Thanks Joe, and Yes — You’re a Hall of Famer

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Joe Mauer, in a fitting send off, donned the catcher’s gear one last time in the final inning of his final game in 2018. His career ended with a vintage Joe Mauer hit — a double to the opposite field. Joe Mauer will go into the Hall of Fame.

Full disclosure. I did not fully appreciate Joe Mauer while he played for the Twins for 15 years. He was never my favorite player, or even my favorite Twin. I’m not alone. For a variety of reasons that I won’t go into in detail here, many Twins fans were quite critical of their hometown star Joe Mauer. The reasons bordered from fair to ridiculous.

My critiques were not overly typical, and I wasn’t necessarily a Mauer critic. More so, I was frustrated that such a great player had his career altered by injury like my actual favorite Twin and baseball legend from childhood — Kirby Puckett. Unlike Puckett, Joe never took the Twins to the World Series. He never got them past the Yankees, and the various history-making dreams I had for him when he was 26 years old did not materialize.

We as humans tend to remember what has been done for us lately. Our historical memory or lack thereof leads to all sorts of problems, from repeating dark turns in history because no one is around to warn us anymore at the most serious end, to not remembering or putting baseball legends into their proper context until they’re gone.

At 26 years old, Joe Mauer won the American League MVP. He batted .365 to collect his third batting title in four years. He was the first AL catcher to win a batting title, period. He did it three times. In that magical 2009 season he flirted with .400. The last player to hit .400 was Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters ever. Ted Williams, like most great hitters, did not play catcher.

Joe Mauer in his prime was a great hitter, and also a great catcher. For ten years he played the most physically demanding position in baseball, perhaps in sports period, the most important defensive position in baseball and he played it at a high level.

  • 3 Gold Gloves (and a 4th one he should have won in 2017 at a second position, first base, where he played the final five years of his career after career altering concussions forced him out from behind the plate).
  • 5 Silver Sluggers (the best slugging percentage at your position).
  • 6 time All Star.
  • 3 Batting Titles (2006, 2008, and 2009, and nearly a fourth one, and a fifth one).
  • 2009 American League MVP.

In 2010 — Target Field just opened, I had started law school and moved to Saint Paul, MN , Joe’s hometown, and he had just inked an eight-year, 184 million dollar contract. He was coming off of a batting line of .365/.444./.587 to win the statistical Triple Crown (Batting Average, On-base, and Slugging percentage). If Joe wasn’t signed to be a career long Twin, Twins fans would have rioted in the streets… well lets be honest, they would have been passive aggressive and bought less tickets, making the tough years of 2011 to 2016, where they only had one winning season even tougher.

That year I figured Joe Mauer would equal the 7 batting titles Rod Carew won, collect 2,800 hits and only miss out on 3,000 because he is a catcher, hit 250 home runs because I just recently witnessed his power emerge with 28 home runs, and retire with a career batting average of .335 or .340 (he still retired with one of .306). I thought he would have another year where he made a run at .400 as well, and perhaps he’d appear in or win a World Series like Kirby Puckett did. Joe wasn’t clutch they said. But what is clutch? He actually led the league in batting average with runners in scoring position this year in his final year.

Joe Mauer should be judged on his actual statistics, which are excellent, not judged against the video game statistics we expected he would reach. He should be judged as a catcher, because that’s what he was for the vast majority of his career and that was his position during his best seven years. Joe’s best seven years match up against nearly every catcher in history that has made the Hall of Fame. He got on base 40 percent of the time six times in his career. Do you know how many other catchers did that? Zero.

In 2017 Joe had a bit of a resurgence batting above .300 for the first time in four years. I was hoping it was a sign that he was permanently recovered from concussions. But as we are learning more and more about brain science, it did not work out that way.

Joe made the right decision for himself, and his family. He could’ve kept playing. He is a great defensive first baseman, still gets on base at a solid clip, was finally being utilized correctly in the batting order by leading off, still taking professional at-bats, and still quietly leading the clubhouse with perhaps the most enduring trait that I’ll remember about him — character. The older I get, and the crazier things get in this country, the more I value character. Joe had it. He is the perfect ambassador for the Minnesota Twins, the state of Minnesota, and the beautiful game of baseball–America’s pastime.

The voters and gatekeepers of Cooperstown would be wise to vote in Joe to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The best catcher in baseball for a decade is a Hall of Famer. Period. Historic things are the markings of a Hall of Famer, and the days of analytics and saber-metrics have put the arbitrary indicators of 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, a bunch of RBI’s, etc. into history. As more baseball writers retire and more saber-metric writers get a say in who gets in, and most important, as time passes to put Joe’s career into its proper context.

He was so much more than just a singles hitter (he got on base all the time in an era of increasing strike outs, and hit tons of doubles too, and in general was a very strategic and professional hitter).

I know… people like the home runs, and the strikeouts, and all of those exciting things. In our post-factual society, they prefer the Greatest Show on Earth, to the steady, dependable, and sometimes, the boring.

 

 

 

Nation’s Sports Pundits Pick a Red Sox-Cubs World Series for 112th Consecutive Year

An ‘Agreeing Loudly’ Baseball Preview 

by Troy M. Olson

LowellSun1918

No surprise here, for the 112th consecutive year, our nation’s sports pundits clearly have foreseen a Boston Red Sox vs. Chicago Cubs World Series. To ensure they are not left out, professionally wrong sports pundits have joined professionally wrong political and international relations pundits in getting paid six figures to deliver fact-free, professionally wrong guesses disguised as journalism or entertainment. I don’t claim to be a journalist (I’m not), but we here at “Agreeing Loudly” will always promise to be more entertaining and less sanctimonious than Bill Kristol or Joe Buck.

Make no mistake, the Cubs will have a good season, as they did last year. They are a young and talented team and have added an intriguing mix of proven veterans to that young talent the past few years. They have a solid manager, but they also have a curse. So while I think the Cubs will get into the postseason, I would be ignoring a century-plus historical track record if I agreed with the sports punditocracy. The main problem with saying the Cubs will finally break the curse is that at least someone does that nearly every year. Why? Because the Cubs play in a big market and have developed a solid brand as being the tortured “lovable losers.” Clearly they have the same PR person as dogs do (“man’s best friend” – that is really good marketing).

Cubs-Win-World-Series
A Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview from 2004, when the Cubs were predicted to finally win the World Series…because of course they were.

As a Viking fan, my heart goes out to all sincere and passionate baseball fans who root for the Cubs to finally win one. However, the vast majority of Cubs fans are dislikable according to our local Chicago correspondent, Carson Starkey, and the team itself is vastly overrated, over-covered by the Press, and generally insufferable to watch outgross the vastly superior White Sox team across town. Unlike the Cubs, the White Sox have actually won something in our lifetimes. Furthermore, their fan-base is more representative of the vast demographic diversity of the city of Chicago, and America itself, while the Cubs fan-base is more representative of “why we can’t have nice things” and “why the Democratic Party continues to lose incredibly winnable elections.”

In the city of Chicago, despite their status as my beloved Twins rivals, the White Sox are preferable because “good guys wear black” (except for ISIS and non-unionized, Death Star gunners). The White Sox are the team President Barack Obama roots for, which is good enough for me.

In Boston, I can at least see why the Red Sox would be favored in recent years. The American League is wide open this year and the Sox won the AL as recent as 2013 (when they went on to win the World Series). However, the Red Sox are coming off of two underwhelming and disappointing seasons and their so-called young talent has failed to materialize. Like most big market sports teams, they are overrated and made out to seem better than they actually are because of major media coverage. Unfortunately, websites like FanGraphs have advanced saber metrics to the point of impenetrable jargon, and the so-called “alternate” baseball media has used advanced statistics to arrive at largely the same fact-free conclusions and predictions as the mainstream pundits.

Last year, FanGraphs consistently overrated big market teams and said smaller or mid-market teams like the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins were getting by on luck. The Royals ended up winning the American League for the 2nd consecutive year on their way to their first World Series title since 1985, while the Twins surprised everyone by finishing with 83 wins and staying alive in the playoff race until the final weekend. Yes, the Twins had lost 90 plus games for four straight years. But anyone can just make the same predictions as last year’s standings.

Like in politics, adherence to a theory only works if your results continue to back that theory up. The Royals and Twins did not look good according to analytics, but the games played on the field told a different tale. You can only be lucky for so long before your team is just actually what it is. I used to be a big adherent and still am in many ways to the saber metric way of making baseball decisions, but its gone too far, has not dramatically improved predicting outcomes, and is beginning to ruin the majesty and mystery that is the game of baseball for me. After awhile, you have to just go with the Aaron Sorkin line: “if you guys were so good at predicting baseball outcomes and results, you would have predicted outcomes and results.” Just like the abundance of advanced statistics, metrics, and analytics in the information age has done nothing to improve public policy outcomes in American politics because American politics is ran and implemented by people, the abundance of advanced statistics, metrics, and analytics in the information age has done little to improve baseball predictions. If the Royals win the World Series when your model says they should only win 79 games, there is probably something wrong with your model, because the Royals won the World Series and could not care less if someone thinks they were lucky or not. The explanations of the saber metric community to explain away their success end up looking like a classic fandom case of “sore loserdom.”

That being said, without further ado, let’s see how close Agreeing Loudly can get to at least matching some of these pundits through a combination of analytics, gut-feeling, and opinion of the overall talent on the 25 and 40 man rosters of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams. The chief driver of these predictions is my own bias toward preferring young talent that is under team control. The rules of baseball allow for a players prime to often take place while they are also at their cheapest, therefore I naturally prefer teams who are youth-oriented, have smaller payrolls, but have a few proven veterans mixed in to fill the needed talent and position gaps.

American League (predicted order of standings)

*Denotes Wild Card teams

East – 1. Toronto 2. New York 3. Boston 4. Tampa Bay 5. Baltimore

Central – 1. Kansas City 2. Minnesota* 3. Cleveland* 4. Chicago 5. Detroit

West – 1. Houston 2. Texas 3. Seattle 4. Los Angeles 5. Oakland

National League (predicted order of standings)

East – 1. New York 2. Washington* 3. Florida 4. Atlanta 5. Philadelphia

Central – 1. Chicago 2. Pittsburgh 3. St. Louis 4. Milwaukee 5. Cincinnati

West – 1. Arizona 2. San Francisco* 3. Los Angeles 4. San Diego 5. Colorado

American League Playoffs

Minnesota over Cleveland in ALWC Game

Minnesota over Kansas City, and Houston over Toronto in ALDS

Houston over Minnesota in ALCS

National League Playoffs

San Francisco over Washington in NLWC Game

San Francisco over Chicago, and New York over Arizona in NLDS

New York over San Francisco in NLCS

New York (NL) over Houston in 2016 World Series

Award Predictions

AL MVP: Carlos Correa (Houston)

AL Cy Young: Dallas Keuchel (Houston)

AL Rookie of the Year: Jose Berrios (Minnesota)

  • Correa and Keuchel lead a young and talented Astros team over an aging and slugging-heavy Blue Jays team and a young and talented but slugging-heavy and strikeout-prone Twins team to get to the World Series.
  • With a lot of the attention on the young offensive talent of the Twins team (led by Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton), it is actually Jose Berrios that will be the biggest addition and the driving reason behind why I think the Twins make a run ahead of schedule. Berrios has dominated every level of the minor leagues and would be considered the top prospect in baseball if he were 4 inches taller. He will be called up to the Twins in June and never look back on the way toward Rookie of the Year and becoming the Twins ace pitcher by August for the stretch run.

NL MVP: Kris Bryant (Chicago)

NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom  (New York)

NY Rookie of the Year: Steven Matz (New York)

  • Like Kansas City last year, I think New York wins the pennant again and overcomes adversity (it’s incredibly hard to get back to the World Series and win it after coming so close the year before) to win the 2016 World Series. They have amassed the best collection of young and talented arms since the Braves teams of the 90’s. There are so many good pitchers in the NL, so the Cy Young is truly a toss up. What is more certain though is that between deGrom, Matz, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard, the Mets will have the best rotation during the regular season, and the best rotation for a short series in the playoffs, which is ultimately why an admittedly talented Cubs team falls short and fails to break their curse again.
  • I agree with Pat Meacham of the Agreeing Loudly podcast team, Kris Bryant will win the NL MVP. Just because I dislike the Cubbies does not mean I yield to facts and talent before my eyes. To ignore the talent of Bryant and company on a Cubs team that looks likely to repeat a 90-plus win season is to make the same fact-free analysis I criticized at the outset. I cannot say the same for the Red Sox however, I see little indication they will rebound from two disappointing seasons based on their offseason. While it would be a nice story to see David Ortiz end his amazing career with one last round of post-season clutch hitting, the Red Sox will be decidedly average this year.
  • To sum up: in my opinion, the surprise teams this year will more than likely be the same teams that surprised last year, because once again, few in the sports punditocracy and “alt-nerdery” are giving the Royals, Twins, and Mets (second fiddle in big market New York City to the Yankees) any respect. I would also add Cleveland to the list of teams that will surprise. 2016 will once again be a tremendous season where the young and talented position players, pitchers, and teams alike dominate the narrative.

Minnesota Twins Offseason (Part 2 of 50)

by Troy M. Olson

My monthly check in on the Minnesota Twins offseason…so far.

The Good

Byung Ho Park signed to play DH 

While this complicates matters in terms of where Miguel Sano is going to play, I think it is important to have him play a position until he proves otherwise. Park has hit a video game level amount of home runs the past few season in the Korean Baseball Organization. Twins fans looks ridiculous in allowing comparisons to Nishioka (a bust of an international signing to try and fill out shortstop hole 4 years ago after foolishly trading J.J. Hardy for next to nothing). First, Nishioka was a shortstop and had a completely different skill set. Second, he played professional baseball in Japan. Third, he had less of a successful track record compared to Park. Finally, Park could end up being a steal, and while he is unproven at the MLB-level, lets say the KBO is equivalent to AA or AAA: I think just about every Twins fan would get excited over a prospect who has hit 173 home runs over the last 4 seasons. That’s right, 173 home runs, and a batting average of .343 last season. Park not only replaces Torii Hunter’s bat in the lineup, it is conceivable he could immediately be an upgrade.

Aaron Hicks-J.R. Murphy swap with the Yankees.

The Twins dealt from a position of relative strength (organization depth in the outfield, especially at CF) to fill a position of organizational weakness (catcher). I was always a big Aaron Hicks fan, and I am worried about our ability to get on base going forward, and how much we strike out. However, we still are bringing back our two best on base guys (Sano by a mile, followed by Mauer), and despite Hicks fundamentally sound plate approach, he had always seemed a bit timid and lacked aggressiveness at the Major League level. I still think Hicks will have a nice career as he has historically been slow to adjust to each new level in his professional career but he appears to have turned the corner this past year. That being said, whatever we would have received from Hicks playing CF and potentially leading off someday we should also get (and hopefully, then some) from the top prospect in baseball, Byron Buxton.

J.R. Murphy meanwhile, not only matches the likely output of most catchers we could have had on the open market (who disappeared quite quickly and forced Terry Ryan’s hand in making a move to fill this positional need), Murphy differs in that he is just entering his age-25 season. In conversations locally with Yankee fans, they liked Murphy a lot and viewed him as a future long time starting catcher. In 2015, his first significant amount of plate appearances at the major league level, Murphy hit .277/.327/.406. If he can replicate that over 350-400 plate appearances, he should be a great fit. It also should be noted that his defense profiles as better than anyone in the Twins system. Expect a positional platoon with Suzuki in 2016, and Murphy taking over as full time starter after that. Also of note, Murphy is not arbitration eligible until 2018, and is not a free agent until 2021. So we will have him for his prime years. Solid trade. Should work out well in the long run for both teams.

Miguel Sano is going to be moved to the outfield. 

I’m mixed on this, but I have to grade this out as a good move at the moment. Miguel Sano is already, easily, the best hitter in the Twins lineup (sorry Joe Mauer, just get on base at a good clip and I’ll be happy), but he spent nearly every game of his rookie season at DH. While it is reasonable to look at certain players as DH-only from the start, Sano is too athletic to be considered one of those players.

It would be preferable that he plays the position that he has been playing throughout the latter half of his minor league career, but that isn’t in the cards right now. Because…

Trevor Plouffe will more than likely, not be traded.

Plouffe is what he is at the plate. He flashes the occasional power outbursts, has decent on-base skills, but his low-average will always keep in the serviceable, but not great category of player. He is a wait and see player. Where Plouffe brings the most amount of value to the Twins right now is that he has become one of the better defensive third baseman in the league. It’s preferable to keep what has become a decent defensive infield intact, and keep both bats that at worst grade out as league average. The Twins were right to look at this as a good problem to have. There was no need to trade Trevor Plouffe just because Miguel Sano plays 3B. Defense is a big part of the game, and for a pitching staff like the Twins, it should always be half of the focus. Twins pitchers do not strike out a lot batters which places a lot of pressure on their fielding. There is no guarantee that Sano figures out RF (with Rosario likely in left) right away but that matters a lot less with someone like Byron Buxton in CF, who will cover a lot of ground from day one even if his bat isn’t quite MLB-ready.

Twins seem to be going all-in with the youth movement.

Replacing the retired Torii Hunter with still-in-his 20’s Byung Ho Park and swapping out a 25 year old CF for a 24 year old C, as well as resisting the urge to go after proven mediocrity in the free agent market as they often have the last few off-seasons shows me that Twins GM Terry Ryan gets it. He knows the resurgence of the team last year was primarily youth-oriented. Going all-in on a talented youth movement is preferable to adding to rotational logjams of mediocrity or corner OF/1B/DH-type power hitting, low defense, low speed logjams.

Which brings me to…

The Bad

Doing nothing about our corner OF/1B/DH-type logjam so far.

Between Sano, Park, Mauer, Rosario, Oswaldo Arcia (remember he is a season removed from 20 homers in 350 or so at bats), and Kennys Vargas, the Twins have a lot of corner OF/1B/DH-players but only 4 positions in which to play them. Once again, not a bad problem to have per se, but they do need to figure out what role everyone fits into. It’s possible that Arcia and Vargas never take that next step forward but it would be a shame to see them go elsewhere for nothing and see them flourish.

The key to this problem not festering is leaving all options on the table. One option that is surely not on the able though is potentially considering Mauer a bench player role. While he is not there yet, and hopefully never will be during the life of his current contract, any further regression from Mauer at 1B should at the very least, result in batting him 7th or 8th and at most, making him a part-time player. Bad contracts happen. Unforeseen injuries happen. Scholarships are avoidable though. I still think Mauer is the best player to play 1B for the Twins right now, and the best to bat 2nd even (mostly be default), but players like Ricky Nolasco should have to earn their spot no matter how much they are getting paid in 2016. The Twins should put the best team on the field based on the talent they have available.

Going further away from defense and speed (with the trading of Hicks).

I alluded to this earlier, I’m a bit worried about any regression in their team defense or speed. Aaron Hicks provided both defense and speed which made him a near-five tool player during that 6 week stretch of solid hitting from him in 2015. The great thing about players like Hicks is even when they don’t hit they still provide defensive value and speed to the team. Buxton in CF, Plouffe at 3B, and Murphy in C should help mitigate this a bit defensively, but two of those players are unproven at the MLB-level offensively, and Plouffe is proven to be a very streaky hitter that grades out to either league average offense with slightly above league average power.

Not signing a RP yet, and many of the top relief arms are already off the market. 

Simply put, we needed to address the back of the bullpen given Perkins’ health the last few years. We have depth and a lot of high quality, high upside arms in AAA but whether those arms materialize into high leverage, quality MLB relievers will be one of the big question marks entering spring training.

The Ugly

Leaving Zack Jones unprotected, off the 40-Man roster, which left him exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. Not surprisingly, he was drafted. 

Unfortunately, one of those high upside arms, Zack Jones was lost to the Rule 5 Draft for no reason. They had room for him on the 40-Man roster. There is just no excuse for this.

Hopefully, between (potentially) keeping Trevor May in the bullpen, and the emergence of one or two of the following RP prospects: Alex Meyer, Nick Burdi, Jake Reed, J.T. Chargois, or Mason Melotakis, the bullpen will be a strength again in 2016. Because if the Twins are going to take the next step forward, they will need a better bullpen and a healthy, full-season of play from Glen Perkins.

 

Minnesota Twins Offseason (Part 1 of 50 most likely…)

by Troy M. Olson

Torii Hunter retired from baseball this week, bringing to an end an illustrious career in professional baseball. For the majority of his professional career Torii called Minnesota home. I would be lying if I said my usually analytical mind didn’t just shut off for awhile when he returned to the Twin Cities to finish off his career this season. He could have perhaps finally captured that elusive World Series title with Kansas City, but he came back home where it all started and joined a team that was coming off of four straight 90-plus loss seasons. No matter how we want to quantify the leadership that Hunter brought to the team, there was no denying this young and talented Twins club benefited both on and off the field from Hunter’s swan song. His retirement puts an end to a great playing career spent mostly with the Twins, with a five year stint in LA and two years in Detroit in between. I would not be surprised if Hunter was able to stay on the Hall of Fame ballot for five years or so.

Hunter’s departure leaves a hole in right field, which brings me to the first of many off-season speculations / plans. This one will be less in-depth since we still have not yet wrapped up the World Series.

I would categorize the biggest needs of the Twins  entering the offseason as being:

  1. Beefing up the bullpen
  2. Finding a left-handed hitting catcher to platoon with Kurt Suzuki
  3. Find a replacement for Torii Hunter in right

What the Twins DO NOT need to do despite what many will want to do, or what conventional wisdom says:

  1. Free Agent Starting Pitching (based off of a pretty spotty recent track record of free agent SP signings)
  2. Shortstop (Eduardo Escobar has at least played well enough to go into 2016 as the everyday starter, and I would argue that he is a top-half of the league SS, given his experience at such a young age)
  3. Play Byron Buxton right out of spring training

Here would be my approach to the offseason:

  1. Keep things mostly status-quo. Despite a young and emerging team, the Twins do not have a lot of payroll room based on their allocated budget. They have a lot of young, cheap talent with more on the way mixed in with mediocre and costly over-30 year old players. Some will blame Mauer’s contract, but that is revisionist history. Add up the Santana and Nolasco contracts and you have a couple million more than Mauer. Santana was suspended and missed half of the year for steroid use and Nolasco missed more than half of the year via injury. Nolasco should not be given a scholarship, but should have to earn his way onto the rotation. If he does not:
  2. Move Nolasco to the Bullpen or try and package him with Trevor Plouffe in a trade. I like Plouffe a lot, but at age-30, he has probably reached his peak value. He is projected to make around 8 million via arbitration, an amount I think his performance backs up. He is a proven, slightly above average 3B who has improved his defense tremendously over the last three years. Sano replacing Plouffe at third would probably be a downgrade permanently on defense, and certainly would be in the short term, however, Sano had a Killebrew-esque debut at the plate and given the surplus of 1B/DH/Corner OF types on the 40-man roster, the Twins should strongly consider dealing from a position of strength, take the short term downgrade on defense, but upgrade offense at both 3B and DH in the process. Sano in the lineup as everyday 3B, combined with either Arcia or Vargas at DH gives the Twins two very young, power hitters that would balance the lineup out nicely.
  3. Sign Denard Span to play RF and leadoff. I think the Twins should take a page from what worked last year and try and replicate the Hunter reunion with another Twins player that was part of the Puckett to Hunter to Span, etc., unofficial “CF mentor-apprentice” program. This fills two needs. The Twins need to replace Hunter’s bat in RF, and they also badly need a consistent, everyday lead-off hitter. Span fits this role perfectly. Hunter was paid 11.5 million in 2015 and the Twins could probably sign Span of the same amount, spread out over multiple years of course (although they should go no further than 3 years with the offer). Span still has good speed for 31, had an amazingly underrated tenure with the Twins the first time around (patient approach to the plate + solid CF defense) and despite spending time on the DL this year, shows no immediate signs of regression. Slotting him in right field allows Aaron Hicks to maximize where his talent fits best with the Twins, hitting further down in the order, using his great speed in centerfield, and continuing to refine his approach at the plate without having to carry the leadoff role burden.
  4. Sign A.J. Pierzynski to platoon with Suzuki at catcher. A.J. is one of the most hated players in baseball, and maybe this would be the opposite of what Torii Hunter brought to the club house, but if you are also bringing in a guy like Span for a reunion, you’d have to think it would work out alright. A.J. has had a remarkably durable and consistently career at the games most demanding position. Who would have thought he would still be playing catcher a few years after Joe Mauer moved from the position. If you recall, after the 2003 Division Championship season, Pierzynski was traded to the Giants (in a coup that brought Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser to the organization) to make room for Mauer’s rookie season. The Twins lineup is also a little too right-handed heavy in a league with many solid to great right-handed pitchers. Adding some veteran lefty bats (Span and Pierzynski) who as of last year, seem to have plenty left in the tank, would address imbalance.
  5. Sign one, decent right-handed set-up arm for the back-end of the bullpen. This would give you three solid to great relievers at the back end of the bullpen in Glen Perkins, Kevin Jepsen, and said free agent. Does it make them the Royals bullpen overnight? No. But only the development of elite arms in the minors like Nick Burdi, Jake Reed, or Alex Meyer would do that to the bullpen. No need to overspend on a position that pitches no more than 70 innings per year. Between Span, AJ, and a right reliever — the Twins are spending no more than 22 million, which is about the amount that will be saved from the Hunter contract being off the books (11.5 million), trading Plouffe (8 million), and trading Nolasco (I will be conservative and say we pick up most of his contract to get the deal down, so the Twins only save 4 out of 12 million on this one).

A couple of impact moves added to a talented, young core. The early roster would then shake out like this, give or take…

25 Man Roster:

Lineup

Span (RF), Dozier (2B), Mauer (1B), Sano (3B), Rosario (LF), Arcia/Vargas (DH), Pierzynski/Suzuki (C), Hicks (CF), Escobar (SS)

Bench

C – Pierzynski/Suzuki, UTIL – Nunez, UTIL – Santana, 1B/OF/DH – Arcia/Vargas

Rotation

SP1 – Hughes, SP2 – E. Santana, SP3 – Gibson, SP4 – May, SP5 – Duffey

Bullpen

CL – Perkins, SU – Jepsen, SU – Free Agent/Trade, MR – Pressly, MR – Graham, MR – Tonkin Spot/LR – Milone

40 Man Roster that could make an impact:

Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Jose Berrios, Alex Meyer, Erik Fryer, Mason Melotakis, Blaine Boyer (to name a few)

Designated for Assignment, not re-signed, taken off the 40-Man roster or given outright release:

Brian Duensing, Chris Herrmann, Shane Robinson, Casey Fien, Aaron Thompson, Doug Bernier, Neal Cotts, Ryan O’Rouke, A.J. Achter

 

September 11th Retrospective.

by Troy Olson

Never Forget (#NeverForget) was trending on Twitter today and that is appropriate. The tragedy of that day cannot be captured with words, and the number of lives that not only were directly impacted or began to go in another direction as a result number in the millions.

There are a few days that I like to be by myself for much of the day, in quiet reflection. One of those days is Memorial Day, which I use as a day to think about those who gave the “last full measure of devotion” to their country. Veterans Day, I also try to avoid a crowd — instead spending it thinking about those I served with, who are still serving, and maybe sending a text or two to those I have lost track with over the years.

September 11th is somewhat different. It is micro and macro to me all at once. I know my own feelings toward that day and what has happened since and can only imagine how many others have a similar road-now-taken story.

There is no getting beyond the obvious, it was an awful, terrible, tragic day. But it also showed the rest of the world what the very best of the United States of America looks like.

From the First Responders who reacted immediately and went up stair by stair, climbing two of the tallest buildings on Earth, many of them losing their lives to save others. After the buildings came down, many worked day after day looking for missing people, missing co-workers, and exposing themselves to levels of dust and debris I can only imagine.

To the Volunteers who joined them and worked side-by-side looking for missing people, or donated food, nursed the injured, provided community support for families and individuals.

To Trinity Church, which I now know stands incredibly close to the WTC-block. Trinity is one of the only standing colonial structures left in New York City. Alexander Hamilton and many other notable people are buried there. Trinity survived the Great New York Fire of 1776 and against all odds, survived the carnage of September 11, 2001. It would have been enough to just leave it at that. But amazingly, Trinity ended up serving the role of a makeshift community gathering place for people looking for loved ones, needing rest, food, and care from recovery efforts, and providing spiritual support for the community.

To the great national past-time of Baseball, who cancelled scheduled games for reasons other than work-stoppage for the first time since President Roosevelt died in 1945, to resume a few days later, giving grieving Americans something to cheer for, even if just for three hours. For the first time since perhaps 1920, fans across the nation cheered for the New York Yankees as they made an exciting run through the playoffs, winning many come-from-behind post-season games before falling in Game 7 of the World Series. President Bush came to Yankee Stadium to throw the honorary first pitch in Game 3, it was a perfect strike.

To the fact that there was no further loss of life and no major injury in the Massive Cleanup that was completed three months ahead of schedule in May of 2002, an inspiring example of what humanity can accomplish when there is great unity and spirit of purpose.

To the Citizen and Professional Soldiers who volunteered for military service after 9/11, knowing the high likelihood that they would be going into combat or near harms way. These servicemembers account for less than one percent of the U.S. population but there is no doubt in my mind represent the best and bravest of this country.

Finally, to the fact for a few weeks and months after that day Never Forget that everyone stopped caring whether you were Republican or Democrat, black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor or anything in between. Never Forget that when this country puts petty differences behind us and works together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish and nothing that cannot be overcome.