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  • What Happened to the Optimism?

    First things first... Happy 2014 Minnesota Twins Opening Day to the Twins Daily community!

    As the 2013 season came to yet-another frustrating end, many Twins fans found baseball difficult to watch. Many Septembers, prospects are called up and fans can catch a glimpse of the future. Last September, Twins fans got to see catcher Josmil Pinto make a strong first impression. However, other September call-ups were journeymen. I recall telling anyone who would listen that it was a tough to watch, but we knew there would be many more reasons to watch in 2014. Yet, as this season opens, there is a lot of negativity surrounding the Twins, even more than the last couple of seasons. So, what happened?

    Where did all this negativity come from?

    In my opinion, the day the attitude for the 2014 season changed is the day Miguel Sano fielded a slow roller and made an off-balance throw to first base. Since then, we found out he needed Tommy John surgery, had the surgery and will miss most of the season.

    After Sano hit 35 home runs between Ft. Myers and New Britain in 2014 and showed enough improvement defensively at third base that many, myself included, thought he would be up with the Twins no later than July. Who knows? With the Twins offense this spring, maybe it would have been as early as May! He was generally ranked among the Top 10 prospects in all baseball.

    The concern really started after playing just two games in the Dominican Winter League. He was shut down with a strained UCL. Many, myself included (and apparently Dr. James Andrews), chose to believe that because he was a position player the elbow could be rested, and he could come back and play at 100% in 2014. And then came that slow roller. And surgery. And the big cast over his arm.

    Photo by Nick Nelson (found on Twins Daily Facebook page)

    Sure, he'll pick up a bat in early August and could get a couple at-bats in GCL games before the end of the year, but he will (without something crazy happening) not make his big league debut until early in the 2015 season.

    I truly believe when fans found out that Miguel Sano would not be promoted this season, optimism for 2014 dropped.

    Of course, at the same time we heard about Miguel Sano being shut down in the Dominican, reports came out of Puerto Rico that Eddie Rosario would likely face a 50-game suspension.

    The second baseman had a very strong 2013 season. He began the year in Ft. Myers and he was promoted to New Britain the same day as Sano. Rosario more than held his own at AA. Before spring training began, news came out that he officially had been suspended, but not for a PED. Instead, he was suspended for a drug of abuse. This meant he had previously failed a drug test and got caught again. My personal thought was that his season would begin in late May, possibly with a handful of games in Ft. Myers. He would quickly move up to New Britain and could still be called up in August or September.

    However, when minor league spring training started in early March, we learned that Rosario had been given permission by the club to report late. Rumors were rampant as to what the drug of abuse was and where he was during this time. Well, as minor league spring training is now complete (and his suspension begins), he has still not reported. Of course, that doesnít necessarily mean anything, but the level of concern is certainly higher at this point. Again though, we most likely will not see him until 2015.

    Byron Buxton dominated as a 19 year old at Cedar Rapids and in Ft. Myers. In the offseason, he was the consensus #1 prospect in all baseball and was invited to big league camp. Although he didnít hit much in big league camp, there was no question about his talent and his future. Again, Jeremy Nygaard and I talked (on the Twins Hangouts podcast) about how we felt there was a chance Buxton could play in the Futures Game at Target Field and stick with the team.

    To be fair, that was probably a little over-aggressive. However, the thought was not completely out of the realm of possibility. Unfortunately, in mid-March, on a back field in minor league camp, he made a diving catch in a game and hurt his wrist. After further evaluation, it was decided he will start the season on the disabled list and likely miss at least two weeks at the start of the season. My assumption is he will get at least a handful of games with the Ft. Myers Miracle to start his season before moving up to New Britain (where he would otherwise have started his season).

    The delayed start (and hopefully it is only two to three weeks) changes my thinking. I thought he could make a July/August debut. Now, I think heíll spend the entire season at New Britain (again, after those initial games with the Miracle). That is not a bad thing at all, far from it. Itís just that instead of debuting as a 20 year old in 2014, he will likely debut in the middle of the 2015 season.

    As those three situations were happening with three of the Top Five Minnesota Twins prospects, top pitching prospect Alex Meyer is pitching after missing two months last season.

    Of course, it didnít help much that the Twins offense did pretty much nothing during spring training games. Over time, more and more concern about the Twins offense (or lack thereof) was voiced publicly.

    So again, I am of the opinion that optimism for 2014 was not about the major league team suddenly winning 80 games or competing for a division title. The cause of optimism was that some key building blocks for the future would get their first glimpse of big league ball and go through their rookie season ups and downs so that in 2015 they could improve even more and maybe the Twins would start competing.

    I donít think the upside and potential of the prospects is any less now than it was two months ago, but I do think the timeline has unfortunately been pushed back a year. In my opinion, these minor leaguer situations have affected the enthusiasm of the Minnesota Twins fans.

    The Twins went out and added a couple of pitchers in Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. However, they did little to improve the offense. I believe a big reason for that is because of the belief that with Sano and Rosario (along with Aaron Hicks and Josmil Pinto, and eventually Danny Santana and Byron Buxton), the changing of the guard would be taking place.

    The lack of offense in spring training certainly didnít help the enthusiasm and hope of Twins fans. One canít help but wonder what ticket sales would look like this year if not for hosting the All-Star Game in July.
    Comments 85 Comments
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      I think that 96 on top of 99+96 breads negativity (as it should, unless one is apathetic).

      Ryan with open pockets, helped alleviate that partially, but the closest it was coming to the Spring Training and the realization that as far as bats go, the Twins are (practically) replacing Morneau with Suzuki and Doumit with the ghost of Kubel's past settled, that open pocket hope faded. And for a good reason.

      Still, as every spring I was optimistic and thought that they will be a .500 team. Until I went there. And, frankly, this 2014 team has worse attitude and energy compared to the last 3 seasons' teams. And this reality really hit me hard.

      Call it "negativity" as much as you want. I call it reality. And if there is anything "negative" about this team, is the ones who are dragging it down. And this is not the fans who are unhappy about their team being horrible (again.) It is the people in the team who are paid to win and who do not care about winning and the ones in the team who are apathetic about it and feel that it is ok, as long as the receipts are ok and the team is back in black.

      That is "negativity"; I cannot call negativity wanting to see a World Series parade again down University Avenue and vocally disliking the fact that it might not be in the cards again for a while...
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Seth, you may be right about the timeline being pushed back a year, but I'm not sure. I don't really think Buxton's timeline will be affected by his wrist injury IF the diagnosis we've heard is accurate (that's a huge, IF, I know). Sano's deal is a bigger thing, I know.

      Honestly, my pessimism for 2014 started much earlier than the events you noted. My pessimism started when it became obvious the Twins were doing nothing to upgrade their offense this year. That decision told me the organization had no intention of trying to be more competitive this season, despite the initial moves to upgrade pitching. It was clear the FO was not serious about trying to win this season and that was very disappointing.
    1. tjsyam921's Avatar
      tjsyam921 -
      My concern started with the things you mentioned above and continued when I began to realize we still dont have a true leadoff hitter, number 2 hitter, and the clean up hitter had 3 hits in the entire spring. Put that together with Gardy's lineups and were in trouble. I cant wait to see how laughable these lineups look.
      I was also looking forward to possibly competing next year, but that seems to be getting pushed back yet another year.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      I was actually doing pretty well with my optimism level until "Double Jason" became clear. For some reason, adding BOTH of them to the 25-man just made me lose it. As though this team and this management are stuck somewhere in the past and we will never escape.

      And yes, I get it that as a factual matter, it may not make much difference but for me, it feels like a giant rut, devoid of innovation.
    1. drivlikejehu's Avatar
      drivlikejehu -
      I don't see it as "pessimism" to expect the most probable outcome. That's realism.

      The bigger issue is that, even putting aside the various prospect setbacks, having a highly-rated farm system doesn't guarantee anything. At this point, optimism is just a substitute for confidence, because there is no objective reason to have any.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by drivlikejehu View Post
      I don't see it as "pessimism" to expect the most probable outcome. That's realism.

      The bigger issue is that, even putting aside the various prospect setbacks, having a highly-rated farm system doesn't guarantee anything. At this point, optimism is just a substitute for confidence, because there is no objective reason to have any.
      I want to double like your post if I could, this is precisely it.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      I am looking forward to the season. I am not sure what to expect, but I believe this team will be better than many believe, given a reasonable amount of good health. The pitching will be OK, especially compared to the last few seasons. The offense may find itself when they aren't behind 4 to 0 in the 2nd inning, game after game. Arcia, Plouffe, Dozier, Pinto, and Hicks could/should be better this year. There is no need to expect the worst possible outcome, yet.

      Seth is probably right, the setbacks to Sano, Rosario, and even Buxton have probably killed a bit of the enthusiam for the Twins this year. What I want to see is some progress in the young players that will be in the majors this year and also some large progress with the hopefully very talented minor leaguers who could help in a year or two or three.
    1. Rick Niedermann's Avatar
      Rick Niedermann -
      Most of us are all pretty disappointed that at least one solid bat wasn't brought on board. I actually feel sorry for the young man that will be drafted in the 2nd round this year. Because how he does will create a lot of debate about the Twins not being willing to give up that pick. Honestly, I didn't feel like this was the year the Twins would make a big jump anyway. But with the addition of Hughes and Nolasco there was a longer term fit to go with the young upcoming pitchers guys like Meyer and May. So I do give the Twins FO credit for that. We needed that longer term fit for an offensive player too. Now after watching this offense in Spring Training, that is when the despair for a long long season set in. No other word for it, except bad. When you have that many player go 3 or 4 for 40 something it doesn't inspire optimisn. Most likely 90+ losses again. But we can always hope that Willingham isn't washed up and the Spring was an aberration. That Hicks will make the Torii Hunter type leap in abililty this year, that Plouffe hits 25 HR without striking out every third at bat, that Gardy has enough sense not to play Kubel against lefties, that Colabello hits 20 HR's and bats .275 and Escobar gets more at bats then Floriman at Short, and Pinto is not riding the pine and wasting his bat in favor of Suzuki. Just to many wings on a prayer here to be competitive. I just have to add that I am hoping Eddie Rosario is in some kind of treatment and will someday use his immense talent. What a shame if he throws it all away.
    1. bdoom5's Avatar
      bdoom5 -
      My head nearly exploded when I heard Bartlett made the team. What the heck are they thinking! They need to overhaul the roster with young players who want to win. Our lineup is slow, power and contact lacking, and void of any care about winning. I sure hope Hicks, Pinto, and Arcia have a good year or I can see myself stop watching games by June 1st when we are 15 games behind Detroit.
    1. crarko's Avatar
      crarko -
      I don't actually remember seeing a whole lot of optimism. For myself, I just want to watch some baseball. Preferably good baseball but that remains to be seen.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by crarko View Post
      I don't actually remember seeing a whole lot of optimism. For myself, I just want to watch some baseball. Preferably good baseball but that remains to be seen.
      Maybe not Optimism, but there was at least some excitement about who we would get to see as the season went along.
    1. Jerr's Avatar
      Jerr -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      I was actually doing pretty well with my optimism level until "Double Jason" became clear. For some reason, adding BOTH of them to the 25-man just made me lose it. As though this team and this management are stuck somewhere in the past and we will never escape.

      And yes, I get it that as a factual matter, it may not make much difference but for me, it feels like a giant rut, devoid of innovation.
      "double jason" .....got me too
    1. Jerr's Avatar
      Jerr -
      But, tomorrow is day one and we are in the race.....so I am now as optimistic, as I can be
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      The Sano news really put a damper on what I was looking forward to following this season.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      I wouldn't call it optimism lost, but the pessimism gained. Pessimism has grown steadily this spring. All the factors you list are in there. I continue to think the main reason is spring training stats. The fact that none of the regulars had a great camp made people think they won't have a good year. Last year, we had Hicks to root for. This year, Hicks' spring was almost as good as last year, but it was easy to discount it because it didn't translate into the regular season last year. After Hicks, the line-up was mostly poor this spring. What people forget is that a lot of veterans take it easy in the spring and turn it up when the season starts. That's why I am withholding pessimism until after the first week of the season.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      I was actually doing pretty well with my optimism level until "Double Jason" became clear. For some reason, adding BOTH of them to the 25-man just made me lose it. As though this team and this management are stuck somewhere in the past and we will never escape.

      And yes, I get it that as a factual matter, it may not make much difference but for me, it feels like a giant rut, devoid of innovation.
      So what were the options?
      1B – Mauer
      2B – Set w/Dozier and Rosario soon.
      3B – No way anyone is brought in w/Sano so near.
      Catcher – Salty & AJ wanted to be elsewhere. Were we going to outbid the Yankees for McCann?
      CF – Not going to make a long-term commitment given we have the top prospect in all of baseball a year away.
      OF – You have to give Arcia a chance. Should we have taken a chance on Cruz on a one year deal and given up the draft pick? Should we have committed 4 years to Granderson?
      Choo or Ellsbury would have been absolute incompetence.
      SS – Obviously this one has been argued to death here. I can accept both sides of this argument. However, this team changes very little even with Drew. He would have been signed long ago if he were a difference maker. It would appear the talent evaluators around the league don’t think he is worth a draft pick.

      Is it hard to fix a team through free agency if you are not the Yankees, Dodgers, etc? Is the management of the Astros and Cubs apathetic? Incompetent? Why haven’t they turned those teams around? It is really easy to talk smak from the sidelines.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      What people forget is that a lot of veterans take it easy in the spring and turn it up when the season starts.
      That may be true but when I look at regulars on other teams in our division, the discrepancy between last season and 2014 Spring Training just isn't that great. In fact, a lot of them have ST numbers that are generally better than their full season numbers from 2013.

      I wonder if this is a truism that is becoming less and less true as players train year 'round.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      In my case, optimism was in short supply after another 90 loss season anyway. It got better with the signing of Nolasco, as I let myself think the Twins would make an honest effort to be better in 2014. That optimism faded with the subsequent signings, which went from bad to worse, IMO, and did little to help this team win baseball games.

      For me the Sano injury had little to do with it, as I don't plan on minor leaguers being part of the solution until they are. IMO those already penciling in Buxton as the next Willie Mays aren't being realistic. If it happens, great. Planning on it happening, and letting it influence moves now, is a recipe for what we see on the field.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      Yet, as this season opens, there is a lot of negativity surrounding the Twins, even more than the last couple of seasons. So, what happened?
      I dunno seth. When the FO complains at the end of the Spring training that none of the players they counted on were "stepping up" and Gardy openly wonders where offense will come from, it seems the team itself isn't optimistic.

      Twins spent a lot of money on the pitching staff. But those pitchers have an OF defense that will be the worst in baseball and if the FO and gardy are to be believed, we could have a stagnant offense.

      Top five pick again I think. But it will be fun to follow the Minors
    1. notoriousgod71's Avatar
      notoriousgod71 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Major Leauge Ready View Post
      So what were the options?
      1B – Mauer
      2B – Set w/Dozier and Rosario soon.
      3B – No way anyone is brought in w/Sano so near.
      Catcher – Salty & AJ wanted to be elsewhere. Were we going to outbid the Yankees for McCann?
      CF – Not going to make a long-term commitment given we have the top prospect in all of baseball a year away.
      OF – You have to give Arcia a chance. Should we have taken a chance on Cruz on a one year deal and given up the draft pick? Should we have committed 4 years to Granderson?
      Choo or Ellsbury would have been absolute incompetence.
      SS – Obviously this one has been argued to death here. I can accept both sides of this argument. However, this team changes very little even with Drew. He would have been signed long ago if he were a difference maker. It would appear the talent evaluators around the league don’t think he is worth a draft pick.

      Is it hard to fix a team through free agency if you are not the Yankees, Dodgers, etc? Is the management of the Astros and Cubs apathetic? Incompetent? Why haven’t they turned those teams around? It is really easy to talk smak from the sidelines.
      When you put it that way, I can clearly see there is simply no room for an addition to this lineup.
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