It seems I can't hear a summary of the Twins system without It. Corporate media, bloggers, sports radio all have to mention It. It has gone from symbolic to distraction to bad habit. And it's long past time to start the pendulum swing the other direction on It.
I'm talking about the signing of Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson for a combined $4 million dollars. It's the default criticism of the franchise these days, and it breaks my heart to say that it's parroted among blogs and baseball sites where one hopes for some real analysis. Instead of being viewed as what it was - a low-cost, early season gamble to insure against too much reliance on young pitching - it's become the #1 reason that the Twins aren't returning to the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.
So let's touch touch ground again quickly, shall we?
1) If you want to rip those signings, you must include Silva in the triumverate. He was every bit the gamble, and maybe a bigger one considering his salary and his dismal 2006. In spring training, he was the one which drew the most concern.
Nobody, including the Twins, expected all three to pitch 30+ games each. If one paid out, they broke even on the combined $8M they paid them. If two paid out, they were ahead. Silva justified that salary all by himself.
2) The signings were abll about depth, which just happened to be THE key area that bit the Twins in the butt this year. Unfortunately, the Twins just invested in depth on the wrong side of the ball.
But last offseason, that seemed ludicrous. The Twins had every regular starter returning and had one of the top offenses in the American League after the All-Star break. On the other hand, the pitching had lost two of their top pitchers and was legitimately looking at three gaping holes behind Johan Santana and (ironically) Boof Bonser.
3) I have yet to see someone show me exactly how the $4M they spent on those two guys would’ve improved the offense this year. (And PLEASE don't throw a diamond-in-the-rough name at me like Dmitri Young. Young was only still in the league because Jim Bowden knew him, and Bowden brought him into camp the same way the Twins brought in Ken Harvey - as a 3rd option if everything went wrong.)
4) There’s now plenty of evidence that the $3M they threw at Ortiz wouldn’t have been spent otherwise – that Ryan stretched the budget just to make sure. In fact, while I have trouble identifying how the Ortiz deal hurt the club considerably this year, it's legacy might be more significant in the future. It may have hurt their draft strategy this year (though certainly nobody from the Twins would fess up to that) and it likely gave Ryan another hurdle when looking for an impact bat at the trade deadline.
5) Oh, and let’s not forget that the problem this year hasn’t been the starting pitching. In fact, it can be argued that the development Scott Baker and Matt Garza have shown is a result of starting the season in the minors. God knows making the team out of spring training hasn’t helped Boof.
It's similar to the criticism the Twins face to this day for keeping Johan Santana in the bullpen (a move I was highly critical of, by the way). It's easy to get lathered up about what this team might have done in 2002 if he was in the rotation. But then you realize you're criticizing an organization for how it developed a multiple Cy Young Award winner. And that just makes you sound kinda, you know, stupid.
The Ortiz/Ponson criticism is starting to become an embarrassment to the blogger community. It’s everything that we used to criticize corporate media for. It’s bad enough that we keep ripping a gamble that everyone knew was a gamble because it didn’t work out. It’s downright ridiculous that we keep attributing an entire season of failure to a dozen bad starts in April and a couple of million dollars that probably would not have been spent otherwise.
We do it in part because it's something that we could have predicted. Great. Pat yourself on the back for successfully reading a career statistical chart. So did the rest of the league - that's why those guys were so cheap.
But mostly we do It because it's easy and because we've heard it so much. Let's quit taking the easy way out. We're better than that.