Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Twins of 2014: What to Expect When You're Expecting


To leadoff (baseball term), it occurs to me that some of my past posts have sent no small amount of ire in the direction of the Twins’ front office, and the man at the helm: Terry Ryan.

Many probably heard of his cancer diagnosis this week, and there is nothing like news like this that immediately points out how trivial baseball is within the grand scheme of things. All reports indicate that his illness is treatable, and we wish Terry and his family all the best as they go forward with his treatment.

Since we’re talking about Terry Ryan, it bears mentioning that he has been a busy man this offseason. The acquisitions of Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey, Jason Kubel, Kurt Suzuki, and Jason “Watch your back Florimon” Bartlett have bolstered hope among fans that there may be fewer reasons for self-loathing in 2014.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was falling back into the trap. The Twins’ current payroll is still hovering around $84 million. In other words, right where it was last year.

The aggressiveness the front office showed early in the offseason snatching up Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes — both landmark signings for the Twins — seemed to obfuscate the reality that the Twins shed payroll down the stretch last season, all while the coming year would see some of their aging contracts to guys like Nick Blackburn come off the books. Combine this with the increased revenue brought in by their TV contracts, and the argument could very easily be made that the Twins grossly under-spent this offseason, and may have just pulled off one of the best of their “Houdini acts” of public relations in recent memory.

(This is the PR team that brought us “Corey Koskie: Canadian Folk Hero,” so we shouldn’t be surprised by their brilliance.)

As I contemplated this, I found myself becoming upset. I was just another rube in the end. They throw a little money around for what looks like a couple of #3 starters, and I fall head over heels. I can’t deal with this anymore. I want something real, like what Juan Pablo and those other six girls have. Something magical.

Where’s our Tanaka? Why do good things happen to bad people, like everyone in New York?

(Several hours later)

And why doesn’t Kevin Love want to stay here? Why can’t Gary Anderson kick field goals that matter?

Bob Dylan was our claim to fame, and after that Super Bowl commercial, that’s clearly over. So what’s left?

When was the last time Josh Hartnett was actually in a movie?

Of course, this train of thought is a black hole of misery, past failures and projected futures. One we have been down far too many times in Minnesota.

After a while, these thoughts began to dissipate. Maybe, I wasn’t just feeling better about the Twins because they had actually signed players that I didn’t need to immediately look up. Perhaps, it was due to the fact that for the first time in a long time, it seemed that there was at least some semblance of a plan in place.

When teams are winning, it is perfectly natural to become less introspective about why it is occurring. Jim Pohlad admitted as much in an interview early this year, pointing out that the organization had grown slightly complacent in the wake of the success (during the regular season) of the early and mid 2000′s.

But baseball changed, and when the Twins failed to adapt, rather than regress, they fell off of a cliff into the canyon that we may now slowly be pulling ourselves out from.

I am still frustrated that the Twins didn’t spend more during the offseason, but my issue has rarely been with the external free agents we haven’t signed, rather it has been with the players we let leave. Also, it is wise to note that trying to correct years of ineptitude in one offseason doesn’t always pan out very well. The debacle that has been the Minnesota Timberwolves this year is a testament to this statement.

A season that was supposed to be a turning point for the Wolves has quickly descended into chaos. Now, instead of talking about the foundation of the team going forward, the team must grapple with the very real possibility that Rick Adelman won’t return to coach next season, and that this will only hasten Kevin Love‘s departure from Minneapolis when he can opt-out after next season (the crown jewel of David Kahn’s storied tenure and legacy as the team’s GM). There are many potential moves the team could make, but the Wolves are cap-strapped already, and without knowing if Love will sign an extension it is nearly impossible to make a decision in any direction.

As it is currently constructed, the roster for the Timberwolves won’t likely yield much more for the team than barely making the playoffs, only to be crushed in the postseason.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Obviously the analogy isn’t perfect because of the lack of a salary cap in baseball (said while noting the fact that the Twins absolutely have a salary cap), and while the short term outlook for the Twins looks substantially worse than that of the Timberwolves, what separates these two franchises is the talent the Twins ostensibly have waiting in the wings. (For reference, please see Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano v. Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng.)

I look at the Timberwolves and I have nothing but questions. When I look at the Twins I see just as many questions, but even more so, I see possibilities. This isn’t to deride the Wolves, as I think they could go either way. It’s just pointing out that the Twins suffered tremendously due to many of the decisions that were made during the Bill Smith era.

It takes time to right the ship, and bottoming out in the interim is often an unfortunate, but necessary part of the process. The obvious difference being that the Twins did so after an era of success, and the possibility of bottoming out again for a Wolves franchise that has been mired in a decade of misery, starts to seem like a cruel joke at this point.

But for the Twins, Spring training will begin shortly, and the coming year will bring along with it a myriad of singular as well as converging narratives.

The Top 15

  1. Now that Mauer is out from behind the plate, will he finally get back to hitting 30 homers a season? (Please see sarcasm).
  2. When will Miguel Sano reach the majors?
  3. Will Byron Buxton see the majors this season?
  4. Will a pitcher friendly ballpark and the raw, mustached glory of Rick Anderson help Phil Hughes find his once so highly valued potential?
  5. Will Josmil Pinto become the primary Catcher for the Twins?
  6. Will Alex Meyer find success at the Major League Level? And if so, will Mauer inform him that being nice is his thing, and to chill out with the substitute teacher boohockey (how to curse like a Mauer).
  7. Will Brian Dozier build upon the strides he made last year, that worried Eddie Rosario so much he stared doping?
  8. Was Kyle Gibson just tired last year?
  9. At what point will someone lament selling Andrew Albers to Korea?
  10. Will Jason Kubel make the team as DH?
  11. What is the over-under for Lord of the Rings related tweets from Trevor Plouffe this coming season?
  12. Will Miguel Sano hit 45-55 home runs?
  13. How many times will Bert Blyleven reference keeping the ball “down in the strike zone,” and, or his thoughts on the pitch-count.
  14. Does Paul Allen believe that Ricky Nolasco passes the “eye test?”
  15. Will Aaron Gleeman find love, and, or successfully move to Uptown?

There are many more questions and possibilities regarding this team, our city and humanity in general, but that’s it for now.

Other Notes

  • There was no place to put this in that made sense (said acknowledging that this statement puts forth the questionable notion that anything above made sense), no, despite his love for J.J. Barea, the plight of the Timberwolves isn’t Rick Adelman‘s fault.
  • I would love to see a list of “live together, die alone,” questions and possibilities for the Timberwolves going forward from the excellent staff at A Wolf Among Wolves.
  • It is well documented that I live in Seattle, and when hate-watching the recent play of the Timberwolves while commiserating with other lost souls on Twitter isn’t enough, I listen to the excellent podcasts put out by Gleeman and the Geek, the “gentleman” of The Sportive, as well the Talk to Contact family therapy session put out by the boys of Puckett’s Pond.
  • If you don’t currently listen to the shows listed above, and maybe you feel like podcasts just aren’t for you, just remember that you are a fan of the Minnesota Twins, and this means that you don’t really have any dignity to lose at this point. So, give them a chance.

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