In this series, we here at Dubsism will investigate failing franchises and assume the role of general manager in order to return these franchises to past glory. In today’s installment, J-Dub will tackle the challenges facing the Minnesota Twins.
Granted, the Twins are already making roster moves; for example, they’ve already declined the option on Matt Capps and have made some moves on the 40-man roster. Regardless of what the Twins have already done and may do in the future, this is what I would do with the team as it existed at the end of the regular season to turn this team around.
Over the last five years, the Twins have gone from a high-talent, low-payroll team to a low-talent, high payroll team.
As obvious as it sounds, this team needs a top-to-bottom overhaul. This team needs to get out from under some heavy contracts, get some new leadership, and a revamp in the “on the field” philosophy.
The General Manager:
Terry Ryan is not the guy for this job long-term; that’s obvious. My plan of action here is to form a search committee to find a general manager who knows how to do the following:
- Get people who know how to spot and acquire talent
- Get another group of people in the minors who know how to develop talent
- Be a manager who can control a budget
That sounds like a pipe-dream, but there are some guys out there right now who have a proven track record in those three areas. I’m a big believer in executive talent, and I’m willing to spend the money to get the right guy.
- Ned Colletti
I’ll admit, my odds of getting this guy to leave the Dodgers now that he has ownership with unlimited resources are somewhere between slim and none. Colletti built a winner in San Francisco in the late 90s with an owner who didn’t want to spend money. He also laid the foundation for the Giants club which won the 2010 World Series and made the NLCS this season.
Since 2005, Ned Colletti has been the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s largely responsible for the Dodgers remaining credible on the field during the disastrous Frank McCourt era.
- Neal Huntington
This is the guy who I think I could get on the reasonably cheap. Huntington is a general managers who has taken more of a “sabermetrics” approach to valuing players and it has paid off for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Like it or not, the team has improved since he took over in 2008.
- Doug Melvin
In Texas, Melvin created the Rangers team that reached the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Melvin is also responsible for the Brewers’ team that made the playoffs for the first time in 30 years in 2011.
The Twins have already fired all their coaches, but they didn’t go far enough. Ron Gardenhire’s time in Minnesota needs to be over. It’s too late to hire Terry Francona, and I have no idea why the Twins just gave him a two-year contract extension. I really don’t want to buy out a manager’s contract on a team I’m not expecting to contend in the next two years, so Gardenhire stays as a lame-duck, at least until the next time I need a scapegoat.
There’s one thing the Twins have done correctly regardless of the performance on the field. They have had only two managers in the past 25 years, and it is far easier to do the kind of rebuilding this team needs on a stable platform. That’s why I’m undertaking a two-stage, long-term approach.
Stage One involves hiring a manager who will have the job from the end of the Gardenhire era until my future manager-in-training is ready for the job. The guy I want for that job is Paul Molitor. I’m not going to make the same mistake the Cubs made with Ryne Sandberg. Right now, I’ve got a Hall-of-Famer who has been a part of the organization for over a decade who would make a great manager for a rebuilding team. The deal would be Molitor is the face of the team in the dugout, then when it is time to transition to Stage Two, he gets a big-time front office job.
Stage Two involves getting my manager-in-training into the organization in either 2013 or 2014. The ideal candidate is a recently or soon-to-be retired player with at least a decade of major league service time, had been in several organizations so he’s seen various ways of doing things and can pick the best traits from each, and catchers will have a preference because I want a long-term guy who know how to handle young pitchers, because not only is he going to deal with a lot of them in the minors while he is the manager-in-training, but once he gets to the show, he will still be dealing with them because one of the ways I will be controlling payroll is to make the Twins farm system to young pitchers what mountain slopes in Peru are to cocaine (Chairman Marple, here’s your shot at some “Molitor” jokes placed on a tee for you…)
The candidate I have in mind for this manager-in-training role is Rod Barajas (details come later, since he is still under contract to the Pittsburgh Pirates). He meets all the criteria, plus unlike the rest of the Twins’ leadership structure, he isn’t lily white. This matters because the future of baseball isn’t lily white either. The important part is that Barajas is well-respected in baseball circles, and is considered by many to ba a manager waiting to happen. The plan is to get him into the organization now, so that when he retires as a player, he can go directly to coaching in the minors with the goal of eventually becoming the skipper of the big-league club.
The over-arching philosophy is I’m building this team around pitching and defense. That means there are going to be some big changes.
- Part One: Joe Must Go
I know this is the part that will make Twins’ fans think I’m just trolling for some nasty comments, but as a general manager tasked with rebuilding this team, I’m faced with one over-arching fact. I get Joe Mauer is top-shelf talent. I get the fact that he is the home-town hero. But I also get that I’m rebuilding a team with limited payroll, and I can’t afford having 25% of my total payroll stuck in one player.
The hard financial fact is that I’m committed to $23 million a year through 2018 on Mauer, and my total payroll is now at $94 million. That has to change, because as great as Mauer is, he can only fill one spot in the batting order.
In an off-season deal, I’m making the following trade with the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants get:
- Joe Mauer, C/1B – (2012: .319, 10 HR, 85 RBI); Contract: $23 million per year through 2018
- Denard Span, CF – (2012: .283, 4 HR, 41 RBI); Contract: 2012:$3 million, 2013: $4.75 million, 2014: $6.5 million, 2015: $9 million club option with a $500,000 buyout
The Twins get:
- Madison Bumgarner, SP – (2012: 16-11, 3.37 ERA); Contract: 2012: $560,000, 2013: $750,000, 2014:$3.75 million, 2015: $6.75 million, 2016: $9.75 million, 2017: $11.5 million, 2018: $12 million club option with a $1.5 million buyout (2018 option guaranteed with 200 innings pitched in 2017 or 400 innings pitched combined in 2016 and 2017, options increase to $14 million with top 3 finish in the Cy Young vote anywhere between 2012 and 2017, or to #16 million if he wins the Cy Young award in that time), 2019: $12 million club option. Contract has limited no-trade protection; Bumgarner may block deals to eight clubs.
- Sergio Romo, RP – (2012: 4-2, 14 Saves, 1.79 ERA); Contract: 2012: $1.575 million, 2013: arbitration eligible). To avoid arbitration, offering 3 years, $9 million with option for 2016. 2013: $2.25 million, 2014: $2.75 million, 2015: $4 million, 2016: club option for $5.5 million, option becomes mutual if Romo saves more than 45 games in any season from 2013 to 2015 or if he is traded. No buyout on options unless it becomes a mutual option, at which point the buyout becomes $5 million.
- Pablo Sandoval,3B/1B (2012: .283, 12 HR, 63 RBI); Contract: 2013: $5.7 million, 2014: $8.25 million
Why This Deal Works:
Believe it or not, this trade was conceived before Sandoval’s historic performance in last night’s World Series Game 1. The Giants have a ton of pitching, but they have struggled with consistency in production at first base and could use a defensive upgrade in center field. Both teams have bad contracts they would love to get rid of, but both would live with a bad contract in an area they sorely need. Not only do the Twins need pitching of all sorts, but Bumgarner could always be moved at a trade deadline despite his limited trade protection, not to mention the buy-out option in 2018. I’m even willing to restructure Sandoval’s deal until at least 2018, so long as the club gets a buyout clause which allows a buyout of his contract at that season’s major-league minimum salary if his weight exceeds a certain number.
- Part Two: Let’s Make A Deal
Let’s be honest, there’s really no point in waiting until July to entertain offers for Justin Morneau. In fact, I’m not sure why Terry Ryan didn’t push the deal to the Dodgers that was on the table before Los Angeles blew all their money on the Red Sox quarter-billion dollar salary dump.
Playing GM of the Twins, Morneau means a guy to whom I’m paying him a ton of money ($15 million this year, to be exact), he’s a valuable commodity, he’s a free agent after this year, and let’s be even more honest…I’m not in the market to gamble on a concussed former MVP who just can’t seem to stay healthy.
Morneau is a used car, and I’m willing to make a deal. He’s relatively low mileage, and he’s got a performance engine, but there have been some major repairs, and we just don’t know how reliable he’s going to be down the road. I’m not at “best offer” territory yet, but the rest of the world knows that I get closer to that point with every passing day, because on July 31st, 2013, Morneau’s trade value starts depreciating rapidly due to the “desperation factor.”
In an off-season deal, I’m making the following trade with the Tampa Rays.
The Rays get:
- Matt Capps, RP – (2012: 1-4, 14 Saves, 3.68 ERA); Contract: 1 year, $4.75 million (with cption for $2.5 million for 2013,, exercising the option and trading him)
- Sam Deduno, SP – (2012: 6-5, 4.44 ERA); Contract: 2013: 1 year, $480,000
- Justin Morneau, 1B/DH – (2012: .267, 19 HR, 77 RBI); Contract: 6 years, $80 million: 2013: $14 million
- Anthony Swarzak, RP – (2012: 3-6, 5.03 ERA); Contract: 2013: 1 year, $480,000
The Twins get:
- David Price, SP – (2012: 20-5, 2.56 ERA); Contract: 1 year, $4.35 million, 2013: arbitration eligible. To avoid arbitration, offering 4 years, $52.5 million with incentives on innings pitched and wins; all salary numbers increase by 20% for all years after a Cy Young and/or MVP win. No-trade clause expires after 2015, can be re-instated with a $3 million buy-back on 2016 salary. 2013: $9.5 million, 2014: $11.75 million, 2015: $14.75 million, 2016: $16.75 million
- Burke Badenhop, RP – (2012: 3-2, 3.03 ERA); Contract: 1 year, $1.075 million, 2013: arbitration eligible. To avoid arbitration, offering 3 years, $5 million. 2013: $1.25 million, 2014: $1.75 million, 2015: $2 million
- Hak Ju Lee, SS (Minors)
Why This Deal Works:
The Rays are afraid of arbitration with Price, who just won 20 games. The Rays also have a ton of young pitching talent whom they have under contract. This deal allows them to upgrade at first base while not re-signing Carlos Pena. Realistically, it only costs them a young reliever and a prospect. In return, along with a one-time MVP, they get two decent young pitchers and a veteran presence in Capps.
- Part Three: The Daily Double – A Veteran Back-up Catcher who is also the Manager-In-Training
In an off-season deal, I’m making the following trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates get:
- Jeff Manship – RP (2012: 0-0, 7.89 ERA); Contract: 2013: 1 year, $480,000
- P. J. Walters – SP (2012: 2-5. 5.69 ERA); Contract: 2013: 1 year, $480,000
The Twins get:
- Rod Barajas – C (2012: .206, 11 HR, 31 RBI); Contract: 2013: club option for $3.5 million with no buyout; option becomes mutual if Barajas is traded. Matching the option number plus add a provisional contract as a minor league coach with a 5 year guarantee at $500,000 per year with a time line that Barajas either becomes the major league manager or is released after the coaching contract expires.
Why This Deal Works:
The Twins get a veteran back-up catcher who still has a little thump left in his bat, and the Pirates get to ditch a salary in exchange for two prospects.
- Part Four: Adios, Muchachos…
- Scott Baker, SP – (DNP in 2012); – Contract: 4 years, $15.25 million (with club option for $9.5 million for 2013) – Declining the option
- Sean Burroughs, 3B – (2012: 18 Plate Appearances); Contract: 1 year, $480,000 – Outright release
- Brian Duensing, RP – (2012: 4-12, 5.12 ERA); Contract: 1 year, $515,000, 2013: arbitration eligible – Outright release
- Liam Hendriks, SP – (2012: 1-8, 5.59 ERA); Contract: 1 year, $515,000 – Outright release
- Carl Pavano, SP – (2012: 2-5, 6.00 ERA); Contract: 2 years, $16.5 million – Not re-signing
- Part Five: Guys I’m Stuck With, But Who Likely Will Be Getting Their Mail Somewhere Else in 2014
- Nick Blackburn, SP – (2012: 4-9, 7.39 ERA); Contract: 4 years, $14 million, 2013: $5.5 million, 2014: club option for $8 million - Opens 2013 season as fifth starter.
- Alexi Casilla, IF – (2012: .241, 1 HR, 30 RBI) ; Contract: 2012: 1 year, $1.38 million, 2013: arbitration eligible. To avoid arbitration, offering 1 year, $2.55 million
- Jamey Carroll, IF – (2012: .268, 1 HR, 40 RBI); Contract: 2 years, $6.75 million; 2012: $2.75 million, 2013: $4 million 2014: option for $2.5 million; option becomes player option with no buyout if Carroll gets 401 or more plate appearances in 2013)
- Part Five: Guys That Are Staying On The Roster
- Jared Burton, RP – (3-2, 2.18 ERA); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $750,000. Offering 2 years, $2.25 million, 2013: $1 million. 2014: $1.25 million
- Drew Butera, C – (.198, 1 HR, 5 RBI); Contract: 2012: Minor League Contract, 2013: arbitration eligible. Will not avoid arbitration, outrighting Butera to AAA Rochester after arbitration, keeping him on 40-man roster.
- Cole De Vries, SP – (5-5, 4.11 ERA); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $480,000. Offering 3 years, $4 million with club options in 2016 and 2017. 2013: $750,000, 2014: $1.5 million, 2015: $2 million, 2016: club option at $2.75 million with no buyout, 2017: club option for $3.25 million with $500,000 buyout
- Scott Diamond, SP – (12-9, 3.54 ERA); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $480,000. Offering 3 years, $4 million with club options in 2016 and 2017. 2013: $750,000, 2014: $1.5 million, 2015: $2 million, 2016: club option at $2.75 million with no buyout, 2017: club option for $3.25 million with $500,000 buyout
- Brian Dozier, SS – (.234, 6 HR, 33 RBI); Contract: 2012: minor leagues, 2013: 1 year, $480,000
- Eduardo Escobar, IF – (.227, 0 HR, 6 RBI); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $480,000 2013: 1 year, $480,000. Outrighting Escobar to AAA Rochester, keeping him on 40-man roster.
- Casey Fein, RP – (2-1, 2.06 ERA); Contract: 2012: minor leagues, 2013: 1 year, $480,000
- Darin Mastroianni, OF – (.252, 3 HR, 17 RBI); Contract: 2012: minor leagues, 2013: 1 year, $480,000
- Chris Parmalee, 1B/3B – (.229, 5 HR, 20 RBI); Contract: 2012: minor leagues, 2013: 1 year, $480,000
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B – (.235, 24 HR, 55 RBI); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $480,000. Offering 3 years, $4 million with club options in 2016 and 2017. 2013: $750,000, 2014: $1.5 million, 2015: $2 million, 2016: club option at $2.75 million with no buyout, 2017: club option for $3.25 million with $500,000 buyout
- Ben Revere, OF – (.294, 0 HR, 32 RBI); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $492.000 - Offering 3 years, $4 million with club options in 2016 and 2017. 2013: $750,000, 2014: $1.5 million, 2015: $2 million, 2016: club option at $2.75 million with no buyout, 2017: club option for $3.25 million with $500,000 buyout
- Kyle Waldrop, RP – (0-1, 2.53 ERA); 2012: 1 year, $480,000, 2013: 1 year, $480,000
- Part Six: Free Agent Shopping List
- Mike Napoli, C/1B – (.227, 24 HR, 56 RBI); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $9.4 million (Texas Rangers) – Offering 2 years, $22 million; 2013: $10 million, 2014: $12 million. Incentive clauses that kick in at .275 batting average, 25 home runs, 80 RBI, or 400 at-bats.
- Cody Ross, OF – (Stats); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $3 million (Boston Red Sox) – Offering 3 years, $14.25 million; 2013: $4.25 million, 2014: $4.5 million. 2015: $5.5 million
The Bottom Line:
After enacting these moves the Twins would have several positive factors they currently do not have:
- A proven general manager
- The payroll has been cut from $95 milllion to $71 million, while adding more bats, pitching, and defense
- The Mauer Dividend: future financial commitments have been cut by 50%, allowing for the resigning of current talent and/or being active on the free-agent market
- A plan for a long-term manager and front office team
Let’s face it…anything’s is better than spending nearly a million dollars per loss.
It’s no secret that the advisory board here at Dubsism is laden with fans of the Minnesota Twins. The Chairman of that board, the esteemed Dick Marple, is our man on all things Twins, and the newspaper article he pointed out was simply to good not to share. To appreciate this, you don’t need to be a fan of the Twins; hell, you don’t even need to be a baseball fan. But, if you love a breakdown of a Jack-Nicholson-in-”The Shining” style descent into complete madness, then we have a treat for you, courtesy of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The article lists several bullet points, but the original piece doesn’t put them in an order in which they really show how bat-shit crazy Ryan really has become. By a simple re-ordering of these points in terms of how insane they are, the picture becomes clear.
The Bullet Point: “Doubts he will pursue any elite free-agent pitchers this winter, saying it will be a “thin” market and that he’s averse to signing such pitchers to the long-term deals required to land them.”
“Shining” Crazy Level: Just getting to the hotel, not crazy yet.
The Rationale: Ryan is actually right about this. If you stop and think about it, especially while perusing the list of pitchers likely to be available, there are precious few exceptions to the original author’s ludicrous use of the word “elite” to describe any of these guys. From Cot’s Baseball Contracts:
* – Player whose current contract includes 2013 option
- Scott Baker *
- Erik Bedard
- Joe Blanton
- Bartolo Colon
- Aaron Cook
- Kevin Correia
- Jorge De La Rosa *
- Ryan Dempster
- R.A. Dickey *
- Scott Feldman *
- Gavin Floyd *
- Jeff Francis
- Freddy Garcia
- Zack Greinke
- Jeremy Guthrie
- Rich Harden
- Dan Haren *
- Roberto Hernandez *
- Tim Hudson *
- Edwin Jackson
- Hiroki Kuroda
- Colby Lewis
- Francisco Liriano
- Kyle Lohse
- Derek Lowe
- Paul Maholm *
- Shaun Marcum
- Jason Marquis
- Daisuke Matsuzaka
- Brandon McCarthy
- Kevin Millwood
- Jamie Moyer
- Roy Oswalt
- Carl Pavano
- Jake Peavy *
- Anibal Sanchez
- Jonathan Sanchez
- Ervin Santana *
- Joe Saunders
- James Shields *
- Carlos Villanueva
- Chien-Ming Wang
- Kip Wells
- Randy Wolf
- Chris Young
- Carlos Zambrano
It gets a little better if you want to try to shore up the bullpen, but there will still a lot of slag-heaps out there.
- David Aardsma
- Jeremy Accardo
- Mike Adams
- Jeremy Affeldt
- Luis Ayala
- Grant Balfour *
- Miguel Batista
- Matt Belisle
- Rafael Betancourt *
- Jonathan Broxton
- Taylor Buchholz
- Sean Burnett *
- Tim Byrdak
- Shawn Camp
- Matt Capps *
- D.J. Carrasco
- Randy Choate
- Todd Coffey *
- Jose Contreras *
- Francisco Cordero
- Juan Cruz
- Octavio Dotel
- Chad Durbin
- Kyle Farnsworth
- Pedro Feliciano *
- Jason Frasor
- Brian Fuentes *
- Mike Gonzalez
- Sean Green
- Kevin Gregg *
- Jason Grilli
- LaTroy Hawkins
- Clay Hensley
- Livan Hernandez
- J.P. Howell
- Hong-Chih Kuo
- Casey Janssen
- Bobby Jenks
- Brandon League
- Brad Lidge
- Matt Lindstrom *
- Mark Lowe
- Brandon Lyon
- Ryan Madson
- Shawn Marshall
- Dustin McGowan
- Guillermo Mota
- Peter Moylan
- Brett Myers *
- Pat Neshek
- Will Ohman
- Darren Oliver *
- Juan Carlos Oviedo (aka Leo Nunez)
- Vicente Padilla
- Tony Pena
- Brad Penny
- Joel Peralta
- J.J. Putz *
- Chad Qualls
- Ramon Ramirez
- Jon Rauch
- Francisco Rodriguez
- Mariano Rivera
- Fernando Rodney
- J.C. Romero
- Takashi Saito
- Joakim Soria *
- Rafael Soriano *
- Hisanori Takahashi
- Robinson Tejeda
- Jose Valverde
- Carlos Villanueva
- Jamey Wright
Sure, there might be a few guys that might be interesting, but it isn’t crazy to say “I’m not going to be the guy who gives R.A. Dickey $12 million.”
The Bullet Point: “Would consider re-signing pending free-agent pitchers Scott Baker and Carl Pavano.”
“Shining” Crazy Level: The writer’s block is just setting in; he’s more frustrated than crazy.
The Rationale: Unless you are going to take a Louisville Slugger to the piggy-back, why not stick with the devil you know versus the one you don’t?
“You have to be open to a lot of things when you’re looking for starting pitching,” he said. “You’ve going to have to take some risks and you’re going to have to look at all markets, not just free agency, but trades and waivers and Rule 5s. But if you want to do it the correct way, that’s going to provide stability over the long haul, you’re going to have to draft and develop guys, too.
“Even when we had rotations that were darn good, we got them from about every avenue. We have to do the same thing moving forward here.”
After all, it isn’t like the Twins are climbing out of the crapper in 2013, so why blow money now on what could easily be another flame-job?
The Bullet Point: “Insists that he, not the previous general manager, the manager or ownership, should take the blame for this season.”
“Shining” Crazy Level: He’s now talking to Lloyd the invisible bartender; welcome to Warning Sign City.
The Rationale: Terry, it’s time to realize a few basic facts here. The Twins didn’t go from perennial-division winner to the Blue Astros overnight. There was a progression involved here, and on that started long before you stepped back in the general manager’s seat. Now, having said that, let’s look at some examples of your work from both stints as the general manager:
- Butch Huskey
- Rondell White
- Tony Batista
- Ruben Sierra
- Ramon Ortiz
- Sidney Ponson
- Joel Zumaya
Now, Terry, before you try to hoggy-pants all the blame for what has gone wrong in Minnesota, let’s take a look at what your immediate predecessor Bill Smith did.
His two best moves:
- Carl Pavano (now, if he cost $16.5 million for two years, imagine what some of the guys on the aforementioned list might get…)
- Jim Thome (once for $3 million, then again for $1.5 million, then traded for the dreaded “player to be named later”)
But then there’s this list of Smith signees…
- Orlando Hudson – one year, $5 million
- Joe Crede – one year, $2.5 million
- Luis Ayala – one year, $1.3 million
- Nick Punto – two years, $8.5 million
- Livan Hernandez - one year, $5 million
- Mike Lamb – two years, $6.6 million
- Adam Everett – one year, $2.8 million
Ryan goes on to the following quote:
“We have not played well,” Ryan said. “And everything comes underneath my umbrella. So I’ll go through the next month and we’ll see exactly where we stand here, but sooner rather than later Mr. Pohlad has got to get a decision out of me. I know he can’t go on forever with this setup.”
There’s enough blame to go around here, Terry. Trying to pretend this is all your doing won’t help it get fixed.
The Bullet Point: “Wants people to stop blaming Joe Mauer for the team’s problems.”
“Shining” Crazy Level: Making out with the naked ghost of Room 237
The Rationale: Forget about it Terry. It’s never going to happen.
“Does the eight-year, $184 million contract belonging to his other former MVP, Mauer, make his job more difficult? “No, it does not,” he said. “We’ve got to quit blaming Joe Mauer for any ills we have. If you took his name off the line and just looked at the statistics, you’d say, geez, this guy is really good.”
When a quasi-anonymous assistant football coach gets caught raping kids, the famous head coach takes the fall. When a team goes from division-winners to cellar-dwellars, the $23 million dollar singles-hitter is going to take the blame, fairly or not.
To quote the aforementioned Chairman Marple: “Minneapolis man reports several years of being butt-fucked by Jim Pohlad, Bill Smith, Terry Ryan, and Ron Gardenhire.”
The Bullet Point: “Considers Justin Morneau a “core” player whom he expects to thrive next season.”
“Shining” Crazy Level: The hallway, the elevator full of blood, and those creepy twins
The Rationale: Time for some brutal honesty. Justin Morneau is never again going to be the MVP caliber player he once was. The concussion issue has taken its toll, and despite the fact he is having a respectable season, he’s making MVP money. That’s the problem.
“Morneau has been the subject of trade rumors. Ryan spoke of him as a key part of next year’s team.”
“I look at this as a transition year for him, because last year he didn’t get enough at-bats,” Ryan said. “I’m pleased with his progress. There was a time this spring when we didn’t think he was going to play any first base for us. We’ve come a long way from that point.”
While it is true “they’ve come a long way,” it is also true that they haven’t come back nearly to the height of the original fall. Think about it this way. The Twins couldn’t unload Morneau on the Dodgers, a team who later ate nearly a quarter-billion dollars in salary to take on risks like Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett.
“I think his numbers are going to return. I think he’s a core guy. He’s a former MVP who’s what, 31? He’s one of the most important people in this organization, no doubt.”
Twins fans are all too familiar with big. slugging, Canadian lefties who show off a brief period of huge promise, then concussions end it all. Raise your hand if you remember Corey Koskie.
The Bullet Point: “Won’t force Gardenhire to make changes to his coaching staff.”
“Shining” Crazy Level: He’s coning through the door with the axe.
The Rationale: Two more dead-give away quotes:
“The most likely scapegoats in any baseball organization are the major league coaches. Ryan said he would never force Gardenhire to make a change. “It’s not that I would force him or he would force me,” Ryan said. “It would never come to that. If we need to make a change, in my opinion, I would recommend it to him. If he felt the need to make a change, he would bring that to me. Then we would discuss it.”
“I don’t think either one of us should independently make that call. I wouldn’t want to force-feed a coach on a manager. That never works in a clubhouse.”
Somebody ought to put George Stienbrenner’s grave on full Roll-Over Alert.
That leads to the piece d’resistance…
The Bullet Point: “Will not fire manager Ron Gardenhire.”
“Shining” Crazy Level: Dude just got it with the axe.
The Rationale: The following two quotes illustrates the problem:
“I’ve never fired a manager because I’ve never had to. That’s as simple as I can put it. I have no interest in changing managers. I don’t see where Ronnie is the problem here.”
“Ryan did not fire Tom Kelly when Kelly was in the midst of eight consecutive losing seasons. He doesn’t plan to fire Gardenhire after two. “Gardy has a good track record,” Ryan said. “We’ve had a couple of tough years. Am I opposed to firing people? No. I’ve fired people in my life. Quite a few, in different departments. You have to do that on occasion. You don’t like to, but sometimes you have to.”
The fact that he’s comparing Tom Kelly, a manager who lived from 1993 on with essentially a Triple-A line-up, to Gardenhire, a manager who couldn’t win with two MVP-caliber players and a host of All-Stars is “makes little snowmen out of his own poop” crazy.
Now, if we could just get Terry Ryan to spend the winter at an isolated resort in the mountains somewhere…
In the world of baseball, August is that time when guys get put on waivers for purposes of either being traded or to gauge if there is any trade interest on a big-contract player. But to make this tactic work, you must understand the concept of timing.
The Minnesota Twins clearly do not understand this.
In case you didn’t notice, the Twins have put all-star catcher and former MVP Joe Mauer on the waiver wire, according to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.
Don’t get me wrong, I get why they did it. Let’s be honest; the Twins have plummeted to baseball’s basement, and Mauer’s has now become a millstone around Minnesota’s neck. Yeah, I get that he is performing; his “slash numbers” are .309/.403/.425 with eight homers. But the idea that he likely will never reproduce his power numbers of his MVP year of 2009 combined with the fact he has roughly $142.5 million left on his contract means he is a likely candidate for a Red Sox-style salary dump.
The problem is the Twins are too late. Just look at the likely takers to eat such a big contract…
The Red Sox just unloaded a quarter-billion in salaries in Adrian Gonzalez , Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford. They are not going to pick most of that back up in one fell swoop.
The Dodgers just ate Boston’s $250 million.
The Yankees really need pitchers more than yet another lefty bat.
The Cubs are still trying to get out from under Alfonso Soriano’s gorgon-like deal; not to mention they just ankled themselves to Starlin Castro for far too long and far too much, and rumor has it they are ready to piss away a giant pile of cash on professional under-achiever Jeff Samardzija.
The Angels blew their allowance on C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols, not to mention what they still owe Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter, and what they will end up giving to Zach Grienke or any of those other pitchers.
The Rangers spent big for Yu Darvish and still have the Josh Hamilton situation to resolve.
Given all that, just where does the Twins’ front office think Mauer is going? You know he’s not going to be part of one of those “you take him but we will pay a big chunk of his salary” deals. So what are they hoping to accomplish here?
Oh, and here’s the big problem…not only does Mauer’s contract guarantee him $23 million annually through the 2018 season, it also has full “no-trade” protection. In other words, even if he is claimed, Mauer would have to approve any deal.
All that means that Joe Mauer changing team in the next few days is as likely as a Twins’ World Series Championship this year. It just isn’t going to happen. But it does make one wonder just what are the Twins thinking?
If you are an old geezer like me, you know that during World War II, the NFL ran so short of players because of the war that for three years between 1942 and 1945, the league merged the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles into one team, the Phil-Pitt Steagles. With baseball season fast approaching, I thought to myself, why not take a similar approach with my two favorite baseball teams, the California/Los Angeles Angels and the Minnesota Twins.
The idea was to build an all-time team out of players who played for both teams. I have such a split loyalty since for various reasons the days of my youth were split between living in either Twins and Angels territory, and I chose the Angels as my Southern California team as I had an intense hatred of the Tommy Lasorda Dodgers.
With that, allow me to introduce the Calisota Twingels:
- Bill Rigney (don’t anybody dare ask why Gene Mauch didn’t get the nod here…)
- Greg Myers
- Butch Wynegar
- 1B Don Mincher
- 1B-2B Rod Carew
- 2B-SS Rob Wilfong
- SS Leo Cardenas
- 3B Gary Gaetti
- 1B-3B Dave Hollins
- Lyman Bostock
- Ken Landreaux
- Don Baylor
- Dave Winfield
- Dan Ford
- Torii Hunter
- Chili Davis
- Vic Power
- Ron Jackson
- Pat Borders
- SP Bert Blyleven
- SP Dean Chance
- SP Geoff Zahn
- SP John Candelaria
- SP Dave Goltz
- RP Dave LaRoche
- RP LaTroy Hawkins
- RP Brain Fuentes
- RP John Verhoeven
- RP Paul Hartzell
- RP Ramon Ortiz
Let’s be honest, 2011 was a lousy year in sports. Just look at all the stories which happened in that twelve-month span which completely took away the usual uplifting nature of sports. So, as part of moving forward, I thought it was time to take a look back to a year which for me was the opposite of this one most recently and thankfully past.
That year was 1987.
Ironically, as 2011 brought the low point in the history of Penn State football, 1987 brought one of the highs. The Nittany Lions came into the Fiesta Bowl in 1987 as a prohibitive underdog against the brash, trash-talking Miami Hurricanes. Joe Paterno’s traditional style of football served as the classic antithesis to the wide-open style of Jiimmy Johnson, but the Hurricanes flat-out got beat. If you were watching college football in 1987, there is no way you can forget Pete Giftopoulous’ game-sealing interception in the 4th quarter; the one that cemented Penn State’s second National Championship.
Later that year came the culmination of the 1986–87 season in NCAA men’s ice hockey. To most people, that isn’t such a big deal, but when your alma mater prints its diplomas on hockey pucks, North Dakota’s defeat of Michigan State to capture it’s 6th National Championship was a big deal on that campus.
The end of March means spring is most places, but Grand Forks, North Dakota is not one of them. The average temperature in Grand Forks in March is about 20 degrees Fahrenheit; average of course meaning a great deal of the time it is significantly colder than that. In short, living in Grand Forks in March means nearing the end of a winter where you’ve been trapped indoors, left to three main forms of entertainment: eating, drinking, and fornicating. Naturally, after a while, you become a fat, drunken hump-meister that needs no reason to party.
The Fighting Sioux were such fun to watch that winter; their dominance of the indoor ice was an antidote to the ever-present outdoor variety; in January in Grand Forks, even the air freezes. But thanks to a complement of talent such as Ed Belfour, Tony Hrkac, Bob Joyce, and Ian Kidd, the atmosphere around North Dakota Fighting Sioux games on Friday and Saturday nights warmed to a simply sub-arctic Bacchanalian orgy filled with the aforementioned three surrounding activities. That is why to this day, there is a hockey puck on my desk to remind me of the the hockey season in which I drank more beer, ate more pizza and after-bar food (for those of you who know…who else misses The Red Pepper?), and had more sex than in any other six-month period in my life.
As long as we are on the subject of things that forever combined the concepts of ice rinks and sex, when is there a better time to mention East German figure skating gold medalist Katarina Witt?
After all, when’s the last time you remembered a figure skater for her serious upper-body pride rather than her triple axle?
If a figure skater who doesn’t look like a hockey stick wearing toe-pick blades is rare, then the phenomenon known as Mike Tyson must have been the sporting world’s version of Haley’s Comet.
The boxing world hadn’t seen anything quite like Mike Tyson before, and it certainly hasn’t seen anything quite like him since. The year before, Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion at just 19 years old. In March 1987, Tyson nearly (and ironically) crushes several James “Bonecrusher” Smith’s internal organs; a victory which unified the WBA and WBC heavyweight titles. Already the the year before, Tyson became the youngest undisputed heavyweight champion in boxing history.
Over the course of the next year, Tyson left a trail of corpses formerly known as challengers (four in all) to retain his title. Early in 1988, he added the last of the great “old-school” heavyweight champs to his body-count when he separated Larry Holmes from his consciousness; the only time Holmes ended up looking up during a ten-count in 76 career bouts.
1987 marks the apogee in the meteoric orbit of Tyson’s career; this the last year before the tumult takes over. The following years will bring his divorce from actress Robin Givens, after being accused of domestic violence, the firing and subsequent suing of his manager, breaking his hand in an early morning street brawl, two car accidents (one of which was reportedly a suicide attempt), a rape conviction and related prison sentence, a drug conviction with another stint behind bars, and the Evander Holyfield “ear biting” incident.” Somewhere in that freight train of fouls, Tyson lost the title to a club fighter named Buster Douglas, never to regain it.
Now, let’s go from the rare to the unbelievable. Those of you under 30 may never swallow this, but there was a time in this country when people were all jacked up over yachting, specifically the America’s Cup. Remember that in the 1980′s, thanks to the “Miracle On Ice” and two Olympic boycotts in that same decade, international competitions became more of an issue of national pride than they had ever been previously. This was magnified when it came to the America’s Cup, which not only is the pinnacle of the yachting world, but had never been outside the possession of the Americans in it’s entire history, which dates back to just after the Civil War.
That all changed in 1983 when Kookaburra III, a tub from the Royal Perth Yacht Club wrested the Cup from the Newport Yacht Club. Seriously, people went crazy over this loss. Stories came out about how there was talk replacing the Cup’s place in the club’s trophy case with the head of the skipper who lost it. ESPN got the rights to broadcast the races when the American challenger went to Australia. People stopped in their tracks to watch two hours of boats. Water cooler sports-talk included terms like “jibs” and “tacking.” It was like the Olympics with flat-soled shoes, life jackets, and that white sun-block stuff on your nose.
When skipper Dennis Conner led challenger Stars & Stripes ’87 of the San Diego Yacht Club to a four races to none Cup win over the Australian defender, he literally became a national hero.
Believe it or not, for two weeks in 1987, America went boat-shit crazy.
As far as more conventional sports are concerned, 1987 offered two of the great championship series in sports.
First, there was the NBA Finals. It would be easy to simply say the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers which I grew up on (my dad had season tickets) beat the hated Boston Celtics 4 games to 2. While I loved the outcome, just focusing on that would ignore so many great points of this series.
For example, this series was such a perfect contrast in styles. There is no better word to describe the Lakers than “dominant.” They were a beautiful blend of speed and power, of flash and fundamentals that when they were firing on all cylinders it mattered little who they faced.
Despite that, the Celtics offered the effective foil; not only were they the defending champs, they did it in a way that was a complete opposite of Los Angeles. The Celtics played high-school half-court basketball, but they played it better than anybody ever did.
Even though they were already a championship caliber club, The Lakers were a team on the way up. Michael Cooper emerged as a guard who offered match-up problems of anybody else in the league, A.C. Green, James Worthy, Mychal Thompson, and Kurt Rambis offered a mix-and-match option for a front-court that could beat you ant any game you wanted to play. This was augmented guy named Magic Johnson who was a point guard in a power forward’s body, and was better than anybody at either position. Even the grand old man, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar still brought his unstoppable “Skyhook” to the mix.
Meanwhile, even though they were the defending champions, the Celtics were a ship taking on water. The fact they made it to the finals was a major accomplishment, considering the death of Len Bias, the ongoing infirmity of an aging Bill Walton, and nagging injuries to Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Boiled down to basics, this meant the Celtics did not the horses to run with the Lakers.
This is why the Lakers were such a prohibitive favorite. It’s also why just zipping ahead to a Laker 4-2 win is a mistake. Had this series gone seven games, it would be regarded as one of the great NBA Finals of all time.
The Celtics were, for all practical purposes, playing with five players. The Celtics had to play perfectly to win; they did it twice and nearly pulled it off a third time, which is really the only reason this series only went six. It all started in Game 1, when at one point Larry Bird hit 11 shots in a row. This showed the younger, faster Lakers that the Celtics were so resilient that if they lapsed even the smallest bit, Boston could capitalize on that slip.
Secondly amongst the “big” sports came the “boys of summer.” In a year packed with basketball, boxing, and bimbos, baseball belted the prize-winning punch.
For openers, there were so many guys who had great “pre-steroid” seasons. A look at the league leaders in the “Triple Crown Categories” will lead you to that conclusion.
- American League: Wade Boggs, Boston, .363
- National League: Tony Gwynn, San Diego, .370
- American League: George Bell, 134
- National League: Andre Dawson, 137
- American League: Mark McGwire, Oakland, 47
- National League: Andre Dawson, Chicago, 49.
1987 also had a story one might think impossible; a player being traded for himself. Granted, it wasn’t the first time it happened. Thanks to he provision in baseball trades known as the “Player to be named later” (PTBNL), there have been two times when a player has been named on both sides of a trade.
In April 1962, the expansion New York Mets traded catcher Harry Chiti to the Cleveland Indians for the aforementioned PTBNL. By June, the Indians discovered why Chiti was on the trading block to begin with; the Indians gave Chiti back to the Mets as the PTBNL.
The same situation arose in 1987 with career bullpen jockey Dickie Noles. Noles had been ping-ponging around the league as a “have fastball, will travel” type, but in 1987 the last place Cubs offered Noles to the first-place Tigers as one of those trade deadline “bolster the playoff run” moves to which we’ve become so accustomed. The trouble is that Noles sucked so bad the Tigers didn’t want him either, so he was shipped back to the Windy City as…you guessed it…the dreaded PTBNL was also traded for himself in 1987, in a deal between the Cubs and Tigers.
But the real story of baseball in 1987 is the Minnesota Twins. The magic started in June, when the Twins went 18-9 to capture first place in the American League West. They would never be worse than tied for the lead again that season. But it was August when the stars really seem to align for the nine of the North Star state
August 3 – In a moment that brings this team to national attention, Twins pitcher Joe Niekro is suspended for 10 days for possessing a nail file on the pitcher’s mound against the defending division champion California Angels. Niekro claimed he had been filing his nails in the dugout and put the file in his back pocket when the inning started. He later makes an appearance on the David Letterman show in which he makes light of the incident by showing Letterman exactly how to “doctor” a ball.
August 6 – Later in the same West Coast road trip comes the moment where the Twins never look back. The Twins are opening a four-game set with another contender, the Oakland A’s. In Bottom of the 4th inning, the Twins have a 3-1 lead and a one-out, bases-loaded chance to blow the game open thanks to an error by A’s shortstop Alfredo Griffin. The Twins do just that when Kirby Puckett ropes a bases-clearing double off 20-game winner Dave Stewart to put Minnesota ahead for good. The Twins win the game 9-4 to capture sole possession of first place, a lead they would retain until Friday, August 28th…or as I will always call it “The Weekend in Milwaukee.”
August 20 – Even though they’ve just been swept by the Tigers, it dawns on me that the Twins can’t win on the road, but can’t lose at home. This becomes CRUCIAL as this is in the days when the home-field advantage for playoff series were scheduled in advance; in 1987 the American League West Champion would have home field in the championship series, and the American League would enjoy that same advantage in the World Series. This is when I become a firm believer that all the Twins needed to do in win the AL West, and a World Series title would be coming to Minnesota for the first time.
August 29 – The Saturday of “The Weekend in Milwaukee. ” The Twins had lost to the Brewers the night before to find themselves again tied for the AL West lead. The Twins have Bert Blyleven pitching, and the feel in the air is this game is a “must-win” for the Twins playoff hopes.
In the top of the first, Gary Gaetti belts a two-run shot to put the Twins ahead early. Puckett adds a solo shot in the top of the third. By the top of the fifth, the Brewers crept back to 3-2, until Puckett added his second home run of the day. Puckett’s bomb opened the flood gates to a Twin 7-2 lead as it was followed by an RBI single by Tom Brunansky and a 2-RBI single my Steve Lombardozzi. Later, Kent Hrbek blasted a three-run dinger to seal the deal. The Twins capture sole possession of first place and never relinquish it.
August 30 – The Sunday of “The Weekend in Milwaukee,” otherwise known as the day I accepted Kirby Puckett as my Lord and personal Savior. Puckett leads the Twins to a 10-6 victory by going 6-for-6, including two more homers, two doubles, and 6 RBIs. This made for a two-day total in a critical series of 10 hits in 11 at-bats, 4 home runs, 8 runs batted in, 7 runs scored, and 24 total bases. Oh, and somewhere amongst that offense-gasm, Puckett also robbed future Hall-of-Famer Robin Yount of a home run.
There were so many more moments along the way to the Twins World Series Title…the game against the Royals when the Twins rode three first-inning home runs to clinch the division title, or Game 4 of the ALCS where the Tigers’ Darrell Evans became the goat to end all goat, or hometown hero Kent Hrbek’s game-sealing grand slam in Game 6 of the World Series.
There were also many firsts. The Twins were the first team with only 85 regular-season wins. Game 1 of the 1987 World Series was the first World Series game played indoors. It was also the first World Series in which the home team won every game. Most importantly, it was the Twins first Championship since the franchise moved to Minnesota.
When you are the fan of a 100-loss team, you expect your team to make changes; after all, you just lost 100 games. This is a feat which has only been dubiously achieved by 28 teams in the last 30 years, the Houston Astros becoming the latest to do so. If the Twins don’t win both of their remaining games, they will become #29.
Having said that, if you are a fan of a 100-loss team, the last thing you want to see is a headline like this, courtesy of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Twins owner Jim Pohlad: ‘We’re not a knee-jerk organization’
Yeah, that’s just what I want to see; the owner of a 100-loss club talking about limiting the discussion on making changes. This is precisely why this article was pointed out to me by Dick Marple, the Chairman of the Dubsism Advisory Board. I know what I saw in the article had me wrapping duct tape around my head to keep my skull from exploding. I shudder to think what Mr. Marple’s reaction could have been.
This is exactly why we cannot waste anymore time before we dissect this article as the esteemed Mr. Marple may be on his way up a bell tower as we speak.
After one of the worst seasons in Twins history, club owner Jim Pohlad knows change is needed.
“I am really all about trying to get better,” he said Monday.
But his idea of change doesn’t appear to include changes at the top.
Pohlad, speaking from his Minneapolis business office — with Target Field in clear view through the window –said the key men running the Twins will remain in place. That means manager Ron Gardenhire, who has led the team since 2002, and General Manager Bill Smith will be back for another season. If there are changes to his coaching staff, it’s up to Gardenhire to make those decisions.
“We are not a knee-jerk organization,” Pohald said.
Remember this…Pohlad says he knows changes are needed, but he then couches that by limiting what those changes might be. In other words, this is the old Nixonian “non-denial denial.” This theme is crucial to understand the load of bovine scatology about to be laid out here.
In a lengthy interview with the Star Tribune on Monday, Pohlad discussed the season, Joe Mauer, injuries, payroll and attendance and how the Twins will go about improving on a season he called “sickening.”
Here are highlights of the interview:
Q Entering the season the popularity of the Twins had never been higher. Now we’re looking at the possibility of being the second team ever to lose 100 games with a nine-figure payroll ($115 million). How do you plan on holding people accountable for some of the things that have happened this season?
A Well, I mean first of all, let’s talk about what’s happened. I mean, in my view, the two main things that have happened have been a ton of injuries — the perfect storm of injuries — and there have been players that we counted on that, when they’ve played, they’ve played not up to the levels that they played in 2010, for sure. So in my view that’s the synopsis of the season.
This is the classic beginning of a non-denial denial. When faced with an inexcusable situation, create a cover story that is both plausible, true, and yet incomplete enough for the addition of extra falsehoods later. After all, the Bible says the truth shall set you free, but it was Spiro Agnew who said a good lie will keep you out of jail in the first place.
Q When the team loses as many games as the Twins have this year, and the manager expresses concern about fundamentals and young players being prepared, don’t you feel that you have to change something? Something has to be adjusted here?
A I think, yes, we need to change, but we need to have the players healthy, and we need to have our core group of players playing to their capabilities, that’s for sure. Now beyond that, how do you cope with the perfect storm of injuries and players not performing? You have to bring up players from the minor leagues, obviously. When they did come up, it did appear that fundamentally there were some issues. We have not gone into great detail at this point — the season is not even over yet –about the underlying causes of those issues. But it certainly would appear that there are issues.
I love how Pohlad sticks to the “perfect storm” concept; as if everything that happened to the Twins was some sort of “Act of God” which could neither be predicted nor prevented. Of course, this completely ignores such facts as the complete inc0mpetency of Nishioka, and the over-dependence on guys named Hughesy and Plouffey.
Q So you feel like there will be some things you need to address during the offseason?
A Oh clearly … we need to address how can we keep the players healthy. We need to address how can we encourage the players during the offseason to get to a point where they’re going to play up to their capabilities. Then we need to address the issues that are maybe down in the farm system.
How can “we” keep the players healthy? First of all, it took “we” six weeks to find out what the hell was wrong with Joe Mauer, and even then “we” didn’t know what to do about it. Then there’s the not-so-subtle shifting of blame to the players. Guess what? It ain’t the fault of the Hughesies of the world that you thought they were All-Stars in the making, and it’s not their fault you simply increased your expectations of the kids when it was clear your “big-money” guys were going to be non-factors. In other words, the farm system is not the problem, and the young players are not the problem.
Q I think you’ve used the injury list 27 times this year and some of these injuries have been rather unique. But it sounds like you’re concerned a little bit from the medical staff or the training staff, that things may need to be adjusted there?
A I’m not saying that the medical staff or the training staff has done anything wrong. I’m just saying let’s look at the injuries and see how they can be prevented in the future.
Idiot Management 101 – Once you’ve identified a problem that you are using as your scapegoat, always say Idiot Management things like “We’re going to look at ways of preventing that.” How the hell do you prevent injuries? Wrap all the players in bubble-wrap? Play only with Nerf balls?
Q All right, how do you feel about the job Ron Gardenhire has done this year? What do you think about how the coaching staff has performed?
A I think they had very difficult conditions. It’s got to be frustrating, on any given day you don’t know who’s going to be ready to play and who is not going to be ready to play. In order to try to adjust to that, it’s been very demanding. We’re very pleased with the job that Ron has done.
Q So you definitely are bringing him back next year. What about the coaching staff?
A That’s not my decision. That’s Gardy’s. … We’re going to sit down at the end of the season with Gardy and Billy [Smith, general manager] and everybody and they’re all going to talk through all this. But it’s not happening now because the season is not over.
That was back-to-back punts, but the best one is that it is Gardenhire’s decision to come back. You’re the owner, you have the ultimate authority. Don’t be such a pussy by saying it isn’t your decision; as the owner you can make any decision yours. George Steinbrenner is vomiting in his grave hearing an owner de-ball himself like that.
Q How do you feel about the job Bill Smith has done as general manager?
A He also has had a very tough situation, but we’re going to sit with him and we’re going to ask him what he can do to make the organization better next year.
Q Do you plan on bringing him back next year as GM, then?
A Yes. … He’s been involved with this organization for a long time. Do we throw out the last, what’s the number, 15 years and forget all that over one season? I mean it’s been, really, an unusual season. … Our organization isn’t a knee-jerk- reaction organization.
OK, fine, but let’s look at the Bill Smith era as a whole, shall we? Since assuming the role of general manager in 2007, he got lucky by dumping the future money-bomb known as Johan Santana, but he got nothing for him – Carlos Gómez, Deolis Guerra, Kevin Mulvey, and Philip Humber. He also traded pitcher Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris (now both gone).
Yet, these moves returned the Twins to the playoffs in 2009. This marked the team’s fifth playoff appearance of the decade. It also marked the fourth consecutive time the team failed to advance beyond the first round.
Q Billy has been quoted as saying that he’s more of an administrator than a talent evaluator. I’m curious to know why you think Billy is the right man to turn things around? What’s Billy’s title?
A General manager, so he’s in charge of managing the baseball operation. I mean those are his words, like you said. I don’t remember reading that, but if those are his words that’s really his job, to manage the baseball department. We don’t look to Billy solely — I don’t know if any organization does, maybe they do at some place — we don’t look solely at him as the premier judge of talent. He has a whole bunch of people that he gets input from on the judgment of talent.
The general manager is not a talent evaluator. Now the Nishioka signing makes sense.
Q Your season-ticket base, I believe, is around 25,000. Are you bracing for that number to decrease next year?
A No, I mean we’ve said all along that as Target Field matures — you can look at every single other new ballpark and there is a period of honeymoon — and sometimes after that honeymoon period, be that three, five years, whatever that number is, there is a leveling off. But we believe that we can keep the Target Field experience at the top and be a winning team. And those two elements, together, should guarantee that we’ll have strong ticket sales. If it’s in single-game tickets or season tickets, I mean in the end it’s all counted as your attendance in total.
That may very well be, but who was the last team with a new ballpark to lose 100 games? See, Minnesota fans are “fair weather” fans, and if the team sucks, they will spend the summer at their lake cabins.
Q I did some rough addition, I’m a journalist not a mathematician here, but between [pending free agents] Joe Nathan, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Matt Capps and the trades of Delmon Young and Jim Thome, you have about $40-$42 million coming off of your payroll after this season. How much flexibility will that give you as far as being able to improve this roster for next year?
A Well if what you just said, if that’s true, that gives us tons of flexibility. That money is not just going to go back into our pockets. We want to win. We care about winning and we’re going to try to win. In a lot of cases payroll dollars tend to reflect that.
In other words, that money is going right back into their pockets. Get ready for the days of Scott Stahoviak, Pedro Munoz, and Rich Becker.
Q In recent years you guys have not been known to make the big-time, flashy, free-agent singing. I think Thome was an impact signing based on his résumé, but you haven’t signed that top-notch, free-agent type of player. With so much money coming off the books, will you look to the free-agent market to sign a impact player this offseason? Do you think we need just one player?
A No, I do not. [general laughter] No, we’re going to have to look at that, but it’s probably not just that. It all depends upon the health of the people going forward. But my guess is we’re probably going to have to do more than one impact player. We’re going to have to bring in more than one.
Q But you foresee going after that?
A In my view, and I’m sure Bill [Smith] would echo this, they’re going to have to look at the free-agent market or trades. Surely that can’t be ruled out.
Pohlad and Smith have no idea why this team tanked, so asking them how to fix it is like asking the captain of the Titanic how to avoid ice.
Q Will you be able to bring back Cuddyer and Kubel next year?
A I don’t know. We want to win. That’s the goal. We’re going to bring back or sign players that are going to help us win.
You could almost make a drinking game out of this. Everytime Pohlad says “we want to win,” take a pull.
Q What is wrong with Joe Mauer?
A Joe Mauer told me the day we signed his contract down in Florida that he would always give me his best. That’s what he told me then and I believed him then and I believe it now. As far as what’s wrong with him, he had a bad year health-wise, injury-wise, just like everybody else did.
Q Are you worried that Mauer has something wrong with him that hasn’t been detected yet?
A No, I’m not worried about that.
Q How much more have you expected out of him? You’ve invested a lot of money to lock him up and he, whether it’s fair or not, is the face of this franchise.
A I agree with that, and he is the face of the franchise and he’s signed for the next seven years. He will be the face of the franchise going forward.
Ahhh, we finally get to the whole Mauer problem, the $23 million singles hitter. Well, maybe that’s not fair…he did slug almost four homers in 300 at-bats. Of course, there’s something wrong with him, and nobody knows what it is, and if nobody figures it out, Twins’ fans need to get ready for seven more years of high-dollar non-performance.
Q I know you’re still scouting Japan, I know Terry Ryan was recently in Japan. Does Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s disappointing season make you more cautious of signing players from that country? Or will you continue to look to Japanese players as a possible option?
A We’re going to look to any country that has players that we believe can help us win.
Q I think last season you put in a bid on Hasashi Iwakuma, who was a starting pitcher in Japan, and of course you weren’t awarded the bid. I think he’s a true free agent this offseason. Is that someone who could still be on your radar for this offseason?
A I think probably everybody is on our radar.
Seriously, I think Pohlad really wanted to answer that one a bit more truthfully; something more like “Are you f–king kidding me? I’ll take players from Mars if they can help this sorry-ass team.”
Q I know the continuity in this organization has been one of the strengths, being able to hire and promote from within and keep certain things in place. But how can you just wash this whole season off because of injuries and not think, ‘We may have to change some things here?’
A I never said anything like that. … I never said we don’t have to change things. Please don’t get that impression. … We want to know how things are going to be better next year. Like you said, if there’s no convincing argument or here’s the plan and the plan isn’t all convincing, then we’re going to react. We’re going to say, ‘Go back and do it again or something.’ I don’t even know. I don’t really anticipate that that’s going to be the case.
NON-DENIAL DENIAL ALERT!!! NON-DENIAL DENIAL ALERT!!! Anytime, and I mean anytime you hear a manager/leader/politician say “I never said that” and “Don’t get the wrong impression” within two sentences of each other, you are in the bowels of a non-denial denial. The problem is not that you got the wrong impression, you committed the cardinal sin of getting EXACTLY the correct impression. Don’t be surprised if there’s a house-cl;eaning coming, and one that will be completely unsuccessful; culture comes from the head down, and nobody gives that theory more “head” than this owner.
Q Just for the sake of being clear for the readers, do you foresee where your payroll may land next year? There’s been some whispers about it’s going to have to come down from $115 million.
A I mean it’s going to come down naturally, because it exceeded where we wanted it. But it was an unusual year contract-wise. But it’s not going to be slashed. It’s going to be right up there. But I don’t know exactly what it’s going to be.
I don’t want to say that sounds like a lie, but…go back to the question where Pohlad doesn’t even know the result of not re-signing the free-agents. He dodged then, and he dodged now. There’s a very real possibility that the Twins are worried they’ve over-extended, the bet on a contending team to fill the new ballpark is looking like a gutshot straight draw, and Pohlad might very well be considering a decade-long fold.
In all honesty, one can make a bunch of jokes about how the roof of the “Humptydome” coming down is just a metaphor for all the terrible teams that have played under the Teflon Sky. Make a list and see the trail of sporting tears that have called the Metrodome home. The only resident still there is also the one most affected by this current disaster; the Minnesota Vikings have lost every NFC championship game they have ever been in under that horrible roof. The Minnesota Timberwolves (with the exception of the Kevin Garnett era) have settled into being a perennial NBA doormat; a franchise that began its days under the Teflon Sky. And even the entity whose new stadium may have to bail out the NFL come Monday (I may be accused of breaking out a big glass of “Haterade” for this) but the Minnesota Golden Gophers lived through some of the worst years ever seen by a terrible program while they got their mail at the Metrodome. The only team that ever won anything in the Baggy-Dome were my beloved Minnesota Twins, and even they were ghastly for half of their years in that atrocity.
I could even point out that the Metrodome was the front-runner on our list of the worst sports venues in America. That was months before this catastrophe; and a catastrophe that has happened before. The Baggy-Dome has has a failure event with its Teflon Sky at least five times, which is not a great track record for a structure that is hardly 30 years old.
I even could get in to the litany of why the place is so terrible for sports. But the Dome is a monument to plastic with terrible sightlines, not enough bathrooms, horrid concessions, and a roof and turf combo that completely made a joke of baseball; those are just symptoms. The root cause is this atrocity was built on the cheap.
Seriously, the Metrodome is like if K-Mart built sports venues; everything in the building screams cost-cutting move. But that is to be expected when you have a venue that was built for less than $60 million, which roughly equivalent to $235 million today. The air-supported roof was a cheap answer to told-school domes that preceded the Metrodome, such as the Houston Astrodome or the Louisiana Superdome. When you stop to consider that stadiums built today estimate construction at $650 million, and have ended up costing over $1 billion, it really shows how much the Metrodoome was intended to shave the dime.
On top of that, Minnesotans, being the progeny of good, phlegmatic Scandinavian stock (read that as “cheap”) have milked more out of their cheap dome than anybody else. Indianapolis got rid of the RCA Dome, Detroit no longer uses the Silverdome for major events, and even the largest stadium of this type, BC Place in Vancouver, is currently undergoing a conversion to a retractable-roof design, abandoning air-supported technology entirely.
Now for the really ugly truth. Minnesota is a place with a sad combination of a brutal climate with harsh extremes and a government that combines cheap structures with cheap maintenance. It’s no accident that the people who built a cheap cloth roof in a place where two-foot snowfalls are not uncommon are the same who went the cheap route on maintaining steel bridges in a place that has 120-degree seasonal temperature extremes. It’s no accident that the Metrodome and the 35W Bridge are both structures built and maintained by Minnesota government that are both now monuments to the importance of knowing where NOT to be cheap.
Here we are; another October full of post-season baseball. Let’s be honest, most of the crap I said about these teams six months ago was wrong, so why not go for month number seven proving I have no idea what I’m talking about. Take the following for example (from April 22nd):
California in General: The Padres are leading the NL West based on a league-leading Team ERA of 2.82, the Giants are tight behind their statemates to the south in both the stat and the standings, and Oakland’s 3.16 means three of the top four staffs in terms of earned runs allowed get their mail in the Golden State. Toss in Dodger Matt Kemp’s pacing the NL with 7 homers and 20 RBI and the Angels not looking nearly as mediocre as one believed, and things are on the up. The question is how many of these things will still be true in August.
Indeed, how many of those things turned out true? Well, the Padres waited until August before they folded faster than Superman on laundry day, allowing themselves to get run down by a Giants team that is likely the weakest still standing. Honestly, after July, these were the only two California teams worth noting. So, instead of trying to make predictions, it is time to talk about why none of these teams are worthy of your support. With that, let’s get down to the rest of the remaining eight…
1) Philadelphia Phillies – (Pre-season Rank #1, 97-65, NL East Champs) – Odds of Winning World Series: 4-1
This team defines “mercurial.” They started the season as the favorites of the Dubsism staff, then they plummeted as low as #14 in the rankings, the low-water mark coming in that series at the Mets when they didn’t score a single run in four games. The are now again the hottest team in baseball, but as good as they are now, they won’t when. Why? Because it’s Philadelphia. No city has a bigger self-esteem problem than Philadelphia. Philadelphia spends hours staring in the mirror and laying awake nights wishing it were New York. This is why Philadelphia fans hate everything; during the off-season they go down to the hospital and boo surgeries.
But it isn’t just the male Phillie fans who should be choked to death with a cheese-steak. I’ve got a belly full of these stupid female fans who spend hours blathering about how much they want to fuck Chase Utley. Behind the Red Sox, the Phillies have the highest percentage of obnoxious female pink-hat-wearing fans, you know the ones that get sloppy drunk and wail about wanting to get on Cole Hamels’ cock. If you have a girlfriend who has a pink piece of sports apparel and won’t shut up about which player she wants to bone, punch her in the face immediately. Then punch yourself where your balls used to be for being involved with such a stupid bitch.
2) Tampa Bay Rays (Pre-season Rank #4, 96-66, AL East Champs) – Odds of Winning World Series: 4-1
Tampa is such a non-interest generator that if the Rays were to win the World Series, you could probably hold the entire victory parade at a Shoney’s. Seriously, nobody gives a shit about Tampa or any of it’s teams. Do you remember when the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl. Of course you don’t, because you didn’t care then, and you don’t care now. The Rays are like are like local TV news. You watch to see weather and traffic, and once you see that you are that stream of fans heading to the car in the sixth inning.
EPSN’s Colin Cowherd made an interesting point about this team. Apparently, Tampa was third on a list of potential cities to get one of two baseball expansion teams. While he was working for a news station in Tampa at the time, Cowherd says he was told by George Steinbrenner himself that he pushed the awarding of the franchise to Tampa through, because his family lived in Tampa and he wanted to see his Yankees play down there during the season. In other words, there are TWO teams to hate because of that dead shitbag Steinbrenner.
3) Minnesota Twins (Pre-season Rank #10, 94-68, AL Central Champs) – Odds of Winning World Series: 5-1
I love the Twins, so it pains me to say this, but I have a serious dislike of Minnesota sports fans. The absolute worst sports fans in the world are Minnesota Viking fans, and too many Twins fans are just the retarded, in-bred cousins of those same Viking fans. I lived in the Twin Cities for 15 years, and I can tell you first hand that the Twins are a franchise that deserves a far better fan base than it has. Minnesota fans worship at the alter of a Viking team that hasn’t won a fucking thing in forty years while they almost completely ignore the franchise that has won two World Championships in that time. Tune in a Minneapolis sports radio station in April and you will hear 24 hours of how the Vikings need to draft some other asshole who will undoubtedly under-perform.
Plus, Minnesota is where you grow fair-weather fans. At least the people in terrible sports cities like Tampa or Atlanta are honest, they don’t show up at all. But Twins “fans” filled the dreadful Metrodome when the Twins were winning; you could have fired a cannon in the place in the mid-90′s and not hit a soul. Now, since the arrival of Joe Mauer and the new ballpark, these “fans” can’t stop blowing themselves over shit we already know like the fact Mauer is a home town boy or that Target Field is gorgeous. It is just the residents of Minnesota collectively coping with the fact they got butt-fucked into building a stadium that is going to be half-empty in ten years. Not to mention, the Twins are no longer the payroll David to the Yankees’ Goliath anymore, so all you so-called “fans” need to get off that crap right now. Granted, the Yankee payroll is gargantuan, but the Twins are over $100 million themselves.
Oh, did I mention they are the world’s only passive-aggressive racists? They wouldn’t dream of using an epithet because that’s not “politically correct,” but they have no problem using the old “Would you want your daughter to marry one?” mentality when they run a black athlete out of town (I will never forget the Warren Moon incident, when Minnesota fans used a court case in which Moon was found not guilty because the case was unfounded to begin with, to call the local sports radio station to spew a lot of “that’s how THOSE people act” bullshit).
There’s about 50 real Twins fans in the world, and they are a great group of people. For the rest, there can’t be enough bridge collapses to get rid of all of you.
4) New York Yankees (Pre-season Rank #2, 95-67, AL Wild Card) – Odds of Winning World Series: 5-1
Are you now, or have you ever been a Yankees fan? Are you under the age of 45? Have you ever said “The Yankees sucked when I was a kid, so I’m not of one these new Yankee fans that came along when we started winning again”? If you answered “Yes” to these questions, you are pretentious douche-nozzle and you would be doing the world a favor if you stuck a shotgun in your mouth.
There’s soooooooooo many reasons to hate the Yankees. First, there’s the aforementioned loyalty-less fuckwads who think just because the Yankees sucked in the 80′s means they aren’t some dickhead who needs to be on the winning side. But least there is one less reason to hate them, since that piece of deep-fried monket shit known as George Steinbrenner is dead. At least he has a burn-in-hell worthy legacy, like sodomizing New York City out of a billion dollars to build a replica of a 90-year old shithole, then filling it with insufferable dickweeds who now are actually proud of their Ruthian assholery.
Oh, and I haven’t mentioned this yet, but you have no idea how much it pissed me off that after Steinbrenner assumed room temperature that I kept being told “You didn’t have to like him, but you had to respect him.” Fuck you. The same people who said this are the same people responsible for the impending death of America. George Steinbrenner was a criminal who deserves the same respect a dog pays to a fire hydrant.
5) Atlanta Braves (Pre-Season Rank #8, 91-71, NL Wild Card) - Odds of Winning World Series: 8-1
Who better to be in the “Punched in the Face Edition” than that geriatric drunken wife-beater Bobby Cox? Lately, people have been fawning over the fact that he has been kicked out of an entire season worth of games. “That just means he’s fiery, competitive and sticks up for his players,” I hear all the time. Did you ever consider that he might just be a flaming asshole with an anger management issue? I would say that getting piss-drunk and punching your wife in the face suggests the latter.
According to the police report, the Coxes had been entertaining friends when Bobby spilled a drink on the carpet of their northwest Atlanta house and Pamela made a comment about it. The report said that after the guests left, Bobby, 53, “hit her in the face with his fist,” pulled her hair and called her “a bitch.” When they reached the house, the police reported, they heard arguing inside, where they found Bobby drunk and Pamela with the left side of her face swollen.
My favorite part of this story was the press conference a few days later when Pamela Cox tried to deny the domestic violence allegations all while wearing a knuckle-mark on her cheek that looked just like a National League Championship ring.
That’s just the recent reason to hate the Braves. There’s a really good old reason, that being when that idiotic windbag Ted Turner owned them. Thanks to the “Mouth of the South,” we all got to live through the infancy of cable television by watching the sorry-ass 1980′s Atlanta Braves. If you are my age, you remember having this shitty team shoved down your throat as “America’s Team.” Worse yet, TBS grew into a cable network capable of winning a bid to carry Major League Baseball so they could prove that Fox didn’t completely fuck up televised baseball.
6) Texas Rangers (Pre-Season Rank #11, 90-72, AL West Champs) – Odds of Winning World Series: 12-1
If we were to compare American cities to body parts, Arlington would be the appendix; something that everybody has, yet it is completely useless. Arlington is like the anus of Texas, wedged in between the unwashed buttocks of Dallas and Fort Worth. It doesn’t take long to figure out why Texans build all the stuff that draws huge pain-in-the-ass crowds in Arlington; it sits on such a useless piece of land that it is surrounded on one side by a giant airport and on the other by a giant nothing. Why is the Rangers ball park here? Let’s be honest, nobody in Texas gives a shit about baseball past August. In fact, baseball in Texas is just a way to kill time until football season starts. This is why nobody should give a shit about the Rangers now. Besides, Texas hasn’t had a guy who could hit the cut-off man since Lee Harvey Oswald.
7) Cincinnati Reds (Pre-Season Rank #18, 91-71, NL Central Champs) – Odds of Winning World Series: 15-1
Here’s where you can still use that shop-worn “big market/small market” argument, except the comparative scale is in sheer assholery. Granted, the Yankees have produced more flaming assholes than anybody, but they have more money than anybody. But when you have a team from the largest city in Kentucky that has produced such legendary buttloafs like Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Rob Dibble. Really, how can a team produce a guy who bets on baseball, the worst play-by-play guy EVER, and a guy who just blazed the “Raging Dumbfuck” trail for a shithead like John Rocker. Worse yet, how can a small-market team do that and still produce a world-class fuckface like Johnny Cueto, who during that brawl with the Cardinals back in August kicked Jason LaRue in his head multiple times, effectively ending his 12-year career. If I get to see only one thing I really want during this post-season, please let it be a 95-mph fastball directly into Cueto’s face, his teeth bouncing off home plate like bloody Chiclets.
8 ) San Francisco Giants (Pre-Season Rank #18, 92-70, NL West Champs) – Odds of Winning World Series: 18-1
See the guy in the black trunks above? The Giants need to sign him now so they will have at least one guy who can hit. It’s like ever since Barry Bonds left, the Giants are in some sort of self-imposed deprivation of offense, like anybody who hits 30 homers will have his balls cut off and fondued at some sort of granola and sissy-fruit party. It’s not like it matters because nobody cares about the Giants except for a few Dodger haters and the future funeral home clientele who from their pine boxes will still be pining for the days of Willie Mays.
The funny part is that in a weird sort of way, the Giants are the perfect team for San Francisco. At the same time, San Francisco is a beautiful city with the same sleazy underbelly as any other world-class seaport; within mere yards of each other you can find the whitest-glove haute cuisine and foreign sailors chuffing down whatever cheap fare that will satisfy while leaving a precious few drachma for a booze-up and a working girl. San Francisco can turn the breath-taking topography of Northern California and simultaneously compliment it while turning it into a piss-reeking urban nightmare. When fall hits the Midwest and all those meat-and-tater midwesterners get all fawny over California and its’ golden sun, they are picturing Southern California and its sun-kissed beaches. But since they are so eager to get out of East Tree Stump, Ohio, they don’t realize until they get there that San Francisco is not that California. Rather, it is a city that is shrouded in fog more often than not, is prone to 40 mph winds, and can sport highs in the 60s in July. I once lived in North Dakota, and one of the coldest winters I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.
The Giants are as much a collection of contradictions as their city. The Giants are a team that boasts a tremendous pitching staff, and yet couldn’t hit water if they fell out of fucking boat. Even though they an old-school member of the National League with a large market, they can’t buy a better solution for their offense problem than Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff. Somehow they have managed to play team baseball well enough to win their division, yet on an individual level they are the biggest collection suckasses out there. Did they all agree to wear their uniforms as baggy as possible so they all look like airport windsocks in those 40 mph winds? Tim Lincecum looks like a Make-A-Wish kid baked on medicinal marijuana in those things, but at least they hide the man-boobs on those elephant seals known as Pablo Sandoval and Juan Uribe. I mean, who the fuck can have any respect for a major league baseball team that has at shortstop a manatee with frosted tips on his goatee?
Whether it’s stocks, fantasy baseball, or the real thing, trading can be a dangerous proposition. There’s no guarantee that the deal will work; only time will tell whether your investment pays off or whether you get to sell you blood to make the rent this month.
But, one thing that is certain; where there’s trading there’s bleeding, and nothing draws the sharks like blood in the water. Since we here at Dubsism are at the same time not willing to wait for two years to see who the bleeders are and stuck in the middle of the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” we’ve decided to give the rating of winners and losers a bit of a Swim With The Sharks twist.
Great White Shark: The Texas Rangers
Clearly, The Texas Rangers are going to need a bigger boat. Rangers’ General manager Jon Daniels played the role of Chief Brody to a tee. Not only did Daniels figure out he’s got a team ready to reel in winning now, he set sail to bag the fish he needed to make this team complete. The Rangers have been playing fur seal to the Angels’ Great White for nearly a decade now, but the additions of of ace Cliff Lee, catcher Bengie Molina, infielder Cristian Guzman, and slugger Jorge Cantu make a frankly scary roster when mixed with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Elvis Andrus and ironically enough Vladimir Guerrero, who was acquired in the off-season from the Angels.
Not only does this make the Ranges likely to seal up the American League West sometime in August, barring an unforeseen collapse, the Rangers become an honest-to-goodness World Series contender. If that weren’t good enough, the Rangers, who are awash in bankruptcy even managed to get the Nationals and the Marlins to toss in cash in their respective deals. Could this finally be the year where a good-looking Ranger team doesn’t get grilled into oblivion in the broiling Texas summer?
Tiger Shark: San Diego Padres
The Padres have spent eons being the bottom feeder of the NL West, so much so they gained a reputation for eating anything that would come their way; they were so desperate a few years ago they were the only team that showed interest in a clearly-finished Mark Prior. However, even a creature that eats everything occasionally gets a gourmet meal. Gaining the services of both infielder Miguel Tejada and outfielder Ryan Ludwick while not giving away anything useful cement the Padres as a legitimate force come October.
Ludwick’s big bat finally provides some protection for Adrian Gonzalez, while his glove complements a stellar pitching staff. As long as they manage Tejada correctly, meaning they play him at shortstop as long as David Eckstein is on the disabled list. Once Eckstein returns, it will be necessary to platoon him with Jerry Hairston Jr. at shortstop. Otherwise, the Padres run the risk of seeing Tejada’s age and lack of range cost them in the long run.
Bull Shark: New York Yankees
Bull sharks are notorious for conducting the most attacks on humans; the Yankees commit the most atrocities against humanity. The Bronx Bombers were likely the best team in baseball before the trade deadline, however, that didn’t stop them from adding Lance Berkman to shore up the DH slot, Austin Kearns to make them even better against left-handed pitching, and (if he stays healthy) Kerry Wood to add the consistency to the setup role Joba Chamberlain seems completely incapable of doing.
Hammerhead Shark: Philadelphia Phillies
Just looking at a hammerhead, one gets the idea they are completely bereft of the ability to see either forward or backward. With some foresight, they might have seen the combination of Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay could’ve dominated National League lineups. Instead, they must give up a good bullpen guy to get Roy Oswalt.
With some hindsight, they might have seen that Greg Dobbs alone isn’t a good enough insurance policy against injury. In the absence of Ryan Howard, imagine how that line-up would look now had they dealt Jayson Werth for the obligatory bag of magic beans. In other words, they easily could be the bottom-feeder that didn’t find the good meal.
Nurse Shark: Los Angeles Dodgers
Much like a nurse shark is a large fearsome looking creature that actually has the aggression level of Mickey Mouse on valium, the Dodgers looked like a contender until the calendar read August. Honestly (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), it really isn’t general manager Ned Colletti’s fault for once. Coletti is suffering the Malachi Crunch of being pinned in between the ugly divorce of owing junta Frank and Jamie McCourt and the over-priced, under-performing Manny Ramirez who is rapidly becoming the millstone around the neck of this franchise.
In other words, Colletti is trying to do his job, but he is in a swimming race in a shark tank with a bleeding side of beef chained around his neck. Somehow, he has manged to make deals for effective B-list players like Ted Lilly, Scott Podsednik, Ryan Theriot, and Octavio Dotel; the trouble is this team needed a couple of A-listers to make the difference.
Mako Shark: Minnesota Twins
This is a case of a shark that is the fastest in the sea, and a seriously feared predator. Just look at that thing; I shit my pants just uploading that picture. But the problem is the Mako wastes that fearsome nature chasing Charlie the Tuna. This is the perfect analogy for the Twins; a franchise that can grow some seriously scary talent, yet has no idea how to get full value on a trade.
It was no secret that even though the Twins uber-catching prospect Wilson Ramos was never going to do more at Target Field than sell hot dogs to the “ya, you betcha” Minnesota crowd as long as God in a Mask Joe Mauer is a Twin uniform. Sure it was obvious Ramos was the chum to catalyze any deal, but with high-quality bait you expect a high-quality catch.
To be blunt, Ramos should have got the Twins Miss Universe, but Matt Capps is Miss Iowa. Now don’t misunderstand us here, while Iowa may be an acronym for “Individuals Out Watering Animals,” Miss Iowa is a hottie in her own right. But unless she becomes Miss Universe, she’s a decked-out Cadillac Seville in a world of Rolls-Royce Silver Shadows. In other words, Capps is a fully-loaded, brand new Cadillac for which the Twins paid $750,000.
Blacktip Reef Shark: Arizona Diamondbacks
Timid and skittish, the blacktip reef shark seldom poses a danger in the National League West. However, teams wading through Arizona do occassionally run the risk of having their legs mistakenly bitten. However, this timid nature leads some to believe that this shark may be an endangered species when in fact they may have put a screwing to a couple of larger sharks in the Baseball ocean.
Frankly, I’m amazed to hear people who think the Diamondbacks got screwed in the Dan Haren trade. Keep in mind this is a franchise in need of swimming into a gill net and hoping for a better lot in the next life. Just in the deal with Angels alone, they unloaded $30 million in salary while getting four pitchers in return, including Joe Saunders, a not-that-long-ago former All-Star. When you add how they fleeced the White Sux for the perenially shaky Edwin Jackson, the D-backs now boast a farm system stocked with nine of the top 80 picks from last year’s draft.
Remora: San Francisco Giants
Yeah, we know a remora isn’t a shark, but you can’t watch Shark Week without seeing one. If you aren’t familiar, a remora is one of those little fish that just hangs around, cleaning up whatever bits the big sharks leave behind. Lots of other sharks had a major feeding, and the Giants got a few nice bits in relievers Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez. Plus, the bit of “addition by subtraction” that happened by shipping Bengie Molina to Texas, thus opening the way Buster Posey to look like a right-handed coming of God In a Mask Joe Mauer could easily move the Giants up the food chain.
The Chum Bucket:
Just as you would expect, this would a a mish-mash of the assorted pieces left over from those who really didn’t figure out what the trade game is all about. For example, the Los Angeles Angels did net a nice catch in Dan Haren, but this team really needed a big bat at a corner infield position/designated hitter position (Adam Dunn, anyone?). When you combine that with the price of the Haren deal, it’s pretty hard to say the Halos helped themselves for the long term. Another team that needed offensive firepower and didn’t get it were the White Sux. Not only they not get Adam Dunn, Lance Berkman shot down the Sux with his no-trade clause. They still can make this worse by engineering one of those Kenny Williams “waiver wire” specials by grabbing Manny Ramirez. Plus, Ken Griffey, Jr. is still out there – oh wait, Williams has already made that mistake before.
Then there’s the teams who added nothing. The Cincinnati Reds find themselves in a neck-in-neck race with the Cardinals, but just couldn’t get that extra horse they need. Roy Oswalt cost too much, Dan Haren pulled out the no-trade clause, and they came up empty looking for bullpen help. In the end, they are pinning their hopes on a couple of senior citizens they have stashed in Triple-A Louisville, Russ Springer and Jason Isringhausen (yeah, I can’t believe they are still alive either!) But at least the Cardinals’ swim in the shark tank came out as a net zero. Sure, Jake Westbrook helps the rotation, but giving up Ryan Ludwick when the Cards were already offensively challenged… this team better plan on winning a lot of 2-1 games. The Mets literally did nothing, Jarrod Saltalamacchia likely can’t replace the injured Kevin Youkilis (except as a Scrabble word) for the Red Sox, much like Jhonny Peralta won’t come close to replacing Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen for the increasingly toothless Tigers.
The Idiot Who Gets Bitten Because He’s an Idiot:
Again, this is something that no Shark Week would be complete without. You’ve all seen this guy, usually a fisherman who while trying to retrieve a 40-cent hook somehow forgets that even small sharks have mouths full of razor-sharp teeth that make an exceptionally efficient finger-removal tool. Welcome to the world of the Houston Astros, a team that actually gave the Yankees, a.k.a. the richest team in baseball $4 million to put Lance Berkman in pinstripes.
But worry not sports and shark fans; while Shark Week is just a week, there still the waiver wire deals for which August is notorious. In fact, I hear Adam Dunn may still be available…
For me, the All-Star break has always represented the “far turn” in the horse race that is the Major League Baseball season. This is the point when general managers acting as jockeys must decide whether they are contenders or pretenders; whether to go to the whip (trade for talent to augment a “stretch run”) or “wait for next year” (have a fire sale).
This is why the rumor mills are always abuzz in the weeks around this time. Even before we can get to that buzz, the Blue Jays have decided they are selling, and the Rangers are clearly buying. The Braves grabbed a veteran shortstop while doing a bit “addition by subtraction” by sending perennial underacheiver Yuniel Escobar to Toronto in exchange for Alex Gonzalez. On the other side of the coin, the Rangers finally discovered that pitching might be the key to a run through October by acquiring all-star caliber pitcher Cliff Lee from the Mariners, who were clearly over-rated to start the season.
Speaking of pre-season ratings, the far turn is also a good place to really look at how wrong your prognostications were. While the Blue Jays gave us a nice surprise for a while, ultimately they are showing they don’t have the ponies to run with the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox. Meanwhile teams that looked to be at the front of the pack are running like they shattered a collective leg.
For example, the Phillies entered this campaign as the defending National League champions; for 10 weeks they played as such. However, for the past six, they have forgotten how to score, and for large stretches of that time the ageless wonder Jamie Moyer has been a more effective pitcher than the bazillion-dollar ace Roy Halladay. The turning point came during that Mets series in June when the Phillies’ seemingly discovered how to score negative runs.
In contrast, the Minnesota Twins never really had such a clear-cut moment spelling doom. Instead, the Twins seem to be on a march toward “death by a thousand cuts;” every day brings a new seemingly small problem that while insignificant by itself, in total they become a blow to the system that can’t be overcome. The loss of uber-stud Justin Morneau to a concussion could have been that fatal blow if only the Twins weren’t 90% of the way to bleeding out by then.
Peruse the full rankings and draw your own conclusions. The numbers behind each team indicate change from the previous ranking. Teams with the biggest changes from the last ranking are in are in bold. The teams with the biggest difference between their preseason ranking and their current position are in italics.
- New York Yankees ↑ 1 (Pre-season rank #2)
- Tampa Bay Rays ↓ 1 (Pre-season rank #4)
- Atlanta Braves ↑ 1 (Pre-season rank #8)
- San Diego Padres ↑ 2 (Pre-season rank #25)
- Boston Red Sox ↑ 8 (Pre-season rank #3)
- Texas Rangers ↑ 11 (Pre-season rank #11)
- Chicago White Sox ↑ 14 (Pre-season rank #9)
- Colorado Rockies ↑ 10 (Pre-season rank #5)
- Los Angeles Dodgers ↑ 2 (Pre-season rank # 13)
- Cincinnati Reds ↓ 1 (Pre-season rank #18)
- Detroit Tigers ↑ 1 (Pre-season rank #14)
- New York Mets ↑ 7 (Pre-season rank #23)
- San Francisco Giants ↑ 1 (Pre-season rank #17)
- St. Louis Cardinals ↓ 6 (Pre-season rank #6)
- Los Angeles Angels ↓ 5 (Pre-season rank #15)
- Philadelphia Phillies ↓ 11 (Pre-season rank #1)
- Minnesota Twins ↓ 14 (Pre-season rank #10)
- Toronto Blue Jays ↓ 11 (Pre-season rank #28)
- Oakland Athletics ↓ 3 (Pre-season rank #21)
- Florida Marlins ↓ 5 (Pre-season rank #12)
- Chicago Cubs ↑ 1 (Pre-season rank #22)
- Milwaukee Brewers ↑ 1 (Pre-season rank#20)
- Kansas City Royals ↑ 1 (Pre-season rank #29)
- Washington Nationals ↓ 4 (Pre-season rank #24)
- Houston Astros ↑ 1 (Pre-season rank #26)
- Seattle Mariners ↓ 1 (Pre-season rank #7)
- Cleveland Indians ↑ 2 (Pre-season rank #30)
- Arizona Diamondbacks ↓ 1 (Pre-season rank #16)
- Pittsburgh Pirates ↓ 2 (Pre-season rank # 27)
- Baltimore Orioles ↔ (Pre-season rank #19)