A bunch of angry Twins fan tweets (and a couple positive ones) after Kintzler trade

If Brian Dozier didn’t like the Jaime Garcia trade (and he didn’t), he can at least be consoled by the opportunity to forget that trade and focus on a deal he will probably like even less: the Twins’ deadline trade Monday of closer Brandon Kintzler, one of the few dependable relievers they have had the past two seasons, to the Nationals for a Class A prospect.

Know who else doesn’t like the idea that the Twins are throwing in the towel on this season? Twins fans. They reacted to the Twins’ official tweet announcing the move with some pretty harsh replies. Here are several of their angry tweets (and a couple happier ones, too).

How are the Wolves not on list of nine potential future ‘superteams’?

I didn’t want to click, but then I did anyway on an ESPN.com item detailing what writer Tom Haberstroh considers nine potential NBA ‘superteams’ of the future.

The only reason I did was because I wanted to see where the Timberwolves ranked on the list of nine.

That would be easy enough, right? Ctrl+F search Timberwolves.

Nothing.

Ah, they must have just called them the Wolves. Ctrl+F search Wolves.

Again, nothing.

Minnesota?

Nothing.

Instead, these nine teams are listed: the Lakers, Spurs, Bulls, Celtics, Suns, 76ers, Nuggets, Bucks and Kings.

Sure, you can make an argument for all nine teams, as the author does. But no Timberwolves? That was truly surprising given they already have three players — Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins — who could blossom quickly into one of the best Big Threes around. They also could explore a major deal for Kyrie Irving (losing Wiggins in the process, presumably), which would give them three of the 25 best players in the NBA at this moment.

The only things I can think of are 1) I’m overrating the Wolves. (Impossible! OK, entirely possible but I don’t think that’s it in this case). 2) None of the three categories described by the author for building a “superteam” quite apply to the Wolves.

Three teams fell into each of three categories: build through free agency like the 2011 Heat (which the Wolves will never do); build a team through trade assets like the 2008 Celtics (which the Wolves have kind of already done if you consider Wiggins and Butler were acquired via trades, but they lack the kinds of future assets that the Celtics and 76ers have to entice teams to add more pieces without giving up current players); or building through the draft like the Warriors (which is unlikely given that’s not the point the Wolves are in their building process).

But those categories aside, the Wolves are arguably closer right now to being a ‘superteam’ than everyone on that list aside from the Celtics and Spurs.

Twins’ slide was a self-fulfilling prophecy fueled by bullpen decisions

The Twins stayed in or near first place in the AL Central for 3.5 months this season thanks to a combination of strong defense, adequate offense, a bend-but-don’t-break bullpen, mediocrity within the division and — let’s face it — some good old fashioned luck.

They were 48-46, half a game out of first place, on July 19 — just 12 days ago. They had given up 61 more runs on the season than they had allowed, but they had been very good in close games — 10-5 in one-run games at that point — and their bullpen, while sporting a bruised ERA, had established at least a capable 1-2 punch of Taylor Rogers and Brandon Kintzler at the end. If the Twins could get deep into a ballgame with a lead, they felt reasonably good about their chances.

It always felt precarious, though. All along, it seemed like the Twins were one or two dependable bullpen arms away from feeling really secure about life after the sixth inning.

It was a failure of roster construction — much of it bad luck for new bosses Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, and part of lack of urgency on their part. Eventually, the bullpen woes became a self-fulfilling prophecy that fueled the Twins’ seemingly inevitable slide, turning them from buyers to sellers and from contenders to mediocrity at warp speed.

The bad luck was that so many of the Twins’ power minor league arms — they guys they’ve been waiting on for two or three years — succumbed to injuries. Also: Trevor May and Glen Perkins haven’t pitched all year because of injuries. Ryan Pressly regressed. Those are significant obstacles.

The lack of urgency was this: the Twins’ bullpen was a problem last year (and in past years) under the old leadership team. To that group, the notable outside additions were Matt Belisle (a 37-year-old with a career 4.22 ERA) and Craig Breslow (a 36-year-old journeyman who has since been designated for assignment after a poor season). Neither were likely to be high-impact relievers.

Paul Molitor was screaming from the top of the tower for help, and the cavalry never came. The Twins survived because Kintzler and Rogers overachieved, Tyler Duffey was good enough as a third option and the lower-leverage guys were used as much as possible when the Twins were ahead by a lot or down by a lot (more often the latter based on their run differential and 13-21 record in blowout games this season).

Then everything fell apart at once. Cleveland and Kansas City went on big winning streaks, turning the AL Central from mediocre to competitive. The Twins lost a bunch of winnable games on the West Coast, the last three of which have come in walk-off fashion. In two of those three games, the Twins led 5-0, only to lose 6-5. In the other, they led 4-3 in the ninth. Rogers had a bad week. Kintzler took the loss in one of those walk-offs. Suddenly the Twins are 7 games back in the division race at 50-53.

After Rogers gave up the two-run walk-off home run Saturday, Molitor said this (while also praising Rogers for how good he had been for most of the year): “It just goes to show you, you can’t take for granted the value of outs late in games and people who can handle that.”

It sounded like a manager throwing his hands up and saying, “This is all I have to work with, and when Plan A doesn’t work we’re in trouble.”

The bullpen the Twins built inevitably turned them from buyers to sellers right at the trade deadline. Maybe that’s the appropriate course of action. Maybe it’s what Falvey and Levine envisioned all along, and they sure helped the Twins get there.

Multiple reports suggest Twins could still trade Santana, other top players

If you assumed the Twins were going to be buyers instead of sellers at the trade deadline because of their recent acquisition of left-handed pitcher Jaime Garcia, you might want to reset those expectations.

As it turns out, the Twins might still be sellers depending on how the next handful of games go.

Multiple national writers have reported as much, and interestingly Garcia’s name has come up as someone the Twins could send out just as quickly as they brought him in. Outside of Garcia, it’s the usual suspects, led by Ervin Santana.

Jon Morosi got things started Wednesday night, tweeting:

Longtime baseball writer Jon Heyman added Thursday on Twitter:

The non-waiver trade deadline is Monday, meaning the Twins might have to decide pretty quickly if they’re trying to make a playoff push or if they’re suddenly in sell mode. It’s possible one more more of those players could be moved in August, too, but they would first have to clear waivers.

Minnesota umpire walks off field over ball-strike objections, leaving teams tied

The 2002 MLB All-Star Game infamously ended in a tie when the American League and National League both ran out of pitchers.

That event had a good 15-year run as the strangest baseball tie in recent baseball history, but it has been usurped by a town ball game Wednesday night at Tink Larson Field in Waseca.

The non-league game between Waseca and St. Peter ended up as a 1-1 tie when the lone umpire working the game walked off the field in the 10th inning in apparent protest over the teams questioning his ball-strike calls.

That’s what we can glean, at least, from the account of the game from Tink Larson — the 75-year-old Waseca manager and ballpark namesake (pictured in a Star Tribune file photo).

Larson declined to say who the umpire was, noting that “umpires take enough stuff” and that this particular man is a “decent umpire and a really nice guy.”

Per Larson, who was reached by phone Thursday afternoon, the contest between Waseca and St. Peter was “a good game” and something of a pitcher’s duel. He said there was a fair amount of grousing from both teams over ball-strike calls, but nothing out of the ordinary.

“There were no confrontations, nobody had charged out of the dugout,” Larson said. “I heard their dugout chirp every once in a  while, things like, ‘you’re kidding me’ and ‘call it both ways.’ Usual stuff. The umpire never warned the dugouts with anything.”

But in the 10th inning, Larson said, a St. Peter batter objected to a called strike.

“I don’t know if the hitter said something or not. He stood there for 2 seconds and then he walked away. All the sudden I saw the ump walk over to their dugout tossing balls out of his bag. He said, ‘You guys go umpire the game yourself,’ and he started walking away.”

The umpire then walked over to the Waseca dugout.

“Don’t even send me the check. I’m done,” Larson recalled the man saying. Umpires in that area typically make around $100 to work a town ball game if they are solo, as was the case Wednesday. “Everyone was bewildered. Maybe he wasn’t used to people chirping like that. All the sudden he just left.”

The teams stood around for a while before agreeing that the game — a playoff tuneup for both squads — would just have to end in a tie.

Larson said he followed up with the umpire assignment coordinator and learned that the umpire had indicated he was calling it quits for good.

Larson, who has been involved in town team baseball as a player or manager for close to 60 years, said he has never seen something like that in his life.

“Nope. But I’m only 75 years old,” Larson said with a laugh. “I’ve only coached like 5,000 games and played another couple thousand. That’s what they say about baseball. No matter how long you’ve been around, something new comes up. I’ve never seen this.”

 

Twins schedule is about to get easier, should keep them in playoff race

It seems like just the Twins’ luck, right? They make a couple of moves to bolster their starting rotation after a surprisingly good first half of the season — first a flyer on Bartolo Colon and then a more significant pickup of Jaime Garcia — only to hit a rough patch and drift further out of contention.

Even as modestly committed buyers instead of sellers, the Twins have to be disappointed to suddenly be below .500, trailing the AL Central race now by 4.5 games and the Wild Card by three.

That said, the push to add those pitchers was made with the duration of 2017 in mind, not just this recent stretch. The Twins are 4-7 since the All-Star break against a schedule that looked daunting from the get-go: the Astros, Yankees, Tigers and Dodgers.

But after one more game in Los Angeles on Wednesday, the schedule eases up considerably and could — should? — enable the Twins to at least stay on the fringes of contention for the foreseeable future.

Their next two series are against way-below-.500 teams Oakland and San Diego before coming home against the mediocre Rangers. In the back half of August, the Twins have 11 consecutive games against either the White Sox or Blue Jays, two last-place teams. Bad teams who have nothing left to play for often wilt even more in the dog days of summer and/or give playing time to prospects in the name of development.

The Twins are done for the season with the Astros, Red Sox and Dodgers — three elite teams against whom the Twins have gone a combined 3-12 this season — after tonight.

Bottom line: the Twins will have the type of schedule conducive to winning streaks or clusters of, say, seven wins in nine games. Whether they take advantage is another matter, but they are at least in a better position to do so after adding Colon and Garcia — both of whom are scheduled to start this weekend in Oakland.

Ex-Viking Matt Birk tweets skepticism about NFL brain injury study

If you follow sports in any capacity, it would have been pretty hard to miss a major story this week further strengthening the link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerating brain disease.

The brains of 111 deceased former NFL players were studied, and 110 of them — yes, all but one — had evidence of CTE. The study was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Per the New York Times: The brains here are from players who died as young as 23 and as old as 89. And they are from every position on the field — quarterbacks, running backs and linebackers, and even a place-kicker and a punter. They are from players you have never heard of and players, like Ken Stabler, who are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Some of the brains cannot be publicly identified, per the families’ wishes.

That’s a big deal and some pretty sobering science.

That said, former Vikings center Matt Birk jumped into the dialogue with a tweet late Tuesday linking to the New York Times story but also asking this question: “What about the 15,000 or so deceased former NFL players who lived full lives and didn’t have CTE?”

The 140 character nature of Twitter doesn’t allow for much nuance, but let’s dissect this just a little more.

It’s pretty dangerous to say former NFL players who have died but didn’t have their brains studied — therefore showing no direct evidence of CTE — “didn’t have CTE.” It would be more comforting to think CTE only impacts a very small percentage of players — still not good, of course — but the sheer math suggests that a lot of dead former NFL players had it as well. It’s not quite on the level of an argument such as “it’s not hot today so therefore climate change must not be real,” but it doesn’t hold up.

Where there is a discussion to be had, and where it might naturally lead in more than a 140-character space, is here: It stands to reason that a former NFL player who wanted his brain studied had symptoms that made him believe it was possible he was being impacted by CTE.

That said, this argument is addressed by the New York Times:

The set of players posthumously tested by Dr. McKee is far from a random sample of N.F.L. retirees. “There’s a tremendous selection bias,” she has cautioned, noting that many families have donated brains specifically because the former player showed symptoms of C.T.E.

But 110 positives remain significant scientific evidence of an N.F.L. player’s risk of developing C.T.E., which can be diagnosed only after death. About 1,300 former players have died since the B.U. group began examining brains. So even if every one of the other 1,200 players had tested negative — which even the heartiest skeptics would agree could not possibly be the case — the minimum C.T.E. prevalence would be close to 9 percent, vastly higher than in the general population.

 Birk, a St. Paul native who just turned 41, is Harvard-educated and had a tremendous NFL career. He’s taken care of his body, shedding tons of weight from his playing days on the offensive line. We should all hope the Birk and his fellow NFL players, past and present, live long and healthy lives with no impact from CTE.

But the numbers are out there. Out of the 110 players in this study found to have CTE, 44 were linemen. It’s wishful thinking to believe everyone you have watched or will watch on Sundays will be fine. That’s a hard and scary thing to reconcile, but it’s true.

Here are the best tweets from the longest, dumbest delay in Twins history

I don’t care what the official explanation is for the 20-minute delay in the bottom of the sixth inning of Tuesday’s Twins-Dodgers game, and neither does anyone who watched the unbearable, interminable mess.

All that matters is that it was triggered by a double-switch (!) and it slowed down an already glacially paced game. If it was the night baseball died — and it very well could be — the only saving grace we can take from the experience is that it produced some very good tweets.

Narrator: It did not.

That’s a 2003 NFL Draft callback from Brauer, which is the kind of obscure humor we crave at midnight on Twitter.

No ice cream for Dave Roberts, either.

EVEN THE TWINS WERE CONFUSED.

Don’t tempt me, Jimmy.

No! That was the worst part. We still had three innings to go.

And that’s the real story here. Between Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda taking approximately 17 minutes between every pitch in the third inning — Manfred: get and enforce a pitch clock, like, yesterday — and a double-switch delay that even a golf fan would think was long and pointless, this was an extreme but relevant example of baseball’s biggest problem. The game moves too slowly and takes to long in a world where everything else is trending toward efficiency.

Stephen A. Smith: Kyrie Irving’s ‘No. 1 preference’ for trade? Minnesota

In the drip-drip-drip of Kyrie Irving trade speculation, one drop caught my ear in particular Tuesday.

No, it wasn’t any of the alleged drama between LeBron James and his Cavaliers teammate. Rather, it was a nugget from ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith during a radio appearance on Mike & Mike.

We already knew that Irving apparently has four teams he would prefer to be traded to: New York, Miami, San Antonio and Minnesota.

Even fathoming that is still hard.

But Smith went a step further, reporting that those are indeed the four teams Irving would prefer to play for and adding, “and Minnesota is his No. 1 preference.” (You can listen to the audio clip here, around the 14:00 mark).

Again, the logistics of such a trade would be complicated (at best), and Smith makes the good point that the Cavaliers can trade him to any team they please (or keep him).

It’s also worth wondering how well Irving would fit in with the Wolves given his seeming desire to be a clear No. 1 player on a team. The Wolves already have Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins, and even if one of them was involved in a trade for Irving (Wiggins is the most likely candidate), this is a team that already has some star power.

Five things to know about new Twins pitcher Jaime Garcia

The Twins’ on-again, off-again deal to acquire pitcher Jaime Garcia from the Braves switched back to “on” when the trade was finalized on Monday. Garcia gives the Twins a chance at rotation stability as they attempt to stay in the American League Central and Wild Card race. Here are five things to know about the new Twins pitcher:

1) Pay attention to the spelling of his first name. The “i” is before the “m,” and per Baseball Reference, Garcia’s first name is pronounced like “hi-may.” Learn this. Love this. Otherwise, you will be misspelling and mispronouncing his name for at least the next 10 weeks.

2) Speaking of which, you don’t need to get too acquainted with Garcia. He’s a free agent at the end of this season, and this trade has the appearance of being a short-term “rental”-style move. The Twins only had to give up one low-level minor league prospect to get Garcia, though they are taking on his full remaining $4.65 million salary for the rest of this season.

3) When healthy, Garcia, 31,  has been an effective left-handed starter throughout his career, posting a 3.65 ERA in 176 career games (all but 11 of which have come as a starter). He has averaged 7.2 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings in a career that started with St. Louis in 2008. He pitched with the Cardinals up until this season, when he was acquired by the Braves. The “when healthy” caveat is an important one, however. Garcia has had a litany of injuries in his career. Between 2012 and 2015, he made just 56 total starts — an average of 14 per season. But he made 30 starts last season and has made 18 this year. The Twins will hope his health is stable for at least the final two months of this season.

4) He gives the Twins some rotational depth, something they have sorely lacked pretty much from the start of the season. Garcia is slated to make his Twins debut on Friday. To make room for him in the rotation, the Twins sent Kyle Gibson to Class AAA Rochester, meaning 44-year-old Bartolo Colon will stay in the rotation. Having Gibson as a fallback plan in case any member of the current rotation — Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios, Adalberto Mejia, Colon and Garcia — is injured or ineffective is a better spot than the Twins have been in for much of the year.

5) Garcia was born in Mexico and played high school baseball in Texas. The Orioles originally drafted him, but he re-entered the draft and wound up with the Cardinals. Pitching with St. Louis, he started seven career playoff games — including two World Series games, in which he posted a 1.80 ERA over 10 innings.