closed through all of this. If, and more than likely when, Manfred must mandate a season be played we’ll be no better off than when baseball was shelved. The sides weren’t able to come to an agreement, and a year from now there won’t be a CBA to enact any sort of action at all. A global pandemic was used to truncate what could have been, and a lockout will take the damage a new step further. No matter what date and time the best Twins team in recent history takes the field, or the greatest player to ever step on a diamond digs in, your die-hard fan will be there. No number of Yankees and Red Sox on Sunday Night Baseball is going to be appointment viewing for the fan this sport has yearned to capture though, and the door could be closed on that ever happening again. In 2020 those who have invested the most dollars in baseball are killing the sport for anyone but those that have invested the most time. It’s a disappointing and catastrophic reality, but it’s where we are at. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  15. Here’s the thing, this isn’t at all about a global pandemic or whether specific safety measures can ensure smooth operations. Instead, at least for me, this discussion comes down to timing. Recently San Francisco Chronicle writer Henry Schulman penned a piece suggesting that it’s 2021 when baseball should return to the diamond. While he touched on the health risks involved, and notes that it isn’t his revenues being sacrificed, the underlying premise comes down to business. It’s how muddy a quick discussion gets that has me worried about what lies ahead for the sport. The current CBA is set to expire in 2021. That means, even had there not been this catastrophic global event, the union and owners would have been eyeing a business battle in the not so distant future. A lockout has been discussed as a potential avenue for players to make up some serious ground in terms of labor negotiations, and anyone in tune with the expected dealings would opine that expecting something cordial was a pipe dream. Now we’re dealing with the time crunch of a season that is scheduled to begin operations in less than a month, deal with a schedule cut in half, have no fans present, and do so under a completely different set of expected parameters. Looking at the difficult logistics of it is daunting, and that’s before both sides have come to an agreement on the business end. Owners are asking players to agree that a salary cap of sorts is necessary. After already prorating their wages, players are being asked to play under more difficult circumstances and further stifle their earnings. All of it will play out in the court of public opinion, and the shame game will likely reach new heights before we get resolution. I fully expect the union and owners to come together on a deal. There’s too much at stake for both sides not to reach that conclusion. However, I’m worried about what the lingering effects of it all may look like. We already know that we’re in for a drastic reshaping of the Minor Leagues, which will in turn impact the Major Leagues for years to come. Hurt feelings and distrust could run rampant though, and with an already scheduled set of negotiations looming on the horizon, CBA talks could once again shelve the sport. We can come together as fans and be excited about sports returning to their field of play. Being wiped out by something like a global pandemic is not at all the fault of anyone involved. What will be less pleasantly received is a work stoppage only aided by communication breakdowns incurred through negotiations had under a serious sense of duress. I won’t pretend to know the inner workings of discussion tactics had by either the MLBPA or owners, but it doesn’t seem to be the worst idea in turning a focus to the long-term game. If there can be some parameters established for the future of the sport, rather than just the reactionary 2020 version, we could all be better for it. Much like the Coronavirus itself, I don’t want to see baseball return only for a shutdown to wreak havoc on the game again. Get it right, or at least on an established common ground, the first time so we aren’t here on the merits of no one but the egos involved a year from now. No baseball is always the worst kind, so let’s make sure that hiatus is as short lived as possible. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  16. For the past few years, it has seemed like Major League Baseball’s Commissioner is the only one convinced that the sport is poor in its current state. Maybe you can include certain broadcasters (I’m looking at you John Smoltz), but the decisions suggested and made often have a far-fetched alteration tied to them. Behind the veil defined as pace of play issues, there have been numerous instances in which unnecessary paths have been traversed. Now needing to band together for the greater good, we’re seeing baseball spread its wings. Early on when the shutdown of Major League Baseball was first imposed, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer quickly pulled together a Sandlot-esque game. Intended initially to be more focused around the actual game, it turned into a whiffle ball form of deli. Still, it was broadcast and had participation from multiple players on multiple different teams. Just hours into a new normal, the crave of competition was highlighted. Now multiple weeks into a schedule that isn’t taking place Minnesota Twins Trevor May stepped up and assumed the role of virtual Commissioner. With Sony San Diego Studios and MLB The Show 20, May blazed the trail that has become the MLB Players League. Each club has a representative competing a few nights a week and will play each opponent one time. Games are broadcast on Twitch, MLB Network’s Robert Flores is commentating, and there’s a full league page hosted on MLB.com. https://twitter.com/IamTrevorMay/status/1250063420604506123 If you’ve tuned into any of the streams, we’ve seen everything from players succeeding as their virtual selves, witty banter, and even in-depth breakdowns designed to translate the similarities between the game and real life. What was likely dreamt up as little more than a fun departure from the current monotony has turned into an outlet generating multiple forms of genuine creativity. https://twitter.com/Nationals/status/1250087668345491456 I don’t know when baseball will return, and I’m still not convinced that it’ll happen in 2020. Outlined by John Bonnes earlier this week however, the capacity in which it does will be different. Rob Manfred is currently tasked with doing everything in his power to get creative and make sure the sport lives this season in some sense. While the parameters of play are just one aspect being discussed, it’s also the acceptance and inclusion of creativity born through this time that could breathe new life into the game. We still have regional blackouts in the sport. There are fines handed down for players wearing accessories and equipment that doesn’t directly follow certain color schemes. Major League Baseball imposes copyright on far reaching avenues that would otherwise have the opportunity to grow the fanbase in untapped markets. Whether directly or not, all these things come back to Manfred. It is currently his baby and he has the power to embrace individuality and utilize this creativity. From the guy that , we can only hope some of the lessons learned aren’t immediately forgotten when a return to relative normalcy is reached.An aside: Despite writing this today organically, I stumbled on this video from a few days ago. Trevor Bauer and one of YouTube's largest content creators, Fuzzy, put out a very cool video talking in depth about baseball and content creation. While much of it has to d specifically with the YouTube platform, the overarching theme is still about how far MLB has to go in terms of embracing individuality and engaging fans through creativity. It's most definitely worth a watch. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  17. We are just days into this global pandemic and so far, COVID-19 has taken a multitude of normalcy away from our daily lives. Forced to reconsider how we’ll operate in the weeks ahead; we no longer have baseball (and sports as a whole) to view. While that’s disappointing, it is in these passions that people have long since become a unified community. Major League Baseball shelved operations in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues last week. We now have seen teams disperse, with players returning home to the extent of some even leaving the country. As things stand right now, resumption of the sport couldn’t be more distant. First pitches were supposed to be thrown out on Opening Day’s around the league in less than two weeks. That has been taken away from us. Amidst this unfortunate revelation, we’re forced to consider what aspect of the sport really brings us together in the first place. Statistics, analysis, and fandom is generated by the on-field play of athletes we follow. Baseball is a labor of love requiring buy in over a long seasons that tracks many months. The level of consumption can be different for each fan, but the outlets and offerings available to us are plentiful and provide something for everyone. It’s in this time of stoppage that we can shift a focus to where we’re all at, and that’s a reality of togetherness. Sure, there’s no breakdowns of Spring Training action or roster movement taking place right now. We don’t have highlights to pour over or tickets to buy. What we still have however is a community of people that share a passion towards a singular subject. While we’re all divided by teams and players, baseball is the greater thread that brings it all back together. In this downtime there’s more than a handful of great writers putting out content. There are websites still pumping out great pieces. There have been a handful of awesome books published over the past couple of seasons. Heck, Twitter allows for immediate dialogue and interaction amongst an endless number of participants. Really, it’s baseball that has brought us all together, but not the on-field product that keeps us here. Hopefully sooner rather than later we’ll have a return to action on the field. In the meantime, though, the fan wins alongside every other fan going through the same experience. Find different ways to consume this passion. Strike up new conversations, read new writers, join new communities. The impact of this experience, and the way we’re able to consume a sport that has temporarily been taken away, is entirely up to each individual. There won’t be any box scores when it’s all said and done, but the appreciation and love of the game can be certain to grow along the way. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  18. In 1918 Spanish Flu became the last act in the horrible loss of life that had been WWI, "By the time it had spread across the United States, the deadly event had killed an estimated 675,000 Americans." If you wonder why the world is reacting so vigorously to Corona think about this from MLB.Com history - "In just 15 months Spanish flu killed, according to best estimates today, between 50 million and 100 million worldwide. It infected an estimated 500 million people around the world, about a third of the planet’s total population." United States Surgeon General Rupert Blue in September 1918. “People are stricken on the streets or while at work. First there is a chill, then fever with temperatures from 101 to 103, headache, backache, reddening and running of the eyes, pains and aches all over the body, and general prostration. Persons so attacked should go to their homes at once, get into bed without delay and immediately call a physician.” MLB.com reports, "the flu took: Cy Swain, a minor leaguer from 1904 to 1914 who slugged 39 home runs in 1913; Larry Chappell, a big league outfielder for the White Sox, Indians and Boston Braves between 1913 and 1917; catcher Leo McGraw, a minor leaguer between 1910 and 1916; catcher Harry Glenn, a minor leaguer from 1910 to 1918 who spent time with the 1915 Cardinals; minor league pitcher Dave Roth, who played between 1912 and 1916; and minor league pitcher Harry Acton, who played in 1917." The death of umpire Silk O'Loughlin shocked everyone. He was the name most people recognized. "O’Loughlin umpired in the American League from 1902 to 1918 while working the World Series in 1906, 1909, 1912, 1915 and 1917." The Philadelphia Inquirer reported - "Officials responded by banning most public gatherings. Impacted sporting events included high school and college football games, amateur soccer matches, and a fight between Jack Dempsey and Battling Levinsky." The Inquirer added - "Penn’s game against Georgia Tech was canceled. The Quakers postponed a contest with the Navy Yard’s Marines, and when it took place on Oct. 26, it was played at an empty Franklin Field. A campus rally for a much-anticipated game against eventual national champion Pitt was called off, as was a war-bond fund-raiser featuring movie star William S. Hart. "Penn wasn’t alone. Most college football teams, including an unbeaten Michigan squad, had to shorten their schedules because of the epidemic." "Major League Baseball got lucky. Because of World War I, its season had ended a month early, on Sept. 2, before the worst of the outbreak. Still, throughout organized baseball, at least seven players, including Negro League star Ted Kimbro, eventually died from the flu." In the World Series that was played in September the paper reported, "Boston’s Babe Ruth, then a robust 23-year-old, was stricken twice but fought it off sufficiently to pitch and win a pair of games for the victorious Red Sox." Baseball is a wonderful sport, but health is first and should always be first in our nation, politics, and decisions.
  19. I join others with regret that we continue to move down the the next pitcher on the list essays. If I was more motivated I would go back and see how many "sign this pitcher" essays have been on the site since Thanksgiving. But the essence of so many comments is - why would they come here, not what they would sign for. I do not think that it is money that is winning. If you or your girlfriend are from Philadelphia you want to go home, if you have had your career in warm cities or are tired of being in cold and windy Chicago then you look to places like Atlanta and LA. It is unfortunate that we do not have a WAR for location - where would we rank? Yankees have bad weather, but they have mystique and money. So how can we evaluate our location - situation? What are the qualities that players want? History Yes it matters if you are the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox. Our Minnesota history is now 59 years - not quite the Cincinnati Reds (1869) or Atlanta dating to 1876 with stops in Boston and Milwaukee, or the Cubs who started out as the White Stockings (that's true) in 1870. But if we accept the Senators (Nationals) as our historic heritage goes back to the 1872 Olympics so we are in the discussion, however, even Twins Daily finds it hard to talk about the Senators/Nationals/Olympics/Blue Legs/Statesmen. Winning records and legends New York Yankees (40 appearances in WS) wins this, but the Dodgers (20) aren't far behind. They may be lacking a classic win like they had with Kirk Gibson in the last couple decades, but they are still always in the battle. The Giants (20) have classic history from both NY and SF in World Series lore. The Cardinals are often considered to be the Yankees of the west and NL and they have 19 appearances. The Twins have 6 with their Washington DC history doubling the appearances. We rank number 14 there. Climate Yes it is nice to pitch those April and May games in above zero temps with no snow on the ground. Unfortunately we have only the Brewers and Detroit to compare with Minneapolis/St Paul in this category and they are both south of us. Only Seattle is further north and they have an ocean to warm them. Club House Culture It is nice to play with your buddies even though the Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson, Vida Blue A's showed that championships aren't always for the most compatible troops and Leo Durocher said - Nice Guys finish Last. But in today's game the Twins are putting together a really nice atmosphere that should build up its WAR and the millennials should love it. A really nice place to live In my mind there is no place better to live than Minnesota, Lakes, Rivers, Parks, shopping, sports, education. Not everyone will see that - some care about income tax despite their fortunes and we cannot compete with a state that has no tax - seven US states don't impose state income tax — Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. Now I would not trade because I like what our tax buys us, but I am not an agent. So where does that leave us? Our location/team WAR has to be in the 40 percentile by this list so then it is MONEY. Can we buy loyalty?
  20. Data scientist and former FiveThirtyEight journalist Rob Arthur wrote a piece today for Baseball Prospectus. The premise was that the baseball teams played the game with all season is now gone, and that’s quite a damning revelation. If you don’t have access to a subscription at Baseball Prospectus, he did a nice job breaking it down to a bite-sized Twitter thread. The ball itself is causing more drag than it has at any point since 2016. Home runs are down more than 50%, and the playing field established for 162 games has now been abolished. https://twitter.com/No_Little_Plans/status/1182286423833096192 Arthur went on to clarify that weather is not the culprit for these outcomes. He stated that drag factors in both temperature and pressure, while also noting conditions have been more optimal than normal and don’t have a significant overall impact. Considering the research he provided, and the comments offered up by Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, I began to think of specific examples. Earlier I mentioned thinking that something seemed off about that Dodgers and Nationals game to close out the National League Division Series. I didn’t dig in enough to see the amount of wall scrapers typically present on a game-by-game basis, but it certainly seemed abnormal. I did however consider that Will Smith at bat in the bottom of the 9th. His 100 mph exit velocity and 26-degree launch angle resulted in a fly out. During the regular season there was 75 similar occurrences of those inputs, and they resulted in 44 homers with an 83% base hit rate. https://twitter.com/tlschwerz/status/1182363415228141574 This is a Minnesota Twins website, so let’s bring things full circle here. Parker Hageman immediately turned to Monday’s game against the Yankees. I remembered thinking it was odd to see Gleyber Torres barely get out on a well struck ball, but it was Marwin Gonzalez’s blast that immediately looked gone and fell way short that got me. As Parker notes, the Twins 1B had his well struck ball become a pretty small outlier. https://twitter.com/tlschwerz/status/1182366456899670016 If we think back to game one, there were homers hit by both Miguel Sano and Nelson Cruz that struck me as odd. Although the ball went out to the opposite field, power sluggers like those two rarely need every extra inch to reach the seats. In doing some research through MLB’s own Statcast service, the balls that left the yard in the Postseason traveled an average of 70 feet shorter than they same circumstances produced during the regular season. https://twitter.com/tlschwerz/status/1182367265683058688 All along, the expectation should’ve been that the sport would walk the baseball back. Despite the home run providing a level of excitement to the game (one that pace of play changes would seemingly be geared towards), Rob Manfred has publicly stated that inquiries would be made too many times for tools of the trade to go untouched. What strikes this writer as irresponsible, unfair, and downright disingenuous is to make these wholesale changes during the season. The point isn’t to suggest that the Twins or any other team is getting a raw deal because of the deadened baseball. What is fair is for players across the league, most importantly hitters, to have a level of frustration aimed at the governing body of their sport. As former pitcher Dallas Braden puts it, “The guy that deflated footballs in the NFL was drug over the coals by the commissioner of the NFL for altering the sports’ ball. What do WE do when it’s THE COMMISSIONER altering balls like some MAD plastic surgeon? Let the man snip & shape as he sees fit, no issues?” I’ll never have a problem with seasons being analyzed separately as not all factors remain the same as the calendar changes. I do think you’ve got a significant problem when the integrity of a collective season is being manipulated at the drop of a hat. Because of this uproar Major League Baseball has now issued a statement on the situation. Unfortunately it does little to address any of the actual problems and avoids any statements that point to real reasons why there's such drastic changes in results. https://twitter.com/BizballMaury/status/1182385320311963649
  21. The other day one of my friends, who is a Yankees fan, asked me how the Twins were such a good team with their roster. This wasn’t some attempt to say the Twins aren’t actually good, he just didn’t realize how many good players the Twins actually have, specifically within their lineup. That same thing is probably going through the minds of many other casual baseball fans of other MLB teams. When you look at the lineup, the only guy most people probably recognize as a star is Nelson Cruz, and he hasn’t really been the biggest of factors so far given that he’s only played in a little over half of the Twins games. This is probably why many national media members didn’t peg the Twins to be this good offensively, and why their preseason over/under win total of 84.5 now seems like it would have been an easy money bet.So, how does this lineup, with such little star power, lead Major League Baseball in so many important statistical categories like runs scored, home runs, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, wOBA and wRC+? The answer to that is they can hit at every spot up and down the lineup. The table below shows the Twins OPS from every spot in the order so far in 2019, and how they rank in the MLB after play on Tuesday. Download attachment: Bottom of the order OPS.PNG The first thing that sticks out to me in this chart is how much worse the Twins have been in the three spot in the order, relative to the rest of the order. A lot of this could be explained by all the games Cruz has missed this year, but now that Cruz is back and healthy, this number will be on the rise. The other thing that strikes me is how well the Twins bottom of the lineup has been doing. I knew they were getting great production from guys like Jonathan Schoop, Jason Castro and Byron Buxton down there, but these numbers are off the charts for the bottom of the lineup. Overall, the bottom of the order (spots seven through nine) have an OPS of .868. The rest of the spots in the Twins lineup combine for an .851 OPS, which itself is the second-best lineup in baseball one through six. To get a little better context on how well the Twins bottom of the lineup has been hitting I decided to compare their bottom of the lineup to how the bottom of the lineup has been performing for every other team in baseball this season. Unsurprisingly, the bottom of the Twins lineup had the best OPS in Major League Baseball. What is surprising is just how far ahead the Twins are above everyone else. The next closest teams are the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, who each have a bottom of the order OPS of .776. Overall, there are just four teams with an OPS above .750 from the bottom of their order, which is roughly the league average OPS. With this big of a gap on everyone else, it got my curiosity going. How long has it been since an MLB team had an OPS above the .868 mark that the Twins have so far. I started by running a search query on the Fangraphs Splits Leaderboard. Unfortunately, their data for this category only goes back to the 2002 season, but since that time the next closest team to the 2019 Twins is the 2003 Boston Red Sox, who had an .838 OPS from the bottom of their order. After that, just two more teams had an OPS above .800, the 2017 Houston Astros and 2008 Texas Rangers, who both had an OPS of .802. It was cool to see that over the past 18 seasons, no team’s bottom of the order was better than the Twins has been so far this year, and only one other team was even remotely close. However, I was not content, I still wanted to see when the last time a team had a better OPS from the bottom of the order than the 2019 Twins. Luckily, I knew just where I could find that answer, the Baseball-Reference Play Index. Using the Play Index, I was able to view results dating back to 1908, and guess what, the 2019 Twins have the best OPS from any bottom of the order in MLB history. Another benefit of using the Play Index is it excluded plate appearances by pitchers, which would have skewed the results against National League teams along with all MLB teams prior to 1973. This also removes seven plate appearances made by Twins pitchers this year, and raises their bottom of the order OPS up to .875. After the Twins, the next closet team on the list is the 1930 St. Louis Cardinals, whose bottom of the order produced an .851 OPS. Overall, there have been just 22 teams with a bottom of the order OPS above .800, which is less than one percent of the time. I also thought it would be fun to compare the bottom of the order of this year’s Twins team to those of Twins teams in years prior. The team that currently holds the Twins record is the 1963 Minnesota Twins, whose bottom of the order had an OPS of .777. After that, six of the next nine (including each of the next three) teams were the Twins teams from 1999 through 2004. All six of those teams had a bottom of the order OPS between .732 and .756. Now that is consistency. Additionally, both the 2017 and 2018 Twins teams did pretty well from the bottom of the order, as they had a .739 and .732 OPS respectively. We still have a long way to go before the 2019 Minnesota Twins can lay claim to being the best bottom of the order ever, but if they continue to hit at the pace they have been, I think they can make a real run at taking down this 89-year-old record. Addition: Another way to look at this is by using OPS+. This is a metric that compares a team’s OPS relative to the league wide OPS in that season. This helps us control for things like the “steroid” and “juiced ball” eras, as it only looks how much better, or worse, you were than everyone else that season. Currently, the Twins bottom of the order has an OPS+ of 147, which means their bottom of the order OPS is 47 percent better than the 2019 league wide OPS as a whole. This is the third best mark all-time, behind only the 1908 Cubs and the 1965 Reds, who both had a 148 OPS+. Another thing that is worth pointing out, is neither of those teams played with a DH. This gives non-DH teams a slight advantage as they only needed two hitters at the bottom of the order to perform as opposed to three hitters. When looking at other teams with a DH, the two closest teams to the 2019 Twins are the 2003 Red Sox (141 OPS+) and the 1977 White Sox (137 OPS+). Click here to view the article
  22. So, how does this lineup, with such little star power, lead Major League Baseball in so many important statistical categories like runs scored, home runs, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, wOBA and wRC+? The answer to that is they can hit at every spot up and down the lineup. The table below shows the Twins OPS from every spot in the order so far in 2019, and how they rank in the MLB after play on Tuesday. The first thing that sticks out to me in this chart is how much worse the Twins have been in the three spot in the order, relative to the rest of the order. A lot of this could be explained by all the games Cruz has missed this year, but now that Cruz is back and healthy, this number will be on the rise. The other thing that strikes me is how well the Twins bottom of the lineup has been doing. I knew they were getting great production from guys like Jonathan Schoop, Jason Castro and Byron Buxton down there, but these numbers are off the charts for the bottom of the lineup. Overall, the bottom of the order (spots seven through nine) have an OPS of .868. The rest of the spots in the Twins lineup combine for an .851 OPS, which itself is the second-best lineup in baseball one through six. To get a little better context on how well the Twins bottom of the lineup has been hitting I decided to compare their bottom of the lineup to how the bottom of the lineup has been performing for every other team in baseball this season. Unsurprisingly, the bottom of the Twins lineup had the best OPS in Major League Baseball. What is surprising is just how far ahead the Twins are above everyone else. The next closest teams are the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, who each have a bottom of the order OPS of .776. Overall, there are just four teams with an OPS above .750 from the bottom of their order, which is roughly the league average OPS. With this big of a gap on everyone else, it got my curiosity going. How long has it been since an MLB team had an OPS above the .868 mark that the Twins have so far. I started by running a search query on the Fangraphs Splits Leaderboard. Unfortunately, their data for this category only goes back to the 2002 season, but since that time the next closest team to the 2019 Twins is the 2003 Boston Red Sox, who had an .838 OPS from the bottom of their order. After that, just two more teams had an OPS above .800, the 2017 Houston Astros and 2008 Texas Rangers, who both had an OPS of .802. It was cool to see that over the past 18 seasons, no team’s bottom of the order was better than the Twins has been so far this year, and only one other team was even remotely close. However, I was not content, I still wanted to see when the last time a team had a better OPS from the bottom of the order than the 2019 Twins. Luckily, I knew just where I could find that answer, the Baseball-Reference Play Index. Using the Play Index, I was able to view results dating back to 1908, and guess what, the 2019 Twins have the best OPS from any bottom of the order in MLB history. Another benefit of using the Play Index is it excluded plate appearances by pitchers, which would have skewed the results against National League teams along with all MLB teams prior to 1973. This also removes seven plate appearances made by Twins pitchers this year, and raises their bottom of the order OPS up to .875. After the Twins, the next closet team on the list is the 1930 St. Louis Cardinals, whose bottom of the order produced an .851 OPS. Overall, there have been just 22 teams with a bottom of the order OPS above .800, which is less than one percent of the time. I also thought it would be fun to compare the bottom of the order of this year’s Twins team to those of Twins teams in years prior. The team that currently holds the Twins record is the 1963 Minnesota Twins, whose bottom of the order had an OPS of .777. After that, six of the next nine (including each of the next three) teams were the Twins teams from 1999 through 2004. All six of those teams had a bottom of the order OPS between .732 and .756. Now that is consistency. Additionally, both the 2017 and 2018 Twins teams did pretty well from the bottom of the order, as they had a .739 and .732 OPS respectively. We still have a long way to go before the 2019 Minnesota Twins can lay claim to being the best bottom of the order ever, but if they continue to hit at the pace they have been, I think they can make a real run at taking down this 89-year-old record. Addition: Another way to look at this is by using OPS+. This is a metric that compares a team’s OPS relative to the league wide OPS in that season. This helps us control for things like the “steroid” and “juiced ball” eras, as it only looks how much better, or worse, you were than everyone else that season. Currently, the Twins bottom of the order has an OPS+ of 147, which means their bottom of the order OPS is 47 percent better than the 2019 league wide OPS as a whole. This is the third best mark all-time, behind only the 1908 Cubs and the 1965 Reds, who both had a 148 OPS+. Another thing that is worth pointing out, is neither of those teams played with a DH. This gives non-DH teams a slight advantage as they only needed two hitters at the bottom of the order to perform as opposed to three hitters. When looking at other teams with a DH, the two closest teams to the 2019 Twins are the 2003 Red Sox (141 OPS+) and the 1977 White Sox (137 OPS+).
  23. Starting 2019 with two divisional series gives the Minnesota Twins some immediate opportunity. Rocco Baldelli’s club took the opening series against the AL Central favorite Cleveland Indians, and they’ll now have a chance to grab more important victories against the Kansas City Royals. Looking back at 2018 and how it played out, it’s clear that the key to this club taking the next step lies in grabbing the victories they’re supposed to. Last season the AL Central was historically bad. Minnesota played into that futility, but they certainly didn’t find themselves in the doldrums inhabited by the White Sox, Tigers, and Royals. Knowing how bad those three clubs were, it was important for the hometown club to get fat while competing against them. They accomplished that feat going 12-7 against both Chicago and Detroit, but a 9-10 record against Kansas City certainly wasn’t going to get it done. Looking over the results put up against the competition, there’s lots of area for extra wins to be squeaked out. The Royals are the most notable club in which Minnesota must wallop, but the reality is that they need to play much better against everyone outside of the division as well. Baldelli is going to want to improve upon an 8-12 interleague record and being on the wrong end against too many American League foes was a suboptimal reality. Beyond the teams they lost too, it was the losses themselves that were unfortunate as well. In one run games, the Twins went 15-21 a season ago. There’s a decent amount of luck in close games, but there’s also bullpen factors that generally didn’t play in favor of the Twins. Blowout games had last year’s club looking at a 20-22 record with a -39 run differential. Although not incredibly lopsided, the run differential led to a Pythagorean win total of one game less than where they ended up. It’s unfortunate that Minnesota doesn’t see Cleveland more while they’re dealing with injuries here in the early going. They do get Kansas City for two though, and then have ten games against the Blue Jays and Orioles within a two-week span to end the month. It’s those opportunities that have the potential to be season defining for this collection. Beating teams they should needs to be a mantra in 2019, and there’s a trio of opponents within the division that fall into the same category. There’s no reason to draw significant conclusions from the early going in a 162-game regular season, but the reality is that taking care of business from the get-go sets up a road that is much more manageable down the stretch. Baldelli can’t let this team leave April with a record reminiscent of the 9-15 they were last season, and there should be plenty of opportunity for them to be much better than that. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  24. As the 2019 Major League Baseball season quickly approaches, I find myself running out of time to get out ahead of the yearly prediction game. Looking at the key individual awards, as well as how the Postseason will shake out, there’s plenty of excitement to come in the year ahead. I am of the belief there’s a significant number of teams not currently trying, but there’s a good cluster that will battle against each other in both leagues this year. Before we get to how I see the year going for teams, it’s worth looking at what the cream of the crop may look like individually. We don’t have the obvious Shohei Ohtani out of the gate, and we’ll need to see the emergence of the next Ronald Acuna or Juan Soto. Pitching awards are littered with favorites of guys that have done it all before, but there’s also some new names right on the cusp. Here’s who I see capturing individual recognition. MVP: American League – Mike Trout (Dark Horse Carlos Correa) National League – Nolan Arenado (Dark Horse Cody Bellinger) One guy is looking for his third MVP award while another is looking to get over the hump and capture his first. Mookie Betts jumped up and nabbed the title out from under Mike Trout last year, but the greatest player in the game is ready to take back his throne in 2019. On the flip side, Arenado came ever so close to his first MVP a season ago but fell just short. With the ink still drying on his newly signed contract extension, he should find the hardware as a nice reward for his efforts. I’m not all in on either dark horse candidate here but think they both have some nice post-hype appeal. Correa hasn’t played a full season in two years, but flashed MVP caliber abilities at multiple points throughout his career. Bellinger ran away with the Rookie of the Year vote in 2017, and then slide backwards a bit in 2018. I’d think his true ability lies somewhere in between, but at just 23-years-old, there’s no reason to think that the ceiling may not be even higher. Cy Young: American League – Justin Verlander (Dark Horse Jose Berrios) National League – Walker Buehler (Dark Horse German Marquez) Outside of Verlander, this may be my favorite prediction of the offseason. I love how many new names are popping up on the elite pitching scene, and as baseball fans, we all stand to benefit from them. Verlander was right there a season ago and could be looking at his second victory (and first with the Astros). For the Dodgers it’s obviously disheartening seeing the decline of the great Clayton Kershaw, but what better way to mitigate that than to have Walker Buehler in tow. This kid is the real deal, and I wouldn’t be shocked if we’re talking about multiple victories a handful of years from now. The dark horse candidates for the Cy Young are so fun. Jose Berrios is already a staff ace for the Minnesota Twins, and looks like a bit more refinement could have him making a significant leap forward. The breaking pitches are ridiculous and commanding them a bit better should do the trick. German Marquez may be the best under-the-radar hurler in the game right now, and he’s working to dispel the notion that pitchers can’t be great in Colorado (with teammate Kyle Freeland doing the same). Rookie of the Year: American League – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Dark Horse Forrest Whitley) National League – Victor Robles (Dark Horse Nick Senzel) There’s no prospect that has been talked up more in baseball than Vlad Jr. Son of the recently inducted Hall of Famer, Guerrero Jr. wields a bat that is otherworldly. The Blue Jays have suppressed his service time all they can, and while he’ll need to wait a few more weeks before breaking into the big leagues, there’s no reason why the bat shouldn’t play. He’s not going to last at third base long, but if the OPS is north of .900 in his debut campaign, he’ll run away with this. Now that Bryce Harper is gone for the Nationals, Victor Robles finally has a clear path to playing time. Previously the best overall prospect in baseball, his breakout following teammate Juan Soto of a year ago would be a nice development for Washington. It almost seems unfair that the Astros would be able to add another ace to their pitching staff, but Forrest Whitley could prove to be just that. The best pitching prospect in the game has looked great this spring, and he’d be a mid-season addition any team would love to have. He may not be up long enough to catch Vlad, but he should make this interesting. The Reds are going to give Nick Senzel a shot to stick in the outfield after coming through the system as an infielder. His bat should play for both average and power, while all early indications suggest he’s made a seamless position change. Postseason: American League - Yankees, Twins, Astros Wild Card – Red Sox, Angels National League – Nationals, Brewers, Dodgers Wild Card – Phillies, Rockies ALDS – Astros over Yankees NLDS – Nationals over Dodgers World Series – Astros over Nationals A big believer in what the Nationals did this offseason, despite losing Bryce Harper, they’re going to be a tough team to beat. That rotation should be one of the best in baseball, and is Robles breaks out as expected, their outfield could challenge that title as well. Depth could be a concern in multiple places here, but I like what Dave Martinez must work with. Houston came up just short last season losing to the Red Sox in five games. Boston has taken a step backwards, and the Astros are ready to make it two World Series victories in three years. This lineup is loaded, the pitching staff is for real, and A.J. Hinch has a group that knows how to win. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  25. So the computer guys told us this would be smart, we see the trend and we jump on it. Use relievers every day! Let's look at a couple simple stats that are within my grasp. 162 games - average reliever use per game now 3 - put in an opener and it might be 4, but lets not worry about those games where Giminez came in or other extended innings. Just 162 games times three - 486 relief appearances. So we carry 13 pitchers, 5 are starters. 8 relief pitchers divided into 486 means 60 relief appearances per pitcher - forget those who are so valuable that they are out more often. Check out historical use on Baseball Reference - https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Pitcher#Historical_Usage and you can see the various trends in pitching from the every other game starters of the 1800s to the four man rotation and lots of complete games to five man rotation and a growing requirement for relief pitchers. The more pitchers the less they are used and the more relief we need. Tommy John surgery increases, pitchers are using pitch counts but no one knows whether it is the pitch count or the frequency of pitching that matters. How did Warren Spahn and Juan Marichal and all those great pitchers survive? Must be some stat there that can answer. Trends have always made us smarter. Remember when Coca Cola came out with New Coke and soon the non-stat drinkers rejected it as well as Crystal Pepsi and its clear cola. Or maybe your family had an Edsel - talk about a car of the future! Or more recently we had Netflix divide into Netflix and Quikster - don't remember - understandable. The streaming only branch was flushed down the stream. There was the Apple Newton that was an instant success followed by an instant failure, it just did not deliver, kind of like the sixth man in your bullpen rotation. Then there is that weight reducing fat - Olestra - that Lays used to produce Wow chips! In one year the FDA called a halt, of course the customers did too when they learned that the way that they lost weight was because it induced diarrhea. Kind of like changing pitchers 3 times in an inning induces a coma. Two giants sat down with their marketing stat heads and combined to produce a soda bottle product called Mazagran - coffee tasting soda - within the year the stats called sales numbers forced this Starbuck/Pepsi product off the market. And it would have been an excellent opener to start your day. I will not even comment on the attempt by Colgate - the toothpaste company - to put out a line of frozen foods. Did they clean your teeth when you were done? We will never know. But more recent and perhaps more important to this audience - Playboy decided to drop nudity - where are those geniuses. Did they really believe people bought it for the articles? Well they don't now - those geniuses are back in the minor leagues and nudity is on the rise again. So now we have a trend that created a trend - fifth starters were not much better - if at all - than the bullpen guys so suddenly we evolved to bullpenning. The term does not mean anything, but it is a trend, just like launch angle and increased strikeouts. Does that mean anything to the game? Well strikeout require more pitches which means the pitch count is reached earlier so we must pull the starter and bring in the reliever. More pitches, more game delays, more time before the game ends, longer games and the commissioner wants to figure out how to change this. Good luck. Check out various trends with this excellent set of graphs - https://michaelbein.com/baseball.html then look at the graph on this site for length of games and runs scored - https://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2015/1/29/7921283/baseball-game-length-visual-analysis and then we ask the question - do people want longer games with less runs scored? Do people want to see more pitchers and less runners on base? As an old guy I love Mike Trout - “The two biggest stats to me are runs scored and RBI,’’ says two-time MVP Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, the game’s greatest player in the midst of his finest season. “I mean, that’s how you win games right, scoring the most runs?’’ Bob Nightengale has an interesting article - https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2018/06/20/mlb-bad-baseball-attendance-strikeouts/718162002/ - that looks at trends and solutions. So, if the trends are hurting baseball, baseball might want to buck the trends, limit relief pitcher use, reduce the innings, move back the fences, reduce the innings. I do not know the answer, but as a former tax accountant I can tell you that numbers can prove many things, but they cannot make the game more enjoyable, unless you are just into APBA, Rotisserie, Fantasy, X-box, etc; nor can they change the human body. Use stats, but don't go too far I really want to see a baseball game - not relays from the bullpen.
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