So what’s a surefire way to make sure no one ever reads your new blog again? Well, why not call out some of the fan base for what I feel has been questionable, if not irrational behavior.
I was just as frustrated as every other fan with this past Twins season, but I still do not think it justifies the amount of vitriol I have read in various comment sections, newspapers, discussed with friends, and listened to on the radio. The two biggest issues everyone seems to have are the misconceptions that the Twins are cheap and that Joe Mauer is nothing more than a bad contract and a lazy, characterless disappointment.
It is a fact the Twins have "slashed" payroll all the way down to a mere pedestrian 100 million dollars. It seems like just a few years ago everyone was begging for the Twins to stretch the payroll too the 100 million plateau and now that they are doing that it’s not good enough. How much would they have to spend for the Twins to no longer be considered cheap? 115m? 130m? Do they have to outspend the Yankees? or the Red Sox? I'll admit when I first heard they may be cutting back payroll, I didn’t agree with it. Then I started doing my research, trying to look at the big picture for the upcoming season, and the next season or two down the road. After that, I came to the conclusion that it did not make any sense for the Twins to spend another 15m right now for a few reasons.
First off, as Seth Stohs pointed out here, the Twins just have way too many "if's" to justify extending themselves further at this time. If Mauer, Morneau, Span, Valencia, Revere, Casilla, Baker, Liriano, Capps and the rest of the Bullpen, and Blackburn (who No Dak Twins Fan covered here) don't all rebound, improve, and/or stay healthy the Twins have zero chance of competing no matter how much more payroll the team adds. I think Seth nailed it, if the Twins have a first solid couple of months and some of those "ifs" fall the right way the Twins have the payroll flexibility to make a move or two at the deadline. If those "ifs" don’t fall their way then they have not compromised their flexibility for next year when they are possibly replacing 4/5th of their starting rotation.
Secondly, in the first two + seasons at Target Field the Twins have given out a $184 million dollar contract which at the time was the 4th largest in MLB history. They gave out the largest free agent contract in team history to Josh Willingham this offseason, which I think has been under praised as they got the best hitter between Kubel, Cuddyer, and Willingham for the lowest average annual salary. That's not cheap, that's a savvy baseball move and a move they should be praised for. They addressed the SS position in a bad market for the position with a solid, unspectacular move, but also didn’t turn it over to an unproven AAA player. These are the type of moves the team never would have made in the Metrodome and a sign they are becoming more of a player in free agency.
Finally, I think the Twins realized that the free agent market this offseason and their needs did not match up all that strongly. Only one impact middle infielder was on the market and I am glad the Twins stayed away from Jose Reyes. I didn’t consider any of the SP's available this year to be tremendous upgrades, and with money already committed to 4 starters this year it didn't make sense in the long run to overpay number #3 types to be our ace. I do believe the Twins should have added another right handed reliever and in that regards, maybe they were being cheap. Though it’s not like any of those cheap veteran relievers available for 1 million or so are lock down set up men, and are guaranteed to be better than what is already in camp. It’s because of these reasons that I think calling the Twins cheap just sounds like a lazy excuse to be bitter about the disaster of a year the team had 2011.
As far as the Joe Mauer bashing, I am starting to be embarrassed to associate my fandom with some fans and "experts" with the amount of bizarre hatred Mauer has received. Mauer has had his injury problems, but since his first full season in the league Mauer has caught the 6th most innings of any catcher in the majors. He has been arguable the best offensive catcher over that time period and has won 3 batting titles, 2 Silver Sluggers, and a MVP award. Last year, he had an off season surgery, rushed himself to be ready for opening day, obviously wasn't ready, made it worse, and the injury communication was poorly handled by the team and Mauer. He is not without blame and has made strides to be accountable this offseason, but does any of that really deserve him the treatment he has been receiving? I hardly think so and have yet to receive a solid explanation from anyone other than general hearsay and gossip which apparently is reliable enough material to publish these days. (I'm looking at you Souhan.) So I am calling out Twins fans to forget 2011, it happened there is nothing we can do about it now. Let's move on to 2012, where hopefully the Twins make a return to respectability and Mauer shuts up all of his critics with his sweet left handed swing.
I'm selling hope, now whose buying?
The Twins Armchair GM