The Times They Are A-Changin

Before I launch in to today’s post, I want to remind everyone that the TwinsCentric gang has organized a gathering tonight at Smalley’s 87 Club, near Target Field. They’re going to be joined by Lindsay Guentzel from KFAN and if you’re in the Twin Cities area, you should join them, too! There will be food and drink specials, as well as prizes to give away, and it’s a great opportunity to have some fun with fellow Twins fans. They’ll also be taking (but not requiring) donations to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Since I’m NOT in the Twin Cities this weekend, I’m hoping that one (or both) of our Twin Cities contingent, KL and CapitalBabs, will find their way there to represent Knuckleballs! Game time is 7:00, so get there early! – JC

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For weeks, I’ve been holding out hope that, once the “real” Twins all get healthy, they might stage some sort of comeback. It may not be enough to challenge for the AL Central Division title, but I had hopes that it would at least result in a competitive team worth watching again. I suppose that could still happen, but the reality is that the Twins seem to be losing more of their best players faster than they get already-injured players back from the Disabled List.

I still believe that there is a lot of talent at the Major League level in this organization. If everyone was expected back next year, I’d probably be willing to just write 2011 off as one of those years when you’re simply snakebit and look forward to starting off 2012 with everyone healthy and, with a couple of tweaks to the roster, ready to return the Twins to their rightful spot at the top of the division standings.

Alas, things just aren’t that easy.

As a child of the 1960s, I’ve always thought of Bob Dylan as part icon, part prophet, and part… well… just weird. I used to spend time working my way through his lyrics looking for the meaning. Imagine my shock this week when, as I was listening to a bit of Dylan’s best, I realized that nearly 50 years ago, he was writing about the 2011 Minnesota Twins when he penned The Times They Are A-Changin. But then, he is a Minnesota native, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.

Don’t believe me? Let’s give a listen.

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Who is Dylan talking to here? Maybe he’s telling the front office to wake up and realize they aren’t a small-budget team any more and they need to adopt a new business model before they’ve got the fanciest half-empty ballpark this side of the Pirates’ PNC Park. Or maybe he’s talking to the on-field staff and warning them that “pitching to contact” and “battling your tail off” are not going to get the job done in today’s game. Maybe he’s telling Joe Mauer to listen to his body and start thinking about spending some time learning another defensive position or two. Or maybe he’s talking to us… the fans… because as I look around, it’s obvious to me the waters around us have certainly grown.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Well this one is easy. Yes, decades ago, a young Bob Dylan saw the future and it was named “Twins blogs”. He’s talking to all of us in the Twins Blogdom here (maybe some of the traditional media, too, but mostly bloggers). Nobody does more prophesizing than we do and we’re certainly all about speaking too soon while the wheel’s still in spin. We’re being warned that those we’re so anxious to show the way out of town will taste victory in the end… whether in a Twins uniform or otherwise. Mark it down… Alexi Casilla will be the 2012 World Series MVP… somewhere.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

You thought he was talking to politicians here, didn’t you? Nope. This is directed at the players (and really, the whole reference to “he that gets hurt” should have been a dead giveaway to you!), particularly some of the “senior statesmen” of the organization. Guys, we’ve all enjoyed having you around through some successful seasons and we will always appreciate your contributions. We don’t really want to see you go. But there’s a battle about to rage for playing time and you’re going to have to prove you can pick up the pace a bit on your performance level, because if you’ve stalled, you’re going to get run over and hurt. Lead or get out of the way, gentlemen.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

This one’s for all you stat-heads and it’s aimed directly at the Twins’ front office. I’m not smart enough to understand all of the sabremetric tools that those like Bill James use to evaluate baseball talent and project success or failure of players, young and old. I also don’t believe you can or should use those metrics exclusively to build your organization. I think scouting is important. That said, when you look around at the talent levels in the Twins minor leagues and particularly at those that are called up to contribute at the Major League level during the course of a season, it’s pretty obvious that the “Twins way” isn’t working very well any more. They’ve come across as an organization that not only stubbornly avoids relying on advanced metrics, but seems to actually take pride in their ignorance. That needs to change… and if the current decision makers can’t change with the times, the Twins need new decision makers.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.

Clearly, Bob didn’t expect the Twins and their fans to heed his warnings in the previous stanzas, because here he’s telling us that, while we have all had a nice ride over the past decade or so, winning Division titles and making nearly annual appearances in the playoffs, that ride is over. The Twins are destined to pull up the rear of the AL Central while the Cleveland Indians and this weekend’s opponent, the Kansas City Royals, are about to enter an era of dominance in the division.

Well, that sucks, but at least it’s not the BitchSox.

Then again, I could be wrong about all of this. It’s happened before.

- JC

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