Thursday, November 25, 2010

5 Twins Things I Am Thankful For

Hello all. Hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving. And since today is Thanksgiving, I thought I would do a post on my 5 Twins related things I am thankful for. Here they are:

5. Francisco Liriano's return to form in 2010: In spring training, everyone was wondering if Frankie would fill the closers role in Joe Nathan's absence. But, he was plugged in as the fifth starter, and by seasons end he was the staff ace. Frankie demonstrated he could command his pitches (Including that devastating slider) and showed the world he still has it. His electric year included a dominating first five innings in Game 1 of the ALDS against New York, before a rough spot had him taken out. Given the number of innings he pitched in winter ball, spring training, and the regular season it was safe to say that number had caught up with him by the postseason. But he should come back in 2011 ready to dominate once again.

4. Our Front Office: In the past two decades, the Twins have one of the most stable front offices in all of baseball. And the fact they keep producing high quality players through the minor league system has made them one of the best in baseball. They never panic. Most trades or free agent signees always seem to work out in the long run (For the most part). They just keep spitting out gold. And we all appreciate the fact a quality ball club is on the field. Which is why the Twins are one of the most respected franchises in the game today.

3. Our Manager: For most of the 2000 decade, the Twins were only able to put young teams with low payrolls out on the field. And for most of that decade, the Twins were always in the hunt. Most times they were division champs. And behind it all is the manager, Ron Gardenhire. He is known more as a players manager. So generally players have a enjoyable experience when playing here in the Twin Cities, which leads to on field success. In nine seasons Gardy has lead the Twins to 6 division championships, with just one season where the team has finished below .500. And finally in 2010 Gardy was recognized as the AL manager of the year after many years of a second place finish. Put his playoff success aside, Gardy is one great manager.

2. Joe Mauer's New Contract: In 2009, Joe Mauer missed the first month of the regular season. When he returned, he posted career best numbers en route to an American League MVP award. So in the following offseason, with his future up in the air, the Twins rewarded him with an 8 year $184 million extension. And despite battling injuries throughout 2010, Mauer was still great despite his numbers falling off. And now in 2011, the extension will kick in. Believe me when I say that is a huge relief. I didn't care how much he got paid, I just wanted him to stay. It would of been sickening to see him in a different uniform (Good thing he saw it that way too). Now Mauer will be a Twin through 2018. Who isn't thankful for that?

1. Target Field: This was a no brainer for #1. For 28 seasons, we had to suffer (our necks did in certain seating areas) in that abomination of a baseball stadium. And on April 12, we all had our eyes opened to what a baseball stadium should be like. Its honestly hard to come up with any big negatives for Target Field. It has everything a baseball fan wants. Present amenities mixed with a tribute to our history. And if you know me, I love baseball (More Twins than others) history. TF was ranked #1 as a stadium in all of professional sports. It's that magical there. Twins fans have gone from tortured to spoiled in a years time. Now all we need there is a new World Series flag (Knock on Wood).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

International Draft.

This isn't really a Twins post but I felt compelled to post this.

Yesterday and today, I've been hearing about teams placing bids on Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma. And as I understand it now, these bids are just to get exclusive contract negotiations. Bids are reportedly in the $15 million range. And thats all just to talk to the guy. So in theory, you could pay that money, contract talks could fizzle out, he goes to the next highest bidder, and you are out $15+ million. This is outrageous. One of my biggest issues is not having an international draft in MLB. It's fine if the great Japanese or Cuban players want to play here, but the bidding wars to get these players have gone too far.

Jose Contreras, for example, was a great pitcher in Cuba. And after 2002 he chose to defect to the U.S. and play in the majors. The bidding war for his services came down to the Red Sox and Yankees. The Sox were almost his choice, but a late push for him by the Yanks landed him in the Bronx. The late push included the Yankees scouts trying to sign him, pleading with him to sign, because their jobs were on the line. Seriously, you will fire your scouts because they didn't get him signed?! They probably got fired anyway because Contreras turned out sour after a few mediocre seasons in the Bronx. BAD DEAL

Another example of the outrageous bidding wars is Daisuke Matsuzaka. In the winter of '06 his team, the Seibu Lions, put him up for sale to the highest bidder, much like Iwakuma is. Matsuzaka was the best in Japan. His stuff was legendary over there. And the Boston Red Sox won the rights to sign him with a $50 million bid. They then went on to sign him to a 6 year/$52 million contract. He had a average rookie campaign followed by a amazing 08 going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. But in the two years that have followed he has just pitched in 37 games. And his ERA averages around 5. BAD DEAL

The Twins signed Miguel Angel Sano last year as a international free agent to a deal that included a $3 million signing bonus. But he is just 17 years old. Contreras and Matsuzaka came to the majors in their early 30s. Iwakuma will be 30 on opening day. So I hope a team thinks twice before signing him long term. Because he can only give you 2-3 years of his best stuff before his skills start going south.

My point to all this is, either MLB set a limit on these bidding wars or they put in a international draft. A draft would help some teams add more talent to their roster and it prevents the Big Market teams from throwing millions at them instantly. A draft would make them earn their salary. To be fair, it can't be great for these guys to come over and play under the enormous pressure of the big markets, so a draft would help them settle in, in the US too. Because moving here can't be that easy. This is something MLB seriously should consider. Teams have wasted money bidding on players that fizzle out. Its bad for the teams, its bad for the player, its bad for baseball. And all this would do is give the little guys a extra push against the big guys.