Well, the Super Bowl is out of the way (and oh, how predictable and boring it was), so now the national sports community can start to shift its attention towards the baseball season, with spring training and the inaugural World Baseball Classic rapidly approaching. This will mean a lot more baseball-related news to dissect, so finally we will actually have some solid material on this blog rather than the bland assortment of semi-news that we have been covering as of late. On that note, I have a small, bland assortment of Twins-related semi-news articles that caught my interest and I thought I'd mention in brief...
*Is it just me, or do our local sportswriters seem to go out of their way to act "objective" by being unfairly harsh on local players and teams. I remember getting pretty upset back in November when Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse, who holds one of the few votes for the Cy Young Award winners, put forth his lackluster argument as to why Johan Santana was undeserving of the AL honor.
Today, Jim Souhan has an article in the Strib that seems irrationally critical of the Twins' off-season. I generally think Souhan is a pretty decent writer, but I have to say that I feel like this is one of the worst articles of his I've read. Read it for yourself and see if you agree. Just a few statements I took issue with:
To solve their power outage, the Twins signed a player (Rondell White) who hit 12 home runs last year ... and allowed one to leave (Jacque Jones) who hit 23.
Yeah, never mind that Jones had 150 more at-bats than White. Also, never mind the fact that their career AB/HR numbers are almost identical: 26.5 for Jones and 26.3 for White. No, certainly the 2005 season - in which Jones was healthy for pretty much the entire campaign and White battled injuries - is fully indicative of both players' power capabilities. And of course, we should fully disregard the fact that, despite the home run differential, White's slugging percentage was 51 points higher than Jones' last year. Power isn't all about home runs, Jim.
White has the temperament and approach of a solid cleanup hitter, but this is where the Twins were all too Twins-like. Because they, unlike the Yankees or Red Sox, need to to drain value from every dollar spent, they resorted to projection.
He says this like it's a bad thing. Yeah, it really sucks that the Twins aren't giving $40 million dollar contracts to guys like Carl Pavano and $52 million to Johnny Damon.
They hoped, or assumed, that because White is a good-looking hitter with a high incidence of injury, that he will produce at a higher level if they protect him from harm by making him a full-time DH.
That thinking contains one part logic to two parts wishfulness. Frank Thomas would have represented higher risk, but also higher potential reward. A trade for someone like Hank Blalock would have cost a top prospect but would have immediately and dramatically improved the team. (Not that I condone trading Francisco Liriano to anyone for anyone.)
What exactly is the purpose of even writing this, if at the end of the statement he basically admits that the entire point was trivial? It is very unlikely that the Twins could have acquired Blalock without giving up Liriano, and I would bet the bank that the 33 year-old White will play a lot more and be a lot more effective this year than the 37 year-old Thomas who missed all but 34 games in '05. Oh yeah, and there is also no reason to think that Thomas wanted to come play on articifial turf nor that the Twins wanted such a documented clubhouse cancer on their roster.
I'll let you read the rest for yourself, it is pretty easy to find fault with most of the things he says within. I don't know if he actually views Terry Ryan's off-season moves that pessimistically or if he is simply playing devil's advocate, but it really troubles me to open my local newspaper and read such trite and overly critical stuff. If he was a writer for a national publication, he would almost certainly be accused of holding an extreme bias against the Twins for all of these outlandish claims and all of his poorly contextualized statistical evidence.
*Here is an interesting little article regarding some comments that Cubs' pitcher Carlos Zambrano made about wanting to challenge Santana for the opening start for Venezuela's team in the World Baseball Classic. With all due respect to Zambrano, who I believe is a very solid young pitcher with a bright future, he is not quite on the same level of dominance as Santana and not as deserving of the honor. That said, the article also mentions that the notion may hold some strategic merit, since the team they play in the opening round, the Dominican Republic, is comprised of mostly right-handed hitters. This would give the righty Zambrano an edge. Nonetheless, I think the team would probably stand a better chance with Johan getting the starting nod.
*Even if you're not particularly interested in fantasy baseball, you might want to check out Fanball.com's spring training preview for the Twins. It's nothing too noteworthy, but I think it's an interesting read and the writer, John Tuvey, seems to have a pretty good read on the team's situation heading into the March exhibitions.