Sunday, March 18, 2007

Delayed Justice

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.


rhubarb_runner said...

And hey, just maybe Ortiz is benefitting from the Rick Anderson Experience, and actually DOESN'T suck. Stranger things have happened.

armadillo44 said...

Excellent post. When I started reading I thought you were going a different direction and was pleasantly surprised to hear you give the Twins the benefit of the doubt on this one. While I’m much more excited about our young pitchers and think they’ll out-pitch the veterans in the long run, I do feel that this situation is much different then last year’s mess with Batista and Castro. The pitcher I’m actually most concerned with right now is Silva, but I’m confident that he’ll either figure things out or be replaced before doing too much damage.

Gamer said...

All I can say is that Garza should be in the rotation.

Geek, while nobody can complain about Francisco Liriano's results, he could have had five more starts, but we were stuck looking at Loshe for way to long, becuse Gardy wanted an extra lefty in the bullpen.

PSzalapski said...

What will be served by having Garza in Rochester for 4-8 weeks? If you think his changeup isn't ready and those 4-8 weeks will matter in getting it ready, then fine, keep Ponson. If you think he can't handle the bigs yet and those 4-8 weeks will let him settle down a bit, then fine, keep Ponson. If you think any of the benefits that happened to Bartlett or Punto last year can possibly happen to Garza, then fine, keep Ponson.

We should cut Ponson right now.

T Dog said...

TR/Gardy seem to be in love with having a solid backup plan, to the point that Plan B is better than Plan A. The question is how long to stick with Plan A? Last year waiting one more day could have cost the Division title. Having Perkins, Garza and Slowey at Rochester is a great Plan B. I'm not so enamoured with a rotation including Silva and Ponson as Plan A. I expect that Ortiz will be servicible, but Silva will have to be replaced, sooner than later.

My real question is what do Perkins & Garza have to do to make the rotation? Bounce around the majors for 10 years and then sign a minor league contract with the Twins? They both pitched very well last year and both have shown this spring that they are ready. At some point the Twins need to recognize and reward these efforts. Sooner than later.

John said...

My real question is what do Perkins & Garza have to do to make the rotation? Bounce around the majors for 10 years and then sign a minor league contract with the Twins?

LOL. Very good. Very, very good.

Tonight I'll research the service time implications to sending Garza down. One thing the Twins did VERY right last year was keep Bartlett down just long enough so he wouldn't be a Super 2 player.

tonyolivafan said...

The veterans make sense because they are farily cheap and the rookies haven't performed at the Major League level. But three vets is one too many. There should be at least one spot open for Garza, Perkins and Slowey to compete for.

twink said...

It's a good argument, but what worries me is that they're all pitchers. It's just too high a percentage of the starting rotation--we win one game, have a shot at the next, and then peek through our fingers for three games hoping not to see much of the carnage. Last year, when the "seasoned veterans" were spread around the field a bit, it seemed less disastrous.