Target Field exterior

Greetings from All-Star week in Minneapolis

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN — This is my first-ever trip to the Twin Cities and, I gotta say, it’s quite a pleasant place so far. This kind of view helps:

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Target Field is a gem. Like almost all newer parks it’s comfortable, fan-friendly and functional. Unlike most of them, it’s aesthetically beautiful as well. Great lines, attractive materials and finishes and a nice integration with the surrounding city. I’ll get more chances to grok it all today and tomorrow, but it’s a gorgeous park.

And It’s absolutely gorgeous here in Minneapolis too. Last year’s All-Star week in New York featured temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s and stifling humidity. Yesterday it was in the 70s with pleasant breezes. Today it’s only supposed to climb into the low 60s. Which may be too cool for the tastes of some of you but is absolutely ideal for pasty, thick-blooded people like me whose ancestors inhabited chilly, craggy, windswept British island shores for a few thousand years like mine did. Give me this stuff every day.

The city seems quite pleasant itself. Later this morning I will post something about my experiences with an item of local cuisine, but for now let me just say that Minneapolis seems to be a well-ordered and well-run place. The signage is good, the streets are clean, the people are pleasant and the light rail runs on time and to and from places I want and need to go. Of course, I’m sure Minneapolis has idiosyncrasies, inefficiencies, scandals and skeletons like every other city, but it does make a good first impression for people like me who are, more or less, in town for the convention, as they say.

My hotel is on the far east end of downtown — “the west bank,” apparently, just across the river from the main University of Minnesota campus. It’s a little less than two miles to the ballpark. Since I had the time and the weather was nice I decided to walk it. A couple of notable things on my walk:


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There used to be a big, ugly dome there that was unfit for baseball as God intended it, and which saw the twin crimes of (a) Kent Hrbek brutally assaulting Ron Gant at first base in the 1991 World Series; and (b) Later that Series, Jack Morris pitching one of the best games ever which, while well and good itself, is what launched 23 years worth of people claiming an outsized legacy for him that is truly annoying. Not that I’m still mad about any of that or anything.

Much cooler:

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That’s where Prince, The Revolution, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Soul Asylum and a zillion other Twin Cities bands called home on the way up and, actually, after they were already up. Minneapolis is an extremely underrated music town. One you sort of forget about until you think about the murderers row of talent that has come from here. The largest chunk of my walk was made with The Replacements playing on my iPod.

Oh, this s fun too:

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Probably means nothing to anyone under 35 or 40. But she can turn a world on with her smile.

Outside of Target Field a less smile-inducing statue:


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That’s Calvin Griffith, who owned the Senators and then moved them here to become the Twins. I guess the team’s long-time owner deserves a statue. I wish, however, carved at the base of the statue were the words he once said at a Lion’s Club dinner when talking about moving the team to Minnesota:

“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when we found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don’t go to ballgames, but they’ll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking white people here.”

And it’s not like he said it during the Jim Crow era. He said it in 1978. He added comments denigrating nearly every player on the Twins and much about baseball. The Lords of the Realm, baby. The Lords of the Realm.

After taking all of that in, I took in The Futures Game. Bill wrote up what happened in that game yesterday. I wrote up what I think should happen with the game in the future. Short version: how much cooler would it be to have the Futures Game tonight, in prime time, with no regular season baseball games to compete with it? Let alone the World Cup. Instead, we’re getting the Home Run Derby. Which, no, I don’t suppose is going anywhere, but it’s not like people much care for it. Later today we’ll talk about the Derby and what some other options may be.

In the meantime, I’ll be looking around and seeing what I can find.

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There may even be some bold flavors to be found.

Drew Smyly brings youth and experience to Mariners rotation

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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Trades don’t surprise Drew Smyly anymore.

At age 27, the Seattle Mariners left-hander has been dealt twice. The first swap sent him from the team that drafted and developed Smyly, the Detroit Tigers, to the Tampa Bay Rays in midseason 2014. That trade landed star pitcher David Price in Detroit.

“I was surprised by that one,” Smyly said.

The most recent trade involving him came in January, when the Rays shipped Smyly to Seattle for three prospects in one of many moves by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. Smyly immediately joined the Mariners’ projected starting rotation, and is having fun getting to know his new teammates at spring training by way of manager Scott Servais’ clubhouse icebreakers.

Servais thinks Smyly is a solid fit as a still young yet experienced pitcher.

“One, being where he’s at in his career age-wise and service time, he’s kind of at the point where, put him in the right environment … very good defensive outfield, he’s a fly ball guy, maybe he does step up and take the next step,” Servais said. “Getting out of the American League East certainly should help him, but there’s no guarantees. Our division’s pretty tough.”

Servais suggested that another Arkansas native, ex-big leaguer Cliff Lee, might have helped sell Seattle on Smyly. Lee is a former Mariner and the two share an agent.

Smyly went 7-12 in a career-high 30 starts last season in Tampa, but won five games from July 30 to the end of the season after starting out 2-11. From May 21 to July 18, he lost seven straight starts.

“Pitching’s tough, you know,” Smyly said. “To manipulate the ball, to make it do different things, to put it in the strike zone with hitters that know what they’re doing. … I just had a rough stretch but I show up at the field every day, play catch and work on my craft and you know, that’s going to turn around one day.”

The 32 home runs Smyly surrendered in 2016 figure to be reduced in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

“It can only help,” he said. “But it’s still going to be up to me to execute pitches and pitch well.”

Smyly is set to join the U.S. World Baseball Classic team shortly. Before that, he’ll make his first spring training start in the middle of next week.

“It’s an honor to be able to put your country on your chest and play with some of the guys on that team,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it big time.”

NOTES: Servais plans to roll out what figures to be Seattle’s opening day lineup in the spring training opener Saturday against San Diego. It’s OF Jarrod Dyson, SS Jean Segura, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, OF Mitch Haniger, 1B Dan Vogelbach, C Mike Zunino and OF Leonys Martin. … Servais said Cano and Cruz will play a little more than is typical for early spring games, as the two will depart for the World Baseball Classic in early March. … LHP Ariel Miranda will start Saturday, then RHP Chris Heston Sunday, RHP Yovani Gallardo on Monday and ace Felix Hernandez on Tuesday.

Mitt Romney’s sons are trying to buy a stake in the Yankees

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30:  Tagg Romney son of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives an interview during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:

The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.

The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.

I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.

In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.