And it’s quite alright
And goodbye for now
Just look up to the stars
And believe who you are
‘Cause it’s quite alright
And so long, goodbye
I’ve had quite a few days to mull over yet another 1st round exit from the Twins, and I think it’s allowed me to get my thoughts in order and avoid typing my gut instincts. Many other people can’t say the same thing, even though it’s now been 5 days since the Yankees defeated the Twins. I’m going to offer up my responses to some common opinions that have surfaced recently, and I’ll include some important things the Twins should consider during the offseason.
Ron Gardenhire must be fired
I wholeheartedly disagree. Under Gardenhire, the Twins have always been one of the top teams in the AL Central. I get that they never get past the first round, and Gardy has been a constant through every playoff series, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame him. He does frustrate me at times (such as using Guerrier so much at the end of the regular season once again) , but looking back at the series against the Yankees, there wasn’t any large managerial mistake that he made. I did overhear some fans complaining about him putting in Jesse Crain in Game 1, but this was after Crain allowed the home run to Teixeira (hindsight is always 20/20) and he had been one of our best relievers. The only thing I really would have complained about was having Jason Kubel start both Games 1 and 2 against CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. I know that Jason Repko wouldn’t have been much of a better solution, at least offensively, but defensively he would have been much better. Kubel’s defense didn’t really cost the Twins, so perhaps this argument is moot, but I just felt that putting a hitter that struggles against LHP in the starting lineup against two LHP was just setting him up to fail. Other than that, I have no complaints about Gardy’s managing this postseason.
Scott Ullger must also be fired…
Ok, I understand that the Twins lost quite a few outs and runs because of Ullger. I don’t ever remember Ullger being this bad, however, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that this was just an unlucky year for him.
…and replaced with Mike Redmond
I really feel that this argument is coming from a lot of people that wanted the Twins to keep him for the 2010 season. He liked the Twins, we loved him, he went on Naked Walks around the clubhouse, etc. However, we don’t even know how good of a coach he would be. I hardly think it’s a smart idea to instantly make him the 3rd base coach. Let him start in the minor leagues, then work his way up the ladder first.
Apparently Steve Liddle has to go as well
This comes from a guy on the “1,000,000 Twins Fans!!!” Facebook group. I don’t really get this (and not just because he spells Liddle’s name as “Little”). Liddle hasn’t done anything that merits losing his job, and Bert Blyleven constantly compliments him on his ability to steal signs from the opposing team. The guy that mentioned that Liddle should be fired was blaming him for not firing up the Twins during their playoff series, but I don’t see how he can be blamed for that when most of us can’t even answer the question, “What does a bench coach do?” Hell, when the Twins were in Seattle, Dick and Bert were dumbfounded when they found out Seattle had an assistant bench coach. Their conversation was essentially:
“What does an assistant bench coach do?”
“Well, he assists the bench coach.”
“Ok, then what does a bench coach do?”
The Twins are scared of the Yankees
Is there any proof to this? When you interview every single player in the Twins clubhouse, and you feel that you get a significant number of responses that say, “Yes, I am intimidated whenever we play them,” then you can use this argument.
Note that in the 2010 starting lineup, the Twins had Orlando Hudson, Jim Thome, Danny Valencia, and J.J. Hardy. If the Twins really are scared of the Yankees, then these guys should have been the driving force towards getting the team into the 2nd round of the playoffs. Instead, these guys were unable to carry the team. I refuse to say that they lost their competitiveness when they found out they were playing the Yankees. It’s similar to when the Twins were struggling with the bases loaded early in the season, and many people were saying the offense “lacked the intestinal fortitude*” to drive in run, yet at the end of the season the Twins were doing just fine with runners in scoring position.
* I don’t know why, but I can’t stand the phrase “lacks the intestinal fortitude.” Maybe it’s because I find it to be a long-winded way of saying “He’s not brave” or “He lacks the guts,” or maybe it’s because everyone that used that phrase didn’t understand that baseball players cannot control when they will get a hit. Sure, they can try to hit to the opposite field or hit it in the air, but baseball players rarely say, “Well, I was trying to hit the ball in the hole between 3rd and short, and that’s exactly what I did.” They just say they were trying to find a good pitch to drive somewhere in the ballpark.
My argument is simple: The Yankees always were the better team. It’s another “hindsight is 20/20” argument, unfortunately, but I think you’d have to agree that the Yankees earning a 95-67 record with 76 games coming against the AL East teams with an average 84-78 record is far more impressive than the Twins having a 94-68 record with 76 games against the AL Central teams averaging a 76-86 record. There are far more factors than that (for example, strength of opponents for the remaining 86 games), but it’s a quick way to show that the Yankees were most likely better than the Twins, even without knowing the result of their best-of-five series.
The Twins need to put their Target Field profit into increasing payroll
Honestly, I’m sick of hearing this suggestion. Simply put, we don’t know that the Twins are going to put this profit into the payroll. Working at Target Field for over 40 games, I was able to see many improvements made throughout the season. Clearly, money was needed for those changes, and I’m willing to argue that some of the Target Field profit was used. I may end up looking like a fool by the time March comes around, but until I’m proven wrong, I feel that it’s irresponsible to believe that the payroll will be significantly higher than it was for the 2010 season.
Now, I would like to discuss what I would like to see in the offseason. There are loosely in order of necessity.
1. Figure out the second base situation.
Orlando Hudson is a free agent, and he had a clause in his contract prohibiting the Twins from offering him arbitration if he was a Type A free agent, for fear that having a draft pick attached to his new contract would prevent teams from signing him. However, MLB Trade Rumors believes that Hudson will be a Type B free agent, so that clause will not take effect. But, ever since he signed prior to the season, I felt that he only came to Minnesota because Bill Smith offered him the best contract, so I would not be surprised to see him move on. Therefore, someone new will either be signed, traded for, or given the starting job. Currently, I would say that Alexi Casilla is first in line, but if Nick Punto’s option in his contract is picked up or he is bought out and then re-signed, then he would most likely become the new #1. Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes have also been thrown into the pile (and don’t forget Matt Tolbert), but the reports about Hughes’ defense worry me a bit, and Plouffe didn’t show very much offensively in 2010, albeit in limited playing time. I do have one request though, and that is that the new 2nd baseman must be able to get on base at a decent rate. We basically know that whoever plays 2nd will also bat 2nd, and I don’t want to see Tolbert batting 2nd on a regular basis again.
2. Get an ace for the rotation
Perhaps Francisco Liriano is the ace we need. However, I would still argue that the Twins need someone that can dominate opposing lineups. I would like to see Carl Pavano re-signed, but he is not the type of pitcher I’m looking for here. I want someone that can get plenty of strikeouts. Why? Because the pitch-to-contact pitchers the Twins favor played right into the strength of the Yankee offense. We keep the ball around the plate, they drive those strikes to the gaps and out of the park. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the Twins’ best chance of winning a game came in Game 1, which Liriano started. Jim Souhan has already suggested trading Delmon Young and Kevin Slowey for Zack Greinke, but I doubt that will happen. Kyle Gibson is a possible future ace, but his first trip to Triple-A Rochester yielded just over 5 strikeouts per 9 innings (read: not good). Acquiring an ace may be tough, but I think it may yield the biggest results out of any offseason acquisition.
3. If Justin Morneau is not ready by 2011, find someone to fill his hole in the lineup
An easy way to do this would be to re-sign Jim Thome. I’m not a huge fan of Michael Cuddyer at 1st base, but unless someone else was brought in, the past 2 years would almost guarantee that he’d start 2011 there again. At least it would give Jason Kubel and Delmon Young regular starts as well (provided they both remain on the team).
4. Get a good righthanded batter for the bench
Note: No one like Rondell White or Phil Nevin should be considered. When they both came to Minnesota, they were big in name only (you can decide how “big” they really were), but both were approaching the ends of their careers. Neither did much in Minnesota, and we can’t have that happen again. In my opinion, the bench was rather weak in terms of pinch-hitters. I was getting frustrated that Matt Tolbert kept pinch-hitting late in games towards the end of the season. I’m not a big fan of Jose Morales, plus he’s usually used as a lefthanded bat, so I would like to see someone acquired to bolster the offensive side of the bench.
5. Sort out the bullpen
Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Randy Flores, Brian Fuentes, and Ron Mahay will all be free agents from the Twins bullpen. Flores (ineffectiveness) and Fuentes (contract demands) likely won’t return, and I think the Twins like the first three enough to re-sign at least two of them, if not all three. Then, the bullpen would become interesting.
Possible re-signing options (likely to happen)
Possible re-signing options (slight chance of happening)
Minor league and out-of-option guys
There’s no such thing as too much pitching (as the saying goes), so perhaps we’ll just see the young guys return to Triple-A, but with a plane ticket to Minnesota just a click away.
6. Get a backup outfielder, and keep at least 5 outfielders on the roster.
This might just end up being Ben Revere, although I could see Jason Repko being tendered a contract as he is arbitration-eligible. I just don’t want to see a repeat of the beginning of 2010, where the Twins were only carrying three outfielders (Cuddyer, Kubel, Young) on both their 25- and 40-man rosters.
I don’t expect all of these to happen (it may become too expensive), but I think the Twins would do a good job of building a solid team for 2011 if they follow these suggestions.