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.)
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.