Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Point/Counterpoint - The Last Two Weeks of the Season

Point - The Twins should try to pass Cleveland for 4th place in the Division

The final two weeks of the season are extremely important for the Twins' momentum as they move into 2013.  Currently, the Twins are in last place in the AL Central and the entire American League.  This embarrassing situation is one that the Twins should work hard to remedy over the course of the next two weeks. 

There are plenty of exciting players to watch on this team and the future seems very bright, even as early as next year.  The lineup is great and the bullpen has been solid.  With just a couple starting pitchers, this team could really contend next year.  The Twins need to see what they can get from their players in critical games.  Placing high importance on finishing out of last place can potentially replicate future important September games.  If a team is just trying to play out the season, the players learn nothing that they can take with them in the future.

Draft picks mean nothing to me, so don't get me started on that topic.  Baseball players are drafted so young that they don't contribute for a very long time.  Why would the Twins sacrifice the chance to build momentum and confidence for a guy that might not play a game until 2017?  What is really the difference between the 5th overall pick and the 8th overall pick?  It is all just a huge crapshoot and not worth purposely losing games over.  Most draft picks flame out anyway, right? 

Also, fans aren't going to stick around if a team is terrible and finishing in last place each year.  If this team doesn't show some level of growth, fans are going to stop going to games, buying drinks and expensive memorabilia and might even stop watching altogether.  A 4th place finish is a step in the right direction for fans as well.  This needs to be seen and measured, or fans will stop supporting a loser.

It all boils down to, do you want to cheer for a last place team?  I would prefer to cheer for a team that is not in last place.  A 4th place team is closer to the ultimate goal of making the playoffs than a 5th place team.  With a few games of improvement next year, this could be a Wild Card team or maybe even a team that sneaks into the Division title.  After all, isn't the goal in baseball to make the playoffs?

Counterpoint - 4th Place is not a thing

2nd Place is the first loser.  That's a No Fear shirt.  What is 4th place?  Who cares?  The Twins should be doing everything under the sun to achieve a last place finish.  In addition, they should work as hard as they possibly can to finish as far down the standings as they can.  Next year is no given and the future of this team lies a long way down the line. 

Most of these guys won't even be on the team next year.  I'd say that half the rotation is gone, some of the lineup is traded and the new guys will be years from helping.  This team has to get younger, so anything taken from these last two weeks will be basically irrelevant.  Even if they do finish 4th, will that benefit next year's Rochester team?  Because that is where quite a few of these guys will be playing if they are still in the organization.

Draft picks, on the other hand, are extremely valuable.  Top 5 draft picks are even more valuable.  I have no proof to support this, but most of the elite players that I watch were drafted very early.  You can't sign young talent in free agency, so you have to be able to draft it.  This is especially true for 2013, as the steam seems to be that it is another weak draft class.  In a weak draft, being near the top is even more important. 

Fans have really short memories.  Did the '91 Twins have issues drawing fans?  Once you start to win, the masses come back to the park.  Target Field might not be beautiful enough on its own to draw more fans, but it is nice enough to keep people coming pretty regularly.  Plus, what fan will honestly be tricked by a second-to-last finish?  Will the Twins print 4th place finish t-shirts?  Actually, wait, don't give them any ideas.

For me, if my favorite team doesn't win the World Series, I don't care where they finish.  I am an all or none fan.  There has been a lot more "none" in my fandom, but the "alls" were extremely satisfying.  My hope is that these struggles pay off in the long term.  In the short term, I could care less if the Twins finish 4th, 5th, 11th, 40th or 198th.  If they don't win the World Series, I don't care.  

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