Archive for January, 2010
I was going to write a regular post about this, but I was having trouble picking out just which quotes I wanted to use; there were just so many I wanted! Well, if that’s not a perfect invitation for a nice little fisking, I don’t know what is. So here goes … with a little help from Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press, and his latest on the Twins’ new dedication to winning in the playoffs.
Playing against the Minnesota Twins is like getting flicked in the head with a sunflower seed. At first, there’s no visible damage. But by the end of the summer, and after dozens and dozens of little pings to head, the opposition is staggered.
Plus, it really gets the troops riled up when Gardy rallies them by shouting “get your sunflower seeds ready, boys, let’s gem ‘em!” before the games. The crackling of the little plastic bags sends shivers down the spines of their opponents come mid-summer, when the oppressive heat and humidity makes it difficult to move your head out of the way of a projectile seed and you find yourself lethargically submitting to this absurd torture.
And the Twins win the division.
Well, sometimes, they do.
Then the Twins enter the playoffs brandishing their tiny sunflower seeds and — kapow! — they are the first ones eliminated. How many times have we seen this? After so many entertaining summers the team has gotten no closer to advancing in the postseason.
You mean the level of difficulty takes a big jump up, and the team that just managed to scrape by when it was easier has tremendous problems adjusting, and they get beaten by a superior team in the playoffs? Outrage!
That’s because the Twins always have been built for the long haul.
Actually, that’s interesting. Is it true that the Twins are “built for the long haul,” and if so, how exactly? I mean, is it because they always seem to have nine 4th/5th starters that they can slide in (but lack a good one-two punch at the top of the rotation, which you need in the playoffs), and a handy collection of utility infielders who can step in and play in case players need rest or get injured?
They do enough little things right, make the fewest number of critical mistakes, to be able to squeeze into the top spot.
Oh. Well, I can’t argue with the little things. It’s the little things that make up life. It’s just too bad the Twins don’t do the little things right, and are constantly making critical mistakes. They succeed in spite of that because of their star players, like Mauer, Morneau, and Span.
But the playoffs are about star power and great individual performances. They are about lightning-bolt home runs that come from anywhere in the batting order and pitching gems under fantastic pressure.
Yes, the playoffs are not about a long, boring grind through a miserable summer that drives away a great number of people from their putative national pastime because they have something better to do than watch yet another baseball game on such a nice day. They’re about exciting home runs, epic clutchitude, and gripping story lines that sportswriters can latch onto and use to tell us which players have that little special something that allowed their team to win a few games when it actually matters.
To this point, the Twins have been content to win their division and take their chances in the playoffs.
You can’t win in the playoffs without getting there, so consistently winning your division and hoping to catch lightning one of these years isn’t exactly a bad solution for a mid-market/low-revenue team like the Twins. You think other teams who pull in as much money as the Twins (Pirates and Royals) wouldn’t like to trade positions, and get their asses kicked in the playoffs while we suffer 100 loss seasons in their stead?
That strategy appears to be shifting. The organization is starting to think ahead to October. Winning the division and getting blasted out of the playoffs may not be enough anymore.
Woo hoo! Let’s all dance in the street! Bill Smith isn’t going to play second fiddle any more, and therefore, surely, he’ll start pulling the trigger on some deals that will significantly improve the team.
This is the main reason general manager Bill Smith signed Jim Thome, a veteran of 64 career playoff games. In those games he has 17 home runs. And it’s one of the reasons Smith re-signed Carl Pavano, who had a great playoff run with the 2003 champion Florida Marlins. Pavano sports a 1.71 earned-run average in nine postseason appearances.
Okay, let me get this straight. The problem is that the Twins succeed over the long haul, and have repeatedly failed to win the last series of the season (the one in the playoffs). Rather than stay rational, and realize that the best way to improve their chances in the postseason is simply to improve their team overall … they’re going to invest in players who’ve had small-sample-size success to complement their own players’ small-sample-size failures?
“That’s exactly right,” Smith said. “We have to keep our eyes on what’s at hand, which is to win the division. But once we do that we have to find a way to get past the Red Sox, Yankees and Angels. We have to find a way to beat the best teams and advance in the playoffs.”
And that is why it’s important to have Thome’s 17 postseason HRs sitting on the bench, especially since he hasn’t hit any since 2001.
Smith acknowledges that it might take some effort to keep Pavano healthy. But manager Ron Gardenhire has been a staunch supporter of bringing Pavano back, and Smith agrees.
Damn the torpedoes, as it were. It’s important to invest in fragile middle-of-the-rotation guys and call them the ace of the staff because they’re the oldest and had success in the playoffs many years ago, in their prime. Gardy knows this, that’s why he’s been so good at winning playoff games in his career.
As for the 39-year-old Thome, Smith said he appears to be in good enough shape to play the odd game at first base. Thome has played just four games in the field since 2006, though, so such a scenario seems unlikely.
At this point, I can’t tell if Powers is writing a puff piece, or ripping the organization. He keeps relaying what the team thinks, then pointing out why it’s kind of stupid … but not nearly directly enough.
“But I talked with him and he’s willing,” Smith said.
Oh, he’s willing to play first base? Do you not realize, Mr Smith, that his willingness to play in the field is trumped by his inability to actually do so? Or that the White Sox might have tried to use him at first when Konerko was hurt, or the Dodgers might have tried to use him once or twice to give Loney a break down the stretch?
Smith said he’s still looking around but isn’t likely to make any more moves before spring training. At least, he probably won’t do anything considered major.
So you’re saying that the Twins are no longer content with just winning the division, and they want to start making a move in the playoffs … and they want us to believe that while they’re leaving question marks at half the infield, and the top of the rotation?
That means the Twins will be in the familiar position of trying to “make do” at a couple of positions. As it stands, second base and third base will consist of a mishmash of players. But there just aren’t any decent third basemen available. And the Twins are unwilling to go through the Joe Crede “day to day” thing again in 2010.
Well, the fact that there aren’t any good third basemen available means they shouldn’t consider second base options like Orlando Hudson or Felipe Lopez. That’s how free agency works, people!
They also lack backups in center field, first base and catcher. In other words, they lack depth.
Because Pridie isn’t a backup at CF, Morales isn’t a backup at C, and Cuddyer/Thome/someone-from-AAA isn’t a backup at 1B.
“Ideally, if we could put a wish list together, we’d get a right-handed bat that can play center field and first base,” Smith said.
That’s your wishlist?! A guy who plays both 1B and CF (?!?!?!) … rather than a solution at second base or third base? A 1B/CF doesn’t even exist in the baseball universe (though something tells me Bill Smith doesn’t realize that), and wasting a roster spot to take playing time away from Morneau and Span doesn’t exactly scream “Great Idea!” to me.
The projected backup catcher, Jose Morales, had wrist surgery and won’t return until toward the end of spring training. Morales is a heck of a hitter but a liability in the field.
It’s more important to have depth in March than it is in August and September, so Morales being injured now means we won’t have depth during the season. And when it comes to a backup catcher, he’s pretty much pointless if he’s not as good as your regular catcher.
But it’s too early to evaluate the roster.
Which is why it’s a good thing the Twins still haven’t evaluated theirs. If they had, they might have realized that they’re planning to play with only half and infield.
There will be plenty of competition among the pitchers, and it’s difficult to say how that will turn out. However, the bigger news remains the recognition of the need to build a bit differently for playoff success. Thome will limit Gardenhire’s flexibility all season. If he’s healthy in October, though, it could be worth it.
Thome will take up a bench spot all season and Gardy will blame the team’s struggles on his lack of flexibility, but once they get to the playoffs then Thome jumps up off the bench and starts socking dingers all over the place! What a plan!
Pavano had four years of health problems before rebounding in 2009. If he finds his pre-2005 groove, he could be a real asset, especially in October. With the exception of the veteran Pavano, the Twins’ rotation is rather green.
The Twins’ rotation has been “rather green” for three years … and it’s all the same guys. At what point are they no longer “fresh-faced youngsters”, and instead “disappointments?”
Soon the Twins will begin flicking their sunflower seeds in Fort Myers.
If the Mayor’s Cup were 100 games instead of just 5, the Twins might have more of a chance of winning it. That’s how The Sunflower Attack works, right?
Once again they hope to ping their way to a division title. Their hope is that, come playoff time, they will be better equipped against the big boys.
Yup, Thome and Pavano will make the difference this year. Or, since Pavano pitched in the 2009 playoffs (he pitched well and lost because he didn’t get any run support), I guess he won’t be a big difference in how they’re equipped this year. So the addition of Jim Thome and his commanding presence on the bench is supposed to put the Twins over the top this year?
And another thing. Given that the biggest improvement the Twins made this year was adding JJ Hardy, who will make a bigger difference on the field during the regular season and the postseason than Thome will … why was he completely omitted from this article? After all, he’s had amazing success in his playoff career. He’s batting .429! He has a 1.000 OPS! What a clutch superstar! (Small sample sizes are important, right?)
That was refreshing. Just as the players are starting to hit the gym again in preparation for heading down to spring training, I need to shake the rust off after a winter of inactivity. So I’d like to thank Tom Powers and Bill Smith for the material, and hopefully material like this keeps on flowing in.
Just remember: baseball season is right around the corner.11 comments
Well it’s official, the Twins signed Jim Thome. The deal is reported to be for $1.5 million, with up to $750K in incentives. I’m assuming these are plate appearance incentives. The price tag on this deal seems too good to pass up, so I’m OK with it.
I have two fears that arose with this signing. The first is that we won’t pursue any middle infield candidates. The second is that Jim Thome will stunt the development of Delmon Young. While Thome has better numbers against righties than Young does, Delmon is still very raw. Maybe Thome will help him develop as a slugger. Ideally, the Twins will acquire either Lopez or Hudson in the coming weeks, and Thome will be used primarily off the bench and occasionally as the DH depending on the matchup. If we are facing a pitcher who Thome has historically crushed, then by all means start him.
So, let’s hope that Bill Smith isn’t done making moves, but I am not overly optimistic.27 comments
Joe C is reportingthat the Twins are hot on the trail of free agent DH/Twin Killer Jim Thome. When I first read this story I was confused. The Twins already have a DH who cannot hit lefties. What would we need Thome for? He made $13 million last year, so how much of a pay cut can be expected? Would he really be willing to accept a bench role?
Aaron Gleeman opines that he platoon at DH with Young while Kuble takes most of the reps in left. I wouldn’t mind seeing that happen, Thome hits righties too well to be a bench player. While Young is pretty terrible at everything. The biggest question at this point has to be his price tag. The Twins payroll already looks to be in the $90 million range with gaping holes in the infield. Would Thome accept a pay cut down to the $1 million range? I don’t know which AL teams have a hole at DH, but it seems like a team like the Yankees or Red Sox can give Thome more money to do the same job.
I like the thinking that the Twins need to upgrade their bench, but I don’t think the price on Thome will come down to the point where it is worth it to sign him as a bench player. If they are committed to giving him the bulk of DH at bats against righties, then I think they should go for it. Given the current payroll level and glaring holes elsewhere, maybe we are better off going after someone like Ryan Garko as a bat off the bench. Any money we have available should be put towards a second or thirdbaseman.
What do you guys think about Jim Thome in a Twins uniform?16 comments
See what I did there? Eight is Enough was apparently a tv show at some point in time.
The Twins had eight arbitration eligible players and they signed them today in order to avoid arbitration. Arbitration is a pretty ugly process, so avoiding it is great. A player basically has to convince a third party why he deserves X dollars, and management has to convince that party why the player doesn’t. Can you imagine how bridges can be burned if Smith is in a room listing the reasons why Liriano sucks. With Liriano present. Not fun.
So, here are the contracts:
Pavano- 1 year, $7million
Harris- 2 years, $3.2 million, with various plate appearance incentives included.
Liriano- 1 year, $1.6 million
Hardy- 1 year, $5.1 million
Crain- 1 year, $2 million (that is terrible, by the way)
Guerrier- 1 year, $3.15 million
Young- 1 year, $2.6 million, with various plate appearance incentives. Should be interesting to see if Gardy benches him down the stretch. Although the incentives aren’t very significant.
Neshek- 1 year $625K. With a minor incentive that can kick it up to $700K.
Today was a pretty expensive day for the Twins. I don’t like the 2 million they gave to Crain, I think we would have been better off non-tendering him. That figure for Guerrier seems a little high. Especially when we are paying Nathan a boatload of money, you combine that with Crain and that is one pricey bullpen.
I thought Liriano would make a little bit more, but given his crappy year in 2009 I guess I’m OK with throwing him a million and some change in what might be one of his last chances with the team. If he ends up in the pen, that makes it that much more expensive and upsets me even more.
I don’t really have a problem with giving Harris two years. He is a useful player who will still be making much less than Nick Punto.
What does everyone else think of the (relatively) big bucks tossed around by the Twins this afternoon? Was it worth it to avoid several ugly arbitration cases? Or would you have like to see Smith take that worthless Canadian Crain down a peg or two?9 comments
Frequent reader rghrbek posted a comment on yesterday’s Washburn post that I think is worth quoting and discussing in a new post:
I have this impending doomed feeling that the Twins will “get their man” and sign washburn right before spring training for 5 mil.
The twins could offer Lopez 10 mil over 2 years with a 5.5 mil option on the 3rd year, with a mil buyout. That is money well spent.
Bill Smith said that the reason the Washburn talks broke down was that Boras wants a multi-year deal, but — and this is important — the Twins feel they can’t commit any new money beyond 2010 in anticipation of the Mauer contract.
If that’s true, that would explain* why they’d consider themselves unable to offer such a contract to Felipe Lopez. If they can’t commit money beyond 2010, then they certainly can’t offer him a 2 year contract with an option for year 3.
* Which is to say that it would “explain it in such a way that it’s much more satisfying to me than the idea that the Twins don’t consider Lopez a viable 2B candidate for performance reasons.” Thought I should clarify that.
And if that’s really the case, it’s a disaster. Do they think Mauer isn’t tapped into the news surrounding his contract negotiatons? Mauer’s repeatedly said he wants to be in position to win, and he doesn’t want to sign a long contract with a team that’s not going to build a championship-caliber team around him. This offseason, I’d thought it looked like the Twins were doing everything they could in 2010 to show Mauer that they’re committed to winning.
But if they start sending signals that if they have Mauer’s big contract on the books then they can’t spend any money, all that work is thrown out the window. If Mauer even thinks the Twins aren’t willing to pull out all the stops to win a championship, it just got a whole lot more difficult to sign him. He won’t have such reservations about the Yankees and Red Sox, which will work in concert with their presumably much larger contract offers to convince him to leave the Twins.
I see this as another reason to try to get Lopez on a contract like the one proposed by rghrbek, beyond the simple fact that it’d be a good deal for both sides in a vacuum. I’m not at all confident in the Twins’ front office, though.8 comments
According to something called Scott Miller over at CBSsports.com, the Twins have made an offer to Jarrod Washburn. Here are the reasons Miller thinks the Twins think Washburn can help the team:
As for Washburn, 35, the Twins view him as a perfect fit in that he is left-handed, he’s got a reputation as being a good guy in the clubhouse, he’s pitched enough that he can help anchor a young staff and he’s an Upper Midwest native (he was born in Wisconsin and still lives in there in the off-season, in Webster).As you can see, none of those reasons are “he is a good pitchers who can get people out and win games”.
I see no reason to sign Washburn if we already have Pavano. Is Washburn really much of an upgrade over someone like Perkins/Duensing/Liriano (or Manship if you want to include right handers)? I say no. Especially since the Twins seem reluctant to cut ties with failed free agent pitchers in a timely fashion (see: Hernandez, Livan, and Ortiz, Ramon). Couldn’t you just see the Twins trotting Washburn and his 5.50 ERA out to the mound every fifth day until mid-July? I totally could.
Washburn was excellent for a few months in Seattle last year but he was a) playing in a massive park, and b) had one of the best outfield defenses EVER playing behind him. Everyone claims his knee injury caused his 7+ ERA with the Tigers, but I think it was a combination of the knee and his inherent crappiness rising to the surface.
What do you think? Would Washburn help the team or are we better off filling in the last rotation spot internally?
Tim Marchman usually isn’t totally off the mark, from what I can tell, but just because someone isn’t an idiot does not mean they can’t spew some idiocy from time to time.* Typically around this time of year, people post retrospectives on the year gone by, and what we can look forward to in the upcoming year; personally, I think that’s a bunch of crap. And it’s even worse since we finished a decade and are starting a new one.** That’s where Marchman comes in: he wrote an article about what we (as baseball fans) can “look forward to” in the next ten years.
* Triple negative? Yeah, we’re doing this thing!
** Don’t give me any of that “but the decade isn’t over yet, because what about year zero?!” mumbo jumbo. This is America, dude. The 70’s started in 1970, not in 1971. I’m just saying.
It will still be better than football
That was your title? Uplifting, and somewhat obvious.
The aughts generally were awful and a review of them could only have ended with a rope, a plastic bag, a bottle of wine and another of pills. What’s worse, the teens look to have potential in this line. We’ll hope the twenties arrive hurriedly.
Who’s trying to commit suicide here? Because it sounds like 3+ people just got handled. And as a matter of fact, no, we’re not hoping the next ten years go by in a flash. I’ll be an old man complaining about loud music and kids these days by then.
At least in the aughts we had good baseball to distract us, but I have five reasons to think the coming decade is going to be a crashing bore; you can surely add your own.
At least? So … the next decade will, as a whole, be extremely boring, and there won’t be baseball? Are you sure you meant to use the words “at least”?
1) Technological advances
Those are boring.
The installation of camera systems in ballparks that will, once refined, allow clubs to precisely measure every aspect of performance is not going to be a good thing. Every club looking at the exact same accurate information will lead to monoculture. Current evaluative metrics, which are quite crude, are already having a bit of that effect; truly granular ones will even more so.
What makes baseball a great sport is that there are shitty teams that are always doing stupid things! If it weren’t for the Royals and Pirates and Nationals and, occasionally, the Giants … well, baseball would just be boring. I mean, when the Twins have the day off and I flick on MLB.TV to check out another game that day, what do I say to myself? Do I say “Ooh, the Rays are playing the Red Sox, that could be good”? How about “Yankees/Angels, excellent”? No! Of course not! I eagerly flip over to the epic Nationals/Pirates showdown, because bad teams are what makes games exciting. Right? Wait, no? So … then what the fuck is Marchman talking about?
This won’t take the human element out of the game. When clubs have something near perfect information it will, if anything, make instinct and intuition much more important, as no team will be able to get an advantage just by noting that obviously good players are good, meaning teams will have to actually get creative.
Oh. So I guess what he was talking about was that the players would be better, the “human element” would still be there, and front offices will have to be more creative. Yup, sounds pretty shitty.
Still, the kind of smarts that allow one to read a boring actuarial spreadsheet properly are quite common
while the kind that allow one to steal an edge on rivals by shrewdly picking out the drunks whose drinking won’t affect their development are quite rare.
So that’s why sportswriters and old people think scouts are so mystical and important? Because they have alcoholic radar of some sort?
I worry that just as the former were violently underappreciated in baseball for many years, the latter may come to be, which would be disastrous.
I actually agree with this. But rather than making up some doomeriffic crap, I’d actually think about this first. Just like most things, the stats/scouts dichotomy will eventually reach an equilibrium where both stats and scouts are seen as essential. For a long time, that equilibrium was nowhere to be found; there was a “technological” advancement that caused the popularity of stats to rise, and that continues to happen. In the upcoming couple of years, the see may well saw too far in favor of stats. Do not worry! It will only be temporary; markets always seek out an equilibrium, and I haven’t heard anything from the stats side of this argument saying “scouts are useless and should all be killed.” It’s not going to happen. By 2020, I’d guess that we’re close to a balance, and it’ll fluctuate year to year, but never very far. Not really much of a headline, I guess.
Far better a room full of drunk Bavasis than a room full of Wall Street washouts spouting MBA buzzwords, if you have to choose.
Why are those the choices? Because Bavasi was a pretty awful GM … and Jack Z has done a pretty tremendous job of replacing him and fixing everything he wrecked in Seattle in the short time he’s had there. I don’t know if anyone would consider Jack Z a “Wall Street washout spouting MBA buzzwords,” but if you do, that’s on you. Also, if owners continue to agree with Marchman about this choice, we’re guaranteed to continue with the “these teams are good every year” and the “these teams are terrible and getting worse and there’s no hope whatsoever” split that we currently have. But since having a significant portion of the league suck balls is good for baseball (see above), maybe Marchman’s got a point here.
Do you mean “after becoming literate,” or “no longer literate,” or perhaps “more literate than ever”?
The beat writer’s job is devolving into the maintenence of a Twitter feed, ‘hits’ on TV and radio and quickly turned ‘takes’ on the issue of the hour,
Which is exactly what beat writers would have been doing since the beginning, if they were able to instantly publish to millions of people.
more substantive writing is supported by a half dozen or so outlets that probably won’t exist in recognizable form in 10 years,
Yeah, and they’ll be replaced by just as many (if not more) new outlets.
and for all I know the coming generation of writers will have grown up doing immense neurological damage to themselves by reading too much off screens.
For all you know? For all you know, the previous generation of writers did themselves immense neurological damage by looking at crappy newspaper pages while sitting under fluorescent lights too much. Or for all you know, screens might be so good in ten years that it’s far easier on your eyes than paper ever was.
Of course there will still be good writing—today’s average column or game story is incalculably better than one from 50 years ago—but there will be less of it than there is now and the best of it likely won’t be as good.
So you’re saying that the explosion of baseball-related content in this decade proves that all baseball-related content will disappear in the next decade? Wouldn’t it make more sense that, as the cost of publishing stays at zero, more people would create baeball-related content? Posnanski emerged as a national force during this decade — would he have become so ludicrously famous while writing only for the Kansas City Star? No, it would have been impossible. More access for more people will create both the demand for more content, and the supply of it. Why is it so hard for people to figure that out? Baseball writing will go away because technology makes it too easy to produce and consume baseball content? No.
And the constant need to feed the beast in an age when a print model has essentially been replaced by a broadcast model will have other effects as well. I can’t, for example, be the only one to think that the rightly admired Joe Posnanski is courting burnout by dropping multiple five to ten thousand word blog posts every week in addition to his real writing, though we’ll continue to hope he’s Iron Joe McGinnity.
You’re right, Posnanski should do less of what he loves. Fuck off, I love those Posnanski posts. And if he ever stops doing them, it won’t be because the internet killed his love of baseball with its inability to recognize which kind of drunk will get too drunk.
3) Death of television
This is a big one. If you thought the death of newspapers was ugly, wait until you see the death of cable as it converges with online, much to the latter’s advantage.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall, I suppose. But isn’t it possible that the television companies won’t be as comfortable with burying their heads in the sand and demanding that the world stop advancing as the newspapers were?
Do you really think baseball has a better answer for all that lost revenue than the Times did?
Well, MLB Advanced Media has this thing called MLB.TV, where they directly charge their customers for live video of the games. I gladly pay for it, as do millions of other people … and that’s just right now. Baseball is pioneering the post-television live video industry.
4) The economy
Yup, there’s no chance that improves in the next ten years.
If the economy has really turned Japanese we’re probably in for some hideous effects:
A labor stoppage out of the next CBA negotiations for one,
Why would you assume this? Because of the unusually long stretch of labor peace we’re currently experiencing? Is this another one of those “the evidence proves the opposite of itself, therefore whatever I’m saying is proven” arguments?
and the death of some major league towns for another. No matter how wealthy its suburbs are, a city like Detroit where more than half the residents are unemployed cannot be reasonably expected to support competitive baseball.
This might happen. But it’s more likely that a city like Detroit will simply no longer be able to support all four sports; why assume it’s baseball that would lose out here?
5) Doping scandals
Yet another current problem that won’t go away in the next ten years? Creative.
I don’t know or really care what guys are on these days, but it isn’t nothing, and we’re in for a repeat of the world’s least interesting scandal once people figure out that various famous players held up as admirable because they claim not to use drugs actually do use them.
That’s it? That’s your whole analysis of the “upcoming” drug scandals? What if people realize that the old-fashioned fearmongers in the dead-press were the only ones screaming about this? What if the drug testing that’s in place continues to work (as it already has been)? What if once the newspapers are finally dead, baseball fans get their analysis from writers who think about their positions rather than just being angry that things are different from how they were in the 1960s, when people didn’t know about the drugs the players were using? I’d say this is another one that’ll just go away, rather than being one of the top 5 biggest reasons we should all stop being baseball fans within the next 10 years.
So in case you read this article and were worried about baseball dying, you can go ahead and relax. I’m calling bullshit on this whole thing.No comments