La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.
Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.
Baseball Hall of Fame voters faced a difficult problem last month: Too many worthy candidates. But it's possible that the Twins' Hall of Fame, 15 years after it was created, has the opposite problem.
Nobody was elected to the Twins' Hall of Fame this season, the team announced Friday, the first time that's happened since the honor was created in 2000. A panel of 66 executives and media members (me among them) failed to give 60 percent support to any former player, with at least one voter leaving his ballot blank and including the note: "Time to take a break."
In addition, a 19-member veterans' group of players, executives and players failed to select an off-the-field honoree.
The empty Class of 2015 raises a delicate question: Are there any deserving candidates left?
"No question there are, especially on the non-player ballot," said Twins president Dave St. Peter. "Even the voters will tell you, there were probably four, five, six legitimate candidates who were deserving, but the names were spread out across the electorate and nobody had enough votes to rise to the [60 percent] level."
The veterans committee, which only votes in odd-numbered years, considered longtime broadcasters John Gordon and Halsey Hall, former team president (and Target Field advocate) Jerry Bell, retired coach Rick Stelmaszek and ex-general manager Andy MacPhail, among others.
On the player ballot, however, the electorate has chosen 20 players in the first 15 years, including five in the inaugural class. Considering the Twins' history stretches back just 54 years, and only retired players are eligible, the most noteworthy candidates have now been elected.
This year's top vote-getters, St. Peter said, were Dan Gladden, Cesar Tovar and Mudcat Grant, each of whom has appeared on the ballot almost every year without reaching 60 percent. Each had their moments, but like fellow candidates Jeff Reardon, Eric Milton, John Castino and Corey Koskie, none had long careers of All-Star-level play in Minnesota, as most of the other inductees have on their resume.
Is it time to cut back on the elections, perhaps alternate player balloting with non-player balloting? St. Peter said he's comfortable with retaining the annual ballot, recognizing that some years, like this one, nobody will be elected. "I'm not worried about the player ballot. We'll have a heaping number of new candidates over the next 10 years," he said. Indeed, Joe Nathan, Johan Santana and Torii Hunter, important parts of the Twins' run of division titles in the 2000s, are all nearing the end of their careers.
"It's also not impossible that you will see a Gladden or a Tovar generate more support in the future," St. Peter said. "I'm proud that our Hall of Fame has standards, that it's not a guy behind the curtain determining who should get elected. We owe it to the people in the Hall of make sure we maintain that. It's a transparent process."
It creates a marketing problem, though, since the Twins like to hold a Hall of Fame weekend to induct the newest members, which is essentially a reunion for the team's former greats. It didn't happen last year -- the Twins cancelled Chuck Knoblauch's induction after the All-Star second baseman was arrested on domestic assault charges -- and won't happen this summer, either. The Twins will hold a reunion for the 1965 A.L. championship team instead, St. Peter said.
The team is also investigating the possibility of creating a museum for its Hall of Fame, as teams like the Cardinals and Reds have already done. "Certainly there will be more pressure for us to do that [since] there will be a significant one included in the new Vikings stadium," St. Peter said. "We were space-challenged when we moved into this ballpark, so we took a different tack -- we tried to spread memorabilia and museum artifacts throughout this facility. But we'll look for ways to make that better, whether it be in this ballpark or in a facility [nearby] as the neighborhood continues to grow."
If a Twins Hall museum ever becomes a reality, don't look for a Knoblauch plaque, however. The team recognizes him as having been elected to its Hall of Fame, and lists him in its media guide and on its website as one. "But it's the team's choice whether we induct him or not, and at this point, our decision is that it's not in the best interests of the franchise to induct him," St. Peter said.
Justin Morneau hosted a charity event, a casino night, on Sunday evening following the Twins game. He has posted a picture of the fire that broke out at the stadium later in the evening on his website.
You can check it out here. Click on the photo to enlarge it.
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