Only three teams in major league baseball lost more games than our Minnesota Twins did in 2014 when they lost 92 times, their four straight 90 plus losing season. You would think that a team that Forbes listed this past March as the 19th most valuable franchise in major league baseball at $605 million with an estimated revenue of $221 million could put a better product on the field wouldn’t you? The Twins 2014 Opening Day payroll was around $85 million give or take, ranking them 24th out of the 30 teams. The Twins front office bragged that they wouldn’t be raising ticket prices in 2014. Raising ticket prices? My God, when the team is this bad for that long the ticket prices should be automatically dropping until the teams shows some competitive life.
With a team like the Minnesota Twins, in its current state of affairs, it is not all that difficult to get candidates for the 2014 Twins Turkey of the Year award “so let’s get after it” and see who we have waiting in the wings.
Finalist but did not make the final cut – Vance Worley was acquired in a trade with the Phillies in December 2012. In the first two months of 2013 the “Vanimal” started 10 games for Minnesota and posted a 1-5 record with a 7.21 ERA and allowed 82 hits in 48.2 innings and eventually pitched his way to AAA Rochester where after a few games he went on the DL. During spring training in 2014 Worley announced that he had pitched hurt in 2013 because of a bone spur in his pitching elbow. The Twins had seen enough of the Vanimal and sold him to the Pittsburg Pirates in March of this year. Another bad pitcher who had more excuses then you could shake a stick at and had a problem telling the truth. Worley was 8-4 for the Pirates with a 2.85 ERA in 2014, what’s up with that?
Finalist but did not make the final cut – The Twins troika of Ron Gardenhire/Rob Antony/Terry Ryan had a rough go of things in 2014. In what turned out to be his last season at the helm as the Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire did the best he could with the players that Terry Ryan and Rob Antony provided but when your pitching staff ranks last in the league in ERA, hits allowed, runs, earned runs, and strikeouts, your chances for a good season are slim at best. Terry Ryan had personal health issues that kept him away from the club for all of spring training and most of the regular season. Rob Antony was the acting GM for a good portion of the season and did what he could to fill Ryan’s shoes. The Twins made several personnel moves that when looked back on could probably have been handled differently and maybe prevented some of the chaos that the team experienced in the outfield. Then again when the manager keeps sending infielders to play the outfield, what can you expect?
Finalist but did not make the final cut – Twins Center fielders – Manager Ron Gardenhire started the season with Aaron Hicks playing center field and had high hopes for the young switch-hitter particularly when Hicks started out 4 for 7 in his first two games. But then he quit hitting, got hurt, over slept and found himself packing his bags for New Britain in late June. In the first two and a half months of the season Hicks appeared on the DL twice and missed 19 games. He didn’t return until the minor league season was over in September. The Twins ended up trying Sam Fuld, Jordan Schafer, Chris Parmelee, Eduardo Escobar, Darin Mastroianni, and Danny Santana in center field and the best of the bunch was Santana but he is a natural shortstop. The rookie Santana never really got a chance to play short and to show how he can handle that position because Gardy kept sending him out to center field. At this point in the off-season center field remains a huge question mark.
Finalist but did not make the final cut – Joe Mauer – Last November (2013) the Twins brain trust in conjunction with Joe Mauer decided that Mauer was done as a catcher due to concussion issues and would become the teams first baseman. In the teams first 70 games (March 31 through June 18) Mauer played in 64 of them getting 289 plate appearances while hitting primarily third in the batting order, he managed to hit just two home runs with 16 RBI while hitting for a .254 batting average. On July 1st while playing against the Royals at Target Field, Mauer pulled his right oblique and missed 34 games between July 2 and August 11th. By the time the season was over Mauer had played in 120 games, hit four home runs, knocked in 55 and struck out a career high 96 times while posting an un-Maueresque OBP of .360 and a .732 OPS. His play in the field although not stellar was acceptable for a player learning a new position on the fly. Unless Mauer starts hitting like the Mauer of old, manager Paul Molitor has no business hitting him third. Why not hit Mauer at lead-off? Since 2004 when he first joined the Twins, Mauer has the highest OBP at .401 and is followed by Jim Thome at .387, Denard Span at .357, Luis Castillo at .357 and Danny Santana at .353 when you compare players that have played 100 games or more. Fans just have a hard time accepting the fact that Joe makes $23 million a year, seems to show no urgency, and the man never seems to get mad about anything. Come on Joe, throw something or at least get thrown out of a game arguing a strike call so we know you are still alive out there.
Finalist but did not make the final cut – Ricky Nolasco was signed by Minnesota in December 2013 and is the highest paid free agent signing in team history. In early July after posting a season todate 5.90 ERA in 104 innings in 18 starts Nolasco revealed he had bad pitching through elbow pain since spring training. You would think that for $49 million that Nolasco could at least be truthful about his condition and have enough confidence in his abilities to step up and speak up instead of hurting his team by continuing to pitch when he is injured. The announcement came as a complete shock to the Twins who then placed Nolasco on the DL where he missed 32 games between July 8th and August 15th. Then in late September he further alienated himself to the Twins community when he responded to a tweet from a Dodgers fan who said they wished he was still in LA and he responded by saying “So do I!!!” OMG! What a clown on so many levels. The man has fences to mend everywhere. “Minnesota nice” only lasts one season Ricky, pick it up their buddy and show us you are not the dud you showed in 2014.
Second runner-up is Chuck Knoblauch was the Twins first round (25th over all) draft choice in June of 1989 and by 1991 he was the Twins starting second baseman on a World Championship team and the American League rookie of the year. The mercurial Knobby demanded to be traded in 1997 and the Twins granted him his wish after the season ended and sent him to the Yankees where he played from 1998-2001. During his stay in New York Knoblauch started having issues with throwing to ball to first base and he left as a free agent after the 2001 season. Knoblauch spent his final season in the big leagues in Kansas City in 2002 and when the season ended so did the 34 year-old Knoblauch’s big league career. After his career ended Knoblauch had issues with alcohol and was arrested in 2010 for hitting his wife and he ended up with a years probation. In January 2014 the Twins announced that Chuck Knoblauch had been elected as the 27th member of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame and would be inducted in August. But Chuck had another alcohol related issue in July of this year and again was arrested and charged with assaulting his ex-wife. This was too much for the Twins organization and they cancelled his August Twins Hall of Fame induction and cut off communications with Knoblauch. By the way, former Twins manager Tom Kelly was on hand at the award ceremony as a guest of Knoblauch and he asked the guests to refrain from throwing Domedogs and other miscellaneous items at Chuck as he stepped up to the podium to accept his second runner-up trophy.
The runner-up is non other than the infamous Twins brand survey – As the 2014 season was coming to an end and another 90+ season was just around the bend, the Minnesota Twins Marketing department decided to send a brand survey to their season ticket holders. I did not actually see the entire survey and can’t find a copy of it but one of the questions the Twins asked in the survey attracted national attention, albeit not necessarily positive. So here is the question and you need to keep in mind that the Twins are well on their way to losing 90 or more games for the fourth year in a row when the survey is sent out.
The survey caught the attention of ESPN’s Keith Olbermann and here is a short YouTube video clip on his thoughts about the Minnesota Twins. The Twins come up at about the 2:30 mark on the video if you want to skip over the first part. Olbermann clip on Twins brand survey. Twins president Dave St. Peter took offense to Olbermann’s comments and you can see what he had to say here and here. Nancy O’Brien the Twins vice-president of Marketing almost became our first female Twins Turkey of the Year winner but the crack marketing staff came up just short in the final balloting. To be honest a couple of votes had some hanging chad and the Twins were offered a recount but since they would have to pay for it they chose to pass and are planning to spend their money on a starting pitcher and they are looking at possible reunions with Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker. The Twins organization and Mr. St. Peter need to remember that “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”
This years winner is – Aaron Hicks was the Twins first round (14th over all) selection in the June 2008 draft. Hicks was on fire during spring training in 2013 hitting .370 with four home runs and 18 RBI and the 23 year-old switch-hitting rookie won the center field job that had been vacated when Denard Span and Ben Revere were traded for pitching depth after the 2012 season. Hicks could not hold on to the job in 2013 but he again started the 2014 season as the Twins center fielder. Hicks hit poorly in his second chance with the club and then got hurt on May 1st and was put on the concussion DL the next day. After being activated from the concussion DL Hicks continued to struggle with the bat, particularly from the left-side where he is has a career average of .185 and on May 26 without consulting with Twins management Hicks announced that he was through with switch-hitting and would bat only from the right side going forward. The Twins were caught by surprise but they were desperate for a center fielder so Twins said OK, go for it and they didn’t even bother to send him to the minors to soften the transition. Just several days later Hicks came up with lower back stiffness and missed a couple more games. Then on June 9th Hicks hurt his shoulder diving for a ball and went on the DL the next day. The Twins then sent Hicks down to New Britain to rehab and on June 22 Hicks plays in a rehab game and hits left-handed. After the game Hicks announces that he has had a change of heart and is again a switch-hitter. The Twins recalled Hicks on September 2 and Hicks appeared in 21 September games hitting .250 (15 for 60) with three doubles and nine RBI. But even during the last month of the season Hicks could not stay out of Gardy’s doghouse when he again had lower back stiffness on September 20th and not only did he not show up early for treatment on Sunday, he didn’t show up until 11:00 AM for a 1:00 game saying that he had over slept. As the season was winding down the Twins brain trust talked to Hicks about playing winter-ball but he resisted stating that he was getting married in the off-season. Hicks finally consented to play winter ball in Venezuela but the team cut him after just 16 games when Hicks hit .220 in 50 at bats with one home run and four RBI but on the plus side he did draw 13 walks. Coming off back-to-back horrendous seasons Aaron Hicks has to be on the cusp of joining the scrap heap of former Twins first round picks that have failed to live up to expectations. The man is an athlete but so far he has not put it together and his attitude and perceived lack of effort is hurting his chances. Hicks seems to think he is entitled to play in the big leagues and does not seem to be willing to put in the work to get there and become the player he should be. Hicks might not have earned his pay in 2014 but he does earn the title as Twins Turkey of the Year for 2014. Step up here Mr. Hicks and claim your award.
Previous Twins Turkey of Year Winners2013 – Twins President Dave St. Peter 2012 – Twins owner Jim Pohlad 2011 – Catcher Joe Mauer 2010 – Infielder Brendan Harris 2009 – Pitcher Glen Perkins
Bonus Thanksgiving content – Can a player be traded for a turkey? An interesting question because apparently it happened back in 1931 and the Washington Senators who would become the Minnesota Twins in 1961 were involved. Better yet, the Twins new AA team the Chattanooga Lookouts were the team that actually made the trade. This is a cool read and you should check it out at Baseball Prospectus.