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Minnesota Twins’ torture — Breaking down their record 16-game postseason losing streak



The nightmare continues for Minnesota Twins fans.

After being swept by the New York Yankees — again — in their division series, the Twins extended their MLB postseason losing streak to a record 16 games. The Yankees have been the Twins’ particular nemesis during the painful stretch, handing Minnesota 13 of the 16 defeats, including Monday night’s series-ender in Game 3 at Target Field.

Here’s a game-by-game walk-through of the Twins’ tunnel of misery.

2019 AL Division Series

Game 3 (Oct. 7 at Min.): Yankees 5, Twins 1

The air was sucked out of Target Field early as the Twins came up empty on a bases-loaded, nobody out situation in the bottom of the second while already trailing 1-0 on a Gleyber Torres homer. Eddie Rosario provided a little life with a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth, but given the history, it had to be hard for even Minnesotans to get too excited. Aroldis Chapman kept them — and the Twins — in check.

Game 2 (Oct. 5 at N.Y.): Yankees 8, Twins 2

This one was over early. Didi Gregorius, whose three-run home run in the 2017 wild-card game erased the Twins’ first-inning lead, hit a back-breaking grand slam during a seven-run third inning.

Game 1 (Oct. 4 at N.Y.): Yankees 10, Twins 4

The Twins’ record-setting loss featured a franchise postseason-best three home runs, but Jose Berrios and a procession of relievers got pummeled by the Yankees. The big hit? A two-run, bases-loaded Gleyber Torres double in the fifth that broke a 3-3 tie.

2017 wild-card game

Oct. 3 at N.Y.: Yankees 8, Twins 4

The Twins carried the baggage of a nine-game postseason losing streak (and 12 games overall) against the Yankees into the Bronx. Things started well enough for Minnesota — three runs in the top of the first off Yankees starter Luis Severino, who recorded just one out — but that didn’t last long. New York countered with three runs in the bottom of the first off Ervin Santana, then took the lead for good in the third on Greg Bird‘s two-out single off Jose Berrios.

2010 AL Division Series

Game 3 (Oct. 9 at N.Y.): Yankees 6, Twins 1

In his only season as an All-Star, New York’s Phil Hughes made his first (and best) postseason start, shutting down his future team on four hits over seven innings to complete a three-game sweep. Swept out of the playoffs by the Yankees for the second straight year, the Twins wouldn’t return to the postseason for seven years.

Game 2 (Oct. 7 at Min.): Yankees 5, Twins 2

In the eighth straight postseason meeting, the Twins took the lead over the Yankees, only to let it slip away. With the game tied at two in the bottom of the sixth, a tiring Carl Pavano gave up two runs and didn’t record another out, as a Lance Berkman double and a Derek Jeter single put the Yankees on top for good. Minnesota went nine up, nine down in the last three innings.

Game 1 (Oct. 6 at Min.): Yankees 6, Twins 4

Coming off one of his best seasons with the Twins, Francisco Liriano cruised through five two-hit innings, then hit a wall, coughing up a 3-0 lead. Minnesota tied the score on a bases-loaded walk in the sixth, but the Yankees regained the lead in the seventh on a two-run homer by Mark Teixeira. The Twins stranded five runners in the last three innings.

2009 AL Division Series

Game 3 (Oct. 11 at Min.): Yankees 4, Twins 1

Andy Pettitte and Pavano were engaged in a solid pitchers’ duel before the Twins broke through to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth. But as has often been the case in these meetings, the Yankees answered quickly, with Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada hitting solo home runs in the seventh. New York tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth before Mariano Rivera sent Minnesota packing.

Game 2 (Oct. 9 at N.Y.): Yankees 4, Twins 3 (11 innings)

This was perhaps the most painful loss of the bunch. After Hughes got two quick outs in the top of the eighth of a 1-1 game, a walk and single set up Nick Punto to give the Twins the lead with a single, and a Denard Span single off Rivera made it 3-1. But in the bottom of the ninth, Twins closer Joe Nathan gave up a leadoff single to Teixeira, and Rodriguez followed with a two-run blast to right-center to tie the game. In the 11th, the Twins loaded the bases with nobody out but squandered the opportunity, then Teixeira put them out of their misery with a laser beam of a walk-off homer off Jose Mijares.

Game 1 (Oct. 7 at N.Y.): Yankees 7, Twins 2

The 103-win Yankees figured to roll over the 87-win Twins, but Minnesota struck first, with two third-inning runs off CC Sabathia. Jeter countered with a two-run homer to tie it in the bottom of the inning, and the Yankees were off and running. The big blow was a two-run homer by Hideki Matsui in the fifth off Liriano.

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Chaim Bloom says Red Sox prioritized ‘big picture’ over fan reaction in trading Mookie Betts



FORT MYERS, Fla. — Boston Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom addressed the blockbuster trade of Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers for the first time publicly on Monday, saying that the move to trade the star outfielder and pitcher represented the best move for the franchise in “the big picture.”

“What Mookie and David are capable of on the field is a lot,” Bloom said. “I think it’s reasonable to expect that we’re going to be worse without them. We have really good talent coming back, we’ve added talent to the roster this winter and I think it’s important to point out that at the beginning of the winter, this team had a lot more talent than the 84 wins we put up last year. We still think there’s plenty of talent here to compete.”

Monday’s announcement confirmed the return package for Boston in the mega-blockbuster trade with the Dodgers, with outfielder Alex Verdugo, infield prospect Jeter Down and catching prospect Connor Wong coming to the Red Sox. While owner John Henry’s “goal” not “mandate” for Boston to get under the luxury tax threshold sparked rumors around the star right fielder for months, Bloom said that Boston would have considered trading Betts even if the dollar amount required to get under the threshold was significantly smaller.

“The goal to get under the CBT was not an end in itself,” Bloom said. “It’s part of a larger goal, our biggest goal, to put ourselves in position to compete and win sustainably for as many years as we can. Using our resources is a means to that end, it’s part of that goal. What we wanted was to get under the CBT in service of that larger goal, and we weren’t going to do it in a way that wasn’t going to help us or help us towards our goal.”

Throughout the course of the offseason, Boston did not actively shop for trades for Betts on the open market, with Bloom saying as recently as a month ago that he expected Betts to be on the Opening Day roster. Betts has consistently and repeatedly expressed his desire to hit free agency to maximize his value on the open market, in part citing a desire to expand the market for the rest of the Players Association. While Boston has made efforts to extend Betts long-term, the discussions resulted in the two sides being far apart, eventually contributing to Monday’s trade. In the weeks leading up to spring training, both the Dodgers and Padres showed increased willingness and aggressiveness to get a deal done. The interest from both teams eventually led to a trade package Boston felt good enough about to trade their homegrown MVP.

“It was more just a question of as the offseason went on, would teams step forward?” Bloom said. “We felt knowing how great a player Mookie is, how important he’s been for us, it would have to be a high bar in order for us to consider trading him and in terms of the impact on the talent return, the impact that that return could have on our future and the flexibility it allows us to build around it. This return met that bar.”

The trade of Betts sparked harsh backlash from many fans, with many viewing the move as a budget-slashing solution for an ownership group that continues to raise ticket prices with deep financial pockets. Bloom said that the baseball operations department anticipated the negative blowback from the Red Sox fans, but that it was not front of mind during the team’s trade negotiations involving Betts.

“It wasn’t our No. 1 priority as a baseball ops department to be focused on what was going on externally,” Bloom said. “We were worried about what we were working on, but it was very clear to us that this move would come with a lot of fan backlash. I think we had to prioritize what we thought was right in the big picture for the Red Sox over the fan reaction.”

News of the potential deal surfaced in the media over the course of the past week, with an official announcement held off because Boston took issue with the medicals of Brusdar Graterol, who was initially reported to be coming to the Red Sox from the Minnesota Twins as part of the trade package. Bloom expressed regret about the process putting extra spotlight on the medicals of Graterol, and how the delay in an official announcement placed the futures of several players in limbo for days, just as pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report for spring training.

“What was unique about this one was how publicly it played out,” Bloom said. “Mostly, we just felt bad for the teams involved and especially for the players involved. That’s not something we should have to go through, but unfortunately, it’s the way it happened. Our top priority throughout that was to keep the best interests of those other teams and especially those players, in mind.”

Some have questioned the 23-year-old Verdugo’s character and immaturity, but Bloom said the team looked into the past of every player involved in the deal thoroughly.

“The due diligence process there was extensive,” Bloom said.

While Bloom and general manager Brian O’Halloran faced the media without an ownership present, Henry addressed the trade in an emailed statement.

“In trading a great player, a beloved player, we recognize how incredibly difficult this is for fans who fully understand just how special Mookie is,” Henry said. “While the organization in its entirety very much wanted to see Mookie in a Red Sox uniform for the length of his career, we believe in this decision as we are responsible and accountable for both the present and the future of the Red Sox. We thank Mookie for his incredible contributions, both on and off the field.”

“[Price]’s arrival in Boston paved the way for a historic chapter for the Red Sox,” Henry said. “His presence at the top of our rotation was critical to winning three consecutive division championships, and his 2018 Postseason performance put both his talent and tenacity on full display. We appreciate what both Mookie and David brought to our club, and are grateful that they will forever be Red Sox World Series Champions.”

Chairman Tom Werner also addressed the trade in an emailed statement.

“Today’s trade illustrates the difficult decisions necessary to achieve our goal, which has remained unchanged since we became stewards of this franchise nearly two decades ago: to bring multiple World Series Championships to Boston,” Werner said. “Ultimately, we believe that this will set us up for sustained long-term success. I want to express our enormous thanks to Mookie and David for the impact they had on our club and our community.”

Through the chaotic nature of how the trade unfolded, Bloom said the baseball operations made the right decision in trading Betts, and that trading the team’s best homegrown player since arguably Ted Williams, and re-building the foundation of the farm system while gaining financial flexibility, ultimately best served the future of the franchise.

“As difficult as it was, and as difficult as it will continue to be emotionally, we felt like where this trade positions us in terms of the big picture, in terms of the long-term future, it was a large step,” Bloom said. “That despite being difficult, it was something that we needed to do.”

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Love it or hate it? The proposal to shake up the MLB playoffs



Major League Baseball is considering some huge changes to its postseason, starting in 2022. Adding four more teams to expand the playoff slate to 14 of its 30 clubs might be a controversial enough idea by itself, but that’s not the only part of the package of proposed tweaks to October baseball.

The team with the best record in each league would get a first-round bye, and then the other two division winners and the wild-card club with the best record could end up picking their opponents in a televised seeding showdown.

Does that sound dramatic? Terrible? Creative or crazy? We asked our MLB experts for their reactions.

The new playoff proposal: Love it or hate it?

Sam Miller: There’s a lot of moving pieces here, so there’s room to love and hate different parts at the same time. I mean, “no more Game 163 tiebreakers” is offered here as a benefit. Imagine, as a fan, being against Game 163 tiebreakers. Imagine!

The “pick your opponent” part of it is a pretty low-stakes tweak — you could do that now, in the current format — but it feels wacky and unpopular. I don’t think playoff teams actually want to pick their opponents. They would like to face the worst opponents, to be sure. But actually picking them inevitably ends up looking like an act of hubris. You pick a team, fire them up, give them all the bulletin board material they could ever hope for, and then if they actually beat you (which — it’s baseball, so of course they will) you get taunted for your arrogance? Awful. Meanwhile, the notion that lots of fans are going to tune in for this picking ceremony feels wildly optimistic.

In a broad sense, I mostly agree with the idea that having more playoff teams and more playoff tiers would, as designed, cause more teams to compete hard for playoff spots–yes, allowing mediocre teams to sometimes win the World Series, but that’s the trade off if you want to encourage mediocre teams to go for it. And more playoff teams mean more playoffs, which are of course very good. And longer Wild Card series are more playoffs, too. I feel a little bit like the Meat & Cheese Focus Group here, but if baseball is really willing to give me more playoff games I don’t think I’m opposed to that part of it. It’s not going to fix baseball or anything. It would make me happy, is all.

Bradford Doolittle: This is the worst concept since Cop Rock. Hate is not a strong enough word for how I feel about this idea. Detest? Despise? Loathe? My soul is engulfed by flames just by the thought of it.

OK, I’m trying to steer clear of any reasoning here that will spur a rash of “OK, boomer” responses. But that’s probably impossible. Baseball, as we know, is a sport in which the differences between players and teams is only born out over a large number of games. The worst teams in a season win 60 games, usually, the best lose 60, yada-yada. You play for six months to weed out the mediocrity, not reward it. (Baseball used to weed out all but the very best teams with its format, but those days aren’t coming back.)

With this system, mediocrity WILL be rewarded. In 2017, only five teams in the American League had winning record. There would have been two teams in a seven-game postseason structure to play into October with sub-.500 regular-season records. Most years, if you’re a game or two around the .500 mark, you’re in it until the final week.

Some questions: Where is the evidence that teams building to mediocrity spend to get there? Where is the evidence that it drives fan support to see a mostly uninteresting team stumble into a seventh playoff slot? What would it do to the World Series to have an 80-win team play an 82-win team for something labeled as a “championship?” Where is the evidence that any significant percentage of baseball’s fan base is remotely interested in this?

That’s just the playoff format. The idea of a gimmicky, reality-show event where teams draft their opponents is repugnant. I mean, people would probably watch it. People will watch anything. But how about throwing a bone to baseball’s core fan base, who want to see their favorite sport retain a shred of dignity?

Many other sinkholes open in my head as I type this. Would we retain divisions? Because there is no earthly reason for them any longer. The concept of “pennant race” will finally be formatted out of existence, as teams slog for a favorable seed in a postseason tournament no one can really plan for because, you know, we have to wait for the big Selection Night.

Look, this is obviously a touchy subject with me. But at some point, we have to keep in mind that the purpose of a postseason format is to determine a worthy champion. I’m just gonna stop now … Maybe this is one of those unfounded rumors that just goes away — a trial balloon being floated to see just how mad people get about it.

David Schoenfield: Look, I don’t really think there is much of a crossover audience between fans of “The Bachelor” and fans of baseball — or at least enough who would care to watch some goofy rose ceremony on a Sunday night in late September or early October to see Brian Cashman pick his playoff opponent. That’s a gimmick. Some fans like gimmicks. Some still like watching pitchers hit, too. This just feels like a gimmick with no actual payoff, other than forcing the best teams go on the record and disrespect an opponent by “choosing” them. Which makes it the opposite of the rose ceremony, actually. Given the current situation with the Astros’ cheating scandal, I think we will have enough bad blood in baseball for the time being. Why create fake bad blood headlines? Pass.

Otherwise, I do like the idea of getting rid of the one-game wild card — another gimmick (although I don’t totally hate it) — and expanding the playoffs isn’t a bad idea. I get that the beauty of baseball’s regular season is rewarding season-long excellence, but you can argue that this format still does that by giving the team with the best record a first-round bye and a chance to rest up. The biggest problem with the wild-card game is it never really did incentivize teams to compete harder; indeed, we’ve seen more tanking than ever since the creation of the second wild card in 2012.

Eliminating the one-game format might push teams a little harder to get into the low 80s in wins and a chance at a best-of-three series to move on. The obvious downfall to this format, as Brad pointed out, is that it might reward mediocrity. In 2018, for example, the seventh playoff team in the National League would have been the 82-win Nationals or 82-win Diamondbacks or 82-win Pirates — how would that tie have been resolved? In the AL in 2017, there would have been TWO playoffs that finished under .500 — the Rays, Royals and Angels tied for sixth at 80-82. At least that might have put Mike Trout in the postseason. So maybe it is a good idea.

What’s your perfect playoff format?

Miller: I’m already on the record here: Every team should make the playoffs. But let’s get slightly more realistically weird:

All three division winners make the playoffs and go straight to the Division Series round. The best non-division-winner is Wild Card 1. The second-best non-division-winner is Wild Card 2. If the third-best non-division-winner is within five games of the second Wild Card, then it qualifies as Wild Card 3, and plays the Wild Card 2 in a one-game playoff immediately after the season. The winner of that one-game playoff then faces Wild Card 1 in a three-game series, over the course of just two days, with every game in Wild Card 1’s home park. (The second day would be a doubleheader if necessary.) The winner goes on to the Division Series round, where it is reseeded according to its regular-season record.

Meanwhile, if the fourth-best non-division winner is within five games of Wild Card 1, then it qualifies, too, as Wild Card 4, and plays Wild Card 1 in the one-game playoff to advance to the three-game playoff round.

And then the winner of the three-game playoff move on to the five-game LDS against one of the division champs, and then the seven-game LCS, and, what the heck, if the weather’s nice we might as well make it a nine-game World Series.

Doolittle: I’m fine with where we’re at now, until expansion comes along. I would prefer four divisions and no wild cards. Heck, I’d prefer two leagues and no divisions. But I’m somewhat realistic.

Assuming baseball adds two teams in the coming years, I’m torn about what would be the better layout. Given all the data we’ve learned about how much of a baseball franchise’s popularity is based on local factors, it probably makes sense to bite the bullet and do a full-on geographic realignment. I would hate the loss of continuity with league histories, but there may just be too much benefit to ignore.

So we go to 32 teams with more of a geography-based alignment. From there, I’m torn. My strong preference would be for four eight-team divisions with no wild cards. I feel like sub-dividing into those smaller groups would do as much to keep the most number of teams relevant through a typical season as a playoff expansion. And you’d get maximum benefit from regional rivalries. Sure, a couple of teams would run away with divisions every year, but that’s fine.

However, I think baseball will invariably want to add playoff teams if we go to 32. If today’s report is accurate, then we know that’s the case.

If so, then I’d favor just having two eight-team divisions in each league, rather than four micro-divisions. With that format, you’d be able to retain the prestige of winning a division title. The four division winners would get byes. Then you’d have four wild-cards play in some quick-hitting format, probably a best-of-three, to see who survives to play in the LCS round. You wouldn’t want it to drag as you don’t want the favored teams to atrophy waiting around for an opponent. Which, by the way, is another issue with this proposal.

Schoenfield: My quick plan:

• Expand to 32 teams.

• Split each league into two divisions of eight teams. Why do we need three divisions of five teams? That format never made a lot of sense given the potential inequities within divisions. (The AL Central has historically been much weaker than the AL East, for example.)

• Cut the regular season to 154 games. Or even 150 games and cut two weeks off the calendar. (I know, good luck with this idea.)

• Six teams make the playoffs in each league, the two division winners and four wild cards.

• Division winners get a bye, and the other four teams play a best of-three series (no days off).

• The division series is a best-of-seven series with only one day off instead of two.

• The LCS and World Series remain the same as now.

Too simple?

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Altobelli family memorial held at Angel Stadium



ANAHEIM, Calif. — A public memorial was held Monday for three members of a family who died along with Kobe Bryant and others when a helicopter carrying the group to a youth basketball tournament crashed in foggy weather outside Los Angeles.

The service at Angel Stadium of Anaheim began with a reading of the nine names of the victims of the helicopter crash, including Bryant and his daughter. It honored Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and teenage daughter Alyssa, who played basketball on Bryant’s youth team. A podium erected on the field was adorned with flower bouquets, sports jerseys and photos.

In one, Alyssa was shown clutching a basketball and smiling. A photo slideshow was shown on stadium screens of the family at baseball and basketball events, boating, laughing and sitting by a chimney covered with Christmas stockings.

Pastor Erik Rees said he met John Altobelli for the first time eight years ago when Rees was grieving the loss of his 12-year-old daughter to cancer. Altobelli, who dedicated a game to her, met Rees at third base and hugged him, Rees said.

“That is one of the many things I am going to miss, is an ‘Alto’ hug,” Rees told the crowd. Altobelli, 56, won more than 700 games at Orange Coast during his more than two decades devoted to the school’s team. The American Baseball Coaches Association named him its coach of the year last year after he guided the Pirates to their fourth state title.

The coach known as “Alto” also managed the Brewster Whitecaps for three seasons in the Cape Cod Summer League. Among the players he coached there were New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge and New York Mets infielder Jeff McNeil.

His daughter attended Ensign Intermediate School in Newport Beach, which retired her basketball jersey. She hoped to someday attend the University of Oregon, like her favorite basketball player, Sabrina Ionescu. Altobelli is survived by a son, J.J., who is a scout with the Boston Red Sox, and a 16-year-old daughter, Lexi.

Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people died Jan. 26 when the helicopter crashed into a hillside outside Los Angeles. Also killed in the crash were Bryant friends Christina Mauser, who helped coach the girls’ team, Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton, and the helicopter pilot, Ara Zobayan.

A public memorial for the former Lakers superstar, his daughter and other victims of the crash is scheduled for Feb. 24 at Staples Center.

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