The Minnesota Twins won 66 games in 2012, three more victories than they managed to put in the win column in 2011 and they again finished in last place in the American League Central division. Only three Twins teams have finished with worse records over the Twins 52 year existence in Minnesota, the 1982 team finished with a 60-102 record, the 2011 team finished 63-99, and the 1999 crew put up a 63-97 record. 2012 makes two years in a row with a finish of dead last in the division and only the second time in their history they have finished last two years in a row matching the 1981-1982 teams. Back in 1981 and 1982 everyone knew the Twins were a bad ballclub in full rebuilding mode but the current club does not see itself the same way. When the 2011 Twins team went 63-99 and barely dodged the 100 loss mark, team management wasted no time blaming it on all the injuries, truth be told, they did have a lot of injuries but still it seemed clear to me and many others that the Twins were in a dowward spiral. Twins starting pitching totally imploded in 2012 and the team used 12 different starting pitchers with only one getting more than 19 starts and that was Scott Diamond who started the season in AAA Rochester and still ended up starting 27 times.
When you look at some of the players on the 2012 team you can certainly find a number of deserving qualifiers for the 2012 Twins Turkey of the Year award. Lets take a look at some of candidates:
The fifth runner-up is starter Francisco Liraiano. After another frustrating start the Twins had seen enough and sent him packing to a division rival, the Chicago White Sox.
The fourth runner-up is starting pitcher Nick Blackburn. Blackie got off to a 1-4 start and then took a short trip to the DL from mid May to early June. Between June 6 and August 17 Blakburn returned to the rotation starting 12 games going 3-5 with 97 hits in 65.1 inning and a 6.89 ERA. The numbers were so bad that in spite of his $4.75 million salary the Twins sent him to AAA Rochester for the remainder of the season.
Third runner-up is another member of the starting rotation, recent free agent signee Jason Marquis. After personal issues delayed the start of his season, Marquis started 7 games between April 18 and May 20th allowing 52 hits in 34 innings going 2-4 with a 8.47 ERA and the Twins quickly released Marquis.
The second runner-up is starter Carl Pavano. With opening day in 2012 just around the corner reports surfaced that starter Pavano was facing a bizarre legal distraction. According to myrecordjournal.com, “police in Southington, Connecticut were investigating allegations that a high school classmate of Pavano’s, Christian Bedard, threatened to reveal an alleged homosexual relationship they had and to write a book about it unless Pavano apologized to him and bought him an SUV”. Pavano ended up making 11 starts going 2-5 and gave up 80 hits in 63 innings and posted a 6.00 ERA before going on the DL on June 4th and spending the rest of the season there. Another $8.5 million down the drain there.
This years Twins Turkey of the Year runner-up is Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka who was in the second year as a Minnesota Twin making $3 million and he played in a total of 3 games in a Twins uniform going 0 for 12 and committing two errors. In spite of the fact that Nishioka was not able to hit or field in the majors, he considered himself a star and during the two spring training’s that I watched him participate in you could usually find him and his interperter out in one of the back fields working out on his own instead of working out with his teammates. The Twins released him 2 years into a 3 year contract at his request but yet no one from the Twins organization has stepped forward and said who scouted him and how they arrived at the conclusion that Nishioka was a big league player. Former GM Bill Smith took the sword for that one but he should have not been the only one.
Jim Pohlad inherited the Minnesota Twins when his father Carl Pohlad passed away in January 2009. As has been stated many times, the Pohlad family has consistently followed a model of keeping the annual player payroll pegged to 50 percent of team revenue. The Twins have played in their spanking new Target Field ballpark since 2010 but their last two seasons there have been full blown disasters as far as the teams record is concerned. However; the Twins loyal fans kept pouring through the turnstiles although in 2012 attedance has seriously started to lag. As owner and CEO Jim Pohlad is ultimetly responsible for the entire operation. Pohlad, team president Dave St. Peter and GM Terry Ryan have all stated that everyone is doing everything possible to get the team back on the right track, but then again what else would you expect them to say. All three have stated at different times that it is not all about money and that money does not insure a winning team and they throw out examples of teams that have gone to the playoffs in the past with low payrolls. I understand that, but to win on a consistent basis like the team ownership states is their goal, you need to have good players and good players cost money. Over the years the Twins have done what they could with the revenue they had to work with and a couple of times they won it all and I congratulate them for that. The team has taken great pride in playing ball “the Twins way”, promoting from within and making a few trades now and then and that has worked for them in the past, but times have changed and their revenue situation has changed and the Twins management group is stuck in the same old ways of doing business. Back when arbitration and free agency came into play, team owner Calvin Griffith saw the writing on the wall but could not adapt to the new business model and was forced to sell the team to Carl Pohlad. The Twins have said over the years that signing free agents is not the way to the promised land and yet we have watched the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, the Detroit Tigers and numerous other teams buy their way into the playoffs. I know this team does not get the revenue that the Yankees and many other teams get but you have to pull your head out of the sand and accept that change is necessary and that the business model for your team needs to change if you want to be successful year in and year out. When I was a manager in the IT business world I had a budget to work with and when I first started managing I did whatever I could to stay within my budget thinking that the more I stayed under the budget the better a manager I was. I quickly was shown the error of my ways being told that the money I saved during the year was nice but had I spent the money I was allotted in my budget I probably could have improved the service to our existing customers and/or brought in new customers but that did not happen because I chose to play it safe and save a few dollars. You need to spend money to make money, with all the businesses that the Pohlad’s own and run as well as they do, why don’t they run their baseball team the same way? If Jim Pohlad really wanted to field a winning team, he would, but he would need to spend more money to do so but apparently he is satisified with his current rate of return and doesn’t feel the need to change the way the team is currently run.
Excluding the United States government, we all have budgets that we need to live with but a budget is just “an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time.” Our family home has provided us with a safe and comfortable place to live for a number of years but it has only done so because we have budgeted a certain amount of money annually to keep the house in as good a condition as possible. We know that as time goes by that certain aspects of the home start to show some age and slowly start to deteriorate and need to be replaced. A baseball team is no different, you constantly need to spend money on parts that need to be replaced and we do that with money budgeted for that purpose. But now and then a time comes along in all home owners lives where a major problem arises, something totally out of the blue. Just when things were chugging along as you think they should a sudden storm arrives and high winds tear part of your roof off, the hail smashes gapping holes in your siding and a tree smashes your fence. What the heck is up with that? We sure didn’t plan on that happening and it is going to cost a lot of money to fix the home to make it leveable again but yet our budget does not allow for it. On the other hand, if we don’t fix the roof the rest of the home is going to be destroyed and a huge investment will be lost. The Twins suffered such a storm in 2011 but instead of taking the time to fix it properly they threw a tarp on the roof and told themselves that all is good with the world once again. Then in 2012 when they found that their roof was leaking like a sieve they tried some cheap do-it-yourself remedies that did not accomplish much. There is an old saying that goes something like this, “if you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you need to do is to stop digging the hole deeper.” The Twins have to do what a logical home owner would do, they have to find and spend the money necesssary to fix their problem regardless if their current budget allows for it or not. You need to find the money to fix the roof and figure out how you can pay for it. It might mean selling something you can live without or you can take money that you has set aside for other purposes but you need to fix that roof or your investment is down the tubes. The Twins find themselves in such a dilema, their starting pitching staff needs to be replaced or the rest of their players are just wasting their time and soon the team will find fewer and fewer butts in the Target Field seats. It is time for this years Twins Turkey of the Year, Twins owner Jim Pohlad to step up and explain to president Dave St. Peter and GM Terry Ryan that he has their back with the necessary cash and they need to do whatever is necessary to fix the ailing Twins and put them back on the winning track or he will find someone else that can.
Previous Twins Turkey of the Year winners:
2011 – Joe Mauer
2010 – Brendan Harris
2009 – Glen Perkins
Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!