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.

2016 Winter Meetings Preview

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - FEBRUARY 26: The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center is seen along the Potomac River February 26, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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The baseball world will descend on Washington D.C. — well, the Maryland suburbs of Washington, at the Gaylord Resort at National Harbor — this weekend for the 2016 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

Twenty free agents from a class of 191 have signed thus far. Among the notable: Yoenis Cespedes, Edinson Volquez, Neil Walker, Josh Reddick, Bartolo Colon, and R.A. Dickey. That, of course, leaves a ton of notables left, including Edwin Encarnacion, Justin Turner, Jose Bautista, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Mark Trumbo, Mark Melancon, Rich Hill and a host of others. Here is our rundown of this offseason’s top free agents if you’re curious. As you have come to expect from us, we’ll have a writeup of everyone who signs, faster than almost anyone else will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is an historically thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. We’ve seen a couple already, most notably the deals which sent Taijuan Walker to the Diamondbacks, Jaime Garcia to the Braves and Brian McCann to the Astros. Most experts believe there will be plenty more this winter, and the ball could really get rolling on that in the next week with guys like Andrew McCutchen, Chris Sale, Chris Archer, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Brandon Phillips on the block.

Another major activity of the Winter Meetings is the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee vote. Except, this year, there is no Veterans Committee, at least in name. It’s now the “Today’s Game” committee. Here are links to breakdowns of the candidacies of all ten men on the ballot the new committee will consider:

Harold Baines
Albert Belle
Will Clark
Orel Hershiser
Mark McGwire
George Steinbrenner
Davey Johnson
Lou Piniella
John Shuerholz
Bud Selig

Trade deals, free agent negotiations and Hall of Fame votes take place behind closed doors at the Gaylord Resort. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year’s new faces are Torey Lovullo with the Diamondbacks, Rick Renteria with the White Sox and Bud Black with the Rockies. Brian Snitker, now the permanent manager of the Braves, will get his first go-around at the managerial cattle call. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. And a lot of it. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings, though this year’s brand new Collective Bargaining Agreement should overshadow that. We’ve already discussed the major points of that and, yesterday, I speculated that, as time goes on, the way this agreement was reached could lead to some serious strife going forward, particularly on the union side. Expect to hear some anonymous rumblings about all of that in the next few days, from players, agents and other interested parties who may not be all that pleased with how it goes.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene at National Harbor, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event. As they used to say in radio, tune in to us and rip off the dial. Or, at the very least, keep a tab open to us and refresh a lot.

The Padres non-tendered RHP Tyson Ross

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 04:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres walks off the field as he's taken out of the game in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on opening day at PETCO Park on April 4, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Per a report by MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell, the Padres non-tendered right-handed starter Tyson Ross on Friday, cutting loose their top ace after three seasons with the club.

Ross, 29, was sidelined for the bulk of the season with inflammation in his right shoulder and underwent thoracic outlet surgery in October. His injuries limited him to only 5 1/3 innings in 2016, during which he gave up seven runs and struck out five in a 15-0 blowout against the Dodgers.

Prior to his lengthy stint on the disabled list, the right-hander earned 9.5 fWAR and pitched to a 3.07 ERA and 9.2 K/9 rate in three full seasons with the Padres. He avoided arbitration with a one-year, $9.625 million deal prior to the 2016 season after leading the league with 33 starts and delivering a 3.26 ERA and career-best 4.4 WARP over 196 innings in 2015.

The Padres appear open to bringing Ross back to San Diego, reported Cassavell, albeit not at such a steep cost. Cassavell quoted Padres’ GM A.J. Preller, who was reportedly in trade talks involving Ross but unable to strike a deal, likely due to the right-hander’s recent health issues. Preller denied that those same health issues factored into the club’s decision to non-tender their ace.

With the move, Ross became one of 35 major leaguers to enter free agency on Friday.