- You can't dance through the raindrops forever:
Every year the Twins are contenders based on intelligence, execution and some luck. I've repeatedly lauded the "Twins Way" as a strategy for teams to emulate. Not copy, but emulate. Much like the Jesuit teaching techniques learned and espoused by Vince Lombardi----tweaked slightly and transferred----of "freedom within structure", there are baseline attributes all teams must have; they can deviate in their methods as diverse clubs like the Yankees, Marlins and Cardinals do, but the foundation remains the same.
The Twins have always been built on the operation running as a whole; individualism and selfishness is at a minimum for the team goals and their roster has reflected that. One of the most successful clubs over the past ten years, they've justified certain questionable decisions by winning. Although that has yet to translate itself into a pennant, they've been more consistent in their performance----under a similarly limited budget----than the acclaimed Billy Beane with the Athletics.
Even after the atrocious return they got on the Johan Santana trade after badly overplaying their hand, they still managed to win 88 games and make it all the way to a one-game playoff with the White Sox in 2008; they lost, but simply being there was an accomplishment in and of itself. They achieved similar heights in 2009, defeated the Tigers in the playoff game and were dispatched by the Yankees in the ALDS. In 2010, they spent some money on veteran players----albeit short-term reasonable money----won 94 games, coasted into the playoffs....and were dispatched by the Yankees again.
Despite the playoff failures, doing it the "Twins Way" has worked.
But now there are questions as their off-season has been limited to losing veteran players----especially in the bullpen----and replacing them with nothing. Yesterday dealt two potentially devastating blows to that which was the foundation of the Twins success----the aforementioned bullpen.
The Twins strategy has always been to have competent innings-eating starters who threw strikes; a deep and durable bullpen; a solid defense; players who did the right thing situationally at the plate and in the field; and a club that won because of execution.
That bullpen has been badly compromised by losing the hard-throwing Crain and under-appreciated workhorse Guerrier.
Add in that they've lost or are resigned to losing Orlando Hudson, J.J. Hardy (no great shakes), Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch and Ron Mahay and you see that the team is going to have a hard time maintaining competition with these departures alone. They haven't replaced them and sat by as the White Sox and Tigers have improved themselves drastically.
For the bullpen they still have Matt Capps and the returning from Tommy John surgery Joe Nathan, but it's rarely been discussed how important those cogs----Crain and Guerrier----were to the workmanlike Twins. When you factor in the concussion problems of Justin Morneau, the holes look even larger.
Their main focus now appears to be keeping Carl Pavano and presumably, they're going to have to overpay to do it.
Just as the "Twins Way" led them to those above-and-beyond results in 2008 and 2009, it only takes a slight deviation----an error; a bad bullpen performance; a shaky series of starts; an injury to a key player----to reduce the number of wins from 88 and a date in a one-game playoff down to 81 and relegation in mediocrity.
The Yankees have had a bad off-season so far, but one need only look towards middle America to see a team that has had a worse off-season----and much less margin for error----the Minnesota Twins.
- Jayson Werth as Anakin Skywalker...
...and we know what happened to him as he made the self-righteous decision to eschew his friends and his teachings (who were using him just as much as the beckoning power of the Emperor and the Dark Side) for his own interests.
Jayson Werth eerily resembles Hayden Christensen and the machinations of the Nationals, Phillies, Werth and Cliff Lee make the analogy more apropos.
No one can blame Werth for leaving the Phillies for the ridiculous contract bestowed upon him by the Nationals; he wasn't going to get anything close to that deal anywhere else; but we also saw the Werth negatives that I've been cautioning about for quite awhile: he was angry about the Phillies signing Lee.
Sure, it can be covered by the shadowy assertion that he's upset because he's leaving a championship caliber team that added the jewel of this year's free agent class; he can say that he wanted to play with his good friend Lee; but does anyone really believe that given Werth's reputation for being angry about his late-blooming status? His bouncing from the Orioles to the Blue Jays to the Dodgers before finally getting his chance to play with the Phillies? His chafing at the Phillies refusal to give him a long-term contract when they overpaid to keep Ryan Howard?
I don't believe for one second that Werth is angry about not being able to play with his friend; he's mad because the Phillies repeatedly said they didn't have the money to sign Werth, then mystically found the money to sign Lee.
Here's a flash for Werth: the Phillies didn't have the money to pay him but had the money to pay Lee because he's not Cliff Lee. Lee has proven that he's a worthwhile investment for that cash; Werth isn't. You can find an outfielder to stick into the Phillies lineup to replace Werth with the unstoppable pitching staff they've built; you can't find an arm like Lee and one that was willing to be reasonable in his contractual demands in length and dollars simply to rejoin them.
When he hired Scott Boras, Werth made it clear that he wanted to get paid and paid handsomely; he went to a club that is not good; and as egotistical as Werth (and baseball players in general are), Werth can't possibly believe that he and he alone is going to lead a transformation in Washington from 69 wins to contending status.
The Phillies had the money. They just didn't want to give it to Jayson Werth.
- Ah, ESPN:
I'm not spending too much time on this, but I read the following on ESPN this morning regarding Kerry Wood:
Source: Cubs close to bringing back icon Wood
Who writes this stuff?
- Viewer Mail 12.16.2010:
Joe writes RE Cliff Lee:
I posted a comment yesterday but it did not go through. Anyway, I agree about Lee; It's his choice, let him go where he wants to. And yes, Cashman did what he could. He presented the best offer, and it was turned down. I guess some fans think that he should have offered Lee his own statue already or something to lure him.
It's a conspiracy, Joe. A conspiracy against you!!!
The ripping of Cashman died down relatively quickly. What I find idiotic is the Yankees preaching patience...then the rumors popping up that they're considering making a move on Carlos Zambrano.
(No it won't.)
Matt writes RE Cliff Lee:
It's not at all a sure thing that Lee won't some out financially ahead when all is said and done. Look how much the Yanks have paid Andy Pettitte for his late 30's. Lee will only be 37 or so when this deal is up and he is a lefty.
Matt's right. Regardless of injuries or missed time that Lee is likely to have during his second stint in Philadelphia, career-ending injuries to pitchers are rarer and rarer these days. The dearth of pitching isn't going to be solved anytime soon and if Lee pitches well, he's going to be in position to make a lot of money once this contract concludes.
I love the idea of Dallas Braden as a Yankee! Then he could move to Manhattan, change his area code and say, "That's how we do it in the 212."
Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State also writes RE Braden:
Braden would have to pay a lot of money for a 212 area code in New York these days. Those all got used up years ago, which bred the 718 and all that followed.
(I believe the above was also the plot to a Seinfeld episode but I could be wrong.)
He's got the personality for New York. I'll say that.
Alex Rodriguez may----may---be allowed to venture into Bradenia if it's an absolutely necessary negotiation for a bunt play or something similar; he'd have to have all his paperwork in order and receive diplomatic immunity, but it's coming to the table that's the first step in true reconciliation and re-establishing ties.I was on with Sal at SportsFan Buzz yesterday talking about Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and all the other stuff that's gone on in baseball. Go to Sal's site for the I-tunes link or click The SportsFan Buzz: December 15, 2010 to listen directly.