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Friday Four: Hall of Fame, King Kenta, and the Revenge of the Nerds

In my head canon, I am Joe Mauer comforting Joe Nathan after falling off the HOF ballot.

Kansas City Royals v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Hey everyone, thanks for stopping by. There’s fresh-baked Twins news coming out of the lukewarm stove, and a Manny Ramirez reference for those of you who have been around the Twinkie Town block. While you’re here, take our new comment section for a spin. I know change is scary, but the hardest part is the beginning. You’re going to love it before long.

A Hall of Fame Stalemate

On Tuesday, the full results for 2022 Hall of Fame voting were released, and they were not without controversy.

The headline is, of course, David Ortiz. The former Twin and Red Sox hero became a Hall of Famer his first year on the ballot, a well-deserved honor. Sure the Twins cut an all-time great player to save a few bucks, but at least it doesn’t haunt us, right?

Let’s talk about the elephant-sized baseball players in the room: Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. In their 10th and final year on the ballot, neither player garnered the 75% necessary to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

I am not attempting to defend the use of steroids or argue over their morality. However, I do find it extremely hypocritical to not have both players in the Hall. MLB’s popularity skyrocketed during the steroid era as the ball was thrown faster, home runs were hit further, and players got immensely larger. Keeping the league’s two preeminent (and infamous) stars of the era out of the Hall of Fame is an indictment of the BBWAA, the committee of writers responsible for who makes the cut.

The Hall of Fame’s mission is, “Preserving history. Honoring excellence. Connecting generations.” By leaving out two of the most important players in baseball history, regardless of the question of steroid use, Cooperstown fails in its mission.

Twins Fall off the Ballot

Where did your favorite Twins fall in the voting? I’m glad you asked.

Future Twins shortstop Manny Ramirez received 28.9% of the vote. Torii Hunter barely made the cut at 5.3%. Justin Morneau fell off in his first year, receiving just 1.3% of votes. Shoutout to all 5 of the voters that had him on their ballots. Your contributions to the Minnesota agenda will not go unrecognized.

Perhaps most egregiously, Joe Nathan fell off the ballot as well. While the others always felt like long shots, the fact that Nathan didn’t even make it a second year is complete insanity. As I argued last week, and Brandon argued earlier this week, Joe Nathan was one of the best relievers in the history of baseball while he pitched. He doesn’t have the longevity of others, but his nine-year stretch from ages 29-38 is as good as almost any reliever outside of Mariano Rivera.

It’s the Johan Santana Hall of Fame debacle all over again.

Return of the King

While there is some understandable anxiety regarding the Twins’ current pitching situation, a glimmer of hope emerged this past week. According to The Mainichi, Kenta Maeda is aiming to return this coming September.

Maeda was not the same pitcher in 2021 that he was in 2020 when he finished 2nd in AL Cy Young voting, but his steady veteran presence will be missed on the 2022 ball club. The rotation is currently led by reclamation project Dylan Bundy, rookie Joe Ryan, and very tall man Bailey Ober (for more on the latter two, read John Foley’s article explaining how they have found their success). Any additions to the pitching staff will be welcome, even if it’s just for a month at the end of the season.

Revenge of the Nerds

I have been a fan of Minnesota sports for as long as I can remember, so for my final point today, I would like to write about football. Some of you would be justified in pointing out that this is a baseball blog, but I would counter and say that with an ongoing lockout, there’s only so much baseball news I can cover. Also, it’s my article and I want to write about the Minnesota Vikings (and of course tie it back to the Twins).

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was named the new GM of the Vikings after a long search, and I am thrilled at the hire. Though he comes from a well-respected front office in Cleveland, KAM is not your typical GM. He has an undergraduate degree from Princeton, a graduate degree in economics from Stanford, and a professional background in finance. He has only been in the NFL for about a decade but has quickly climbed the ranks. Additionally, he is the first NFL GM to come from a strict analytics background.

Adofo-Mensah is not the first GM to embrace or utilize analytics in football; far from it. But the lion’s share of his football background is in Cleveland’s analytics department. He’s a sports nerd, just like you and me. Sure, he’s paid a lot more and significantly more qualified, but he’s thinking about Kirk Cousins’s EPA per play and ADOT every night when he falls asleep just like I am.

Between this new hire, the Timberwolves’ hiring of Chris Finch and Sachin Gupta, and, of course, Falvine for the Twins, Minnesota is the first major sports market dominated by the nerds. Each of the three major Minnesota franchises (apologies to the Lynx and Wild, I only have so much time in the day) are led by individuals that embrace stats, analytics, and use them to find ways to win. The Timberwolves are in the playoff picture for the first time since 2018, the Twins are generally in a position to succeed despite the disappointment of 2021, and we’ll see what happens with the Vikings.

Smart people make smart decisions, and for the first time that I can remember, my three favorite pro teams are all run by smart people. The future is bright in Minnesota; just ask Anthony Edwards how he’s feeling.