Thursday, July 17, 2014

Random All-Star Game and Other Thoughts



The All-Star game has come and gone, and I have a few random thoughts. 

This year’s game featured some sure fire Hall of Famers like Derek Jeter and Miguel Cabrera, but it mostly featured young talent like Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Dee Gordon, Salvador Perez, Paul Goldschmidt, Carlos Gomez, Yoenis Cespedes, and Yasiel Puig. When I see the names left off the teams roster like Joe Mauer, Dustin Pedroia, Albert Pujlos, Ryan Howard, Joey Votto, Buster Posey, Evan Longoria, Josh Hamilton, and Ryan Braun I wonder if we are not seeing a changing of the guard amongst baseball’s top players.

I noticed the lack of young Twins star players on the above list. The Twins have only three players on their 25 man roster who are age 25 or young (Danny Santana -23, Oswaldo Arcia -23 and Eduardo Escobar -25). For a team that is supposedly in rebuilding mode this is not a good sign!

I went to All-Star Fan Fest on Monday for only $10 (regular price was $35). It was a pretty good experience though my hope of getting some of the free autographs was dashed by the long lines (people had to be in line 3 hours ahead of the signing time). However, with a donation to charity I got Tony Oliva to sign a card for me. I also was able to pick some of the popular and free Charlie Brown baseball cards Topps was giving away.

Look at this comparison:

Player A was a .294 career hitter with 272 home runs and a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 37.6. He was a 10 time All-Star and won the league MVP award.

Player B was a .304 career hitter with 220 home runs and a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 43. He was an 8 time All-Star and won 3 batting titles.

Player A and Player B have something in common; neither is in the Hall of Fame. In fact they were on the ballot every year of the eligibility, but never made it. Who are they? Player A is Steve Garvey who started for the National League in the 85 All-Star Game at the Metrodome. Player B is Tony Oliva of the Twins who played in the 65 All-Star Game here Met Stadium. While I was watching the 2014 All-Star game at Target Field I wondered which player(s) would be the Garvey/Oliva player who was really good, but not consider Hall of Fame worthy. It is hard to say who it will be, but we will know by the time the next All-Star Game comes to Minnesota in say 20 years.

The 2014 Allen & Ginter baseball cards were released earlier this month. A & G’s have been my favorite baseball card the last few years. However, this year was a major downer because there were only 3 Minnesota Twins (Mauer, Arcia, & Nolasco) in the set. From 2006 to 2012 the A & G sets average 10 Twins cards per set. Year last there were 7 current and former Twins in the set.

The Twins have been a bad team of late, but really could Topps (who produces A & G) have not least thrown in a card for Brian Dozier or Glen Perkins. Guess not. I would have like A & G to produce at least one card of Rod Carew in a Twins uniform instead of always putting him in an Angel uniform. Carew won 7 batting titles and was a MVP as a Twins for whom he played for twice as long as the Angels. Also why is there no Kirby Puckett card yet? One of the most loved players of his time finds himself one of the very few modern HOFers not to have an A & G card yet.

On a positive note, this year’s Topps Heritage set is real good this season. I hope to get some of them autographed yet this year.   

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Random Twins Thoughts and Autograph TTM Update



Some random Twins thoughts and my Minnesota Twins TTM Autograph Update:

Much has been made about Joe Mauer’s hitting slump, but no one brings up the obvious – he is still suffering from the lingering affects of his concussion from last year. This could be a serious problem as Twins fans remember all to well the lack of production from Justin Morneau even three years after he had “recovered” from his concussion. I worry Mauer could suffer a similar fate.

Another question with Mauer is what the Twins are going to do with him once top prospects Miguel Sano and Kennys Vargas get here sometime in 2015. Sano plays third base while Vargas plays first base. One would think the Twins will want both to play and develop, so Mauer could find himself switching positions again and playing left field.

I like many was caught be surprise when the Twins signed Kendrys Morales, but wonder how much he will really help and whether he would even consider staying here long term. He will probably produce okay numbers then leave as a free agent. The Twins have no one who is any better at DH, so Morales will have job for the rest of the season.

So far this year, my TTM autograph collection has not been I would have hoped. I was able to finally get successes from Dan Serafini and Bobby Keppel. I also finally got Bill Campbell to sign a Twins card for me. I miss the boat when I saw Ricky Nolasco and Jason Kubel signed during spring training and when Kevin Correia signed earlier this year. None of the three has ever been reliable signers, so it is hit and miss with them.

The Twins have had only one free autograph signing event this year, so picking there has been slim. 2014 All-Star Fan Fest will be in Minneapolis this year with a lot big name former Twins players appearing. However, I have heard autograph lines are long and it cost $35 to get in the door and that is not counting the parking and food expenses that will be probably another $40. Will I go? I think I will wait and see.

If you are looking to get an autographed baseball card from either Torii Hunter or Justin Morneau you can do so for only $30 for Hunter and $25 for Morneau. Hunter signs for the Detroit Tigers Foundation’s Autograph for a Cause program. Morneau signs for the Colorado Rockies Foundation. I sent to Hunter last year and it worked great. I also received a signed card from Miguel Cabrera through Autographs for a Cause in 2010. I used the Colorado Foundation program to get Troy Tulowitzki in 2011 so I know both programs are legitimate. You do sometimes have to wait a while for your card to come back signed, but you get a letter stating the foundation people watched the player signed the cards. Also private signing with these players would cost you more than double what the foundations are charging.

I sent to Hunter again this year, and we will see if I can scrap together enough money to send to Morneau. Hopefully my TTM successes will pick later this season, and hopefully the Twins will pick up some more wins this season.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Minnesota Twins Quarter Season Report



At the quarter mark of the Minnesota Twins season I have been pleased with the play of Brian Dozier, Kurt Suzuki, Josmil Pinto, Eduardo Escobar, and Phil Hughes. I have been disappointed with the play of Joe Mauer, Pedro Florimon, Jason Kubel, Aaron Hicks, Kevin Correia, and Mike Pelfrey. I have been mystified by the Twins handling of Jason Bartlett and Oswaldo Arcia.

Dozier has proved to be one of the best 2nd basemen in the league this year. Dozier has reached base 76 times as of this writing, and scored 40 runs which means he scored more than half the time he got on base which is amazing. Dozier’s defense is better than his offense – which has been very good – meaning Dozer is very worry of all-star consideration. Dozier is also one of the nicest Twins I have ever met. I hope he has continued success.

Suzuki, Pinto, and Escobar have exceeded my expectations. Suzuki offensive revival and strong work with the pitching staff has made people forget that the catcher spot was suppose to be a weakness after Joe Mauer moved to 1st base. Pinto has spent more time DHing than catching because of Suzuki’s strong play, but Pinto has proved he can hit and draw walks. Escobar has emerged from light hitting utility player to offensively strong starting shortstop. I doubt Escobar can keep it up, but every game he can give promising prospect Danny Santana to work on developing his game is worthwhile.

The most impressive player for me so far this season has been Phil Hughes. I previously wrote about my belief that Hughes could have a good year. We now see that Hughes is the best starter the Twins have. He leads Twins starters in several categories. Hughes is the kind of starter we have needed for the last few years. I hope he can continue to have quality outings.

Sadly two other starters (Correia and Pelfrey) have not faired as well. Hughes, Ricky Nolasco, Kyle Gibson, and Samuel Deduno have pitched well enough to take four of the five starting spots in the Twins rotation. With prospects Alex Meyer, Logan Darnell, and Trevor May starting to show promise at the Twins top minor league team, it could make Correia and Pelfrey very expended.

Kubel started out hot, and has now gone cold. He has been wildly inconsistent the last two years; it now looks like he will make it the last three years. Florimon started out cold and lost his job to Escobar. Mauer has been hurt and not producing like a superstar player should. Hicks seems to lack the drive to succeed. Hicks got called out in the media by the Twins organization which tells us how bad things have gotten with him. Part of Hicks is problem is that the Twins decided to keep Jason Bartlett out of spring training because they felt they needed his leadership. To keep Bartlett (who was not on the 40 man roster and not an experienced center fielder), the Twins had to release Hicks backup Alex Presley. Bartlett’s “leadership” was shown when he started off the season in a slump, got hurt, and then retired. This left the Twins with no solid alternative to Hicks in centerfield meaning Hicks can’t demoted and has to continue to stay with the major league team and struggle.

Another bizarre decision the Twins made involved Oswaldo Arcia. Arcia made the team out of spring training and played four games before being injured. Upon recovering from the injury Arcia was sent on a rehab stint in the minors. He hit well there and when the assignment was up the Twins demoted him back to minors rather than bring him back to he major league team. Now the team says it will bring Arcia back soon. Why not bring him back right away? Next time he gets hurt do you think he will be eager to tell anyone after not getting his old job back even though all he did to lose it was get hurt? If there had been other issues why did he make the team out of spring training?

With top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano hurt and not likely to make the major leagues, things to look forward to are the arrival of pitching prospect Alex Meyer and the emergence of power hitting prospect Kennys Vargas. I also look forward to the all the players on the Twins improving their play and the Twins finishing with a winning record this season.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2014 Minnesota Twins



I have no confidence in the Minnesota Twins having any better season then they have had the last three years. I think the starting pitching is improved and the bullpen remains solid, but the team lacks hitting will hurt it more than the improved starting pitching will help it. I do feel though there are some things worth watching this season which if they turn out positively could lead to better things for the Twins and their fans in the future.

Oswaldo Arica and Aaron Hicks are highly touted prospects who have taken different routes to the majors. Arica was not a prospect from the get go, but has put up great numbers at each minor league level he played at. Arica had decent numbers in his first year in the majors, and is being counted on to provide power in the middle of the Twins lineup this year. Hicks was a prospect from the get go, but has never really justified his high prospect ranking with great minor league seasons. Hicks struggled mightily last season as a rookie, but the Twins need him to secure the center field job while batting lead off this season. Arica, a favorite of mine, is under no threat of replacement, but Hicks has to be looking over his shoulder as mega prospect Byron Buxton is not that far away from taking over the center field job.

Phil Hughes could be a very good starting pitcher for the Twins. Once top prospect Alex Meyer gets here, Meyer, Ricky Nolasco, Hughes, and Kyle Gibson could be the anchors for a good pitching staff for the next 3-5 years. Hughes has the ability to be the #2 starter behind the highly talented Meyer. Having meet Hughes at Twinsfest, I like him and have decided I am making him one of my favorite players on the Twins. Meyer is a favorite of mine as well in part because how many professional baseball players spend their off-season as a substitute teacher as Meyer did this off-season? I think not many.

Brian Dozier is another nice guy, and I want to root for his success. If Dozier can improve his offense and keep up his elite defensive play, the Twins will have something they have not had since Chuck Knoblauch after the 1997 season - stability at 2nd base.

Josmil Pinto is another guy I want to root for. With Joe Mauer now at 1st base, we need a catcher who not only can defend, but hit. Pinto is the best option, though I believe the Twins will start the season with veteran Kurt Suzuki as the starter.

Minor leaguers Byron Buxton, Alex Meyer, Miguel Sano, Kohl Stewart, Danny Santana, Michael Tonkin, Kennys Vargas, Trevor May, Eddie Rosario, Felix Jorge, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, Joe Berrios, Lewis Thrope, and Fernando Romero have star potential. How many will actually make it to the majors and become stars? No one can know for sure, but for the sake of the Twins and their fans hope a good number make it.

As it is the Twins will be lucky to develop enough players to make the team a contender for the division title in 2016. For now it is more the same for the Twins and their fans. Still I look forward to seeing players like Arcia, Hicks, Hughes, Meyer, Dozier, and Pinto develop hopefully into better player; so here’s to a great 2014 Twins baseball season!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Twinsfest 2014



For the 11th straight year I attended Twinsfest – the annual winter gather of all things Minnesota Twins. Twinsfest 2014’s big news was after years of being held at the Metrodome, it was moving to Target Field. Fans were promised access to the high $ Champions, Legends, and Metropolitan Clubs, free tours of the Twins clubhouse and press box, and for $5 you got to take 5 cuts in the Twins underground batting cage. Kids were promised a change to play interactive games with Twins players.

In fact all of the above was true. I took the clubhouse and press box tours, and enjoyed them. I watched some of players play various games with kids which I thought was nice. Also fans got to watch real families play the Family Feud game show with Twins players/coaches as team captains. It all seemed to go over well. I also found Target Field is closer to my home, parking was cheaper, the food more expensive, and the view of the lighted field when it snowed on Friday night was amazing.

I go to Twinsfest though mostly to get autographs. I went Friday and Sunday and scored a combined 43 autographs. That broke my previous record of 37 set in 2011. Here is my list. All were on baseball cards except where noted. Numbers next to the player means I got multiple autographs from that player.

Corey Koskie, Trevor Plouffe, Anthony Swarzak, Andrew Albers, Trevor May (2), Joe Mauer, Ricky Nolasco, Jason Bartlett, Casey Fien (2), Phil Hughes, Brian Duensing, Kyle Gibson, Caleb Theilbar (2), Mike Pelfrey, Jared Burton, Chris Parmelee (2),Chris Herrmann (2), Joe Vavra, Kevin Corriea, Tom Brunansky (ball), Max Kepler, Eric Fryer, Austin Malinowski, Glen Perkins, Kurt Suzuki, Alex Presley, Chris Colabello (2), Samuel Deduno, Scott Erickson, Aaron Hicks, Brian Dozier, Jim Mudcat Grant, Darren Mastroianni, Alex Meyer, Sean Gilmartin, Kyle Knudson, and Mike Kvasnicka

I was pumped to get Joe Mauer for the first time since 2008! I was also pleased to get new Twins Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco, Alex Presley, and Kurt Suzuki. The lines for mega-prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano were often longer than the lines for Mauer, but top pitching prospect Alex Meyer had virtually no line.
 
My fellow autograph seekers told me they would have liked 5 instead of the 4 autograph stations available. Some of them were upset that the minor league player autographs are no longer free as minor leaguers are now mixed in with the regular players. I was disappointed that Oswaldo Arcia and Josmil Pinto were not in attendance.

Some of the memorabilia dealers there were not happy they were relegated to the basement were it was cold, cram, and the lighting if poor. A few of them told me they would not be back in 2015. I would not be surprised if the Twins phased out the memorabilia dealers all together. Twinsfest seems to be going in a different direction.

However, as long as the Twins continue to have their players sign autograph for a reasonable fee, I will be back for Twinsfest 2015 and beyond.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Autograph Twins Baseball Card TTM Success in 2013



With the start of 2014, it is time to review my attempt to get current and former Minnesota Twins to autograph baseball cards TTM (through the mail). I sent out to 125 players in 2013 and received signed cards 74 of them (59% success rate). Also arriving in 2013 were cards from 13 players I had sent to the previous years. The longest of those 13 was John Butcher who returned a card I sent out in 2008.

My biggest successes of 2013 were top Twins prospects Byron Buxton, Alex Meyer, and Oswaldo Arica. Arica made it to the Twins later in the year and showed great promise. Buxton and Meyer are supposed to even better. I have been doing more minor league send-outs so that I can get future big name players before demand for them get so much that they stop signing.

Dave Edwards and Greg Hansell were two former Twins who had eluded me for years till I was able to get them in 2013. I decided to invest some money in private signing for Steve Bedrosian, Bill Singer, John Candelaria, Brett Boone, and Torii Hunter. I have been picking up more and more players this way. The problem is some players insist on being paid for their autographs, so there is no other way to get them. The one good thing about private signings is the cards are usually beautifully signed because the player feels obligated to make it look good as they are being paid.

I have signed cards from 486 current or former Twins players and 19 current or former Twins managers, coaches, general managers, etc. I am 197 players short of my goal of getting a signed card from every living current and former Twin. I should get 5 of them at Twinsfest in January. I have another one (Lenny Webster) coming in via a private signing, and I expect 5-10 more to come in.

Hopefully 2014 turns out well for me as 2013 did.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Farewell Metrodome



In its 31 years the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (the Dome) has been host to a Super Bowl (1992), two World Series (1987 & 1991), two NCAA Basketball Final Fours (1992 & 2001), a MLB All-Star Game (1985), countless major concerts, monster truck pulls, and most of the home games of the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, and the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher football team. Now with the Twins, Gophers, and Vikings having got or getting new stadiums, the Metrodome’s time is at an end.

I saw many Twins games in the 27 years the Twins played at the Dome, but was able to only attend one post season game game. It was Game 2 of the 1987 ALCS. I was a young college student who heard on the radio that some single seat tickets were still available. I walked from the U of M campus over to the Dome to buy a ticket. I sat in the upper deck of center field next to two middle aged women who were really into the game. It was very loud, and great experience as the Twins won 6-3.

I got to see Kirby Puckett’s first career home run on 4/25/85. I saw Carlos Silva set the record for fewest pitches thrown in a complete game (74) on 5/20/2005. I was there to see Joe Mauer go 5 for 5 on 6/27/06. I was also nearly thrown out of the Dome for smoking (no smoking in the Dome!). Except I have never smoked in my life, and still have no idea why I was accused of smoking, though it should be noted that the eight or so buddies of mine there that night roared with laughter and joked about it for years afterward.

In the 2000’s when friends weren’t as available to go to games as they use to be, I would go by myself. I found it a great way to spend an evening. I would talk to people around me, and be able to concentrate on the game itself without people trying telling me the latest gossip, and if I wanted to leave early or stay longer I did.

Along with all the Twins games, I have attended many TwinsFests, Twins Autograph Parties, Vikings games, Timberwolves games (their first season was played at the Dome), and Golden Gopher football games. I loved Dome even others mostly disliked it. Maybe it was because it easy for me to get to. Maybe because there were usually decent tickets available. Or maybe it was simply all memories I have from my time spent there. The people who I went with and good times we had. The memories outweigh the lack of great sightlines and food. The Dome did not have any fancy restaurants or clubs that today’s game attendees demand, but it has great memories for me.

I will miss the Dome not because it was a great stadium, but because part of me is there and always will be there.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Look to 2014 While Reviewing 2013



Here is an early look at 2014 Minnesota Twins while reviewing 2013 season.
 
Catcher – Joe Mauer continues to show himself as a future Hall of Famer, but  concussion issues could force him to move to 1st soon. Youngster Josmil Pinto (age 24) has showed himself as the likey catcher of the future. Chris Herrmann meanwhile has not had the best of years, but his versatility (he can play in the OF and 1st as well) could help him make the team as the 3rd catcher. Veteran Ryan Doumit entered the year as Mauer’s primary backup, but his offense is down, and his defense has never been good. Doumit has one more year on his contract, but likely will be traded in the off-season.

1st Base – Upon trading Justin Morneau, the Twins are now in a time of uncertainty at 1st. In house candidates Chris Colabello and Chris Parmelle have been unimpressive. Trevor Plouffe might find his way over here as might Joe Mauer. For now the position is unsettled.

2nd Base – Brian Dozier is one of the few bright spots for the Twins this year. He looks to have secured the starting job here for the next few years with his great defensive play and solid offense. Dozier is also a class human being who represents the Twins well when dealing with fans.

SS – Pedro Florimon is great defensively, but sub par offensively. Daniel Santana is equally talented on the defensive side, and better hitter. Santana (age 22) will be starting 2014 at Triple A, but likely will find his way up to the Twins in 2014, and could displace Florimon by 2015.

3rd Base - Miguel Sano is the #3 minor league prospect in all of baseball. He is considered to have 30-40 HR a season power, and is already being hailed and the next great power hitter in baseball. Sano will be 21 next year, and the pressure from fans on the Twins to bring him up to Minnesota will be unrelenting. By the end of the 2014 Sano, barring injury, will be the starting 3rd basemen for the Twins. Current starter Trevor Plouffe has been disappointing on both offense and defense. Plouffe could be traded, released, or moved to 1st base. Whatever happens to him, his time at 3rd is short.

RF – Oswald Arcia (age 22) was hailed as one of the Twins top prospects, and upon promotion to the Twins he showed himself to be a potential star player. Arcia has great power to all fields, and seems to a player the Twins can have in the middle of the batting order. Arcia’s defense needs work, but he has been forced to play left field when right field is his more natural position. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that both Sano and Arica could hit 30 HR’s a year of the Twins while hitting 4th and 5th in the batting order.

CF – Highly regarded prospect Aaron Hicks (age 23) was given the starting CF job after the Twins traded away starter Denard Span and backup Ben Revere. Hicks had a terrible offensive year with the Twins, and upon being demoted to the minors, he got hurt and his offensive struggles continued. Hicks is a great defensive player, but he needs to hit at least .250 with some power to stick with the Twins.

Alex Presley, Darin Mastroianni, and Clete Thomas were given chances to take the starting job, with only Presley showing any signs of life. Presley will likely start in 2014, but the #1 prospect in all of minor league baseball one Bryon Buxton (age 19) is looming. Buxton has been hailed as the next Mike Trout (high praise indeed), and the Twins are already telling fans he is the team’s next mega-star. By the end of 2014 fans will be demanding to see him in Minnesota.

LF – Josh Willingham is owed $7 million dollars next year, so he is likely back in LF after and injury riddled and mostly unsuccessful 2013. Willingham can still hit HR’s, and draw some walks, but he will never hit for average, and he is a terrible fielder. If Willingham is traded, Eddie Rosario (age 21) could get a job. Hailed as a top prospect, Rosario has been playing mostly 2nd base where he has shown himself to be a good hitter and solid fielder. Rosario has played some outfield, and could find himself in LF for the Twins in 2014.

Starting Pitching – The Twins 2013 starting rotation is the worse in all of baseball. Kevin Correia is owed $5 million next year, so he will likely be back. Andrew Albers, Samuel Deduno, Vance Worley, Scott Diamond, Kyle Gibson will get chances with Gibson and Deduno having the best chances of making the starting rotation along side Correia.

Top pitching prospects Alex Meyer (age 23) and Trevor May (age 23) will also get chances. Meyer has a high 90’s fastball, and is viewed as #1 starter which the Twins have not had since Johan Santana was traded prior to the 2008 season. Other top Twins prospects Felix Jorge (age 19), Kohl Stewart (age 18), and Jose Berrios (age 19) are a few years away.

The Twins will likely try to sign some starting pitching via the free agent market, but the Twins have never been willing spenders in free agency. If they were, I would look into Phil Hughes, Dan Harren, Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, and maybe Josh Johnson.

Trades are another possibly, but the Twins have only Willingham, Doumit, and Plouffe available and they won’t bring much back. The Twins could trade some prospects, but Buxton, Sano, and Arcia are too valuable to trade. Rosario, Hicks, and Daniel Santana are probably the prospects who could get traded, but they may not be enough to bring in the need top-flight starting pitching.

I hope I am wrong, but my guess is the starting pitching staff will not be noticeably better till youngster Meyer, May, Jorge, Stewart, and Berrios get to the majors which may happen in 2015-2016.

Bullpen – Closer Glen Perkins has had an All-Star year, and it set for next year. Jared Burton, Caleb Theilbar, Casey Fien, Anthony Swarzak, Brain Duensing, Ryan Pressley and prospects Michael Tonkin, A. J. Achter, and Zack Jones give the Twins plenty of options for an area that was a strong area in 2013.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Reflecting on Justin Morneau



With the news that the Minnesota Twins have traded Justin Morneau a few things crossed my mind. One was reflecting on my personal interactions with Justin. I first meet him in 2005 at the Twins Autograph Party. He grabbed a black ink pen to sign my ball; I promptly grabbed a blue ink pen off the table and stuck in his face and asked him to use it instead. He could have been a jerk about it, but graciously took the blue ink pen and used it.

Over the years I would get his autograph on 2 baseballs, a photo, and five baseball cards. He had married a woman from a town my mother used to and my uncle and aunt still do live in. We got a chance to talk about that, and he always was nice to me.

Another thought I had was what could have been. In 2005 Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau were dubbed the M & M boys. Mauer was 22 and Morneau 24. They were going to rival other legendary Twins duos like Harmon Killebrew - Tony Oliva or Kirby Puckett - Kent Hrbek.

Morneau won the 2006 MVP and finished second in 2008. He was a 4x All-Star, and 2x Silver Slugger. Morneau was one of only 3 players in Twins history to have back to back 30 HR and 100 RBI’s seasons (Killebrew and Gary Gaetti were the other two). Morneau is 3rd all-time for the Twins in HR’s and 5th all-time in RBI’s.

Mauer and Morneau’s lead teams made playoffs in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010, but never won a playoff series. Morneau actually did not play in 08 or 10, and Mauer did not play in 04. Morneau downfall began in 2010 in the midst of a brilliant season during the prime of his career; Morneau suffered serious concussion in Toronto. He was never the same.

When I think of the greatest Twins of all-time I put Rod Carew, Joe Mauer, Harmon Killerbrew, Kirby Puckett, and Bert Blyleven in the top group. Then I would say Johan Santana, Justin Morneau, Tony Oliva, and few others in the next group. Had he not suffered that concussion in Toronto, I believe Morneau would have been in the top group. A player who could hit .300 with 30 HR’s and 100 RBI’s year after year instead ended up being traded for a reverse outfielder and low level minor league prospect.

Mauer and Morneau were together for 10 years - one year less than Killebrew - Olivia and Puckett - Hrbek were together. It should have been a longer and more successful time together, but injuries to both men, especially Monreau made that not possible. I will remember the great time Justin Morneau produced on the field for the Twins and off the field when I had chance to interact with him.

Best of luck in Pittsburgh Justin as you deserve a chance to at least be in if not win a World Series.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Look Back at the 1991 CMA Awards



TV screen shot of President & Mrs George H W Bush with Reba McEntire at the 1991 CMA Awards.

The 1991 CMA Awards marked the 25th Anniversary of the awards which was a big enough reason to celebrate. However, a bigger reason came when noted country music fans President George H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush announced they would be attending the show.

President Bush was the first president to attend a music award show, so it made all the national news shows, and generated incredible amount of free publicity for the show and country music.

Hosted by Reba McEntire, the show is significant for another reason. It signaled a new era of country music an era that would propel country to a new huge level of popularity, and alter America and world’s perception of country music.

As you read on remember the show was only two hours in length, and all the awards were given during the show. Also Female Vocalist of Year Kathy Maetta and Lorrie Morgan did not get to perform while fellow nominee Patty Loveless only got to sing on a Vince Gill song. Think that is bad? No one of the vocal group or duo of the year nominees got to perform. Tanya Tucker won the Female Vocalist of the Year, but was not there to accept for perform because she was in the hospital having just given birth.

To open the show Ricky Skaggs, Steve Warnier, Vince Gill sang “That’s Where I’ll Be Found” with an all-star band featuring amongst others Mark O’ Connor, Carl Perkins, Bill Monroe, Marty Stuart, and Earl & Randy Scruggs.

President and Mrs Bush arrived after the first song, introduced by host Reba McEntire. Roy Rogers was the first artist to shake the President’s hand, Alan Jackson was the second. Country legend Roy Acuff sat next to Barbra while Crystal Gayle sat next to President Bush. Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Kenny Rogers, and George Strait sat in front of President who for security reasons was sat in the second row.

It should be noted the seating assignment of Crystal Gayle next to President Bush was intentional. Not only did President Bush love her music, she and her elder sister Loretta Lynn were major supporters of his. It also should be noted that the show as held at the Grand Ole Opry House where there are not seats, but pew benches, so people were literally rubbing elbows with each other.

12 minutes into the show the 2nd musical performance. Yes, I said 12 minutes. Today award shows probably would have had four performances in the first 12 minutes. George Strait performed “You Know Me Better That”. Strait was a good friend of President Bush who loved his music. Strait was also the two-time reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year.

In a fashion statement worthy of a country music act, The Kentucky Hunters accepted their Group of the Year award wearing their FFA (Future Farmers of American) jackets. I suspect several viewers that night were former or current members of the FFA.

Trisha Yearwood sang “She’s in Love the Boy”. Alan Jackson performed “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” Vince Gill & Patty Loveless did “Pocket Full of Gold”, and Clint Black & Roy Rogers sang “Hold on Partner”. Jackson and Gill were exploding on the scene in 1991, and both would go on to significant success. Black on the other hand would begin to decent from lofty success he had achieved in 1989 – 90.

Namoni and Wynonna Judd appeared to introduce the nominees for the Horizon Award which is given to the best new artist. Each of the nominees was given a performance slot which showed how committed the CMA at the time was to promoting new artists. Travis Tritt “Here’s a Quarter”, Doug Stone “In Different Light”, Pam Tillis “Put Yourself in My Place,” Mark Chesutt “Brother Jukebox” and Mary Chapin Carpenter “Down at the Twist and Shout,” were the performers. Tritt won the award, but Carpenter won the most praise for her performance. I, on the other hand, love “Brother Jukebox” and have always thought Chesnutt was an under appreciated artist though he would be nominated for the award again the next year and win.

Former pro football player and accomplished song writer Mike Reid – did a melody of songs he had written for others and Walk on Faith a song he had recorded in 1990 and became a #1 hit for him. He was followed by one Garth Brooks doing “Shameless.”

Dolly Parton simply walked out on stage with no introduction to perform “She’s an Eagle” which dedicated to Mrs. Bush. Reba McEntire finished the performances with “For My Broken Heart."

As he accepted the Entertainer of the Year Award Garth Brooks said “no body is anything without his heroes. I love my George’s – George Strait, George Jones - thank you guys.” (pause) “No offense Mr. President. Sorry.” Everyone roared with laughter including the Bushes.

Roy Acuff, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Ray Price, Barbara Mandrell, the Judds, Eddy Arnold, Anne Murray, Buck Owens, Kathy Maetta, Rickey Van Shelton, Larry Gatlin, Alabama, Roy Rogers and Sweethearts of the Rodeo were all in attendance that night. Still 9 and the 15 performance slots went to Brooks, Jackson, Gill, Yearwood, Tritt, Black, Stone, Chesnutt, and Carpenter all artists who charted the first country single in 1989 or later. The show opening number was a great way to get a lot of older artists like Ricky Skaggs and Bill Monroe involved, but it was obvious which generation the night belonged too. A new generation of country artists was about to take Country Music to heights it had never seen before.