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What Happened to the Twins? by Elliot Mann

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#1 markos

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 10:52 AM

There is a thorough autopsy of the Bill Smith era posted on Baseball Prospectus today. It is a fantastic article, and I highly recommend everyone to read it.

http://www.baseballp...articleid=22388

I don't necessarily think that every issue raised in the article should be leveled solely at Bill Smith, but it is quite damning to see every bad decision laid out in detail. You may need a stiff drink to get through it.

Edited by markos, 10 December 2013 - 11:30 AM.


#2 Rosterman

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 11:23 AM

The tough part was the Twins decisions on free agents. The new Target Field hailed "we will be able to keep our own players." The Twins felt the need to take something for Santana. There were ncie rumors about packages from the Yankees and the Red Sox, sprinkled with the Twins playing hardball. Would they have been better to keep Johan and deal him mid-season?

They managed to let Hunter, Nathan, Cuddyer, Kubel walk. There seemed to be a gentleman's agreement that they wouldn't swap the guys out for prospects because they might come back, on a reduced contract, because they wanted to be Twins. Didn't happen. The Twins absically got nothing in exchange except big holes.

The Hardy decision was unique. They traded for a solid shortstop going with another arbitration year left, yet the Twins were afraid of having to do a big payout for a guy who gave them much more than Florimon ever will, especially after trading away Gomez for Hardy (who, like Hicks, needed more time in the minors, but then the Twins were dealing with strength as Span and Revere were in the wings). Hardy ended up signing a decent multi-year contract that the Twins could've handled easily.

No one will ever be able to explain Toshi and how he ended up being so bad. That the Twins were able to get out of Year 3 was a blessing.

The case of Delmon Young is strange. A guy who still has all the potential in the world, who (if he works at it) can play the field, give you a decent average, hit some dingers...but still lucky to make a million a year while his contemporaries are raking in $15-20 million dollar contracts. He is a story that needs to be explored. What happened?

No, the toughest decisions made by the Twins were the players to keep and the players to let walk, the prices paid, and the prices they didn't pay. Yes, we had Nathan and a $20+ million bullpen at one time. We have a better one now at half that price. Was Garza the guy to lock up long-term and why did the Twins NOT do that? What is the real story behind Francisco Liriano and his attitude with the team, from losing arbitration value to sitting out for surgery to not listening to coaches to listening too much to coaches....did he just need to go? Do we need someone that can speak a better language to some players than we have?

Was Willingham at 25% cheaper a better choice than Cuddyer? Is the Mauer contract really strapping the Twins? Did Kubel deserve to play in the National league outfield when he could've been a nice DH for the Twins at the right price? Who the hell loved Matt Capps and wouldn't Ramos look good behind-the-plate right now?

The failure was still in not keeping your own players (or trying to keep them too cheap) or not playing Billy Beane ball and actually getting something, anything of potential value in return. The Twins, like the A's, were an organization combining system draftees with rejects and some careful moves that placed a competitive team on the field (not a total winner) with the one item NOW that distinguishes them from the A's -- they COULD go out and spend money mid-season and get that single or maybe two players that might carry them further into the post-season.
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#3 mike wants wins

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 11:25 AM

Not one mention of the "prospects" that Smith inherited when he took over. Not one mention of TR not signing Hunter the year before, when he said he would sign. Barely a mention of Sano at all. Not one mention of Gardy's role in any of the decisions.

look, Smith was not good at his job. But the reason they have no one in their prime on this roster right now (Dozier?) that they drafted is about the time before Smith, not during Smith. If it takes 5 years for a HS player to come up (or longer)......when would the players that would come up in Smith's year's as GM (or even 1-3 years later) have been drafted? Before Smith was there.

I get it, we all get it. Bill Smith is the reason this team is devoid of good players. It isn't on the time before him somehow, it isn't about the scouts that advised him, it isn't about the owner not wanting to pay for Mauer and two other expensive players, it isn't about Gardy and the need for MIF speed.....it is all on Bill Smith.
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#4 Boom Boom

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 11:31 AM

Not one mention of the "prospects" that Smith inherited when he took over. Not one mention of TR not signing Hunter the year before, when he said he would sign. Barely a mention of Sano at all. Not one mention of Gardy's role in any of the decisions.

look, Smith was not good at his job. But the reason they have no one in their prime on this roster right now (Dozier?) that they drafted is about the time before Smith, not during Smith. If it takes 5 years for a HS player to come up (or longer)......when would the players that would come up in Smith's year's as GM (or even 1-3 years later) have been drafted? Before Smith was there.

I get it, we all get it. Bill Smith is the reason this team is devoid of good players. It isn't on the time before him somehow, it isn't about the scouts that advised him, it isn't about the owner not wanting to pay for Mauer and two other expensive players, it isn't about Gardy and the need for MIF speed.....it is all on Bill Smith.


I don't think this article is aimed squarely at Bill Smith at all.

"This is not purely an indictment of Bill Smith. The Twins employ a vast network of scouts and other talent evaluators, front office personnel who should have had contingency plans in place for the 2007 offseason long before Smith ascended to general manager. The Twins’ long-standing player development philosophies—strike-throwing pitchers with limited upside; speedy, slap-hitting middle infielders in the mold of a traditional no. 2 hitter—left them predisposed to misjudge the talent in front of them."

It does seem to indicate that the bottom dropped out when Smith took the helm, which I disagree with. The stage had been set before TR stepped down.

It doesn't, however, claim the Twins problems are magically fixed now that TR is back in the saddle.

#5 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 12:02 PM

I don't think this article is aimed squarely at Bill Smith at all.

"This is not purely an indictment of Bill Smith. The Twins employ a vast network of scouts and other talent evaluators, front office personnel who should have had contingency plans in place for the 2007 offseason long before Smith ascended to general manager. The Twins’ long-standing player development philosophies—strike-throwing pitchers with limited upside; speedy, slap-hitting middle infielders in the mold of a traditional no. 2 hitter—left them predisposed to misjudge the talent in front of them."

It does seem to indicate that the bottom dropped out when Smith took the helm, which I disagree with. The stage had been set before TR stepped down.

It doesn't, however, claim the Twins problems are magically fixed now that TR is back in the saddle.


Yep. The article doesn't blame Smith for the mediocre farm he inherited.

But giving up 50 wins and receiving less than 10 in return. Crikey. That's awful.

#6 Lonestar

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 12:07 PM

What was the forecast about Bill Smith's tenure? by Keith Law, I think. Something about brutal and short.

#7 Thrylos

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 12:21 PM

This is way too one sided... and silly. Because Smith was an administrator and he delegated baseball personnel related decisions to his direct reports. Those are the ones who made those decisions and those are the ones who are still making them. e.g Wasn't Gardy the one who was on the record saying that Hardy was too slow and he wanted Nishioka's speed? or wasn't during Smith's time that some of the top Twins' talent right now (Sano, Rosario, Polanco, Kepler, Vargas etc?) was signed? Or if Smith did not make the deadline trades in 2010, which TR would had not, because prospects were involved, the Twins likely would had not make the post-season.

And for the record: The Twins' under Smith had a better record than the Twins under Ryan's second coming. TR's magic want did nothing in 2012 and 2013, did it?

I expected more by B-P...
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#8 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 12:30 PM

What was the forecast about Bill Smith's tenure? by Keith Law, I think. Something about brutal and short.


Yep. Law was painfully accurate with that prediction.

#9 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 12:31 PM

And for the record: The Twins' under Smith had a better record than the Twins under Ryan's second coming. TR's magic want did nothing in 2012 and 2013, did it?


That's not even remotely fair and you know it. Smith inherited a mediocre, sometimes decent, ballclub. He had a two-time Cy Young winner. He had a very good young starter and a couple of promising young starters.

Ryan inherited an abomination of an MLB club whose sole standout player was Joe Mauer.

#10 darin617

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 12:39 PM

The Pohlad boys is what happened to the Twins. They only want to make more money and don't care to put a decent product on the field.

#11 ashburyjohn

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 12:42 PM

The metric he used for measuring trades, WARP accrued only while the player(s) played for the respective team(s), makes a one-year stay by a player look worse than it is. Clearly the value gotten in return for Hardy was bad, by any conceivable metric, but the trade that brought Hardy here in the first place was far more balanced than this writer prefers to make it look. I stopped caring about the article at that point; just a hatchet job.

Smith needed to go, and the Nishioka deal and the second Hardy trade were IMO the triggers, not because of the results but because of the process that we later learned about. This article didn't go into any of that.

#12 ashburyjohn

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 12:48 PM

What was the forecast about Bill Smith's tenure? by Keith Law, I think. Something about brutal and short.


http://www.nyfutures...7&view=previous

"SportsNation Keith Law: (1:15 PM ET ) I think the Bill Smith Era in Minnesota will be poor, nasty, brutish, and short"

A takeoff of a famous quote by Thomas Hobbes about what life would be like without authority: "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

#13 big dog

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 12:51 PM

The Pohlad boys is what happened to the Twins. They only want to make more money and don't care to put a decent product on the field.


Who did you prefer to them- Smilin' Carl or Calvin?

#14 gunnarthor

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 01:04 PM

A minor quibble but the value of what we gave up for in Santana should only be one season - after that he was a free agent and those years weren't traded.

#15 JB_Iowa

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 01:05 PM

I am not a Bill Smith fan -- I was begging for him to be fired in 2011 -- but I consider what happened to be a massive organizational failure, not just a failure of the GM (although I certainly think he was in over his head).

I actually think that what happened is that the Twins were distracted. They began to anticipate the opening of TF and the new revenue streams it would bring and began to think more about marketing and publicity than they did the product on the field (I think both the Mauer and Nishioka signings were based primarily on marketing rather than baseball.) To some extent they got away from the idea of making every penny count and they did squander some of their assets. I think Bill Smith & Co. thought they were "going for it" with some of their decisions (Matt Capps, anyone?) -- even though they appeared questionable to many fans.

Despite his years with the organization, Bill Smith seemed a bit of an odd choice for G.M. Neither someone in a traditional mold who had risen from the scouting ranks or someone in the new "wunderkind" mold who understands and uses statistical analysis. As stated above, he was really an administrator and I'm not sure he had a solid framework for analyzing the information provided to him by others. And I think that the way he prioritized the "voices" was different than someone who had either a strong scouting background OR a strong statistical analysis background -- I think that's why Gardenhire may have gotten as much "say" as it appears he had.

Would the organization be in better shape if Terry Ryan had been G.M. from 2007-2011? I'm not sure. I think he might have been better able to keep the organization focused on "every penny counting" but I think the opening of TF was going to have some impact on their thinking regardless of who was G.M. Plus, they were cyclically at a point where they were faced with tough decisions.

The organization seems to have swung back to a very small market mindset over the last 2 years. It is only now, after the misery of the last 3 years and an OWNER who finally stepped up and made it clear that there was $$$ available to be spent and that should be spent, where it seems to me that the Twins are finally finding their footing as a "small-to-midmarket" team. A place where they follow the small market mindset of building the farm and acquiring prospects but where they ALSO can take some monetary risks in free agency.

They still need to make every dollar count. But maybe now they can watch every dollar instead of every penny.

Edited by JB_Iowa, 10 December 2013 - 01:08 PM.


#16 mike wants wins

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 01:30 PM

Good point on TF... a "regular" business analogy is that when big companies build new corporate HQs, their stock generally drops. It is hypothosized that leadership gets distracted, and does not lead as well......
Lighten up Francis....

#17 johnnydakota

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 02:07 PM

Yep. The article doesn't blame Smith for the mediocre farm he inherited.

But giving up 50 wins and receiving less than 10 in return. Crikey. That's awful.


And where was his special senor advisior when this happened?
After 20 years of failing to accomplsh what he was hired for,
( what is the Minnesote Twins mission statment?...W.S. champion)
shouldnt this legacy employee finally be held accountible?

Edited by johnnydakota, 10 December 2013 - 02:33 PM.


#18 Winston Smith

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 02:08 PM

We know Smith wasn't a player evel guy or scout so it would be nice to know who was involved in the trades and signings. The minors actually got better under Smith mainly because he wasn't afraid of spending money while Ryan drafted a lot with signability a factor. There is no doubt Sano/Kepler would not be with the Twins if Ryan had been in charge.

I really think this was a team effort and the entire team is still in place and calling the shots. Shifted a few offices around but the same poeple in them.

May all our prospects be All Stars and the beer be free.


#19 cmb0252

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 02:26 PM

Whom ever is on top gets the blame rightfully so or not. Bill Smith didn't do a good job but so didn't a lot of other people. To drop off as fast as we did there had to be a perfect storm of screw ups. Drafting, trading, resigning, and player development.

#20 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 02:30 PM

And where was his special senor advisior when this happened?


I have no idea... And neither do you.

Smith's name was on the plaque. For good or bad, he's the guy who gets the accolades and blame for bad decisions.

#21 mike wants wins

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 02:32 PM

And yet, Ryan gets little blame for the last three years, because of Smith. Odd, that.
Lighten up Francis....

#22 mike wants wins

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 02:32 PM

He tried to replace 60% of his rotation, and made it worse, and yet, everyone can't stop praising him.
Lighten up Francis....

#23 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 02:35 PM

And yet, Ryan gets little blame for the last three years, because of Smith. Odd, that.


You'll be hard pressed to find anybody around here who actually liked last offseason's free agency pickups so no, he didn't get a pass.

Ryan inherited an awful team. Not just bad, awful. I'm the first to say that he didn't do enough to improve that team via free agency during his first two years... But he's done a bang-up job in almost every other avenue of player acquisition. On a rebuilding team, I'll take the guy who sucks at signing free agents and rocks the draft and trades than a guy who does the inverse.

#24 Thrylos

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 02:38 PM

I have no idea... And neither do you.

Smith's name was on the plaque. For good or bad, he's the guy who gets the accolades and blame for bad decisions.


And Ryan gets rewarded for 2012 with the removal of the "interim" title and gets zero blame for 2013.

Guess when "Terry Ryan" is on the plaque, the plaque is made from Teflon.
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#25 TheLeviathan

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 02:38 PM

A minor quibble but the value of what we gave up for in Santana should only be one season - after that he was a free agent and those years weren't traded.


Combined with the unfair portrayal of Hardy-Gomez and it takes some of the teeth out of this. Also when you factor in Ryan's decisions that backed us into a corner on Hunter and Santana.

#26 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 02:39 PM

Honest but dumb question for all the war mongers but I'm not afraid to ask it. The author writes:

"[COLOR=#000000][FONT=Arial]How bad were the trades made by the Twins from 2007 to 2011? In all of the major trades combined, the Twins received 9.3 wins above replacement level. They gave away 50.4 wins. In Smith's four years, then, the Twins traded away 10.275 wins per year."[/FONT][/COLOR]

Does this mean that, on autopilot, the Twins record over 2008-2010 would or should have been:

2008: 98-74
2009: 96-66
2010: 104-58

#27 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 02:41 PM

And Ryan gets rewarded for 2012 with the removal of the "interim" title and gets zero blame for 2013.

Guess when "Terry Ryan" is on the plaque, the plaque is made from Teflon.


Yeah, it's a real shame he didn't turn around a 63 win team in 12 months.

Theo Epstein would have... Oh, wait.

Sigh.

Ryan has not done everything right since he came back. He was too tentative with free agents, he didn't fully punt on 2012/2013 like he should have... But he's also turned around this farm system. He's made some good trades. His drafts have gone off like gangbusters. He's now spending money on free agency. This team is on the cusp of returning to respectability.

#28 Thrylos

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 02:43 PM

Ryan inherited an awful team. Not just bad, awful.


And Ryan inherited a team 2 years away from a world championship and a year away from a 90 win season, managed to trade its core away and end up with a perennial 90 loss team. Or do we want to forget that?
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#29 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 02:44 PM

And Ryan inherited a team 2 years away from a world championship and a year away from a 90 win season, managed to trade its core away and end up with a perennial 90 loss team. Or do we want to forget that?


So now we're holding Ryan's 1994 season against him? Sorry, but that's way too far back for me to care.

#30 birdwatcher

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 02:48 PM

The Pohlad boys is what happened to the Twins. They only want to make more money and don't care to put a decent product on the field.


Is this sarcasm?