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  1. Over the weekend, the Star Tribune sent out a headline to subscribers that said, “Twins can’t let Buxton leave and become their new-age David Ortiz.” For those unfamiliar, the Twins famously non-tendered David Ortiz following the 2002 season. He signed with Boston and went on to have a legendary career culminating in multiple World Series titles, 10 All-Star selections, and seven silver sluggers. It was one of the worst decisions in franchise history, but baseball is a funny game. Ortiz was a very different player than Byron Buxton when the Twins non-tendered him. From 1997-2002, he averaged 76 games per season with the club and hit .266/.348/.461 (.809) with 169 extra-base hits in 455 games. There were multiple reasons to let Ortiz go, including he was set to make close to $2 million in arbitration, the team had Matt LeCroy to fill the designated hitter role, and they wanted a roster spot to make a Rule 5 pick. When David Ortiz played his final series in Minnesota, Twins GM Terry Ryan didn’t beat around the bush regarding the Ortiz decision. “Obviously, it’s a situation that I watch, and I’ve observed, and I see what he’s done, and I see what he’s meant to the Boston Red Sox. Ok, I screwed it up.” That’s easy for Ryan to say at this point, but it wasn’t as big of a mistake as it has been made out to be. Fans know Buxton is good, but Ortiz was still an unknown quantity when he left the organization. In his seventh season, Buxton has played in 38 more games in a Twins uniform than Ortiz. During that time, Buxton has been worth 16.2 WAR while Ortiz was worth 2.6 WAR. Ortiz went on to have four seasons with a 5 WAR or higher, a mark Buxton has yet to reach. The Buxton contract discussions seem like a no-win situation for the team’s followers. Fans are going to be disappointed if he leaves and plays well elsewhere. If he stays, fans will expect him to stay healthy and play at an MVP level. Buxton is one of baseball’s best players when he is on the field, and that is something Ortiz couldn’t say during his Twins tenure. Baseball is a sport where one move doesn’t alter the course of a franchise. Ortiz’s release was a poor baseball decision at the time, but the Twins were still relevant for nearly a decade after Ortiz left. Nothing says his career would have followed the same trajectory if he had stayed in a Twins uniform. The same unknowns circle around Buxton and his future. Every player that leaves Minnesota isn’t going to go on to have a Hall of Fame career. Ortiz is the exception and not the rule. In the end, Buxton’s situation is much more complicated than the decision surrounding Ortiz, and that’s what makes the Buxton decision one of the most intriguing in the months ahead. Do you see any connection between the Buxton decision and the Ortiz decision? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  2. Inconsistent pitching and injuries have been just some of the issues for the 2021 Twins. There have been some positives as with any season, but it’s hard not to be disappointed as expectations were high this year. Here’s a look at some of the other disappointing teams from recent years. 2011 Twins (Record: 63-99) The 2010 Twins had opened Target Field with a bang, including winning the division by six games over the White Sox. It was the team’s second consecutive AL Central title, and there were many that thought the Twins would be fighting for a three-peat. It’s easy to find connections between the 2021 Twins and the issues faced by the 2011 squad. Justin Morneau struggled to return after a concussion ended his 2010 campaign. Joe Mauer dealt with bilateral leg weakness and back problems. Players like Danny Valencia, Alexi Casilla, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka were relied on to fill full-time roles. Minnesota’s starting staff struggled to reproduce their numbers from 2010, with Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, and Francisco Liriano all posting ERA totals of 4.30 or higher. 2007 Twins (Record: 79-83) The 2007 Twins didn’t implode like the 2010 season, but they were indeed a disappointment. Back in 2006, the Twins put together a magical season with Justin Morneau being named AL MVP, Joe Mauer winning his first batting title, and Johan Santana earning his second Cy Young. It was only the fourth time the team had won over 95 games since moving to Minnesota. During the 2007 season, Minnesota finished just under .500, but that was closer to last place than first place in the division. Outside of Johan Santana, the team left fans wanting more. Jason Bartlett finished with the highest WAR among position players, and the pitching staff took a step back. Terry Ryan stepped aside from the GM role in the middle of September. This left Bill Smith to trade Santana and watch Torii Hunter walk away in free agency. The franchise was heading in a new direction. 1993 Twins (Record: 71-91) Minnesota had won the World Series in 1991, and the club finished with 90-wins in 1992. Many of the core pieces of the championship club were still in the prime of their careers. There was hope the team could bounce back in 1993 and keep their winning window open. However, the club was entering a stretch of nine straight losing seasons. During the 1993 season, many of the team’s issues were on the pitching side of the ball. Out of the team’s regulars, six of the nine batters had an OPS+ of 100 or more, including Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek with 120 OPS+ totals. Every starting pitcher with over 100 innings had an ERA north of 4.00, with Willie Banks being the lone starter to post an ERA+ greater than 100. It was Hrbek’s last season of over 100 games, and Puckett was only two years away from being forced to retire. The end of an era came more quickly than many would have anticipated. Which of these seasons was most disappointing? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. "I'm done. I'm hanging 'em up." That's what Brian Dozier told media members on Thursday morning. In addition, his former Twins managers Ron Gardenhire and Paul Molitor, as well as former GM Terry Ryan were on the call. Eduardo Escobar called in briefly from Arizona, on the practice field. Josh Willingham called in as well. It wasn't easy, but Dozier said that he did talk to a lot of players this offseason who have retired and that decision. "Tough decision. Many prayers went into this, especially after last season. I kind of made up my mind a couple of months ago." He had opportunities to play after the Mets released him last year, but he noted: "I told my wife, 'This COVID thing is the worst thing that ever happened to us because I got to be home and wake my daughter up every single morning. I love doing this. There is nothing in baseball that has given me this happiness and joy.'" He talked to some teams this past offseason, but he decided that he was ready to be done playing. "My wife? She wanted me to play until I was 50!" he joked. ---------------------------------------------- Brian Dozier joined the Twins organization in June of 2009 after the Twins drafted him as a 'senior sign' out of Southern Mississippi in the draft. He was coming off an injury and after five GCL games moved up to Elizabethton. In 2010, he split the season between Beloit and Ft. Myers, but 2011 was his breakout year as a prospect. He began the season with 49 games in Ft. Myers before jumping to New Britain for the final 78 games. Combined, he hit .320/.399/.491 (.890) with 33 doubles, 12 triples and nine home runs. He also stole 24 bases. The Twins, and Twins Daily, named him the Twins minor league hitter/player of the year. He debuted with the Twins in May of 2012, just a week before his 25th birthday. He played in 84 game and hit .234 (.603) with 11 doubles and six homers. However, he was sent down and did not receive a September call up. Dozier looks back at it now and says, "I thought I would, but it was the best thing that happened to me because it made me work even harder." That offseason, he worked a lot with Paul Molitor on moving to second base. He also gives a lol of credit to Tom Brunansky for working with him offensively. He was the Twins starting second baseman on Opening Day 2013 and remained in that role until he was traded to the Dodgers at the deadline in 2018. In between, he become one of the more prolific power hitters in Twins history. He hit 18 home runs in 2013, a record for Twins second baseman at the time. He then broke that record with 23 homers in 2014 in 2015. He made the All Star team that season. In 2016, he became just the fourth second baseman to hit 40 homers. He hit 42 total home runs that season. In 2017, he came back with 34 homers. In addition, he won a Gold Glove Award. Since the Twins traded him, he has had his struggles. He hit just .182 in 47 games for the 2018 Dodgers, but he provided nine doubles and five home runs. He played in the World Series. In 2019, he hit .238 with 20 doubles and 20 homers for the Nationals team that went on the win the World Series. And he danced... and sang... usually shirtless. He played in seven games for the Mets in 2020. In seven seasons with the Twins, Dozier played in 955 games. He hit .248/.325/.447 (.772) with 202 doubles, 167 home runs, 593 runs scored and 491 RBI. He had four straight 20 double, 20 homer seasons. But Dozier was fantastic on and off the field. From the Twins press release< "Dozier’s hustle on the field was matched by an electric personality off it that inspired camaraderie across the organization and the sport. Among other honors, he was the recipient of the 2013 Mike Augustin “Media Good Guy” Award by the Twin Cities Chapter of the BBWAA, the Twins’ 2014 Heart and Hustle Award by the MLB Players Alumni Association, the 2015 Carl R. Pohlad Award for Twins Outstanding Community Service and the 2016-17 Bob Allison Award for Twins leadership." On Thursday, he is retiring. The 33-year-old lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi with his wife and two young kids. His daughter Reese is two years old, and his son Rip was born in mid-December. He will keep busy. He plans to travel a lot and visit friends from the organizations he's played in. He said he's had a real estate companies for years. He also has an investment company. He golfs and hopes to play in several tournaments. "I play the piano every day, but other than that, no music for me. One of the biggest things that I look forward to is hunting more. Not necessarily hunting. I loved planting food plots in the summertime when I was in high school, and I haven't been able to do that. I'm looking forward to that. I'm heading to my hunting camp in a couple of weeks to plant some corn. I'm looking forward to that. Haven't been able to do that in about 15 years. A lot of hunting. A lot of golf. But most than that, being a full-time dad." Comments from the press conference: Eduardo Escobar: "I want to say Congrats, man. Thank you so much. You're the best. I love you. You know how much I respect you. You taught me to play this game the right way, and that's why I'm still playing today. You are the best. God bless you and your family!" Ron Gardenhire: "I got to watch you first-hand in that dugout, watch you grow up and break into the big leagues. Handled everything so easily. One of the nicest people I've ever been around in my life.... Of course, after I left he started hitting bombs into the seats. He waited..." Paul Molitor: "I remember a trip out there in Double-A, and the week I watched your team, you were the best player on the field no matter who else was playing. You did it all. You made teammates better. You carried yourself tremendously well for where you were at in your career." Molitor: "I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to manage you." Molitor: "In addition to your performance, how you took care of your teammates, and made everybody better. You were never selfish. You understood the humility that it takes to be successful." Terry Ryan: "I followed you from Elizabethton to Beloit to Ft. Myers and you didn't hit a home run. So I'm thinking, well, we've got a shortstop here that has no power, and he's not really a burner, and all of a sudden you're hitting second base and hitting 42 home runs. Brian, I couldn't be more proud of the things you've accomplished and provided to the Twins organization. You went on the win a World Series. You had an outstanding career, and you were a great person involved in the Twins organization, and I was just happy to be a small part of it." Brian Dozier: "The people that I played for, they demanded you play the game the right way. I'm telling you, I've gotten to see other places throughout my career, but it was a blessing playing for Minnesota who takes it above and beyond, and it starts with Terry Ryan. You carry yourself the right way not only on the field but off it. It wasn't something they just suggested. It was demanded." Brian Dozier: "It sucks to say, but I kind of fell out of love with playing the game, but I always loved baseball." Brian Dozier: "Right now, I might possibly pursue managing in the big leagues the next couple of years. I've learned a lot from all the managers I played for, and my wife and I have talked about it. The playing side I kind of fell out of love with, but I fell in love with possibly pursuing [managing]." Brian Dozier to Twins Fans: "I tell people all the time, and my wife and I talk about it all the time, that (Minnesota) is my second home. It always will be. I said a farewell back in 2018 when I got traded, but I do want them to know that it's like family. Not just the people in the clubhouse, managers, general managers, and everybody in the stadium. There are so many people throughout the years that we have become close with. It's some of the best fans in baseball. It really is a special place to play." Brian Dozier on current Twins: "I've watched them from afar. It is tremendous for me just to sit there and watch them and see what they've become. Polanco. Max. Rosario, Sano... It is a joy for me to see for me. They'll continue to get better which is scary. I still talk to a lot of them. It really is a joy for me to sit back and watch them."
  4. Flags fly forever or so the saying goes. During the 2010 season, the Twins had a roster that seemed built for October success. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau were in the middle of a powerful line-up that helped to open Target Field with a bang. One of the team’s biggest weaknesses was the bullpen and this meant Terry Ryan went shopping at the deadline to look for a “proven closer.” Minnesota’s bullpen wasn’t completely inept during the season’s first half as players like Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, and Jose Mijares fit into their designated roles. Jon Rauch was given the opportunity to be the team’s primary closer. Prior to the trade deadline, Rauch posted a 3.05 ERA as opponents hit .283/.321/.395 against him in 37 games. He was doing the job, but more bullpen depth seemed like it would bolster the team for the stretch run. Matt Capps served as Pittsburgh’s closer for parts of three seasons before being non-tendered and eventually signing with the Washington Nationals. During the first half of 2010, he’d make his first All-Star team as he had a 2.74 ERA with a 1.30 WHIP in 46 innings. His ERA was strong, but he gave up a lot of contact and didn’t strike out many batters (under 7.0 K/9 for his career) which can be cause for concern from a reliever. From the Twins perspective, they were acquiring a reliever with control over the next season and a half and their competitive window seemed to be open. He was worth 0.9 WAR during his Twins tenure, but it was more about what the Twins gave up acquiring that slight bullpen boost. To make matters worse, Minnesota doubled down on Capps and signed him to an extension. When that contract ended, he wouldn’t pitch in the big leagues again. Wilson Ramos and Joe Testa were the two players sent to Washington for the rights to Capps. Ramos was a consensus top-65 prospect in all of baseball entering the 2010 season. Before being traded, he also had an impressive big-league debut as he collected seven hits in his first two games. That being said, Minnesota had just signed Joe Mauer to the richest contract in team history and it seemed like he was going to be behind the plate for the foreseeable future. This might have made Ramos more expendable to the team. During his Washington tenure, Ramos turned into a solid piece of their big-league roster. He’d finish fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .267/.334/.445 with 38 extra-base hits in 113 games. His final season in Washington was his best as he posted an .850 OPS with 22 home runs and 25 doubles on the way to winning the Silver Slugger award and being selected to his first All-Star Game. In total, he produced 10.5 WAR in his seven seasons of team control that the Twins let go for under 100 innings of Capps. It’s clear why Washington wanted to make this trade as Ramos became their primary catcher for most of a decade. For the Twins, Mauer was still the team’s primary catcher for the next three seasons before being forced to move to first base. Even considering this, it doesn’t seem like the Twins were able to maximize the value of one of baseball’s top catching prospects. Capps was very good in 2010 and there’s no question that he helped the Twins solidify their bullpen. There was no way the team knew what would happen in the playoffs. Minnesota is often criticized for not going for it and hanging on to their prospects when they have a chance to make a deeper playoff run. This was a time when the front office decided to go against this traditional mantra and the results speak for themselves. What are your thoughts after looking back at this trade? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES — Tom Brunansky — Johan Santana MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. Augie Ojeda grew up in southern California where he learned to love the game of baseball. “I was a big Dodgers fan. I was diehard!” He continued, “Fernando Mania in 1981! All the excitement and the hype that he brought to the Dodgers.” But because he was small, he didn’t have scouts looking at him in high school. He went to Cypress College, a two-year program with a strong baseball tradition. That’s where he started to get noticed as a ballplayer. “You still haven’t developed into that prototypical 6-2 baseball player, especially back in those days. Scouts were big on height and numbers and the 40-yard dash. I started realizing I had a chance in junior college. I grew a little bit, got stronger, and played really well against better competition.” He still wasn’t a big guy, but he was attracting the attention of some of the top baseball schools in the country. Because of scholarship limitations, many of the prominent southern California baseball schools didn’t really recruit him. But he was hearing from all over the country. His five school trips were to Arizona State, Oklahoma, Miami, Tennessee and Texas Tech. Each school gave him a 100% scholarship offer. “My decision was kind of easy. It was basically my pick, and I chose Tennessee. They had a good team the prior season and went to the College World Series, and most of the guys were coming back. It was between Tennessee and Miami, and Miami at the time had Alex Cora at shortstop.” He chose Tennessee where he continued to find great success. In 1996, Ojeda was the 13th round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles. He didn’t sign right away, but there was a good reason for that. He was heading to the Olympics. He joined some great college players, including former Twins Jacque Jones, Matthew LeCroy and Chad Allen on the 1996 USA Olympic team. The team won the bronze medal in those Atlanta Olympics. “It was a blessing. It was awesome. It kind of snuck out of nowhere. I didn’t really see that coming.” Ojeda added, “Any kid wants to represent the flag. It’s an honor, and a fun experience that words cannot describe. It was a blessing playing with all these first rounders. I was just happy to be a part of it, and anytime you get a chance to represent your country is an honor.” Following the Olympics, Ojeda went back to school for a semester before signing with the Orioles. Things moved pretty quickly in 1997. It started with an invite to big league camp. “Getting ground balls next to Cal Ripken… that was pretty cool.” Because of an injury to another shortstop, Ojeda began his pro career in Double-A. He played in three levels that season, even getting some time at Triple-A Rochester, a place he would return years later. He was traded to the Cubs before the 2000 season. “I was kind of heart broken because I was the type of kid who followed baseball in the ‘80s and guys stayed with one team forever. Rivalries, and you don’t like the Giants because you’re a Dodgers fan, and you see the same faces for seven, eight years. I was bummed. I was crushed. I thought I was going to be an Oriole forever.” “It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.” That June, he made his big league debut with the Cubs. He spent parts of the next four seasons as a utility infielder for the Cubs. He became a fan favorite because of his size and work ethic, but also because he played really strong defense all around the infield. “The Cubs fans are really supportive, and they do their homework on the minor league guys. And they didn’t know much about me, but they saw my size and thought I was a long shot to make it. I hit a double in my first game and I got a standing ovation, and they started calling my name.” What an experience. However, following the 2003 season, the Cubs placed him on waivers and the Twins claimed him. Minnesota Twins “I got a call from Terry Ryan that they were picking me up. I didn’t know much about the Twins. But from playing in the same league in Double-A, I realized they were strict on their development. Every single guy played together for years, and they had to produce. It wasn’t like any other organization where if you do well or you do bad you skip or you stay back. You had to earn your stripes. And they were stacked. They did a really good job with their scouting and player development.” He returned to Rochester to start the 2004 season. In early August, he was called up to the Twins. He spent August in a utility role, but by September, he was playing nearly every day… and putting up numbers. “The coaches did a good job of working extra with the guys. So every day at home, it was extra batting practice. Every day, extra batting practice. And I took advantage of that. I never had that in my career. The coaches would throw a half hour of extra batting practice, and I was a switch-hitter so I got a lot of reps. They were a young team. They emphasized big time extra work and working hard, and I think that helped me the most. In 30 games for the Twins in 2004, Ojeda hit .339/.429/.458 (.886) with a double and two home runs. “That was the best month I had in my entire life.” He continued, “I played all of September, and that was in a pennant race. We won the Central that year. Gardenhire sat (Luis) Rivas. He was struggling. I came into a game in Anaheim, and I went 2-for-4 in late August. Then after that I played almost every day. Playing every day is a little easier. You know your rhythm. You know your timing.” For whatever reason, Ojeda spent all of 2005 in Rochester with the Red Wings. “To this day, I never knew what happened. What did I do to them? I helped them. I was part of the big push in a pennant race. Then I never got called up. I never knew what was going on.” “The coaches really worked hard. Really worked hard. They were different though. It was a different organization. I was kind of shocked the way the way they handled things. Gardenhire, I don’t know if he got it from Tom Kelly, but they were really big on picking their own apples.They didn’t get bad apples. And when they got good apples, they wanted to control them, which was different. The guys were young so they didn’t say much, but it opened my eyes.” After that season, he became a free agent. He re-signed with the Cubs but spent all of 2006 in Triple-A. In 2007, the Diamondbacks gave him a chance. It was a chance for him to play at home in Arizona where he had bought a house during his time in the Cubs organization. He fully took advantage once he was called up. He spent the second half of 2007 with the Diamondbacks. He played over 100 games in both 2008 and 2009 and another 59 in 2010. “Bob Melvin. I give him all the credit. He believed in me. Kind of similar to the Twins. Orlando Hudson got hurt my first year in ‘07, and that summer I hit .340 in September playing every day. We made the playoffs. I stuck around and got rewarded. I made the team the next year. I did well in ‘08 again. I spent four years there, and that’s the best little run in my career, and I had the best time of my life, thanks to the Diamondbacks and Bob Melvin.” Since retiring, Ojeda has had offers and options for coaching in pro baseball, but he is happy living in Arizona, and helping his wife take care of their three kids. He’s got two daughters, an eight year old and a five year old. They are both in swimming and gymnastics. The couple have a two-year-old son as well. “With my three kids being so young, I don’t have time, and I don’t want to leave them. I’d rather stay home and raise them and see them develop. Playing all these years, you see teammates interact with their parents or their kids and there really isn’t a relationship. I told myself that’s not the life I want to live when I have kids. You’re basically gone for six, seven months out of the year. You’re not going to see them. You’re not going to bond. You’re not going to have a relationship. It’s definitely not worth it.” He’s also proud of what he was able to accomplish on the baseball field despite the odds being against him. He was “too small”. He had the “utility player” label. And yet, he had a nine-year, major-league career. “I never thought I would have the resume that I have. Never in a million years did I think I’d be a big leaguer. Never in a thousand years did I think I’d play in the Olympics. Went to a big-time college on a full scholarship. Being in high school and 5-4, 130 pounds. No scouts. No connections, and three years later I was in the Olympics, getting drafted and then minor league ball. My goal was to be a big leaguer. I didn’t know if I would make it. I knew what scouts wanted, and I knew that’s not what I had. But I had the heart and determination. I worked hard, and that’s what got me over the hump. I look back in awe, to be honest. I’m ecstatic and blessed.” He adds, “To all the kids who don’t have the size, keep working. Outwork them. There’s no talent for outworking people. There’s no talent for grinding and putting in the work.” While Augie Ojeda doesn’t tweet much, but you can follow him at @augieojeda.
  6. Terry Ryan decided that a 26-year-old David Ortiz, and his career .809 OPS with 58 homers, was worthy of release prior to the 2003 season. Jose Morban was the man worthy of a roster spot, and the 23-year-old never wound up playing for the Twins before returning to Baltimore and generating just a .412 OPS in 61 games. Fast forward to 2020 and we’re looking at the question of regression regarding Nelson Cruz, but able to do it through the lens of Red Sox legend, Mr. Ortiz. “Big Papi,” as he’s affectionately known, went on to play 14 seasons with the Boston Red Sox. He didn’t retire until he was 40 years old, and he swatted 541 career home runs. Unlike many players that are simply lapped by the game in their later years, Ortiz went out on top. In 2016 he played 151 games while posting a ridiculous .315/.401/.620 slash line. He blasted a league-leading 48 dingers and paced the crowd with 127 RBIs. Despite a 6th place MVP finish and clearly being capable of big-league production, he stepped away. Last season Cruz entered his maiden voyage in Twins Territory. The late-blooming slugger joined his fifth organization and posted a career best 1.031 OPS. At 38-years-old he hit 41 longballs and owned a career best .392 OBP. He played in just 120 games dealing with intermittent wrist injuries, but ultimately showed there were no signs of slowing down. The hope would be that 2020 represents more of the same, and Ortiz provides the example that age may simply be just a number. On pace for a 5.8 fWAR over the course of a full season, Cruz was more productive on a per-game basis than he’s ever been. Steamer projects a step up in games played at 147 in 2020, but the 2.9 fWAR is quite a bit of regression. The OPS sags to .909 with the home run total ending at 40. It’s a very solid output, but with the additional games adding to the body of work, leaves plenty of production on the table. Although projection systems are mathematically sound, there’s analytical substance to the idea that Cruz may not be ready to give in yet. Say what you want about the baseball itself from a season ago, but the controlled outputs were plenty impressive on their own. A 52.5% hard hit rate was a career best and paced the sport (among hitters with 450 ABs). While he was walloping the baseball, a 31.3% rate of fly balls leaving the yard was only topped by Brewers MVP candidate Christian Yelich. Nelson didn’t chase more, or swing through more pitches, and he actually took a slight dip in contact. What that formula suggests is quality of contact being through the roof. Branching out from Fangraphs, Baseball Savant agrees with the data as well. A 12.5% barrels/plate appearance tally put him in first place by nearly a full percentage point. His average exit velocity was trumped by only Aaron Judge and teammate Miguel Sano, and his xwOBA of .418 ranked 5th highest in the game. In short, Nelson Cruz is doing all the right things that would make his production regression projection go poof. Now, as bodies age, a dip could be seen unexpectedly. Time is undefeated, and at some point, will get its due. To suggest that it’s coming simply because he’s a year older and approaching 40 however, does not seem like the greatest bet. David Ortiz is the latest example to prove competence in his twilight, and as much fun as slugging sendoffs are (looking at you Jim Thome), Cruz appears to be more contributing than cooling in the year ahead. Toting only a bat to the ballpark on a regular basis isn’t a bad gig for an aging star and having a few less big-league miles on a late bloomer can’t hurt either. Nelson Cruz had his nap room installed in the bowels of Target Field, and allowing him the opportunity to continue to wake and rake is something his employer should bask in. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. It was the final day of the 2003 All-Star break. The defending American League Central champion Twins had limped out to a 44-49 record and were 7.5 games back in the division, sitting in third place. The front office/ownership hadn’t made any big moves the previous two seasons despite the team being competitive, so there seemed to be little reason to expect any motivation to build up the roster. There was still just as much discussion about the potential for contraction as there was contention during this time. But prior to the start of the second half, Terry Ryan struck a deal. The Twins acquired Shannon Stewart from the Toronto Blue Jays to serve as the team’s leadoff hitter. July 16, 2003 ended up being a momentous turning point for not only that season, but in some ways you could argue for the entire organization/future of the Twins. Stewart hit .322/.384/470 (.854 OPS) for the Twins as the team went 46-23 in the second half. That season-ending surge also saw the team post an insane 24-9 record over its final 33 games. There was an 11-game winning streak included in that stretch. The Twins ended up charging back to win the division by four games. For his efforts, Stewart finished fourth in AL MVP voting. Things turned out about as good as could have been imagined, but that was actually somewhat of a controversial trade at the time that it happened. The player Ryan sent to Toronto had actually been performing basically as well as Stewart, was younger and had many more years of team control. At the time of the move, Bobby Kielty was hitting .252/.370/.420 (.790 OPS) for the Twins while Stewart was posting a .294/.347/.449 (.796 OPS) batting line for the Blue Jays. It was essentially a challenge trade, a very gutsy move. After accounting for a 125 wRC+ over his time with the Twins, Kielty never came even close to that production elsewhere. He posted a 92 wRC+ over 367 career games from that moment forward. Stewart ended up signing a three-year deal to remain with the Twins the following offseason. Stewart was excellent when healthy once again in 2004, helping the Twins to yet another AL Central crown. His first Opening Day in Minnesota was a memorable one, as he delivered a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th inning, sending the Metrodome into a frenzy. Stewart’s my personal all-time favorite among Twins midseason additions. I’d love to hear your memories from that time, but I’m also interested in your own personal favorites from over the years. A certain hitter on one of the World Series champion teams certainly sticks out, if anyone else cares to share some memories from 1987. If you haven’t signed up for an account at the site yet, click here to get registered and join in on the conversation.
  8. The Kansas City Royals are on the field. They already took a round of infield, and now I am watching Alex Gordon launch baseballs into the bleachers. Over the speakers, Prince songs are blaring. Moments ago, Adalberto Mondesi was taking his hacks while "...You sexy m()%#*@($#%" played. It's Prince Night tonight at Target Field. The Twins took batting practice earlier sporting t-shirts with the Prince symbol on the front and their name and number on the back. But in the end, this weekend is a celebration of the career of all-time Twins great Joe Mauer. On Saturday the Twins will officially retire Joe Mauer's uniform number 7 in a pregame celebration. The ceremony will begin at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday so be sure you don't miss that whether you are at the stadium or watching on TV. Recently, the Twins sent a list of about 40 former players, coaches, Twins Hall of Famers and more who will be in attendance. The list is really impressive and speaks to not only the Hall of Fame-worthy, 15-season career of Mauer, but to the impression that he made on his teammates. I had the chance to catch up with former Twins GM Terry Ryan for about 10 minutes before the game. He will be here, as will Bill Smith, 15 members of the Twins Hall of Fame (including 5 National Hall of Fame players), and many former teammates including Trevor Plouffe, Nick Punto, Denard Span and Matt Belisle, and a lot more. All seven previously retired numbers will be in attendance or represented (Kirby Puckett's daughter will be here). I wonder what is behind the covered up circle? As we know, Mauer also did a ton in the community, and Joe Mauer weekend began with a great event on Friday morning at Target Field. Mauer and a bunch of his friends welcomed kids from the Gillette Children's Hospital to play ball on the field. https://twitter.com/morsecode/status/1139565094369660928 https://twitter.com/DanHayesMLB/status/1139574010369519616 https://twitter.com/DanHayesMLB/status/1139567873842667523 There will be opportunities to get photos and autographs with some of the former players throughout the weekend. And, what is really exciting is going to Target Field and seeing crowds. I know that can be tough in some ways, but people really care about this team. The passion for Twins baseball is back. Of course, there is also baseball to be played. Tonight Kyle Gibson will be on the mound, taking on Brad Keller. With a huge, sold out crowd, it would sure be fun to see a lot of Twins Bombas! Keller is making his 15th start of the year for the Royals. The 23-year-old was a Rule 5 draft pick of the Royals from the Reds in 2017. He is 3-8 with a 4.29 ERA. In his most recent start (last Saturday), he went eight innings against the White Sox. He gave up just two runs on five hits, though the big hit was a two-run Eloy Jimenez homer. No Twins hitter has more than six at-bats against Keller. Kyle Gibson is 6-3 with a 4.14 ERA. The 31-year-old has 71 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings. If Gibson records the second out of the top of the sixth inning tonight, he will reach 1000 career innings pitched. He comes into the game with 994 1/3 innings. He will become the 11th Twins pitcher to reach that milestone number. It sure is great to see these big crowds to see the Twins and sell outs throughout the weekend. .
  9. Vargas was designated for assignment by Cincinnati and Minnesota claimed him back. https://twitter.com/DanHayesMLB/status/977603010418348032 The Reds seemed like a tough spot for Vargas to fit, with Joey Votto occupying first base and no designated hitter in the National League. Because of his switch-hitting ability, there was some thought that he could serve as a bench bat or the club could try to sneak him through waivers to the minors. That plan didn’t work as he is back in Minnesota. Some Twins fans were a little paranoid about losing Vargas. It’s hard to blame fans for remembering when the club made one of the biggest judgment gaffes in baseball history. Letting David Ortiz go was a mistake. Even former General Manager Terry Ryan has admitted as much. But let’s make one thing clear… Kennys Vargas isn’t David Ortiz. It’s easy to see why fans can see similarities between the two players. Both players fit a similar profile as large men who have little to no defensive value. Even more eerie might be the fact that the Twins let both players go entering their age-27 season. Beyond those surface level similarities, there are some stark differences between these two players. Ortiz broke into the majors as a 21-year old in 1997. He played a little over 100 games through his first three seasons before becoming a regular player in 2000. From 1997-2002, he hit 266/.348/.461 (.809) while averaging 10 home runs and 18 doubles per season. He also had 339 strikeouts compared to 186 walks in 455 games. His best season in Minnesota was his last as he hit .272/.339/.500 with 20 home runs and 75 RBIs in 125 games. He battled injuries throughout his time in a Twins uniform. During the 2002-2003 off-season, Ortiz was due to make roughly $2 million through the arbitration process. Matt LeCroy would take over the designated hitter role with Doug Mientkiewicz penciled in at first base. Justin Morneau was closing in on the big leagues as well. “There wasn’t any one thing,” Terry Ryan told MLB.com. “If you look at his numbers across the board, they were very respectable. And not that it was totally about money, but we were a little bit strapped. That would be a good excuse, but it wasn’t that entirely. It was just a bad error in judgment of a guy’s talent.” Ortiz would sign with the Red Sox for $1.25 million and the rest is history. Vargas is a much different story. He made his debut as a 23-year old in 2014. During his four seasons in Minnesota, he hit .252/.311/.437 (.748) with 35 home runs and a more strikeouts (251) than hits (197). While Ortiz showed flashes of brilliance in the upper minors, Vargas posted a .248 batting average in 630 Triple-A at-bats. Vargas might the definition of a replacement level player. https://twitter.com/AaronGleeman/status/973962957653553152 Ortiz became known for his clutch hits to help the Red Sox win multiple championships. Vargas struggled to be successful in high-leverage spots on rebuilding Twins teams. Because both the Twins and Red Sox train in Fort Myers, Vargas and Ortiz have become acquaintances over the years. In fact, a friendship has developed between these Caribbean born players. Vargas also knows it took Ortiz multiple years to make it as a big leaguer. “He was in my spot years and years ago,” Vargas told the Pioneer Press. “He just trusted in himself, and he found a spot and (won) three World Series.” Vargas is still searching for his spot and now he’s back with the organization he’s known for his entire career.
  10. January 7, 1982 Twins Acquire Mario Look-Alike The Twins trade Class-A prospects Scotti Madison and Paul Voigt to the Dodgers for center fielder Bobby Mitchell and pitcher Bobby Castillo, owner of one of the all-time Top 5 greatest mustaches in Twins history. Castillo won 13 games for the Twins in 1982. That would have led the team in six of the past ten seasons (2008, '11–'13, and '15–'16). Who do you think had the best (or worst) mustache in Twins history? January 8, 1991 Carew Elected to Hall of Fame Seven-time AL Batting Champ Rod Carew becomes the 21st first-ballot Hall of Famer, elected alongside Gaylord Perry and Ferguson Jenkins. Despite appearing on 90.5% of ballots, a staggering 42 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America deemed Carew unworthy. The Veterans Committee elected former second baseman Tony Lazzeri and owner/promoter Bill Veeck, father of Mike Veeck, who in 1993 founded the current incarnation of the St. Paul Saints with Bill Murray and lawyer Marv Goldklang. Rodney Cline Carew was born on a train in the Panama Canal Zone on October 1, 1945. When he was 14 his family immigrated to New York, where he would be discovered by a Twins scout playing semi-pro ball in the Bronx rather than high school ball. The Twins signed Carew in 1964 at age 18, and he made the major league club in 1967 at age 21. Carew had the first five-hit game in Twins history on May 8, 1967, going 5-for-5 with a double. He made the AL All-Star team his rookie season, beginning a string of 18-consecutive All-Star selections. He was an All-Star every year of his career but the last, 1985. He was named the American League Rookie of the Year, receiving 19 of 20 first-place votes. There have been five AL Rookies of the Year in Twins History: Tony Oliva in 1964, Carew in ‘67, John Castino (co-winner) in 1979, Chuck Knoblauch in 1991, and Marty Cordova in 1995. Bob Allison won the award as a member of the 1959 Washington Senators. Carew was a terror on the basepaths. On May 18, 1969 he stole second, third, and home consecutively off the Tigers’ Mickey Lolich. César Tovar led off the bottom of third with a single. Then, with Carew at the plate, Tovar was balked to second and stole third. Perhaps distracted by Tovar, Lolich walked Carew. Then, with Harmon Killebrew at the plate, the Twins executed a double steal, with Carew swiping second as Tovar stole home. With Killebrew still at bat, Carew stole third and home to tie the game. Killebrew ultimately struck out, and the Twins went on to lose the game 8-2. Carew is one of just 12 players since 1940 to achieve this feat. Paul Molitor pulled it off on July 26, 1987. Carew stole home 17 times in his career. The single-season record is eight, set by Ty Cobb in 1912. Carew stole home for the seventh time of the season on July 16, 1969. American League pitchers finally got wise to his game, however, and he did not pull it off again the rest of the season. He did, however, add a tenth-inning walk-off steal of home on September 1, 1970. Current Twins manager Paul Molitor, incidentally, stole home 10 times in his career. Dan Gladden did it three times. Carew hit for the first of 10 cycles in Twins history on May 20, 1970. The others are César Tovar (1972), Larry Hisle (‘76), Lyman Bostock (‘76), Mike Cubbage (‘78), Gary Ward (‘80), Kirby Puckett (‘86), Carlos Gómez (‘08), Jason Kubel (‘09) and Michael Cuddyer (‘09). On September 9, 1976 Carew hit a pinch-hit grand slam. It was just his seventh home run of the season, but his third grand slam, tying Bob Allison’s single-season team record, set in 1961. Kent Hrbek later hit three grand slams in 1985, Puckett in ‘92, and Torii Hunter in 2007. 1977 was a magical season for Carew. On June 26 (Rod Carew Jersey Day, incidentally), he went 4-for-5 to raise his average to .403. He scored a team record five runs in the game, while Glenn Adams collected a team record eight RBI. Carew’s record of five runs would be matched by Tim Teufel in 1983, Molitor in ‘96, and Luis Rivas in 2002. Adams’ record eight RBI were matched by Randy Bush in 1989. Carew led the majors with 239 hits and a .388 AVG in 1977, and was named American League MVP. He was the third of five Twins to receive the award (Versalles ‘65, Killebrew ‘69, Morneau ‘06, Mauer ‘09). On February 3, 1979 the Twins traded Rod Carew to the Angels for Ken Landreaux, Dave Engle, Brad Havens and Paul Hartzell. It had become increasingly clear that team owner Calvin Griffith had no intention of ponying up for the future Hall of Famer. And even if Griffith could have afforded him, it was unlikely that Carew would have played for Griffith again after the owner’s Lion’s Club dinner remarks in Waseca on September 28. On August 4, 1989, Carew connected for his 3,000th hit off Twins lefty Frank Viola. He was the 16th member of the 3,000 Hit Club, and the first born outside of the United States mainland (Roberto Clemente was born in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico). 1985 was Carew’s final season. After failing to receive a suitable contract offer for the ‘86 season, he officially announced his retirement on June 2 with a career AVG of .328. Owners had colluded against him and other free agents, essentially agreeing not to offer other teams' free agents contracts, thereby helping each other retain their own talent while keeping salaries low. In 1995 Carew was awarded $782,035.71 in damages for his lost wages. The Twins retired Rod Carew’s number 29 on July 19, 1987. The Angels had retired his number in ‘86. He was inducted as a charter member of the Twins Hall of Fame along with Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, and Calvin Griffith on August 12, 2000. January 10, 1984 Killebrew Elected to Hall of Fame In his fourth damn year of eligibility the Baseball Writers’ Association of America finally elects Harmon Killebrew to the Hall of Fame, along with Luis Aparicio (sixth ballot), and 1965 World Series nemesis Don Drysdale (10th ballot). Veterans Committee selections Rick Ferrell and Pee Wee Reese would also be inducted with the class of ’84. The Senators signed the 17-year-old Idahoan in 1954 as a so-called “Bonus Baby,” which required them to keep the kid on the major league roster his first two seasons. He got into just 47 games during those two years, making 104 plate appearances. He did hit the first four of his 573 career home runs in 1955. He then spent the majority of the next three seasons in the minors. Washington’s patience would pay huge dividends. In 1959, his first season as a full-timer, Killebrew tied for the league lead with 42 home runs and drove in 105 runs. Killebrew collected the first regular season hit in Twins history leading off the fourth with a single off Whitey Ford at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day 1961. Bob Allison hit the Twins’ first home run later in that game, but Killebrew would have the distinction of hitting the first inside-the-park home run in Twins history vs. the White Sox at Met Stadium on July 4th. Later in the game, trailing the White Sox by two with two out in the bottom of the ninth, Julio Becquer hit a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam. Killebrew was known throughout his career not just for the sheer quantity, but also the mammoth quality of his home runs. Facing future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning on August 3, 1962, Killebrew hit a monster home run over the roof and out of Tiger Stadium. Killer was the first of four to accomplish this feat of strength, the others being Frank Howard, Mark McGwire, and Cecil Fielder. On June 3, 1967 he hit perhaps his most famous homer, a prodigious blast at Met stadium eventually estimated by a physics professor at 522 feet. Killebrew was the 1969 American League Most Valuable Player after leading the majors with 49 home runs and 140 RBI. Not surprisingly those are both Twins single-season records. He also hit 49 in ‘64. Killebrew set another team record by homering in five consecutive games on two separate occasions during the Twins’ 1970 Division Championship season. Rookie Marty Cordova tied that record in just his 23rd major league game on May 20, 1995. Brian Dozier homered in five straight in 2016, including a three-home run game on September 5. Killebrew hit 41 homers during that 1970 season. It would be the Twins’ last 40-home run season until Dozier hit 42 in 2016, forty-frickin’-six years later. So much for the Steroid Era in Minnesota. Harmon hit his 500th and 501st home runs on August 10, 1971. All told, he would hit 573, fifth-most in baseball history at the time of his retirement, behind only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Frank Robinson. He is still 12th all-time. 38-year-old Adrian Beltre, and 34-year-old Miguel Cabrera are sitting on 462. After he refused Calvin Griffith’s contract offer, the Twins released Killebrew on January 16, 1975. To this day nobody has played more games in a Twins uniform. The Kansas City Royals quickly signed the Killer on January 24. The Twins officially retired his #3 before a game vs. KC on May 4, 1975. As long as so many fans were there to honor him anyway, Harmon went ahead and homered in the first inning. On September 18, he hit his 573rd and final home run off the Minnesota Twins’ Eddie Bane. Harmon Killebrew passed away on May 17, 2011 after a brief battle with esophageal cancer. He was just 74 years old. To put a silver lining around an otherwise sucky situation, the Twins were in town to play the Diamondbacks, and able to attend Harmon’s funeral on May 20. Bert Blyleven spoke at the service, and Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Frank Quilici, Joe Nathan, Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau, Ron Gardenhire, and Paul Molitor served as pallbearers. The Twins held a public memorial at Target Field six days later. In addition to an All-Star lineup of Twins past and present, the event was attended by Commissioner Selig and Hank Aaron. January 11, 1973 AL Adopts DH In an effort spearheaded by Oakland Athletics’ owner Charlie Finley, American League owners vote 8-4 in favor of adopting the designated hitter. Tony Oliva would hit the first regular season home run by a DH off Oakland’s Catfish Hunter on Opening Day (April 6, 1973). January 12, 1898 Birthdate of Rip Wade It’s the birthdate of 1916 Denfeld High School grad Richard “Rip” Wade, born in Duluth in 1898 (120 years ago). Wade played outfield in 19 games, and pinch-hit in 14 more for the 1923 Washington Senators, going 16-for-69 (.232), with 14 RBI and eight runs scored. Duluth’s Wade Stadium is named after Rip’s dad, Frank. January 12, 2013 Ryan Receives Genovese Award Twins GM Terry Ryan receives the George Genovese Lifetime Achievement Award in Scouting at the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation’s 10th annual "In The Spirit of the Game" Sports and Entertainment Spectacular in Los Angeles. The Foundation created the award in honor of the legendary SoCal scout in 2003. Ryan’s relationship with the Twins began in 1972 when they drafted the Janesville, WI native in the 35th round. The lefty went 10-0 with a 1.70 ERA at Class A Wisconsin Rapids in ‘73. After an arm injury, however, he struggled at Double-A Orlando until being released in June 1976. Ryan joined the Mets as a scouting supervisor in 1980. In 1986 he returned to the Twins organization as scouting director. He ascended to vice president of player personnel in 1991, and became GM following Andy MacPhail’s departure to the Chicago Cubs after the ‘94 season. Ryan served as GM for 13 years before resigning on October 1, 2007. He remained with the Twins as an adviser while Bill Smith took over as GM. After Smith’s firing following the 2011 season, Ryan returned to his former post. He was fired on July 18, 2016, midway through the worst season in franchise history. Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail hired Terry Ryan as a special assignment scout on November 30, 2016. January 13 Happy 64th Birthday, Steve Comer It’s the birthday of 1972 Minnetonka grad, Golden Gophers all-time great, and former major league pitcher Steve Comer. Comer was a four-year starter at the University of Minnesota, and still holds school records with 30 wins and 25 complete games. He went on to pitch parts of seven major league seasons with the Rangers (‘78-’82), Phillies (‘83), and Cleveland (‘84), compiling a record of 44-37 with 13 saves, 4.13 ERA, and a 1.445 WHIP in 176 games (83 starts). He averaged 3.1 strikeouts and 3.2 walks per nine innings. Keep in touch with @TwinsAlmanac on Twitter and Facebook.
  11. The Positive Molitor has managed three seasons and in two of those years he has had the Twins in surprise contention for the playoffs. During his rookie managerial season, the Twins fought off their recent losing trend as the club was in the playoff hunt until the season's last weekend. An 83-79 record was a vast improvement compared to four straight 90-loss seasons under Ron Gardenhire. Players like Brian Dozier, Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano posted strong numbers at the plate under the leadership of a Hall of Fame hitter. The 2017 campaign has been up and down to say the least. Minnesota somehow finds themselves in the thick of the wild card race even though they have been outscored by over 50 runs. A young core of Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler are supplementing a rotation led by Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. For the second time in three years, Molitor has the Twins in position to make the playoffs which is something the Twins haven't seen since 2010. The Negative It's hard to forget how bad the Twins were in 2016. The team fumbled and stumbled their way to a franchise-worst 103 losses. Moving Sano to the outfield was a disaster while the pitching staff was one of the worst in the game. In the end, the Twins fired long-time general manager Terry Ryan. A roster reconstruction was needed and Minnesota's young core needed more time to develop. It was time for a change but the team's ownership stood behind Molitor. As the hunt started for men to lead the baseball operations department, Twins owner Jim Pohlad made it clear that Paul Molitor wasn't going anywhere. Some thought this might have handcuffed the Twins in their search for new front office personnel. However, the Twins have rarely made changes under Pohlad ownership. For example, the team has employed only three managers since the 1987 campaign. With changes happening in the front office, it was an interesting stance for the owner to take, and now the future is murky. The Future Molitor's three-year contract is expiring at season's end and this time Pohlad isn't insisting on him returning as manager. He told the Star Tribune that he wants Molitor back for 2018 but that will be up to Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. Pohlad said, "I know how much they value the relationship between them and the manager, and the engagement with the whole baseball staff. They are going to make the decision." It will be a decision that won't be made until after the 2017 campaign. Falvey and Levine have already been making changes to the front office. Longtime executive and current scout Wayne Krivsky was fired along with four other scouts. Part of the agreement when Falvey joined the Twins was that he couldn't bring any scouts with him from Cleveland during his first year. That calendar year will be expiring soon and the new front office wants some fresh faces. "The Twins are a proud, historic franchise with a lot of people who are deeply connected to the organization," Falvey said. "We didn't want to make a lot of changes at the outset and bring in a whole new staff. We set a new direction and vision, let people know what expectations were of them, and then let people do their jobs. And we're learning a lot about people." Has Molitor met the expectations of the new front office? Do the Twins need to make the playoffs for him to save his job? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  12. Throughout his professional career, Polanco has played over 3300 innings at shortstop. Unfortunately, he didn't play an inning at short to start the 2016 season. Before being called up in July to take over the Twins shortstop role, he started 64 games at second base and two games at third base. Twins manager Paul Molitor was asked about Polanco's handling during the 2016 campaign. He told the Star Tribune, "I wish I had a better explanation for you. But I think myself, a lot of other people, realized we didn't handle it the right way." To be clear, this shouldn't be something Molitor has to worry about or apologize for in the press. His job is to run the major league squad on a daily basis. There would be reports coming from the minor league level but a directive for positioning of players would need to come from the front office. As the Twins were getting close to calling up Polanco, the team was also in the midst of firing general manager Terry Ryan. It was also nearing the trade deadline when the Twins would make multiple moves. Polanco's positioning at Rochester might have gotten lost in the shuffle but this still shouldn't be an excuse for it falling through the cracks. Polanco isn't a perfect shortstop. There are questions about his arm at the position and whether he has the range to make all the necessary plays. In over 400 MLB innings last year, he committed 11 errors in 189 chances (.942 FLD%). This fielding percentage was 10 points higher than his professional average. Some of his defensive flaws at shortstop show up in some of the other defensive metrics. Defensive runs saved (DRS) had him at 8 runs below average. Ultimate zone rating (UZR) was even lower as it put him at 10.9 runs below average. These numbers will obviously need to improve for him to stick at shortstop through the coming season. There are benefits to having infielders who are versatile. However, it also helps for players to get as much experience as possible at the position that could be their ticket to the big leagues. Polanco was in his age-22 season and he lost half a year of development at shortstop. Polanco's 2016 season might have included an organizational gaffe but spring is a time to turn the page. The Twins might have blundered but he will get every opportunity to prove he can stick at shortstop. Who's to blame in the Polanco blunder? Should Molitor have been monitoring more of the minor leagues? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  13. Join Twins Daily writers in fighting some terrible diseases by attending the 2017 Diamond Awards. Seth, Jeremy and John will host as many tables as we can of Twins Daily members for this fantastic fundraiser inside Target Field. First, buy tickets to the 2017 Diamond Awards. It’s awesome, truly a bucket list item for Twins fans; just check out the photos and . It’s the night before Twins Fest (January 26th), so it’ll be a star-studded affair including an awards dinner celebrating the Diamond Awards winners, including Brian Dozier, Ervin Santana, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Terry Ryan.Tickets are $150 each but the proceeds go to the University of Minnesota to cure some pretty terrible diseases, like ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), ataxia, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson’s disease. It is a great cause and a fantastic time and Seth, Jeremy and I would love to share it with you. To join us, just write that you want to be at the Twins Daily table in the “comments” box at the end of the signup form. Or, if you’ve already signed up, let me know in the comments below and I’ll work with the organizers to make sure you are seated with us. We would love to get a big group together and talk a lot of baseball or get your thoughts on the site. This is truly a special opportunity to attend one of the Twins premier annual events that celebrates their team and their fans. Plus, it’s an exceptional cause and a chance to see the best of Target Field on one of the coldest weekends of the year. Let’s recharge our batteries and get ready for a great weekend and a great year together. If you have any questions or concerns, use the comments. But please click the link below and give it a try this year. You won’t regret it. BUY TICKETS OR LEARN MORE HERE
  14. In the last couple of weeks, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have been busy and things are about to get even busier. As we discussed yesterday, the Twins have until Friday night to offer arbitration to five players (Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson, Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Pressly, and Eduardo Escobar). Be sure to stop by throughout the day to find out if any players were not tendered a contract. Two days after introducing Michael Cuddyer, LaTroy Hawkins and Torii Hunter as new Special Assistants to Baseball Operations, the Twins made official their signing of catcher Jason Castro. The three year, $24.5 million deal is the largest free agent contract handed out to a new Twins position player. In Wednesday's press conference, Derek Falvey acknowledged that Castro was "identified early on as an important target for us this offseason. He was somebody that we talked about from Day 1." On Thursday, George King of the New York Post tweeted the following: https://twitter.com/GeorgeAKingIII/status/804444002225364993 Rowson is apparently a very respected hitting man. He comes from the Yankees organization, but he held similar titles recently in the Cubs system too. You can learn more about him in the discussion on this forum. Now all the Twins need is a first base coach. They will likely want someone who can also work with outfielders, or the catchers. That said, news came out in the last couple of days that former Twins GM Terry Ryan has accepted a job as a Special Assignment scout with the Philadelphia Phillies. Ryan, of course, has been in the organization going back to 1986, 30 years. Likewise, former GM Bill Smith, who also has given over 30 years of service time to the Twins organization, was informed recently that his job with the Twins will be over in January when his contract is complete. The Winter Meetings officially start on Monday in Washington, DC, but teams will start arriving there on Sunday afternoon. As always, there will be a ton of rumors, this GM talking to that GM or that agent, and we’ll hear a bunch of them. However, it’s always a good reminder that these meetings are actually designed to have many meetings set up, official meetings, to discuss the business of baseball. College students will be there, hoping to get an interview and latch on with an organization. Big league, minor league (affiliated or independent) will be there. But it’s those side meetings that will garner the most attention. Brian Dozier will certainly be Topic #1 for the Twins rumor mill over the coming week. Will Falvey-Levine find a taker for the second baseman who hit 42 home runs a year ago? Will there actually be a trade? And, if Dozier is traded, does that mean that Jorge Polanco moves to second base? Would the Twins then be in the market for a shortstop at the Winter Meetings? But then, it all comes down to pitching. What will the new regime’s strategy be to bring in high-end pitching? How much can they get for Brian Dozier, but also will they be active in other trades? WIll they be active in free agency? Are there even starters to find in free agency? What about the bullpen? Will they look to add more bullpen arms? Will they choose to push some of the young flame-throwers? It’s going to be an interesting week, and I would venture to guess that with their new roles, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will be among the most popular COB/GM combos for agents and executives alike to talk to. What if the Twins don’t actually make a Dozier trade or other moves during the Winter Meetings? I mean, this is one week in early December and there will be plenty of talent available next week, or the week after, or into January. So, it’s not a big deal. But the Winter Meetings provide the opportunity for in-person meetings to set the tone for deals, now, or in the near future. Also, next Thursday, the final day of the Winter Meetings, will be the Rule 5 draft. The Twins will have the first pick. With the Castro signing, they are currently at 40 men on their 40-man roster. They will either have to make a move next week to make room, or DFA someone to make room, if they want to make a pick. Maybe the best, big picture news this week was that there was a new Collective Bargaining Agreement finalized a day before the old one expired. There is a lot in our forums about the new CBA, so be sure to read more if you are interested. Here are a few more topics from our forums that you may enjoy contributing to: News came out last weekend that lefty Pat Dean, who the Twins DFAd last month, has signed with the KIA Tigers in Korea. He recently returned from Korea where he signed the deal. Adam Brett Walker, who was removed from the 40 man roster two weeks ago and claimed by his hometown Milwaukee Brewers, was DFAd by the Brewers this week. It will be interesting to see if he clears and stays in the Brewers organization, or if he is claimed by yet another team. The DFA/Limbo cycle can really stink. Logan Schafer signed a minor league deal with the Orioles. Chris Parmelee signed with the Oakland A’s. Dan Runzler signed with the Pirates. Brandon Warne gave report cards to all 40 members of the Twins 40-man roster in 2016. Find them all here. In the last week or so, we have had Q&As with several Twins minor leaguers including Travis Blankenhorn, Shane Carrier, and Jordan Balazovic. We’ve got more lined up as well. It’s never too early to start thinking about next year’s #1 overall pick in the draft. Baseball America released its Top 100 High School kids this week. Sam Carlson, a 6-4 right-hander from Burnsville who is committed to Florida is on the list. Be sure to check out our sister sites, Vikings Journal and Wild Xtra as well. Finally, we are starting to get a lot of questions on the 2017 Twins Prospect Handbook. I assure you that Cody Christie, Jeremy Nygaard and I are putting in a ton of hours and hope to have it available shortly after the holidays, in early January. Feel free to discuss anything in the comments below, and check out our forums for many more topics.
  15. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/Ep_287_Unpacking_Dozier_Rumors.mp3
  16. The Situation The situations are eerily similar. The year before, the 1984 Twins had a very successful year, raising hopes. In fact, they competed for a postseason spot right until they were swept in their last series of the year. ***This is an excerpt of one of several features from the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook. To read this and more, be sure to download your FREE Twins Daily Offseason Handbook now.*** (P.S. In fact, they lost their last six games, a streak which started when they were just a ½ game from the division lead. That included perhaps the two most heartbreaking losses between the years 1970 and 1992, and they were back-to-back. One was yet another blown lead by Ron Davis and then the Twins blew a 10-0 lead with Frank Viola on the mound. After that game, Gary Gaetti offered his appraisal of his own throwing error that led to a seven-run inning: “It’s hard to throw with both hands around your neck.”) (P.P.S. “Twins Worst Losses.” How did Twins Daily not produce that series in this year of all years? Apparently, it’s also hard to blog with both hands around your neck.) The success in 1984 raised hopes, because the team was filled with promising youngsters. Kirby Puckett had debuted that year. Kent Hrbek had been snubbed for the All-Star team. Seven of the nine starters in the lineup were 26 years old or younger. But 1985 started poorly. After winning their first two games, the team fell into a nine-game losing streak. (Again – sound familiar?) They rebounded with a 10-game winning streak, but on June 20th, they were only 27-35 and in sixth place in the division. Like this year’s team, a change was made, but in their case it was the manager who was fired. Billy Gardner was replaced by Ray Miller, and the team limped to a fourth place finish in the division, fourteen games back. By then, the new owner, Carl Pohlad, had determined that the organization needed to modernize from the decades-old management structure that Calvin Griffith had in place. But rather than fire team “interim” president Howard Fox, he looked for young blood to help evaluate things first. That included interviewing the relatively inexperienced MacPhail. MacPhail was probably best known for his father, Lee MacPhail, who built the Orioles powerhouses of the 60s and 70s. Andy didn’t exactly have high hopes about the interview. In Doug Grow’s book “We’re Gonna Win Twins”, MacPhail admitted, “I’d never managed anything. I was flattered they wanted to talk to me. I came in, I met with Carl and Jim, answered a series of questions, and went back to Houston.” Sure enough, the Twins didn’t get back to MacPhail for months. But in June, they interviewed him again once they got a better feel for how the baseball-side was (or wasn’t) working. In August, MacPhail was hired, but not as General Manager. The Organization MacPhail was the Vice-President of Player Personnel. That position still reported to Fox, but ultimately his position was closer to the one Falvey will inaugurate: examining, organizing and overhauling the ball club with a long-term view, instead of paying attention to the more immediate roster needs. MacPhail started with the scouting department, and that’s when the Pohlad’s fears were confirmed. Again, in “We’re Gonna Win Twins”, MacPhail recalled his reaction to seeing the Griffith-era scouting reports: “They had their scouting reports on little 3 x 5 cards,” MacPhail said. “And I don’t mean a 3 x 5 card for each player. Each card was for a whole team. It was just incredible. I don’t mean to put them down. That organization came up with great players over the years. But things were changing in baseball. I think the median age for their scouts was about seventy-three. They had two scouts living in North Dakota, which is not exactly rich in baseball talent. But they didn’t have anybody in Texas.” To clean up that mess, MacPhail plucked someone from another organization. He tapped the New York Mets midwest scouting supervisor: Terry Ryan. Ryan was also only 32 years old, but that wouldn’t be the most controversial of his younger hires. Adding New Blood At the end of the 1986 season, the Twins decided to make another change at manager. Ray Miller had never really worked out and so Fox designated third base coach Tom Kelly to hold down the position for the rest of the year. MacPhail was charged with finding the next manager for the 1987 season. ***To read the rest of this feature and more, be sure to download your FREE Twins Daily Offseason Handbook now.***
  17. Derek Falvey was officially announced as the Twins Chief Baseball Officer last month. However, due to an agreement between Minnesota, Cleveland and MLB, he remained with Cleveland through the World Series. However, in that time, he was able to hire his choice for Twins General Manager, and he chose long-time assistant GM of the Texas Rangers, Thad Levine. In addition, interim GM Rob Antony told reporters that his new title would be essentially be his old title, Assistant General Manager. To summarize, the messages shared from the mouths of both Falvey and Levine included a lot of collaborations and synergy at every level. From scouting, to player development, to the Major League club, the goal will be to share a common system of beliefs and structure. As you will find with many companies, they will focus on People, Process and Culture. Good people who are interested in communication and continuous improvement will work within some established processes to develop a culture. Hopefully that culture involves winning, and a lot of it. According to Falvey, the goal is “long-term, sustainable, championship-caliber” success for the organization he had earlier described as “one of the most proud, resilient franchises in baseball.” Getting to that level will require a lot of work. And that work starts right away. Tonight, Falvey, Levine and Antony fly to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the GM Meetings. According to Falvey, they will “dive underneath the hood of this team here.” He added, “We would expect that we’ll go through player personnel decisions and evaluations over the next 72 hours aggressively and work forward from there.” As we all know, part of the arrangement with a restructured front office was that Paul Molitor was to remain the team’s manager. That came directly from owner Jim Pohlad. Falvey and Molitor have met a few times and it sounds like the discussions have been good. “He and I share the same vision which is building a winning organization and a winning Major League team.” On Molitor, Levine added, “My opinion is that the healthiest franchises in the game have strong synergies between ownership, front office, business and the clubhouse. So when we walk in the door having inherited a manager of the caliber of Paul Molitor, we feel like we’ve got a partner in this process, someone we can invest in the future with, so we view it as a prominent positive.” The team isn’t starting from scratch. As Falvey noted, “There are some building blocks here. There are some good young players. There’s talent in this organization. I think that’s a credit to Terry Ryan and the staff that came before us and built a good foundation, particularly on the position player side. It’s something I’ve always admired from a distance.” Falvey wasn’t willing to say how good this team is or how good they can be in 2017. “I don’t want to put restraints on teams. I want to go into the year with the hope that we are a competitive team that continues to build and gets better every single day.” The big question, of course, is how to go about adding pitching, something the Twins are greatly in need of. For Falvey, he said it’s the same philosophy for hitters or pitchers. “We’re trying to seek and find the best possible talent that exists out there, and then align that talent with a development plan that will maximize those strengths.” It’s a system that worked with Cleveland. They were able to bring together scouting, development and major league operations to bring the best results. He talked about working with other departments such as medical and strength and conditioning, and potentially some departments that currently do not exist. The new staff will attempt to bring balance to the organization. They will communicate internally. It is a sound strategy. Listen, the reality is that Falvey and Levine have their work cut out for them. Aside from some of the specifics as it relates to analytics, the message was the same you would have heard from Ryan and his group, or any new collection being brought in. Falvey and Levine use bigger words and speak very well. They do bring knowledge and experience from outside the current Twins system, but they also know that it isn’t 100 percent about analytics. I was impressed with Levine noting that the opinions of former players like Michael Young and Darren Oliver, who are senior advisers in the Rangers’ front office, were helpful in the evaluation as well. Corey Koskie, Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins were in attendance. Falvey talked about being a “data-driven organization.” Levine thinks that data needs to be “married up with the scouting acumen of your field staff. The talent evaluators are really the difference-makers in the game. I subscribe to the theory that the competitive advantage is that whoever has the best talent evaluators... who then has it married up with an ownership group who will support you to acquire that talent, is probably going to win a lot of games.” Levine also noted that relationship building, the human side, is just as important. Working with the media. Building relationships with agents. All in an attempt to be able to bring in the best talent. Young talent. Talented veterans. Leaders. It all fits into the equation. So while the theme most Twins fans want to hear are words like “analytics” and “advanced stats,” it’s good to hear that these new leaders will always understand the human element as well. Things are changing in the front office of the Minnesota Twins. The goals remain the same. Build a winner. Build a team that can win in the short and long terms. It is certainly going to be a challenge. Press conferences are an opportunity to meet the new guys. We had the opportunity to listen to them speak and see some personality. It’s hard to lose in an introductory press conference. But for the most part, I feel like it was a successful unveiling of the new direction. Falvey and Levine are both very well spoken and articulate. They flash business acumen, but they have also been in great organizations that have won. They are very convincing and appear to be strong leaders. Levine showed a sense of humor and hinted humility with a few of his remarks. Of course now the work begins. Coming off of a 59-win season, much work needs to be done to make the team more competitive. It feels like the Twins have made some strong choices. Now the fun of the offseason begins. We know that those reading this on the pages of Twins Daily will be watching closely to see what will happen!
  18. Putting trust in a young, unproven leader worked for the Twins in the late-1980's. Now Twins fans hope that history will repeat itself. Sources point to the Twins hiring 33-year-old Derek Falvey from the Cleveland Indians as their new president of baseball operations. Minnesota wanted a new voice at the front of their baseball operations and Falvey is half as old as former GM Terry Ryan. To put this in more perspective, Falvey is the same age as current Twins player Joe Mauer. Falvey has moved swiftly through the Indians organization as he started as his baseball career as an intern in 2007. In less than a decade, he moved up to assistant general manager. During the last calendar year, he will have moved from director of baseball operations to assistant GM and now to president of baseball operations. As I mentioned at the end of last week, Falvey's young age and rapid rise in the Indians organization could all help his cause. The Twins don't switch front office personnel very often so a young, passionate person could hold down the spot for years. It's going to take a massive shift to move Minnesota from the bottom of the standings and a lot will be riding on the shoulders of Mr. Falvey. MacPhail has gone on to work as the Preisdent and CEO of the Cubs, the President of Baseball Operations in Baltimore, and he currently serves as the President of the Philadelphia Phillies. Even with all of these stops, one of his biggest accomplishments might have been rebuilding the Twins pitching staff leading into 1987 and overhauling the rotation going into 1991. Frank Viola, Bert Blyleven and Les Straker led the 1987 rotation with Jeff Reardon in the closer role. Jack Morris, Scott Erickson, and Kevin Tapani were the top three starters in 1991 with Rick Aguilera as the closer. "We had to turn the entire pitching staff over in a four-year period, which was no easy feat," MacPhail said. He went on to say it took "a little bit of everything" to turn the pitching staff around. Now Falvey is tasked with a similar challenge including turning around a pitching staff with an AL's worst ERA. Falvey's current team, the Indians, are on their way to winning the AL Central and their pitchers have the AL's best ERA. Falvey currently oversees the Indians' whole pitching program and that might be one of the main reasons he is ending up in the Twins front office. Only time will tell if Falvey can find some of the same magic that surround MacPhail and the Twins two World Series rosters. Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Jose Berrios could end up following in the footsteps of Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, and Scott Erickson. Those days seem a long ways off but Falvey provides some hope for a better tomorrow even if a World Series title seems years away. What can Falvey do to overhaul the rotation? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  19. So who is Alex Anthopoulos? What do Twins fans need to know about this potential candidate? He could be shaping the future of this organization for years to come and fans are hungry to see a winning team back on the field. Blue Jays Rising Anthopoulos served as the general manager and senior vice president of baseball operations with the Toronto Blue Jays from 2010-2015. Last season, he helped the Blue Jays end a 22-year playoff drought but he decided to leave after some changes to the team's front office. Mark Shapiro was brought in as president and CEO and it sounds like the Jays wanted to cut costs and stop trading away prospects. He currently works as the vice president of baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers which seems like a springboard job to other positions in the baseball. Wheeling and Dealing During his time in Toronto, the 39-year old Anthopoulos was not afraid to make moves. Some of his biggest trades included: Acquiring 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson from Oakland for Brett Lawrie Sending Noah Syndergaard to the Mets for RA Dickey Pushing to get Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies for Jose Reyes and other prospects Dealing a trio of left-handed pitchers to Detroit for David Price Besides his willingness to deal away prospects for established players, he also spent plenty of money on contracts for players like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Many Twins fans have wanted the front office to be more active in making trades and spending money. As Nick alluded to earlier this week, this might not always be the best strategy. Scouting Background Anthopoulos has a background in scouting and he made major additions to the scouting department in Toronto. He created regional cross-checker positions and nearly doubled the size of the scouting team from 28 to 54. In doing so, he was able to shrink each scout's coverage area so they could spend less time traveling and more time working. "We get to see players more often -- more innings pitched, more at-bats, Anthopoulos said. "We've added layers we didn't have before." It seems likely that he would do some major shake-ups throughout the Twins' scouting team including bringing in some scouts who have previously worked with him. The Future When the Twins let Terry Ryan go, they made it clear that they would like to have someone hired by season's end. The Dodgers are four games up in the NL West and posed to make a playoff run. This could mean Anthopoulos continues to work in his current position until deep into October. When the Dodgers hired him, they had to know he was destined to get other opportunities. Maybe they would be willing to let him out of his current position so he can start finding Minnesota's next general manager. There're plenty of changes that still need to happen and hiring Anthopoulos might be just the first step. What are your thoughts on Anthopoulos? Is he the right fit for the Twins organization? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  20. Terry Ryan, the Twins recently fired GM, was no stranger to this adage. Entering the 2012 season, Glen Perkins had been dominant in relief the year before but he was hesitant to give him the closer role. "He doesn't have any experience in that role," said Ryan. "I think you're wise to ultimately see if you can find a guy with experience." Perkins would serve as closer that season and he has been a three-time All-Star since 2012. Flash-forward to the 2016 season and the Twins have shuffled through multiple players at the back-end of the bullpen. Glen Perkins began the year with the closer title but he was limited to two appearances before requiring season-ending shoulder surgery. Kevin Jepsen was fantastic at the end of 2015 so he stepped back into the closer role. However, he posted a 6.16 ERA and was recently released by the club. Enter Brandon Kintzler, a 31-year old who the Brewers organization didn't want in the off-season. Since earning his first save on June 8, Kintzler has posted a 1.69 ERA and a 10 to 2 strikeout to walk ratio in 17 appearances. Opponents are slashing .238/.262/.317 and he has yet to blow a save. There's been a shift with the former 40th-round draft pick this season. In previous season's he stayed in the low to mid 90's but this season he has hit over 95 multiple times. Another significant change in 2016 has been his use of his sinking fastball. For his career, he has used this pitch 52.8% of the time but this season he has bumped that total up to 83.4%. Kintzler's sinking fastball has also resulted in 15 strikeouts this season which is 75% of all of his strikeouts this season. Over the course of his career, this pitch has been the out pitch in 53.2% of his strikeouts. He ranks third in the American League in ground ball percentage. This pitch has also been effective because he has hit nearly 96 mph with it but he can also drop it all the way down to 87.6 mph. The myth of the "proven closer" might still be out there in some baseball organizations. Kintzler has been good and hopefully someone would like to pay for Kintzler and his new closer title as the trade deadline approaches. Because he seems to have "proven" himself.
  21. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/gatg_7_24_16_final.mp3
  22. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/Ep_265_Replacing_Terry_Ryan.mp3
  23. Given that the Twins have had only three GMs over their last thirty or so years, the same number of managers over that period and numerous other front office staff and scouts who have served in the organization for dozens of years, the firing of Terry Ryan made national waves. It’s uncommon to turn on MLB Network or MLB Network Radio and hear the Twins getting more than just passing attention, but it was different Monday and Tuesday. Speculation about who could be considered as Terry Ryan’s replacement was a main talking point. The thing is… it doesn’t seem to add up. Earlier this season, Jim Pohlad talked about a “total system failure” but also gave both Terry Ryan and Paul Molitor a 100% vote of confidence. Two months later, one of them has been shown the door. Not that it’s extremely rare in sports to have a coach/manager/GM get a vote of confidence followed quickly by a pink slip. But we’re talking about the Twins and all of these waters are unchartered. Since Ryan’s dismissal, Molitor has been given another vote of confidence and the national radio shows continue to focus on the “next GM.” But what if there’s more to it? Since Monday it’s come out that Terry Ryan was told a month ago that he would not be returning as the team’s GM in 2017. He was given some time to consider his own exit and decided late last week that he should “get out of the way” before ultimately being fired. What if he’s not the only one? If Terry Ryan had the option to stay for the remainder of the season, who’s to say that other front office members weren’t given the same choice, but chose to stay? What if, specifically, Dave St. Peter, the team president, was told the same thing? It seems ridiculous, given that every indication is that he’ll be involved in the hiring process. This is an organization that - when you really look at it - only reassigns people. Bill Smith? You’re fired… but we’ll put you in a different position. Ron Gardenhire? You’re fired… but let us know when you want to work again. Terry Ryan? Who knows. So what could happen next? It’s all purely speculative, but what if Dave St. Peter is reassigned too? There’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t do well with a title of President of Business Operations. (edit: not Baseball Operations.) There are already a number of people under that umbrella that he’s currently in charge of. St. Peter claims to have very little to do with the on-field product. So why tie up a “baseball position” with a non-baseball mind? That would leave two voids at the very top of the baseball side of things - President of Baseball Operations and General Manager. Looking at only the AL Central, the White Sox (Kenny Williams, Executive VP and Rick Hahn, Sr. VP/GM) and Indians (Chris Antonetti, President, Baseball Ops and Mike Chernoff, GM) have two baseball minds in both of those position. The Tigers have Al Avila in both the president role and the GM chair, but have a separate position for business operations. Same for the Royals and Dayton Moore. Obviously a lot of that only has to do with “titles” and it’s likely that across baseball 30 teams have 30 different titles for the same job getting done. Is this something the Twins would do? A week ago I’d have said, “No way!” But times are changing now. Is Ben Cherington looking to get back into baseball? Would Alex Anthopoulos be interested in climbing back into a GM chair? Will Kim Ng get a fair shot? She’s more than deserving of running a baseball club, offering more background in analytics than the team has ever had, but not the scouting background. Could the Twins lure De Jon Watson from Arizona to serve as their President of Baseball Operations? The duo worked together for the Dodgers and Ng and Watson currently work under Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, respectively. Who better to have as mentors? It goes without saying that these would be only a two ways to make a splash. And the character of the Twins as a baseball franchise is the antonym of “splashy.” But - right or wrong - the Twins were willing to make a franchise-altering change and that’s a big step in a different - and hopefully right - direction.
  24. Before we get to the questions, I’m going to take a moment to share some thoughts on Terry Ryan. As you’ve noticed, most people who know Ryan or have worked in any capacity start discussions today with what a terrific person that he is. Then they go on to, typically, state that despite that, the Twins needed to make a change. It’s hard to argue with any of that. Terry Ryan has always treated me with the utmost respect and been upfront and as honest as he can be. He has been very helpful to me and accepting of Twins Daily. I have always enjoyed each opportunity and I have had to converse with Ryan and feel like I learn something each time whether or not we’re even talking about baseball. For me, Terry Ryan was always someone I admired. I look at what he did in the late 90s to set up the success the Twins had for most of the decade of 2000. Signing veterans and then trading them to acquire more young talent. Building a farm system and building a winner on a budget. As a blogger who started in 2003, I enjoyed seeing the transactions and trying to figure out what Ryan was doing. I recall seemingly any time I wrote something about the Twins being out of it, they would find a way to get themselves back into contention. Unfortunately, since his return, the Twins have had many low moments, and there have been fewer positive turn-arounds. When Ryan reclaimed the GM position, I sent him a quick note. He responded relatively quickly and noted “we won’t take any shortcuts.” He set out to help re-establish and repopulate the Twins minor league system. And you know what… he did just that. The last few years, the Twins have been one of the top three minor league organizations by most who rank those types of things. In the last couple of seasons, we have begun to see some of the talented players who have helped the Twins to those rankings. And the farm system is still stacked with terrific talent. Think about it for a moment. Ryan made the focus of the organization development of the minor league system. Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, and Jorge Polanco all have a lot of room to grow as players. Jose Berrios will take off at some point, and within the next two or three years the likes of Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, Tyler Jay, Felix Jorge, Fernando Romero and some others have a chance to round out a solid rotation. Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Michael Tonkin and Ryan Pressly are developing this year and will lead the way as JT Chargois, Nick Burdi, Mason Melotakis and Trevor Hildenberger are on their way. In some ways, I think that whoever takes over as the next Twins general manager is going to look pretty smart when so many of these young, talented players reach their potential. Will Terry Ryan get credit when this team takes off thanks to the core of young players that developed under his watch? That’s one question I have, and here are some more questions I have after today. What’s up with the timing of this decision? My first organizational thought after my initial surprise at the Twins move was, why did they make this decision less than two weeks from this year’s August 1st trade deadline? That certainly puts Rob Antony, who was named the interim GM, in a tough position. Then again, he will be supported by the Twins current front office, scouts and player personnel staff. Will Rob Antony get a legitimate shot to have the interim-label removed? All indications from Monday’s discussions seem to indicate that the Twins will look to hire someone from outside the organization. However, the track record of the organization would certainly indicate that he will be given an opportunity. How he handled the trade deadline and, frankly, how the team performs may be his interview for the job. Maybe that is why Terry Ryan resigned when he did, to give Antony an opportunity to show what he can do, his style, etc. Should Rob Antony get a legitimate shot at the full-time GM job? Among Twins fans, the general sentiment seems to be that they have to go outside the organization to change the culture. When Antony’s name comes up, fans like to bring up the spring training when Antony took over the reigns when Ryan was working through his cancer treatments and recovery. They like to bring up the decision to keep Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett on the Opening Day roster. First, that’s a very small sample size. All other reports indicate that Antony has done a nice job as Ryan’s assistant GM. He is well respected among players and scouts for his negotiations in arbitration and free agencies. He’s being given a lot of credit, by Eduardo Nunez, for bringing him to the Twins. And yes, he has been involved in the current ‘regime,’ but that doesn’t mean that things would be exactly the same under Antony’s leadership. Maybe they would be, but my assumption is that Antony would be willing to do some things differently. In general, I just don’t like the idea that it has to be someone from outside the organization. Should the Twins go outside the organization for their GM hire? To appease the fan base, it is probably a good idea to hire someone from outside. While the Twins have implemented many more systems throughout the minor leagues and added more statistical analysis, it is never a bad idea to look elsewhere for new and fresh ideas. If nothing else, the Twins ownership group needs to take time to consider what is happening in other organizations and reassess their own expectations for a GM or other roles in the organization. So, who will make the hire? Who will sit in on the interviews? From various interviews, it does appear that the Twins could use a search firm to develop a list or candidates or even make a recommendation. However, it will be Jim Pohlad and Dave St. Peter who will have the final say. St. Peter even said that he would likely talk about candidates with Tom Kelly. I’m not a huge fan of search firms, but I don’t know that Pohlad and St. Peter are necessarily the right people to make the decision on the next General Manager. I have my doubts. More important, what are these two looking for in a GM? In May, I wrote up many of the roles, responsibilities and requirements for a GM. I would hope that the owner and president would provide a search firm a very, very detailed list of exactly what they are looking for in the next GM. Will Rob Antony be given full rein to do as he sees best for the Twins organization during this trade deadline? We are being told that he will not be limited. We are told that they have complete confidence in Antony to do what is best for the organization. This is such a big trade deadline with some very difficult decisions to make. Which players will or should be traded? How will he do in terms of negotiating prospect returns? The tough part of this is that those trades really can’t be graded for several years. The unfortunate thing for Antony is that he will be trading veterans and getting back non-big name prospects. Most fans will respond to any Twins trade returns with “Who is that?” Some will say, “That’s all Antony was able to get for (insert Nunez, Kintzler, Abad, Escobar, Santana, Nolasco here)?” He could trade Brian Dozier for a bigger return and make a bigger splash, but then critics will question that decision as well. It’s a tough situation for Antony to be thrust into, but again it’s probably the only option to give him some experience to add to his resume. Should the Twins wait until after the season to decide? Well, Pohlad has said that they are going to start their search right away and would like to name their new GM even before the season ends. Is this wise? There are only 30 MLB General Manager jobs available. Each year, maybe one, possibly two GM jobs are available (if that many), so these jobs don’t come around real often. By starting this process and making a decision early, they will get a headstart on other GM jobs that may open up in the offseason (if any). The downside is that there may be playoff-contending teams that won’t let their employees apply or interview for this job until after their seasons. In other words, it’s possible that a couple of potential candidates may not be available for this reason. Is the Twins General Manager a desirable position that candidates should seek? It absolutely should be a job that people would want. As I wrote earlier, the talent accumulated by Ryan and Company will make the next GM look really smart over the next couple of years. There is a lot of talent. Secondly, as I mentioned earlier, there are only 30 Major League GM jobs available. These jobs don’t come along, so there should be plenty of strong options for Pohlad and St. Peter to consider. Finally, if the team has any form of success with the GM, the organization is very loyal. It’s a job that could come with a lot of leeway. How does this affect the rest of the Twins front office? For the short-term, it doesn’t. Rob Antony takes over as interim GM. They continue in their roles, supporting Antony. But if someone else is chosen as the General Manager, you would think that he (or she) would come with some of his own personnel. I personally hope that the new GM would be open to keeping at least some of the current staff. Would a new GM expand upon Jack Goin’s current analytical group, or would he bring in his own people? How will Mike Radcliff, the Twins director of player personnel and long-time employee who, like Ryan, has given up several opportunities to be with other organizations, fit into the organization? Does Deron Johnson remain the team’s scouting director? Does Brad Steil remain the Twins minor league director? I don’t think we know. Pohlad has said that Paul Molitor will be the Twins manager in 2017 regardless of who the GM is. Why would he do that? How does it affect the on-field coaching staff? I have no idea why Pohlad would say that a GM can't make decide on his own manager 2017, year one of his or her tenure. Look at any sport and a new GM will almost always want to insert his own choice for manager or coach. Often, he will allow the current coach to stick around, but he is basically a lame duck and it doesn’t take long for a new coaching staff to be brought in. For the remainder of 2016, the coaching staff is most likely safe. The manager appears safe for at least the start of 2017, but beyond that I can’t imagine the coaching staff has a lot of job security. Will the Twins bring back Terry Ryan in some capacity sometime in the future? It is certainly possible that Ryan will come back to the Twins in some capacity, similar to Ron Gardenhire or Bill Smith? Obviously there is no way to know that answer right now. Pohlad and St. Peter indicate that they believe Ryan will seek a job elsewhere at this time. And he should. He is likely to have several offers to be a scout down the stretch for a winning team, or maybe a scouting director for a team as we go forward. I get that there is a strong percentage of fandom that hates that they would bring back the likes of Smith or Gardenhire. I’m certainly on the complete opposite end of that spectrum. Bill Smith was a very good employee for the Twins for 20-25 years before his stint as the GM. He had a lot of strong qualities. Why would an organization not take advantage of those qualities. Since his return, he has been used in roles away from the baseball operations group. He has been very instrumental in the renovations at Hammond Stadium, the player academy in Ft. Myers, and will be key in the development of the new academy in the Dominican Republic. Gardenhire had a lot of success as a coach and a manager in the organization. He has a lot of knowledge to share, or can be an ear for minor league managers to talk to. After taking some time off, his return has been appreciated throughout the system. I don’t know why an organization wouldn’t want smart baseball people involved in the organization if they are still interested. And, for me, I would want to work in a culture where people like that are welcomed back. To me, it says a lot (positively) about the Twins culture brought about through the leadership of Terry Ryan. If Ryan would ever be willing to come back in an advisory role in the scouting department, I’d certainly be willing to bring him back. I don’t know that he would want that though. That is a bunch of questions after the dismissal of Terry Ryan. And you may have more in mind. Please feel free to ask more questions or answer some of these in the Comments below.
  25. Ryan took a small market team and made them into a consistent playoff contender through much of the 2000s. Billy Beane constructed the Oakland Athletics into a playoff contender on a small budget. He receives more praise for it. Mainly because of a book. During the same time Beane was constructing his roster, Ryan was doing it at Minnesota. The Twins trades in the late 90s led to contributors like Joe Mays, Cristian Guzman and a left-hander with a Bugs Bunny change-up named Johan Santana. These types of moves set up a roster that averaged nearly 89 wins a season from 2001-2010. An average better than Oakland's over that time period. He also relied plenty on talent from within the organization. Torii Hunter. Justin Morneau. Joe Mauer. During a time where teams with big budgets were trying their hardest to outspend the rest of the world, the Twins thrived on shrewd moves and home-grown players. Of course, it was a team that only won one playoff series between 2001-2010 despite making the playoffs six times in that time span. That's not necessarily on him. Neither is the fact that his predecessor, Bill Smith, couldn't build off what Ryan had put together when he took over in 2007. It got so bad that Ryan came back on an interim, eventually full-time, in late 2011. He couldn't bring back the magic over the next few years despite having a one of the deepest minor league systems in all of baseball. Change can be good and in this case change was needed for the organization. It had to be Ryan. A guy who has lost favor with much of the fan base but a guy that I will always remember as the one who put together all those fun seasons in the 2000s.
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