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Thread: Wa Po: Weird Story About Span Leaving the Twins

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    Owner All-Star John Bonnes's Avatar
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    Wa Po: Weird Story About Span Leaving the Twins

    Kind of a weird story by Adam Kilgore about Denard Span starting fresh with the Nationals. There are a lot of Twins references, stuff that sounds like grumbling that could only come from Span, but it falls short of following through. Like this:

    After the Twins selected him in the first round in 2002, the hitting instruction he received felt like a barrage. They wanted to change the way he hit, the swing he had taught himself.


    The Twins altered his mechanics, taking away his natural athleticism and trying to give him a more traditional approach. He had never thought much about his swing, and the tinkering wore on him. He wanted to follow every instruction, to make his coaches happy, and he thought too much.


    "I had a hard time," Span said. "My natural ability wasn't doing what it needed to be doing, because I'm thinking too much. I'm thinking about everything that I've never thought about."
    And then....nothing. The story moves on to his concussion. Did he reject those changes? Did he modify those suggestions when he broke through in AAA? Is he still doing that? Is he looking forward to ditching them? It references them and doesn't tell us what happened.

    He also talks candidly about the impact of the concussion on his emotions:

    "I'm just sitting in my chair feeling worthless," Span said. "When you go through concussions, I later found your emotions change. I feel like I had estrogen in me or something. Every little thing bothered me. I was moody all the time. There were just a lot of components that had entered into my body I had never felt."
    Yeah, certainly seemed to be the case. The article suggests that yoga has helped with that, but it isn't clear that is what is has done. Like I said, weird story....

    Former Twin Denard Span visualizing a fresh start with Nationals - TwinCities.com

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    Head Moderator All-Star glunn's Avatar
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    This article makes me wonder whether the minor league coaches are ruining some of the young hitters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by glunn View Post
    This article makes me wonder whether the minor league coaches are ruining some of the young hitters.
    The Twins have 5 Hitters in the MLB Top 100 Prospects - The instructors may mess up 1 guys swing along the way, but I would say that the overall results are positive. I'm sure Span put a mixture to his swing as well (his and Twins way). Worked out either way for him.

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    Twins Moderator MVP Riverbrian's Avatar
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    No stride Span. It works for him. Sounds like he must have been no striding walking into the system...

    I could see a coach saying "what'd you doing? No no no... lets start from the basics and rework this swing".

    I can see a kid like Span listening to the coach and getting screwed up in the process.
    Last edited by Riverbrian; 02-09-2013 at 07:54 AM.

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    I would imagine that the level of instruction any 18 year old experiences going from high school ball to professional minor league instruction would feel like a "barrage". Here's my take. If a hitter is hitting successfully for whatever his skill set is at his level of competence, chances are, the hitting instructor isn't doing much to change his approach. If I remember correctly, Span's numbers in the lower minors weren't overwhelming and those numbers didn't necessarily suggest MLB success until he hit AAA. I agree though John, the article does a disservice by not going further and answering those questions you bring up.

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    Senior Member Big-Leaguer minn55441's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by silverslugger View Post
    I would imagine that the level of instruction any 18 year old experiences going from high school ball to professional minor league instruction would feel like a "barrage". Here's my take. If a hitter is hitting successfully for whatever his skill set is at his level of competence, chances are, the hitting instructor isn't doing much to change his approach. If I remember correctly, Span's numbers in the lower minors weren't overwhelming and those numbers didn't necessarily suggest MLB success until he hit AAA. I agree though John, the article does a disservice by not going further and answering those questions you bring up.
    I agree, as 17 or 18 year old the world looks different. Denard was also a little different, very well spoken and a little more cerebral than most. I can see him sitting back and thinking about his days as a young player in the system and questioning the instruction he received.

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    Quote Originally Posted by glunn View Post
    This article makes me wonder whether the minor league coaches are ruining some of the young hitters.
    I would look at it the other way. This article might help explain why Twins hitting prospects often seem to take a dip in the low minors and then start to emerge as they get to AA. Instead of letting them have success in the low minors on natural talent that will be exposed as they climb the ladder, the Twins force them to change mechanics that will lead to some initial struggles but will ultimately lead to longer term success at higher levels.
    Papers...business papers.

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    Senior Member All-Star Thrylos's Avatar
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    Span was either a very good Span (getting on bases, stealing bases, getting to balls in CF) or a very bad Span (looking at strike 3, getting picked off 1B, not getting to balls etc etc.) I think that this article really hits the nail on the head about what had been wrong with bad Span, but one has to read between the lines (emphasis mine) :

    He had never thought much about his swing, and the tinkering wore on him. He wanted to follow every instruction, to make his coaches happy, and he thought too much.
    "I had a hard time," Span said. "My natural ability wasn't doing what it needed to be doing, because I'm thinking too much. I'm thinking about everything that I've never thought about."
    I later found your emotions change. I feel like I had estrogen in me or something. Every little thing bothered me. I was moody all the time. There were just a lot of components that had entered into my body I had never felt."
    "When you have a concussion, mentally everything is distraught," Span said. "Your mind is psychologically, mentally, you're all over the place. It was good for me last year to find yoga, just to bring all that back to that centered place."
    "It's almost like the season is fast-forwarding in my mind," Span said. "I want to be the best I can be. I want to be an all-star."
    I think that the "bad Span" has been "thinking too much" or try to figure ways to make himself better. The "good Span" just went out there and played... And the difference was obvious on the field, on the bases and at bats.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lightfoot789 View Post
    The Twins have 5 Hitters in the MLB Top 100 Prospects - The instructors may mess up 1 guys swing along the way, but I would say that the overall results are positive. I'm sure Span put a mixture to his swing as well (his and Twins way). Worked out either way for him.
    Im guessing the instructor they have is trying to pigeon hole all hitters into the Twins way...
    Instead of trying bring out a new draftys best attributes
    Hopefuly this has changed and they now see and know there are several approaches .

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    Why have instruction at all if not to change and improve approach? Wouldn't almost any 18 year old have parts of their approach and swing that they would need change to progress through the minors? With that change will come struggle and set back as Denard encountered in the minors.

    Of the 41 players drafted in the first round + supplemental that year Span ranks 6th in career WAR while being picked 20th. Wouldn't that suggest that the Twins did a reasonably good job of selecting and developing his talent?

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    Span was drafted a decade ago, changes have been made at every level since. That being said, at the time the Twins were riding with low contact, low OBP Jacque Jones in the leadoff spot and few other options in the pipeline. It would not be out of the question that there was an organizational mandate to ensure Span's approach at the plate would be more like a traditional leadoff hitter.
    Last edited by nicksaviking; 02-09-2013 at 10:26 AM.

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    Many years ago now, a guy from my home town was selected in the late rounds of the draft by the Cinncinati Reds. He had had a 4 year career at a small college and was sent to a short season league. He proceeded to win the batting title that summer, so they sent him to winter instructionals in Florida. The hitting instructor decided to change his swing. Naturally, he struggled with that for the next 2 years and then was released.

    There is 2 ways to look at this. Changing someone's natural swing isn't likely to be an easy thing and has a good chance of not working very well. On the other hand, if you don't have much chance of getting to the majors with your natural swing, there isn't a lot to lose.

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    Senior Member Big-Leaguer Twins Twerp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glunn View Post
    This article makes me wonder whether the minor league coaches are ruining some of the young hitters.
    Ya poor Span and how the hitting instructors ruined his swing. The guy is a staring mlb centerfielder. Span is a stubborn child so of course he thougjt as a kid they were ruining his swing. Now the guy is making bank and it is because the twins instructors changed the swing he found. Newsflash: these guys have been developing the best young centerfielder s for decades. Puckett, hunter, span, revere, hicks, and soon buxton. Sounds like span should be grateful that the twins drafted him and took time to develop him. Other organizations wouldnt have been as patient with him.

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    I don't think we can necessarily infer that just because they tried to change his swing, they were wrong. I mean if the best thing to do is just leave guys alone to rely on their "natural talent", then everyone should just fire their hitting coaches.

    However, here's a piece from a couple of years ago where Denard basically accuses the Twins of trying to turn him from a guy who drove the ball into a slap hitter, something he had never been before:
    Twins' Span recalls Class A days - SweetSpot Blog - ESPN

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    Twins Moderator MVP Riverbrian's Avatar
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    A hitting coach can help you and a hitting coach can hurt you and a hitting coach can have little to no influence at all.

    I have no idea if Span's swing was over tinkered or under tinkered.

    I will say this... Not many baseball players use the no-stride swing that Denard Span has and he uses the it very well. This makes him a bit of an oddity and hopefully all of our instructors understood this and worked with it... Instead of a cookie cutter approach.

    I have no idea how Span was handled even after reading the articles but I assume that the Twins and every organazation have made mistakes over the years in player development.

  16. #16
    Twins Moderator All-Star twinsnorth49's Avatar
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    Getting by with your "natural ability" is easier in high school and college, you need to develop actual technique and discipline in the upper minors and especially in the big leagues. Sounds like a bit of ego as well.

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    The King In The North All-Star Nick Nelson's Avatar
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    I heard from people close the organization that Span took the publicized trade rumors in 2011 very personally and some days wouldn't even come out to the ballpark late in the year. I was always sort of perplexed by this – doesn't Span understand the business of baseball? – but if his emotions were screwy due to the recent concussion, it would make a lot of sense.

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    Senior Member All-Star Willihammer's Avatar
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    Span also holds the bat with a small gap between his hands. One of a kind type swing.

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    Who was the hitting coach? Coaches are suppose to be helpful not forceful. Concussions are bad. They change your life forever. Maybe that is what he is trying to say and still trying to over come. Moody, the blame game, worthlessness, grumbling, estrogen. every little thing bother him, that is hard to over come. He is dreaming of being a hero for the Nats to try to over come theses feelings. Concussions are hard to over come and to explain, from happiness to just a sadness.

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    Senior Member All-Star Badsmerf's Avatar
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    I think the Twins are doing a pretty good job with their minor league hitters. They haven't had many high profile prospects flop and the ones that do never make it elsewhere.
    Do or do not. There is no try.

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