Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Sky is Not Falling

Writer's block.  It's very real.  I was feeling it on Monday night.  The baby was sleeping, my wife wasn't feeling well so she was watching TV, and the dog was just sleeping like the lazy dog he is.  I was all by myself.  When I'm by myself, I often want to write.  I wanted to write something about the Twins season so far, but nothing excited me.  I couldn't think of a thing.    

As I often do when I can't think of anything to write, I read.  I read Papa Shango's Wikipedia page, but that didn't really help.  I read the back of the Lucky Charms box, but that maze just frustrated me.  Finally, I read Jonah Keri's "The 30," his form of MLB Power Rankings.  He featured the Twins this week, so there was plenty of content for a Twins-head like myself. 

Note - I want to coin the term "Twins-head." 

I found myself annoyed by his analysis.  I know, it's childish.  I agree.  I love Jonah Keri.  I just recommended his book to my 15 readers on Monday.  Even so, I just can't agree with his ranking or his analysis.  He ranked the Twins 29th, ahead of only the Astros and behind such powerhouses like the Cubs, Marlins, Mets, and Diamondbacks.  Each of these teams suck and each has a record worse than the Twins.  Yet, the Twins don't really deserve a higher ranking because, well...because...

I don't know.  They're the Twins?  He referred to the 2014 Twins as "already lousy."  Did he have that description queued up and ready to go?  Was he worried he wouldn't be able to use it later?  It doesn't seem to fit, at least not at this moment.   Besides, it sucks enough to be a fan in Minnesota, why kick us when we aren't actually fully down? 

The Twins are 6-7 now.  They have scored a lot of runs.  They do have a revamped rotation.  Isn't it possible that they could out-perform their pre-season expectations for the rest of the month...through the All-Star break...until the end of the season?  Why can't Minnesota be the surprise team of 2014?

Then again, they're 0-1 since Keri wrote this column.  Maybe he's on to something.

To validate his ranking, Keri cites the offense, showing the career slash lines of each of the starting nine.  He compliments Joe Mauer, as a smart person would.  After Mauer, it's just dismissal after dismissal.  Jason Kubel has a good line, but he was bad last year.  There's simply no way he could bounce back.  Josmil Pinto's line is impressive, but he's only had 113 plate appearances.  Chris Colabello is 30 so he couldn't possibly be this good. 

I'll just go ahead and translate:  If you've never been good, you can never be good.  That's the only explanation for just completely brushing aside Pinto and Colabello.  These guys have never accomplished a thing, so how could they possibly have good seasons?  Also, your career means nothing if your most recent accomplishment is a participant ribbon.  Jason Kubel and your career 113 OPS+ prior to a bad 2013 season?  I hope you enjoy your retirement.  Your good days are behind you, that's the only possible explanation.

Focusing on those three players also ignores three young players who could conceivably improve on the paltry numbers that are cited in "the 30."  Sure, Trevor Plouffe, Brian Dozier and Aaron Hicks look like complete stiffs when you look at their career numbers and of course, there's no way they could get better as they gain experience.  Only Plouffe has been productive so far this season.  Couldn't the other two youngsters bounce back?

He also mentions that with Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham out of the lineup, the offense is "lamentable."  Did those guys lose limbs?  Are they out for the season?  It seems that Arcia could be back fairly soon and Willingham can't be too far behind.  Besides, Willingham was awful last year, so by The Jason Kubel Corollary, he won't help this year anyway.  Even so, if they return, will the lineup be fine?  I guess I don't get that part.      

The topic shifts to pitching after a quick dismissal of this two-week blip on the run-scoring radar.  Clearly the Twins can't maintain, so let's just move on, right?  The Twins wasted $84 million on Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey.  Of course they did!  Ignore that Ricky Nolasco has been at least league-average and throws nearly 200 innings each season (not exactly high praise, but hardly a waste of money).  Ignore Phil Hughes' potential upside due to age and a more pitcher-friendly ballpark.  Mike Pelfrey...well...he was good in 2010!  Those guys were a complete waste and in no way an upgrade over the dregs who started for the Twins from 2011-2013. 

Oh, and Kyle Gibson's been good, but don't get excited!  He's got bad command and his strikeout to walk ratio is below one.  There's simply no way that he could improve his command, perhaps to the level  that made him a good prospect.  He can't overcome his good, but lucky start.  He's never been good, so he can't be good.  Remember?

At the very end, Keri piledrives the proverbial dead horse, lamenting that the Twins better not be relying upon Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano to reverse their fortunes.  Those two aren't enough.  Don't mention the other young prospects in the system or any of the young players already on the roster.  That would ruin a good closing paragraph. 

To summarize, all the Twins' good is fools' gold and all the bad is 100% real and sadly spectacular.  The wheels will fall off.  The train will go off the tracks.  No soup for you. 

There seems to be a national narrative, and it's mostly coming from the statistically-inclined, that the Twins are miles behind organizations like the Cubs and Astros.  The Twins are a joke and those teams are on the right track.  I guess I don't see it.  Sure, the Twins don't go for broke with stats, but does that make their farm system less impressive?  Does that change the budget that has ample room for spending?  Does that change the fact that this regime has built a perennial winner once before?

The Astros are the darlings of the baseball world and they haven't done anything.  They blew it all up, but they haven't rebuilt a single thing yet.  The Cubs were getting Wild Card buzz.  There's no way.  That team is awful.  The White Sox finished behind the Twins in 2013 and good luck finding a single expert who thinks the same will happen in 2014.  This is despite the fact that they did almost nothing to improve their team and their farm system-cupboard is almost completely bare. 

But then, who really cares?  Who cares what the experts think?  Who cares what the national perception is?  Why does that matter to me?  To you?  To anyone?  And yet, it does.  It got me upset for a brief while.  It made me write a 1300-word rebuttal of sorts.  If the entire expert community thinks the Twins are terrible, there's still a chance that they could be anything but terrible.  None of this matters; it's just fun and games. 

In a week, the Twins could be 6-12 and deservedly in the 29th spot of Keri's MLB Power Rankings.  Right now, the Twins aren't the second-worst team in baseball because they've won more games than quite a few teams.  Maybe they shouldn't have won those games, but they did.  

I guess I don't see things the exact same way as everyone else.  Or exactly as the experts see things.  That's ok.  I do wish for once that my favorite team could make everyone look like fools instead of simply looking like fools themselves.  For now, I'll just enjoy the Twins' terrible, yet productive offense and hope that they can keep winning at least as many games as they lose.    


  1. I have to agree with you, Brad - the Twins aren't contenders this year, but I reckon that they are in the lower-middle of the pack, not at the bottom. Based on what we've seen this year, they are probably ahead of the LAstros, Cubbies, Marlins (who I think will surprise us regardless), Dbags, Philly, KC, the Padres, and Cleveland at least. Let's hope that they can prove some of these pundits wrong yet again.

    1. I think it will take a few months, but the perception will slowly change. They better get used to it too, the Twins are going to get even better after this year!