May 31, 2004

Some of y'all might be with this, and some of y'all won't

While watching the Twins lose to the Devil Rays yesterday afternoon, I found myself extremely frustrated for no apparent reason (other than the score, of course). I tried to think of why exactly I was feeling this way and ... well, to quote DJ Kool, "Let me clear my throat."

At the count of three

I want everybody in the place to be

To make some noise if ya down with me

One, two, three

Hit me with the horns Tony

Keep makin' noise, keep makin' noise, yeah, oh

Here we go now, here we go now, here we go now

Here we go, here we go, now listen

Some of y'all might know this

And some of y'all don't

Some of y'all might be with this, and some of y'all won't

But listen, let me clear my throat

Oh, have mercy babe, Ha!

I hope ya don't mind, let me clear my throat

When they called Justin Morneau up at the start of last month, the Twins said all the right things about playing him every day, getting him at-bats and all of that good stuff. As usual with the Twins though, talk is extraordinarily cheap.

Morneau's everyday playing lasted exactly a week. Then, with the Royals starting a left-handed pitcher on both May 29 and May 30, Morneau did not play. Morneau is a young left-handed hitter who has struggled against lefties in his few at-bats against them in the majors thus far, so I suppose I can see why they would bench him. Personally, I would never sit him out twice in a row, but there's at least a line of thinking present that I can see.

Well, yesterday the Twins played Tampa Bay and the Devil Rays started Rob Bell, a right-handed pitcher (and a bad one at that). And, once again, Morneau found himself on the bench. I have to say, I just don't get it.

Why have him in the majors to sit on the bench, even against lefties? This is a guy you want to be the future of your offense, the big bopper in the middle of your lineup, but you don't have the confidence in him to play him against a couple of lefties in May? And we're not talking Randy Johnson and Barry Zito here, it was Dennys Reyes and Jimmy Gobble.

With Rob Bell and his career ERA of 5.88 on the mound, what possible reason could there be for not playing Morneau? He's killed the ball in the few at-bats the Twins have given him thus far, hitting .292/.370/.542, and he hadn't played in two days.

But no, the Twins had Doug Mientkiewicz at first base and Matthew LeCroy at DH. Now I love LeCroy and I am glad to see him in the lineup, but why not stick him behind the plate? Instead, the Twins continue to give Henry Blanco tons of at-bats, despite the fact that his deal with the devil lasted only a couple weeks and ran out a long time ago. Blanco is hitting .136/.177/.186 in 59 at-bats this month (and yes, I realize he hit a homer yesterday ... so what?).

With Joe Mauer out, this was a chance to give LeCroy a long look behind the plate, to see if perhaps he could be the long-term answer as Mauer's backup. Instead, they play Blanco's incredibly weak bat and leave Morneau on the bench.

I love the Twins and I happen to think they are a well-run team and organization. If they weren't, they wouldn't be able to win like this on such a small budget. With that said, they do so many things that just make absolutely zero sense to me.

I suspect Morneau will be sent back to Triple-A when Mauer returns from the disabled list this week or, if that's not the case, when Luis Rivas comes back from the DL shortly after that. And then Morneau will hit .350 with huge power at Rochester, Henry Blanco will hit .190 in Minnesota, and the Twins will wonder why they can't score any runs.

Tell me what's wrong with this picture ...

- The Twins have one of the best prospects in all of baseball.

- He destroys Triple-A pitching.

- They call him up and say they will play him every day.

- He goes 3-for-3 in his first start and hits .292/.370/.542 overall.

- They bench him for three straight games.

And then, if my guess is right ...

- They send him back down to Triple-A.

There is a disconnect between logic and action, between planning and following that plan here that is incredibly frustrating to watch, year after year after year, player after player after player.

It could be worse, of course. The Twins, even with all of their obvious faults, are far from the worst team to root for. Still, there's no reason they have to be difficult to root for at all.

I was daydreaming the other day about just how young and how cheap the Twins could get all of a sudden, perhaps as soon as next year. It's nothing more than a dream, of course, because the people actually in charge of making decisions don't think like I do, but bear with me.

C    Joe Mauer

1B Doug Mientkiewicz
2B Michael Cuddyer
SS Jason Bartlett
3B Corey Koskie
LF Lew Ford
CF Torii Hunter
RF Jason Kubel
DH Justin Morneau

Throw in a bench of LeCroy, Nick Punto, Alex Prieto, Michael Restovich and Michael Ryan, and that is a group that includes one player over 30 (Koskie) and three players who make more than the league minimum (Koskie, Hunter, Mientkiewicz).

I think -- and I don't know the exact contract situations -- that the total payroll of those 14 position players would be somewhere around $20-22 million, and that's with Corey Koskie counted at $7 mill (he's a free agent).

That is a team I could root for, a team that would be fun to watch play and, more importantly, watch develop and improve. It would also leave about $35 million to put together a pitching staff, which would give Terry Ryan plenty of interesting opportunities.

I've said many times that this current Twins team has a chance to do something that is normally very difficult, which is contend for the postseason and completely rebuild all at the same time. They have the young established major leaguers to do it and they have the young, major league-ready prospects to do it. They won't, of course. That's just not how they operate.

Instead, they'll pay Shannon Stewart $6 million to provide average offense, they'll bring back Cristian Guzman and/or Luis Rivas to suck up outs and drive me crazy, and they'll leave prospects in the minor leagues, much to the delight of the lovely people of Rochester, New York.

Talent or experience, that's what it comes down to in my mind. I'll take talent over experience every single time, especially when the talent is young and cheap. I sometimes wish the Twins thought the same way.

And while they're at it, it'd be nice if they wouldn't lose 5 out of 7 to Kansas City and Tampa Bay.

New article at The Hardball Times: Beat 'Em Like They Stole Something (Part One)

Today's picks:

Montreal (Armas) +170 over Atlanta (Wright)

Milwaukee (Sheets) -110 over Los Angeles (Weaver)

Tampa Bay (Abbott) +160 over Minnesota (Silva)

Toronto (Halladay) -140 over Seattle (Meche)

Chicago (Loaiza) -115 over Oakland (Redman)

Boston (Arroyo) +125 over Anaheim (Colon)

Total to date: -$915

W/L record: 73-91 (5-3 yesterday for +385. At least it's under -$1,000 now!)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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