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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 doesn’t 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 didn’t 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 he’ll 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. It’s 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 didn’t 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 don’t 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 didn’t help the enthusiasm and hope of Twins fans. One can’t 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. Old Twins Cap's Avatar
      Old Twins Cap -
      If the Twins wanted to inject a new sense of optimism this year, the solution was very simple: replace Gardenhire. They did not do that, so it's same old, same old -- and we know where that leads. I'm surprised, shocked really, that all the complacency and poor results in Spring Training are never associated, in any way, with the manager. In my world, when the team looks terrible year after year, veterans underperform, rookies don't reach potential, and the team plays with no energy, heart or sense of purpose -- at that point, you go to the top of the food chain and start over. That was not done, and I think the Twins are reaping the rewards.
    1. TKGuy's Avatar
      TKGuy -
      It's spring, the season is starting tomorrow and I can't be more excited. That doesn't mean I think we will win the division, but I am hoping for a run at .500. no doubt the pitching is better, offense, not so much, but who knows. We are all tied at 0-0
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Quote Originally Posted by notoriousgod71 View Post
      When you put it that way, I can clearly see there is simply no room for an addition to this lineup.
      You are clearly being sarcastic and on the surface I can see why but dispute the premise with specifics. Who should we have brought in and what should we have given up to do it? Who should we have signed and for how much and how long? The only idea I have put forth has been we should have traded Sano for one of he top 2 shortstop prospects who may have been as much or more major league ready. I also put forth the idea that Drew would have made an improvement. Small improvement yes but still an improvement. None of the other guys thrilled me. What specifically should the Twins have done? I am ok with relying on Sano at 3rd very soon, Pinto at catcher, Hicks, Buxton and Rosario in the outfield and Arcia at DH within the year. The Twins have relied on their farm system in years past and it has never looked this good before. Should the Twins not have relied on Hrbek, Gaetti, Burnansky etc., or Hunter, AJ, Jones, Morneau, Cuddyer and Santana? Again, I would love to have improved the offense but who and for how much specifically? Without putting names and faces to the question it is as absurd as those saying in years past that the Twins needed to add a couple aces to the staff as if they are in plentiful supply. I was never optimistic about this season because I never saw any short term fixes the Twins could have made. I will watch because I want to see some players step up to give me optimism about the mid and long term so Buxton, Sano and Meyer will have a good supporting cast when they do arrive.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      The article listed 5-6 reasons why optimism might have waned, I think those things are all justifiable concerns. As others said, putting more aging veterans on the roster during another almost surely losing year instead of younger players is another reason for any pessimism.

      I think one article by (Reusse? Souhan?) detailing how the Pohlad's wanted to spend money but the front office was once again reluctant and another article where Anthony or another front office member said the Twins tried to upgrade the offense but couldn't give their money away (using that line for the 2nd year in a row by the way) will naturally make people lose optimism.

      I also think reassigning Buxton and Meyer with the first cuts probably hurts spring optimism. People want to see these guys and Twins spring training games were finally being broadcasted regularly this year. Sorry to Jamie Mitchell, but no one was tuning in to watch him and he clearly had next to no chance of making the team.
    1. Hosken Bombo Disco's Avatar
      Hosken Bombo Disco -
      There seems to be this weird taboo about discussing Gardenhire's future ---- that said, there's no one else I'd rather have than Gardy when the team is winning (2006 anyone?) but I think it's time as an organization to move on and bring on some new coaches for this next crop of prospects. On that, I am definitely optimistic. Mauer from Cedar Rapids maybe, and definitely some Latin American born guys. Keep Tony O around. Invite back Stelly. Coomer was an asset. Gladden is an asset to have around, even though he's somehow still horrible at play by play and so on. For manager try interviewing Glynn, Molitor, Chili Davis, Brad Childress, Geena Davis, whoever. Someone. I don't mean ill will on Gardy but the clubhouse needs a fresh face. I wish for Ryan to make a full recovery (we all do) and remain GM. I liked Leslie Frazier and don't think much of Speilman, but everyone understood why Frazier was let go. It wasn't controversial.
    1. Otwins's Avatar
      Otwins -
      I am officially worried - Seth doesn't sound optimistic
    1. The Wise One's Avatar
      The Wise One -
      The negativity comes from that people who are negative are finding reasons to post more frequently.
      Short term fixes. The Twins are not good enough to lure a good short term fix player. Do you think anyone trying to build value would play for a bottom team? Pelfrey did the year before. The team has versions of him in place in positions of need out in the field.
      Note the length of contracts given to the pitchers this year. very top players, what was the team going to get as a short term fix? A roid free 34 year old outfielder 3 years removed from a great season. A SS who wants a very large long term contract? A DH who really didn't play the field.
      We should be sad that there wasn't really much for 6 year free agents signed by the Twins
    1. The Wise One's Avatar
      The Wise One -
      The fans also get negative when they have expectations that are not met. If one expected short term upgrades a SS, 3B, RF, and a prospect for Willingham, they are going to be negative. The scheme of the moment is not being done by the Twins, more negativity. People love expressig what they do not like
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Wise One View Post
      The negativity comes from that people who are negative are finding reasons to post more frequently.
      Short term fixes. The Twins are not good enough to lure a good short term fix player. Do you think anyone trying to build value would play for a bottom team? Pelfrey did the year before. The team has versions of him in place in positions of need out in the field.
      Note the length of contracts given to the pitchers this year. very top players, what was the team going to get as a short term fix? A roid free 34 year old outfielder 3 years removed from a great season. A SS who wants a very large long term contract? A DH who really didn't play the field.
      We should be sad that there wasn't really much for 6 year free agents signed by the Twins
      This is close to my opinion. Negativity is contagious. And some equate thinking critically with negativity, as though you are a Pollyanna if you are optimistic. I posted something like that in another thread and got warned, so even the moderators apparently hold that position. But as I have posted in this thread, it is harder to be optimistic this year because of spring results. A week of good play against weak teams could cure that.

      Some have defended the lack of offensive upgrades. I think they could have upgraded the offense if they were willing to give up draft picks for short-term fixes. This line-up would look better with either Morales or Drew in it. On the other hand, we aren't privy to those discussions. Maybe we made offers that fit the value of the player for this team but the agents for those players are waiting until June to get a better deal.

      I don't agree with those who say you sign them to long-term deals and deal with the consequences if and when Santana or Vargas or Walker or whoever are ready. If Morales and Drew are having a hard time getting contracts, they will be hard to trade down the road. In the end, the team decided on low-risk additions like Kubel and Bartlett. I'll be rooting for them.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by notoriousgod71 View Post
      When you put it that way, I can clearly see there is simply no room for an addition to this lineup.
      You are badly twisting the context here. The fact that there is plenty of room to improve this line up is something that I would imagine 99.99% of fans would agree is very obvious. It is very easy to come back with a comment. It only furthers the assertion that your arguments are not fully formed. So, what specifically would you do differently. It is no simple and it is not easy.

      The point is that it is not simple. I seriously doubt apathy has anything to do with the problem. There are 29 other teams competing for these FAs. Many of them have a FAR larger budget. We also have young players (Hicks, Arcia, Pinto) that need to be given an opportunity. We have two positions set (1B/2B) and two positions are being held for a top 10 prospect. And, we have a middle of the line-up bat that is a question mark. Do you just cut him. All of these things don't leave alot of room for long-term deals.
    1. Blackjack's Avatar
      Blackjack -
      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.
      Good post, you hit the nail on the head!!!
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      I disagree with both sides of the arguments being made

      First, the point of wanting to see young players who care more about winning than the veterans. Really? One of the stated points in favor of keeping the veterans is that they at least have experience with winning teams and hopefully that can translate to some of the young players who, according to some, seemed to just be happy to be collecting a big league paycheck. Point is, I don't think you can just assume the young guys care more about winning than veterans, who may be nearing their final chances to win.

      On the other hand... while I tend to agree that it's easier to say, "they should have improved the offense," than it is to actually propose exactly HOW they should have done so, there's also a certain part of me that wants to respond, "I'm not a professional baseball front office executive. It's not my job to know HOW to improve this team's offense. The Twins employ people whose job it IS to know how to solve this kind of dilema and, to me, they failed in that regard this offseason."

      Certainly, you weren't going to attract many FAs to play CF and 3B with Buxton and Sano on the doorstep. We, on the outside, can't possibly know what the cost, in trade, upgrades to other positions might have been. But if you're a FO executive for a MLB team with an offense as bad as the Twins had last year, I think it's a fair expectation of you to do something to improve that offense. And if you don't, I think it's fair to expect a certain amount of pessimism and disapproval of your job performance from your fan base.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      ... removed duplicate comment
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by notoriousgod71 View Post
      When you put it that way, I can clearly see there is simply no room for an addition to this lineup.
      Unless you think outside the box and trade some good pieces and blocked prospects like Kepler or Walker to get better pieces like the Tgers seem to do season after season.

      And there is always the DH position occupied now by the ghost of Kubel's past. Sure there are better options there.
    1. crarko's Avatar
      crarko -
      Probably as much or more of a dampener of enthusiasm than the Sano injury was Terry Ryan's diagnosis. Sometimes reality hits home more than the game.

      Both are going to be better, though, and that should be reason for optimism, if not for this season, then for things in general.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Major League Ready,

      Why the focus on long-term deals? With prospects on the way, short-term would seem to be ideal for this club.

      And in your positional analysis, in addition to SS which you admit is weak, you also left out DH which was wide open (or, shifting Willingham to DH, an OF would be wide open). Cruz or Morales or Corey Hart would have been interesting guys for that spot. And I wouldn't rule out a short-term CF just because we want to try Hicks again and Buxton is on the way -- better to have a good CF playing a corner than lack for any CF. Chris Young or Grady Sizemore were possibilities there. And if you look short-term, since Sano was 90% likely to start at AAA anyway, you could get a 3B to push Plouffe too -- Mark Reynolds?

      Not inspiring names by any means, but I think what has disappointed me most is that the Twins basically did nothing. They had a bunch of mediocre performers last year, and have basically rolled the dice on the exact same group this year. The only new additions have been Suzuki (not a bad sign, but uninspiring as a primary starter) and Kubel and Bartlett (who, coincidentally, were two of the cheapest options available, and also the two former Twins). We're just handing jobs to Hicks, Plouffe, Arcia, and Florimon, without pushing any of them or getting any depth. Seriously, Mastro, Parm, Cola, and Escobar are all still first in line to take over again. It's actually a lot like the rotation entering 2013 -- carrying over a disappointing group, add a couple marginal guys, but still a poor forecast and little depth, with most of our hopes still a year or two or more away in the minors.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      And some equate thinking critically with negativity, as though you are a Pollyanna if you are optimistic.
      The difference is that for some critical thinking is only valid as a tool of optimism. The idea that a less than desirable forecast could be fair analysis is unallowed. I understand why - we all love our team and WANT them to be better, but wanting something to be true and finding ways to justify that is not fair analysis.

      Nick just got done with a blog entry a few days ago that was critical and sober in its assessments of the roster and the depth behind it. The response by those wanting to trounce out "negativity" (note that there are no blog entries or even threads dedicated to calling out the "Pollyanna" perspective) gave it no credence as a valid thought. For whatever reason, for many fans, a forecast that isn't desirable is functionally incapable of being honest or truthful.

      Sometimes "things might be worse" is the reality. Spring can lead to hope, but that doesn't make it valid analysis. Afterall, as a wise man once said, hope is the dream of the waking man.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      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.
      so I can assume that you are against the nolasco and hughes signings?
    1. twinscowboysbulls's Avatar
      twinscowboysbulls -
      Optimism went out the door when:
      1) TR struck out after signing his 3 pitchers. (suzuki, kubel, bart don't excite)
      2) Sano needed TJS
    1. gil4's Avatar
      gil4 -
      Quote Originally Posted by bdoom5 View Post
      My head nearly exploded when I heard Bartlett made the team. What the heck are they thinking!

      I was going to get all serious about this, but my mind began to wander, first to "Bartlett reminds me a little of Mark DeRosa" and then to "this is all VodkaDave's fault. After TR & co. read this: http://www.twinsdaily.com/showthread...ghlight=derosa they discovered DeRosa had retired so they are trying to make a new DeRosa out of Bartlett. (Dishonorable mention to Rick Blaine for linking the two names in post #19 of that thread.)

      My serious point was that the Bartlett move indicates that the front office still hasn't learned about maximizing assets and squeezing the last bit of value out of every roster spot. Alex Presley didn't have a lot of value, but a 28 year old who can actually play CF and get on base a little has more value than a 34 year old "superutility" who missed all of last year and hasn't been good for several years.
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