I'm a bit confused right now. The Twins just wrapped up a 6-3 homestand and now sit just a couple games below .500. This was supposed to be a terrible baseball team, and yet it looks like the Twins' front office's prophecy of fielding a competitive baseball team has actually been somewhat spot-on. It's foolish to say we should just ignore that double-digit losing streak they had earlier this season, but if that losing streak had instead been, say, a 4-6 stretch, this would be an over .500 squad.
Therein lies the problem; is this a good Twins team or a bad one? Do they have a shot for a wild card spot in the playoffs, or are they the rightful owners of the 4th place spot in the AL Central? This debate certainly relates to Jesse's post yesterday about if the Twins should be buyers or sellers at the deadline. As I type this, TT readers overwhelmingly believe that the Twins should sell off their spare parts. I've read from multiple outlets that 2014 was the year the team should be shooting to compete again, especially since it appears as though Miguel Sano will be a regular part of the lineup next season.
But does the front office agree, or do they think that this year is that year to be competitive again? After all, they still haven't called up Kyle Gibson and it will be near impossible for him to pitch worse than Mike Pelfrey or Vance Worley, so there's a possibility that the team could still get better this year. As I mentioned in the comments thread of Jesse's piece, this is a fear that I have, in which the team might not fully understand where they are. I am one of the many that feels the Twins should attempt to trade Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham, etc. for some minor leaguers. However, I don't know of their value and if other teams would truly want them, as Morneau's not hitting for power, Willingham hasn't really been hitting anything lately, and Mike Pelfrey has been terrible. The only one I think might get something decent in return is Kevin Correia since he hasn't pitched horribly after coming over to the American League, but he even has a track record of being pretty mediocre. Thus, it's possible that being a seller at the deadline will be more like a clearance sale than anything else.
And yet we saw in 2011 that the Twins thought they had a shot to compete, stayed pat at the deadline, and then watched the team coast on fumes for the rest of the season. They probably should have traded both Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, and instead watched them leave as free agents. It was a missed opportunity to improve the organization for the future, and that could very well happen again this year.
One saving grace for me is the man that is in charge, though. Back in 2011, the Twins were still under the guidance of Bill Smith, who turned out to be pretty poor in making personnel decisions. Now it's Terry Ryan, who has shown that he knows what he's doing much more than Smith. Still, there's always that nagging feeling in the back of my head, because they typically seem to fly in the face of common sense.
With Miguel Sano, Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, and other young players looking to aid this team for the rest of the season and next year, this team is going to be exciting again. It's just a matter of if Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau will continue to anchor the team, or if the Twins realize that going younger is the better solution.
- Another team that has regularly struggled for a while now is the Kansas City Royals. Specifically, they've had a tough time with walks and on-base percentage. I particularly remember a conversation with a Royals fan at a Twins game a few years ago where he was lauding their bats, saying they were a top-5 offense in the league. I smirked when he said this because he was talking about batting average, and completely ignored the fact that the Royals were not scoring a ton of runs, nor were they drawing walks, which has been an issue for multiple years now. This led to general manager Dayton Moore having a theory that the lack of walks stem from playing in Kauffman Stadium. The ballpark is regularly below-average in allowing home runs, and there has been data that shows that a ballpark does affect walk rates (which is why ESPN's park factors includes walk rate as a stat). Moore continues as saying that opposing pitchers do not fear giving up home runs at Kauffman, and thus throw more pitches in the strike zone as a result. But, Craig Calcaterra of HardballTalk points out that the Royals had an even number of walks at home and away last season, and they actually walked more at home in 2011. Thus, while Moore's theory was sound on the surface, I think it's caused more from employing guys like Jeff Franceour, Alcides Escobar, and Salvador Perez than it is the ballpark.
- We remember Jon Rauch as being very tall, very menacing, and having a neck tattoo. I remember being terrified of even talking to him at TwinsFest as he sat at his table, as he looked like he was going to deck the first fan that even dared to enter his line. Therefore, it was pretty impressive to hear this story about how Mets rookie righthander Matt Harvey actually stood up to Rauch last season. As you likely know, rookies aren't allowed to do many things in the clubhouse. One of those things is apparently taking a nap, which Harvey was attempting to do. Rauch was chosen as the enforcer of such rules, and went out to get a bucket of ice water, which he promptly dumped on the sleeping Harvey. However, Harvey was not going to be pushed around, and immediately jumped up and challenged Rauch to a fight. Even though Rauch was easily bigger than Harvey, he chose to back down, and the Mets players learned that day that you don't mess with Matt Harvey.
- Jeb Lund of Sports On Earth has an article about the on-field fight between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers from last week and he tackles the argument of how we need to end beanball wars. Yes, there's the risk of someone legitimately getting hurt, and yes, we should be cracking down on violence. But, Lund points out that it's somewhat rare for a person to get hurt in a bench-clearing brawl, and something I agree with, they can actually be entertaining. No, us fans are not paying for a WWE match, but these fights can legitimately be funny to watch. Take that D-Backs & Dodgers fight. As Lund points out, most punches thrown only hit air, guys appeared like they were trying not to break free of their teammates' grasps, we had a bunch of former baseball stars from the '80s and '90s pushing and shoving each other, J.P. Howell tried throwing a coach over a dugout railing as if this really was a WWE fight, and Mark McGwire reignited a thousand 'roid rage jokes. I remember as a kid watching a Yankees/Red Sox game on FOX with my best friend and we were entertained when Bronson Arroyo hit Alex Rodriguez, and then A-Rod and Jason Varitek started fighting up the 1st base line as the benches cleared. Watching Varitek attempt to pick up A-Rod was pretty funny before they got swallowed up by the crowd. Now, I would like to add the disclaimer that of course the entertainment levels drop when someone actually gets hurt, like Zack Greinke breaking his collarbone earlier this season and when Johnny Cueto started kicking Jason LaRue in the head and ended his career, but again, those are the exceptions and not the rules to these on-field fights. Aw, who am I kidding, I'm going to hell for condoning this behavior.
- That's not Will Venable, that's vintage Jim Edmonds making an excellent over-the-shoulder diving catch in extra innings. Sorry folks, this is way better than the Buxton catch.
- Something smells in O.co Coliseum in Oakland. Oh, that's just the raw sewage coming up through the shower drains. Thanks Obama! MLB says the A's need a new stadium, but still refuses to help.
- I actually first found this last week, but it's a 2 minute clip of British commentary on a Yankees - Red Sox game. Watch out for that Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he's a speedy devil.
- Justin Morneau hit his first home run in about forever and when he returned to the dugout, the team gave him the silent treatment. His solution? Start high-fiving invisible teammates.