While I’m not necessarily proud of this, I have seen the movie “Dumb and Dumber” and found some of it quite memorable. I don’t mention this in all social circles, but it’s part of my reality. One of the lines from that movie that has withstood the test of time is “so you’re telling me there’s a chance.” Context is important, but this isn’t a movie review, so I’ll simply say the reason I like the Twins acquiring pitching help today is because they seem to be telling their fans “there’s a chance.” It’s so much better than standing pat, or selling, which quite clearly tells a fan base, “there’s no chance.”
Way back in 1989, The Twins traded away Frank Viola (arguably the best pitcher in Twins history). In exchange they received Kevin Tapani, and Rick Aguilera, who were both instrumental in their eventual 1991 World Series Championship. They also received a couple of other players, one of whom was a young pitcher named David West.
David West recently passed away and by all accounts, was a good person who died far too young, at the age of 57. This article is not intended in any way to be disrespectful to Mr. West. The point of this article is to calm the nerves of those who lament the trading of future prospects.
For baseball old-timers, like me, who actually remember the Twins’ 1991 World Series, and who remember David West, his name stands out because when the Twins acquired him, he was, for many, the centerpiece of the Viola trade. While Aguilera and Tapani became stalwarts on a championship team, West was the piece the Twins demanded from the Mets if they were to complete a trade for Viola.
David West was “can’t miss.” He was not only the best prospect in the Mets system at that time, he was considered by many to be the best prospect in all of baseball. He made some contributions to the Twins for a couple of years, mostly out of the bullpen, before being traded to the Phillies for a player named Hartley, who…well…was probably a fine person.
Trading prospects can backfire, of course. Trading young players who haven’t fully shown all of which they are capable is inherently risky. The Tigers long ago traded away a young John Smoltz for an aging Doyle Alexander. While Alexander did contribute to the Tigers, in the end, Tigers management probably wishes they had that one to do over.
Obviously, whenever one thinks of those that got away, the Twins are forever branded by the loss of David Ortiz. But even the Red Sox didn’t immediately believe in Ortiz. He began by platooning with Jason Giambi’s brother, Jeremy Giambi, and Jeremy is unlikely to ever join Ortiz in the hall of fame. In other words, sometimes young players really become all that we hope they may. John Smoltz, David Ortiz (though released by the Twins, not traded) were not the norm, they are cautionary tales for trades (or releases) precisely because they stand out.
The truth is, most prospects don’t become superstars. Or even stars. Even those highly touted “can’t miss” guys, more often than not, actually miss.
While the Twins recent playoff record speaks for itself, the point nevertheless remains: get to the playoffs and see what happens. The Braves were 50-51 at the deadlinelaggy year before winning the World Series. Living entirely for the future sacrifices any joy we might find in the present and given how rarely championships or even playoff runs happen around here, why keep wishing away the present?
Perhaps the best reason I can think of to support the trading of prospects (obviously, not all prospects, and not recklessly) remains the 1987 championship. Those Twins, with respect to the 1991 team, were probably the most beloved Twins team of all time. Winning a first championship for Minnesota in “modern times” (no disrespect intended to the 1950s Lakers, but I’m not even that old), puts that Twins team in a special place in Minnesota sports history. We may forget that when those Twins entered the playoffs, with an 85-77 record, they were largely regarded as the longest shot to win the World Series of any playoff team that season. So, the lesson is clear, get to the playoffs, give yourselves a chance, and maybe ride a hot streak and amazing team chemistry to a memorable championship season.
Maybe beating the Yankees is a long-shot. Maybe getting to the World Series is a dream, more than it is based in logic. Maybe it would simply be prudent to load up on the best prospects and wish for them all to hit somewhere down the line, but for me, I’m happy to see the team buy rather than sell at the deadline, and give me some hope for this season. I’ll worry about next season, next season. Sometimes teams under-achieve, sometimes they over-achieve, and sometimes, the future is so unpredictable, that it’s worth our time to concentrate on the present. But for now, the Twins are telling me “there’s a chance.”