Archive | August, 2012

A look at the Minnesota Twins franchise history

25 Aug

The year was 1961 and Major League Baseball was finally a reality in Minnesota. Countless semi-pro and minor league teams called this home as well as a women’s professional team a few all black teams although none were officially recognized Negro League franchises. The Washington Senators owner Calvin Griffith changed all that by moving his team to Minnesota and renaming them the Twins beginning a new era for the team and city. Over the years All Stars, MVP’s. and Cy Young Award winners have graced the roster helping bring a pair of World Series titles home. A quick look at franchise history shows why this is a team fans love so fiercely.

The best place to start is the beginning. The Twins 1961 season hardly set the world or league on fire managing to post a 70-90 won/loss record but it did show hope with pitchers Camilo Pascual and Jim Kaat holding down the rotation while Bob Allison and the Titan of Minnesota baseball Harmon Killebrew who clubbed 46 homers showed this was a team on the rise and Met Stadium was in store for some great moments. The following year the Twins improved to the point of finishing second to the always powerful Yankees and Jack Kralick tossed the Twins first no-hitter against the Kansas City A’s. The future looked better than ever except that 1964 wound up being a down year filled with injuries. The bright spots were that Killebrew hammered out 49 round trippers and Tony Olivia led the league in batting on his way to being named Rookie of the Year, the first in Twins History.

1965 was the year Twins fans had been dreaming of, almost. They hosted their first All-Star game and ended the Yankee stranglehold on the American League pennant in addition to Jim “Mudcat’ Grant winning 21 games, Tony Olivia winning his second batting title, and shortstop Zolio Versalles grabbing the Most Valuable Player award. The Twins started their first World Series in style taking the first two games from the L.A. Dodgers but in the end fell to Sandy Koufax in game seven. The dream was over but without doubt it was a landmark season in franchise history.

For nearly two decades the franchie experienced lean years, some were promising but never what fans dreamed of. There were many great individual performances mostly supplied by Rod Carew and his seven batting titles. Killebrew continued pounding out home runs, some strong pitching passed through the organization but as a team they just couldn’t put it all together at the same time. With the advent of free agency Griffith seemed to throw in the towel feeling he was finacially incapable of competing with large market teams and began dismanteling a very talented but poor performing roster. After losing Larry Hisle and Lyman Bostock to the free agent market with nothing in return Griffith decided he would rather trade his biggest star Rod Carew than lose him the same way and sent him to the Angels after the 1978 season. The next few years were little for Twins fans to cheer about.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome opened in 1982 and became the franchises new address. The Twins christened it with a loss to the Mariners. While young talent like Frank Viola, Kent Hrbek and Gary Gaetti gave fans something to look forward to they continued to sputter until 1984 when two new additions gave fans renewed hope, Kirby Puckett and new owner Carl Pohlad. The Twins nearly grabbed the A.L. West title that year but fell just short during the seasons final week. In 1987 however they took the division, raced through the ALCS and went on to defeat the St Louis Cardinals in the World Series as underdogs the entire way. For the first time since the Minneapolis Lakers won the NBA title in in 1954 Minnesota had a world champion!

The Twins dropped to last place by 1990 but rebounded in 1991 and in one of the most memorable World Series ever which included three extra inning games the Twins defeated the Braves in seven games to snatch their second World Series title. Since then the Twins have taken home some division titles but have never reached the World Series again. They have had a number of great even a few legendary players come through the organization but Pohlad who has retained ownership has failed to dip into his multi-billion dollar piggy bank to keep them under contract. As such popular and ridiculously talented players like David Ortiz, Tori Hunter, and the incomparable Johan Santana have left the team but somehow a great farm system continues to produce talents like Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer to continue carrying a banner of excellence and hope to the next generation.

When all is said and done the Twins can boast two World Series wins in three appearances and six Hall of Famers have worn their uniform although Dave Winfield and Steve Carlton only appeared with the organization during two years each and Paul Molitor only three. Only Killebrew, Carew and Puckett played more than half their games with the Twins. The franchise has sent 47 different players to the All-Star game with Rod Carew having made an amazing twelve straight trips while Killebrew, Oliva, and Puckett each made at least eight consecutive appearances. The organization has had four MVP winners (Versalles, Killebrew, Carew, Morneau), three Cy Young winners (Johan Santana, Frank Viola, Jim Perry), and five Rookie of the Year winners (Oliva, Carew, Castino, Knoblauch, and Cordova), and 38 Gold Gloves, 11 of which were won by Jim Kaat in consecutive years. The Twins have a rich and proud history and seem poised yet again to remain among baseball’s top teams despite past poor ownership.


Assessing the salaries of today’s sports stars

19 Aug

When assessing the salaries of today’s professional athletes it is important to remember one thing. This is their job. Yes they are playing a game, but this is a competitive game which in some cases is generating billions of dollars annually. Just as the cost of living has increased over the years the cost of attaining and retaining athletes has increased as well. We as fans say it’s crazy they make the money they do, and it is, but which one of us in their shoes would turn it down?

Prior to free agency players were basically locked into one team for their career in all sports not just baseball. They did not have the ability to choose to explore the option of playing for another franchise. The team owners exploited this and used it to grossly underpay their star athletes. Imagine a player in today’s game on a year to year contract winning the triple crown in baseball yet receiving what amounts to only a five percent increase in salary. His only option was to take it or retire. While this did actually happen to Ted Williams it would never happen today. Perhaps skyrocketing salaries have something to do with a little thing called karma.

As the game has evolved into not just a big money business but a huge money business the demands on the athletes have changed as well. Athletes are expected to workout year round to report to training camps already in shape. With this advent it is impossible for them to have off season jobs as was the standard until the early 1970’s. Athletes are expected to run faster, hit harder, jump higher, and withstand rigorous travel schedules. With this demand for more the risk of injury increases as well. It only takes one injury to change the fortunes of an athlete forever.

Sports is riddled with athletes left by the wayside due to injury. Tony Conigliaro, Sam Bowie, Trent Green, Daryl Stingley, and Rich Gannon are a small sampling of players that suffered some form of career ending injuries. The problem doesn’t end there however. For many athletes these injuries aren’t just career ending but life altering, especially in cases like Stingley whom is paralyzed. There is no price tag that can be put on health and that has to be considered when any contract is drawn up in this era.

Consider that in 2007 both baseball and footballhad revenue in excess of six billion dollars. Take away the money for overhead outside of player and coach salaries and the earnings of teams is staggering. It is most pronounced in baseball which boasts the largest

per capita long term (Five years or more) multimillion dollar contracts of any sport. A losing team like the Florida Marlins with the smallest payroll and worst attendance will still stand to net their owner Jeff Loria an estimated forty plus million dollars this year. A team like the Yankees with all the frills, baseballs highest payroll, and best attendance of over four million per year will still make about sixty five million before considering the revenue from the YES network. Their total gross revenue (That’s revenue befor expenses folks) nears seven hundred million dollars. Everywhere in between each team is making money. In the NFL the per team average net revenue is even higher.

Knowing this is a business and quality counts the vast majority of owners are hungry to put not just a good team on the field but a team with the potential to win. It is a well tested fact that teams that consistently win make more money. In order to win top athletes need to be on the roster. The athletes are paid accordingly. The market bears this out in almost every case. The owners are not looking to lose money so all signings must make sense to them and their accounting departments before doling out tens of millions of dollars to an athlete. With the current full disclosure of earnings needed to maintain sports antitrust status athletes have the additional power of knowing what a teams gross and net earnings are each time they negotiate a contract, something they use to their full advantage.

In the case of David Beckhams half billion dollar ten year deal the league as a whole is absorbing some of that cost, not just his team. The hopes are he is a big enough name to elevate soccer to the next level in the United States and turn casual observers in to long term fans. The jury is out on whether or not this move will pay off, right now it looks like a colossal blunder. In the case of the second highest paid athlete in sports Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees it is quite different. Rodriguez receives his hefty twenty seven million dollars annually, but the caveat is he also generates an estimated twelve to thirteen million dollars in additional revenue from multiple streams for his team simply by being there. It is estimated he is the only player in baseball that generates more than five million in added revenue to his team making the signing financially prudent.

It is understandable that people stand in slack jawed amazement when seeing what athletes are paid these days. Many of us remember the first million dollar athlete as well as the utter shock of Dave Winfield’s 1981 record breaking twenty plus million ten year deal. The game withstood that as well as as all sports surviving inflated contracts. We don’t point fingers at people in other lines of work holding out for increased salaries, and few of us would turn down a raise if offered to us. The average annual salary in the world has increased across almost all professions and sports is a part of that. As long as we the fans continue to pay to see the greatest athletes in the world the salaries will continue to rise. Just like anything else in life it’s supply and demand and so long as the demand is at the current record highs so will be the salaries of athletes.

The evil empire of baseball: The Yankees

18 Aug

Being a life long Yankee fan I have come to realize one thing. People hate the Yankees for all the wrong reasons. As a Yankee fan in the heart of the Red Sox nation I’ve heard it all. Real Sox fans don’t complain about the Yankee payroll anymore. They don’t complain about the free agents. They realize the Sox spending is spiraling upward rapidly. They have few homegrown players on the field or bench, and they pursue hired gun free agents as rabidly as anyone at the expense of young talent. If you want to hate the Yankees do it for the right reason. Do it because they are good. They win. They make tons of money as a franchise. They are one of the most recognized and revered professional sports organizations worldwide. Hate them because maybe they killed your teams post season dreams.

What people that call Yankee fans spoiled by recent success and high payroll teams don’t realize is that there are many of us that lived through the CBS years otherwise known as the Horace Clarke era. We Went through the drought between championships from 78-96. We are in another now. What I call those people is bitter. Be loyal to your team but don’t blame the competition for their mediocrity. Not the Yankees, Sox, Braves, Angels, Mets, or any other perennially good team made your team a loser by their spending. If they can’t compete for a post season title then it falls on that teams ownership and players, straight down to their scouts. Minnesota fans all too often complain about revenue yet rarely complained that the late Carl Pohlad, their billionaire owner, didn’t want to build teams that won. Just teams that made money.

Many teams are like that, and if the fans don’t like it then don’t have to support them. Yankee, Sox, Braves, Mets, and Angels fans are blessed by the fact they have owners that want to win and spend the money to compete. If your teams owner isn’t willing to do that then oh well…tough luck. As a fan of a losing team it is your responsibility to pressure ownership to field a competitive organization. You do this by not paying the inflated ticket prices, writing the owner (Yes you really can do that!) and making noise via blogs, or any visible venue. With enough voices and enough lost revenue even bad owners wake up and take notice.

The Yankees have predominately been a successful franchise not just because most of the franchises owners realized winning teams make more money, but also because of simple geography. New York allows for so many revenue streams to be tapped and is such an internationally known city it’s hard to not make money there. The final piece of the puzzle is that there are millions of die hard Yankee fans out there that spend, spend, and spend, on their teams merchandise creating more revenue. Even people only casually interested in baseball wear clothing and hats adorned with the world recognized Yankee logo.

So before calling New York the evil empire of baseball or passing it on to any other team that spends money to win, I say in fact you should be looking at the teams receiving more money in revenue sharing than they spend on their entire team payroll, or very close to that number. Look at the Marlins with baseballs lowest payroll and attendance reaping nearly sixteen million in revenue sharing and luxury tax benefits before the seasons first pitch is thrown. How about the Royals or the Nationals? They don’t spend on their franchise and cause fans to suffer through repeated years of mediocrity. They weaken the competitive balance of the game. They comprise the true evil empire. Not the Yankees or any other team that has spent their money to remain competitive.

15 Aug

This was one of those nights where we trotted out the staff and didn’t win because the offense didn’t do a good job of providing much support to speak of. It was one of those nights where we played mediocre baseball at best and couldn’t just be good enough to get ourselves a win. It was one of those frustrating, long nights where we all knew where it was going. In short, it was basically just like any other night.

It basically came down to the fact that we did not score a quantity of runs that could be counted on to be enough to get us through to the W. Maybe in another season when our pitchers return to their usual glory, it would have been enough, but not here and not now.

We went down in order in the first three innings and scored all two of our runs in the fourth. Ellsbury doubled, Crawford singled on a bunt, and Pedroia reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases with nobody out. What we needed was a grand slam, or at least to score more than two runs. What we got was a double by Gonzalez that brought both Ellsbury and Crawford home. Pedroia tried to score but was thrown out at home. All else being equal, though, we would have lost anyway even if he scored, which doesn’t say much of anything about our pitching staff.

Boston Soul

This was one of those nights where we trotted out the staff and didn’t win because the offense didn’t do a good job of providing much support to speak of.  It was one of those nights where we played mediocre baseball at best and couldn’t just be good enough to get ourselves a win.  It was one of those frustrating, long nights where we all knew where it was going.  In short, it was basically just like any other night.

It basically came down to the fact that we did not score a quantity of runs that could be counted on to be enough to get us through to the W.  Maybe in another season when our pitchers return to their usual glory, it would have been enough, but not here and not now.

We went down in order in the first three innings and scored all two of our…

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We should go to understand about the baseball hall of fame things

12 Aug

Believe that you must be thinking about such things. Because I’ve been in concern, the baseball hall of fame. Because I was super fan.When it comes to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it ought to be some kind of objective standard of true greatness that unlocks the door for candidates, but it isn’t. It’s more about popularity and myth, sort of as it is in our election of politicians to the presidency and other high offices of national service. Remember the words of family patriarch Joseph Kennedy when he told his sons, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Remember, Boys, it’s not who you are when it comes to running for office; its who people think you are.”

via We should go to understand about the baseball hall of fame things.

via We should go to understand about the baseball hall of fame things.

Baseball Slugger Josh Hamilton Gets Right With God

10 Aug

Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton has suffered through a two-month slump, batting barely over .200 since June 1.There was rampant speculation as to what was ailing Hamilton, the five-time All Star, the 2010 American League Most Valuable Player. Some thought marital problems. Some others thought a relapse into the drug and alcohol abuse with which the 31-year-old struggled in a past life.But the Rangers basher ended the speculation yesterday, releasing a statement in which he attributed his recent problems at the plate to his disobedience to God. More specifically, his failure to quit chewing tobacco.Hamilton’s statement elicited predictable derision from those who do not share his Christian faith.Like the snarky writer for Dallas Magazine who mocked, “So God is punishing Hamilton for using tobacco, and that’s why this year he’s been swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone than anyone else in the majors?”

via Baseball Slugger Josh Hamilton Gets Right With God.

via Baseball Slugger Josh Hamilton Gets Right With God.

How Oscar Pistorius Makes You Feel Inadequate

8 Aug

I knew about Oscar Pistorius before these current Olympic games because his story fascinates me. Born without both of his fibulas, doctors (and his parents) decided to amputate his legs before he was a year old. Oscar is an elite athlete from South Africa and running is his specialty. When Oscar was a small boy his mother said something seemingly insignificant, but yet life changing one morning. She said, “You, put your shoes on. And you, put your legs on and that’s the last I want to hear about it.” Oscar’s mother would die a few years later, but that memory has stayed with him for the duration. Undoubtedly it echoes in his brain saying, “Yes, you have no legs, but Mummy says get over it.” That is a gift when your most formidable role model tells you that – yes – you have a disadvantage, but if you dwell on it, you will drown. So, it’s best to acknowledge it, but then forget about it entirely.

via How Oscar Pistorius Makes You Feel Inadequate.

via How Oscar Pistorius Makes You Feel Inadequate.