• Twins Must Erase Memories of Nishioka

    Tsuyoshi Nishioka bobbles a throw in a Minnesota Twins game.Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who was optioned to the minors today to make room for Trevor Plouffe, has probably played his last game in a Twins uniform. His memory will endure, however probably for longer than the team would like.

    In a sense, you can't help but feel bad for the guy. He worked hard and tried his best, but in the end he couldn't cut it, and his demotion in the wake of an audition so horrendous it needed to be cut short after three games serves as a reminder of the most misguided decision in a blunder-filled Bill Smith era.

    The signing of Nishioka and the corresponding roster maneuvering namely, trading J.J. Hardy for what amounted to nothing were puzzling at the time and far worse in hindsight.

    It's not that the moves themselves have set the organization back irreversibly, as Nishioka's $3 million salary is hardly a massive burden and Hardy has come hurdling back to earth in year one of his new contract (though I'd argue he's still a decent value at $7 million). It's more that the thought process behind the decisions the misplaced priorities, the awful player evaluation, the lack of long-term foresight represented everything wrong with the front office under Smith. These weaknesses were also on display in moves like the Nick Blackburn extension, the Carl Pavano re-signing and the Matt Capps trade.

    Mixed in with a good hint of bad luck, this shaky leadership sent a thriving and annually competitive franchise to the very bottom. The Twins lost 99 games last year and they're on pace to lose 92 this year. If it pans out that way, it will be the worst two-year stretch for the club since the early '80s.

    The middle infield positions, which have been constant problem spots over the past decade, continue to be filled by stopgaps and marginal big-leaguers. And as long as that continues to be the case, people will remember Nishioka.

    Terry Ryan's job is to make them forget.
    This article was originally published in blog: Twins Must Erase Memories of Nishioka started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 24 Comments
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      It's more that the thought process behind the decisions the misplaced priorities, the awful player evaluation, the lack of long-term foresight represented everything wrong with the front office under Smith. These weaknesses were also on display in moves like the Nick Blackburn extension, the Carl Pavano re-signing and the Matt Capps trade.
      Add a few more decisions of the era... but you have to mention that it was not BS alone. Gardy and Andy and Co participated and blessed those decisions, if not lobbied for them. I remember Gardy was all so happy that he finally got his speedy SS in Nishioka and please do not tell me that Andy and Gardy had nothing to do in the extension of Blackburn and the re-singings of Pavano and Capps... Cannot blame everything on BS (that last one is on the interim too.) Gardy and Andy cannot be on the clear the whole time as well. They are the leaders of the worst team in the league 2 seasons in a row, they should be walking on very thin ice.
    1. Mr. Ed's Avatar
      Mr. Ed -
      [QUOTE=thrylos98;45298]
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Gardy and Andy cannot be on the clear the whole time as well. They are the leaders of the worse team in the league 2 seasons in a row, they should be walking on very thin ice.
      If only that were true. 2 of the most secure jobs in baseball.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Nice article, Nick, but there's one part I don't fully agree with.

      "Nishioka's $3 million salary is hardly a massive burden"

      Yes and no. You're referring to the 2013 sunk (suck?) cost and its relatively
      likely modest effect on what the 2013 payroll can buy . Agreed.

      But when you include the cost of the bidding rights and buyout, the Twins will have blown over $14 million on this guy.

      To paraphrase the immortal quote by Senator Everett Dirksen, "A million here, a million there,
      pretty soon you're talking about some real money".

      Amortizing waste and failure is a way to minimize and sometimes even ignore it.

      Most people at least acknowledge that Nishioka's utter collapse was unforeseeable, and Hardy's near-AS caliber 2011 was a bit of a surprise. I get that.

      But there are also plenty of people wondering why the Twins gambled by letting a proven above-average SS go for nothing, then signing a guy who'd never played an inning of American ball in his life to start for an alleged contender while only saving about $1.6 million per year over 3 years.

      Other risks are even harder to justify. Marquis, Blackburn's extension, Pavano's, Punto before that... the Twins are predictably, reliably p!ssing away a few million 'here and there' every year. It's adding up to "some real money", nearly enough to knock them out of the 2013 market for an ace and place them in the '2nd/3rd starter if you're lucky' market. That's unacceptable.
    1. Monkeypaws's Avatar
      Monkeypaws -
      His bust belongs right next to Bombo Rivera's in the Twins Hall of colorful failures, although that's probably unfair to Bombo. Maybe Bob Gorinski instead.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      Other risks are even harder to justify. Marquis, Blackburn's extension, Pavano's, Punto before that... the Twins are predictably, reliably p!ssing away a few million 'here and there' every year. It's adding up to "some real money", nearly enough to knock them out of the 2013 market for an ace and place them in the '2nd/3rd starter if you're lucky' market. That's unacceptable.
      I'd agree 100% with the above, until I looked at Marquis' numbers in 13 starts with the Padres since he was cut loose:

      3.66 ERA, 1.195 WHIP, 7.5 K/9 and 3.33 K/BB; including taking a no-hitter into the 7th in Pittsburgh last night and ended up with a 2-hitter.

      For some reason Marquis (like other pitchers before him - Dickey being a recent example) did not perform up to his potential with the Twins. Unless the Twins look for answers to things like this, they will not improve. (and, yeah, they should quit signing veterans who pitch to contact and eat innings.)
    1. one_eyed_jack's Avatar
      one_eyed_jack -
      I think you hit it on the head with your last point - get good middle-infielders, and the talk about Nishioka stops.

      There's still so much pining for Hardy, even with his rather significant drop in production this year, because Nishi was a massive failure.

      You don't hear much whining about Kubel and his .895 OPS, but you probably would if Willingham were having an awful year.
    1. Jack Torse's Avatar
      Jack Torse -
      Not exactly the Tsunami here in terms of trying to put things in the past. I think the Twins and their fans will be able to pick up the pieces and move on.
    1. DPJ's Avatar
      DPJ -
      Quote Originally Posted by one_eyed_jack View Post
      You don't hear much whining about Kubel and his .895 OPS, but you probably would if Willingham were having an awful year.
      Even if Willingham bombed, Kubel would never be having this type of season in MN. He's playing in a wonderful hitters park instead of the Petco Midwest.
    1. SeanS7921's Avatar
      SeanS7921 -
      Nishioka has been a disaster in that in his limited play he has been horrible. Overall, it's just Internet, and Radio blabber for fans and people who like to rip on the Twins. Last year signing Nishioka and if true that being the reason the Twins traded Hardy cost the Twins 2 wins or so. 65-97 instead yeah! If some great play by Ryan is needed so that WE forget about Nishioka needs to occur then the should just fold the organization. The Twins are out 14 million. End of story.
    1. nokomismod's Avatar
      nokomismod -
      I'm not one of those guys pining for J.J. Hardy, but don't you think he would have been responsible for more like an 8 game positive swing last year if he was playing everyday instead of the Nishi/Plouffe mess we had?
    1. savvyspy's Avatar
      savvyspy -
      I'll get bent out of shape and join the unhinged hysteria and angst about Nishioka when the Twins stop running Nick Blackburn out to the mound every 5 games. Until then, they can put a traffic cone out at short it won't matter. No one is good enough anyway. They've run every decent shortstop off the roster and Gardy continues to throw Dozier under the bus after every game too. I guess the manager that's won exactly ZERO playoff series in the past decade who fashions himself a poor man's Tom Kelly won't be satisfied until he can pencil 9 Drew Butera's into the lineup.
    1. PopRiveter's Avatar
      PopRiveter -
      I see Gardy's "throwing players under the bus" as simple teaching. Everyone watching sees a player making misplays (Dozier, Cuddyer, Bartlett come to mind.) When questioned, should a manager pretend the misplays didn't happen or that the player shouldn't be able to do any better? Gardenhire stood behind Dozier's use of judgment and then reviewed video to direct he try to make the tougher play next time. I don't see how anyone can honestly characterize this as "throwing a player under a bus."
    1. YLT's Avatar
      YLT -
      [QUOTE=Mr. Ed;45301]
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Gardy and Andy cannot be on the clear the whole time as well. They are the leaders of the worse team in the league 2 seasons in a row, they should be walking on very thin ice.
      If only that were true. 2 of the most secure jobs in baseball.
      Yup, I'd predict Gardy retires from the job before the front office shows him the door. Andy I'm not so sure of. He might actually be walking on thin ice but again, it's hard to see them breaking up that duo. I think another important point from the managerial/FO side is their handling of injuries and the timing of putting guys on the DL. How many times have injuries been under-diagnosed or guys left on day-to-day status only to later go on the DL for extended stints? There's a major lack of communication between parties somewhere within the organization that is going to bite them some year when they actually are competitive. I'm as frustrated as Gleeman and Bonnes on that topic.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      This brings up one thing I don't think is talked enough about multi-year deals like Nishioka's. Teams feel the need to justify them and continue to sink good at-bats/innings after bad money. If Nishi would have had a one-year deal, how long would he have lasted last year? Not very, right? I think we see the same thing with Blackburn and Marquis. Marquis they can cut loose, but Blackburn the feel the need to rehabilitate.
    1. Paul's Avatar
      Paul -
      Quote Originally Posted by SeanS7921 View Post
      ... Last year signing Nishioka and if true that being the reason the Twins traded Hardy cost the Twins 2 wins or so...
      I can't let this go. Will one of you stat guys answer this?

      Is this opinion based on some kind of sabermetric formula that some find useful?
    1. Montecore's Avatar
      Montecore -
      Bl
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      It's more that the thought process behind the decisions the misplaced priorities, the awful player evaluation, the lack of long-term foresight represented everything wrong with the front office under Smith. These weaknesses were also on display in moves like the Nick Blackburn extension, the Carl Pavano re-signing and the Matt Capps trade.
      Add a few more decisions of the era... but you have to mention that it was not BS alone. Gardy and Andy and Co participated and blessed those decisions, if not lobbied for them. I remember Gardy was all so happy that he finally got his speedy SS in Nishioka and please do not tell me that Andy and Gardy had nothing to do in the extension of Blackburn and the re-singings of Pavano and Capps... Cannot blame everything on BS (that last one is on the interim too.) Gardy and Andy cannot be on the clear the whole time as well. They are the leaders of the worst team in the league 2 seasons in a row, they should be walking on very thin ice.
      More blame should go to Gardenhire. Keeping this slug around is the most counter-productive team decision bar none.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by Paul View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by SeanS7921 View Post
      ... Last year signing Nishioka and if true that being the reason the Twins traded Hardy cost the Twins 2 wins or so...
      I can't let this go. Will one of you stat guys answer this?

      Is this opinion based on some kind of sabermetric formula that some find useful?
      It's low if you use WAR, although it's likely an unfounded assumption that Hardy would have performed the same here as he did in Baltimore (considering that Hardy has credited Vavra with fixing his swing, he probably would have performed even better...and yes, that's reverse hyperbole and conjecture to be amusing to myself and counter the other direction a little bit). Making a few minor assumptions that make the calculation a tad quicker and easier, the difference in WAR for Hardy and the Twins SS's was about 6 for 2011.
    1. Bark's Lounge's Avatar
      Bark's Lounge -
      Hopefully in the off season, the Twins swallow their pride and cut ties with Nishioka. I wouldn't say I feel bad for Nishioka because he has a made a lot of money for doing not so much, but I would imagine he is embarrassed and his pride has taken a considerable hit. He is a long ways from his homeland where he was beloved and a star type player (although his Nippon stats are not really that mind blowing).

      I hope that this is a wake up call for MLB teams not to take risks in the posting system with Nippon League position baseball players. Some of the pitchers from the Nippon League have worked out, but only 2-3 position players have made a somewhat impact. Ichiro, Hideki Matsui and to a smaller degree Tad Iguchi (he was okay for a couple of years). Ichiro is a freak of nature. Hideki Matsui was a 40+ HR hitter in Japan, here he was a 20ish HR Hitter. Nishioka makes Kaz Matsui look like a HOFer.

      Why didn't Alex Ramirez or Alex Cabrera make a return to MLB. My guess is they were smart enough to know that they would fail and make a lot more money in Japan than they could make at AAA in the States.
    1. one_eyed_jack's Avatar
      one_eyed_jack -
      Quote Originally Posted by Bark's Lounge View Post

      I hope that this is a wake up call for MLB teams not to take risks in the posting system with Nippon League position baseball players. Some of the pitchers from the Nippon League have worked out, but only 2-3 position players have made a somewhat impact. Ichiro, Hideki Matsui and to a smaller degree Tad Iguchi (he was okay for a couple of years). Ichiro is a freak of nature. Hideki Matsui was a 40+ HR hitter in Japan, here he was a 20ish HR Hitter. Nishioka makes Kaz Matsui look like a HOFer.
      ---You're selling Iguchi short there, he was better than "okay", he was a very underappreciated player who played a key role on a team that won it all. Plus there have been a few other guys able to contribute (Aoki, Iwamure, Fukudome), and there haven't really been all that many position players to come over.

      So it strikes me as overly simplistic and short-sighted to focus on a couple of guys that failed in Kaz and Nishi and conclude that Japanese players aren't worth the risk.

      I certainly don't want the Twins turning their back on Japan just because they blew it with Nishi. Don't stop trying because you got it wrong the first time. Figure out how to do it better and try again.

      This reminds me of 10-15 years ago when the NBA and NHL started seeing more international players. Some teams embraced the opportunities to tap into new talent pools. Others maintained strong anti-international player biases and focused only on North-American players. They ended up watching teams from the former group (like the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Red Wings) hoist banners.
    1. Bark's Lounge's Avatar
      Bark's Lounge -
      Quote Originally Posted by one_eyed_jack View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Bark's Lounge View Post

      I hope that this is a wake up call for MLB teams not to take risks in the posting system with Nippon League position baseball players. Some of the pitchers from the Nippon League have worked out, but only 2-3 position players have made a somewhat impact. Ichiro, Hideki Matsui and to a smaller degree Tad Iguchi (he was okay for a couple of years). Ichiro is a freak of nature. Hideki Matsui was a 40+ HR hitter in Japan, here he was a 20ish HR Hitter. Nishioka makes Kaz Matsui look like a HOFer.
      ---You're selling Iguchi short there, he was better than "okay", he was a very underappreciated player who played a key role on a team that won it all. Plus there have been a few other guys able to contribute (Aoki, Iwamure, Fukudome), and there haven't really been all that many position players to come over.

      So it strikes me as overly simplistic and short-sighted to focus on a couple of guys that failed in Kaz and Nishi and conclude that Japanese players aren't worth the risk.

      I certainly don't want the Twins turning their back on Japan just because they blew it with Nishi. Don't stop trying because you got it wrong the first time. Figure out how to do it better and try again.

      This reminds me of 10-15 years ago when the NBA and NHL started seeing more international players. Some teams embraced the opportunities to tap into new talent pools. Others maintained strong anti-international player biases and focused only on North-American players. They ended up watching teams from the former group (like the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Red Wings) hoist banners.
      Yikes!!! Sorry to draw your ire. Aoki has been okay in his small sample size. Fukudome and Iwamura were serviceable, but failures in the expected result of what they could offer and the $$$ they were paid. I included Iguchi in my positive spin, because he did have 2-3 fairly good seasons, won a World Series Championship, but fell off considerably after that.

      I think you are over reacting and unless you can get most Japanese position players on the cheap, you are taking far too great a risk.

      History has not taught me a different outcome/lesson to this date... sorry to offend you.
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