• Low Expectations Are Easy to Exceed

    "Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he is never disappointed."
    – Alexander Pope

    Have you ever gone to see a movie that was hugely hyped, only to walk out of the theater underwhelmed after deeming it just OK? Conversely, another film that was “just OK” might have impressed you if your friends had all told you it was completely awful.

    Expectations can have an enormous impact on the way we perceive things. Which brings us to this year’s Minnesota Twins. Reality has finally set in for a fan base that was subjected to almost 200 losses over the past two years. Terry Ryan created no illusions of short-term promise with an offseason plan that was clearly not geared toward rapid improvement. What droplets of optimism existed last year around this time – that perhaps 2011 was a fluke, and that with better health the Twins would rebound toward the top of the division – have mostly evaporated.


    Obviously the lack of hope for this season has led to a dearth of excitement surrounding the product. The lacking buzz was noticeable on Opening Day at Target Field, where patches of empty seats spoke to more than just the chilly weather.

    I’d describe the current mood of the fan base at large as ambivalent, which is at least a step up from angry. Most who are paying attention can see a clear direction and long-term plan – more than could have been said the last couple years – but acknowledge that the odds of even staying remotely competitive this year are long. If the Twins dig another early hole, the reaction is more likely to be shoulder shrugs than outrage. Simply put: there’s not much room for disappointment with this team. How much worse can it really get?

    But there’s plenty of room for unexpected outcomes on the other side, and this is where the lowered standards play to the organization’s benefit. Any sort of modest early winning streak will be met with intrigue. If the team comes together after a slow start and begins stringing together some victories in June and July, it will be easy to form (possibly accurate) narratives about a young group beginning to jell.

    The fact that local ball fans aren’t necessarily too amped up about the current product doesn’t mean they’re not itching for a reason to change that outlook. And therein lies an opportunity for Ron Gardenhire and Co. It won't take a stellar team to reverse the trend of falling attendance. It will simply take a watchable team.

    If the Twins up being “just OK” this year, most of us are going to be quite pleased. The team should embrace that dynamic, because this will (hopefully) be the last time in a long while that expectations are so low. Perhaps the lessened pressure will prove to be just what this relatively inexperienced group needs.
    This article was originally published in blog: Low Expectations Are Easy to Exceed started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 54 Comments
    1. TwinVike61's Avatar
      TwinVike61 -
      As others have noted it depends on how you define "expectations". Most of us agree it's not win/loss so much as caliber of play, excitement, development of the young core, etc, that will generate the expectation that this team is improving and fun to watch/follow even if they are not currently contending.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      It depends on why they are watchable. If because of players who will likely still be with the team in 2015, then people will feel genuine interest. If it is clear that the 30-somethings were providing the steam and the youngsters didn't show growth, not so much. [Edit: clicked on the article too soon and responded too slowly, kind of a redundant response but I'll leave it.]
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      If some of the young players can develop and the Twins can win 69 games this season then I will be happy.
    1. LastOnePicked's Avatar
      LastOnePicked -
      Not sure I agree that this will be the last time expectations will be low for awhile. With clearly increased competition in the AL Central (finally), it may be possible that the 2013 Twins will be a better team over 2012, but with a worse record to show for it. On the plus side, when the team is ready to compete, they won't be sailing through a weak division -- and they might emerge stronger for having had to do more to earn a division pennant. But the earliest I'd look for this would be 2017.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      I think fans are willing (maybe a bit too willing) to write off 2013. What must happen this year is a sense that the team has made significant progress towards contending (not just competing) in 2014. If the following players demonstrate that they can become key players in 2014, I think the 2013 record will be largely overlooked:

      Parmelee
      Plouffe
      Dozier
      Hicks
      Arcia
      Gibson
      Meyer
      Tonkin

      Of course, some of those players might not be ready to be key pieces in the core. But they are the kind of players who need to be able to at least contribute to a core of the following players:

      Mauer
      Willingham
      Doumit
      Worley
      Diamond
      Perkins
      Burton
      Fien
      Duensing

      Noticeably absent from those two lists is a shortstop who can be a competent major leaguer. Either Florimon or Escobar significantly exceed their projections or Ryan goes out and gets a quality major league shortstop for 2014. One way or another, we will have clarity on that position at the end of the year. Having only one major hole going into the offseason will give fans confidence that Ryan can build a contender for 2014.
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      You will find out you can't keep fooling the people.
    1. tjsyam921's Avatar
      tjsyam921 -
      Parmelee and Plouffe are definitely going to have to drive in more runs and have better at bats with people on base.
    1. big dog's Avatar
      big dog -
      Agreed, even though the record is likely to be bad there is still a lot of potential to watch for. When the Twins were bad with no chance of becoming better soon...those days were ugly.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      'What must happen this year is a sense that the team has made significant progress towards contending (not just competing) in 2014.'

      I don't see how we can look at things now...realistically project next year and think things will be much different than this year. Even if Arcia and a couple other make it here, there's still the learning curve. 2014 is gonna be another bridge year.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      'What must happen this year is a sense that the team has made significant progress towards contending (not just competing) in 2014.'

      I don't see how we can look at things now...realistically project next year and think things will be much different than this year. Even if Arcia and a couple other make it here, there's still the learning curve. 2014 is gonna be another bridge year.
      A bridge year but probably a better year. Gibson should be partway through his second season and Meyer may be in the starting rotation after a September call-up. Hicks will also be in his second season (and Arcia will probably have ML at-bats by the end of the 2013 season).

      I wouldn't expect to see a world-beater in 2014 but if this team isn't thinking about a low-80s win total, I'd consider that a pretty big disappointment.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I wouldn't expect to see a world-beater in 2014 but if this team isn't thinking about a low-80s win total, I'd consider that a pretty big disappointment.
      Hopefully without punting free agency yet again, with even more money to spend.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      A bridge year but probably a better year. Gibson should be partway through his second season and Meyer may be in the starting rotation after a September call-up. Hicks will also be in his second season (and Arcia will probably have ML at-bats by the end of the 2013 season).

      I wouldn't expect to see a world-beater in 2014 but if this team isn't thinking about a low-80s win total, I'd consider that a pretty big disappointment.
      yeah, I just can't see low-80s in 2014...I mean even if everything you say happens, and its' all possible, it's still only their first year in the bigs. The adjustment, the ups and downs, but that's another reason why I want Hicks up ll year. He can get that out of the way and that's one less guy we'll have to have dealing with that next year and the year after.

      Just my opinion.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by snepp View Post
      Hopefully without punting free agency yet again, with even more money to spend.
      I don't even think about that possibility. We're a scrap heap club when it comes to FA and I don't think that ever changes.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      yeah, I just can't see low-80s in 2014...I mean even if everything you say happens, and its' all possible, it's still only their first year in the bigs. The adjustment, the ups and downs, but that's another reason why I want Hicks up ll year. He can get that out of the way and that's one less guy we'll have to have dealing with that next year and the year after.

      Just my opinion.
      But in some cases, it won't be their first year in the bigs. Most of those guys should see ML time in 2013.

      Anyway, hard to predict such things. So questions in 2013 about how Plouffe and Parmelee and Hicks do, much less how the team will perform in 2014...
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Um, most good FAs have already been signed by their teams.....the pickings will be even more slim next year, so don't count on any FA signings that excite you at all. Not to mention that Ryan has never once, even when he has $30MM laying around lining the org's pockest, spent money. I have no idea why anyone thinks it will ever be different.

      I hope fans stay away in droves. I hope no one buys season tickets in 2014. I hope the Twins' ownership gets what they deserve, for taking our money and not even trying to put a good product on the field.

      And, I think ambivalent is worse than angry. At least angry people care.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      But in some cases, it won't be their first year in the bigs. Most of those guys should see ML time in 2013.

      Anyway, hard to predict such things. So questions in 2013 about how Plouffe and Parmelee and Hicks do, much less how the team will perform in 2014...
      Gibson sure, but cups of coffee in September for Meyer and Arcia don't really work towards what I'm talking about. I'm glad you're optimistic though...very cool. I'd LOVE, absolutely LOVE to be wrong about 2014.
    1. big dog's Avatar
      big dog -
      For kicks, check out your 1981 Minnesota Twins:
      Starting lineup and OPS+, according to Baseball-reference
      C, Sal Butera, 76
      1b, Danny Goodwin, 74
      2b, Rob Wilfong, 81
      SS, Roy Smalley, 130 (but injured a lot of the year)
      3b, John Castino, 95
      LF, Gary Ward, 93
      CF, Mickey Hatcher, 78 (probably didn't make up for it with his defense, either)
      RF, Dave Engle, 97
      DH, Glenn Adams, 57

      Other players getting over 100 ABs
      Hosken Powell, 72
      Pete Mackanin, 63
      Ron Jackson, 93
      Butch Wynegar, 71
      Rick Sofield, 23
      Sofield was complaining about playing time and said there were other teams that wanted him. The manager (Johnny Goryl) said that the only teams that wanted him were the Army, Navy, and Marines.

      The pitching wasn't bad, compared to the hitting. Starting pitchers were Albert Williams, Pete Redfern, Fernando Arroyo, Jerry Koosman, Roger Erickson, and Brad Havens. All had ERA+ between 95 and 111. WHIP ranged from 1.28 to 1.41. Best pitcher was Havens, with an ERA of 3.58 and a WHIP of 1.28.

      Relievers? Doug Corbett, ERA+ of 155. John Verhoeven was second at 100, and was out of the league the next year.

      Hrbek, Gaetti, and Laudner all had cups of coffee late in the year. I don't think anyone expected a lot from Gaetti and Laudner. There was hope...but not much.

      1981 Minnesota Twins Batting, Pitching, & Fielding Statistics - Baseball-Reference.com

      The only players with significant ABs in 1981 who were there in 1982 were Castino and Ward, with Hatcher, Engle, and Butera seeing large dropoffs in playing time. Wynegar and Smalley were both traded early in the year. Havens and Williams returned as starters, joined by Jack O'Connor. Erickson, Corbett, Arroyo and Redfern played lesser roles.

      Nearly a complete turnover of the roster, richly deserved.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      Quote Originally Posted by tjsyam921 View Post
      Parmelee and Plouffe are definitely going to have to drive in more runs and have better at bats with people on base.
      Totally agree here. I'm down on Plouffe big time and could see a change coming if there's a short string.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Excellent view, Nick. Nice work.

      With all the young guys, it'd be hard to not have at least one breakout story at least to the level of Scotty Diamond last year.
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