Pond Trifecta: Joe Nathan, Prospects, and the Dirty C Word

As my Saturday night is drawing to a close, I wanted to briefly touch on three different topics. Included here you will find some notes on Joe Nathan’s Twins career, some prospect rankings and a recent article from Ken Rosenthal that brings up the “C” word for some unknown reason.

Reliever #s:

Phil Mackey shared this tidbit yesterday afternoon:

1.87: Joe Nathan‘s ERA in 418 2/3 innings with the Twins since 2004. Only two other relievers had ERAs under 2.00 over that stretch — Jonathan Papelbon (1.82) and Mariano Rivera (1.90).

While he just missed the 2.00 ERA cutoff, I think we also have to bring Royals closer Joakim Soria into the discussion. He is the proud owner of  a 2.01 ERA in 255.0 innings over his first 4 seasons. ERA+ during his brief career? 219 which is higher than Mariano’s 205 and Papelbon’s 209. Obviously Mo gets a TON of bonus points since he’s done it for 16 years.

Joe Nathan has an ERA+ of 237 since joining the Twins back in November of 2003.

Simply amazing.

Speaking of Nathan, he is scheduled to pitch against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday. It will be his first game action since his surgery and while I hope he throws well I care far more about how his elbow feels the following day or two.

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Prospect Rankings:

I came across another Twins Top-10 prospect list and have now added it to the Puckett’s Pond prospect page. This list comes courtesy of Gear Up For Sports and was authored by Steve Lein. He tabbed Aaron Hicks as Minnesota’s top prospect with Miguel Sano and Kyle Gibson in the 2nd and 3rd spots respectively.

While we’re on the topic of prospects, I have decided to move forward with our Puckett’s Pond rankings and profiles. I am still working through a lot of the details but am leaning toward doing an in-depth top-10 or top-15 with a less intensive look at the guys down to #25. This will be a collaborative effort between Steve, Erin, Josh and myself. Stay tuned for more details and/or watch for the first profile. The goal will be to have all the profiles done and published by Opening Day but don’t hold me to that because the last time I did this it took me a really really long time to get them all done.

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The Dirty “C” Word:

Thursday evening Ken Rosenthal raised the specter of contraction once again. This time around however it doesn’t involve the Minnesota Twins or the now Washington Nationals.

Fans of the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays need not worry. But don’t be surprised if the “C” word — contraction — returns to the baseball lexicon soon.

Yeah, don’t worry A’s and Rays fans. It won’t happen. Wait? So why are we bringing the topic to the forefront again? I get that the Yankees and Red Sox would be unhappy sharing revenue with teams that they perceive aren’t trying, but that is no reason to be targeting the Athletics or Rays – regardless of stadium issues – given their recent successes with smaller budgets.

Baseball should think twice before going there.

Yeah they should. The thing is there is NO indication that they are going to go there. Even if Lil’ Steinbrenner spouts this nonsense during CBA planning and negotiations, does anyone really expect the owners to support such a concept? Hank and Hal are not their father. They’re not even close and whatever cache George held with the other owners, it’s pretty clear that the younger Steinbrenners lack the respect or clout to rally and lead other owners down this road. Baseball is much better off today because they didn’t contract the Twins and Expos back in 2002 and they would be foolish to give any consideration to this idea for any of the 30 teams.

I’ve always believed that the threat of contraction was the result of behind the scenes agreements with both organizations to improve their respective lots in the baseball landscape. For the Twins it was a new stadium in the Twin Cities. For the Expos it was a more attractive market. Whether contraction was a myth, as Selig claimed last year, or a potential reality, only a select few will ever really know.

Major League Baseball generated revenue in excess of $7 billion in 2010. Having 28 teams in 28 markets puts a much bigger dent in that number than the revenue sharing and luxury tax payments the big boys are having to pony up with 30 teams in existence. Rosenthal references the obvious issues the players union would have with such a move. What he doesn’t mention is the negative impact contraction would have on the minor league systems of the impacted organizations and the thousands of jobs – on the field and off the field – that would be lost as a result.

Contraction will never happen in my lifetime. There is too much money on the line to do something so foolish, and baseball owners and executive are not foolish. Well maybe with the exception of Hank Steinbrenner.

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Tags: Aaron Hicks Joakim Soria Joe Nathan

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