has a constant player movement which results in an up- and down season
The St. Paul Saints had a great season ending Monday.
That night was won by the club, something that has happened less often this season than Toby Gardenhire or team officials would like. CHS Field’s 5,845-strong crowd was happy and entertained. The best part was that Simeon Woods Richardson (the probable starting pitcher), actually started the game. This wasn’t always true with the Class AAA affiliate of Twins.
If you have ever followed the Twins, you will know how modern baseball works. Pitchers are promoted from the minors, then thrown into a game, and then demoted afterwards, often without regard for how they pitched. Gardenhire was forced to scramble when the Twins summoned Ronny Henriquez and Dereck Rodriguez on consecutive September days.
Rodriguez flew to Cleveland and pitched the 15th inning of a loss. He then returned to the Saints the following day. Henriquez is still with the Twins.
Gardenhire, the son and former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that pitching staff stuff was a daily operation in his office. Our pitching coaches do an excellent job planning things for the week. We need to be aware that there may be changes at any time so we must have (relievers ready) (to fill in for starters).
This is how life looks for a Class AAA affiliate. The Saints were crowned this season, after 28 years of being the uncompromising standard-bearer in independent baseball. Opening Day roster featured highly-respected Twins prospects Royce Lewis and Jose Miranda, as well as experienced major leaguers Jake Cave and Devin Smeltzer, Chi Chi Gonzalez, and Rodriguez. It was a contender.
The Saints were often limited by the Twins’ avalanche of injuries and their constant need for new arms, so they rarely had the same roster each game. When you add in big leaguers who are on rehab assignments, this season’s Saints record was 89 players, 49 of whom were pitchers. The Saints (74-75) finished the season tied for fourth in International League West Division, and out of the playoffs.
Gardenhire stated, “The first week I looked at our roster and thought, dang! we could be really great.” If we keep our lineup together, we have a chance of winning a lot more games. We had about half of these guys a week later. All the rest were sent up to the big leagues.”
Although the turnover did not happen as quickly, you get the idea. The Saints game notes have a summary of player transactions (257 total) that takes up two pages. It has two columns per page and is written in smaller font than what you are currently reading. Threety-two Saints spent time playing with the Twins. Some, such as pitcher Cole Sands went up and down multiple times. Since the Saints have only 60 uniforms, some numbers were passed through multiple players.
Pitchers were the worst. Rodriguez is the son of Hall of Famer Ivan “Pudge”, Rodriguez, and an outfielder converted to baseball. Rodriguez, who is now 30, is known as a “4A” baseball player. He’s good in AAA but not good enough to make it on the major-league roster. After three seasons of bouncing between AAA and the major leagues with the Giants, Rodriguez signed with the Twins last winter.
The Twins called him up twice this season, both as one-appearance deals. He was then added to the roster at 40, and designated for assignment. After clearing waivers, he rejoined the Saints. Rodriguez flew from Cleveland to here on a 90-minute notice the second time. This was because he followed Ashley’s advice and obtained TSA PreCheck.
Rodriguez said, leaning against the wall at CHS Field’s Saints’ clubhouse, “That’s part the business now.” “At first, it’s hard. It happened to me at the beginning of my time in San Francisco. It was difficult to adjust to. This is something that you have to accept.
“I would listen to stories when my dad was playing. Shawon Dunston, the Giants’ former shortstop and special assistant, told us that when he was called, they gave him the ball and said, “Here you go kid, this will be your position for 10 years.” It was that way back in the day. You can be Rookie-of-the-Year one year, and optioned in the next month (season). It’s that simple.
Cave, who was with the Saints for most of the season before joining the Twins in August and empathizes with the pitchers.
He said that he believed the batters were being abused and was referring to a position player at Target Field last week. “A guy comes in, throws three innings and then he ships back. It’s amazing to see this stuff. It is disgusting to me that pitchers are being abused in this way.
Rodriguez and Sands were not left with their belongings in two different cities as is often the case with frequent call-ups. Rodriguez, his wife, and Olivia, his 14-month-old daughter, lived in St. Paul. Sands, however, found a furnished apartment in downtown Minneapolis, not far from Target Field.
Sands said that he had “kind of experienced it all”. He was recalled and optioned five more times, which is the maximum permitted under Major League Baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement. “I have been out of town and had the need to fly here to play in a home series and vice versa. There were occasions when we were playing here, but (the Twins were) playing at Target Field. I had to drive across the street. It has been a mixed year.
The same goes for Saints.
Although attendance was not as high as during peak independent seasons at CHS Field’s peak, the Saints averaged 6,582, which placed them seventh in the 20 team IL and 12th among the 120 affiliated minor league clubs. The traditional independent league season, which runs from mid-May to Labor Day, saw the Saints average 7,462, just slightly more than CHS Field’s 7,210 capacity.
The standard player development agreement of MLB outlines who is responsible for what and how revenue is shared. The salaries, insurance, and medical costs of uniformed personnel are borne by the Twins; travel, uniforms, and business operations are paid for by the Saints. It is an expensive expense to travel. Although the Saints seldom flew away to away games as an Independent, air travel is a necessity due to the greater distances between International League clubs.
With revenue from 25 home dates, Derek Sharrer, the General Manager, expects that the Saints will be financially sound this year. The Saints were able to overcome a low attendance in April due to the winter, thanks to the good turnout in September. Three of them exceeded 7,000 on the last weekend.
Sharrer stated that September was significantly better than expected and that they are very happy with this perspective. We just need to figure out how we can do more with April than what we did last year. We have learned some lessons.”
So did Gardenhire. He wished that his club had won more, however.
Gardenhire stated, “It’s hard to judge seasons by wins and losses when your team changes so much.” “We had some guys who went up to the Twins and played pretty well, did some good things. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. I’m not sure. It was a kinda mediocre thing. It was difficult to call it a huge success, but we did our best.