Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Garza/Bartlett Trade

Twins GM Bill Smith has taken plenty of heat for dealing Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to the Rays for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris. It's been described as a rip-off and a failure among other things. I had disagreed with these assessments, but then I remembered something. In the deal, the Twins also swapped minor league pitcher Eduardo Morlan to acquire outfielder Jason Pridie. The young outfielder needed only 10 games to earn an entry in the airing of grievances. As you may recall, Pridie bobbled a routine outfield play to allow the tying run to score from first base with 2 outs in the ninth inning of a September contest at Rogers Centre against the Blue Jays which the Twins would eventually lose in extra innings. A few weeks later, the Twins and their fans were complaining about the coin flip which sent them to the Southside to break the 1st-place tie with the White Sox. It would be easy to blame the manager for putting Pridie into the situation. But I have a hard time believing that routine singles to right field are in different from all the routine singles he saw in AAA.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Boof Bonser

Boof Bonser reported to training camp in 2008 much lighter than he had been in 2007. By any traditional measure, he was in much better shape. His 2007 season featured many otherwise dominant performances ruined by an apparent lack of stamina. Naturally, logic would suggest that a slimmer better-conditioned Bonser could overcome this problem. I mostly agreed with the sentiment, but my nagging shred of doubt came true. The reigning American League Cy Young winner weighed 300 pounds. David Wells threw a perfect game. Rod Beck reminded us that nobody ever landed on the DL with a pulled fat. In hindsight, if Bonser had reported to camp 20 pounds heavier than his '07 weight, then his 2008 season may have been as successful as many around the Twins organization had hoped.

He enters 2009 as the most likely candidate to provide a dominant force out of the bullpen to set up Joe Nathan. He's shown that he has as dominant of "stuff" as any pitcher on the staff, but hasn't consistently harnessed it. Many of the best relief pitchers are starters just like that who couldn't quite make it. I guess we'll see what happens.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Alexi Casilla

In 2007, Alexi Casilla looked completely overwhelmed with the Major League level of baseball. He began 2008 in AAA where he hit just .219 (21/96) with three doubles accounting for his only extra base hits. Then the entire Twins infield and every backup got hurt, and he was called up by default. In just his 4th game in the lineup upon being recalled, he hit a home run. Stunned by this turn of events, I grabbed my phone to send a text message to my brother. But he was quicker on the draw, and just before I could hit send the exact three letters I had keyed popped up on my screen: WTF. Casilla then taunted Twins fans with plate discipline and occasional power over the summer months. Then he got hurt, and reverted to the Alexi Casilla who held a .250 slugging percentage in AAA. The evidence certainly suggest that May, June, and July are the exception. But even if they are the rule, it's hard to be excited about a player whose upper ceiling looks to be Luis Rivas. But he is really fast.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Glen Perkins

Glen Perkins received plenty of praise for filling a hole in the rotation last year. He had some solid outings, but I had a hard time getting myself to watch on days that he pitched. The inevitable sixth inning meltdown just ruins the whole game. Once this trend emerged, I wish Gardy would have picked (at least) one game to force Perkins through the 6th no matter how many runs and pitches it took. Instead of getting Bass or Guerrier as soon as things got ugly, Gardy should have just sat in the dugout glaring at Perkins with nobody warming up. I don't care if he was out of gas, hitters figured him out the third time through, or otherwise. He needed to be able to finish a game. Instead, he continually proved my suspicion that he's a "Number 6" starter. He's great for a temporary replacement when somebody else is injured, but he wasn't effective enough to be out there every fifth day for most of a season.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Jason Kubel

The problem with Jason Kubel is that no matter what he does, it makes me mad. If he strikes out watching three straight fastballs, I'm mad that he wasted the opportunity. If he hits a big home run, I'm mad because he's taking away my reason to hate him. And it might mean he'll be in the lineup again. He's just a really confusing player. He hasn't been "bad" in either of the past two seasons. But he hasn't done nearly enough to be considered "good." I'd gladly take his 2008 performance for the next few years. I just don't have a clue how likely it is that he can repeat it. Basically, I'm sick of wondering if he'll ever fulfill his potential and hope 2009 can finally answer the question.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


It's the middle of January and there aren't enough curse words in the English language to describe how cold it has been in Minnesota this week. How cold is it? It's so cold that Minnesota is getting attention from the national media. There at least seems to be a perception nationwide that it's always 20 below in Minnesota. What does this have to do with the Twins? Well, the national image of this state as frigid flyover country coupled with our Scandinavian modesty enables the Twins to brainwash us with the small market myth.

Minneapolis and Saint Paul do not belong in the same category as Omaha, Des Moines, and Oklahoma City. They shouldn't even be compared with Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Kansas City. Cities like Seattle, Denver, and Phoenix are much more reasonable comparisons. The Twin Cities are at the smallest a "middle" market. There is no need to convince the fans that we have to settle for less because we don't live in a big important city. This doesn't mean I think they should throw money at free agents just to do it. New York already has the Mets and they're a "big" market. I'm just sick of the crutch and the propaganda.

In order to find blog-worthy material between now and spring training, I will continue by posting something about most if not every expected 2009. Naturally, this will mostly take an "airing of grievances" format.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What if...

I couldn't help but read some of the comments on the STRIB's story reporting Carl Pohlad's death. The moderators deleted any derogatory posts. The remaining posts agreed that Pohlad brought to championships to the Twin Cities and saved baseball in Minnesota. Both sentiments are true to a point, but Minnesota baseball fans ought to rethink their feelings of indebtedness and quit groveling.

Suppose Pohlad had never purchased the Twins from Calvin Griffith and the Twins had left town. The implication is that baseball in Minnesota would be reduced to the Eastern Minny league. In reality, that's probably not the case. Contrary to the propaganda, the Twin Cities market is just too big to be without baseball in some capacity for an extended period of time. Within a matter of years, a AAA team would likely move to town. Remember, a minor-league team would have been bumped by the Twins arrival in their new town. Furthermore, Major League Baseball added 4 new franchises in the 1990's. Certainly Minneapolis-Saint Paul would have been a prime candidate for a new franchise. And in this scenario, the "Twins" would probably be playing in Denver, Phoenix, Tampa, or Miami. The expansion franchise is not a guarantee, but there would definitely be either a AAA or MLB team in the metropolitan area.

In either case, baseball fans in Minnesota would have spent the 1990's watching hot prospects like Dave McCarty struggling fulfill the hype. Matt Lawton and Marty Cordova would have stabilized the revolving door of outfielders which had included Rich Becker, Alex Cole, Brent Brede, and Roberto Kelly. We'd have seen over-the-hill veterans like Otis Nixon give it one more chance. A crafty aging pitcher like Bob Tewksbury might have tried throwing a 45 mph change-up. Minnesota would be one of many stops for mediocre journeymen corner-infielders like Dave Hollins and Greg Colbrunn. It wouldn't be a season without trading Midre Cummings. A pitcher like Mike Trombley would blow the few leads we had. Frankie Rodriguez would pitch over 200 innings in one season. The highlight would have been when Chip Hale set the record for most pinch hits in a season. In short, baseball in Minnesota would have been unbearable in the 90's without the Twins.

But the Twins did win two World Series after Pohlad bought them. The World Championships are treasured memories for any of us with any recollection of them whatsoever. But unless Nick Punto and company get to work this season, come October, some kid who wasn't even born the last time the Twins won a World Series is going to walk into a gas station (present his real drivers' license), and buy a pack of Camel Lights. Do we really want to keep living in the past? Do we want to become as annoying as Cubs fans? Since the Twins won their last championship, the Marlins have won two, the Diamondbacks one, and even the Rockies and Rays made it to the World Series. Even with an expansion team, we may have still enjoyed a championship. As an added bonus, we'd have paid for the stadium by now. Although I'm not sure we ever could have replaced the brilliance of Brad Radke.