Thursday, September 24, 2009


There is no tomorrow, that’s what they say. Benches are emptied. Stadiums are filled. Swings are shortened. Pitchers are stretched. The pennant race is here, and fans, players and coaches are reacting like there is no tomorrow.

But can the same be said for the Twins front office?

Let’s consider third base. The Twins have been mixing and matching Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert and Brian Buscher at the hot corner for the last month. Baseball geeks like to debate (or criticize manager Ron Gardenhire) about which one should be there, but that really misses the point. They’re ALL backup infielders being asked to play one of the premium offensive and defensive positions on the field. There isn't a right choice.

Meanwhile the Twins have their third baseman of the future, Danny Valencia, sitting at – well, where is he sitting exactly? It’s not AAA-Rochester, where he finished the season batting .286, because Rochester’s season has been over for several weeks.

Wherever he's spending the offseason, it’s not perfectly clear he’s ready for the majors, though he certainly is supposed to be by the middle of next year. But it is perfectly clear that he’s more likely to be a starting third baseman than the four-headed monster the Twins are trotting out there will ever be. So why isn’t he called up? If for no other reason than to give him a taste of the big leagues? Of a pennant race?

The cynical answer is financial. Calling him up now starts his service clock ticking. That means he hits free agency a year earlier, and it likely means he starts becoming expensive a year earlier than a midseason callup. Some might call that long-term thinking. I’ll go with penny-wise and pound-foolish. It also pays too much attention to a distant tomorrow, while demanding the team plays like there isn’t one.


The above was broadcast as the GameDay Chatter segment during the Twins Extra Innings radio broadcast following last Sunday's Twins game. Tune in this Sunday to hear Will Young talk about the 1969 Twins.


The above post was pretty short, and you're likely not filled up. Then head on over to The Hardball Times and read The 10 Greatest Games in Metrodome History. It is an incredibly well-researched story from a guy who isn't "one of us", but sure did his homework. Enjoy, and we'll see you on Monday.


David Wintheiser said...

There's one other explanation, best illustrated via analogy and counter-example:

Let's say you're a member of a corporate project team. It's getting down to the wire, and a particular area of the project is and has long been shaky; maybe what you have will be good enough to get you through the deadline, maybe it won't.

Management then, with the deadline looming, throws a new guy onto your team. He has some professional experience on his resume, but he's never worked on a project of this size and significance. There's honestly no telling whether or not he'll be a help, a hindrance, or a non-entity.

One thing is clear, though: management doesn't think the team you have can close the deal. You've lost the vote of confidence.

Attitude and motivation may not be a huge a factor in professional sports as announcers and commenters like to pretend it is (despite protests to the contrary, pennants cannot be predicted on the basis of 'greatness'; it's always asserted after-the-fact that the team won because it had more 'greatness'). That's not the same as saying that attitude and motivation are meaningless, because they're pretty clearly not -- we saw that much during the series with the White Sox.

The economic factor probably does figure into the decision, but you can completely eliminate it and boil the decision down to a simple question: is adding Valencia to the roster likely to give us a boost to our chances of winning the division that's at least as large if not larger than the impact of sending the message that the front office doesn't think the current roster can do it on their own?

It's one thing for the fans to be griping about leaving Valencia off the roster -- fans will gripe about anything, whether they understand it or not, at least from a player's or manager's perspective. It's another thing for the guys upstairs, who you count on to give you the tools you need to succeed, to bring up a guy who isn't obviously an improvement -- the implication being that anything would be better than leaving things as they are.

Well, given that the Twins are 19-9 since August 22 (and 12-7 since Sept. 1) in games Crede hasn't appeared in, isn't it hard to argue that the guys currently on the roster pretty clearly can't get it done?

Jack Ungerleider said...

Nice comment Dave. And I know that the Geek understands that example as well as anyone. ;-)

TT said...

Danny Valencia stint at AAA seemed to show that he couldn't hit and he couldn't field. If he is the third baseman of the future, it is not the immediate future.

Valencia had a hot couple of weeks when he was first promoted to AAA that got a bunch of people excited. But apparently the pitchers figured him out and he couldn't adjust. He hit .258 .279 .407 post-allstar break. And he wasn't improving at the end of the season.

Just to keep things in perspective - Matt Tolbert hit .307 .336 .457 over that same second half. And Tolbert can catch and throw the ball. The Twins have three third baseman who are all better than Valencia right now both in the field and at the plate.

TT said...

And for another example:

Trevor Plouffe hit .290 .340 .478 against that same competition over the second half of the season. And, despite complaints about his errors, he had a better fielding percentage than Valencia.

Anonymous said...

It won't and shouldn't happen this year, but next year I'd like to see Cuddyer at third. I know, I know, it didn't work out before, but that was when Cuddyer was struggling to establish himself. The Twins have no obvious third baseman of the future and a glut in the outfield.