Minnesota Twins: New Year's Resolutions for Terry Ryan

The Minnesota Twins have their work cut out for them as the head into the 2013 season. As an armchair GM myself, I’ve come up with three New Year’s Resolutions I think Terry Ryan should make in order to succeed in 2013.

In no particular order…

#1 – Honestly define what constitutes “success” for the Twins in 2013. Part of that definition better include improving fan morale because it is faltering, and so will ticket sales. The organization needs to realistically assess how much progress can be made during this off-season. In mid-December, Terry Ryan stated to 1500espn.com’s Darren Wolfson that the team is not rebuilding:

No. We’re not rebuilding. We have issues and openings, but we can’t call this a rebuilding year. If it was a rebuilding year, we would’ve done a lot more drastic things.

The problem with his statement is that, earlier in the interview, Ryan acknowledged that an “on paper” assessment of the team could be that they have no playoff chance in 2013. First, Ryan and the Pohlads need to admit to themselves what the state of the team is. If they don’t, then the off-season decisions they make will be counter-productive.

Secondly, while saying the team is rebuilding will frustrate fans who want an immediate return to the playoffs, giving the fans realistic expectations is a better way to maintain a positive relationship with fans who are little more invested. If the organization publicly claims a goal is realistic when that goal is really a long-shot, the probability of a frustrated fan base who will purchase even fewer tickets in 2014 is pretty high. If the Twins are honest about what is realistic but insist the team is trying to surpass that goal, a few fans would leave now, but if they meet or exceed their stated goal, they’ll keep more fans for 2014 than they’ll lose.

#2 – Evaluate the performance of Ron Gardenhire and his coaches based on the pieces you give them. I’m as frustrated as anybody about the two recent 90-whatever loss seasons for the Twins, but I’ve never jumped on the “Fire Gardenhire” bandwagon. That wouldn’t be a cure-all, even if some would find it cathartic. I like Gardy, so I wouldn’t enjoy seeing him canned, and I know that makes me biased. But really, what armchair GM doesn’t have a bias?

Gardenhire’s contract is up after the 2013 season. Both Ryan and Gardenhire have been publicly frank that the last two seasons don’t warrant a contract extension. However, I really think that places more blame on Gardenhire than he deserves.  I say this because he doesn’t control the roster, the purse strings, or even who makes up his coaching staff. Ultimately, that responsibility falls on Ryan and it formerly fell on Bill Smith. Whether Gardenhire or the other coaches remain on staff following 2013 (or even, for the entirety of 2013) should be based on how well they meet or exceed reasonable expectations for the players Ryan gives them. If they fall short or barely meet reasonable expectations, well, then it’s probably time to move on. But before anyone sets a standard – be it reaching the playoffs, 85 wins, or whatever the goal may be – first prove that Ryan has put players on the roster that are capable of achieving that goal before evaluating Gardenhire’s achievement of the goal.

#3 – If the record isn’t .500 at the trade deadline, trade the veterans. I really hate this proposed resolution, but I’m proposing it anyway. I hate it because I’m sentimental about players – I like familiarity, at least with the “good guys”, the clichéd ones that are fan favorites or “good in the clubhouse”. I’m a sap when it comes to the emotional side of being a fan.

That being said, I would really like to see the Twins win. I don’t think they’ll be more than “respectable” in 2013; in my mind, “respectable” means  fewer than 90 losses and that they’ll sit at or above .500 for at least a couple of days. So, when push comes to shove, if they can’t win now, I want to see Ryan do what needs to be done to improve the future. I doubt the Twins will be at or above .500 by the end of July, and players like Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, and maybe the likes of Trevor Plouffe will be able to bring in players that project to be valuable in the next season or two. Particularly players like Willlingham and Morneau should be traded because they are expensive and they are aging, a bad combo for a team that needs to rebuild. (If it makes you feel better, I’m sniffling as I type this.)

Before you ask about Joe Mauer, do remember the no-trade clause; I would bet the farm that he won’t be willing to waive it during or after 2013, even if it’s another dismal season.

Puckett’s Pond Readers: If you could choose a a 2013 New Year’s Resolution for Terry Ryan, what would yours be?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • Joel Thingvall

    About waiting until you are below .50 to trade, teams will know you are desparate. Yes, both contracts are fine for Morneau, but also fine in current times. It may be too late to think about trading this winter. Or, maybe not. The Twins jsut have to watch that they don’t purely get chaf from another team…like when they got Humber who they had to keep or waive, foe example.

    I also agree that if the Twins had a plan, which I haven’t seen, to fire up fans, it would be better than their current stance. If they were rebuilding towards 2014, then you bring up guys early and let them get their lumps. Right now, if you bring them up, instead, in 2014 and they egt lumps, it means we aren’t competitive for yet another season.

    Plus, have to look at the strength of the division. It isn’t a super division, but when you play against your own, the Twins are the lapdogs to all but, maybe, Cleveland. It could be a division where everyteam has at least 75 wins…especially with the Astros giving everyone some supposed easy victories.

    But, again, back to rebuilding. You start today. You give the young guys ti me at the plate and on the field. You make them hungry for major league money and playing time. If they falter, you switch them out and see how they work on problems in the minors, then switch them out again. I would love to see a 5th starting pitcher, but let’s keep this spot open and rotating and see our potentials for 2014. Just hope the 40-man roster can handle it.

    • PMinell

      Good points. The one thing I would counter is about waiting until the Twins are below .500 to trade. My contention is that teams probably already know the Twins are desperate. Their biggest strength (centerfield) has already been traded away. I’m not so sure the situation changes much if 2013 mimics 2012 and 2011.

  • Brad Swanson

    I really enjoyed this, and I agree with all of your resolutions. It would be painful to see great players traded, but hopefully it would usher in a new era of exciting players. I think fans are really going to take to Aaron Hicks, for one.

    • PMinell

      Thanks! I still find the prospect of my favorites being traded, but I do look forward to the excitement that will come with the guys the Twins have waiting in the wings!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nick.oberholtzer.3 Nick Oberholtzer

    My resolution for Ryan: Stop looking at pitchers who you can’t reasonably predict a 7.0 K/9. Groundball pitchers + poor defense equals 100 losses. Seriously, Correia and Pelfrey do more harm than good, stop it.

    • Brad Swanson

      I have to agree with you on this. Sure, if the infield defense were better, these guys could luck into some success. As things stand right now, I don’t see their signings as good fits.