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A Total System's Failure - Part II

Posted by mike8791 , 14 January 2017 · 1,611 views

My first blog on TD site. Hope you enjoy!!

As background, while terribly discouraged about the team's 2016 season, I must say there was a major silver lining : recognition by ownership that Ryan and Company had failed miserably in his second attempt at a rebuild. Finding new baseball leadership was a breath of fresh air this dormant franchise has needed for so long now. The good old boy network was finally broken with new, young, forward-thinking leadership with Falvey/Levine, or so we all hoped. While retention of Molitor was a dark cloud, as was retention of the pitching coaches, the 2016 postseason was something all true Twins fans were eagerly anticipating.

Granted our new leaders have only been on board less than 3 months so it is unfair to grade this duo, but I am troubled by several patterns that have appeared so far that are strong indications that the new team might not be so different from the old. Let's take a look at some troubling trends:

1. Instead of firing the pitching coach, who has been of little help to veterans(Gibson, Santiago, to name two) or rookies(Berrios comes to mind here) in his two years at the helm, F&L fire Bruno who was certainly not a roaring success either and undoubtedly earned his dismissal and hired a guy, Rowson, who might be a great communicator but certainly failed to take the brass ring with both the Cubs and Yanks. When new ownership took over the Cubs, they started afresh but dismissing Rowson; similarly, while he was rehired by the Yankees as minor league hitting instructor, he was not promoted to the major league team when an opening arose. These are two organizations who wanted to win at all costs and went elsewhere for a major league hitting coach. That fact alone should send warning signals to an organization desperate for top level coaching talent.

2. The one offseason addition, Jason Castro, was hired essentially for his defense, especially his pitch framing abilities, or so we are told. Finding a good defensive catcher is certainly a real need for this team and this move no doubt represents an upgrade at a critical position. In terms of offense, however, his prior stats give little hope he will be as good as his predecessor, Suzuki, which is not saying very much.

3. While hitting is considered a relative strength of this lineup(at least compared to the pitching), it is still a leap of faith to think this will be any more than an average team hitting-wise in 2017. First of all, they have likely taken a small step back at catcher, they have lost a pretty consistent hitter in Plouffe, their run production was buoyed by a career season(most likely) from Dozier. But as most followers acknowledged, improved hitting on this team is largely dependent on a big step forward by first or second year players. The likelihood is some will progress, others will regress. The net effect of the new lineup looks, at least to this observer, highly likely to have some difficulty equaling last year's production. Obviously, this scenario can change greatly if both Sano and Buxton start performing like the all stars most experts think they could become.

4. As has been pointed out, surprisingly, some well established bats remain free agents, even at this late date. With below average offensive numbers at 2 supposed power positions, first base and DH, there is certainly a need for some additional offense. Remember the jolt Jim Thome gave to the Twins in 2010? Granted no one expects the Twins to contend for the division title this year, but that doesn't mean F&L shouldn't be agressive in going after the likes of Bautista, Napoli or Trumbo if they are willing to sign incentive-laden one year deals. But word out of the FO is that such a deal isn't likely unless the numbers drop significantly. This sounds like the thinking of a Terry Ryan who never met a free agent that he thought offered good value. Ryan's ;ack of risk taking was a prime reason the good Twin teams in the 00's could never get over the hump. Are Mauer, Vargas, and Park such valuable players that they should block free agents who could help? No, they will not bring us into contention in 2017, but their presence might provide a spark like Thome dis, especially by showing these young players that managment is committed to winning, both in the present and near future.

5. In turning to pitching, let's first focus on the bullpen, where going into the new season, more question marks exist than we had a year ago, when most of on this site were clamoring for dumpster-diving Terry to add some established arms from a relatively deep free agent class of relievers. As usual, Ryan did nothing, Perkins' decline accelerated, May proved fragile and unreliable, and Jepsen turned back into a pumpkin - a result most casual observers predicted in reviewing his past history, and the Twins' bullpen contributed mightily to a historically bad season. With more question marks going into spring training the new "brain trust" has done nothing noteworthy to give one hope for improvement in the new addition of the pen. Last year we saw very little help from the highly touted flame throwers in the farm system and yet, going forward, the new team seems to be relying on a wing and a prayer that somehow things will be better. Sound familiar? Nick had the idea that Neftali Perez would make for a relatively inexpensive pickup that would most certainly bolster the all important back end of the bullpen. That hope seemingly has evaporated with today's report that he is close to signing with the Brewers.

6. And of course we have to end with the team's biggest weakness - the rotation. Certainly, no one expects mgt to spring for big dollars on a free agent, particularly with the mediocre supply. The plan of swapping our one star player for immediate pitching help seemed to hold out high hopes for the start, at least, of a turnaround. Enough debate has centered on the impasse between the Dodgers and Twins that we won't try to place blame on either side for getting it done. The one fact remains: not trading Dozier for rotation help has to be considered a massive failure in the stated rebuilding process. I reqalize the market for Dozier is more limited than we had hoped, but an agressive front office must remain proactive in getting this done. Passive leadership will stress being fair to the Dozier family, set a deadline, etc., but this is not what a hungry GM does;instead, they must be more creative, work to uncover more willing trade partners, even in a multiple club trade, or take on an unwelcome contract if necessary to bolster the team's weakest link. Waiting for LA to stoop to giving up another of their baubles is just not acceptable for a team(and new managment) clearing in a rebuilding mode.

BtW, this is not the rant of some Twin fan disappointed over the Dozier to Dodgers failure. Nor is it a prediction that the F&L boys are no better than the previous regime. It truly is too soon to tell, but the portents are certainly discouraging. The new team seems unagressive in fixing some areas of the team that cry for improvement. Obviously, one major move is not going to do it, but by now this group should have demonstrated more creativity and gumption than shown so far. This is a Ryan redux offseason. With statistics, new theories, etc., you can put lipstick on a pig but.......

As pointed out earlier there were some excellent opportunities for making a bold statement to long-suffering Twins' fans - dave Dombrowski, Cherington, McLeod, et. al. Ownership went with a totally untested team. Unlike the world champion Cubs, who spent money to get the best people available, Pohlad went the other way, finding people who were unproven, who were no doubt much cheaper(and more compliant with ownership dictates) to add, and most likely not the best executives available. Unfortunately, total systems failures begin and end with MR. Pohlad. Until he sells this team to a group totally immersed in winning a championship, we will continue to see half hearted attempts to get this team to respectability, at best.




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theBOMisthebomb
Jan 14 2017 03:26 PM
Let's give the "F&L boys" some time to really show us what they are all about. Rome wasn't built in a day and they were left quite a mess. I like the foundation of the lineup with the young guys Kepler, Buxton, Sano, et al. Not certain what to do with the starting rotation other than to go as young as realistically possible and let them take their lumps and progress. To your point # 4 - I feel if they add another legitimate bat to the lineup such as Bautista and get a few good seasons from unexpected sources then they could possibly contend for a wild card spot. It is not much to hang your hat on, though at least it would be something.
    • HitInAPinch likes this

According to (I believe it was on ESPN 1500) Levine spoke of some big moves next week, give it some time.Hasty moves are almost always the worst.

It is way too early to judge this front office at this time.That is a 2-3 year thing.Improvements to the pitching staff will make a big difference.We shall see where it goes.

    • tarheeltwinsfan and HitInAPinch like this
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HitInAPinch
Jan 15 2017 07:42 AM

I think people should remember that this new management team got a late start because of the playoffs.During the Winter Meetings, Falvey and Levine were just starting to interview current off-field staff.And they needed to add/change that staff to modernize baseball operations. 

 

I think people should remember that this new management team got a late start because of the playoffs.During the Winter Meetings, Falvey and Levine were just starting to interview current off-field staff.And they needed to add/change that staff to modernize baseball operations. 

Thanks for your comments!  Just wanted to point out that Falvey's appt. was made in September and while he was still employed by the Indians, it is fair to say that he should have begun his due diligence back in September.  Reports from the December GM meetings had the Twins new managment team "getting to know" the Twins personnel.  Shouldn't we have expected greater emphasis at that time in reshaping the roster - an action almost mandatory after a 103 loss season?

 

According to (I believe it was on ESPN 1500) Levine spoke of some big moves next week, give it some time.Hasty moves are almost always the worst.

Talk is cheap.  Let's see the action!  Problem is at this late date in the offseason, any "big" moves are highly improbable given that the most impactful free agents have already been signed.  I held out hopes for a Tyson Ross signing, because that is the type of agressive, high risk deal this club needs at this juncture.  Yes, they would have had to outbid a contendingh team for his services but wasn't Pohlad quoted as saying money is no object in improving the team.  We'll never know what he really meant by this, but if F&L didn't go hard after Ross, I'm afraid that shows a certain timidity with the new boys that augurs poorly for any sort of rapid turnaround.

Very nice first post. I would take issue with the offense comments is 4&5 though. IMHO, this team should have enough offense, even sans Dozier. Sano, Buxton, Kepler, Rosario, and Polanco should at a minimum provide an overall uptick. Not all will improve dramatically, but neither will they decline. The bottom line, is that all assets expended on this roster should be directed at defense at SS, and SP. I think the rest is available internally. If I am wrong, and if it is not, we can kiss any playoff hopes in '18 and beyond good bye! One last thought! Protecting Dozier. In the leadoff spot, you don't get protection from the 4 hole. You generally get a lot of get em over FB's. And he did. I, nor it appears Molitor, ever saw him as a middle of the order bat. They tried it a few times, and abandoned it quickly. Whether there was a rationale involved, or more evidence of Molitors dart board lineups is hard to determine. But if they intend to continue to have him lead off, protecting him with an aged stick is not necessary.

Appreciate your comments.  I just have  a couple:

 

-Predicting the young core will improve enough to carry this team even to respectability is like drawing to an inside straight(which is why adding a strong veteran bat is so appealing, given it would take some pressure off the youngsters to produce immediately).  Kepler had one hot streak which made his final numbers look like a bit of a reach.  Any hot September streak, ala Buxton, must be viewed with a bit of scepticism given how many September phenoms flame out in his first full season.

 

-A compelling reason for adding a Bautista-like bat is to protect a Dozier(or Sano) hitting in the 3-spot.  Hitting Dozier first would not only be a waste of his power, but more importantly, would hinder Buxton's development as the ideal leadoff hitter he is touted to be.

    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this