Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Canadian View Point On the Minnesota Twins

The follwing is a draft of a Canadian viewpoint on the suprisingly succesful Minnesota Twins. Now, as the biggest Twins fan this side of the Mason-Dixon line I do not condone most of what is said in this article but it is interesting to see what outsiders think about our hometown-9. I played on a college baseball team made up of 50%I Canadians so I am used to this, but I think this viewpoint is important for us as die-hard Twins fans to read. The writer is a friend of mine, so any nasty comments can be directed at me. I just thought this would be an interesting change from our normal 'I love the Twins' post.

By AlbertaBound

I understand the plight of Minnesotans who, whether they be die-hard or come-lately, feel that the Twins’ play this year should be a far more important keynote on ESPN. It’s certainly true that their surprising success this year rarely garners more than a footnote following the nightly baseball highlights, and I, for one, would have laughed in the face of anyone who thought the Twins would win the division (come to think of it, I did a number of times). It makes me nauseous to say it, but their overachieving play makes it difficult for even an admitted hater to denigrate what they’ve done. With that said, I will now do my best.

The number one reason, of course, that Minnesota receives little to no national attention is simply geography. Small market teams rarely make a big splash and are generally treated as novelties until they prove otherwise in the postseason, and let’s face it – the most recent Twins’ playoff memory the average baseball fan has in mind is Torii Hunter bellyflopping. I could dedicate an entire article to the euphoria I experienced as the ball landed ten feet away and skittered to the wall, effectively crushing the hopes and dreams of an entire state, but that’s for another time and place.

Simply put, it doesn’t matter to anybody in the American League if the Twins run the table the rest of the year, because they don’t have a team built for playoff success. Outside of Francisco Liriano, who may or may not be proverbially “back,” they have nobody that can square off with the Josh Becketts and the John Lackeys of the American League in a Game 7 situation. Nor do they have the staff that can eat up an established veteran lineup dotted with power hitters for an entire series. Outside of Joe Nathan, their bullpen might as well be a cut right out of “Major League” (“This guy here is dead”), and as if anyone wants Jesse Crain or Matt Guerrier squaring off with guys like Mark Teixeira in the seventh inning of a 3-2 game with two on. When he fits in time to pitch between facial spasms, Nathan’s a lights-out closer, but getting him the ball with the lead will be a huge problem come the postseason. Really, the only thing I’d love to see more than the Twins actually miss the playoffs is to see Brian Bass try to navigate his way through a couple of innings against the Angels.

Meanwhile, the crux of every argument surrounding the Twins this year has been how well they’ve been able to play with what they have (and don’t get me wrong, being in a division with two Triple A teams certainly does wonders), and I’ll give credit where it’s due there. On August 3, they beat the Indians with a lineup that featured Denard Span, Jason Kubel, Mike Lamb, Brian Buscher, Brendan Harris, and Carlos Gomez (with Mike Redmond batting three hole. That’s right. Mike Redmond. No, seriously.). Impressive, no doubt, but having even two of those guys in my playoff lineup would give me nightmares if I was Ron Gardenhire. Even putting aside the almost mind-numbing lack of experience, none of those guys are going to hit the ball out of the park consistently, which I’ve heard is sort of important when it comes to winning in the playoffs. After Justin Morneau, they have no established power (Kubel absolutely does not count), and their third leading home run hitter is a guy who was performing so poorly he was released in Craig Monroe, with eight.

And, as if not having the hitting or pitching to go deep into the playoffs wasn’t enough, here’s the coup de gras: The Minnesota Twins are a combined 14-21 against the Red Sox, White Sox, Angels, Yankees, and Rays this year (you know, the kinds of teams they’ll have to beat if they make the playoffs). They’ve also racked up a whopping 42% of their wins against the Indians, Tigers, and Royals (24-12 overall, and are currently fourteen games over .500 – you do the math), and are above .500 against just those three teams in the American League. Again, that’s kind of a big deal.

And so will begin the predictable counterpoints from Twins fans still clinging on to the delusion that they can win in the playoffs despite all common sense screaming otherwise. “They’ve won all year with this ball club, haven’t they?” they will invariably demand. And yes, they do deserve recognition for being able to keep their heads afloat against the rest of the AL while they beat up on Kansas City, Cleveland, and Detroit enough to be right in the running for the division, but when they start playing real teams, with real playoff experience, real pitching, and real power hitters, the conclusion is a foregone one.


soup said...

You better watch your toungue, sir. Canada does not allow talking negatively about other people or groups. I would be waiting for a call from the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

But a Canadian commenting on baseball...gosh that's cute.

But seriously, good analysis. We here at AH! aren't afraid of a little negativity. We wouldn't be twins fans if we weren't a little masochistic.

It's no secret the Twins are not built to win the division and certainly not built for the playoffs. You make this argument quite articulately.

But for me, this season has been all free money. We were supposed to be bad, and we're not. And once you make the playoffs anyone has a chance. The latest example was St Louis a couple of years ago. Jeff Weaver was winning games for them. For another example we are more familiar with, look at the 2002 twins. We won the AL Divisional series with about half a team full of starters that were reserve players for other teams within a couple of years. When you make the playoffs, you at least got a chip, chair, and a chance.

TwinsWin83 said...

soup....please see my commets from a week ago...great points...but already made

A canadian can come in here and rip the Twins from left to right but it doenst make it real....the Twins have done something that no one though they could this year and that is a beautiful lets run with that

TwinsWin83 said...

Blame Canada. Blame Canada.

soup said...

which comments from a weak ago? Which points were already made? Mine or AlbertaBound's?

TwinsWin83 said...

Yeah the Twins might have a problem agaist the Angels come October if they face them....BUT WHO WONT???

My point is. if weve learned nothing from the 06 cards its if u can make it into the playoffs....anything is possible

WV said...

The number one reason, of course, that Minnesota receives little to no national attention is simply geography.

Demographics more than geography. The simple truth is that a far greater number of people root for the Yankees and Red Sox than the Twins. New York City alone has nearly 3 times as many inhabitants as the state of Minnesota. ESPN's coverage is divided according to supply and demand. I'm a Twins fan, but I'm also a econo-realist.

The regular season matters little once the playoffs hit anyways. Any team like the '03 Marlins can get hot and run the table.

bizmarkie507 said...

who gives a fuck about winning this season? 2010 is where its at.

TwinsWin83 said...

no no wuturs. trying to win by a deadline or setting a target date to be competivie by never ever works. Baseball is to unpredictable of a game to do that. The goal has to be to put forth your best team and effort right now, because who knows what tommorow will bring.

AlbertaBound said...

To be fair, the 2003 Marlins had three 14-game winners and Josh Beckett, and their rotation had an average ERA of 3.66. Compare that with the Twins, whose winningest pitcher isn't even on the team anymore and top 5 are around 4.30 as a team. FLA also had established big leaguers like Pudge, Derrek Lee, Castillo, Lowell, et al. (hell even Juan Pierre was more established that year than most of the Twins starting 9). If Liriano really, really starts burning it up it's certainly possible that they can make it a series against any team, and Blackburn could certainly prove himself in the playoffs, but I just don't see that happening.

Daymonster said...

WV, I agree that the Marlins are a bad example... Cardinals slightly better.

Also, why do you think NYC has 3 times as many people as MN? NYC doesn't even have twice any many people. It's big yes, but not that big.

And even so the city size argument doesn't explain why the Rays have gotten more press and why the White Sox don't get very much either.

I am not complaining since I can get plenty of Twins coverage on the web but I don't think your arguments are entirely accurate.

Anna said...

any = as

albertabound said...

The Rays have been the laughingstock of the league forever, whereas the Twins are rarely worse than mediocre and generally pretty solid. If you think the Twins' success was unexpected this year, then the Rays would be totally unprecedented. Plus, they're on top in a division with Boston and New York. That's why Tampa's getting the press and the Twins aren't.

soup said...

I agree that 03 Marlins are a better playoff than the Twins. But it should be pointed out that the Twins are 5th in runs scored and
8th in era. The 03 Marlins were 8th and 7th respectively. So the regular season comparison isn't that far off.

I also agree that media coverage has bigger factors than population, but New York State has a population of 19.3 mil. Minnesota has a population of 4.9 mil. New York City has a population of 8.3 mil. Minneapolis-St. Paul has a population of 3.5 mil. But it's not really fair, daymonster, to make your argument comparing the population of New York City to that of the state of Minnesota.

Daymonster said...

All I was saying was that WV's argument that NYC had 3 times the amount of people as Minnesota was incorrect. Also my numbers were a little different from yours.

It's obviously much much much bigger.

None of this explains the more press the Cubs get than the White Sox

Holmer said...

Great argument for throwing Kubel out of the power equation. He is getting noticably better at-bats, putting solid contact on the ball lately. I have high hopes for his future.

Forget the Marlins and Cards, what did the Rockies do last year? Can you name the top three pitchers they swept their way into and through the playoffs with? They came to life when they needed to. As a fan, I can expect our boys to kick it up a notch come playoff time. Liriano, Baker, and Blackburn all have good enough stuff to shutdown anybody. The question is, will they do it?

Tom, it must be nice to have an editor.

bizmarkie507 said...

This pitching staff (including Liriano) are too inexperienced, or in Liriannos case, not back to form, to do anything against great teams in the playoffs. This bullpen has only one reliable pitcher in Nathan, and theres just too many other holes. Twins cannot win on the road against bad teams, how are they supposed to win a road series against great teams in the playoffs? Liriano's velocity is still way down and the control isn't there yet. He's pitched fine in his first two starts back, but they were against inferior offenses. He will get lit up against lineups like the white sox, boston, new york, angels, etc.

Gomez will be a fine player in a couple years, but right now he is more of a liability than an asset. Even guys like Span, Casilla, Young, will be much more seasoned in a couple years. Youngs defense especially needs to improve.

My point is, the Twins will be so much more of a threat when all these youngsters get more experience. Why throw away prospects to improve a team that still has too many holes to attempt to make a run in the playoffs in a year that is a rebuilding year?

When your team won't spend 150 mil a year, you have to make your run in cycles. Its the better business decision to build this team for 09-12.

tfrezac2002 said...

If your going to badmouth the Twins, it must be done in both English and French.

Holmer said...

I understand your optimism for the future, but don't count this present club's ability to get hot, and find a playoff berth, to gain that much needed experience that we need for the seasons to come. Confidence and a little success this year can only be promising for what we've been waiting for.

albertabound said...

In my post I said "established" power hitter, which Kubel isn't. Hitting 16 bombs this year doesn't make him a reliable power threat. It makes him a guy who is having a pretty good year. Even if he finishes with 20-25 it doesn't make him a true power hitter at all.

Additionally, the Rockies didn't have to go through the Red Sox/Angels type of AL teams, and look what happened when they met up with them. Yeah. They got slaughtered. The Twins don't have that luxury.