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jorgenswest

Waiting to Rebuild

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I thought and hoped this would be the year where the Twins would go with youth. I should have known better. The direction for the winter roster construction was made clear when they retained Josh Willingham last August.

Earl Battey was the catcher when I first became a young Twin fan. I recall his western oil 8x10 card hanging my wall among other Twin heroes. Those years were great. I didn't know how lucky I was to follow a team that was competitive or at least entertaining every year. There have been several difficult stretches in the 50+ years since. Most difficult were teams that you knew were not going to compete and offered little hope for the future. The late 70s and the 90s were the most difficult until recently.

Twice the Twins emerged from those stretches of mediocrity by going with young players. I remember the 1981-82 Twins well. After the trade of Carew in 1978, the Twins tried to hang on with a 1979 team that had 9 players in their 30s over the course of the season. They were mediocre and you knew they weren't getting better. They flipped the roster and had only two players in their 30s in 1981 and 1982. Ron Washington was 30 and had 470 plate appearances. The other was 30 year old Fernando Arroyo who pitched all of 13.2 innings. While they were awful, the young players also gave hope for the future. The foundation for the good run from 1987-1992 was set in the early 80s.

The next tough stretch ran from 1993-1998. In 1998 they entered the season with one of their oldest roster in team history. The 11 players in their 30s on the roster that year accounted for 2348 plate appearances and 484 innings. They reversed course in 1999 rostering just 5 players in their 30s accounting for 881 plate appearances and 196 innings. They stayed that same course in 2000 with similar numbers. Those teams set the foundation for the next successful run in the 2000s.

While the 1981-82 and 1999-00 teams had a very poor record, they are among my favorite. They offered the hope of young players getting better. A good game is a glimpse of a future from a Gary Gaetti rather than a memory of a past from a Josh Willingham.

Two years ago I wrote about my concern with the Twins entering a cycle of mediocrity with their roster decisions. In truth they would have to improve to become mediocre. Last year, a similar article about projections of their aging offense. They ended the year with their second oldest roster since 1998 and a significant decline in offense.

This year the Twins start the season with 14 players in their 30s. That must be an opening day record for them.

I continue to wait for the shift in direction. The setting of a new foundation. Perhaps it will come next year. A signal of hope for the future.

If not, this article will be written again next year as it has the previous two.

Updated 03-27-2014 at 11:52 PM by jorgenswest

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  1. stringer bell's Avatar
    Agree, agree, agree! Unless the Twins somehow catch lightning in a bottle and everybody has a peak year and they contend, they must turn over the roster to younger, higher ceilinged players. Every player over thirty not born in Minnesota really should be on the block. I was thinking that success this year would be measured by the progress of the young players and when I mentally went through them, I realized how many over-30s were on the team. I still stand by that definition of success: It will be a good year if Arcia, Gibson, Pinto, and Hicks establish themselves and I'll add Plouffe to that list.

    The Twins will open with only one player born in the '90s (Osvaldo Arcia) and two born in the '70s (Bartlett & Willingham)
    Updated 03-28-2014 at 07:04 AM by stringer bell
  2. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
    Nice write-up, Jorgenswest.

    Very few teams make significant improvements without getting younger. In the past couple of decades only the Yankees have had the money to have a team of aging players who are good enough to be in a HOF conversation.

    The other teams get better by getting new blood in the lineup.

    p.s. Earl Battey was a favorite of mine, too
  3. Willihammer's Avatar
    I loved the 1999-2000 teams too. But you didn't need to be a genius to see that Hunter, Cuddyer, Pierzynski, Radke, Koskie, Mientkewicz, and Jones had real talent.

    Escobar, Parmelee, Hendriks, Robertson, Worley, Herrmann... I just don't get the same feeling from most of the young guys we have seen recently.
  4. AScheib50's Avatar
    I would love the idea of them going younger and not clinging to some of these older guys, but the problem is the young guys aren't ready yet or they are hurt(ie: Sano). It's starting to become painfully clear this year is not the youth movement year...maybe next year, or if we are lucky things change this summer and they go young.

    If you look at our division rivals, the White Sox, they did the youth movement thing this offseason...not sure what the Twins were waiting for...we will see how things turn out I guess.
  5. beckmt's Avatar
    Problem with going younger is that the younger Twins players have just hit AA. Most of the Twins AAA farm club is that the players have already have had their chances and failed. Wait until next year hopefully.
  6. ND-Fan's Avatar
    I think they are heading for rebuilding the Twins pitching staff looks like it structured to be pitching staff for the future as you look the players they signed will come off when there young pitching prospects are projected to be ready and will have one veteran pitcher available to lead these young kids in the future on contract. Offense is on old side but were seeing beginning of change over already with Hicks, Arcia, Pinto and I would include Dozier. Look by year end we could see likes Buxton doing September call up and for sure we would have seen Sano being called up. My guess next year we could see lineup of the following Buxton center, Arcia in left field, and Hicks in Right Field. Pinto Catching, Florimin at SS and Santanna pushing him, Dozier at second, Mauer at First, Sano at third, and Plouffe if he has good year as backup 3 baseman and outfielder. Pitching could be Myer, Gibson, Nolasco, Hughes, Pelfry and number of young pitchers pushing to make the team. I think this what Twins are looking at them selves you would have Sano and Buxton at 21 and 22; Arcia (24) and Hicks and Pinto (26); Flormin, Dozier, Plouffe, Gibson, and Hughes at 27-28, and leaving Nolasco, Mauer, Pelfry and Perkins as 30 years olds on the team. Not a very old team and number players just coming into their prime playing years 27 to 30. Some older pitchers but with Gibson and Myers in their middle 20's very nice balance of young to old pitcher. Also with number of future prospects being able to fill in for some of older players if injuries would occur. The big question will be if these players can produce offense at major league level. I think all of them are good enough defensively to play at major league level. The whole problem with this scenario we have go threw this season which could be long season if some these players don't start producing better than they have shown this spring. They have given Twins nothing that they can sell to the fans why they should be excited about this team. Pitching will be better but not near good enough to win if this team doesn't start producing some offense.
  7. bear333's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by stringer bell
    Agree, agree, agree! Unless the Twins somehow catch lightning in a bottle and everybody has a peak year and they contend, they must turn over the roster to younger, higher ceilinged players. Every player over thirty not born in Minnesota really should be on the block. I was thinking that success this year would be measured by the progress of the young players and when I mentally went through them, I realized how many over-30s were on the team. I still stand by that definition of success: It will be a good year if Arcia, Gibson, Pinto, and Hicks establish themselves and I'll add Plouffe to that list.

    The Twins will open with only one player born in the '90s (Osvaldo Arcia) and two born in the '70s (Bartlett & Willingham)
    I have been pulling my hair out all spring about this. Their only hope was to go young, and they have the players to do it. I think this is about Gardenhire not wanting to deal with young players. Which is why he should have been replaced last year. Gardenhire, Willingham, Kubel and Bartlett should excuse themselves from the Twins and join a seniors softball team.
  8. bear333's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by stringer bell
    Agree, agree, agree! Unless the Twins somehow catch lightning in a bottle and everybody has a peak year and they contend, they must turn over the roster to younger, higher ceilinged players. Every player over thirty not born in Minnesota really should be on the block. I was thinking that success this year would be measured by the progress of the young players and when I mentally went through them, I realized how many over-30s were on the team. I still stand by that definition of success: It will be a good year if Arcia, Gibson, Pinto, and Hicks establish themselves and I'll add Plouffe to that list.

    The Twins will open with only one player born in the '90s (Osvaldo Arcia) and two born in the '70s (Bartlett & Willingham)
    The Twins brain trust have discovered a new way to frustrate the fans and assure another loosing season: They have created the unique situation of having six, that is right, six legitimate starting pitchers who will receive no run support this year. Thanks for creating a whole new reason not to come out to watch a game.
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