July 27, 2009 – When you have a shot to win the division, you go for it. Don’t worry about how you will do in the playoffs; just find a way to get there. As the Twins prepare to play game number 100, the Twins find themselves in third place just 4 games out of the lead in a weak AL Central division, if they were in another division they would probably be double digit games out of first and looking towards 2010 and Target Field. The teams ahead of the Twins, the Tigers and White Sox are not great teams; they both have weakness that have kept them from jumping out to a commanding lead. I think any of the three teams can win; they just need to show some consistency, something all of them have been lacking.
Twins GM Bill Smith has said that he is working hard. I too am a believer in hard work but the bottom line here is results, just working hard does not cut it. I have seen Francisco Liriano, Jesse Crain, Nick Punto and many other Twins working hard but if the results are not there, then the player is not doing what he is paid to do. Smith has been working hard but where are the results? Smith made a big splash right after he got the job when he made the “big trade” with Tampa to get Delmon Young. Now that trade is not looking so great but we all need to remember that not every trade turns out to the winner, you hope it will be when the deal is done, but you win some and you lose some. To me, GM Smith appears to be gun shy, burnt once he is afraid to swing that deal for fear of being on the short end again. I know the Twins ownership in the past has been patient with team management but Carl Pohlad is no longer around and we don’t know how the younger Pohlads will react in the future. I see this as a defining year for Bill Smith and this week might just make or break Smith as a big league GM. It is time for Bill Smith to step up to the plate and at least swing at the pitch instead of watching it zip by for strike 3.
The Twins have been built from within and depend heavily on their own drafted players. Even though only 12 of the current 25 man roster is Minnesota signed and raised so to speak, it is the core of the team with players like Cuddyer, Kubel, Mauer, Morneau, Span, Perkins, Baker, Blackburn, Slowey, Mijares, Crain, and Duensing. The SP that will take Slowey’s place when he has season ending surgery is Anthony Swarzak, another home grown starter. Ok, that is all fine and good, but how many of those young players in the Twins farm system mature into full fledged major leaguers that eventually become core players that will help the Twins win some games? I am not talking guys that will play a year or two and move on, I am talking real honest to goodness everyday players that contribute. Let me ask this, why don’t the Twins trade Ben Revere? You can’t tell me that the Twins would ever consider an outfield of Span, Gomez, and Revere! Revere has to have some good trade value.
I myself am a conservative “glass is half empty” type of guy but as I grew up I was always taught that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. For me in baseball that translates to making a deal for a 2B like Freddie Sanchez even though I have to give up some potential. The way I see it, I can always draft another potential next year and in the mean time I have a 30 year old former batting champion, three times All-Star, and Gold Glove capable 2B hitting number 2 in my line-up. My God, this is a no brainer; get the deal done Mr. Smith. How much more can you hope to get from your minor leaguers then what Sanchez can give you right now? What are the odds you have a 2B in your system anywhere close to Sanchez? You need a reliever too and there are a number of them out there like Heath Bell, Mike Wuertz, Matt Capps, and George Sherrill that are waiting for a new home, Minnesota might be a great place for them. While you are at it Mr. Smith, how about trying to get Ian Snell from Pittsburgh, he is unhappy there and wants to be traded and he might just be a bit late maturing.
I can’t end this story without getting on Gardenhire a little. Gardy has always enjoyed micro-managing and his hunt for the hot hand is really frustrating and irritating. It is ironic to me that Gardy talks about letting the players play and yet he wants to control every aspect of every game. Looking for the hot hand is like timing the market, in the long run you will lose more then you win. The team shows no consistency because Gardy can’t come up with a consistent line-up or batting order. To some degree his hands are tied with the outfield situation as it is with Cuddyer, Span, Gomez, Young, and sometime outfielder Kubel. Gomez has not proven that he deserves to play full time but he is the crown jewel in the Johan Santana deal so he has a longer leash then he probably deserves. Cuddyer, Span, Young and Kubel all deserve full time positions. I know Young has not played up to his capabilities this year but some guys need to play every day if they are to contribute and I think Young is one of them. If you are not going to play Young, then get him out of the doghouse and trade his butt for what you can get. Sometimes you can improve a team through subtraction. Gardy is loyal to a fault, Nick Punto does not deserve to be an everyday player but yet Gardy moves him from SS to 2B hoping that Punto will finally find out what the bat should be used for. I think the Gardy is having a bad year at the helm.
Bottom line, the Twins and that includes Smith and Gardenhire need to make some changes if they hope to move into Target Field in 2010 as the AL Central Division (or maybe even better) defending champs.
July 29 Update – Ian Snell gets traded to Seattle Mariners and Freddie Sanchez gets traded to the San Francisco Giants today. The Twins? They have done zippo so far but they are working hard……….