It’s more painful because we remember it so well from last year.
The underperforming veterans returned to validate all our doubts in spring, but were still handed a starting job. Their struggles continued and seemingly infected the rest of the team. Finally, after a couple of dismal months, they were replaced with the younger players that we all knew should have been there in the first place. It was recognized, both internally and externally, as the turning point for the team.
The names have changed, but the story is the same. Instead of Kyle Lohse, Juan Castro and Tony Batista, Twins fans (and impartial baseball observers) are wondering why the Twins are wasting their time with Carlos Silva, Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson. Those three pitchers were terrible last year and Silva and Ponson haven’t demonstrated any legitimate signs of improvement this spring.
So the most maddening part to Twins fans isn’t that Twins seem dedicated to these reclamation projects. (Hey, we’re all about reclamation projects. Haven’t you read the press clippings?) The maddening part is that the Twins don’t seem to have learned anything from last year. Or at least nothing beyond “We can get away with putting inferior veterans on the field for the first two months.”
Which would be tragic except for one thing: I'm not totally sure that they're wrong.
Starting the crappy veterans while keeping the kids in Rochester does have some benefits, (and you can be sure that everyone involved is listing them). It keeps early expectations off the kids, letting them get hungry in Rochester while building some momentum and confidence. It gives the organization extra depth, since some of those veterans would need to be released if not handed a spot now. That’s especially handy when injuries inevitably strike. Finally it also puts pressure on the veterans to perform. We could come up with a half dozen more.
Hogwash? It kind of feels like it, doesn't it? But the bottom line is that it worked really well last year. I don't believe Jason Bartlett "learned" anything of use with his demotion to Rochester, but his promotion did correspond with a torrid hitting streak that eased everyone's doubts, including his own. I don't think having Batista lunge (lounge?) around at the hot corner helped Nick Punto, but then I didn't think Punto would be a productive regular third baseman. And how can anyone argue with how Francisco Liriano turned out before he was hurt.
Of course, it also means starting guys who sure seem washed up for the first six weeks. But what does that cost the team? Maybe a slight downgrade of talent for 40 games? Which might cost them a couple of games, maybe? And will likely be corrected with 120+ game left? We may need to understand that an Opening Day spot doesn’t guarantee anyone 33 starts. For Silva/Ponson/Ortiz, it likely doesn’t mean more than a six start trial.
So while it’s not the way I would do things, I’m not sure that starting the season with The Triumvercrap is the worst idea. After all, the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. While it feels a little Orwellian to make an argument that less is more, given their success last year, this organization probably has earned a delayed sentence.