The Liriano trade has made people angry, and I get it. Man, do I get it. But I think it's misdirected anger.
Calvin Griffith sold off Tony Oliva and made racist jokes about him afterwards, which was a dick move. His son Clark was recently busted for exposing himself to a student while he taught law at St. Thomas; that was, literally, a dick move. Carl Pohlad tried to contract the team; also a dick move, albeit not in the same category of repugnant as the above.
When the Twins started contending again in the 2001-2010 era, it felt like they were always one big contract away from winning. And the team seemed permanently reluctant to sign or trade for that one contract. That's what made getting crushed by the Yankees in the playoffs, over and over, feel so god-awful. Losing to Oakland doesn't hurt as much; losing to the team that can always buy one more superstar than you is infuriating.
Could the Twins have afforded that one more bat, that one more ace pitcher, in the last decade of the Dome? I don't know. The Pohlad brothers haven't opened up their books for me. (Feel free, boys -- hey, I watched "Brokeback Mountain" and "Food, Inc.," so you owe me something.) I suspect they could; I suspect all the numbers given by professional sports teams about their revenue are a bit rigged. (Hey, the world's biggest banks do it.)
Yet I doubt they were rigging those numbers much. I imagine they were debating the benefits of spending more now versus losing more later; AKA, we could afford such-and-such a bat or pitcher, and it might win us a title, and that title would mean X many more numbers of fans buying tickets . . . but what if we spend that money and don't win a title, and are tied to that contract without more championship-happy fans buying tickets?
It's a tough decision. Take our favorite milk-drinker. If I'm a cold, green-blooded son of a bitch Vulcan (as McCoy would say) I take A.J. Pierzynski over Mauer any day, and spend the leftover money improving the team in other areas. Could you have made that call? Would you have allowed Mauer to walk, right when Target Field opened, for the maximation of payroll effectiveness? Barring some pointy ears, you couldn't have.
Target Field will generate something like $20-$30 million dollars a year more revenue for the Twins than the Dome did, at least until the new-stadium buzz dies off in a few years. And that money comes straight from the pockets of Hennepin County taxpayers. It's reasonable to want that expenditure to translate into a winning team. Right now, though, the Twins are committed to a lot of money in contracts (if the old Yankee Stadium was "the house that Ruth built," Target Field might be "the house that built Mauer's house.")
Fans want more. The Liriano trade got the Twins what seems to be a handful of moldy peanut shells (if I'm wrong on this, I'll be happy.) But, at the risk of sounding like a kiss-ass (and why would I be a kiss-ass? I won't get any money for it), I don't think the inheritor Pohlads that took over from tightwad Carl are lowballing it, here. I think they got as much as they could for some seriously damaged goods.
Liriano's rookie half-season was possibly the most exciting baseball I've ever seen, and I think if his arm hadn't exploded the Twins could have matched up with anyone in the playoffs. It didn't happen. Nobody in baseball besides Twins commentators thinks Liriano is as good, or could ever be as good, as he was that year. His bleeping arm exploded. He is, to use cliched baseball parlance, a thrower, not a pitcher. When his throws hit the edges of the strike zone instead of the middle, he's effective. But he can't control what he throws. and he didn't need to before his injury because the balls he threw were unhittable. Now they're hittable; they're slower. That's just the way it is; no gushing about the past will make his arm muscles what they used to be.
So, fellow Twins fans, bitch away. Bitch that the rotation sucks, bitch about the GIDPs, bitch your hearts out and I'll bitch with you. I feel your pain, as John Travolta once said to Emma Thompson. But if you're bitching about the Liriano trade, you're bitching about the past, not the present. Reasonably enough; the past has been frustrating. This trade shouldn't be.