Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How long will Dozier stay in the minors?

One of the Twins biggest offseason investments was in the form of 38-year old middle infielder Jamey Carroll. The versatile free agent was brought to the organization to help solidify a middle infield that waffled through a gargantuan amount of issues in 2011. He seems to get better with age and the Twins are hoping their two-year investment in the elder statesman can continue to lead to success from this player.

Some look at Carroll as the stopgap to another middle infielder who is working his way through the minor league system of the Twins. Last season Brian Dozier found great success on the field in his time with the Miracle and the Rock Cats. In 2011, he led the Twins organization in runs scored (92) and triples (12) and was third in hits (157), stolen bases (24) and total bases (241). This performance led the Twins to honor him with the team's Minor League Player of the Year Award. Dozier is a former 8th round pick of the Twins back in 2009 and he has spent the last three seasons moving his way up to the Double-A level.

Since he has never seen time at the Triple-A level, there is a good chance he will start the 2012 season in Rochester. But what happens if he gets off to a hot start with the Red Wings? How long would the Twins wait to call him up? 

In the middle of May, Dozier will turn 25 and this comes out of the fact that he was drafted out of college and this makes him a little older than some of the other top prospects for the Twins. Many of the other top prospects that he played with in New Britain have already made their debut with the Twins at the end of last year. Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee were both call-ups in September but they had each been in the Twins system for longer than Dozier and they were higher draft picks. Dozier started the 2011 campaign with Fort Myers and the situation was different for Benson and Parmelee. Benson played all of 2011 with the Rock Cats and Parmelee got a taste of New Britain in 2010 and ended up back there for all of 2011.

Out of all of the players in the same draft as Dozier, none of them have made their debuts with the big league squad. Kyle Gibson, the team's first round pick from 2009, seemed like he was on his way to debuting in 2011 but an elbow injury kept him from reaching the MLB level. Chris Herrmann, the club's best catching prospect, has shown the organization a lot of positive things over the last three years but he might still be a year away from making it to Target Field.

The organization was impressed with the way that Dozier handled himself in the Arizona Fall League at the beginning of this offseason. In 26 game for the Mesa Solar Sox, Dozier hit .296/.358/.454 with 27 runs scored and 11 extra-base hits. In an interview on 1500 ESPN on Monday, Paul Molitor talked about Dozier needing to work on his consistency and this could be one of the reasons the team decided that Dozier needed time in the AFL. If he can continue his patient approach at the plate, the consistency should follow him to the start of his big league career.

In a farm system in desperate need for middle infielders, Dozier stands out as the one player most ready to make an impact for the Twins in 2012. In search of other middle infielders, the Twins have switched Eddie Rosario, one of the organization's top prospects, from outfield to second base. All of last season was spent in the Appalachian League with Elizabethton for Rosario so he still has multiple seasons before he could make it to the big leagues. This move might help the Twins with their long-term plans but right now Dozier is the one middle infield prospect who looks ready to become a major league player.

 How long will fans have to wait for this to happen? Only time will tell...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Zumaya's injury leaves right-handed hole to fill

Terry Ryan tried to make a move that he thought could be one of the important additions to the Twins prior to the start of the 2012 season. Joel Zumaya had been often injured since his rookie year in 2006 but the thought of a hard throwing right-handed pitcher was too much for the Twins to pass up. The honeymoon phase did not last long for Zumaya and the Twins as bad news came out of Ft. Myers over the weekend.

The team had only been in spring training for a handful of days before Zumaya left the mound on Saturday with right elbow discomfort. An MRI on Sunday revealed the hard throwing righty has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and this type of injury usually results in Tommy John surgery. The recovery time from this injury is usually around 12-months so Zumaya's time with the Twins was over before it even really started.

Before his injury, Zumaya offered hope to a bullpen that struggled to produce on the field last season. The thought of a healthy Zumaya in a seventh inning role leading up to Glen Perkins and Matt Capps was something fans could look forward to at Target Field. Now the Twins will be looking for a variety of right-handed options with little experience at the big league level to step up and produce on the big stage.

There are a handful of familiar names that will now be fighting for a late inning role with the club. Anthony Swarzak and Alex Burnett saw time out of the bullpen last season with Swarzak also filling in as a started on 11 occasions. Burnett found some struggles in his 50.2 innings as he posted a 5.51 ERA with a 1.401 WHIP. Swarzak had some up and down moments but showed he could handle a long relief role and making the occasional spot start. There is a good chance that the organization will be looking to these players to prove they can handle some of the pressure of late inning situations.

Lester Oliveros was one of the key pieces brought to the Twins as part of the Delmon Young trade and the rookie showed some positive signs in his limited action with the club. After dominating in the lower levels of the minor leagues, Oliveros found some sticking points in his travels to the MLB level. His marginal experience at the big league level is a strike against him and the club will surely take this into account when making a final decision on the bullpen.

For the second year in a row, the Twins have a bunch of pitchers in camp in hopes of finding a few options that will be serviceable as bullpen arms. The team had to add Danny Rams, another catcher, to the big league camp in order to have enough men to catch the 32-pitchers with the club. Names like Jason Bulger, Casey Fien, Jeff Gray, and Esmerling Vasquez will be given every opportunity to show they belong as right-handed options for the 2012 Twins.

Most of the available free-agent right-handed relief pitchers have been scooped up by this time of year as clubs were making their final additions before pitchers and catchers reported to spring training. MLB Trade Rumor lists five right-handed relief pitchers who are still on the market. This list includes Dany Baez, Sergio Miltre, Tony Pena, and Michael Wuertz. All of these options are bottom of the barrel relief arms but the Twins could take a flyer on Wuertz who is a Minnesota native and only a couple seasons removed from a career year in 2009.

Overall, the Zumaya signing was a good move but luck didn't fall on the Twins side. Luckily for the Twins they are left with a big chunk of the rest of spring training to find out who will be able to fit into a right-handed relief role with the team. To some of the players mentioned above, this should be seen as a major opportunity to be part of the bullpen turnaround for the Twins. Let's hope some of them take the opportunity and run with it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Links-N-Thinks

Well spring has sprung across the baseball world. Pitchers and catchers from MLB teams have reported for duty in Florida and Arizona. The position players for the Twins have also made their way to Ft. Myers and the team will begin full squad workouts in the coming days.

It is a great time of year to be a fan of baseball. There is hope in the air and every team is on an even playing field. There can be surprises around every turn and no one knows who will take home the World Series Trophy at the end of the year.

I got my season tickets delivered this week and I got to pick out seats for Opening Day at Target Field. The offseason is over and it is time to get the 2012 campaign underway.

Enjoy this weeks version of "Friday Links-N-Thinks" with plenty of headlines coming out of camps at this early juncture of spring training.
My Weekly Rundown:
Video of the Week: As I mentioned before, Lindsay Guentzel is trying to be one of the fans selected to watch every MLB game this season from the comfort of the MLB Fan Cave. First she made the top 50 finalists and now she has qualified for the top 30. This means she is getting closer to representing Twins Territory on a big stage. Here is a look at her audition video:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Twins headlines turned into Oscar movie plots: 2012 edition

Last year I had fun writing a post about two of the things I am passionate about, the Twins and the Academy Awards. It was a fun post for me to compile and I got positive feedback from multiple sources after last year's post. With the Oscars around the corner and spring training already started in Florida, I figured it was time for another rendition of my "Twins headlines turned into Oscar movie plots."

Below you will find all of the films nominated for Best Picture in this weekend's ceremony and a Twins plotline that connects to that film. I hope you enjoy the following.

Lights, camera, action...
The Artist
Plot Summary: In Hollywood during the year 1927, a silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion. As the movie goes on, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break. 


Twins Plot: A former top prospect tries to find a spot on the Twins roster before he fades into oblivion. Could he beat out a younger third baseman for the starting role in 2012? Only time will tell if the veteran player has enough to make an impact.


The Descendants
Plot Summary: A land baron tries to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident. The eldest daughter informs the father of his wife's extra-marital activities and he sets out on a path to find his wife's lover.

Twins Plot: A center fielder tries to re-connect with his team after he suffered an accident at home plate last season. He tells the team that he is ready for the riggers of season and he sets out on a path to prove the doubters wrong.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Plot Summary: A nine-year-old amateur inventor, Francophile, and pacifist searches New York City for the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Twins Plot: A 23-year-old former first round pick, outfielder, and speedster searches the Target Field outfield for any balls that come his way. He follows in the footsteps of other great center fielders like Puckett and Hunter as he tries to find his place in the big leagues. 


The Help
Plot Summary: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maid's point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.


Twins Plot: An aspiring shortstop during a rough time for the Twins is asked to take over a role in the outfield. His transition to this new position could be "the help" that the organization needs to succeed in 2012.


Hugo
Plot Summary: Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton. The mystery he uncovers jeopardizes his secretive way of life.


Twins Plot: The secretive way of life for this superstar player was brought into question during the previous year. The organization is paying him to be the face of the franchise and to perform on the field. Can this young man step out of his secretive ways and lead the team?


Midnight in Paris
Plot Summary: A family travel to the French capital for business. The party includes a young engaged couple who are forced to confront their differing views of a perfect life. A young man finds out there is plenty of truth to the phrase about the grass being greener on the other side.

Twins Plot: A player travels to another country to try and succeed after a disastrous year. His view of a perfect life has fallen apart in the last 12 months and he will try to see if the grass can get greener on the other side.

Moneyball
Plot Summary: Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to compile his roster.

Twins Plot: The Twins turned the reigns over to their former GM to try and scale back the payroll while still producing a winner on the field. He was able to lead the team to success in the past but how will he fair during his second time around?

The Tree of Life
Plot Summary: A family with three boys growing up in the 1950s has to deal with an overbearing father. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence and is changed for the future.

Twins Plot: A former MVP slides into second base and sees his entire life changed for the future. He must deal with the nagging effects of concussion symptoms as he tries to prove to the team he can still succeed on the field. 


War Horse
Plot summary: Young Albert enlists to serve in World War I after his beloved horse is sold to the cavalry. Albert's hopeful journey takes him out of England and across Europe as the war rages on.

Twins Plot: The Twins enlist a variety of players to try and piece together a bullpen that can find success on the field. There is a full cavalry of players in camp for the team and it is hard to know who the team will turn to in the late innings.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

To block the plate or not to block the plate?

One of the hottest topics across the baseball universe as pitchers and catchers have reported is surrounding whether catchers should block the plate. The Giants suffered a major blow last season when their budding superstar Buster Posey was bowled over at home plate by outfielder Scott Cousins. As a result of the collision Posey suffered a broken leg and ligament damage that required multiple surgeries to repair the damage. The Giants offense suffered without their star and the manager of the Giants felt that changes needed to be made for 2012.
On Monday Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced that Posey would no longer be blocking the plate. He told reporters that the decision was "out of Buster's hands," and he went on to say, "As a manager, that's my job. I certainly don't want people to think he's backing off on his own. It's something we'll work on with him this spring." Bochy is a former catcher so there might be lessons he could teach his young catcher about the art of making plays at the plate.

The Twins have millions and millions of dollars tied up in their MVP catcher so the thought of Joe Mauer getting taken out at the plate is a scary thought for fans to process. Twins General Manager Terry Ryan told the Star Tribune that Mauer wouldn't be told to stop blocking the plate. The Twins claim that their All-Star catcher knows plenty of techniques to help protect himself in event of a collision. But even knowing this, there will be a collective gasp from Twins Territory every time there is a collision involving Mauer.
The debate over plays at the plate has intensified with the spotlight shining so brightly on Posey's return to the Giants. Executives from across baseball have discussed a potential rules change and it seems there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue. Regardless of all of the talk, it seems that a rule change will not be coming in the near future. Even though the play at the plate can be dangerous, it is part of the history of the game and it is very hard to make a significant change to the rules in baseball. 

After Posey's ugly injury last year, I wrote a piece about the debate over collisions at home. In that post I took a look at the history of plays at the plate. The most famous home-plate collision came in the 1970 All-Star Game when Pete Rose charged into Ray Fosse. Fosse's left shoulder was injured on the play and he, at age 23, was never the same player again.

At the end of July in 2004, the White Sox and Twins found themselves in the heat of a pennent race. That heat would turn into an all-out fire when Torii Hunter leveled White Sox catcher Jamie Burke on a play at the plate. Burke would suffer a mild concussion as a result of the hit he took at the plate. The Twins would be spirited by this play and some look at the collision as the turning point for the team on the way to their third consecutive AL Central Division Championship.
In the end the question still remains, should catchers block the plate or should they try to avoid collisions?

The moral of the story seems to be for catchers to be smart about how they go about blocking the plate. If catchers are taking the proper precautions and setting themselves up in the proper position, the risk of injury can be greatly reduced. Sometimes the speed of the play and the throw to the plate can put a catcher in a precarious position. It is important for the catcher to also know the tendencies of the runner who is coming in hard. Will that runner slide to try and avoid a tag or is that runner not planning on slowing down until he crosses the plate?

Teams like the Twins and the Giants have a lot invested in keeping their catchers off of the disabled list. The debate will continue in regards to plays at the plate but for now it looks like they are still part of the baseball world. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Blackburn shooting for a bounce back season

It seemed no one was safe from the plethora of injuries suffered by Twins players in 2011 as it seemed to hit every part of the roster. From position players to the pitching staff, there was hardly anyone who was safe from the injury bug. One of the players that missed a big chunk of the second half of the year was Nick Blackburn. In the midst of a multi-year contract extension, Blackburn was limited to 148.1 innings and 26 games on the mound.

After averaging 200 innings pitched in 2008 and 2009 with a 4.04 ERA, the Twins locked up the rest of Blackburn's arbitration eligible years by signing him through 2013 with a club option 2014. Since Blackburn was still under team control for multiple seasons, a long-term contract extension seemed a little pre-mature. The Twins wanted to make a commitment to him and the results of this commitment have not been the greatest.

The 2010 campaign was a nightmare for Blackburn as he suffered through inconsistencies on the field and he was even sent back to Rochester at one point in the year. For the months of June and July, Blackburn posted an ERA of over 10.00 and he finished with a record of 1-6 in those months. After his pit stop in Rochester, the numbers did improve slightly to leave hope open for Blackburn entering the 2011 season.

Blackburn started the 2011 season slow out of the gate as he fumbled his way to a 1-4 record in the first month of the year with a 5.14 ERA and a 1.643 WHIP. The month of May would be his best month of the 2011 season as he pitched a season high 42.2 innings. Over the course of the month, he posted a 2.53 ERA with an outstanding 1.102 WHIP. The rest of the season would be a downhill fall before ending up on the disabled list with a right forearm injury.

This leaves the Twins with plenty of questions entering the 2012 season. What can they expect from Blackburn? Can he stay healthy and on the field for the entire season? Is there any way he can get back to pitching the same way he did in 2008 and 2009?

On the FanGraphs.com website there are two player projection estimates for Mr. Blackburn as the 2012 season is about to begin. Bill James has him pitching 162.0 innings to the tune of a 6-12 record over the course of 28 starts. Using the James estimation system, Blackburn would finish with a 5.00 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP during the coming season. The other prediction tool on FanGraphs is from RotoChamp and it aligns pretty closely with the Bill James projection. RotoChamp has Blackburn finishing with a 9-9 record, a 4.44 ERA, and a 1.52 WHIP in 160 innings pitched.

Almost all of the Twins starting rotation will be free agents at the end of the coming season. The only member of the projected starting rotation that has a contract for next season is Blackburn. Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Scott Baker, and Jason Marquis will all need to show the Twins they are worthy of another contract during the 2012 season. Blackburn doesn't have this immediate burden on his shoulders but he could still be looking to the future. Following the 2013 season, the Twins will have a club option on Blackburn for $8 million. The Twins need to see more of the Blackburn from the early part of his career to make that option a little easier to swallow.

The Twins are never going to look at Blackburn as the ace of their staff but he can provide productivity as a fourth or fifth starter. Some of the other pitchers on the staff are looking directly at free agency but Blackburn needs to show the Twins he was worth the investment they made in him a few seasons ago. 2012 should be the year for him to turn the corner and for him to prove his doubters wrong.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Twins will use Nathan's blueprint for Zumaya

One year ago the Twins were working with a relief pitcher who wanted to show he had fully recovered from an elbow injury. Joe Nathan had spent the last year trying to recover from Tommy John surgery. He hadn't been on a mound in a major league regular season game since the playoffs in 2009. When pitchers and catchers reported to spring training, he was ready to show the team everything he had and he told the team that he didn't "want to be babied if I don't need it."

Fast-forward to 2012 and the Twins find themselves in a very similar situation. There is a hard throwing relief pitcher who is trying to come back from a major injury to his elbow. Joel Zumaya hasn't been on a mound in a major league game since his horrific injury at Target Field in 2010. Now he is in camp for the Twins and he is ready to prove he can regain the form he showed during his rookie season in 2006. He is in the similar mindset as Nathan as he told the team, "Don't baby me; I'm here to go full out now." The coaching staff stated on Sunday that they would take a similar approach to Zumaya as they did with Nathan in 2011.

For Nathan there were many milestones along the way as he tried to prove to the Twins that he belonged as the team's closer. These milestones started in the spring with his first bullpen session, his first game action, and they would eventually lead to his first regular season action. The Twins knew the mindset of Nathan and this would lead him to be very eager to get back on the field. Ron Gardenhire and the Twins coaching staff put together a plan for easing him back in because they wanted to avoid another injury to a key piece of the bullpen.

Even with the cautious approach towards Nathan there were some speed bumps in the early part of 2011. He struggled in the first month of the season as he ended April with an ERA of 10.00 with two blown saves out of five opportunities. He turned the closing duties over to Matt Capps to try and help the team be more successful. By June he would find himself on the disabled list with right elbow soreness but he found his way back in the second half of the season. His ERA dropped from 5.82 in the first half to 3.91 in the second half and he posted a 1.000 WHIP.

Nathan found out during the regular season that he would need to change his approach as a pitcher. The Nathan that Twins fans were accustom to seeing on the mound threw hard most of the time to try and retire the batter. The post-Tommy John Nathan would need to use more than just fastballs to get batters out. During last year, I wrote this post about some of the changes in pitch speed from Nathan. It looks at him before the injury, at the beginning of 2011, and later in the season.

The Twins have plenty they can learn from Nathan's injury and apply it to their situation with Zumaya. During the 2011 Grapefruit League schedule, Nathan appeared in seven games for a total of 6.1 innings pitched. Not all of these outings were good but he showed enough for the Twins to give him the closers role. In 2012 the Twins won't be looking at Zumaya for the closers role so that takes a little of the heat off of him. If the Twins are following the same type of plan with Zumaya then fans can expect to see him make about seven appearances during the spring schedule.

Another interesting aspect for fans to watch will be how the Twins approach the use of Zumaya during the regular season. There has been some talk of the Twins not using him in back-to-back games at the start of the regular season. If the Twins are going to get a healthy season from Zumaya, it will be important to watch his workload. He has not pitched over 40 innings in a season since 2006 and the Twins will need more from his right arm in 2012.

In the end, the Twins were given a blueprint for handling relief pitchers trying to comeback from a major elbow injury with Nathan during last year. Both of these pitchers didn't want to be babied but the Twins are still going to take a cautious approach. Zumaya could be one of the most valuable assets the team added this offseason but there won't be any value gained if he doesn't make it out of spring training as a healthy pitcher.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Links-N-Thinks

Well Twins fans the time is almost upon us. We are a mere hours away from pitchers and catchers reporting to the Twins facilities in Fort Myers, Florida. In all actuality many of the players have already been in Florida as they prepare themselves for another season of Twins baseball. The first workout will be held on Sunday as the team tries to right the ship after a rough 2011.

There will be many headlines to watch with the pitchers and catchers over the course of the next few weeks. I will get into more of those story lines in my posts for next week. But until then, you can enjoy the links I have compiled for you on this fabulous Friday.
My Weekly Rundown:
Video of the Week: Joe Mauer is not going to be the coverboy for MLB: The Show this season so the folks over at 2K Spots saw an opportunity. The brought in a special weapon to help their company try to jump ahead of MLB: The Show. She also was on the cover of the recently released Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Well played 2K Sports, well played...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Would the Twins take a number out of retirement?

An interesting story for baseball fans to follow over the course of the last week has been the ongoing saga of the Miami Marlins allowing Logan Morrison to wear the number five for this coming season. The controversy over this has come out of the fact that the Marlins have never had a player wear this number in their franchise's history. When the team was a expansion franchise in 1993, the club retired the number five in honor of Carl Barger, their first president, who passed away before the team's inaugural season. The number five was picked because Joe Dimaggio, Barger's favorite player from his youth, wore it.

The family of Barger was upset with the recent news because they were never consulted by the team about the decision to take the number out of retirement. In a recent post from the Miami Herald the granddaughter of Barger spoke out against the franchises decision to allow Morrison to wear number five. "My family and I are disappointed that that is the decision," said Betzi Barger. "We weren't informed of it. We were not contacted by anyone in the Marlins' organization. I would have liked to discuss it with the family."

During last month's Diamond Awards held at Target Field, the Twins announced they would be adding another number to their list of retirees. Tom Kelly will become the seventh member of the Twins franchise to have his number permanently retired. He will follow in the footsteps of Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Bert Blyleven, Kent Hrbek, and Kirby Puckett. All of baseball also honors the accomplishments of Jackie Robinson by having his number retired across the sport even though many players will wear his number on MLB's Jackie Robinson Day at the beginning of the year.

So the question is, would the Twins take a number out of retirement?

In comparison to the Marlins franchise, the Twins are in a little different situation when it comes to retired numbers. All of the numbers retired by the Twins organization are from players and a coach who have made a tremendous impact on the franchise since they moved to Minnesota. These are the faces and personalities who have formed the identity of all that is Twins baseball. To some of the fan base, the thought of bringing one of these numbers out of retirement might be sacrilegious. In the case of the Marlins, the number being taken out of retirement was for a front office personality who never wore a number on the field for the club. This is not to say he was not deserving of the honor but the situation is a little different.

There have been recent examples of team's taking a number out of retirement for a special circumstance or for a special player. In 2010 when the White Sox acquired Omar Vizquel they took the number 11 out of retirement for the veteran infielder. The White Sox had retired the number 11 to honor Luis Aparicio, a Hall of Fame player for Chicago. In this situation Aparicio and Vizquel were both from the same country and they knew each other prior to Vizquel joining the White Sox. It was a mutual agreement between the two players and the franchise to allow Vizquel to honor Aparicio by wearing his number.

The moral of the story for any franchise looking to take a number out of retirement is to consult with the player or family of the player before the final decision is made. The recent situation with the Marlins provided a good example of what not to do in if the opportunity arises to unretire a number. If the Twins were going to take a number off of the railing under the Budweiser Roof Deck, there would need to be an extreme set of circumstances. 

When Twins President Dave St. Peter was asked about the possibility of the Twins ever taking a number out of retirement if the circumstances were right, he said, "[The] short answer. NO."It seems safe to say that the Twins won't be looking to start a controversy in the near future by unretiring a number. Twins Territory can sleep a little easier tonight...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Obituary: Twins bobblehead promotion

The Twins bobblehead promotion, 11, of Minneapolis, MN, passed away on February 13, 2012. Funeral services will be held on Thursday, February 15 at 2 p.m. at Target Field, Minneapolis, MN with Clyde Doepner (Clyde the Collector) officiating. Burial will be in center field at Target Field in the batter's eye area previously occupied by the evergreen trees. Visitation will be held at the Metropolitan Club within Target Field on Wednesday from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. with a prayer service and time of remembrance at 6 p.m.

The Twins bobblehead promotion was born on June 9, 2000 at the Twins former facilities, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Fans of the Twins organization clamored to see the new arrival but there were only 5,000 available on this day. Just weeks later on June 7, 2000 another bobblehead would join the Twins bobblehead promotional giveaway. This time the Twins franchise was educated enough to know 5,000 bobbleheads would not be enough for future promotions. The bobblehead craze was just getting started in the Twin Cities.

As the Twins bobblehead promotion continued to grow, fans could not get to the stadium early enough to get their hands on this piece of Twins memorabilia. Fans of the collectible would camp overnight on the sidewalk outside the Dome for their chance at the newest item in the series. The Metrodome years were very fruitful for the Twins bobblehead promotion and there were plenty of changes to the family along the way. The sponsorship switched from Mountain Dew to Hormel and eventually to Northwest Airlines. After nine years as a resident of the Metrodome, it was time to move to a new address where the bobblehead promotion hoped to find continued success.

When the team was in the Metrodome, they were forced to giveaway bobbleheads to bring fans inside to watch stuffy baseball under the Teflon roof. At Target Field the Twins had a beautiful facility where selling tickets would not be an issue for the foreseeable future. In the first year at Target Field the team cutback the Twins bobblehead promotion to only one giveaway day. This seemed to be the beginning of the end for the promotion. In 2011 the Twins would have one last bobblehead promotional giveaway during the team's 1991 World Series celebration weekend. After that weekend the bobblehead promotion would enjoy a few months of retirement before passing away on Monday afternoon.

The Twins bobblehead promotion is survived by the Dairy Queen hat giveaway, the team's Hall of Fame celebration weekend, and the youthful promotions of bats and jerseys for kids attending the game. Over the years, the Twins bobblehead promotion was able to produce numerous offspring as the promotion continued with multiple bobbleheads in every season from 2000-2009. The Twins organization was also able to create sets for season ticket holders that were very similar to the ones given away as part of the games. The promotion was preceded in death by the Twins bronze statue giveaway and team's annual autograph party that used to be held during the summer months of the regular season. 

In a statement made to the fans of the bobblehead promotion, Twins President Dave St. Peter said, "It was a good run." The Twins family would like to thank fans of the bobblehead promotion from over the years. There have been many faithful fans to the promotions over the years and without the fans the life of the Twins bobblehead promotion would have been much shorter.

Memories of the Twins bobblehead promotion can be shared in the comments section below.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bench Buddies Series: Other Candidates

During the last two weeks visitors to this site have been able to see profiles of the players who figure to play a role off of the bench for the Twins in 2012. As fans were witness to last year, the injury bug can always impact a club and this can result in a major league team having to reach into the depths of their farm system. It is important for an organization to have a stockpile of minor league players who are ready at a moments notice to make the jump to the MLB level.

Here is a list of the profiles that have been covered so far in the "Bench Buddies Series." These are the leading candidates to win a spot on the 25-man roster when the team comes north for the start of the 2012 season.
Trevor Plouffe: Can he find his bat at the big league level?
Tsuyoshi Nishioka: Things have to go better in 2012...Right?
Drew Butera: Will carrying a third catcher be a benefit for the Twins?
Luke Hughes: Is his shoulder injury going to hold him back?

Below is a look at some of the other players who could be called on to fill a role with the Twins in 2012. Some of the names will be familiar to fans of the Twins and others are new to the organization. All of these players have been invited to spring training by the big league club but some of them would have to be added to the 40-man roster before they could appear in a regular season game for the Twins.

Infielders:
Sean Burroughs (40-man roster: No): The former highly touted prospect joins the Twins from the Diamondbacks organization after a year in which he hit .273/.289/.336 in 78 games. Burroughs could give Danny Valencia some competition at third base but for the most part he will be a back-up option waiting in the minor leagues. Triple-A manager Gene Glynn told the Star Tribune that he believes Burroughs will make the major league roster when the team leaves spring training. There aren't many spots available on the bench but Burroughs could be a solid option if the Twins need to turn to the minor leagues.

Pedro Florimon (40-man roster: No): When the Twins claimed Florimon from the Orioles at the beginning of December, they quickly added him to the 40-man roster. He didn't spend much time there as the team was forced to move him off of the list since that time. The 25-year old shortstop has only gotten a taste of the big leagues during his September call-up last season. He's a switch-hitter who is a career .247/.322/.354 hitter in the minors and there have been some defensive issues in the field. The front office of the Twins liked his make-up and the versatility he could offer the organization.

If players like Brian Dozier or Chris Parmelee are brought up, the Twins are going to try and use him on an everyday basis. The organization wouldn't call up these two young prospects to dwell on the bench. These players would be used if the Twins need to fill in for an everyday player.
Outfielders:
Rene Tosoni (40-man roster: Yes): Tosoni split time last year between the Triple-A level and the MLB squad. It was suppose to be his first full season at the Triple-A level but the injury plague on the Twins roster meant Tosoni was rushed to Minnesota. During his 60 games with the Twins, he managed to hit .203/.275/.343 with 13 extra-base hits. It would have been nice for Tosoni to get an entire year at the Triple-A level because he struggled with the jump to the majors. If any of the outfielders have a hiccup, Tosoni could find himself back with the Twins and getting more playing time.

Darin Mastroianni (40-man roster: Yes): The newest member of the Twins was claimed off of waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays on February 9th. He has only made one career start at the big league level and he split time last year between the Double-A and Triple-A level. In his minor league career, he has batted .279/.370/.372 over the course of five seasons. He has shown some good base stealing ability by leading the Eastern League in steals during the 2010 season with 46 bags swiped. Over the course of his career, he has spent most of his time in center field but he can play both corner outfield spots.

At the end of last season, the Twins gave Joe Benson a taste of the big leagues. He showed a few flaws in his game so it is going to be in the best interest of the organization to give Benson a full season at Rochester. Tosoni and Mastroianni will have to fight for their shot to fill-in for the outfielders who are expected to make the Opening Day roster.
Catchers:
J.R. Towles (40-man roster: No): The Twins added Towles out of the Houston organization where he was ranked as a top 60 prospect by Baseball America in 2008. His early minor league career is full of some very good offensive numbers but as he made his way toward the majors there were a few speed bumps. He spent parts of four seasons at the Triple-A level and hit .286/.389/.443 so he could be an offensive improvement over Drew Butera. The coaching staff of the Twins will take a long look at him during the spring and the hope is he will be able to put it all together with his new organization.

Rene Rivera (40-man roster: No): Rivera joined the Twins last year from the Mariners farm system and he was able to get into a handful of games with the big league team. He put up poor offensive numbers by hitting .144/.211/.202 during his time behind the plate in 2011. Over the course of his career, Rivera has shown himself to be a better hitter than his numbers indicated at the MLB level in 2011. His batting line with Triple-A Rochester was better as he hit .268/.325/.450 and he will need to prove to the Twins that he can get back to that level for 2012.

The Twins seem to really like Butera and what he is able to do from the defensive side of the ball but his offense is so putrid that the club might need another option. Both Towles and Rivera will be breathing down the neck of Butera throughout the year as they wait for their shot to prove themselves with the big league squad.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bench Buddies Series: Luke Hughes

At the beginning of last week I started examining the players who could play an important role off of the bench for the 2012 version of the Minnesota Twins. During the 2011 season, the Twins saw many bench players having to shift from their supporting role into major players on a squad riddled by injuries. The position players for the Twins will report to the team's complex in Florida on February 23rd and the organization hopes that many of these bench players can solidify their role with the team.

If you missed any of last week's profiles in the "Bench Buddies Series," you can find each of the links below:
Trevor Plouffe: Can he find his bat at the big league level?
Tsuyoshi Nishioka: Things have to go better in 2012...Right?
Drew Butera: Will carrying a third catcher be a benefit for the Twins?

The next man up on the list of candidates for the Twins bench was in the news last week after he hurt his shoulder during an offseason league in Australia. It will take 3-4 weeks to heal and this means he might have to rush to get back on the field during the middle of spring training.
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Bench Buddy Player: Luke Hughes

2011 stat summary: .223/.289/.338, 7 HR, 12 DBL, 30 RBI, 31 R, 96 G

2011 season story line: Hughes debuted with the Twins back in 2010 but he was only able to make appearances in two contests before being sent back down. He did make a powerful impression by hitting a home run in his first plate appearance. After eight seasons in the minor leagues, the Twins were hoping to see some more of that power at the big league level in 2011. There were plenty of rough patches throughout the year for Hughes but he did offer some versatility on the defensive side of the ball.

Out of the six months in the 2011 MLB season Hughes hit .200 or under in three of them. The month of August was a bright spot in the 2011 campaign as Hughes batted .256/.341/.641 with four home runs and 11 runs batted in. In all of the other months of the season, he failed to hit more than one home run and he had single-digits under the RBI column. During the month of June, he posted a season high batting average of .270 and he a career-high for hits in a month with 20.

Because of injuries to other players, the Twins utilized Hughes around the infield during 2011. He spent most of his time between second base and first base but he also got time at third base and designated hitter. His defense was solid enough for the Twins to have him in line to be a utility player for the 2012 season.

2012 role and expectations: Before he injured his shoulder last week while trying to avoid a tag at home plate, the Twins had to be impressed with the numbers Hughes was putting up during winter ball. In 19 games with the Perth Heat, Hughes batted .344 in 64 at-bats, driving in 13 runs while hitting four home runs and eight doubles. With Hughes expected to be out 3-4 weeks with his injury, he is likely to miss the first hand full of spring training games.

One item working in the favor of Hughes is the fact that he is out of minor league options. This should translate to him being given a spot on the bench when the team heads to Baltimore for Opening Day. If he fails to earn a spot on the bench, the Twins would have to trade his rights or risk losing him over the waiver wire. So barring further injury, fans can expect to see the 27-year old infielder for most of the 2012 season. 

For his minor league career, Hughes was a .268/.330/.419 hitter who showed brief glimpses of his power potential. In his rookie season, Hughes struggled with many aspects on the offensive side of the ball. The Twins had hoped the successful winter league season for Hughes would translate into more production on the field in 2012. It will be interesting to keep an eye on Hughes during the spring to see how much he is impacted by his shoulder injury. Terry Ryan seemed to be relieved about the results of the MRI and the rest of the organization would be relieved if Hughes can improve on his numbers for the coming season.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Links-N-Thinks

How many of you are desperate for baseball to start again? As I put this post together, I have Game 7 of the 1987 World Series playing on my television. It is early in the game and the crowd just starting chanting Kirby Puckett's first name (He beat out an infield hit in his first at-bat). I know the result of the game but it is still fun to relive one of the best moments in Minnesota sports history. 

February 18 is the reporting date for Twins pitchers and catchers and many Twins players have already been discussing their travels to Florida on Twitter. The team's first game in Fort Myers will be on March 3 against the Rays so many fan's thoughts will be turning to the beginning of the baseball year. The Florida sun is getting closer and closer to chasing away the mild Minnesota winter.

The Twins blogosphere continues to produces some quality work during the offseason months. Here is this week's edition of "Friday Links-N-Thinks." Enjoy!
Ramos featured article in SI (Photo: Sports Illustrated)
My Weekly Rundown:
Video of the Week: Since I was watching the 1987 World Series while I composed this post, I was feeling a little nostalgic. This montage from the 1987 is worth watching for the song alone. Have a great weekend everybody!
 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bench Buddies Series: Drew Butera

Today marks the third part in a series on the bench players who could play a role on the Twins team for the coming season. During the last two seasons, the Twins have gotten a boost off of the bench from Jim Thome, Matt Tolbert, and Jason Repko but now those players are no longer in the plans for the organization. This means a different crop of players is going to have to find their niche on a team that had plenty of struggles in 2011.

On Tuesday I looked at former first round pick Trevor Plouffe and how his role is adjusting for the 2011 campaign. Yesterday I wrote about the horrible year put together by Tsuyoshi Nishioka and the way the Twins might be forced to change their approach with the middle infielder. The next profile in this series will delve into the Twins back-up catcher who got a lot more playing time than expected in 2011. By already adding Ryan Doumit to the mix for next season, the Twins have made a conscious effort to remedy this weak spot in their batting order.
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Bench Buddy Player: Drew Butera

2011 stat summary: .167/.210/.239, 2 HR, 9 DBL, 23 RBI, 19 R, 93 G

2011 season story-line: Before pitchers and catchers reported to Fort Myers last spring, the Twins brought a lot of veteran options to look at for a catcher's role with the team. Rene Rivera and Steve Holm would play a small role with the Twins in 2011 but the Twins continued to show faith in Drew Butera. Following a rookie campaign in which Butera batted .197/.237/.296, the Twins were not looking for him to become a threat at the plate. The coaching staff liked the way Butera handled the pitching staff and the relationship between Carl Pavano and Butera seemed to develop throughout the 2010 campaign. Overall, the Twins weren't looking for Butera to explode in 2011 but they needed him to be an option to fill-in at catcher on Joe Mauer's days off from behind the plate.

The organization could not anticipate how much time Mauer would miss in 2011. After playing in the first handful of games, Mauer would sit out two months and this meant Butera was going to be getting more playing time. This was a role that Butera was not meant to perform and his output on the field suffered because of this shift. He would hit under .180 in every month of the season except for June. After Mauer returned to action, Butera was able to revert back to his back-up role and in June he found success at the plate. Out of the 12 games he played in June, he hit .360/.393/.600 with four extra-base hits and seven RBI. Those numbers are an aberration when compared to the rest of his season but when Butera is used in small doses he can be an adequate fill-in player.

2012 role and expectations: Looking back on the 2011 season, the front office for the Twins knew they needed to make some adjustments to the available catchers on the bench. The team needed to add some offensive insurance for the possibility of Mauer getting hurt again. Many see free agent signee Ryan Doumit as the opposite of Butera because he provides offensive output but struggles on the defensive side of the ball. The addition of Doumit to the Twins roster results in most people believing the Twins will carry three catchers for next season. Doumit's flexibility could see him in the line-up at multiple positions such as catcher, first base, and even outfield. If Doumit is in the line-up already and Mauer is behind the plate, Butera would still be used as the emergency catcher off of the bench. 

One interesting aspect to watch with the role of Butera in 2012 will be how much time he spends catching for Pavano. During the 2010 season, the Twins saw a resurgent Pavano lead the pitching staff of the Twins to a division title. Along the way Pavano adopted Butera as his personal catcher and some of this relationship continued into the 2011 season. Out of the 222 innings pitched by Pavano last year, Butera was behind the plate for 187.2 of those innings. By looking at the numbers, Pavano seems to pitch at about the same level with Mauer or Butera as his catcher. If Mauer is healthy and Pavano is pitching well, it will be intriguing to see how Gardenhire approaches the role of Pavano's catcher.

There are also going to be situations where Butera is going to be needed as a defensive replacement late in the game. If the Twins want to preserve a win in the late innings, the use of Doumit behind the plate could be a liability. Much like in 2011 Mauer could find himself spending some time at other defensive positions to alleviate some of the grind of catching on his large frame. There are multiple scenarios in which Butera will get playing time but the 93 games he played in 2011 were too much. For the Twins to find more success on the field, he needs to be around the 50 game mark from his rookie campaign with 150 plate appearances or less.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bench Buddies Series: Tsuyoshi Nishioka

At the beginning of the week Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked by a fan to offer up his starting line-up for the beginning of the 2012 season. He obliged by listing the players in their appropriate spots from one through nine. There were very few surprises in his list and there could be room for change since it is only the beginning of February.

This got me thinking about the rest of the players who could be making an impact on the Twins during the 2012 campaign. The team has seen the departure of a variety of players who played a role off of the bench during the last couple of seasons. Jason Repko, Matt Tolbert, and Jim Thome will all be wearing different uniforms next season (or possibly no uniform). This will leave the Twins with a different crop of players to compete for playing time off of the bench.

This series of posts has been given the name "Bench Buddies" and the first piece focused on the role of Trevor Plouffe. Another player with a lot to prove in 2012 is former Japanese star Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The Twins gave him a decent amount of money to produce at the big league level and he has not met expectations at this point.
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Bench Buddy Player: Tsuyoshi Nishioka

2011 stat summary: .226/.278/.249, 0 HR, 5 DBL, 19 RBI, 14 R, 68 G

2011 season story-line: There was quite the buzz in the offseason after the Twins outbid all other teams in Major League Baseball for the services of a young middle infielder by the name of Tsuyoshi Nishioka. He had just won the Japanese League batting title and was awarded a Gold Glove for his defensive skills at shortstop. By jumping into the market for Japanese players, the Twins hoped to broaden their international appeal and to develop a star in the middle of their infield. It didn't take long for most of those dreams to come crashing to the ground.

In only his sixth game in America, Nishioka would suffer a leg injury that kept him out of the line-up until mid-June. The Twins were in Yankee Stadium to face off against the team who eliminated them from the playoffs in 2010. Mark Teixeira hit a grounder to Twins third baseman Danny Valencia, who threw the ball to Nishioka at second. Nishioka recorded the out at second and threw on to first, but Swisher slid into the planted left leg of Nishioka. It was a clean slide on the part of the Yankees outfielder but Nishioka had suffered a broken fibula because he hadn't tried to avoid the slide from Swisher.

Following the leg injury, the Twins decided to move Nishioka from second base back to shortstop, the position he played in Japan. There were very few positives during his time as the shortstop of the Twins. His defense was atrocious and it seemed he liked to use his chest more than his glove to try and stop the ball. As a switch hitter, he struggled from both sides of the plate but the right side was slightly worse. While batting from the right side, he hit .203/.222/.241 and when he switched sides he batted .239/.308/.254. The two approaches he takes from each side are different and it was hard for Nishioka to find a rhythm with his transition to the US.

2012 role and expectations: The case of Nishioka's value in 2012 is a perplexing one to answer for the Twins organization. His skills on the field in 2011 did not seem worth his spot on the 25-man roster. There were errors on the defensive side of the ball and very few positives from an offensive standpoint. The Twins have brought in Jamey Carroll to start at shortstop and Alexi Casilla will be given every opportunity to hold down second base. If Nishioka is on the bench, what value can he provide the team? He would not be a good player to be used as a defensive replacement. It would be silly to use him as a pinch hitter at any point in the late innings. In 68 games last year, he only managed two steals in six attempts so being a pinch runner also seems out of the question.

It can be a challenge to find a positive in the 2011 season for Nishioka. There were gradual improvements with his batting numbers as the season progressed. His batting average increased in each of the last three months of the season. From the beginning of August until the beginning of September, he hit .273/.324/.288 in 66 at-bats over 22 games. The first year transition from a foreign league to the pace of MLB can be hard for some to handle. Nishioka's injury in the first handful of days in the season was also a major kink in his learning curve. If he continues to make some subtle changes, there could still be some value to be found in this infielder. 

Terry Ryan and the rest of the front office for the Twins are hoping to wipe his slate clean for the coming season. The club has given him offseason objectives and there is a chance he could squeak into a starting role if there were some major improvements since the end of last year. The Twins have put their hope in Casilla's ability to start before and that plan has not always worked out in favor of the team. Nishioka has a year under his belt in the U.S. and the good news is the 2012 season can't be much worse than last year for Mr. Nishioka.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bench Buddies Series: Trevor Plouffe

Yesterday during a stop in Mason City, Iowa, Ron Gardenhire was asked about his potential starting line-up for Opening Day of 2012. He provided his 1-9 hitters and for the most part there were very few surprises. The use of Justin Morneau in the number four spot could be changeable once the team sees what he is able to do in spring training.

The announcement of the Twins starting line-up brings some of the other parts of the roster into focus for next season. Over the next few days I will be profiling some of the players who could be making up the bench of the 2012 Twins. The "Bench Buddies Series" will examine some of the players who could play a big role on bringing the Twins back from a 99-loss season.

Today's first profile looks at a former first round pick who could be the most powerful option off of the bench for the Twins next season.
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Bench Buddy Player: Trevor Plouffe

2011 stat summary: .238/.305/.392, 8 HR, 18 DBL, 31 RBI, 47 R, 81 G

2011 season story-line: After 388 career games at the Triple-A level, Plouffe was given ample opportunities to show he belonged at the major league level last season. Between the Triple-A level and MLB level, Plouffe combined to hit 23 home runs with 29 doubles. For the first time in his minor league career, he posted a batting average of over .300 but that number failed to follow him to the majors. The opportunity was there for Plouffe to win the starting shortstop role when he was called up at the beginning of May. His defense at shortstop became a major issue with the big league squad and he was sent back to the minors to become a versatile defense player.

A month and a half later the Twins brought Plouffe back and he would stay with the team for the rest of the campaign. There were some bumps along the way but he began to see time in the outfield and at second base. The month of August showed Plouffe make some strides at the plate as he raised his batting line to .282/.322/412 with eight extra-base hits in 23 games. Expectations have always been high for this former first round pick but the Twins were hoping to see more from Plouffe during last season.

2012 role and expectations: Plouffe is running out of time to show he belongs at the big league level with the Twins. The team has committed to moving him to the outfield for the coming season. This means he will be fighting for playing time with fellow first round pick Ben Revere. These two players would form a nice platoon for the Twins in left field but Gardenhire has not been willing to use this strategy in the past. Depending on how Denard Span comes back from concussion related issues, the Twins could use Plouffe in left field with Revere shifting over to center field.

Another role for Plouffe to familiarize himself with for the coming season is the possibility that he could be used more as a pinch-hitter off of the bench. In his MLB career, he has been asked to pinch-hit on nine occasions and he has yet to record a hit in those plate appearances. In fact he has struck out in five of those at-bats and has never reached base. If the Twins get into a routine of having an outfield composed of Josh Willingham, Span, and Revere, then Plouffe could see time late in games as a replacement for some of the lighter hitting players in the line-up. 

There are multiple areas of improvement for Plouffe but one area for a power hitter to succeed in is when there are runners in scoring position. In 2011 Plouffe made 78 plate appearances with RISP and he batted .215/.289/.354 with 14 hits. As a team the Twins need to improve their ability to score runs and Plouffe can play a small part in helping the Twins to turn around this statistical area.

In a recent interview Terry Ryan seemed to still be very high on the bat of Plouffe. The Twins are going to be willing to move him around the corner outfield positions to find a spot that will work for him. During the last decade, the Twins saw another infielder move to the outfield and find success. "It's not too different then what Michael Cuddyer did 10 years ago," Ryan said, "when we put him in the outfield and his bat started to play there."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Timelines show connections between Morneau and Crosby injuries

For Justin Morneau and Sidney Crosby, the struggle with concussion-related symptoms has plagued each of their careers in recent seasons. Both of these players grew up in Canada and have fought to reach the highest level in their particular sport. Crosby would work his way into the record books for numerous NHL accolades on his way to being one of the best players in the league. Morneau became a power-hitting star and one of the best sluggers in the American League.

The accolades for Crosby have piled up as he became the youngest player in NHL history to get 100 points in a season and to win a scoring title. When the Penguins named him captain in 2007, he was the youngest to ever don the "C" on his sweater. Two years later the Penguins would win the Stanley Cup and Crosby would be the youngest captain ever to lead his team to the championship.

In 2004 the Twins made a conscious effort to turn over the starting first baseman job to a young Morneau by trading away fan-favorite Doug Mientkiewicz. The decision turned out to be a good one for the Twins as Morneau would develop into a force in the middle of the team's line-up. He would have a breakout season in 2006 on the way to the American League Most Valuable Player Award. A couple of seasons later, he would finish second in the MVP voting after another great season in the field and at the plate.

Crosby's concussion in timeline form (from Canada.com):
Jan. 1: Toward the end of the second period of the Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Washington Capitals forward David Steckel hits Crosby with a blindside hit.
Jan. 5: Crosby is driven into the end-boards by Tampa Bay Lightning defense-man Victor Hedman.
Jan. 12: With Crosby still suffering from concussion symptoms, the Penguins announce he's out indefinitely.
March 14: Crosby skates for the first time since being sidelined.
April 29: Crosby tells reporters that he's had a setback in his recuperation, but expects to be ready for the start of the 2011-12 season.
June 2: Crosby receives go-ahead from doctors for off-ice workouts.
July 14: Crosby returns to on-ice workouts.
Aug. 15: Penguins GM Ray Shero announces that Crosby is still suffering from post-concussion symptoms and it's not known whether he'll be ready for training camp.
Oct. 13: Crosby is cleared to take part in contact drills with teammates, but Penguins say they are still taking a cautious approach with him.
Nov. 20: After weeks of near-daily updates on Crosby's status, the Penguins announce that Crosby will be in the lineup Nov. 21
Dec. 8: Following a collision with a teammate, Crosby forced to sit out multiple games which developed into concussion-like symptoms.
Jan. 28, 2012: The Penguins find out Crosby suffered a neck injury but the injury had already healed itself.

Morneau's concussion in timeline form:
July 7, 2010: Morneau suffers a concussion after getting a knee to the head at second base while trying to break-up a double play.
Oct 4: Twins announce the end to Morneau's season. A week earlier Morneau told reporters he was symptom-free and he could be ready for the ALCS if the Twins made it out of the first round.
March 8, 2011: Morneau appears in a baseball game for the first time since the concussion. It is a spring training game with the "B" squad but managed to hit a three-run double in his second at-bat.
April 1: The Opening Day line-up in Toronto features Morneau at first base for the first time in a regular season game since July of 2010.
April 17: Morneau misses five days with flu like symptoms
June 14: A sore wrist sends Morneau to the disabled list where he had to have surgery
June 24: The Twins schedule Morneau to have neck surgery to remove a fragment of a herniated disk from his neck.
July 14: Doctors clear Morneau to resume performing non-baseball activities.
July 26: Issues with migraine headaches plague Morneau for multiple days.
July 29: Morneau hit in the cage for the first time since undergoing neck surgery.
Aug. 4: A trip to Rochester for a rehab stint is next in line for Morneau.
Aug. 13: Morneau activated from the DL even though he still has not feeling in his left index finger, the result of a nerve problem originating in his neck
Aug. 21: Morneau fouls a ball off of his foot and misses multiple games.
Aug. 29: A sore left shoulder from diving for a foul ball keeps Morneau out of the line-up but this would develop into "mild concussion symptoms."
Sep. 13: The team reports Morneau has yet to go through multiple days without experiencing some concussion-related symptoms.
Sep. 18: The Twins shut down Morneau for the second season in a row with concussion related issues.
Sep. 20: Morneau had successful surgery to remove a cyst from his left knee and a bone spur from his right foot.
Sep. 20: Another surgery is scheduled for Morneau and this time it is the same wrist he had issues with back in June.
Dec. 31: In an interview with MLB Network, Morneau conceded that he is still recovering from post-concussion syndrome.
Jan. 22, 2012: Morneau tells a reporter that he hasn't had any concussion symptoms since December.

It is interesting to search through these timelinesMorneau and Crosby. After suffering their concussion, both players thought they could work their way back in time for their respective team's playoff run. In each case the player wasn't able to be ready and had to be shut down for the season. This would set up each player for a race to get back on the field for the start of the next playing season.

Morneau would successfully make it back into the line-up for Opening Day but for Crosby the wait would be a little longer. Eventually they each made it back onto the field before suffering from another concussion related incident. Morneau suffered his while diving for a ball in foul territory and Crosby's symptoms were brought on after being run in to by a teammate.

At different points in their recovery process, both players have been diagnosed with other injuries that could have needed some attention. Morneau was forced to go through a wide-variety of surgeries on various body parts including an operation on his neck to remove a herniated disk. Crosby has only recently found out that he had a broken neck but the injury had already healed itself. For Morneau this neck injury has already caused some nerve issues. Doctors also think that Crosby could have some neurological damage from his soft tissue injury in his neck.

Overall, it is a disappointment not to see these two great players on the field in the prime of their careers. Morneau and Crosby were near the top of their game when each were hit with this debilitating diagnosis. Head injuries are a scary situation and fans of the Twins are well aware of how hard Morneau has worked to get himself back on the field.

Now only time will tell if both of these players can get back to be successful players in their individual sports.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Links-N-Thinks

For the last week I have felt like I was in the midst of a let-down after the fun and excitement at TwinsFest last weekend. The Twins are pushed up to their self imposed $100 million payroll so there hasn't been much action in the free agent market for the club. It seems the team will head to spring training with their current roster of players and hope to get the most out of the pitchers and position players on the 40-man roster.

Fans of collecting baseball cards were excited by the release of Series 1 of 2012 Topps Baseball Cards in the middle of the week. There are rookie cards of Joe Benson, Liam Lendriks, and Chris Parmelee. Fans can also pull a Tsuyoshi Nishioka special variant card with him and Drew Butera messing around on the bench, an appropriate location for these two players.
Here are some of the stories I enjoyed from the last week from across the world of baseball.
My Weekly Rundown:
Video of the Week: In honor of Groundhogs Day and the infamous movie staring Bill Murray, the question was asked about what sporting event you would love to live over and over again. There are some great moments in Twins history from Game 163 in 2009 to their first World Series win in 1987. For me I would have loved to be present at Game 6 of the 1991 World Series for the heroics that took place by Kirby Puckett. It's a moment that Twins fans would love to live over and over again.