Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Gopher Cards? Required Learning!

Here in MN, the Golden Gophers have been about as fierce as they sound during my lifetime in baseball and football. But there was a period of time in the 70s when the University saw several outstanding athletes. Jim from cards as i see them sent over a mailer highlighted by some Hall of Fame locals.

Morris went to Brigham Young, but just like Winfield and Molitor, he spent his high school career in Saint Paul, MN.

Jim sent along several more Twins, including a snazzy metallic blue Ozzie Arcia rookie, numbered to just 250.

Hoping for a healthy and productive season for phenom Byron Buxton, and on the other end of the spectrum, Rick Stelmaszek was a fixture on the Twins' bench for 32 years - the longest tenure of any Twins coach. He was briefly a MLB catcher (his only career homer cam against HOFer Don Sutton), but made his mark in coaching, serving as bullpen coach and bench for 5 different Twins skippers.

The toast of the town in 1987 and 1988? Frank Viola!

Thanks again, Jim - I've always got an eye out for Dodgers for ya.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Theory of Everything

My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is, and why it exists at all.   -- Stephen Hawking

My goal is simple - collecting a Joe Mauer card in every flagship Topps design. Mauer's career began just after Topps started its tour of Heritage designs, and as a result he's been featured on quite a few different designs over the years.

Joe was still working his way up from the Minors when the 1955 Topps Heritage set came out, but he was featured on this 2014 3X5 ad for Topps online cards.

He's been on a Heritage card every year since then, racking up designs throughout the 50s and 1960s.

Even with his brief minor league career, he's been on Topps flagship every year since 2002, including one of the few "rookie / prospect" cards to feature 2 league MVPs. The 2018 Topps card just arrived today via Jim aka GCRL -- Thanks Jim! More from that mailing coming soon.

It's probably easier to list out the years that he's still missing- though I'm not sure the 1976 OPC above should count.  He should get a 1970 Heritage card next year, leaving 1973, 74, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 88, 92, 93, 94, 95, 97, 98, 99, 00, and 01. Several of those designs were featured in Archives, but Joe either was on one of the other designs or omitted from the set that year altogether.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Twins Spring Forward and Go All Lynn

Well, it looks like the Twins were not satisfied with Anibal Sanchez filling out the rotation in 2018, so they went out and signed long-time Cardinal Lance Lynn to a one-year deal. Lynn led the league in 2017 with 33 starts and had a nice comeback season. He was an All-Star in 2012, and has been a fixture in the middle of the Cardinals' rotation ever since.

He's logged nearly 1,000 Innings and sports an ERA under 4, which is definitely going to help out a rotation that will be missing its ace, Ervin Santana, until at least May. Lynn was offered a 2 year deal from the Twins earlier in the offseason, which he declined because he (and/or his agency) believed it to be a lowball offer. Lynn missed all of 2016 due to injury, and signing him means the Twins will forfeit a draft pick in 2018 to the Cardinals, both of which may have hurt Lynn's value.  Daylight Savings Time apparently applies to free agents, too. 

No one's going to be asking me to make customs anytime soon, but I decided to make myself laugh with this silly cut and paste job. Welcome to the Twins, Lance!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Guess Who *Else* Is Coming To Spring Training?

"Hmm, is that a sunset? I don't think so!"

Ichiro is 44 years old, but he still has the fire and desire to play at the major league level.

It's been a slow off-season for a lot of veteran players, and it was starting to look like Ichiro was going to have to find work back in Japan.

Not yet! The Seattle Mariners have stepped up to make a 1 year offer to the all-time great. No Sunset for Ichiro, we're going to get to enjoy him a little bit longer.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Guess Who's Coming To Spring Training?

The Twins have rarely been active in free agency. The Wild Card berth last season, combined with new front office personnel has changed things a bit. They saw big needs in the bullpen and in the rotation, and the first big signing of the off-season was the Mercurial Mercenary, right handed closer Fernando Rodney. The soon to be 41 year old is a 3-time All-Star, with 300 career saves. For his career, he averages a strikeout per inning, which is something the bullpen desperately needed.

Thankfully, the Twins did not stop there, bolstering the bullpen further with another pair of high quality arms. Lefty specialist Zach Duke battled the injury bug in 2017 -- pitching just 18.1 innings for the Cardinals. The Twins are counting on him regaining the magic from 2014 through 2016, when he piled up over 200 strikeouts for Milwaukee, Chicago, and Saint Louis. Addison Reed split last season with the Mets and the Red Sox, closing games for New York, and setting up for Kimbrel in Boston. He too struck out batters with regularity in recent years, providing velocity, depth, and a veteran presence.

The Twins still had work to do on the mound, and after missing out on Yu Darvish, acquired Jake Odorizzi from the Rays in exchange for minor leaguer Jermaine Palacios. This was the third time Jake had been traded, first from the Brewers in the Zach Grienke trade, then to the Rays along with Wil Myers for James Shields. Last season, his ERA+ was exactly league average, and he had his lowest innings total since his rookie season. He certainly doesn't replace Darvish, and he won't out pitch Ervin Santana's 2017 production either. But the fact is that even a league average arm helps the Twins' rotation immensely.

The surprise signing of the spring was Logan Morrison, who seemed destined to go wherever Eric Hosmer didn't go between KC and San Diego. The addition of a 30+ homer bat to the middle of the lineup is nothing to sneeze at. Morrison decided to come to the Twins over KC (who also submitted an offer) because he wanted to play for a team with a chance to contend. This was a pleasant surprise - however it probably means the end of the line for my favorite Twin, Kennys Vargas, who is now out of minor league options.

I had been waiting to make this post because I was hoping the Twins would add another starter, especially considering that Ervin Santana will miss a month or so to start the season. They instead gave a contract to Anibal Sanchez, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. If he is healthy and can figure out the mechanical issues that derailed his final years in Detroit, he could make for a decent 5th starter. The Twins also signed a trio of former MLB regulars to minor league deals to provide depth and some injury insurance. Chris Heisey, Jordan Pacheco, and Erick Aybar aren't likely to crack the 25 Man Roster, but having these guys in camp provides a little competition for the younger players like backup catcher Mitch Garver, and incentive for veterans like Robbie Grossman and Eduardo Escobar to stay on their toes.