Why the Rochester Red Wings Should Stay a Twins Affiliate

The Rochester Red Wings’ affiliation agreement with the Minnesota Twins ends this year. And while it’s entirely possible that it will be renewed, it’s also entirely possible it will not, as there is some discussion that, with the future of the Twins’ front office uncertain after the firing of Terry Ryan, now may be the time to again switch. This speculation is especially occurring because the New York Mets, one of the most popular MLB teams in the area, will also likely be available in the affiliation shuffle after this year, and the Mets are desperate to get a new affiliate closer to home, as opposed to distant Vegas.

However, I’m here to argue that the Red Wings should stick with the Twins, at least for another two years. Here’s why:

1. Don’t mess with success.

While it is true that the Red Wings have not had much postseason success during the Twins’ years, with only two appearances and no titles. However, this forgets that the Wings have been competitive for most of the Twins era and probably would have reached more postseasons if not for the tough IL North division and some bad luck. In 2014, for example, they were not eliminated until the final weekend of the year. 2015 saw something similar, and had the Red Wings finish with the same record as the previous two seasons, including the 2013 year where they made the playoffs. This season may see the Red Wings miss the playoffs despite currently having the third best record in the league.

It’s not the Twins fault that Rochester geographically lies in the International League’s toughest division, nor is it their fault that the IL doesn’t have a rule that kicks any team under .500 out of the playoffs, to be replaced by the Wild Card runner-up:

#ContractTheILSouth

#ContractTheILSouth

2. The Twins are a Better Farm System, from a winning perspective.

Here’s a look at the winning percentages of farm systems, as of August 3:

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 5.12.40 PMAs you can see, the Twins are a respectable 10th place. This is the entire organization, from AAA all the way down to the lowest of Rookie leagues. The Mets, meanwhile, are sub-.500 and are at 19th. And if you go level by level, the Twins have a better team in most of them: The AAA Twins (the Red Wings) have a better record than the AAA Mets (Las Vegas). The AA Twins (Chattanooga) have a better record than the AA Mets (Binghamton). The low-A Twins (Cedar Rapids) have a better record than the low-A Mets (Columbia). The rookie-ball Twins (Elizabethton) have a better record than the rookie-ball Mets (Kingsport). The Twins even have a better record in the Gulf Coast League! The only minor-league level where both organizations have teams and the Mets have a better record than the Twins affiliate is the High-A Florida league.

It’s been said that the two biggest determinants of minor league team attendance are also the two things the local GM (in the minors, the GM is more of a business position, not like the position in MLB) has the least control over: how the team is doing, and how the weather is. Except that isn’t really true, as the Minor League team CAN decide who it affiliates with. And when you look at the success on the field up and down the minors, the Twins clearly are the better choice when it comes to wins than the the Mets.

3. The Twins have better prospects overall than the Mets.

One of the neatest things about Minor League Baseball is that you can see the stars of tomorrow. And in this case, the Twins have a better case than the Mets. At the beginning of the year, MLB.com listed the Twins as the fifth best farm system in baseball. While obviously this has likely changed as players like Max Kepler and Byron Buxton have headed to the big leagues, it should be noted that the Mets were nowhere to be found in the top ten this year, and another site (which ranked the Twins 8th) put the Mets all the way down at number 20.

4. The Mets probably wouldn’t cause the big attendance boost some people think.

My fellow Rochester seamheads will remember the Empire State Yankees. In 2012, as their stadium was being renovated, the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees (now the Scranton RailRiders) played their home games on the road, mostly in Rochester. Before the season, some Yankee fans were declaring that the people of Rochester would love them and support them even more than they did the Wings, that it was a dream come true, etc. etc.

Well, here’s the secret: The Empire State Yankees were a bust. Look at this news report from back then:

Yes, the Baby Bronx Bombers were in town and, with the exception of a Andy Pettitte rehab assignment, they drew flies, despite the fact they had a very good team. And the Yankees are definitely far more popular in Rochester than the Mets.

Now, admittedly, the fact that they were the “Empire State Yankees” and not the “Rochester Red Wings, AAA Affiliate of the New York Yankees” probably had a lot to do with it. But when you consider that attendance wasn’t particularly skyrockety for the Buffalo Bisons when they had the Mets affiliation (although to be fair, the Mets system was even worse back then), I think it’s safe to say that in general the affiliation doesn’t drive attendance all that much- winning and weather does. And as I showed with number two and number three, the Twins are a better choice for that.

5. The Mets have horrible owners.

Red Wings fans still speak in hushed tones about Orioles owner Peter Angelos. Why, the only people who hate Peter Angelos more than Red Wings fans are Orioles’ fans! GET IN LINE, NATS FANS, THIS SPOT IS TAKEN! Peter Angelos’ interference with minor league operations, general incompetence, breaking of traditions, and favoritism (intentional or not) to other teams in the Orioles’ system (especially the AA Bowie Baysox) led to the end of one of the longest affiliations in baseball. Well, say what you will about Angelos, but to the best of my knowledge he never ended up drowning in debt after being caught up in a massive Ponzi scheme and as a result been unspeakably cheap for his team that was in the World Series last season and plays in New York City. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, has Peter Angelos been sued for firing somebody because she had a baby out of wedlock and then resolved it before it reached trial. And while I’m sure he (like, sadly, seemingly every single MLB owner) would sign somebody who was suspended for domestic abuse, he hasn’t as far as I know. Yet.

But you know who has done all of this? The owners of the New York Mets! Now, full disclosure, I own a very small (essentially symbolic) portion of the Rochester Red Wings (I covered this before). Not enough to make a difference, but I do own some. But let’s say I did own enough. Would I want to do business with the Wilpons?

No. No I would not.

6. The Red Wings shouldn’t be like other Minor League teams

Many minor league teams change affiliation with relative regularity. The Red Wings don’t- they were Cardinals affiliates from the late 20s to 1960, and then spent the rest of the 20th century and the first two years of the 21st with the Orioles. That means that it should still be another decade or two left with the Twins. Perhaps I’m just being a romantic, ignoring the business nature of modern baseball. And, to be sure, if everything was bad and the Red Wings were doing horrible with no good hope in the lower minors, I’d agree that perhaps it’s time to move on. But the Wings have been one of the most successful minor league franchises in history by not changing course at the first sign of trouble, and I see no reason to start swapping every decade or so now.

So… I say: stick with the Twins and nix the Mets. The reasons to stay with Minnesota lay in the evidence, and the reasons to go to the Mets are nowhere near as high as they seem.

And, besides, if the Mets want to be in Rochester so damn bad, maybe they can call back in two-to-four years. By that point, maybe whoever has replaced Terry Ryan will have shown how he will treat the minor leagues. And maybe they won’t be owned by the Wilpons either.

 

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30 Teams, 30 Posts (2016): “We’re Gonna Lose Twins”

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post (of varying amounts of seriousness) about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to (and aftermath of) the beginning of the 2016 season. Earlier installments can be found here. This is the Twins entry.

We’re Gonna Lose Twins

To be sung to the tune of “We’re Gonna Win Twins”

We’re gonna lose Twins, we’re gonna fail!
We’re gonna lose Twins, there’s another nail!
There are no home runs, shout out a “No Way!”!
Dear God help the Minnesota Twins today!

We’re gonna lose Twins, gosh-darnit all!
Nobody here has hit the cover off the ball!
Let’s hear it for the team that will try to find a way!
Dear God help the Minnesota Twins today!

 

Continuucast 8 with @SethTweets!

It’s time for yet another Baseball Continuum CONTINUUCAST! This time with Twins’ prospect expert, Seth Stohs! Hit play above, download by right-clicking here, follow the RSS feed here or follow on iTunes here or Stitcher here (if the latest episode isn’t up yet, it will be shortly).

 

It’s a Minor League Baseball installment of the Continuucast!

 

First, Dan talks to Twins’ prospect expert Seth Stohs about the Minnesota, the Rochester Red Wings, Minnesota’s farm system in general, and the appeal of Minor League Baseball. Please note that I had some technical difficulties during the conversation, but I have used software to clean it up and make it as good-sounding as I can. Apologies!

 

Then, Dan does another belated “30 Teams, 30 Posts” by talking about how Trevor Story’s amazing first week with the Rockies in some ways is proof of just how fun and unexpected the minor leagues are, since they can provide great surprises even from non-top prospects like Story!

 

Come back next week when Dan will welcome the “Evil Empire” onto the Continuucast and speak to Yankees Blogger Stacey Gotsulias!

 

Music/Sounds Featured:

“The National Game” by John Phillip Sousa

“We’re Gonna Win Twins”

The instrumental music played in the background of Rochester Red Wings commercials

Excerpt of “Pennant Fever” from the Major League soundtrack

All sound and music used is either public domain or is a short snippet that falls under fair use.

 

MVP of Yesterday (June 17, 2015): Tommy Milone

Tommy Milone allowed one earned run, but he had a nice 0.4 WAR for yesterday and allowed only 5 hits in 7 innings from a very good Cardinals team. So, the Twins pitcher is the MVP of Yesterday.

Standings, as always, after the jump:

Continue reading

“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2015): A request to the Minnesota Twins, from a Rochester Red Wings Fan

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2015 season. Previous installments can be found here. Today, in the final installment, an open letter from a Rochester Red Wings fan to their parent club.

TO: Minnesota Twins

CC: General Manager Terry Ryan, CEO Jim Pohlad, Director of Minor League Operations Brad Stell, Manager Paul Molitor

SUBJECT: Sano and Buxton

Hello,

I am writing as a fan of the Rochester Red Wings, your AAA club. You’ve been good to us over the years. We’ve made the playoffs twice and come close a few other times since this affiliation began, and we’ve been lucky enough to see Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Brian Dozier, Francisco Liriano, Denard Span, Grant Balfour, Glen Perkins, and many other fine players. We even got to have Joe Mauer and Joe Nathan stop by briefly on rehab assignments, which was nice.

But, not to sound ungrateful, we have a simple request for this coming season: Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. We very much would like it if you had them stop here before you inevitably call them up in September (if not earlier), perhaps never to grace minor league fields again.

Now, we understand. Neither of them have been able to put much time in AA yet, and with a new affiliate in the Chattanooga Lookouts, you no doubt are looking to make a good first impression. And, what’s more, Chattanooga’s climate is probably way better for a young baseball player in April and May than Rochester’s is.

Seriously, the weather here in April can never seem to remember what season it is. Yesterday, I was in shorts, but this weekend, it could snow.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that, come June, Rochester would be the perfect place for Minnesota’s two biggest prospects since Mauer to prepare for the big leagues. The weather will be getting warmer, schools will start letting out, and Frontier Field will start getting packed. By the 4th of July, the stadium will be full basically every Friday night, with some fans packing cowbells and giveaway thunder-stix, much to the annoyance of some people.

And it’ll be even more special if we have Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano to cheer on. Some of us have been waiting for years to see them. So, please, if at all possible, don’t make them bypass AAA.

Thank you, and good luck on your upcoming season,

-A Rochester Red Wings Fan

2014 Rochester Red Wings in Review, Part 2: Five Things We Learned

Apologies for being late, but here are five things we learned from the 2014 Rochester Red Wings season:

1. It is possible to throw a No-Hitter in two different states and two different months

2. Geography is Destiny

3. As always, the fate of a Minor League Team is in large part outside of it’s control

Make no mistake, the purpose of AAA baseball teams is, and always will be, to provide a place for future MLB players to get ready for The Show. Winning is of only secondary importance, and, with rare exception, no AAA team will go the season with all of their key pieces untouched. What’s more, there are still the other hazards that haunt every baseball club: injuries, slumps, players that just don’t work out or underperform.

This year’s Red Wings were a perfect example of that. The Red Wings played 144 games this season. Only six position players were in at least 100 of them, only four were in at least 120 of them, and only two (Eric Farris, who’s “get to know your Wings” scoreboard segment was by far the best, and Aussie infielder James Beresford) were in at least 130 of them. Danny Santana, who many thought would be in Rochester for a good chunk of the season, ended up only playing 24 games, while Darin Mastroianni was lost to first the Majors and then to the Blue Jays through waivers after just four games. Chris Parmelee, the leading power threat through the first month of the season, was also gone early. The vaunted opening-day rotation of Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Yohan Pino, Logan Darnell and Kris Johnson saw all but Meyer spend at least some time in Minnesota, and the loss of May and Pino down the stretch especially hurt. If Rochester had all five of them all season, I see almost no way that they miss the playoffs, but, again, those are the breaks that come with being a AAA franchise.

And, of course, there were injuries, both in the majors (which led to certain players getting called up to replace the injured Twins) and down in the minors. The loss of Meyer to injury early in the third-to-last game of the season may well have doomed the Red Wings, as it forced them to burn Mark Hamburger, who was expected to pitch a must-win game against Pawtuckett the next day. Instead, the Red Wings had to have Jose Berrios, a 20-year-old (albeit one of the top prospects in the system) pitch that game, where he was beaten up on in a loss that ended the Wings’ playoff chances.

Health problems below AAA also put a wrench in the Wings’ season. At the start of the year, it was considered possible that top prospects Miguel Sano and (although more of a longshot) Byron Buxton could join by the end of the year. Sano got hurt and missed the whole season, and Buxton got a concussion in his first game in AA (although by that point it was clear he was probably not going to end up in Rochester by the end of the year).

Speaking of prospects, I think it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that Rochester will ever see Kennys Vargas, who has gone .314 in 140 AB for the Twins since getting the call-up from AA. Prospects jumping from AA to MLB is less frequent in Minnesota’s system than it is in some others, but it does happen: Joe Mauer would never have played in Rochester if not for a injury so early in his rookie season in MLB, for example.

4. Of course, the above thing also can go the other way.

After the first month of the season, I don’t think anybody expected that Chris Colabello would be back in Rochester. He’d done great early in the year, after all, even winning AL Player of the Week at one point. Then he crashed back to earth and ended up spending more games in Rochester this season (61) than he would in Minneapolis (59). He did not receive a call-up at the end of the year and it’s almost certain that his time with Minnesota- and maybe even affiliated baseball in general- is at an end. But what must have been a horrible disappointment for Colabello was good news for the Red Wings, as he ended up leading the team in HRs. In his two seasons with the Red Wings, Colabello ended up batting .319 in 551 ABs, with 34 HRs and 114 RBIs. His OPS of .966 was spectacular. He will be missed, but hopefully he gets another shot at a permanent place in the Majors.

Similarly, Chris Herrmann was originally with the Twins to start the year, but ended up playing sizable time in Rochester, where he became one of the Wings’ best hitters. He’s now in Minnesota again as a September call-up.

The same sort of thing will no doubt happen next year, just as it happens every year.

5. The Mario-Coin Sound Is An Excellent Sound Effect For Scoring A Run

This season, when the Red Wings scored a run, the sound from Super Mario Brothers when you got a coin would play. They aren’t the only team that does it- I believe the Cleveland Indians do the same, and the Twins use the 1-Up Sound from SMB. It’s great, funny, and is also a good reminder that ultimately baseball is a game.

In fact, it even inspired me to try my hand at some artwork:

marioredwingsThat’s Mario in a Rochester Red Wings jersey. I’m not entirely sure why I made it, but I find it funny and I’m glad I made it. Let’s just hope they don’t change the sound effect next year, otherwise this will just be ridiculous.

 

So, the 2014 season is over in Rochester. It’s far too early to guess what the 2015 season may bring: Will Gene Glynn return as manager? Will some players be lost to free agency or by making the jump to the big leagues? Will next year by the year that Sano and/or Buxton make the jump to AAA?

Only time will tell.

 

For the Minnesota Twins, Saturday is May Day

Trevor May deals during a game in May in Rochester. Photo by Dan Glickman.

Trevor May deals during a game in May in Rochester. Photo by Dan Glickman.

For Minnesota Twins fans, it probably has been a question of “when”, not “if”, and it’s been a question they have been asking since April (probably earlier).

That question, of course, is: “When the hell will Trevor May get called up?” With every great start by him or his higher-ceiling-but-not-as-polished comrade, Alex Meyer, the cries would go louder and louder. Twinkie Town, perhaps the best (or at least most popular) Minnesota Twins blog on the web, wrote not one, but two facetious articles that implied that otherworldly powers beyond our understanding

The answer, at least for now, is “Saturday, August 9th.”

Yes, the day has come: Trevor May is going to pitch in the Major Leagues.

Having seen May all year this year (I’ve made a point of trying to get to as many of his starts as possible), May was acquired in the Ben Revere trade a few years back. In the past, apparently, he’s had control problems, and they still come up now and then, but in general he’s proven himself more than ready to try in the big leagues, posting a 2.93 ERA (4th best in the IL) and striking out 91 in a little over 95 innings. As I said earlier, he’s generally regarded as the lesser of the two pitching prospects who’ve helmed the Red Wings rotation (Alex Meyer, who has felt streaky at times this year), but he still could be something special, or at the very least be a good part of a rotation, especially one like the Twins’, which needs all the help it can get.

Then again, you never know with pitchers. Only time can tell.