• Twins Must Shake Loser Mentality This Offseason

    A third consecutive season that has seen the Twins finish among the worst teams in baseball has understandably bred a sense of hopelessness amongst the fan base. Not necessarily long-term hopelessness -- most people understand that Minnesota boasts one of the best farm systems in the game, and that this assortment of high-profile prospects should eventually help usher a turnaround -- but certainly a feeling that contention is still a distant proposition.

    It is for this reason that some have embraced a mindset that involves making no meaningful effort to compete over the next year or two (as was the case this year), and instead saving all bullets for 2015/2016, when the brightest young talents within the organization are more likely to be impact players at the big-league level.

    I call this a loser mentality.

    The Twins may be in a rather dire situation presently, but contention in 2014 is hardly some implausible dream scenario -- IF the front office is prepared to make such a commitment. Just take a look at the team that plowed through Minnesota in a season-ending sweep at Target Field over the weekend to lock down a playoff berth.

    Nick Swisher of the Cleveland Indians swings
    Photo by Betsy Bissen

    Last year, the Indians finished with 68 wins, just four more than the Twins. Cleveland scored fewer runs than all but one AL team and posted the league's worst team ERA (yes, even worse than the Twins). Before this season, John Sickels of Minor League Ball ranked the Tribe's farm system as the sixth-worst in baseball.

    Much like the Twins, the Indians were amidst a lengthy stretch of losing baseball. They hadn't finished above .500 since 2007, and last year was their third 90-loss season in the past four.

    But Cleveland did not embrace the loser mentality. Instead, the front office made sweeping changes to reinvigorate a stale product. Seth outlined the ingredients in their resurgence last week, but the bottom line is this: The Indians hired a new manager, made some bold and inventive moves to acquire talent, and had a handful of returning players improve dramatically.

    Given that the Twins stand to receive a major infusion from their bustling pipeline very soon (Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Alex Meyer all could be up next year), who's to say that a similar transformation could not take place? At the conclusion of his well written piece, Seth said, "Maybe in 2015 the Twins will be able to make a 20+ game improvement and contend for a playoff spot." Why 2015? Why should anyone view next year as another hopeless death march we must inevitably trudge through?

    The Twins may not have underperforming talents at the level of Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson, but there are plenty of candidates to take steps forward and make a positive impact in the rotation, most notably Kyle Gibson, Vance Worley and Scott Diamond. That's before you account for the potential additions of Meyer and any external reinforcements.

    In my mind, it is Cleveland's ambitious approach that should serve as a blueprint for the Twins, not the endless patience of Houston or (up until this year) Kansas City. The Indians did what it took to sign high-caliber players at positions of need, spending $104 million on Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. They turned a player who didn't figure into their long-term future (Shin-Shoo Choo) into a bright young pitching prospect (Trevor Bauer). They took a chance on a classic risk/reward play in Scott Kazmir and ended up with a player that outperformed every Twins starter.

    And as for the managerial switch… well, I don't have strong feelings about that. If he's supplied with enough talent and injuries don't bite too hard, I have every confidence Ron Gardenhire can pilot the team to a winning record. At the same time, it's hard to look at what happened in Cleveland this year and not think that -- on some level -- that stagnant club was jolted by a fresh voice with differing thoughts and philosophies.

    Regardless of what the course is, the Twins ought to tread purposefully this offseason. There are intriguing free agents, international stars and buy-low trade opportunities to be had, with all options made possible by unprecedented financial flexibility. As long as Terry Ryan avoids adding decline-phase players on multi-year deals, anything he does this winter stands to benefit the team down the line as well as in the short term.

    Thus, the Twins are positioned to make some things happen in the coming months. We'll present all the possibilities in the upcoming 2014 Offseason GM Handbook, which will be made available for pre-order this week. And, of course, a stream of constant offseason coverage here at Twins Daily is just about to get underway.
    This article was originally published in blog: Twins Must Shake Loser Mentality This Offseason started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 45 Comments
    1. MarshalltheIrish's Avatar
      MarshalltheIrish -
      As one who's conditioned to the 2015-2017 mindset, I still agree with plenty here. Except for retaining Gardy. Like him or not, I think there's more than enough of a case for him leaving and bringing in a new manager to inject new ways of thinking. Preferably from the outside. Dave Martinez, Chip Hale, and Matt Williams are my top three choices. But even then it wouldn't matter as much if they don't take some chances with free agency.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Well said.
    1. drivlikejehu's Avatar
      drivlikejehu -
      Here's the problem with the article:

      The Twins may be in a rather dire situation presently, but contention in 2014 is hardly some implausible dream scenario -- IF the front office is prepared to make such a commitment.


      We know for an absolute fact that the front office/ownership is not prepared to make such a commitment. It is just complete fantasy to suggest it is even a remote possibility. You are talking about what could be in alternate universe - and definitely have good points in that regard - but they have no bearing on the world as it is.

      Most Twins fans are over-optimistic because they don't realize that even a few very talented young position players isn't enough to revive this team. So the situation is actually far worse than having to wait things out a couple more years- it is more akin to the early stages of the Pirates long drought.

      The Twins are a cash generation tool for the Pohlad family. Any thoughts on what could happen have to be fully compatible with that reality.
    1. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      Nice article, and I thought very realistic, pro and con.

      And I respectfully disagree with the previous commenter.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      As someone that is skeptical of all Twins pitching prospects not named Stewart, I feel likewise that the situation is dire indeed. Unless talent is acquired through FA, this regime will never go deep into the playoffs. Unlike what Terry Ryans wants Twins fans to believe, waiting for uber prospects to develop is setting yourself up for failure. The Royals and Pirates are finally seeing some success after years and years of this. I don't want to go a decade without a winning season. Unless the FO makes some moves this offseason, it will already be 4 years of terrible horrible sickening baseball. All the while having the ability to sign guys to help be competitive and not doing so. Unacceptable.

      Many of the moves Cleveland did are moves I've seen some posters here at TD scream for until they are blue in the face every offseason (I'll take my bow). Moderate risk with high reward players, solid FA signs, management changes, that is how you can turn teams around. I feel like the 2013 Indians are going to be referenced a lot in the coming years about how to take a bad team and pull a 180.
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      If the Twins would go after top talent in FA then I would be on board with 2014. The 2013 team competed for for the first two months of the season so with some better pitching and better hitting with runners on base they could improve dramatically. The thing is TR isn't a believer in FA and we don't have a lot of pitching help on the horizon so next year is this year plus maybe see some of the younger prospects at various points in the season.

      2015 is the earliest time frame for your scenario in my mind unless they find better pitching somewhere and a lot of it.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by Badsmerf View Post
      As someone that is skeptical of all Twins pitching prospects not named Stewart, I feel likewise that the situation is dire indeed. Unless talent is acquired through FA, this regime will never go deep into the playoffs. Unlike what Terry Ryans wants Twins fans to believe, waiting for uber prospects to develop is setting yourself up for failure. The Royals and Pirates are finally seeing some success after years and years of this. I don't want to go a decade without a winning season. Unless the FO makes some moves this offseason, it will already be 4 years of terrible horrible sickening baseball. All the while having the ability to sign guys to help be competitive and not doing so. Unacceptable.

      Many of the moves Cleveland did are moves I've seen some posters here at TD scream for until they are blue in the face every offseason (I'll take my bow). Moderate risk with high reward players, solid FA signs, management changes, that is how you can turn teams around. I feel like the 2013 Indians are going to be referenced a lot in the coming years about how to take a bad team and pull a 180.
      Congratulations to the Indians for winning their last 10 games and making the play-offs. Obviously I don't know, but I view them as the flavor of the day, and I don't see anything that is sustainable. An OP referenced 7 articles in another thread, where the national media lauded our very own Twins for the strength of our farm system and progress made in the rebuilding effort.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      Congratulations to the Indians for winning their last 10 games and making the play-offs. Obviously I don't know, but I view them as the flavor of the day, and I don't see anything that is sustainable. An OP referenced 7 articles in another thread, where the national media lauded our very own Twins for the strength of our farm system and progress made in the rebuilding effort.
      I'm not going to respond with an elaborate post (which I deleted) to lay out why the Twins are in trouble for years to come if they rely simply on prospects. What I am going to do, is reiterate that it doesn't work very well. Prospects fail all the time, or take much longer to develop than hoped for (see HR leader Chris Davis). It is naive to think everything will be ok once the premiere talent comes up. There are philosophical problems with this organization that prevent them from winning. Unless major changes happen (like they did in Cleveland), we are destined for failure. A great farm system wont change a 95 loss team.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by Badsmerf View Post
      I'm not going to respond with an elaborate post (which I deleted) to lay out why the Twins are in trouble for years to come if they rely simply on prospects. What I am going to do, is reiterate that it doesn't work very well. Prospects fail all the time, or take much longer to develop than hoped for (see HR leader Chris Davis). It is naive to think everything will be ok once the premiere talent comes up. There are philosophical problems with this organization that prevent them from winning. Unless major changes happen (like they did in Cleveland), we are destined for failure. A great farm system wont change a 95 loss team.
      It is patently false to think that philosophical problems with this organization will prevent them from winning and a great farm system won't change a 95 loss team.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      It is patently false to think that philosophical problems with this organization will prevent them from winning and a great farm system won't change a 95 loss team.
      The only thing false is the narrative that our great farm is certain to change it. It is most definitely not certain. Smerf is just pointing out that prospects alone, without the willingness to trade or sign aggressively, will also likely fail to deliver a winner. Or it is significantly more difficult.

      until shown otherwise, this GM and this franchise have earned no trust they will do either of those things. Nicks article speaks to this as well. Waiting for everything to magically come together perfectly is only a good recipe to do more waiting.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      It is patently false to think that philosophical problems with this organization will prevent them from winning and a great farm system won't change a 95 loss team.
      Farm systems don't win MLB games is my point. The Royals were considered to have a top farm system for years and finally finished over .500 for the second time since 1994. O yeah, and they signed Santana and traded a top prospect for Shields to get there. They also have under-performing top prospects that they planned on being big contributors.

      Why do you feel everyone should just wait while our MLB team has been a bottom 5 team for 3 years with little to no changes to the people that drove them off that cliff?
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      The only thing false is the narrative that our great farm is certain to change it. It is most definitely not certain. Smerf is just pointing out that prospects alone, without the willingness to trade or sign aggressively, will also likely fail to deliver a winner. Or it is significantly more difficult.

      until shown otherwise, this GM and this franchise have earned no trust they will do either of those things. Nicks article speaks to this as well. Waiting for everything to magically come together perfectly is only a good recipe to do more waiting.
      Millions of loyal and knowledgeable Twins fans, still recall the 1st Ryan rebuild and the domination of the Central that followed. What evidence do you have that the GM and the franchise have earned no trust?
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      Millions of loyal and knowledgeable Twins fans, still recall the 1st Ryan rebuild and the domination of the Central that followed. What evidence do you have that the GM and the franchise have earned no trust?
      Please reread the post you responded to while trying to see what "either of those two things" might be referring to and then respond. Your response here is totally irrelevant to my point.
    1. savvyspy's Avatar
      savvyspy -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      Millions of loyal and knowledgeable Twins fans, still recall the 1st Ryan rebuild and the domination of the Central that followed. What evidence do you have that the GM and the franchise have earned no trust?
      Exhibit A: That they've convinced you that "domination" of the Central is akin to actually competing for a title.

      Exhibit B: That you define "domination" as a team that has won exactly 0 playoff series in 10 years

      Exhibit C: This organization has lost over 280 games in the past three seasons and are still snowing the local media and Twins bloggers that Free Agency isn't needed even though there isn't one team that made the playoffs in either league that doesn't use it at all to supplement their rosters. Its a flat out lie that free agency isn't a valid way to build a winner. For every Oakland (who still actually use free agency effectively) there are dozens of teams (NY, BOS, TEX, CAL, CHW, CLE, LAD, SF, STL, PHI, ATL, WAS) that have built winners in the last decade using free agents to supplement their teams. And Oakland isn't even a valid example for the Twins because Oakland knows how to develop pitching which this organization hasn't done since Brad Radke.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      You do not change the culture of an organization by leaving all of the management in place.

      This franchise is moribund.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Meyer, May, etc. have some real skills. Unfortunately, there is a mountain of evidence suggesting that after spending time with Anderson their SO/9 rate will drop significantly, not to return until they leave the Twins for another team.

      Santana is the only pitcher I can find for whom this wasn't true.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      Millions of loyal and knowledgeable Twins fans, still recall the 1st Ryan rebuild and the domination of the Central that followed. What evidence do you have that the GM and the franchise have earned no trust?
      The 1st rebuild? The one with Rich Becker, Frankie Rodriguez and Dave Stevens? Yeah that was lights out. In Ryan's 1st rebuild the team finished 4th or 5th in the division five straight seasons. I think you are remembering his second rebuild despite the fact I've brought up the utter failure of the first one (again, due to the inability to develop and acquire proper pitching) to you multiple times. Ryan only has a 50% success rate in rebuilds thus far. You have no basis to continue these blind faith arguements, please start providing some supporting evidence in your arguments.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      The 1st rebuild? The one with Rich Becker, Frankie Rodriguez and Dave Stevens? Yeah that was lights out. In Ryan's 1st rebuild the team finished 4th or 5th in the division five straight seasons. I think you are remembering his second rebuild despite the fact I've brought up the utter failure of the first one (again, due to the inability to develop and acquire proper pitching) to you multiple times. Ryan only has a 50% success rate in rebuilds thus far. You have no basis to continue these blind faith arguements, please start providing some supporting evidence in your arguments.
      You call it the second, I call it the first. Prove me wrong.
    1. Adam Krueger's Avatar
      Adam Krueger -
      Like others here have said - counting on farm-system talent alone to turn this organization around is foolhardy at best. Look at the Royals, for example, and how many prospects they had just a couple of years ago and how much they have struggled just to get back to being a .500 team. A true turn-around for this franchise will involve that farm-system talent that the Twins have, but it will also require significant moves from the Front Office in terms of signing quality free-agents and over-hauling the starting pitching staff. Theo Epstein did not turn the Red Sox around by simply relying on Minor League talent...he augmented the talent he had with savvy free-agent signings and built that World Series team by approaching the problem from both the top and bottom. The story, if the Twins hope to really turn this organization around, will be a similar one here.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by Adam Krueger View Post
      Like others here have said - counting on farm-system talent alone to turn this organization around is foolhardy at best. Look at the Royals, for example, and how many prospects they had just a couple of years ago and how much they have struggled just to get back to being a .500 team. A true turn-around for this franchise will involve that farm-system talent that the Twins have, but it will also require significant moves from the Front Office in terms of signing quality free-agents and over-hauling the starting pitching staff. Theo Epstein did not turn the Red Sox around by simply relying on Minor League talent...he augmented the talent he had with savvy free-agent signings and built that World Series team by approaching the problem from both the top and bottom. The story, if the Twins hope to really turn this organization around, will be a similar one here.
      Theo took over a team which won 92 games the year before and was blessed with the 2nd highest payroll in baseball. Read up on what he just said his free agent approach will be this winter. It sounded Ryanesque to me.
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