Given the rather startling news around Ryan Braun’s positive PED test results (with the caveat that he IS appealing), I thought this was an appropriate amusement.
I think I know how Twins General Manager Terry Ryan feels today. I remember those days.
You head to the party but you’re not really sure why… It’s colder than hell outside and you’ve gone to this party before and it’s always been boring. You know you’re just going to stand around and watch all the cool people hook up and then head home by yourself.
But this time it’s different. For some reason, people are talking to you… even members of the opposite sex. Maybe it’s the new fu manchu mustache or the new 8-track player in your orange Pontiac Ventura II.
You have a beer or three and even find yourself getting a little casual play with one of your ex-girlfriends and a couple of the regular older chicks who, frankly, will make out with anyone. As you head back to the keg, you allow yourself to think that maybe this party will be really different.
You get your beer-fueled courage up and flirt with a couple of the really hot girls, even though you know there’s no chance either of them are going home with you and, sure enough, as the night wears on, you see them leave the party with other guys.
By now, you’ve lost track of how many beers you’ve had and even started doing a few tequila shots.
Then you spot her… the girl you’ve been dating most recently. Just last week she gave you the, “maybe we should take a little break,” line. It hurt a bit, sure, but by now she’s looking pretty good. You definitely noticed earlier in the night when last year’s stud QB was hitting on her, but you noticed he left with another girl (two of them actually) a little while ago and now she’s just hanging around talking to a couple of geeks.
So, you figure, what the hell… and you walk up to her, slipping between her and one of the guys who have been chatting her up, and give her your best smile. Surprisingly, she smiles back (though, in retrospect, you’re not 100% sure she wasn’t really laughing at you).
You each have another drink or two and talk about some good times you’ve had together. It sure seems like maybe she’s ready to get back together. That’s when you make your move… and suggest you leave the party and head back to your place.
The next thing you remember, you’re laying in bed, head pounding, and the sound of some jerk’s snowblower is like a chainsaw slicing through your skull. You’re facing the wall and trying like hell to remember what happened after you made your move.
In fact, you’re almost afraid to roll over and find out because you’re not all that sure what you WANT to have happened. It would be nice to have your girlfriend back, but then again, you were more popular than usual last night and there were some hotter girls that seemed like they might be interested in you. Maybe with a little sober effort, you could get one of them… or you may be left with nobody at all.
Either way, you feel like crap and you promise yourself you’ll never party like that again… but you also know that’s a promise you’re going to break real soon.
Ah well… time to face the music, so you roll over to find out what kind of trouble you’re really in.
Most of us would probably agree that the Twins have been more active at this year’s MLB Winter Meetings than they’ve been in recent (or not-so-recent) memory. During the first two days, the rumors about Twins activity on possible trades and free agent signings have been pretty much constant throughout the day.
So what did GM Terry Ryan get accomplished on Day 3 of the of his little wintertime business trip to Dallas?
Nada. Nothing. Zip.
Or at least that’s how things appear. You never know what might be happening behind closed doors, of course. Maybe Michael Cuddyer will decide whether to accept the Twins’ offer yet tonight. Or maybe he won’t. There doesn’t appear to be any hard and fast deadline imposed by the Twins.
I can’t really say that I’d be all that anxious to jump in on the bidding for the big names at this point either. The Marlins seem determined to buy pretty much every player they want, regardless of price, so Ryan might just as well wait until the folks in the Marlins suite pass out from their drunken binge so he has some idea about who might actually be possibilities for acquisition.
Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire did talk to the media today, anyway, so I guess there is that.
We’ll open up the chat window for a couple of hours again tonight for anyone interested.
On the first day of Winter Meetings, Terry Ryan gave the Twins a new-old pitcher, Matt Capps, and a minor league shortstop out of the Baltimore organization, Pedro Florimon.
While the Capps debate rages on, here we’re ready to move on to Day 2. Let’s talk about what Terry Ryan has doing for an encore during the second day of baseball’s Winter Meetings. (We’ll open up the Chatroll window from 7-9 pm, then we encourage everyone to move on over to Seth’s and Jack’s Blogspot Radio podcast for additional arguing about the Twins’ moves.)
I’m one of those people who likes to look beyond whether a decision is good or bad to determine the underlying reason a particular move was made. So while most of Twinsville spent last night debating whether the Twins’ decision to re-sign Matt Capps was good or bad (or apocolyptical), I’ve been trying to figure out WHY Terry Ryan made that decision.
I know they like Capps. I do too. I’m a little surprised more fans don’t, but fans are weird. And inconsistently hypocritical. The same fans that trash Joe Mauer for being soft and not playing through aches and pains, even if he wouldn’t have been at 100% also trash Matt Capps (and Michael Cuddyer, too, for that matter) for doing exactly that. Basically, fans apparently want players to perform at 100%+, regardless of their physical condition.
But the reason the Twins are bringing back Capps can’t just be because they like his toughness and his presence in the clubhouse. Can it?
Terry Ryan has indicated he’s expecting payroll to come down considerably. He knows he has other needs to fill, so that $4.5 million he’s paying Capps is no small thing. But beyond that, Ryan is also turning his back on a supplemental draft pick. That’s not really as big a deal to me as it is to a lot of other people, but it certainly seems like the kind of thing that would be a big deal to Terry Ryan.
Ryan seems to be one of those baseball guys that loves the challenge of identifying and obtaining young talent more than just about any other phase of the game. The Twins, historically, have hoarded draft picks like they were gold. They didn’t sign Type A free agents. The didn’t often re-sign their own Type A or Type B free agents. They LOVED high draft picks.
During a pre-Winter Meetings chat with local media, Ryan was asked about whether a compensatory pick was a consideration as they pursued deals with Capps, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer. I was struck at the time by how un-Twinslike his response was. “We’ll take it, but we’d rather have the player.”
I’ve seen that quote in two different reliable sources (Phil Mackey and LaVelle E. Neal III) now, so I have no reason to question its accuracy. Questioning whether the ghost of George Steinbrenner has taken over Terry Ryan’s body has remained a viable option, however.
When the Twins no longer are as concerned about high draft picks when determining whether or not to sign a player who isn’t a superstar, something has changed.
As I skimmed through our blogroll this morning to read what those fine Twins bloggers had written overnight about the Capps deal, I think I may have found at least one possible answer. At least it makes more sense to me than anything else I’ve considered.
Over at Baseball Outsider, Edward Thoma wrote:
“I don’t believe for a moment that the Twins don’t take the value of compensation picks into serious consideration. Their historic reluctance to give up first round picks to sign Type A free agents is evidence of that.
“But I wonder if they are uncertain today of the real value of those picks under the new labor agreement and the formalized, enforceable restrictions on spending. I haven’t seen any explanation of how the spending ceilings are to be set, but if the ceilings are too low, it may be difficult to get high school prospects to sign— which will push teams to overdraft collegians and thin out the quality choices by the time the sandwich picks come up.
“If that’s a realistic possibility, then Ryan has a good point about preferring the player to the pick. Draft picks are hardly a sure thing.”
It makes some sense when you think about it. If the new bonus ceilings are low enough that teams are going to be reluctant to draft high school players in the first round and risk having them decide to go to college instead of playing Rookie Ball, it won’t take long before the best college players are off the board. That could leave teams with supplemental round picks having to decide between choosing from the college leftovers that in prior years would have been 2nd and 3rd rounders, HS players that you can no longer offer “above slot” money to, and HS players that you think are “signable” (who also probably would have been lower round picks in previous years).
So, if you’re the Twins, you have to be asking yourself just how good the prospect is that you’re losing by signing one of your own free agents. It’s impossible to know for sure, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to foresee that the quality of those supplemental round picks could take a nosedive under the new system.
Which brings us back to the original point. Is it possible that the Twins have given more thought to this possibility than fans have? Is it possible that Terry Ryan knows more than we do? And if high draft picks turn out to be less likely to turn in to contributing Major League players (and it’s not like it’s a guarantee already), is it possible that this is evidence of a significant shift in Twins philosophy?
I, for one, am willing to admit that it’s not only possible, but likely, that Ryan is smarter than we are. The rest, only time will tell.
In the end, none of us will know for a while whether the Capps deal turns out to be a good one. By spring, we’ll know if he’s healthy. By draft day, we’ll know what the compensation pick would have been like, and by this time next year we’ll know if it all worked out.
For now, we just see how Day 2 of the Winter Meetings plays out. It seems it’s starting with a small bang as Kevin Slowey has been traded to the Rockies for the infamous “player to be named later.” In other words, the Twins cleared a roster spot and are in no hurry to fill it.
Best of luck to Slowey. I hope he finds success in Colorado.
Everyone who’s anyone in professional baseball (and a few hundred people who, frankly, aren’t anyone in professional baseball, but would like to be) are buzzing around the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas this week and we’re going to try to keep up with whatever business gets accomplished (it has to be difficult to concentrate on work with a Medieval Times dinner tournament right next door, doesn’t it?).
When we’ve wrapped up our chat here, we suggest you move over to the podcast being broadcast by Seth Stohs and Jack Steal over at their Blogspot Radio site, beginning at 9 pm every night during the Winter Meetings.
Just to give us some ideas for discussion, here’s a brief rundown of some of the news items coming out of Dallas on Day 1:
Considering how quiet the Twins usually are during the Winter Meetings, that’s an awful lot of stuff to chat about tonight!
well… not QUITE morning anymore but it’s the habit…
So are you desperate for ANY kind of baseball at this point of the off-season? I know a few people who will admit to that honestly. If you’re one of them, feel free to join Knuckleballs for Winter Meeting Chats this week! We’ll be putting up live chats every evening to talk about baseball news in general and any Twins-related nuggets that might filter out (don’t count on it) from 7-9pm starting Monday during the Winter Meetings.
See you tomorrow!
The Redeemer lives!
Yeah, that’s a little too close to sacrilege for my taste, but I couldn’t resist.
This is what happens when it’s a slow news day over at Target Field. After a workout Friday, Joe Mauer called a little bit of an impromptu news conference to set the public record straight about his health, both physical and mental, and his plans for leading the Twins on the road back to relevancy. The next thing you know, the social media sites are buzzing all over the place!
Then, over the course of the afternoon and evening, reporters from various media outlets posted quotes from St. Joe. Here are a few samples culled from articles authored by LaVelle E. Neal III at the Star-Tribune and John Shipley at the Pioneer-Press and Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com and Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPNRadio.
“Here I am. I’m healthy. I’m happy,” Mauer said. “I can rule out crazy things I’ve heard like Lyme disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus. I think we’ve heard it all. I don’t have any of those things.”
“I’m getting really excited for next season,” he said. “I’ve recovered from pneumonia. I think you might be able to tell I’ve got my weight back. I’ve been working out for a couple of weeks. … Everything looks good, and I should be ready to go Day 1 of camp.”
In response to a question about whether it bothered him that some people considered him “soft” and questioned his willingness to play through injuries, Mauer responded: “At times. I think what surprised me a lot was a couple things out there questioning my work ethic, and that bugged me a little bit because I think guys who have been around know how hard I work and how much time I put into what I do,” he said. “So that’s one thing that frustrated me a little bit.”
“I don’t think anybody took it harder than me,” Mauer said of 2011. “That’s the thing. I was not a happy person last year. I was angry. I was frustrated, ultimately because I couldn’t get out on the field and help my team. It’s not a fun feeling coming to the park knowing you’re not feeling good and that you’re trying to battle every day doing the best you can.”
“I don’t think anyone has higher expectations than myself,” Mauer said. “Obviously my biggest goal coming into 2012 is just to stay healthy. I think when I’m on the field things will take care of itself.”
He said he would have done many things differently. Primarily, he said, he should have been more forthcoming about what he was going through.
“I just feel that, and I’ve told people in the organization this, if I’m not out there playing, the fans should know why,” he said. “People are going to have their own opinions, and you can’t control that. As long as the organization, my family, my friends and the fans know what’s going on, that’s what’s important to me. You can’t control what someone thinks.”
“I think the biggest thing is how often we’ve been winning,” he said. “We’ve been in the playoffs quite a bit since I’ve been here. Yeah, people look at (my salary) and things like that, and, like I said, you can’t worry about what people think.
“People are going to have their own opinions, but I think why people were so frustrated last year is that we’ve been to the playoffs quite a bit the last few years, and we weren’t a playoff team last year.”
Mauer said he accepts his role as a team leader, and toward that end has been in touch with free agent Michael Cuddyer about re-signing with the team. He’s checked in with Denard Span, who told him he’s feeling good after missing a large part of last season because of postconcussion syndrome. He had dinner last week with Justin Morneau.
“I told Terry and everybody here that I’m here to do everything I can to help out,” Mauer said. “I want to be part of the solution that gets us back to where we need to get to.”
“I’m excited,” he said. “I feel good. Just getting after it in the gym. Once January comes around, more baseball activities. Throwing hitting, things like that. And it’s exciting.”
“I think, obviously, getting guys healthy will help,” Mauer said. “Having a Justin Morneau, having a Denard Span and myself, those are three pretty good players right there. Seeing [closer Joe] Nathan go, I mean that’s a great player right there, too, and a great guy. What we have in this clubhouse, I mean, it’s not a 99-loss team. I can tell you that right now.”
Despite his comments to the contrary, I think it’s pretty clear that Mauer DOES care what people say and think about him. And he should, if for no other reason than you don’t see a lot of athletes with a “soft” reputation getting big money for endorsements. That’s not the image Gatorade wants to be associated with.
I know I’ve been a bit rough on Joe Mauer myself at times (arguably, as recently as the post on Thursday), but my take on his comments is that they reflect a step… perhaps a small step… in the right direction by Mauer.
In short, he’s doing the things we should want him doing. He’s talking straight about how disappointing 2011 was for the team and for him personally and how he should have done things differently, starting with being more forthcoming about his health and injury situations. He’s getting his health in order. He’s getting his weight and strength built up. He even appears to be ready and willing to step up and help the organization recruit free agents, whether their own, such as Cuddyer, or any others that Terry Ryan may be trying to bring in.
In other words, he appears to be stepping up the way you’d like to see a team leader do. I’d say he did well on Friday.
I don’t think that comes particularly natural to Mauer and maybe that’s why I found his effort Friday to be encouraging. He seemed to be recognizing that he needed to step outside his comfort zone.
Here’s hoping we see more of this kind of leadership and accountability from him as the 2012 season draws nearer.
I’ve grown tired of complaining about the Twins’ stated plans to slash payroll by over 10% and that’s probably indicative that anyone who stops by here from time to time is probably tired of reading those complaints. It’s not like the Twins front office is going to bother explaining their thinking to a blogger and the “traditional media” seems uninterested in asking for justification from the Twins.
So, I’m going to do what I usually do when I can’t get anyone to answer my questions. I’m going to assume the role of a person who knows the answer and provide it myself. In that vein, then, here is what I believe to be our blog’s first exclusive interview… with “GM” Jim Crikket.
Knuckleballs: Mr. Crikket, thank you for taking time out of your busy day to talk to us. We know you’ve got the Winter Meetings coming up in Dallas and you certainly have a lot of work to do to prepare.
GM Jim Crikket: I’m glad to have the opportunity and actually there isn’t a whole lot of preparation necessary for the Winter Meetings. It’s not like we’re going to actually do any work there. May go check out the JFK Museum in the old School Book Depository.
Knuckleballs: Um. OK. So that means we shouldn’t expect the Twins to be making any big deals at the Winter Meetings swap meet?
GM JC: Oh the swap meet? Sure! There’s a HUGE swap meet over at a place across the street from Love Field. It’s like a giant indoor flea market. Now that you mention it, that may be better than the JFK Museum.
Knuckleballs: Mr. Crikket, Twins fans all over have been asking why the front office is imposing a significantly reduced payroll for 2012. Can you explain the reasoning?
GM JC: I’m glad to get this opportunity to do just that. I had been hoping someone in the media would ask the question so we could get the facts out there, but all they seem to ask about is whether we’re talking to Michael Cuddyer.
Knuckleballs: So, why cut payroll?
GM JC: The simple answer is, because we expect revenues to drop.
Knuckleballs: Yes, Twins president, Dave St. Peter, Tweeted something to that effect, but didn’t specify what revenues or how much they’ll drop.
GM JC: I think he did provide those details, but that darn 140 character limit might have cut that part out. Anyway… here’s the bottom line:
We don’t think three million people will show up to watch a bad baseball team… or at least they won’t do that two years in a row. Season ticket sales may stay high, but if people don’t actually attend the games all season long, they don’t buy $8 beer or $10 sandwiches and they certainly won’t be buying many $125 jerseys with the names of players who don’t even play very often. That stuff adds up.
GM JC: Yes… and Denard Span and Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano and that shortstop from Japan who’s name I haven’t figured out how to pronounce yet. Pretty much everyone but Pavano. That guy can be a bit of a prick but at least he shows up for work every day.
Knuckleballs: So you don’t think the unusual amount of time Twins players spent on the DL in 2011 was just a fluke?
GM JC: It might have been. Then again, who knows?
Knuckleballs: What DO you know?
GM JC: We know we signed a lot of guys to a lot of multi-year contracts that have made them all multi-millionaires just to play baseball and that most of them didn’t play much baseball last year. We also know we lost 99 games.
Knuckleballs: But what kind of message does it send to fans and, more importantly, to your core of players, when you decide already that you aren’t going to spend the money it might take to surround your stars with proven players?
GM JC: It should tell our fans that we at least noticed that the team sucked last season and we’re not going to spend $115 million on another team that sucks in 2012. As a matter of fact, it should tell our “stars” the same thing.
Knuckleballs: Won’t guys like Mauer and Morneau wonder whether the front office is committed to winning?
GM JC: They might. But then again, that’s only fair, because the front office is wondering just how committed Mauer and Morneau and a few of the others, for that matter, are to winning.
Knuckleballs: You don’t think they want to win?
GM JC: Of course they want to win. Everybody wants to win. But you don’t always get everything you want. You have to do more than want it.
Look, for a bunch of guys who have a reputation for being “quiet leaders”, some of these guys have sure felt free to speak up about what they want. They wanted the trees dug up in center field because they kept them from hitting. We dug them up. That didn’t work so they wanted the “batters eye” changed. We did that and they still didn’t hit. Now they want the fences brought in, but at this point, we’re not convinced that will do anything except increase the number of home runs our pitchers give up.
When we were negotiating all these contracts, they all said they wanted to see our commitment to spending enough money on payroll to win. We did that and we got 99 losses for our efforts. It’s time for the players to show the front office that they’re going to live up to their end of the bargain.
Some of these guys talk about how they demonstrate leadership not by talking a lot but by leading on the field. That’s fine, but it’s time to start doing that.
Knuckleballs: So you’re saying the $100 million mark is a hard limit?
GM JC: I don’t believe in setting hard limits, but it’s a fair estimate of what our Opening Day payroll will be. I can say with certainty that it won’t be what the payroll is at the end of the season. There will be plenty of room to add quality players at mid-season if Mauer, Morneau and the rest have been healthy and productive the first half of the season and the team is playing well enough to be in contention.
Think about it. If our guys get off their butts and play baseball, we’ll have $15 million we can spend over the last three months of the season without exceeding 2011’s payroll. That means we could, theoretically, add rental players that are getting paid $30 million annually, since we’d only be paying them for half the season.
But if our studs sit on their asses from April through June, with weak legs and headaches and sore wrists and stiff whatevers… we’ll be looking to dump just about any player making over $1 million per year that any other team shows an interest in and we’ll start over from scratch a year from now.
But one way or another, the players who wear Twins uniforms in August and September this season will be guys who want to play baseball, not just hang around the clubhouse, wear a Big League uniform and do commercials.
Knuckleballs: Well that’s hard to argue with. Thank you for explaining the club’s position.
Yes… I know… this was nothing but a bit of fictional blogdom fantasy. But you know what? If Terry Ryan or Dave St. Peter would just come straight out and send this message to fans, I’d stand up and applaud. And I’d certainly get off their backs about the payroll.