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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. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      One thing I'd caution as you balance that out: last year when there were injuries we called up Pinto, Arcia, and moved Doumit around. (Among some bad players too, no doubt) This year those players don't exist. When Willingham goes down we see Wilkin Ramirez or Hermann for 2-3 weeks or more.

      I've got Gibson and Hicks primed for huge improvements and I think Dozier stays steady. I think Arcia is going to have an adjustment period but by June he's going to be everything we hoped for. I even think that bullpen is largely going to be pretty darn good and have some trade value.

      The problem is injuries, Suzuki/Florimon/Plouffe/Bench/Kubel and how awful they might be, a lot of question marks in the starting staff, and little impact talent expected for at least most of the year.

      At the end of the day I don't let this drag me down, I still love the Twins - I'm just boarding up the windows for another rough one to ride out.
      That's reasonable. On the plus side, none of the guys you have questions about is all that great to begin with. So it's not like injuries will do too much damage, with the exception of Hicks.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by rickyriolo View Post
      oh, and 1 last thing. San Diego Tribune picked the Twins as the worst team in the American League. they even projected that Houston Astros will have a better record than the Twinkies
      Stay classy San Diego.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by rickyriolo View Post
      oh, and 1 last thing. San Diego Tribune picked the Twins as the worst team in the American League. they even projected that Houston Astros will have a better record than the Twinkies
      San Diego who?
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Monkeypaws View Post
      I guess I'm lucky in that I just enjoy having a team in Minnesota.
      This is kind of an interesting statement and I think that really speaks down to a large division in the Twins (and any other team's pretty much) fan base.

      There are some of us (and lot of us do not live in MN any more) who would follow the Twins and root for them because we are Twins' fans no matter what. This includes if they moved elsewhere. Minnesota Twins, Charlotte Twins, Honolulu Twins, they are my team. No matter what.

      There are others, and almost 100% locally based, who follow the Twins because they are the hometown team and if they moved, they would follow the team that replaced them and "hate" the Twins because they moved and even root against them.

      Think NorthStars/Stars vs. Wild for example.

      And the Twins are betting mostly on the second group (which is the less loyal fan group) for some weird reason... And it seems to me that the second group is the one that cares less about the Twins winning, as long as they stay put...

      Just some food for thought...
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      The sano thing killed any optimism I had. Now 2015 is the rookie year for him and Buxton, delaying, IMO, any chance at competitiveness by another year. Not signing any offense.....like Abreu, was a real downer also, but not unexpected by me. Therefore that did not drop what little ti ism I had.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      That's reasonable. On the plus side, none of the guys you have questions about is all that great to begin with. So it's not like injuries will do too much damage, with the exception of Hicks.
      Injuries to Hicks, Arcia, Willingham will all almost certainly result in extensive playing time for Hermann or Ramirez. (I want to say Parmelee, but I'm pretty sure he's behind Hermann) Plouffe pr Dozier would be Escobar. I won't even mention an injury or relapse to another important guy who I shall keep nameless in an effort not to jinx him....

      All over this lineup an injury takes us from a bad/mediocre player to a downright awful player. I'd argue with this little margin for error that is significant.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Injuries to Hicks, Arcia, Willingham will all almost certainly result in extensive playing time for Hermann or Ramirez. (I want to say Parmelee, but I'm pretty sure he's behind Hermann) Plouffe pr Dozier would be Escobar. I won't even mention an injury or relapse to another important guy who I shall keep nameless in an effort not to jinx him....

      All over this lineup an injury takes us from a bad/mediocre player to a downright awful player. I'd argue with this little margin for error that is significant.
      I get it. Everything could go wrong. But that is extremely unlikely. More likely, some guys will have two-week stints on the DL in which their understudies replace them. Fryer could replace Suzuki. Mastro could replace Hicks. Romero could replace Plouffe. Beresford could replace Dozier. Those are not catastrophes. They make it less likely that the team will win during those periods. But they don't portend inevitable doom.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      This is kind of an interesting statement and I think that really speaks down to a large division in the Twins (and any other team's pretty much) fan base.

      There are some of us (and lot of us do not live in MN any more) who would follow the Twins and root for them because we are Twins' fans no matter what. This includes if they moved elsewhere. Minnesota Twins, Charlotte Twins, Honolulu Twins, they are my team. No matter what.

      There are others, and almost 100% locally based, who follow the Twins because they are the hometown team and if they moved, they would follow the team that replaced them and "hate" the Twins because they moved and even root against them.

      Think NorthStars/Stars vs. Wild for example.

      And the Twins are betting mostly on the second group (which is the less loyal fan group) for some weird reason... And it seems to me that the second group is the one that cares less about the Twins winning, as long as they stay put...

      Just some food for thought...
      Interesting thought Thrylos...

      I live in Dallas, born and raised in MN. Twins are my favorite sports team, though I've been away from MN almost 8 years now.

      I wouldn't consider myself a big hockey fan, BUT, in your Wild/North Stars example....I tend to side with the "Stars" over the Wild...but kinda not sure if the Dallas factor has some influence. Although, I HATE the Cowboys, and love to see them lose nearly as much as the Yankees. So maybe it has to do with the success of '90-'91 Stars that went to the Finals. I was pretty young...10 years old...and just starting to find hockey.

      Baseball was my first love though...my granddad and his brother on my mom's side played amateur ball as did my dad. A baseball glove was on my hand as soon as I had any dexterity. And we went to Twins caravans at the Best Western in Marshall, MN almost every Winter. And if Oliva or Killebrew were going to be at one, we'd also go there, often trecking up to Sleepy Eye, Mankato, New Ulm if it had a good group of former/current players. My dad would relive the 60's when he'd see Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew at those things. Great times.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      I get it. Everything could go wrong. But that is extremely unlikely. More likely, some guys will have two-week stints on the DL in which their understudies replace them. Fryer could replace Suzuki. Mastro could replace Hicks. Romero could replace Plouffe. Beresford could replace Dozier. Those are not catastrophes. They make it less likely that the team will win during those periods. But they don't portend inevitable doom.
      Im not sure what it is about outlining the depth chart that equals "all of this is going to happen"....but that was never the point.

      Where last year it was Arcia, this year it's Hermann. Where last year it was Doumit/Pinto this year it's Fryer. And we could continue with the rest of the dreck you posted yourself.

      It's not that a bunch of injuries hurt...it's that ANY injuries calls for a Clete Thomas-like replacement. With a small margin of error that is a major concern.
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      Optimism, I've got optimism. I think this team can win 76 games. That's considerably better than the last 3 seasons. That's optimism. I've also got negativity. This team needs to score more runs. Except for Kurt's motorcyle shop in the two spot, he (at least for today) found his bat and plated some runs.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      This is kind of an interesting statement and I think that really speaks down to a large division in the Twins (and any other team's pretty much) fan base.

      There are some of us (and lot of us do not live in MN any more) who would follow the Twins and root for them because we are Twins' fans no matter what. This includes if they moved elsewhere. Minnesota Twins, Charlotte Twins, Honolulu Twins, they are my team. No matter what.

      There are others, and almost 100% locally based, who follow the Twins because they are the hometown team and if they moved, they would follow the team that replaced them and "hate" the Twins because they moved and even root against them.

      Think NorthStars/Stars vs. Wild for example.

      And the Twins are betting mostly on the second group (which is the less loyal fan group) for some weird reason... And it seems to me that the second group is the one that cares less about the Twins winning, as long as they stay put...

      Just some food for thought...
      With all due respect, I have read the post several times now and don't see how he was talking down to anyone. Yes, there are people who might switch loyalty after moving from Minnesota, but Monkeypaws was expressing a positive attitude that he feels lucky to have the Twins in town and he does not get overly depressed when the Twins are doing poorly. I see nothing that suggested that Monkeypaws is not a 100% loyal fan.

      Barring some miracle, this is not going to be a winning season for the Twins. Each of us will cope with that in his/her own way. However, if there is squabbling of this nature, then we moderators will give the squabblers timeouts until it stops.
    1. shimrod's Avatar
      shimrod -
      I suspected we were screwed when we renewed Gardenhire. He's washed up. He accepts the losing, accepts the poor defense and bone-headed plays, and his players know it. He also accepts the management's cheap-ass ways so he's guaranteed a job. A new manager would insist on some competent bats, and that's not happening at today's prices. I'm a long time fan, will be watching the games, and I'd really love to see this team rise up and win the Central. I'm a lot more likely to spend next off-season wondering which of the three top prospects the Twins will be drafting next year.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      This is kind of an interesting statement and I think that really speaks down to a large division in the Twins (and any other team's pretty much) fan base.

      There are some of us (and lot of us do not live in MN any more) who would follow the Twins and root for them because we are Twins' fans no matter what. This includes if they moved elsewhere. Minnesota Twins, Charlotte Twins, Honolulu Twins, they are my team. No matter what.

      There are others, and almost 100% locally based, who follow the Twins because they are the hometown team and if they moved, they would follow the team that replaced them and "hate" the Twins because they moved and even root against them.

      Think NorthStars/Stars vs. Wild for example.

      And the Twins are betting mostly on the second group (which is the less loyal fan group) for some weird reason... And it seems to me that the second group is the one that cares less about the Twins winning, as long as they stay put...

      Just some food for thought...
      But aren't the hometown fans the ones who buy tickets to the games, watch the local broadcasts and are the ones most likely to buy merchandise?
    1. twinscowboysbulls's Avatar
      twinscowboysbulls -
      I think I agree with you. I mean I'm excited, but mostly for this somewhat fictional idea about the future and how good we could be. Who knows if we will reach it.
    1. Deduno Abides's Avatar
      Deduno Abides -
      This site has knowledgeable, respectful readers. I would guess that the average reader is excited to see the growth of several new and future players, but is also concerned that this year's team could likely be the fourth 90+ loss team in a row. Also, although the hiring of the two Jasons, while perhaps defensible against the other options available, indicates that the team is focused on the future, because one of the best reasons for hiring the two veterans is their ability to deal with losing.

      Readers definitely are interested in the development of several players and the possibility that some unknown future year will include a talented team comprised of graduates from the minor league system. However, for 2014, in context of (a) several 90+ loss seasons in a row; (b) the upside being mostly based on the attainment of minor league projections, always a risky proposition; and (c) a hiring strategy that includes players selected because of their ability to deal with losing, "optimism" about the 2014 Twins seems difficult, particularly if someone's feeling of optimism or pessimism is primarily based on a projected number of wins and losses.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Somehow I feel like this thread is like one of those marketing surveys that come by the phone--"have you got a few minutes to answer some questions so we can serve you better"?
      Optimism--I guess I'm not sure how much we should feel to be considered "optimistic"? Would the likelihood of winning 70 games be optimistic? Or, being competitive in 95% of the games? Not sure what is meant.
      To me, the only thing to be optimistic about is a willingness to admit that the rotation can't just be "patched" with some castoffs and fringe players--some real money must be spent.
      It's difficult to be more optimistic than that (and the 70 games) when the cause(s) of this predicament are whitewashed. If the Twins continue to lose (a lot!) and for several more seasons, and numerous early draft selections are made (sort of like the Astros now, and the discredited Rays) will we hear that success was obtained by hard work and savvy management? Or, will we hear that the long-term losing option was selected because other teams (and in other sports too!) have proven that technique successfull?
    1. gil4's Avatar
      gil4 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      There are some of us (and lot of us do not live in MN any more) who would follow the Twins and root for them because we are Twins' fans no matter what. This includes if they moved elsewhere. Minnesota Twins, Charlotte Twins, Honolulu Twins, they are my team. No matter what.

      There are others, and almost 100% locally based, who follow the Twins because they are the hometown team and if they moved, they would follow the team that replaced them and "hate" the Twins because they moved and even root against them.

      Think NorthStars/Stars vs. Wild for example.
      I have had two teams move on me (North Stars and Hartford Whalers) and that whole league is dead to me now. (Hockey used to be my favorite sport. In school us used to buy green binders with the clear plastic covers, slice them open, and slide in pictures of North Stars players - mainly Gilles Meloche (awesome masks.) At the time of the moves I wasn't local for either team because by then I was in the military, although my legal residence was still Connecticut. I just still identify with both areas (born in one, grew up in the other) and didn't like it when back-stabbing owners took their teams and ran.

      I'm softening a little on the Stars because I'm within their local TV area and occasionally watch part of a game if there is absolutely nothing else on.

      They might have won me over right away if they had gone with Lone Stars instead of the generic Stars and changed the color scheme, just because that would have been pretty cool and it would have been enough of a break so that it wouldn't have been a twist of the knife every time I saw them play.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Im not sure what it is about outlining the depth chart that equals "all of this is going to happen"....but that was never the point.

      Where last year it was Arcia, this year it's Hermann. Where last year it was Doumit/Pinto this year it's Fryer. And we could continue with the rest of the dreck you posted yourself.

      It's not that a bunch of injuries hurt...it's that ANY injuries calls for a Clete Thomas-like replacement. With a small margin of error that is a major concern.
      I think it's actually Parmelee, who isn't that far behind Arcia. Arcia had about 50 more PAs than Parmelee last year. Even if Arcia gets hurt for a month, he'll get more PAs than he did last year. I am more worried about a sophomore slump from Arcia than an injury. He has some holes in his swing and every pitcher in the league has seen video of them. So he will need to make adjustments to be even as successful as he was last year, which was good but not great. Worst case, he slumps and hurts the team even more than an injury.

      I am not a fan of Doumit, so I can't say Fryer or Hermann are all that big a drop from him (all things considered), for a short DL stint. Doumit is a better hitter. But he's such a poor catcher, he is a net negative in my book. (Of course, he isn't even catching anymore, so we unloaded him at the right point.)
    1. Monkeypaws's Avatar
      Monkeypaws -
      Thrylos, I consider myself a pretty loyal Twins fan: so loyal that it goes beyond results. (root root root for the home team).

      I'm old enough to know that success for this team is cyclical, and won't sour on them for a few putrid seasons. Actually, stinking is good because the bandwagon empties out, and you get a colorful variety of non-standard MLB players to cheer for.

      I lived through the loss of the North Stars, and the near loss of the Twins, my 2 favorite teams growing up. I'm just glad to have them here, and have the opportunity to watch MLB here.

      You are right though, that I might have hated the Carolina Twins.
    1. LoganJones's Avatar
      LoganJones -
      Quote Originally Posted by rickyriolo View Post
      oh, and 1 last thing. San Diego Tribune picked the Twins as the worst team in the American League. they even projected that Houston Astros will have a better record than the Twinkies
      Well, that must make it true then.
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