We’re a full week into 2009 now, and so far I’ve got to say it doesn’t feel much different from 2008. Oh well. Here are a few notes as we keep counting down toward those four beautiful words: “Pitchers and catchers report.”
* I briefly commented yesterday on the passing of Carl Pohlad, who has officially owned the Twins since he purchased the team from Calvin Griffith back in 1984 (though it’s fairly well known that his sons have been running things for the past few years). Certainly this qualifies as big news for those who have followed the team, as Pohlad has been a figurehead in this organization for over two decades.
I don’t know what’s really appropriate to say at this point. Pohlad lived for 93 years, enjoyed great wealth for much of his lifetime, was part of a great family and had the privilege of owning a Major League Baseball team. I think it’s fair to say he had a good run. I respect the fact that he built a fortune for himself and that the Twins won two World Series Championships during his tenure. Whether or not the complaints that Pohlad was overly stingy when it came to putting money into this franchise were fair is debatable, but I do know that I will forever hold bitterness toward him for his role in nearly contracting the team back in 2001.
In any case, I do send my best wishes to the Pohlad family as they cope with their loss. I don’t know much about his sons and their interest in continuing to operate the franchise; it will be interesting to see if an effort is made to sell the team over the next few years.
* The Indians yesterday came to terms with Carl Pavano on a one-year deal worth $1.5 million, plus incentives. The Yankees made a big mistake when they bought high on Pavano after his career year for the Marlins in 2004, but this is a great signing for the Indians. One and a half million isn’t a large commitment, and his possible $5.3 million in incentives don’t begin to kick in until his reaches 18 starts or 130 innings (neither of which he has accomplished since 2004).
I’m not a big fan of Pavano, but he’s 33 years old and has a history of pitching well. If he stays healthy, he can probably counted on for close to league average production; if he doesn’t stay healthy, the Indians aren’t on the hook for much money at all. This is what a low-risk veteran signing should look like. When you hear complaints about the Twins handing $5 million to Livan Hernandez and $3 million to Ramon Ortiz, this is why.
I think the Indians have had an absolutely fantastic offseason. They’ve upgraded their bullpen substantially by adding Kerry Wood and Joe Smith, they’ve filled a hole in their infield by acquiring Mark DeRosa, and now they’ve brought in a potentially solidified a patchy rotation with the addition of Pavano. They also grabbed a very nice future middle-infield piece in Luis Valbuena, who came over in the J.J. Putz blockbuster. They’ve done all this while giving up very little in terms of money or players (with the exception of the somewhat expensive Wood contract). I still question whether they will enter the 2009 season as solid favorites in the AL Central because there are some serious questions about guys like Fausto Carmona and Travis Hafner, but this is a club that came on strong late last year and GM Mark Shapiro has made some savvy moves this winter, making it all the more frustrating to watch Bill Smith continually sit still.
* I guess I’m what you could call a Vikings fan, but for the most part I tend to be pretty indifferent about them. People sometimes ask me why. The fact that Brad Childress remains employed after that debacle of a playoff game and after that wholly underwhelming season should be explanation enough. I do my fair share of complaining about decisions made by the Twins organization, but it is by far the most competently run sports franchise in this town.