Sid Hartman: New players will help boost Twins

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2012 - 12:04 AM
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New Twins outfielder Josh Willingham signed autographs through a wire fence around the batting cage during workouts Friday in Fort Myers, Fla. After hitting 29 homers in 136 games last season for Oakland despite playing his home games at the cavernous Coliseum, Willingham is being counted on to provide similar power for the Twins this season.

Photo: David Goldman, Associated Press - Ap

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There are a lot of people who haven't been excited by the Twins' offseason moves, but at least one major publication ranked their moves over the winter as among the best in baseball.

The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday published its study of every transaction in baseball this offseason, ranking how each team fared based on FanGraphs.com's projected 2012 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a statistic that compares a player's value to the average replacement from the minor leagues. The rankings, with a few exceptions, were limited to players who pitched 40 innings or played 50 games.

The Twins had the sixth-highest ranking in the majors. In the statistics' eyes, the Twins' acquisition of players such as Jamey Carroll (WAR of 2.2), Josh Willingham (2.6) and Jason Marquis (1.3) will more than make up for the losses of players such as Michael Cuddyer (2.2), Jason Kubel (1.6) and Joe Nathan (0.7).

Naturally, Twins President Dave St. Peter agrees with the newspaper, saying: "We'll sneak up on people. Listen, we're coming off of 99 losses. We're going to have to regain the trust, regain the respect of some folks certainly around the league and within the media and certainly our fanbase. We get that."

St. Peter added: "We take a different view in terms of what the upside is on this baseball team and we're going to have to show that on the field. Talk is cheap. It's easy to tout where you're at in January and February, ultimately what matters is where you are in September and hopefully October.

St. Peter said everybody in the organization is "singularly focused on getting back to playing the type of baseball that we think has made this franchise successful, and ultimately, health is going to factor into that. ... I feel really, really good about the chances that we have to compete in the American League Central this year."

St. Peter said he believes that the current team could surprise some people because of the presence of an outstanding manager in Ron Gardenhire and some of the other people the Twins have in place.

Addressing two of the newcomers, St. Peter said:

"We're pretty optimistic that Josh Willingham is going to have a good year at Target Field and is going to be a great sign for our ballclub. I think he's a guy that's going to surprise some people, too. He's a good man. He is a pull hitter and clearly one of the things that has played out at Target Field, it appears for righthanded hitters that pull hitters seem to have more success with home runs.

"He hit 29 home runs a year ago, 15 of those home runs were in Oakland's ballpark, which is one of the more difficult ballparks in the league to hit home runs."

"I think we added some good character guys. I think Jamey Carroll is a better player than a lot of people are giving him credit for."

And while the payroll has dropped to $100 million after being at $113 million last year, St. Peter said he doesn't believe the payroll will be a detriment for Twins victories.

"As we go forward here, Terry Ryan and his group, they're going to be focusing on ways to make us better," St. Peter said. "If that means we're adding payroll, so be it. We'll look at those opportunities as they come."

Of course, for the team to show a big improvement, they will need their two former American League MVPs in Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau to return to form.

Council will force Vikings move

If the Vikings move to Southern California some three years from now, I'm sure some fans will circulate the front page of Saturday's Star Tribune with pictures of the seven Minneapolis City Council members who are opposed to offering any help to a stadium without a referendum. A stadium, mind you, that the team will use for only about 10 games a year, but would also serve as a venue to land big-time attractions such as the Super Bowl, the Final Four and other major events to Minneapolis.

While Indianapolis and Dallas have built new stadiums and Los Angeles is getting ready to do the same, this group of council members have done nothing to assure the city that the Vikings will remain here.

Yes, when the Vikings move, the members of the Legislature and the City Council eventually will build a stadium at a much larger cost many years down the road, just as they did in Baltimore when the Colts moved to Indianapolis and just as they did in Cleveland when the Browns moved to Baltimore.

Rest assured, some fans will save a copy of that newspaper as a reminder of a group that has done exactly nothing to help promote sports in this city.

I assure you that if they are responsible for the Vikings' departure, re-election might be tougher. The members of the council talked about all the e-mails they get encouraging a vote against the stadium. Remember, people in favor of a stadium don't e-mail; it's only the people against one who do.

And any one of those seven council members that changed their mind would be a hero to get the Vikings the stadium they need.

Jottings

• Timberwolves President David Kahn said he doesn’t plan any trades before the March 15 deadline. “Every call I get is interested in making a deal for Derrick Williams and he is not available,” he said. “We are the second-youngest team in the NBA [behind Sacramento] and we want to stay that way.” 

• Vikings running  back Adrian Peterson, in a recent interview with Dan Patrick, talked about how much progress he is making on rehabilitating his injured knee and said he hopes to be ready for the start of the season.

• In 1968, when the Vikings had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft as a result of the Fran Tarkenton trade with the Giants, they didn’t hesitate to pick Ron Yary of Southern California, who played 14 years at left tackle with the club. So now if the Vikings, with the third pick in this year’s draft, take another USC left tackle in Matt Kalil, they likely will be doing the right thing.

• Former Gophers center Joel Przybilla is going back to the Trail Blazers, pending a physical set for Sunday. The 7-footer has been out of action this season and decided to sign with Portland over the Bulls and Heat.

• Xcel Energy Center is one of the arenas bidding for the 2014 Big Ten men’s hockey tournament. “I don’t know if it’s been settled if it’s going to go to one site with all six teams,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “ If something like that happened, obviously St. Paul would be a great candidate. I’m sure Michigan and Michigan State and those schools would like to see it at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Maybe we do something that would alternate every other year, so those are the details that still have to be worked out but are a couple years away.”

Fred Hoiberg, the former Timberwolves player and executive, continued his great coaching job Iowa State on Saturday with his team winning 65-61 at Kansas State.
 

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