I kind of got lost in a digression about Dungeons and Dragons in Part I. I admit, my Nerd Scale does go to 11. But that was kind of my point--here you have a game where a bunch of jocks hit a little ball with a stick chopped down from some tree by some other jock, and another jock tries to catch the ball with a chunk of cow flesh chopped off a dead cow carcass that had been raised by the ultimate jock, the American Cowboy. And more often than not, the we the fans end up sounding like a bunch of nerds, bandying about statistics. I mean, it's probably redundant, but you've all seen the Seinfeld episode, right? Where George is unemployed, and he says, "I like baseball..." and Jerry says "they usually give those jobs to ex-baseball players." But in TV land George gets the job anyway, and the Yankees lose because he makes them where cotton uniforms that have shrunk. (One can only hope there is another George Costanza making his way up the Yankee chain of command. It took them years to erase his mistakes.) But by and large we're all Costanza's, and if we actually had to run a team like the Twins, we'd botch it up way worse than Smith and Gardenhire.
Seriously, the mathematical brainpower I've seen devoted to breaking down baseball statistics on Twins fansites alone could probably break the cold-fusion code, with plenty of room left over for some significant advances in time travel as well. Which would be more productive than debating the relative merits of Brian Dinkelman vs. Steve Tolleson, because then the Twins could go back in time and really fleece the Mets. Moreon RISK below.
In RISK, the idea is to slowly build up strength until you can make a blitz. Because the Yankees/Asia control more territory, they get more reinforcements every turn. It takes the Twins longer to build up strength.
In RISK, every turn you have a successful attack, you get to take a card. In baseball, this is equivalent to fielding a competitive team. You keep the fans interested, keep the money flowing, keep pouring resources into your farm, your scouting, and your young players.
When you get three cards in RISK, you can trade them in. But, the longer you wait, the more valuable they become. The Twins could have 'traded their cards in' a couple of years ago, resigning Hunter and retaining Santana, if only for the year. But the value wasn't their. They hadn't built up their armies enough. Plus, the AL Central (Africa) was exceptionally strong. Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, and even KC, after a brief feint at respectability, have all regressed or are regressing.
So now the Twins have waited. They have five cards, representing prospects, revenue, etc. They have some strong armies on the board: Mauer is a X, Morneau is a X, Nathan is statistically a X if he can ever get it done against the Yankees. What do they lack?
If you look at the Yankees or Phillies, you see a couple of X's in the heart of the order, and at least a V at the top, and maybe another V down lower. I'd argue that after two great years, Span is qualified to be a V. Unfortunately, the Twins have been trotting out I's in the number 2 spot. That has to change. They need someone equivalent to Damon or Victorino at least in the spot. Polanco looks nice.
But even more important, they need a X starting pitcher. An Ace. Forget the regular season, forget 7-8 medium grade starters. The high payroll Yankees showed you only need three, and one of them needs to be a horse. Blackburn has the guts, Baker has the stuff, Liriano had the stuff, but maybe only Slowey has enough of a combo to at least be Lee-like, and he is coming off an injury.
My recommendation, then: Go all in now--trade your cards. You have to. New stadium. Several in their prime players coming of great (and repeated) seasons. The best looking bunch of prospects in a while. Go after Halladay. I know he has a no-trade clause, but start the offer at Baker-Ramos-Hicks and see what happens. Offer him a mutual option for 25 Million for 2011, just so he has insurance. Let him make a playoff run with a great team and see what happens--if he kicks ass, he's in line for a better contract than if he just toils away in Toronto. If he bombs, he's way better off than if he was a 33 year old free agent coming of a down season. The Twins should have a great relief corp, hopefully great defense, and a good to great offense. What's not to like?
I love the prospects, but Ramos is expendable with Mauer locked up, and Hicks is more potential right now than reality; plus you still have Revere, Morales, Benson. I like Baker, but I have no faith he'll ever develop into a bulldog ace. At absolute best, he's A.J. Burnett, dazziling one night, and shaking his head in disbelief the next.
I'm calling my shot--the Twins get their ace, their Morris, their Viola, their Halladay, and their Championship.