Scatter Gunning from the Catbird's Seat.
Don (The Eye) Riley started many columns this way in St. Paul, and I'm not sure what it means, but that's what we're doing with this collection of items:
#THE TWINS HAD NUMEROUS failed personnel decisions leading up to this lousy season, and one of the most-dramatic was feeling the need to fix a bullpen that did not require much fixing.
This did not start to plague the Twins until Opening Day in Milwaukee, when new closer Alexander Colome made a fielding play that would have embarrassed a Little Leaguer while blowing a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. The Brewers then won it in the 10th.
Colome was terrible until all was lost for 2021. The fact he's getting saves in garbage time in no way forgives the Twins for tying their bullpen wagon to Colome and Hansel Robles (traded to Boston). Colome relies almost fully on a cutter to get out hitters, a pitch that has a tendency to take away velocity. He already was down a couple of ticks when the Twins signed him.
It took four months, and what remains a hold on last-place in the 80-percent weak AL Central, but there are now hints of hope for a return to bullpen competence in 2022.
That's unless the Twins stick to a philosophy the bullpen is a place to save payroll (see Trevor May's departure) and move a reliever such as Tyler Duffey during the offseason.
Duffey was a mystery for some time this season, but he has been close to peak form in recent weeks. Assuming the bullpen's standout, Taylor Rogers, is recovered fully from that odd finger injury on his left hand, here's a theory for 2022:
When you're leading narrowly and there's a couple of lefties in the eighth, Rogers pitches that inning and Duffey closes. When there's one lefty or less, Duffey pitches the eighth and Rogers closes.
Caleb Thielbar, amazing tale of success that he's become, has earned a return as the No. 2 lefty. And two righthanders, Jorge Alcala and Juan Minaya, have gained a level of trust by corralling their good stuff.
Throw in John Gant as a three-inning guy and, if healthy, that's a bullpen core of a half-dozen to start with in spring training (which could be summer training, if the oft-predicted work stoppage delays the 2022 season).
#CHRIS SCHAEDE AND HIS family live 90 miles west of Chicago. And he had a personal reason to be saddened by the death of Mick Tingelhoff. Schaede sent this email last month:
"When my wife became pregnant with our first son (according to the sonogram) in 1997, I wanted to collect autographed mini-helmets to give to him.My collection was Vikings-centric. I wanted a Mick Tingelhoff helmet.I found his home address and purchased a helmet to mail.
"I wrote Mick a letter telling him how much I enjoyed watching him play and that I believed he should already be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.Then we lost our son Benjamin in the eighth month.The helmet and letter went into a closet.
"Several years later while I was deployed to the desert with the U.S. Air Force, my wife found the helmet and letter in the back of the closet.It still had the address and she took it to a local UPS store, paid the postage both ways and mailed it.
"Several days later the phone rang.Our daughter answered and said. 'Mom, it's for you.' The voice on the other end said, 'Mrs. Schaede, this is Mick Tingelhoff.Is your husband home?' She told Mick that I was deployed.
"He said, 'Well, I've signed the helmet but the UPS office did not put a return address on the package. Where would you like me to send it?' "
"Mick Tingelhoff had my name and knew where the package was shipped from.He called directory assistance and got our phone number to make sure I got it back. When I arrived home there was a helmet, an autographed picture and a note on his stationary thanking me for my kind words.
"The world has lost an extraordinary football player and maybe more importantly a humble and decent man.''
#THE GOPHERS ANNOUNCED Thursday that Bob Motzko has received a three-year contract extension taking him through the 2025-26 season as the Gophers men's hockey coach. You could suggest Motzko comes from the grass roots of Minnesota hockey, except Austin was only being seeded – there were no roots – when he first put on hockey skates in his hometown in the late 1960s.
I'm not Mr. Hockey, but I love those gents you find in every rink in Minnesota – the guy that maybe had a kid in the youth program 30 years ago, but he still wanders up there almost nightly to watch the young ones, from pups to high school standouts.
I was in Motzko's office a couple of weeks ago and we spent a few minutes on that subject: The 65-year-old local standing behind the boards and glass at one end of the ice, watching, and more than willing to share his opinions.
"I've always enjoyed the rink-rat kind of guy,'' Motzko said. "One thing I really missed during the COVID restrictions was being around the rinks.I can't tell you home many times I was on the road, and one of the locals came up to me and said, 'Keep an eye on that one.' And they know about him as a player and as a person.
"I remember being in Roseau, well into a season, and Mike Lee was playing JV as a goalie. And a local comes over and says, 'Lee gets extra work playing in our oldtimers league – a lot of good players – and nobody can score on him. All he's going to need is a chance.'
"Mike started playing, he was great for Roseau, and then we got him to St. Cloud State, and he was great for us.''
#STEVE LUFKIN WAS the star of a column that I wrote about Twins Fantasy Camp from Fort Myers in January in 2017. Steve had played baseball for Richfield when it was a suburban power in the sport and also played 92 games in four seasons at Gustavus.
He defeated long odds to do this, since his position was catcher, and he performed those duties with the mitt on his right hand and as a left-handed thrower.
"Steve always has been a baseball freak, a Twins freak,'' friend Dave Roiger said then. Roiger had been much involved in getting Rufkin into this Fantasy Camp.
The odds for Steve in this competition were even greater than as a left-handed catcher. He was in a wheelchair, due to ALS.
All of the campers and the Twins legends serving as coaches gave Rufkin a week not to be forgotten. For instance: Frank Viola and Bert Blyleven both were seen flipping batting practice. to Steve as he swung as best he could.
There was a recent note from Dave Lufkin, Steve's brother. Steve had died last October. And last week, Omni Brewing in Maple Grove, as part of the "Ales for ALS'' program, released a beer called "Lefthanded Catcher'' in Steve's honor.
#THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION, the independent league the St. Paul Saints left to become the Twins' Class AAA affiliate, was won by Kansas City. That team was renamed this season as the Monarchs (the name of legend when K.C. was a power of Negro Leagues baseball).
The Association's Player of the Year was Adam Brett Walker – familiar to many Twins fans as a power-hitting prospect who could not make enough contact to reach the big leagues. Walker was in Class AAA Rochester in 2016. He hit 27 home runs and knocked in 75 runs, but 202 strikeouts in 531 plate appearances did him in with the Twins.
Based on a couple of interviews in Fort Myers, Adam Brett was an easy guy to root for. And as majestic as were many home runs hit by Miguel Sano and Kenny Vargas hit in pre-camp contests on the back fields, nobody topped Walker for distance.
He has played in the American Association for four seasons – one in K.C., then the last three for the Milwaukee Milkmen. Summer job for him, since it's his hometown. Walker had 33 home, 101 RBI and batted .320 in the 100-game regular season.
Plus, the strikeout total was a modest 87 in 445 plate appearances. Lesser pitching, obviously, but Adam Brett turns 30 on Oct. 18, and I say he should get one more shot with an affiliated team because those home runs … they're majestic and then some.