11 April 1904 – the Axeman Cometh

Monday Evening

A Monday evening shocker in the Journal! A buzz goes around town. Watkins has released four players! Whack! And they’ve all found employment with other clubs!

Smell a rat?

The rat’s name is L. Van Praagh, (which is a good name for a rat,) owner of the Duluth White Sox in the Northern league, who happened to come-a-calling on Manager Watkins and then walked away with Frank Martin for his Manager, Captain, and second baseman. Van Praagh is obviously a man who’s careful with a buck, and believes on getting his money’s worth.

Also heading north – Roy (Not Yet In Playing Condition) Converse, who’ll be playing with the Winnipeg Maroons this year, and James (Not the Famous) O’Rourke, destined for the Superior Longshoremen. Good luck to you, boys. God speed.

The biggest surprise, though — and a huge huge glaring mistake, in my humble opinion — is that Joe Koukalik will be heading up with Martin to the Zenith City to play for the White Sox. Joe Koukalik! What is Watkins thinking?!? Has he taken leave of his senses? What’s happened?

Joe Koukalik - "a major error in judgement"

Joe Koukalik –  Johnny we hardly knew ye…

Joe!

Say it ain’t so, Joe!

Baseball is a hard business sometimes.

This means that Frank McNichol will be kept on as the utility player this season, and, in fact, almost all of the positions on the club are pretty much set. So much for competition, for the cream rising to the top, may the best man win. April 11th: it’s all settled.

But wait. Not quite.

William Ludwig - 1908

William Ludwig – 1908

There’re still three catchers on hand, and now, suddenly, it appears that Ludwig – Ludwig! – is going to be doing most of the catching this year! Watkins says: “By the time the season begins I will have taught him all the finer points of the game.” (A regular Svengali…) Our reporter sees that O’Leary is being worked out much more than Roach, and will probably be Ludwig’s back-up! This is another shocker! Ludwig, out of nowhere, suddenly the Miller’s Foremost Windpaddist! This has got to be a serious wake-up call for Mr. O’Leary, who perhaps has been reading the Minneapolis Journal and figured that he had a lock on the position, a sure thing, a starting role, a slot in the batting order. No. Time to shed a few extra pounds of beef, O’Leary! And whither goest Mr. Roach? A Northern league summer, perhaps?

In other news, as if there could be other news, the pitchers are all shaping up nicely. Mr. Munch finally arrives on Tuesday, and it turns out that Bailey isn’t in camp yet either, as he’s a student at a medical college in Columbus. (Inevitably, he will be called “Doc” Bailey.) Case gets special mention from Manager Watkins:

“Case is doing fine twirling. He is in the best of conditions and is practicing a slow ball, which will probably be a winner. “

Probably?

Katoll is also doing some fine twirling. His arm is fine, and he’s even been teaching some of the younger players a few tricks of the trade. Trying to get on Watkins good side, no doubt. Don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, and the wind is blowing north, strong and steady, and carrying with it the Miller’s chaff.

The team did not go to Springfield on Saturday as the weather was bad. They must have had a practice, though, because our indefatigable journalist says that the surprise of the day was Katoll’s fine pitching. “His arm does not trouble him at all.”

Jack "My Arm Feels Fine" Katoll - 1901

Jack “My Arm Feels Fine” Katoll – 1901

It seems odd that on a day when four players are suddenly – without warning – shipped to the northern hinterlands, the Siberia of minor league baseball, our reporter thinks that Katoll’s fine pitching is the surprise of the day. But I suppose that’s how it is, when you are a journalist. The four players – Koukalooka and what were their names? – they are yesterday’s news. The big story here is Katoll: his arm is not hurting!

Or should I say, not hurting yet?

Nah, just kidding. His arm is fine. Really.

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The Twins Head North.

While the spring record is… about… 8 and 16… last place… a .333 winning percentage…. we should keep in mind:

Those Games Don’t Count!

Spring is not about “winning” and “losing”. Spring is about limbering up, stretching out, experimentation, and finding the groove. Spring is about the warm sunshine and the fresh green grass and about playing one game at a time. Spring is all about fresh starts, and that’s exactly what we’ll have come opening day, when everyone is 0-0 and tied for first.

Worley2

Sad to report, the Vance Worley Era is over.

Vance Worley, sold for cash, probably not a lot of cash, to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Has there ever been such a disappointment as Vance Worley?

Tommy Herr - 1989 Score DISAPPOINTMENT

Well, let’s see now, who comes to mind. Well, there’s Tommy Herr, of course. Came over from the Cardinals in exchange for Tom Brunansky. Whose idea was that? “The answer to our second base problem…” hit about .263 in about 86 games, with about 21 rbis. (meanwhile, Brunansky hit.243 for the Cardinals, in 143 games with 22 homers and 79 rbis. And then played for them in 1989 as well, while Herr was gone, traded to the Phillies with a couple other players for Shane Rawley and cash.

Also, the Herr move totally demoralized Steve Lombardozzi, who was our second sacker in ’87, but only hit .209 in ’88, in about 120 fewer at bats. Lombo went to Houston in ’89 and ’90, didn’t play much, and then was out of the majors.

All because of Tommy Herr.

(Okay, I’m kidding.)

I thought about adding Shane Rawley to this list, but we didn’t really expect anything from him. We just wanted him to be not Tommy Herr.

Scott Diamond, also comes to mind, but no.

David West copy - DIS

My vote would be for David West, who pitched for the Twins 1989-92, coming over in the Frank Viola trade with the Mets. There were high hopes for Mr. West, but in the end, after four years, he was 15-18 with a 5.33 ERA. He was not the raw talent that we were led to believe.

And thus, Vance Worley wins the David West award. Sorry Vance. Good luck in Pittsburgh, and I hope you find your arm there.

Scott Diamond, by the way, has cleared waivers, and has also decided to report to Twins triple A club. Alex Presley was also placed on waivers, and claimed by the Houston Astros. Perhaps he’s excited about that. Perhaps he’ll get to play there. Parmelee also has been sent down to Triple A. He’s running on fumes now, kind of disappointing, especially for him, I’m sure. He’s played some good ball down there on the farm, but he hasn’t been able to bring it up to the majors. I suspect that this will be his last chance to get sorted out, though some other team might see him as a “project.”

Kubel and Bartlett go north! What’s the opposite of a youth movement? Perhaps the steadying influence of vets will make a difference.

sudden sam deduno a

Deduno in relief? Well, okay. I’d have him starting, and I bet he will be starting before the end of the season. He had a nice relief outing down there in Florida on the 27th, striking out five in 2 innings of work. (Not too bad.)

8-11 January, 1904: winter meetings

Just like today, there’s not a lot of baseball news in January in Minneapolis in 1904. But on January 8th an article on page 18 provides a bit of news for the hungry fan. President Watkins and the “sporting editors” of the Minneapolis papers were the guests of former President Ed Johnson at a dinner at the National Hotel last evening, where Watkins announced that the signing of second-sacker Billy Fox as captain of the Minneapolis club.

Billy Fox, Captain, and Second Baseman. "crafty"

Billy Fox, Captain, and Second Baseman. “crafty”

Fox was second baseman for Watkins’ Indianapolis club last year, and is said to be one of the fastest basemen in the league, his only rival being Miller Huggins of St. Paul. The Journal scribe also reports him to be one of the craftier players in the league.

He is a daring and successful base runner, as well as a good fielder, and altho not a strong sticker, will be a most valuable man for the team.

Watkins again does not go out on any limbs to make any promises about where his team will finish, but again says that the team will be as good a team as the city has ever seen. Watkins also seems to be one of those my-way-or-the-highway kind of guy. “I will not tolerate a man on one of my teams who does not do his best all the time. They must play baseball according to my ideas, and play it to the best of their ability, or I will get others. Baseball is a business proposition, and sentiment doesn’t go.”

WH Watkins c

To me, this sounds like a thinly-veiled message to all those former Millers hoping to play with the club this year.

Finally, the article says that the season will open on April 20th, and there will be some spring training contests, somewhere, on April 16-19.

On January 9th there appears a brief article where the current President of the Indianapolis club, C. F. Ruschaupt, comes to Minneapolis to meet with Watkins and President Lennon (of the St. Paul club) “in regard to various matters.”

One of these matters is apparently the finalizing of the Billy Fox deal, disclosed yesterday.

And then on Monday the 11th of January, there’s a brief piece about some business matters with the Minneapolis club.  E. N. Dickinson was elected business manager of the baseball club at a shareholders’ meeting on Saturday. W.H. Watkins was also elected President and Treasurer, and his acquisition of Billy Fox as team captain was “ratified.”

Seems like a cumbersome way of running a ball club.

A Minnesota Twins Christmas Carol?

stove - loc eI have been neglectful about the Twins doings in the HSL. Distracted by Roger Angell and also there’s the holiday season.

The Twins have been active in addressing needs, in pitching and in pitching and also in more pitching and catching. Contrary to my negative expectations, and against all historical precedent, they have opened up their strong box and started spending a bit of their gold. It’s almost as if there has been a little re-enactment of the Christmas Carol, with Uncle Carl coming back to advise the kids on generosity and the Christmas Spirit.

I can see it now…

pohlad as Marley

“But you were always a good man of business, sir,” faultered the eldest son, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Baseball was my business. The Minnesota Twins were my business; the American League Pennant, the World Series, a baseball dynasty, were , all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Well, maybe not.

Still the Twins have, undeniably, been spending money, and acquiring needed players. The pitchers, Nolasco and Hughes, bringing back Pelfry, the return of the prodigal Kubel (which has stolen the spotlight from the return of Bartlett), And now the signing of catcher Kurt Suzuki, and the dealing of Mr. Doumit to the Braves for pitching prospect Sean Gilmartin. Compared with the old days, these Twins are wheeling and dealing. I am hanging onto my hat. What next??

We all realize of course that Hughes and Pelfry are iffy, and Kubel is iffy, (as is Bartlett, iffy) and Gilmartin, also iffy. I’m not sure what to think of Mr. Suzuki. He seems a bit like more of a known quantity. He’s got a .253 lifetime average, but only batted .232 last year, with 5 HR and 32 rbi. Defensively he only caught 8 of 65 attempted base stealers, 12%, and lifetime he’s at 26%., compared to Mauer’s 33% (and Doumit’s 24% and Pinto’s 45% last year, (6sb, 5cs)). Hopefully he’ll be closer to 26% than 12% next year (and certainly the pitching staff has a part in these stats.) Suzuki’s 30 years old, same as Mauer, and is probably slated to share catching duties with young Pinto at the plate, with the Twins hoping that Pinto will continue to hit big league pitching. Probably not at the .342 level of last season, but he did hit .307 in 119 games at AA ball, and .314 in 19 games at AAA. So we can hope.

We are Twins fans. We can hope.

In this regard, I was sad to see Liam Hendricks get claimed off waivers, though, by the Cubs. Even though he was 2-13 with the Twins in his career, with a 6+ ERA. I had hopes. This also makes me think about similarities between the Twins and the Cubs; something about the Cubs signing a pitcher off waivers with a 2-13 record and a 6+ ERA, something there sounds like… I don’t know. Very Minnesotan, I guess. The Cubs also can hope. Go Cubs!

Just noticed that Hendriks looks a bit like Kubel. Probably just the beard.
Or perhaps too many Tom & Jerry’s tonight.

Jason Kubel, Twins Head shot smLiam Hendriks, head shot

2013 Twins Recap, Part Deux – Well What Did You Expect?

As I predicted, (along with everyone else), the Twins did not have a very good season in 2013. While we might be disappointed by their final win-loss totals, we are not surprised. Terry Ryan came in facing a long rebuilding process, and, as the Twins have always done, they are rebuilding from the farm system, looking to develop tomorrow’s stars “the old fashioned way,” drafting talent and bringing it along.

And yet… still… that new stadium… all that new revenue…

No.

No, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure you could go out and buy the best talent available, just throw great heaps of money at the problem, buying up all the most talented free agents on the market in some sort of sad, desperate attempt to “build” a winning club. Where is the joy in that sad mercantile endeavor? Oh, sure, you may win a few more games, maybe even a World Series, if everything goes right. Big deal. Given the financial wherewithal and the proper amount of desperation, anybody could do that. Such as the Yankees or the Red Sox. There’s no thrill in that. You are hardly overcoming great odds in that scenario. You’re stacking the deck, the cards are in your favor, and given even a modicum of luck, the outcome is predictable. What a sad, hollow, pathetic existence that would be.

No, much better to study the youthful prospects, comb the waiver wires, and carefully appraise the unproven talent available to your limited budget. Much more interesting that way.

I just hope I live long enough to see it all come to fruition.

(That being said, It’s nice to see the Twins spend some money on some pitching!)

The pitching in 2013 was not entirely bad. Just the starting rotation. The bullpen was in fact a respectable bunch. Led by Glenn Perkins (2-0, 2.30 ERA, 36/40 saves), most of the relievers had not-bad seasons: Caleb Thielbar (3-2, 1.76 ERA), Anthony Swarzak (3-2, 2.91 ERA), Jared Burton (2-9, 3.82 ERA), Brian Duensing (6-2, 3.98), Ryan Pressly (3-3, 3.87), and Casey Fien (5-2, 3.92) – all were fairly reliable. The starters, though. The starters. What can be said about the starters? They lack confidence, I would say. As well they should. It will be interesting to see what rises from the ashes of the rotation next season. Kevin Correia, who performed better than all expected, probalby has earned one spot. Sam Deduno, the lone bright spot in the 2013 rotation, certainly has to be in the second spot, if healthy. And now, it turns out that free agent acquisitions Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes will be in the next two spots. That leaves Diamond, Albers, Worley, Hendriks and Gibson vying for the last spot. I’d also like to see them sign Mike Pelfry again as well, he had some good stretches last season, but with the addition of Hughes and Nolasco, I suspect we won’t be seeing any more of Mr. Pelfry. I’d bring him back though; I think he could have a good year ahead of him. It’s probably too soon to be expecting young Meyers to make the club, but that would be nice. They talk about him as though he’s a top of the rotation talent, so perhaps he’ll push his way onto the scene.

Was it surprising that the Twins signed Hughes and Nolasco? Nolasco, perhaps. Hughes is the sort of questionable talent that the Twins have taken chances on in the past. Such as Pavano, Corriea, and Pelfry.

The hitting in 2013 was also not entirely bad. There’s Joe Honeyswing Mauer, of course. And Bull Dozier surprised, swatting 18 round-trippers. There were some youngsters – Arcia and Pinto in particular,  that impressed towards the end of the year, and there was some promise to be seen in Hicks and Collabello. But, overall, the offense was pretty much a mess. We can hope for improvement next year, as we always do.

Looking ahead…

Joe Mauer Portrait c fr sm

Mauer’s move to first base is a good move, but not for Mr. Collabello, who needs a chance to play. It would be a shame to see him languish at AAA, but backing up Mauer he doesn’t look to get many at bats. Perhaps as DH?  I think we need to get Mr. Collabello a month of every day play, and see what happens.

The catching position is a big question mark. Doumit? Pinto? Pierzynski? Collabello? I’ve always liked Pierzynski. He’s about 100 years old, though, and defense was never his strong suit. Plus, he’s “in demand” as a free agent. (Plus I just read that he signed elsewhere.) Plus, we should be playing younger guys, not plugging the lineup with senior citizens. Perhaps Mr. Herrmann? The door to the catcher’s spot is wide open, and there’s no telling who’s going to walk in there.

Bull Dozier looks set at second.

Florimon at short. I must admit I’d like to see Bartlett come up here as back up, but we’ll see how he fares in training camp.

Plouffe at third.

The Alabama Hamma, Josh Willingham will patrol left field in 2014, and rebound from his injury-ridden 2013 campaign.

In centerlield we’d all love to see young Aaron Hicks turn into another Kirby Puckett.

And in right, Arcia, perhaps?

Time to post this, before something else happens and I need to rewrite again.

More later.

the end of the Duke Welker era

Sad to say, the Twins have traded Duke Welker back to the Pirates, from whence he came as a part of the Morneau trade, in exchange for the more prosaically named Kris Johnson. Not a trade I would have made; I think Welker’s a better pitcher and two years younger. Johnson’s a starter at AAA — and Lord, the Twins need starters — but he’s 29. His ERA was 2.39 at AAA, but 6.10 in four big league appearances.

Ahh well. Say it again. The Twins need starters. And perhaps Kris Johnson will earn himself a nickname this year.

today’s baseball birthdays…

Podge Weihe, Ezra Midkiff, Ernie Neitzke, Moose Clabaugh, Bob Garbark, and Nick Goulish; Happy Birthday all.

Yes, the Nick Goulish.

Twelve at-bats, four runs, three hits, 2 rbi, and 1 walk for the 1944 and 1945 Phillies.

From the Lewiston Daily Sun, 9 April 1945:

goulish stars

And then from the Toledo Blade, 18 October 1945:

Goulish article

That’s the way baseball go, as they say.

Baseball Reference.com does a great job of providing information on little known ball players. Nick was born in Punxsutawney, PA, in 1916. He played pro ball for six years, and hit .332 for the Greenburg Green Sox, in the Pennsylvania State Association (Class D), in ’38. With the Utica Blue Sox in the Class A Eastern League he hit .299 in 1944. Nick served in the army in WWII and owned the Goulish Insurance Agency in Boardman Ohio from 1950 to 1976, when he retired. Nick passed away in 1984, age 67.

Good game, Nick.