Minnesota Twins News & Rumors Forum
  • Rock Cats Report -- Including a Potential Move?

    Late this afternoon, the Hartford Courant placed a story on its front page suggesting that the Rock Cats' owners may be moving the team to Hartford in 2016. It's only about 10 miles away, but would be significant for many local reasons I won't get into now.

    Journalism is funny in the Internet age. The original title of the piece was "Rock Cats Close to Deal to Move to Hartford." It now reads, "Rock Cats in Talks to Move from New Britain to Hartford." There are confirmations and denials from various parties, but the fact that it was written by, among other reporters, Hartford's Government Watch reporter (as opposed to a sportswriter, who might not have the political connections to piece together the story), suggests to me that the Courant was pretty confident in its report.
    Originally published at Twins Fan From Afar



    Note that this is talking about the minor league organization, not the Twins affiliation. What does this mean for the Twins? Nothing, perhaps. Regardless of any deal, the Rock Cats will play 2014 and 2015 in New Britain. And the Twins and Rock Cats must decide this season whether to renew their player development contract.

    This is about the stadium. New Britain Stadium is owned and operated by the city -- not the team. I can't opine on this, as I have not seen other Eastern League ballparks, but it's been said to me more than once that the New Britain playing field, and perhaps the facilities, are not as good as they could be. Like I said, I have nothing to compare this to. But assuming that's true to an extent, a new ballpark would appeal to the Twins, or most any other team moving from a non-state-of-the-art-facility. It's way, way too early to speculate any more, though. When there are developments, follow me on twitter for the latest.

    ~~~

    Kennys Vargas continues to hit. After missing a few games with a strange wrist injury (suffered in batting practice), Vargas hasn't missed a beat. 40 percent of the way through the minor league season, Vargas has a .323/.398/.508 line, which is good for a .906 OPS. He has 11 doubles, 8 home runs, 24 walks and 34 strikeouts. The .323 average is nearly identical to Vargas' career-best season -- 2010 in the Gulf Coast League.

    Something interesting has happened in the last couple weeks, though: Vargas isn't hitting for much power, but he is hitting for average. In fact, he hasn't homered in a couple weeks, and has only 1 double in that time frame. But in his last 10 games, he still has 14 hits, 8 RBIs, and a .378 average. So although the power has tapered a little (perhaps the wrist isn't 100%), Vargas is still extremely effective.

    If he makes it through June still hitting and reaching base at this rate, I'd like to see him promoted. Most important, however, is playing time. It makes no sense to Vargas to share at-bats with whoever's in Rochester (Colabello/Parmelee/Arcia -- you get the point). I was at last Saturday's game where Vargas had two hits. One thing that stood out to me was that he was comfortable taking what the pitcher gave him -- in that game it was two singles to opposite field. Neither was that well hit, but it's so much better than what many big guys do: roll over the outside pitch for a grounder to first or second.

    ~~~

    Danny Ortiz was the Rock Cats' best hitter in the month of May. After hitting only .227 in April, Ortiz heated up with an amazing .388/.402/.660 line in May, including 4 homers, 2 triples and a whopping 12 doubles. In fact, New Britain Herald sportswriter Matt Straub noted that Ortiz, who is 24 years old this season, has been perhaps the team's most consistent player.

    I've always been pleasantly surprised with Ortiz' arm, but he's an under-the-radar guy, mostly due to a pretty low career average, and the fact that he simply doesn't walk. On the season, Ortiz has a respectable .324/.340/.500 line, but notice that on-base percentage. He's struck out 34 times, and walked only 3. Unless he can sustain a .330 average -- which he hasn't been able to -- that's problematic. But, it's great to see him hitting the ball hard. Perhaps plate discipline can come later for Ortiz?

    ~~~

    Eddie Rosario is back! Or, he will be back. Soon. We hope.

    Working his way back up to New Britain, Rosario started off 1-for-11 with the Ft. Myers Miracle, but was 2-for-3 in Sunday's game with a walk, an RBI and a stolen base. I have no particular knowledge, but my guess is that Rosario will put in another week, give or take, before he comes back to Connecticut -- provided he has good at-bats. I think they'll keep him in the outfield predominately. The Rock Cats' lineup could use more help at the top, and Rosario -- after foolish behavior cost him 50 games -- needs to put himself in a position to compete for a 2015 MLB position.

    ~~~

    Mark Hamburger is back! The former major leaguer, former St. Paul Saint, is in New Britain, hoping to make his way up to the Twins' bullpen. I saw his only appearance thus far -- a 2 inning, 2 hit, 2 strikeout, 1 walk outing. He was all right. Nothing much more to report on him now, except for wishing him good luck and hoping he can revive his career and resist the temptations that got him in a little trouble in the past.

    ~~~

    Finally, I tend to focus so much on the individual players (or, perhaps only a couple individual players), that I lose sight of the team's win-loss record. But baseball is a team game, and even in the minor leagues -- where player development is primary -- I want these guys to learn winning baseball at every level. The Rock Cats had a better May, and currently stand at 25-29, riding a three-game win streak. What they could use: better starting pitching; more offensive threats.
    Comments 14 Comments
    1. SD Buhr's Avatar
      SD Buhr -
      I really hate to see a community that has actively and enthusiastically supported a minor league team for years lose it just because a nearby larger city can make the owner a better offer. If indeed the stadium is somehow lacking, then yes it is up to the community to be proactive and improve those facilities.

      I don't think it's at all certain that the Twins will ultimately benefit long-term from a new stadium for he Rock Cats in Hartford. Once that thing is built, those owners will have other teams tripping over themselves to affiliate there and some of those teams may likely be a more beneficial geographic fit for the Cats.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Great writeup! Thanks for the in depth information.
    1. Since71's Avatar
      Since71 -
      I would prefer they stay in New Britain but only because I was born there (only lived there for 6 months) and I now live in Rochester NY. It just feels like good karma to me to have the top 2 minor league teams in cities I have lived in.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Baseball team points a gun at city's head: "Build a new stadium for us--or we will move!" Some things never change. The equivalent distance is like from Eden Prairie to Minneapolis. Plus, a potential to sell many more tickets, at a higher price, and keep a higher portion of the gross--of course they want to move!
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Andrew tweeted a link to another story today: http://touch.courant.com/#section/22.../p2p-80390036/


      Interesting to see the maneuvers that will go on surrounding this.

      And the columnist's dream of vibrant summer nights -- seems like that's always the other selling point.

      And I agree with JC. I doubt that any of this is to the long-term benefit of the Twins organization.
    1. jimv2's Avatar
      jimv2 -
      "What they could use: better starting pitching; more offensive threats."

      Sounds a bit like the parent club.
    1. sharewhut's Avatar
      sharewhut -
      Announced today team moving to Hartford, the State Capitol and MURDER Capitol of Connecticut. Blocks away from gang infested area of city, only parking available is in politically connected lots. Fans already saying they won't go into city for games.
      Civic Center (Wolfpack AHL, and UCONN 'alternate' home court) is at least in downtown area with attached parking garage. City broke, raising taxes from shrinking tax base to come up with cash for stadium. Not a place where you'd dare walk more than a block or two after (or frankly BEFORE) a night game. Twins had better plan on housing/busing their prospects out of immediate area.
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      Quote Originally Posted by sharewhut View Post
      Announced today team moving to Hartford, the State Capitol and MURDER Capitol of Connecticut. Blocks away from gang infested area of city, only parking available is in politically connected lots. Fans already saying they won't go into city for games.
      Civic Center (Wolfpack AHL, and UCONN 'alternate' home court) is at least in downtown area with attached parking garage. City broke, raising taxes from shrinking tax base to come up with cash for stadium. Not a place where you'd dare walk more than a block or two after (or frankly BEFORE) a night game. Twins had better plan on housing/busing their prospects out of immediate area.
      Well, that's a little dramatic. You say this as if they currently don't play in New Britain, Connecticut.

      I agree that there are problems in Hartford, though. Whether this will help make things better, I guess we won't know for a while.

      I wrote more about it tonight: http://twinsdaily.com/entry.php/5324...eave-the-Twins
    1. sharewhut's Avatar
      sharewhut -
      @ Kwak:
      Team didn't put gun to New Britain's head- deal was cut behind the mayor's back by Governor (questionable ethics would be putting it mildly) and equally shaky Hartford Mayor- in part to punish a brand new Mayor in N.B. who happens to be an outspoken critic (and member of opposing party) of said governor and hartford mayor (lower case intentional). Hoping the Twins haven't/don't extend association.
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      Quote Originally Posted by sharewhut View Post
      Team didn't put gun to New Britain's head- deal was cut behind the mayor's back by Governor (questionable ethics would be putting it mildly) and equally shaky Hartford Mayor- in part to punish a brand new Mayor in N.B. who happens to be an outspoken critic (and member of opposing party) of said governor and hartford mayor (lower case intentional). Hoping the Twins haven't/don't extend association.
      Well, you're making a bunch of statements here that don't make a lot of sense.

      Yes, New Britain's mayor had no part in this, as it was an agreement between Hartford and the team's owner to take effect after their current agreement expires. So, yes, New Britain (and their mayor) didn't have anything to do with this new deal. Because, well, it's in Hartford.

      What does Dan Malloy have to do with this? Everything I've read says this is is all city money -- no state money involved. You're going have to be more specific if you're going to make statements like that.

      Twins' deal expires after the end of this season.
    1. sharewhut's Avatar
      sharewhut -
      Quote Originally Posted by Twins Fan From Afar View Post
      Well, that's a little dramatic. You say this as if they currently don't play in New Britain, Connecticut.

      I agree that there are problems in Hartford, though. Whether this will help make things better, I guess we won't know for a while.

      I wrote more about it tonight: http://twinsdaily.com/entry.php/5324...eave-the-Twins
      Respect you being a Twins fan in CT and wanting to keep a touch with your team close by, but how likely is it that you'll be making the nightly trek to 84 & 91 on hot summer nights? Presumably you're familiar with area 2 blocks away. No way families from outside Hartford making that trip. Maybe for a day game. New Britain ain't exactly a gem, but for the most part more family friendly than Connecticut's <s>Rising</s> Shooting Star. For parking they'll use Beehive Field and run a special on the busway on game nights for those not wanting to spend $25 to park in one of Laz's lots.
      Election year move by Dan (it's an election year so don't call me Dannell)- move a business from one city to another and call it economic progress.
      (BTW- spent a few summers visiting M-SP area in 70's, loved going to Twins games in Bloomington getting in for $5 in Knothole seats, talking to players in pen and outfield...)
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      For the record, I have absolutely nothing against NB. I've been going to games there for many years, and they do a great job. I know many of the employees by name, and they are all great people. So I definitely get the human aspect to this -- and I don't think that success in Hartford is any guarantee. I'm also not condoning the apparent way this deal was done. For me, it just is what it is -- business.

      Trying not to be biased, though, I see what Hartford is trying to do -- energize the downtown area, and to get people to stay past 5 pm. Again, whether they're successful, I have no idea.

      I am familiar with the area nearby the new stadium location. Yes, the city's going to have to make people feel safe, for sure.
    1. sharewhut's Avatar
      sharewhut -
      Quote Originally Posted by Twins Fan From Afar View Post
      Well, you're making a bunch of statements here that don't make a lot of sense.

      Yes, New Britain's mayor had no part in this, as it was an agreement between Hartford and the team's owner to take effect after their current agreement expires. So, yes, New Britain (and their mayor) didn't have anything to do with this new deal. Because, well, it's in Hartford.

      What does Dan Malloy have to do with this? Everything I've read says this is is all city money -- no state money involved. You're going have to be more specific if you're going to make statements like that.

      Twins' deal expires after the end of this season.
      A- If you don't sense Malloy's finger in this, well no sense debating you. Nothing happens in Hartford without state money involved, if not directly then through increased education, public safety, etc dollars to cover shortfalls caused by stadium costs.
      B- Was responding to 'gun held to head' statement, not implying that Mayor Stewart should have had role in negotiations. Just saying that she was blindsided by team/State/Hartford. At least on part of both Hartford parties was more than a subtle political jab.
      C- It's usually, at least as a courtesy, brought up to current city that something else is in works, to either give opportunity to come up with counter or soften blow. Unless you're the Colts.
      If Twins adamant on staying in area, they could always approach Norwich about upgrading Dodd. Was rocking as a Yankee affiliate, Twins would probably run more along lines of what they drew for Giants farm team. I sense that attendance in NB was as much a result of having a team of their own for so many years- no matter who was feeding players they were "OUR TEAM". Don't see them following up the road once that disconnect is made. You may eat at Pop's Diner in the neighborhood for years, no matter who owns it, but if it shuts down and moves 15 miles out of town it's not your neighborhood place any more.
    1. sharewhut's Avatar
      sharewhut -
      Quote Originally Posted by Twins Fan From Afar View Post

      Trying not to be biased, though, I see what Hartford is trying to do -- energize the downtown area, and to get people to stay past 5 pm. Again, whether they're successful, I have no idea
      The Whale couldn't do it. The Pack and UConn aren't doing it. The Convention Center isn't doing it. Sad fact is that people who know the city spend as little time as possible there after dark.
      I used to come in for Whalers games, or to hit Mad Murphy's or the Russian Lady for drinks or music or just partying. Mid to late 80's got to scary to go downtown for a night out. Giving Front St. a chance, but for now even that feels a bit sketchy walking through all the incompleteness to parking garages.
      Would love to see city rise up and be successful- if for no other reason than to see my tax dollars not disappear into it- but unless you can pull a Yankees/South Bronx trick don't think it'll happen.
      Geez, I only ended up here looking for how long Twins committed to team for. Sorry to Twins fans for breaking off on tangent when I saw Kwak's note. Andrew, hope you keep your future Twins nearby, but there had better not be a paid attendance clause in the lease or I see Springfield in the Rock Cats future yet, with Sox AA back from Trenton. Then Hartford can replace Norwich as having the nicest stadium in the NY-Penn League!
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.