Analyzing some news and tidbits as we count down the days until the Twins' season opener.
* It's kind of funny to see how much the fans of a team will overrate a player that becomes available when that player could possibly fill a weak spot on their team's roster. Last year at the trade deadline, it happened with Joe Randa, Bill Mueller, and Kevin Millar. Now it's Tony Graffanino, who was placed on waivers by the Red Sox on Sunday and picked up by the Royals yesterday.
After the Red Sox decided to part with Graffanino, I heard a lot of grumbling from Twins fans about the fact that the Twins would make no effort to get him. Come on. Graffanino had a nice season last year, hitting .309/.366/.425, but that was the first time he's hit above .263 or had an OBP higher than .332 since 2001. He's a sub-par defender at every position other than second base, he's 33, and he is scheduled to make about $2 million this year. I fail to see how he could possibly be construed as a better option than the younger and cheaper Luis Rodriguez.
* If you want a rather pessimistic assessment of the Twins' offseason and their chances for this season, head on over to Sundappled Wood and check out what Frightwig has to say. I can't say that I share his gloomy outlook, but at the same time it's difficult to argue with his logic.
I guess the main difference between me and many of the people who feel the Twins' offense won't improve much this year is that I am really optimistic about Rondell White. I really think he's going to play 130+ games this year because it's just a lot easier to stay healthy when you're not playing the field. He might not be a masher, but the guy is a pure hitter who can drive in runners. It's been so long since the Twins have gotten solid production from the DH spot and I really think Terry Ryan made the right move. We'll have to wait and see.
* If you're looking for a way to kill some time in the final week before the Twins' season opener, I have some recommended reading. I recently received a copy of The Last Nine Innings by Charles Euchner and read it over the past few weeks. It's definitely worth checking out.
The book provides an in-depth look at the many intricacies of the game of baseball set on the backdrop of Game Seven of the 2001 World Series between the Yankees and Diamondbacks. There is all kinds of really interesting information dug up from research and interviews with players and baseball experts. The book provides mostly a look into the psychological aspects of the game, but there is some statistical analysis as well.
Not much Twins-related stuff to be found in this book, but it's still a good read for any baseball fan. Euchner manages to take a very in-depth look at some of the most complex aspects of the game while still remaining accessible to even the most casual of fans, and I think that's a quality that many authors miss when trying to intricately analyze the highly elaborate sport of baseball.
* I'm absolutely baffled by the Twins' attitude towards Jason Bartlett. Here is a team that loves young players who can field at premium positions, especially if they can hit. Bartlett looked pretty good in the field last year and has put up outstanding offensive numbers in the minor leagues. For whatever reason, the team refuses to show any support for him. They won't outright hand him the starting job at shortstop, and continue to claim that Nick Punto and Juan Castro are strong contenders for the gig. In yesterday's Strib, Ron Gardenhire was glowing about Castro's chemistry with Luis Castillo up the middle. It is quite clear that neither Castro nor Punto have any business starting in the Majors.
Now we hear rumblings from over at Seth's site that the Twins are supposedly looking at the possibility of trading Scott Baker for a shortstop (as mentioned in yesterday's post here). I'm not putting too much stock into this rumor, but honestly it wouldn't even surprise me that much.
How is it that the Twins are willing to steadfastly stand by and support Michael Cuddyer, who can't defend well enough to play the infield and can't hit well enough to be a corner outfielder, yet they seem to have no faith in Bartlett? It's mind-boggling, to say the least.