October 2, 2007
Twins Notes: Fetching, Slapping, and Good Guys
Christensen is right, except that $25 million might actually be far-fetched on the low side. Last winter's crop of free-agent starting pitchers included Barry Zito, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jason Schmidt, Ted Lilly, Gil Meche, Vicente Padilla, Miguel Batista, Jason Marquis, Adam Eaton, Woody Williams, and Greg Maddux, among several other well-known veterans, yet Jeff Suppan managed to get $42 million as a 32-year-old coming off a season in which he went 12-7 with a 4.12 ERA in 190 innings.
Silva is a 29-year-old coming off a season in which he went 13-14 with a 4.19 ERA in 202 innings, and this offseason's pool of free-agent starters isn't nearly as deep or star-filled. In fact, an argument can be made for Silva being among the 2-3 most desirable targets in the entire bunch. With mediocrity like Eaton and Marquis getting over $20 million apiece in last winter's jam-packed market, my guess is that Silva's next contract is likely to be worth closer to $40 million than $20 million.
Hunter made similar comments about Joe Mauer a few months ago, but when asked if he was talking about Mauer this time around he denied it. Of course, the only other Twins players to miss significant time with injuries this season were Francisco Liriano, Rondell White, and Jesse Crain. I'm guessing that not even Hunter would rip a teammate for missing time following arm surgery and White is reportedly one of his best friends, which makes it pretty obvious that he's again talking about Mauer.
Somebody needs to slap a couple people around and say, "You've got to play no matter what." If you don't play every day, and you're a good player, then how can you help the team win?
As always, the local media eats up everything Hunter says, with Kelly Thesier of MLB.com writing that Hunter "has been known to speak his mind on numerous occasions." That's a nice way to spin repeatedly calling out a teammate publicly. Meanwhile, over the past three seasons Hunter played 405 games and Mauer played 380 games despite manning the most physically demanding position, yet Hunter passes himself off as some sort of iron man while constantly questioning Mauer's toughness.
Meanwhile, the foursome of Scott Baker, Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey, and Glen Perkins--young starters who I suggested should have been chosen instead to fill the final three-fifths of the rotation--combined to go 18-17 with a 4.11 ERA in 322 innings while costing the Twins about $1 million. It's often the case that veterans are simply a more expensive version of the youth a team already has, and it would have been interesting to see how much an extra $7 million could have helped the Twins' punchless offense.
The reason I'm bringing all of that up again now is because LEN3 recently wrote an article devoted to Morneau's second-half decline that included the following:
Morneau initially thought that participating in the All-Star Home Run Derby affected his swing the rest of the season — although he hit four homers in his first 11 games after the break. But last week he admitted that he gave away too many at-bats, which his postbreak numbers (seven homers and 37 RBI) reflect.
Whether LEN3 saw my note here, read Ubelmann's post on the same subject over at Stick and Ball Guy's blog, or did the required number-crunching on his own, it's nice to see a mainstream media member who's covering the Twins go beyond simply trusting that whatever someone from the team tells them is fact.
When a manager goes out of his way to play guys who lack power on a team that clearly values power less than most organizations, it's amusing to hear him say that "power is something that's hard to find." Beyond that, this amazingly isn't the first time that Gardenhire has heaped praise on Jones, who's a career .250/.304/.439 hitter in nine minor-league seasons and batted .208/.262/.338 in 31 games with the Twins as a 26-year-old rookie.
I like him. I like the possibilities of what he brings to the table. When he relaxes, he can really put a swing on the ball. It's hard. You're pressing, you want to do well, and you're not playing every day. I just talked to him about relaxing. He's a big, strong guy. You know what? You're going to strike out, son. Everybody does. Just swing away. And when he does connect, he hits it a long ways. Power is something that's hard to find.
Talking about Jones being called up for the first time back in May, Gardenhire said: "We let him get his feet wet. But I'd like for him to get a soaking. I really like the instant run production he can put up there when he walks up to the plate." At the time, his praise of Jones helped me further come along to the notion that Gardenhire doesn't always treat young players unfairly and always irrationally favor veterans, but rather only praises mediocre players. Here's what I wrote at the time:
If Jones was good, Gardenhire would surely be telling anyone who would listen that he strikes out too much or needs to work on his defense or isn't "having good at-bats." But because Jones has all those weaknesses and isn't good, Gardenhire lets the compliments and words of encouragement fly. I used to think that Gardenhire put guys like Jones in the "young" category with Kubel, Bartlett, and Baker, but it's starting to seem like he views them as "mediocre" with Ford, Silva, Juan Castro, and Tony Batista.
Of course, it's only a theory.
Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.