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Why Do So Many Twins Fans Miss The Boat?


Ted Schwerzler

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Let me preface with the reality that fandom comes in different shapes and sizes. I realize there are those that are more casual observers, and there are diehards. There are those who watch the game, and then there are those that know the game. Simply defining someone watching Minnesota Twins baseball as a fan doesn't do the categorization justice. When it comes to the 2017 home nine though, there seems to be a growing and unfortunate confusion.

 

Arguably the most frustrating notion is that this team is destined to be bad because, well, they lost 103 games last season. That's absolutely a fact regarding the loss total, outside of that, the statement couldn't be less confusing. Given the Twins emerged from nowhere in 2015 and won 83 games finishing 2nd in the AL Central, how can that be immediately dismissed?

 

In 2016, Paul Molitor had virtually the same starting infield as he did the year prior (save for Eduardo Escobar replacing Danny Santana at shortstop). He had a new outfield that consisted of Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Eddie Rosario as opposed to the 2015 contingent of Oswaldo Arcia, Jordan Schafer, and Torii Hunter. Picking up the extra at bats as the designated hitter was Byungho Park instead of the replaced Kennys Vargas from 2015. As a whole, the Opening Day lineup remained a virtual clone.

 

On the mound, Tyler Duffey replaced Mike Pelfrey in the big league rotation. The bullpen was thrown together with relatively similar pieces, and Molitor had a couple of new coaches at his disposal. What held true though was that nothing was truly groundbreaking.

 

Here's the thing though, in 2015 the Twins overachieved significantly. Virtually all metrics suggested regression was coming, and the fact of the matter was there were too many placeholders to simply fill all of the holes. If 2015 gave you as a fan hope for 2016, you were likely as misguided as suggesting 2016 is a precursor for the season to come.

 

So Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton, and Miguel Sano are prospects you've heard about forever and haven't produced to the level you perceived? Is it incredibly surprising that a 22 year-old and two 23 year-old's are taking a bit longer to adjust at the big league level? Of course it isn't. Sano already has 40 career homers under his belt, Berrios has made a handful of starts, and Buxton is already playing Gold Glove caliber defense. At 23 years old, Kirby Puckett was at Single-A and Johan Santana was a reliever with a career 5.90 ERA.

 

Exposure has given us a heightened level of insight into young prospects. There's lists, articles, Twitter, and countless other sources of information for the game's next stars. You may hear about a player earlier, but that doesn't change the adjustment period, or the reality that knowledge beyond those sources is key to understanding how quickly a kid may take to a man's game.

 

Rounding out the trio of complaints is the one that encompasses both the overlooking of past results, and well as current roster construction. Why didn't Derek Falvey and Thad Levine come in and do more this offseason? The long and short of it is that they didn't have to. Both astute baseball minds, they realize this club is going to need to be carried by the likes of the Sano's and Buxton's. Signing a big bat, or a major arm, prior to the young guys being ready to shoulder more of the load, is a wasted year.

 

Going into the offseason, I suggested multiple times that standing pat would be a good place for the Twins. I was interested in Wilson Ramos pre-injury. Jason Castro emerged, and then made immediate sense. He helps to address pitching and defense, is a low cost signing, and can hit at least to the level Kurt Suzuki was capable of. Outside of that, a throw in reliever until some of the young arms made sense. Minnesota has really strong relief prospects, and blocking them with significant retread veterans never would have been a good idea.

 

Right now, the Twins executed everything as they needed to, and really, it's on you to see that. There's no one suggesting this club is making the playoffs, and even a .500 record would be a nice bonus. They aren't close to a 59 win team though, and the reasoning is relatively simple. The youth will continue to develop, and banking on those names you've heard forever to be stars is still a good bet. Finally, when it comes time to supplement with outside talent (and Minnesota is close to that point), then Falvey and Levine will be aware of the fact they are building, and not rebuilding.

 

Don't miss the boat, and don't throw out baseless frustration. Whether comment sections, casual discussion, Twitter, or some other place is your stomping ground, have a little foundation to stand upon when considering what is being brought to the table. Baseball is a sport that allows you to consume it in multiple different ways. Understanding that opinions are also a reflection of that is a must.

 

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

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As a big Twins fan, I had people wondering why I was saying that 2015 was based on luck then being pessimistic about last season (I didn't expect it too be that bad).

 

Now I find myself curiously optimistic. I think .500 is asking too much, but I'm rather anxious to see how the younger players perform.

 

Nice article. Thanks

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The Twin Cities is a frontrunner and fair weather fan kind of town. This is a wealthy market saturated with both sports and non - sports entertainment options. Nice summer weekends are in short supply so if the Twins aren't 'good' you are going to lose a large fraction of the casual fans. You are asking people to scratch below the surface and research, which your typical Twin Cities sports fan is not going to do for a 103 loss team. We have all talked to the coworker this offseason who won't discuss the Twins in detail because they 'suck' - this is the same guy banging the drum and buying World Series tickets as everyone loves a winner. Most diehards aren't as tied to the result, they love the game or going to the ballpark or whatever. For me, 2016 was an enjoyable viewing season watching the young guys mature a bit. The 103 losses weren't fun, it was still the Twins and that's all that matters.

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I agree with the premise of the article, and most of the content. I will say that I never thought the 2015 team over achieved as players. That would have given rationale to those 83 games. Having watched a lot of them, thanks TiVo, I saw an unreal amount of odd happenings. Critical errors by opponents, pop fly two out base hits, missing the opponents ace in four game series. It went on and on. Karma caught up to the 2016 team, and it showed. I have the 2017 Twins just shy of 80 wins. Their youth will dramatically improve this year. As you noted their relief pitching is not blocking advancements. But three problems were not adressed last year. One is easily corrected, but will still have an unknown cost. Paul Molitor. Either he does a Ying to his previous Yang, or precious developmental time will be wasted. The other two went hand in hand. SS and starting pitching. SS may have been tinkered with, but it did not solve the Polanco issue. Or do we know if Polanco will actually sit at all knowing Molitors proclivity for offense. And the SP remains a morass of #4 starters. All too easy to stick out there, too good to trade, and too bad to trade. The youth will easily drag us over 59 wins. The sad part is the failure to address th SP and manager will likely keep us under .500. Yet again!

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You're simultaneously telling people there's no reason to go out and improve this team, and also that cracking .500 would be lucky. How happy/excited are fans supposed to get? How low are we willing to let the standard be set?

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You're simultaneously telling people there's no reason to go out and improve this team, and also that cracking .500 would be lucky. How happy/excited are fans supposed to get? How low are we willing to let the standard be set?

 

You're also assuming that signing someone like Mike Napoli or Rich Hill is going to substantially bolster the Twins win total. My point is understanding what you have, and where that puts you on a competitiveness arc. The Twins are in a place where their futility has forced them to develop. They haven't done so as well as you'd hope, it are near watching young prospects bear fruit. As that happens, you can more realistically supplement from outside and expect substantial returns.

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You're also assuming that signing someone like Mike Napoli or Rich Hill is going to substantially bolster the Twins win total. My point is understanding what you have, and where that puts you on a competitiveness arc. The Twins are in a place where their futility has forced them to develop. They haven't done so as well as you'd hope, it are near watching young prospects bear fruit. As that happens, you can more realistically supplement from outside and expect substantial returns.

 

I made no assumptions about what this or that signing would do. I'm pointing out that even people saying that the Twins are right to do nothing aren't expecting a winning season. The idea that people should be ok with that, or that those who aren't are unfairly assuming this will be a bad season (and since when is being below .500 not a bad season?) are wrong, doesn't make sense to me. Saying "it's on you to see that [the twins are on the right track]" is the absolute opposite of how I feel. It's up to the Twins to convince people they know what they're doing, not fans to talk themselves into being ok with what's going on.

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I made no assumptions about what this or that signing would do. I'm pointing out that even people saying that the Twins are right to do nothing aren't expecting a winning season. The idea that people should be ok with that, or that those who aren't are unfairly assuming this will be a bad season (and since when is being below .500 not a bad season?) are wrong, doesn't make sense to me. Saying "it's on you to see that [the twins are on the right track]" is the absolute opposite of how I feel. It's up to the Twins to convince people they know what they're doing, not fans to talk themselves into being ok with what's going on.

 

Here's the thing though, there's plenty of resources out there to quantify why things may not be solely what the win/loss column dictates. More often than not, the vast majority of the big leagues is going to fall somewhere in the middle ground. Figuring out which way you're trending from there is the key. Also, it's not really on a front office to sign or acquire players to appease a fan base and their need for immediate satisfaction. Rather, you time things at key moments in hopes or solidifying a core for a sizable run.

 

The Twins failed to make the right moves at the key times over the past few years, but Falvey and Levine have been set up in an enviable situation. You'd hope they can maximize it as the Cubs and Astros appear to be positioned to do, rather than the short window the Royals seem to have had at their disposal.

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Personally, while still a bit disappointed yet again that a ttye 4th OF wasn't found, I feel that the new FO did pretty much what I expected and believed they should do. Or, in some casss, not do.

 

The youngsters need to play, daily, and develop. IMO, signing a big HR hitting DH would be fun and entertaining, and could possibly something to look at next season. (Though Palka could provide a nice internal option). But with Mauer, Vargas, Park and Grossman all available for 1B/DH, once again, you need to se what you have. (Vargas and Grossman are still pretty young). Plus you have off dayseason or half days off, for others to take a turn at DH here and there.

 

I thought one good RP, and maybe a flyer not a veteran LH arm was right for the pen. They sort of accomplished this, but I would have rather they sign a bounce back closer type. There are, potentially, some solid arms in Chargois, Pressly, Duffey and Haley in the pen, plus Rogers. And there are several interesting arms getting very close.

 

The rotation is still a huge question mark. But I didn't want to eek it further muddled by signing older FA when Berrios and May need opportunity, there are a couple guys who could debut later in the year, Gibson has value for the Twins, or possible trade, but only if he pitches and pitches well. This doesn't even take in to account Hughes, Santana or Santiago.

 

The team is being addressed from the inside out for 2017, players and personnel are being looked at from top to bottom, new programs are being put in place. The roster will turn over some during the season, and after the season. And not only will the FO have a better idea of who to keep, and who not to, but they will have $ to work with after this season, and even more coming off the books after 2018. I can quibble about the 4th OF and closer situation, but I see what is taking place and can't really disagree with it.

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