The World Series started Wednesday night with 18 runs, six errors and evidence that your team won't win a postseason game just because Cliff Lee is pitching. The guy who I think is the American League's Manager of the Year, Ron Washington, made a fat mistake by not having his bullpen firing up earlier in San Francisco's big fifth inning. He must have been fooled too by Lee's amazing postseason stats.
The Rangers outfield, with gimpies Nelson Cruz in left field and Vlad Guerrero in right made the Twins' 2010 regulars -- Young, Denard and Kubel -- seem like a trio of Ichiros by comparison.
It was ugly enough that it made sense to pay more attention to the Wolves opening-night disappointment (another exercise in bad defense).
It still feels kind of empty around here, 2 1/2 weeks after the Twins waved goodbye so weakly to their 2010 season.
As fans, it's probably good to be detached right now. I mean, there's just so much questioning of Gardy's managing and Joe Mauer's toughness and Justin Morneau's willingness that I'm can read before wishing that the Internet had never been invented.Talk radio I can turn off, but the Internet comes with the job.
The Twins are about to begin their organizational meetings for 2011, where we can assume a frank and honest exchange of ideas among Gardy's staff, the baseball executives and the rest of management will take place. Here are some questions, which are not presented in order of priority:
*If Gardy is down on Orlando Hudson, someone needs to ask why Alexi Casilla will be a better bet at second base in 2011 than he was when handed the starting job in 2009.
*Morneau's situation needs to be combined with the issue of getting another significant right-handed slugger in the lineup. Paul Konerko? That means taking a one-year salary hit on Michael Cuddyer (at $10.5 million in 2011 and assuming he won't be back) and knowing that you'll be picking up a first baseman if Morneau doesn't return and a full-time DH if he does. Yes, I love Jim Thome too, but what if you can get Konerko for three years at $45 million?
*When everyone agrees that Francisco Liriano's best years are still ahead of him, someone needs to say, "That's great! We have our No. 2 pitcher, now what about getting an ace?" Rather than going chapter-and-verse through the options, here's a link to the latest TwinsCentric post, which is a fine surrogate for having that discussions right here and right now.
*If Gardy says he's fine with an outfield of Young/Span/Kubel-Cuddyer, then someone needs to ask: "So you're willing to settle for second-rate defense in exchange for filling other needs?" If the answer is yes, then so be it. It'll be a source of frustration at times, but where does "fixing" the outfield rank in the priorities for 2011 and beyond?
*Who can go? Not counting the late-season lefties (Fuentes, Flores) who aren't coming back, the Twins have a pool of about $39 million in players who could be released or not re-signed. The guys who would free up the biggest chunks are Pavano ($7 million), Kubel ($4.1 million this season, $5.25 million option for 2011) Hardy ($5.1 million), Hudson ($5 million), Punto ($4 million this season, $5 million option for '11), Matt Guerrier ($3.15 million). Cuddyer's $10.5 million could come off in 2012. I'm assuming that Delmon and Matt Capps are coming back for 2011, so I didn't include them among those who might simply not be invited back. Choices have to be made.
*How does Morneau's health figure into when you make key decisions? I assume the Twins know more than they've been sharing, but I also assume that nobody's close to having an answer about Morneau's future. That raises the level of risk in lots of decisions.
*Bill Smith to Gardy: "Well, Ron. You've gone to the postseason with the momentum of season-ending triumphs and, in other years, with a couple of weeks to prepare ... and it hasn't really mattered. What have you learned that will make you a better postseason manager?" In the would of bizmetrics, that's called "continuous improvement."
*Chorus to Jim Pohlad: "So, Jim, what's the baseball payroll?" Much has been made of the fattened payroll -- up from about $65 million in 2009 to $97.5 million at the end of 2010. We do know that Target Field is a money-maker for the Twins in so many ways that the Metrodome wasn't, so we shouldn't have been overly surprised (nor overly impressed) with the payroll increase.
*Where should the Twins payroll be in 2011? I can make a pretty good argument that a responsible business plan includes a legacy factor -- putting enough resources into winning the World Series. The Twins "brand" should not be synonymous with "first-round knockout." If the Twins expect us to dig deeper into our pockets to afford the game, I'm fine with us expecting ownership to dig as deeply as necessary into its pockets to fund wise baseball decisions. I don't expect the answer to be "the checkbook is wide open, Bill and Ron." But I won't abide by a "Mauer's contract makes us cut corners" defense.
"Speaking of Mauer, discussion about his future better go deeper than, "Joe wants to catch, so let him catch." Even if a transition isn't going to begin for a few years, which is reasonable, discussions behind closed-doors should be happening now.
Let me end with a suggestion -- for you. If you want the best data for playing along with the Twins front office, what you really need to do is order the soon-to-be-released Off-Season GM HandBook by the TwinsCentric crew. It's 30,000-plus words about all the issues that will go into shaping the Twins in 2011 and beyond.
It's on my list of the Top 10 things you can buy for under $10, right up there with the Kramarczuk's sausage at Target Field.