Twins Bank on the Power of Nostagia
It’s time for a social experiment, Twins fans. I’m going to lay before you two scenarios and I want to know your response to each one…
Scenario One: The Minnesota Twins just signed a soon-to-be 40 year old who hit 17 homeruns last year with 83 RBI and batted .286. That’s not a terrible signing, right? But wait, there’s more. The newest Twin, who was once played gold-glove defense, is now a defensive liability in the outfield, no longer able to cover the ground he once used to and definitely unable to roam the vast Target Field dimensions.
Not sounding as good, huh?
Oh, and he can only really play right field or designated hitter, positions the Twins are already are set at for 2015, thus requiring manager Paul Molitor to shuffle players around so they’re not going to play their natural position to fit the new signee into the lineup. This isn’t sounding that great anymore….
Oh, and the Twins are paying him 10.5 million dollars for one season.
Fans’ probable reaction to Scenario One? This signing looks pretty bad. It’s an aging, expensive square peg that the Twins will be trying to squeeze into a round hole. There would be questions about what general manager Terry Ryan is doing, as the team has been undergoing a youth movement and will be trying to move their vaunted prospects up to the major league level in 2015 and this signing would be completely contrarian to that agenda. It’s going to take away playing time from young players who should be getting their feet wet in a season that the team isn’t expected to contend.
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Scenario Two: The Minnesota Twins just signed Torii Hunter for 10.5 million dollars for one year.
Fans’ confirmed reaction? He’s back! We get to wear our #48 jerseys again! It’s awesome that he’s going to finish his career where it began! It’s “Twins Territorii” again!!! Oh sure, he’s lost a step (or two), but we can move Arcia to left field and Hunter will play in right field. Hunter can also be plugged into the Designated Hitter spot and we can move Kennys Vargas to first base when Joe Mauer needs a break. No worries about that, this is going to be awesome!
Ah, behold the power of nostalgia.
Yes Twins fans, these scenarios are of the exact same player. The simple fact is that if you take Hunter’s name out of the equation, there’s nothing about this signing that makes real baseball sense. As stated above, this is trying to fit a square block into a round hole.
The Twins, unlikely to be a contender in 2015, should be getting as much playing time to their young players to get them the seasoning they need to really make a move upward in 2016 and beyond. By signing Hunter, the Twins have muddied the waters about what the plan will be this summer and what the expectations should be. The Twins could have made a push to sign a younger left fielder at a drastically reduced price and by doing so, would’ve shored up the atrocious outfield defense (one of the worst in baseball, statistically) from 2013. While Hunter still has some pop in his bat, the Twins were 7th overall in runs scored in 2013 and an upgrade in their lineup, while nice, was not at the top of their needs.
Look, in the end, I understand why the Twins signed Hunter. In the past 24 hours, I have received multiple messages excited about the move. People who rarely pay attention to the team are suddenly interested. The vibe is generally positive. The Twins could use some positivity after a historically bad stretch. This signing fulfills that void. The fact that it puts a face on the billboards, more butts in the seats, and moves a lot of #48 Hunter jerseys won’t hurt the 2015 bottom line, either.
But as fans of the Twins, we should also be interested in the long term health and development of our favorite team. This signing addresses neither of those things. The signing was meant for all of us to harken back to the early 2000’s, dig into our memory banks for those fond memories we had, and capitalize on those nostalgic feelings. But as memory serves, the Twins attempted this sort of reminiscing with the signings of Jason Bartlett, Matt Guerrier, and Jason Kubel last year to abysmal conclusions in each case.
Celebrate the return of Torii Hunter if you will, but remember by doing so you are celebrating the past rather than looking forward to the future. The Minnesota Twins are banking on it.
Until next time…
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