Poll: Who Will Be Twins Manager on Tuesday?

EDIT: It looks like we can shut down the poll. Ken Rosenthal was first to report that the Twins will be announcing a 2 year extension for Gardy Monday afternoon. Congrats to the 33% of poll respondents that said the Twins manager would still be the manager on Tuesday.

It’s been a tough season for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.

Let’s be honest, General Manager Terry Ryan didn’t do Gardenhire any favors when he assembled the roster during the last offseason and Ryan has pretty much acknowledged that fact.

Still, this makes three straight seasons of losses numbering in the mid to upper 90s and that almost always means a change in the manager’s position. Almost always.

Reading the reports of various Twins beat reporters could make you feel either certain Gardy is coming back or certain he’s a goner, depending on the writer… and depending on the day.

The only thing we know with any certainty is that Gardenhire and Ryan will be meeting very soon after the Twins’ season ends Sunday afternoon. It may be Sunday evening. It may be Monday. In fact, apparently the two men spoke for a little while before Sunday’s final game.

Major League Baseball doesn’t like it when teams make announcements that take media and fan attention away from the postseason games, themselves, so don’t look for the Twins to be announcing a managerial change on any day that a postseason game is scheduled to be played. That being the case, you have to figure there will be an announcement from the Twins of some sort by Monday.

But we don’t have to wait here at Knuckleballs. Personally, I still think it will be Gardenhire, but my level of certainty has dropped considerably over the past week or so.

But tell us who YOU think will be the Twins manager come Tuesday.

Who do you think will be the Twins manager on Tuesday?

  • Ron Gardenhire (33%, 16 Votes)
  • Nobody, Gardy will be gone but no announcement on a replacement (33%, 16 Votes)
  • Paul Molitor (13%, 6 Votes)
  • Gene Glynn (6%, 3 Votes)
  • Jake Mauer (6%, 3 Votes)
  • Someone else from inside the Twins organization (4%, 2 Votes)
  • An outsider, someone not currently associated with the Twins (4%, 2 Votes)
  • Terry Steinbach (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Tom Brunansky (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Jeff Smith (1%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 48

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“Hello, Good-Bye” Poll

You say yes, I say no
You say stop and I say go go go, oh no
You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello

This is the time of year when, like it or not, there’s a lot of discussion going on about who will or will not be wearing a Twins uniform a week or two… or a month or two… from now.

The reality is, when your favorite Major League Baseball team is not a contender in July, there will almost certainly be changes made. Maybe you’ll see a managerial change. You will see player changes.

Fans will be saying “hello” to some new faces… and they’ll be saying “good-bye” to some favorite familiar faces. That’s baseball, especially when your team is in the middle of its third consecutive losing season.

Let’s try to make a few predictions concerning who we’ll be saying “good-bye” to.

Ron Gardenhire

Ron Gardenhire

The easiest off-season prediction to make relative to the Twins was that manager Ron Gardenhire’s job status would be a hot topic by the end of July. Gardenhire’s Twins have lost almost 100 games in each of the past two seasons and it would seem almost inevitable that the total will be at least 90 losses in 2013.

That was predictable. Since the losing season was predictable, so was Gardenhire’s hot seat.

Of course, the reason the losing season was predictable is that the roster that General Manager Terry Ryan and the rest of the front office assembled for Gardenhire before the season started was underwhelming.

I’ve never been overly impressed with Gardenhire’s game management philosophies, but I also believe that the job of a manager is a lot more about managing the clubhouse than managing individual games.

A manager is only as good as the players he’s given to work with and I think pretty much everyone, including his boss, now knows Gardenhire was dealt a pretty lousy hand this season.

If the manager has lost the clubhouse… if the players have tuned him out and no longer respect his voice… then he should be replaced. I’ve not heard nor read any indication that such is the case, however.

Given that, I not only expect Gardenhire to remain the Twins manager through the end of this season, but also to be brought back for 2014 and beyond.

There are plenty of other possible changes to the Twins worthy of discussion that are far more likely to take place, however.

This time of year, trades are at the top of the list of discussion topics.

Terry Ryan

Terry Ryan

A year ago, I published my list of top five most likely Twins to be dealt before the end of August. At that time, the list was, in order from first to fifth, Franicisco Liriano, Denard Span, Danny Valencia, Alexi Casilla and Josh Willingham.

In a poll we attached to that article, our readers agreed with my top three choices, but felt Matt Capps was more likely to be traded during the season than Casilla and Willingham. In fact, almost nobody agreed with me on Willingham being a trade target.

In the end, the Twins had almost nobody that anyone really wanted to trade for a year ago. Liriano and Valencia were traded during the season, Span was dealt in the off-season and Casilla parted after the season, as well.

The Twins are sellers this year, once again, but is Ryan likely to see any greater interest among his fellow GMs than he did a year ago?

I’m not sure Ryan will trade more than just a couple of players, again, but the level of interest… and thus the ultimate return for those players… should be greater this season.

Here’s my list of the five Twins players most likely to be wearing another team’s uniform by the end of August this year:

  1. Justin Morneau: He’s in the last year of his contract with Minnesota and there reportedly are teams calling about him. He’s not going to bring the return he would have if he were his old home run hitting self, but if the Twins will pay a chunk of his remaining salary (and there’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t), there are contenders that may be willing to give up a prospect with some talent. If they end up just giving Morneau away as a salary dump, Twins fans should justifiably be enraged.
  2. Jared Burton: He’s had a few struggles and hasn’t been as reliable as he was a year ago, but there are a lot of teams that could use relief pitching and Burton is likely drawing interest.
  3. Ryan Doumit: The Twins like his versatility. Other teams will like that, too.
  4. Glen Perkins: If it were me, I wouldn’t trade Perkins unless someone agreed to way overpay for a “proven closer.” Unfortunately for the Twins, most teams (other than the Twins themselves, historically) are not inclined to overpay for a proven closer. If you want an indication of whether Terry Ryan believes the Twins can contend next year or whether it will be at least 2015, watch what he does with Perkins. If he’s traded, it may indicate Ryan expects the All-Star Game to be the biggest Target Field highlight of 2014.
  5. Trevor Plouffe: Is Terry Ryan ready to annoint Miguel Sano as the Twins’ starting third baseman beginning in 2014? If so, Trevor Plouffe could be dealt.

Others: Could Kevin Correia or Mike Pelfrey be traded? Maybe, but I think not.

Pelfrey is pitching better and if that continues, he may have some value, but he’s making little enough that if he isn’t dealt in July, he could be “blocked” by teams claiming him to prevent a waiver trade in August. I also could see the Twins extend Pelfrey for another season before this summer is over.

I think Ryan feels vindicated by Correia’s season and intends to keep him for the second year of his contract.

What do you think?

Who do you think will no longer be wearing a Twins uniform by the end of August? Let us know in the poll below. We’ll add Ron Gardenhire to the list to choose from in the poll so if you really believe he’s likely to be axed this summer, you can reflect that in your choices.

Who do you feel is MOST likely to NOT be wearing a Twins uniform by the end of August? (Choose up to 5)

  • Justin Morneau (69%, 25 Votes)
  • Jamey Carroll (53%, 19 Votes)
  • Jared Burton (47%, 17 Votes)
  • Brian Duensing (31%, 11 Votes)
  • Ryan Doumit (28%, 10 Votes)
  • Glen Perkins (22%, 8 Votes)
  • Mike Pelfrey (19%, 7 Votes)
  • Trevor Plouffe (17%, 6 Votes)
  • Casey Fien (14%, 5 Votes)
  • Kevin Correia (14%, 5 Votes)
  • Scott Diamond (8%, 3 Votes)
  • Ron Gardenhire (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Joe Mauer (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Josh Willingham (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Aaron Hicks (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Chris Parmelee (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Brian Dozier (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 36

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Who’s Going To Be Dealt First?

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan reportedly told a radio audience over the weekend that nobody is untouchable. Making that clear to every other GM (not to mention everyone in his own clubhouse) is the right thing. It’s not about WHETHER this guy or that guy can be had in a deal, it’s about HOW MUCH the trade partner is willing to offer.

Of course, some players have no-trade clauses in their contracts, such as Joe Mauer (full) and Justin Morneau (limited), but if you were playing for a team as bad as this one, wouldn’t you pretty seriously consider waiving that clause? Yeah… me too.

I suspect other players, such as Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit, would at least be consulted before being traded. It would not be good for Ryan and the Twins to get a reputation for immediately trading away players that they’ve signed as free agents to reasonable multi-year contracts. You know other teams would use that against you in offseason negotiations with players the Twins might be interested in bringing in (“You can sign with the Twins, but you know they tend to use you as trade bait as soon as their season goes south.”)

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement is going to play a bit of havoc with the trade market, too. Players like Francisco Liriano that are about to be free agents don’t bring a compensation draft pick to the Twins after the year unless the Twins make a “qualifying” offer (about $12.5 million). And if they make that offer and still lose the player, they only get one “sandwich” pick between the first two rounds. Then again, if they trade Liriano, the team getting him can’t even get that sandwich pick since a player has to be on a team’s roster the whole year for that team to get compensation.

Still, you have to believe the Twins are going to deal some players either before the end of the non-waiver period at the end of July or the waiver trade period in August. I still believe most of Twinsville will be disappointed in what Ryan gets in return for his players, but he’s going to make some trades anyway. But who?

With Matt Capps and Carl Pavano both laid up until after the non-waiver trade deadline, their chances of being traded are significantly reduced. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see either or both change teams via the waiver wire in August.

Here’s my “top 5″ players I expect Ryan to be most likely to trade yet this summer:

  1. Francisco Liriano: Frankie’s value will probably not be any higher than it is right now. There are a lot of teams looking for starting pitching help, but there are a lot of better pitchers than Liriano on the market, too. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, so he’s just a rental arm, but I think he’s the most likely player to be traded of those currently on the Twins 40-man roster.
  2. Denard Span: Span would not be a rental player, as he’s still under a reasonable multi-year contract. SI.com recently published an article listing all of the best centerfielders in the Big Leagues right now and Span’s name wasn’t even mentioned. It’s true he isn’t currently considered “elite,” but he’d be an upgrade for a lot of teams and the Twins have current and future replacements in their system that make Span more expendable than any other position player that would be in similar demand.
  3. Danny Valencia: Remember him? Valencia was supposed to claim the Twins 3B job for a few years anyway. Then he stopped hitting. Then Trevor Plouffe started hitting. Then it became “Danny Who?” Valencia hasn’t exactly lit up AAA this summer, but there’s no room for him any more in Minnesota and I think the Twins will find a new home for him while he still has at least a little value.
  4. Alexi Casilla: There are bound to be teams that are looking for middle infield/utility infield help and I just suspect that Lexi is not part of the Twins’ plans for 2013, making him likely to be dealt this summer.
  5. Josh Willingham: I don’t expect Willingham to be traded, but I had to list someone “5th” on a Top 5 list. Maybe it would be a guy like Jared Burton, but I put Willingham here because there’s no doubt he’s going to be the first player that contenders ask about. Just the fact that there will be so much demand means his chances of getting dealt are higher than guys who most teams don’t care about at all.

In reality, I expect three of the top four players listed above to be gone by the end of August.

But what say you? Who do you most expect to see wearing a different uniform before the end of the summer? Let us know in the poll below (like I did, you can choose up to five players).

Which Twins player(s) do you think are most likely to be traded yet this summer? (choose up to 5)

  • Francisco Liriano (88%, 42 Votes)
  • Denard Span (69%, 33 Votes)
  • Danny Valencia (46%, 22 Votes)
  • Matt Capps (38%, 18 Votes)
  • Alexi Casilla (31%, 15 Votes)
  • Carl Pavano (29%, 14 Votes)
  • Justin Morneau (17%, 8 Votes)
  • Jamey Carroll (15%, 7 Votes)
  • Jared Burton (13%, 6 Votes)
  • Ben Revere (8%, 4 Votes)
  • Josh Willingham (4%, 2 Votes)
  • Ryan Doumit (4%, 2 Votes)
  • (other - add comment) (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 48

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Hall of Fame Ballot (Poll)

Over on the right, we’ve added a poll that allows visitors to cast your own votes for this year’s Hall of Fame. The ballot there lists the players in the same order that the official BBWAA ballot lists them. Those players that received enough votes last year to qualify to be on the ballot again this year are listed first, in the order of their vote totals. Then those players who are on the ballot for the first time are listed in alphabetical order.

A year ago, I ranted a bit about the Hall of Fame voting (and the BBWAA voters). I won’t do that again this year, but if you care about my views on the subject, by all means click here and to go back and read what I wrote a year ago. My feelings on the subject haven’t changed.

Suffice to say that I would not withhold my vote from a player on the basis of his known or suspected use of Performance Enhancing Drugs. I don’t feel morally superior to those players, given the lax views of MLB itself concerning PEDs while those guys were playing ball and I certainly don’t feel that members of the BBWAA are in any position to assume the role of guardians of morality for baseball. Yes, this means Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro both get my vote.

I’m a “Big Hall” guy, as anyone who read my post last week knows. That means I want Jack Morris in the HoF.

Will Barry Larkin be the sole BBWAA choice for HoF?

I also believe Barry Larkin and Alan Trammell belong. They may have been the best shortstops of their era, if not of all time.

To my mind, there is no excuse for anyone not to support Jeff Bagwell and I feel just about as strongly about Tim Raines. While I did not support Edgar Martinez a year ago, I’m voting for Martinez this year. If we’re going to have the DH in baseball, it’s wrong to consider those who make a living at that position ineligible for the HoF.

Dale Murphy gets my vote again, too. I understand that I’m in the minority on this vote, but I’ve always felt Murphy has been under-appreciated.

That leaves me one remaining vote to cast and I’m checking the box next to Brad Radke. No, I don’t honestly believe his career was HoF-worthy, but I believe it was better than most people (outside of Twinsville, anyway) give him credit for. I think he deserves a better fate than to be eliminated from future consideration after just one year on the ballot.

I realize that Bernie Williams is quite likely to be the only newly eligible player on the ballot to get the requisite 5% of the vote to remain on the ballot next year. I just can’t vote for him for much the same reason you won’t fine Don Mattingly’s name checked on my ballot. Yes, it has everything to do with the team they played for and the fact that they’ll both get more votes than they deserve simply because of where they played their home games. They don’t need mine, too.

What say you? We’ll leave the poll up over in the right-hand column until the BBWAA gets around to making the official announcement of who, if anyone, gets the necessary 75% support to garner election to the Hall this year. (I’m betting it will be Barry Larkin all by his lonesome.)

And with that, have a wonderful Christmas everyone!

– JC

Poll: Trade Deadline – What Should Bill Do?

With time running out before the non-waiver trade deadline Saturday, we’re still looking for the white smoke to flow from Bill Smith’s Target Field office indicating he’s made a deal that will assure the Twins a championship. Yet, strangely, virtually nobody outside of Twins Territory seems to be mentioning the Twins as a buyer at the deadline. Not Tom Corcoran at SI. Even his peer at SI, Jon Heyman, barely mentions the Twins in his trade deadline article.

Click on the Twins summary at MLBTradeRumors.com and outside of old posts about Dan Haren, it’s slim pickings. A casual mention of interest in the Jays’ reliever Scott Downs, the Nats’ closer Matt Capps and the Cubs’ starter Ted Lilly. (Of course, this could all change at any moment!)

Of course, some folks locally are still riding Smith and the Twins pretty hard about making a move to improve the team.

Seth Stohs mentioned a number of the Twins’ minor league arms who are stepping up their games perhaps just at the right time in his Twins Centric post. However, the much-maligned back end of the Twins current rotation (Baker, Slowey, Duensing) have picked things up a bit if you’re willing to discount the fact that they did so against the lowly Orioles.

So I thought it would be a good time to take the pulse of the Knuckleballs community (we aren’t quite big enough to be Knuckleballs Nation yet, are we?). What do you think the Twins should do with regard to the impending trade deadline? As always, feel free to expand on your votes in the comments section. – JC

All-Star Game – Who’s on First? I Don’t Know. He’s on Third and I Don’t Give a Darn. (Do You?)

Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First” routine is not only the funniest comedy bit ever done about baseball, it also seems to just about perfectly describe my feelings about the MLB All-Star Game.

It’s a bit sad, really, because (“Because” plays CF) I used to love this game. I got so excited when I found out I got 2 tickets to the 1985 All-Star Game in the Metrodome that I swung a pool cue around and broke 3 beer bottles sitting on a nearby table (the game itself was a bit of a yawner as the National League won 6-1, but I didn’t care). I also remember watching Pete Rose slam in to Cleveland catcher Ray Fosse on television and a number of other great All-Star moments over the years. I never missed the game unless I was playing ball myself.

I don’t really even know why (“Why’s” the left fielder) my feelings changed. It may have been the infamous tie game and the sight of Bud Selig’s “What can I do?” shrug (“What” is on second) that ended the 2002 All-Star Game in a tie. That event led to Selig declaring that home field advantage in the World Series would go to the team representing the League that wins the All-Star Game. I never quite understood how that prevents teams from running out of pitchers in extra-inning All-Star Games, but on the list of Selig decisions I don’t understand, this one probably barely cracks the top 10.

It just feels to me like, for all the bluster about the game, even Major League Baseball doesn’t exactly know whether to take it seriously or not, so why (“Why” is still in LF) should I?

It is refreshing that many of the players still care about it… and I’m willing to give most of them the benefit of the doubt and believe it’s for reasons that go beyond the ASG bonus that many of their agents have had included in their contracts. I feel good for guys like the D’Backs Chris Young, who (“Who” is at 1B) clearly is excited about going to Anaheim for his first ASG. And while I guess I was ambivalent about the whole “Should Steven Strasburg be an All-Star?” question, hearing that a poll of 50 current players resulted in a unanimous 50-0 “NO” vote told me that these guys do care about who (“Who” is on FIRST!) represents them.

Of course, as a Twins fan, it feels good to see two of our guys voted in as starters for the first time since Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew in 1968. That was two years before starting rosters were turned back over to fan voting, by the way. I think a lot of Twins fans have begun to take Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau for granted, but this not only serves as a reminder that we are watching two potential Hall of Famers on the field together daily (not to mention shoe-in HOFer, Jim Thome this season), but also demonstrates that the Twins have gotten the attention and appreciation of baseball fans all over the country. Together, Mauer & Morneau have made Twins baseball relevant.

I think it’s great that Delmon Young is included in the “final 5″ vote, even though his chances of winning are slim & none (and you should definitely go vote for him… I did). It’s not that he isn’t deserving, but Kevin Youkilis is such an obvious omission from the AL roster, that I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t double the votes of any other name on the list. To be honest, I thought Francisco Liriano probably deserved as much consideration as Young, if not more.

I don’t know (“I Don’t Know”… third base!) yet which reserves were voted in by the players/managers/coaches as a whole and which were chosen specifically by the ASG managers (the Yankees’ Joe Girardi and Phillies Charlie Manuel), but if it turns out that they chose ARoid over Youk and Ryan Howard over Joey Votto, I think it’s time to take the right to pick ANY pitchers/reserves away from the respective managers.

And don’t be surprised if Girardi replaces CC Sabathia (can’t pitch in the ASG ‘cuz he’ll be pitching Sunday) with Andy Pettite instead of Jared Weaver, who (“Who” is the guy on 1B) not only is more deserving, but the game is being played in his home ballpark. As it stands, only Torii Hunter will represent the Halos. But then an All-Star Game with only FIVE Yankees playing really wouldn’t be an All-Star Game, would it? (UPDATE: Girardi didn’t wait long… he’s named Pettitte to replace the injured Clay Buchholz.)

As for Manuel, if he’s the one responsible for picking Omar Infante over… well… just about everyone else in a National League starting lineup, I think someone needs to require Charlie to undergo a thorough mental health evaluation. That choice is flat out bizarre.

Finally, on the subject of All-Star Games, it really is unfortunate that Twins prospect Liam Hendriks will miss the All-Star Futures Game. (New Britain’s Ben Revere is also representing the Twins organization.) This game gives some of the top prospects in minor league baseball an opportunity to showcase their talents and compete against many of the other top prospects, in addition to giving fans across the country an opportunity to see future stars in action. Hendriks had an emergency appendectomy on Sunday and will be out of action for a month or more. The Aussie has been very impressive (1.76 ERA and 0.845 WHIP) in 16 starts this season, split between Beloit and Ft. Myers. I saw him shut down Cedar Rapids early in the year (7 Ks in 5 shutout innings)  and was looking forward to seeing him match up against the other minor league stars. Get well soon, Liam.

So, am I alone in my general indifference to the All-Star Game and who (for the last time, “Who” is on first!) participates? We don’t have a Twins game to look forward to until tomorrow (“Tomorrow” is our pitcher) night, so let’s do a poll, shall we? I’ll cast the first vote… and I don’t give a darn (Oh, he’s our shortstop!). – JC

Who “Aces” the Twins test? (poll)

This is another long winded JimCrikket post. If you want to skip all of JC’s BS… I mean all of his in-depth and well thought out analysis… and just respond to the poll, scroll on down to the bottom and let us know what you think.

We’ve had our share of debates here, whether in the comments sections or during our GameChats, about whether adding Cliff Lee or another starting pitcher is needed, desired, a good idea at the right price, or none of the above. Lee seems to have resulted in the most divisive responses, particularly when we mentioned Bleacher Report’s contention that a Lee for Ramos/Duensing/low prospect deal had been made before Ramos’ recent injury.

But the Twins have been linked in the media with a few other possibilities as well, notably the Astros’ Roy Oswalt and the D’Backs’ Dan Haren.  In fact, I read somewhere over the weekend that the Mariners were now going to hold on to Lee until closer to the trade deadline because the offers they were getting didn’t provide the value they wanted  and they felt the market would improve if they waited. Reportedly, this was because of the significant number of other potential top-of-the-rotation guys on the market now.

All of which got me to wondering. Who are these “aces” that are supposedly available and, most importantly, which of them would look good in a Twins uniform? So, I set out to find out which ace we’ll be watching lead the Twins to a World Series title this fall.

To begin with, it seemed to me that I needed to set some parameters on the search. First of all, I don’t think many of us are interested in adding another middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. If we’re going to cough up Wilson Ramos and/or other players at or near the top of the Twins’ prospect list for a starting pitcher, it has to be someone with a legitimate ace-type pedigree. But where do you find those guys?

Aces get to be aces by missing bats, plain and simple. Pitching to contact is all well and good. You can have yourself a nice little career inducing lots of ground balls and not walking hitters, especially if you have some decent gloves behind you. But if you want to sit at the top of my rotation, you need to sit a lot of hitters down. I decided that if you aren’t currently among the top 40-50 in baseball in Ks, you aren’t likely to qualify to be the ace of my favorite team.

The next criteria I considered was availability. Again, simplicity required an arbitrary decision. I decided that no team that was currently less than 10 games out of their division’s lead was likely to start cleaning house and, conversely, any team that IS at least 10 games out would at least listen to offers at this point. This narrowed the list of potential trade partners for the Twins to nine teams. That seemed convenient, since I was hoping to come up with about 10 potential targets.

Even more conveniently, when I went down the list of pitchers with the most strikeouts this season and looked for those currently toiling for one of the nine potential trade partners, I reached 10 names with the 40th pitcher on the K list… just barely allowing Cliff Lee to squeak his way on to my list!

In addition to Lee, the other candidates for future Twins ace include: Dan Haren (DBacks), Ryan Dempster (Cubs), Felix Hernandez (M’s), Roy Oswalt (Astros), Zach Greinke (Royals), Ian Kennedy (DBacks), Edwin Jackson (DBacks), Kevin Millwood (Orioles), and Brett Myers (Astros).

Yes, I know… there are guys on that list that will certainly NOT be wearing a Twins uniform any time soon. But including a pitcher like King Felix as we do a little more analysis does, if nothing else, provide a bit of perspective in terms of the quality of whatever arm the Twins would actually bring in.

Likewise, I added an 11th name to the list before going beyond just looking at strikeouts. I added the 13th name on the K-list, one Francisco Liriano. The idea is that we’re looking for an ace and that means whoever we bring aboard should, at the very least, be as valuable in that role as the current Twin pitcher who comes closest to being a legitimate ace (and no, mustache or no mustache, I just can’t get my head around Carl Pavano being “ace” material). For comparison purposes, I also included numbers for Nick Blackburn since he would likely be the current starter bumped from the rotation (yes, I could have used Kevin Slowey instead, but for this purpose, trust me, it doesn’t matter because they’ve both been, shall we say, mediocre).

Now comes what either constitutes the fun part or the part that makes your eyes glaze over, depending on how you feel about statistics. I don’t particularly enjoy debating them for hours, myself. But as much as some of you would like to, we just can’t decide who the Twins should trade for based on facial hair, stirrups, or what their butts look like in baseball pants. We have to look at a few stats. Sorry.

Again, I chose to look at a few that would indicate to me that the pitcher is more than just successful. Those that indicate some level of dominance this year (after all, this may be the only year we have the guy and we want to win it all this year). In addition to total stikeouts, I also chose to look at Innings Pitched (IP), Earned Run Average (ERA), Walks+Hits/Innings Pitched (WHIP), Strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9), Strikeouts to Walks ratio (K/BB) and Wins Above Replacement player (WAR). (All stats were through Sunday’s games. For the sake of brevity, I’ll explain my reasons for choosing these stats in the ‘comment’ section.)

Name and strikeouts IP WHIP ERA K/9 K/BB WAR
Haren 109 108.1 1.31 4.65 9.1 5.19 0.9
Dempster 105 110.2 1.17 3.58 8.5 2.84 2.2
Hernandez 105 112.2 1.19 3.28 8.4 3.00 1.6
Oswalt 97 104 1.13 3.55 8.4 3.34 2.3
Greinke 89 104 1.19 3.72 7.7 4.45 1.4
Kennedy 89 100.1 1.23 3.77 8.0 2.23 1.9
Jackson 85 107 1.38 4.63 7.1 1.89 1.3
Millwood 81 101 1.51 5.22 7.2 2.61 0.4
Myers 77 100.1 1.36 3.20 6.8 2.20 2.5
Lee 76 86.2 0.91 2.39 7.9 19.00 2.5
Liriano 100 92.2 1.22 3.11 9.7 4.00 2.7
Blackburn 26 79.2 1.67 6.10 2.9 1.18 -0.5

So just at a glance, what can we see?

First, the obvious, every one of these guys would be a significant improvement over our current #5 starter.

Second, a little more surprising, Liriano actually is leading all the others in two of these categories… Ks per 9 innings and Wins Above Replacement. Does this mean we already have our ace? (Granted, it didn’t look like it Monday night!)

Third, there’s a reason a lot of people like Cliff Lee. He’s the best (or tied for the best) in this group of potential additions in four categories… WHIP, ERA, K/BB and WAR. You could make a pretty good case that he would likely also lead in Ks and IP if he hadn’t gotten a late start to his season.

Now, it’s time to thin the herd a bit. Let’s remove the pitchers that (a) the Twins have no realistic shot at obtaining, or (b) the Twins shouldn’t even want because they aren’t truly top-of-the-rotation guys.

The Mariners aren’t going to give up Hernandez and the DBacks aren’t going to let go of Kennedy (who’s still working for MLB’s minimum wage). Despite his recent no-hitter, Jackson’s numbers just don’t stack up well neither do Millwood’s (though either might be worth adding for the right… much lower than what people have been discussing… price). Admittedly, the odds of the Royals and Cubs letting go of Greinke and Dempster, respectively, aren’t very good, but we’re just spitballing here anyway.

Now things get trickier. We have half a dozen guys who could lead the Twins to the Promised Land.  But at what cost… in trade and in dollars?

Let’s assume, for our purposes, that the trade would involve Wilson Ramos, one other “major league ready” prospect not currently on the active 25 man roster (think Manship, Swarzak, etc.) and one lesser prospect from the A-AA level. That settles the trade “cost.”

Here’s the hard money cost and contract situation for each of the six still in consideration (assumes existing team would not pay any of remaining contract):

Haren(RH): half of $8.25 mil for 2010. $12.75 mil for each of 2011 and 2012. $15.5 mil club option for 2013 with $3.5 mil buyout. Total commitment:  $33.125 mil (if buyout exercised)

Dempster(RH): half of $10.5 mil for 2010. $13.5 mil for 2011 and $14 mil Player Option for 2012. Dempster agreed to defer $3 million of his $13.5 mil 2010 contract to make room for the Cubs to sign Xavier Nady this offseason. As a result, his 2010 salary is $10.5 million and he gets $1 million by Feb 1 of the next 3 years. That amount gets added to what the Twins would have to pay out. Total commitment: $35.75 mil (if player option exercised)

Oswalt(RH): half of $15 mil for 2010. $16 mil for 2011. $16 mil club option for 2012 with $2 mil buyout. Full no trade clause. Total commitment: $25.5 mil (if buyout exercised)

Greinke(RH): half of $7.25 mil for 2010. $13.5 mil for each of 2011 and 2012. Total commitment: $30.625 mil.

Myers(RH): half of $3.1 mil for 2010. $8 mil mutual option for 2011 with $2 mil buyout. Total commitment: $9.55 mil (assumes player exercises option)

Lee(LH): half of $9 mil for 2010. Type A free agent in 2011 (team gets 2 compensation draft picks). Total commitment: $4.5 mil

So if you’re the Twins, what goes in to your decision-making process?

If you want a lefty, the decision is pretty easy. Cliff Lee is the only southpaw among our ‘final 6’.

Do you want to minimize your total financial commitment? Again, Lee makes sense, but Myers also becomes an interesting option. With Lee, you know he’s leaving at the end of the year and you get your draft picks. With Myers, he’s most likely going to opt for free agency after the season (and would, at best, be a Type B FA, netting the Twins one supplemental pick if they offer him arbitration) so he likely would only cost the Twins about $1.5 million for half a season. if he DOES exercise the option for 2011, you’re still only on the hook for less than $10 million and you have him around for next year, too. I would add that, since everyone would assume he would be a half year rental, the cost in trade should be less than the package we assumed above, as well.

Do you want more than a half year rental? Then toss out Lee and Myers and focus on the other four options. Greinke can be yours through 2012. Oswalt, too, and if he bombs, you can walk away after 2011 by buying out 2012 for a couple mil. You’d have Haren for the same two years plus an option on his 2013 season. Dempster would be around for at least 2011 with a possibility that you’d be stuck paying him a fair amount in 2012 if he exercises his option (players generally only exercise a player option if they think their value on the market has decreased).

Add it all up and who do I think the Twins should pursue? I went through all this exercise and I still want Cliff Lee (but I could live with some of the others).

But you’re all smarter than I am, so what say you? Play Bill Smith for a day and tell us what you do. Make a choice in the poll below and feel free to leave a comment, as well. – JC

WWBD – What Will Bud Do?

UPDATE: Color me amazed! This afternoon, Commissioner Selig issued a written statement indicating the ruling would NOT be reversed AND indicating he would, “look at the game’s umpiring system and the expanded use of instant replay.”  It’s extremely difficult for me to congratulate Selig on a decision, but I do congratulate him (or whichever advisor told him, “Are you kidding, you CAN’T reverse that call!”) on this decision. Now, let’s see some follow-up that will give the umpires the help they deserve to make sure as many “blown calls” as possible can be avoided. -JC

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It’s been all over the internet today, from blogs to social network sights. An umpire missed a call.

OMG… really? That happens?

While I feel awful for Armando Gallaraga for losing his shot at a perfect game on a blown safe/out call at 1B, and just as awful for umpire Jim Joyce for having made an honest mistake, what I simply do not understand is why THAT call… which did not affect the outcome of a game… is so much more important than the equally atrocious blown call that prematurely ended the Twins/Mariners game later in the evening.

During our GameChat last night, we were discussing the Gallaraga/Joyce call and the question arose concerning whether MLB might step in and reverse the call. I responded with something to the effect of, “They can’t and they shouldn’t, but since it’s the wrong thing to do, that’s probably exactly what Bud Selig will do.” I stand by that sentiment this morning.

Today, I read that the MLB office has not yet decided whether to change the call. Seriously?

Ah… but yes, it all makes sense now. The cry has never been louder for expanded use of  instant replay and we all know how Bud feels about that issue. Reversing the call would allow the Budster to accomplish several things. First, it would “get the call right,” and awards Gallaraga the perfecto that he deserves. Second, it gets the heat off of Jim Joyce so he doesn’t have to go through the rest of his life haunted by the blown call. Finally, it mutes the voices screaming for more instant replay.

Look, I’m all for finding a way to give Gallaraga his justice (he handled the situation with remarkable class and maturity, by the way… and you should read Joe Posnanski’s cnnsi column on that subject, if you haven’t already). I also have no wish to see Joyce suffer the same fate Don Denkinger did for the rest of his career after his blown World Series call in 1985 (don’t ask me how I’d feel if it had been one of the total yahoos in the umpiring business, like Joe West, had blown the call).

But as difficult as it might be to figure out how to do, baseball NEEDS expanded instant replay and if Selig reverses this particular call, while ignoring blown calls like the one that ended the Twins game, not to mention the blown calls in last year’s post season… you know, calls that actually had effects on who wins games… then the owners should immediately relieve him of his Commissioner duties. Well, I think they should do that anyway… but this would be the latest crime against baseball that would warrant his dismissal.

Stepping in and effectively saying, “a blown call that costs a player a record is more worthy of reversal and thus more important than a blown call that affects the outcome of a game,” is exactly the wrong thing to do. Which means that I fully expect Bud Selig to do exactly that.

The RIGHT thing to do would be to say, “It’s a shame that this happened just as it’s a shame we have calls that affect the outcome of games and we’re going to do something about it by expanding instant replay… but we can not go back and change anything that has already happened.” Of course, that’s the one thing Bud WON’T do.

But what say you? We haven’t put up a poll in a while. Am I wrong here?

By all means, feel free to expand on your feelings in the comment section. – JC

Who do YOU hate?

So, since CapitalBabs and I were the only two in the GameChat during this afternoon’s Twins/Tigers game, we had to find things to talk about. One of the topics we hit on was this article, in which the WSJ presents the Nielson Co.’s analysis of something they call an Internet Algorithm, which concludes that the Cleveland Indians are the most despised Major League Baseball team. The Cleveland Indians? Seriously?

(Do you suppose that’s the same Nielson Co. that tells us all the crappiest TV shows are actually being watched by millions of people and, as a result, we keep getting more crappy TV shows to watch? I bet it is.)

Normally, I think you have to give the Wall Street Journal some respect. They’re a pretty reputable (if somewhat conservative) newspaper. But today, I’m thinking maybe they should stick to writing about business and leave sports to someone else.

Babs and I both thought the conclusions of the WSJ/Nielson Co. were, to be polite, wrong. In fact, I’d be willing to bet good money the Indians don’t even come close to being the most despised team. Actually, I’d give you pretty good odds that I can tell you exactly which team IS the most despised team without the benefit an algorithm of any kind… and that team barely cracked the top 5 in the WSJ/Nielson rankings.

But to be fair, Babs suggested we  put out a poll after the game to see what the rest of you think. I’m not going to list every team here because, let’s face it, who can really hate the Royals or even care about the Padres? But if you truly hate another team more than any of the 11 listed below, there’s a “someone else” box for you and you can let us know in the comments section who you really hate. And if you want to lie to us and say you don’t hate anybody, ok, there’s a box for that, too. – JC

P.S. – I was really tempted to add a “the ‘team’ of umpires working the Twins/Tigers series” as an option… but I didn’t want to skew the results based on one pathetic series by one particular umpiring crew. Of course, no poll asking “who I hate” is really complete without Bud Selig being on the list, but I’ve made my feelings about Bud pretty clear already, I’m sure.

Whaddya Worried About (poll)?

Yes, the Twins are off to a great start. But let’s face it, MLB history is littered with teams that got off to great starts and couldn’t seal the deal. And it’s not like our guys have been doing EVERYTHING right, right? I mean… is there any group of fans less excited than Twins fans when their team loads the bases against an opposing pitcher, at this point? And yeah, people pick on Little Nicky Punto and Brendan Harris has his fans, but are you really ready to turn 3B over to Harry long term, if Punto’s groin is going to be a long term issue? And how about this “stiff back” of Morneau’s? See… there are all sorts of things for Twins fans to worry about!

So let’s find out what everyone is MOST worried about (cuz you know we ALL worry about SOMETHING… it’s in our heritage as Twins fans!).