Saturday, August 11, 2007

Who's to Blame?

I watched tonight's loss against the Angels over at my folks' place with my dad. It's odd that a son ends up shaping his father's views on baseball, but through continued exposure to my griping, my old man has joined the dark side and is now just as mildly annoyed with the collection of replacement-level slap-hitters the Twins try to foist on their fans as major league hitters on a daily basis. (How's that for a run-on?)

I wasn't really bothered by tonight's loss. Pat Neshek left two fastballs up and paid the price with three runs being driven in on those two pitches. Neshek has been stellar this season and everyone is entitled to a bad night. My father, on the other hand, faulted Nick Puta, who missed Mauer's one-hop throw to third on the Willits-Figgins double steal (despite Mauer being charged with the error in accordance with the technicalities of the scoring rule). My father's point of view was that if Puta isn't in the game to play solid, if not exceptional, defense than what business does he have staying in the major leagues?

It got me thinking. Why do a lot of Twins fans cheer for these horrible, punchless hitters? You know what the Piranhas really do? They give guys like Matt Garza a 1-3 record to go along with a 1.70 ERA.

As horrible as Puta has been, was worse is that the Twins have stooped to using Jason Tyner as their DH in 17 different games! Jason Tyner. At a position where there are absolutely no defensive requirements and a player's entire worth is his production at the plate. Tyner responded with a .218/.295/.255 line in those 17 games (.550 OPS). Here are the OPS leaders among major league pitchers with at least 10 plate appearances:

Better Than Tyner as DH (+.550 OPS):

1. J.D. "The Real Deal" Durbin - 13 PA/.818 OPS
2. Jo Jo Reyes - 10/.750
3. Adam Wainwright - 50/.700
4. Kip Wells - 42/.683
5. Brad Penny - 55/.682
6. Carlos Zambrano - 65/.639
7. Bobby Livingston - 26/.636
8. Aaron Cook - 60/.629
9. Micah Owings - 39/.626
10. Chris Capuano - 39/.598
11. Kyle Davies - 30/.596
12. Freddie Garcia - 22/.594
13. Jorge Sosa - 29/.588
14. Tom Glavine - 57/.581

Better Than Nick Puta (+.520 OPS)

15. Shawn Chacon - 13/.545
16. Matt Morris - 50/.542
17. Braden Looper - 43/.525

Crap! The Twins were fools to place Durbin on waivers! He could have been their DH. (Hey, don't laugh, it's not any more idiotic than playing Tyner there...)

The Twins, as an organization, don't understand offense. Their first round draft pick this past June doesn't even weight 160 pounds. Their manager speaks of terrible, punchless slap hitters as being able to "do things with the bat". The homer beat writers are too gutless to follow that statement up by asking if any of those "things" are baseball related. The Pirhanas even get their own television commercials and the fans get a third place team as a result. You can't pack a line-up four-to-five deep with guys that can't punish mistakes and expect to contend.

Is anyone else getting annoyed?

(If you plan on making excuses on behalf of the Twins in the comments section, please avoid the trite and ridiculous claim that the Twins can't afford power and on-base guys as a small market team. Oakland's market is just as small as Minnesota's and further worsened by the fact that the A's fan base has the lowest per-capita income in baseball. But they're the same organization that spawned the bash brothers, Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada and others. And small or large market, the Twins are the only team to just come off a 20-year 30-homerun hitter drought, and it would have been an even longer drought if major league baseball hadn't moved the manufacture of their baseballs from Hati to the Dominican Republic in 1987, touching off a noticeable spike in homeruns league-wide.)


Vikes Geek said...


Love the column, hate the typos.

No excuses here for the Twins' woeful offense. Instead, I take issue with your presumption that the Twins are fielding a third-place team. While the team currently holds the third-place position in what is quickly becoming one of the weaker divisions in baseball, there is no reason to believe that the Twins cannot move down to fourth or, with several games remaining against KC, even fifth in the division. And that's what you get for "playing the game right"--apparently a term of art in Minnesota meaning "not moving runners into scoring position, not fielding, and not hitting."

Your comment on small market philosophy is accurate, though it does not really address the Twins' primary problem this year. Despite receiving plaudits for running the organization and making several astute moves, Terry Ryan has done an awful job managing the resources that he has had over the past two seasons. When one considers the money that the team spent on Ruben Sierra, Phil Nevin, Ramon Ortiz, Sidney Ponson, Jeff Cirillo, and Tony Batista, to name a few recent, failed additions, the inescapable conclusion is that the Twins can still act like the small-market club they claim to be (i.e., a team with below-average financial resources) and still get far better players than they currently have on the roster. The Twins did a poor job evaluating Frank Thomas and Dmitri Young when either could have been had for a song, preferring, instead, to add questionable talent and, in some cases, even more questionable characters. That's simply poor management of resources. And that's squarely on Ryan.

Now, if you want to talk about a billionaire owner who has secured a new ballpark largely on the public dime, who's team is drawing over 30,000 per game, who calls on the fans to spend their money while criticizing fans who call on him to spend his money, and who continues to shit on his fans, while claiming "small market" in the 13th largest market in the U.S., well, that's another matter...

Question: Which is the higher payed Twin and by how much--Nick Punto or Mike Redmond? Of course, you know half the answer without even looking it up.


Anonymous said...

"Is anyone else getting annoyed?"

Yes. Me.

Anonymous said...


You should do a quick primer on Latin before you assume Kyle did not exactly know what he was doing renaming Little Nicky P. "Puta" means, well, something resembling his form at the plate.


Vikes Geek said...

Wolves Geek,

I have no qualms with the use of "Puta," that wasn't one of the typos to which I was referring.

Go Wolves/Former Celtics!


John Sharkey, Esq. said...

VG hits on the part that really bothers me: the wasted cash on all of the worthless players. I would actually like to see that money end up in the draft budget, where they could start to pull a few Tiger-esque moves on guys slipping down the draft due to signability. Anything is better than the way they use the money now. . . .

That kind of poor allocation of limited resources makes me want to stick my head in the oven. . . .

Kyle Eliason said...

Vikes Geek,

I really try to avoid the stadium issue. Baseball is the distraction I enjoy the most and talking about the public financing of ballparks is unavoidably tied into politics and economics.

It's hard to know how people are going to react when discussions turn politcal. Some people have a lot of fun arguing and some people blacklist you for thinking differently than they do, and it takes me a while to figure out which category people fall into.

Something like the team payroll, which is handed down to a general manager from above, while connected to the revenue streams that modern ballparks generate, can just be accepted at face value when used to analyze how well a general manager allocates his resources.

Having said that, here I go anyway...

First, I agree with the Zimbalist arguement that entertainment funds within a metropolitan area as diverse as the Twin Cities are pretty much fixed. It comes out of the population's disposable income and would be spent at restaurants, movie theaters, bars, other sporting events, concerts, ect. if the new ballpark were absent. The claim that the park will be good for the economy is bunk.

But on a larger scale, I'm not in favor of publically funding much of anything, because the people that collect the most benefit don't pay most of the costs.

I got into this at a game two years ago with Intern Sam of TwinsGeek fame. To build Wrigley Field from scratch would cost between $80-$90 million today. The ballpark's footprint is small and it doesn't have the luxury boxes, large concourses with vendors and the leg room today's parks have. I pointed out that teams could construct a park like Wrigley for the equivalent of an average annual payroll (certainly within the bounds of what a business loan would cover). Sam's retort was that people desire the extra leg room and amenities and wouldn't go for an outdated stadium like Wrigley.

Personally, I don't care what people want if they aren't willing to bare a proportional share of the costs. How much is that legroom really worth to people? Enough to shoulder the increase in ticket prices necessary to bump a business loan from $90 million to $500 million for stadium construction? If so, we don't need public funding. If not, either deal with something akin to Wrigley or don't go to ball games. Any of those three options are better than being a leech.

Unlike my fellow Minnesotans, I'm not much of a class warrior. When elected officials finally caved to a decade of grumbling from the Twins organization and the stadium funding was approved, I didn't share the outrage that public funds were going to a business privately held by one extremely rich man.

My thoughts were more in line with H.L. Mencken's, "Democracy gives the people what they want, good and hard."

In a state where the single largest employer is the state, that decades of soft socialism produced yet another faulty and wastefully expensive public meddling in the economy failed to register any shock for me whatsoever.