Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
If you want certainty, baseball is not a good place for you.
Baseball players are more like mutual funds (and sometimes like penny stocks) than certificates of deposit. A flawed portfolio can leave you vulnerable.
For all of the money it spent last season, the Twins front office decided that it owned a flawed portfolio. Orlando Hudson outlived his usefulness at second base, J.J. Hardy wasn't the answer at shortstop and the bullpen could be replenished with better values than the departed cast.
The decision-makers may make wrong choices. But if the idea is to get past the first round of the playoffs, you need to do more than tap Hardy on the head and say, "We expect more from you than your slightly-above-average performance of 2010, young man. And don't get hurt again, OK?"
The Twins are opting for speed and hope. That's the Plan A of giving the middle infield spots to Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Alexi Casilla. Nobody expects Nishioka to be Ichiro-the-sequel, but the Twins are hoping for more than teams got from Kaz Matsui. Casilla was a bust when handed second base in 2009 and the Twins are hoping he's learned from that experience and will be stronger, at shortstop presumably, in 2011. I don't think it will turn out to be a defensive downgrade, either.
Look back a decade: Torii Hunter spent a couple of seasons making people wonder about his skills before becoming a star. Look back a generation: Frank Viola spent two seasons with a five-plus ERA before blossoming. Tell me why Casilla is utterly hopeless?
If the Twins think more team speed is one key to improvement, then I'm OK with the uncertainty that will come along with adding some. If I'm remembering right, the Twins have outperformed most teams over the past 10 years or so, which is why the "idiots-in-the-front-office" foolishness wears a little thin. There have been some mammoth fails and puzzlers along the way, but the overall record works for me.
If something doesn't work out, there will be infielders available. I'm more concerned about how the Twins are positioning themselves to make a run at a top-of-the-rotation starter sometime during the 2011 season. That's been a missing piece in October since Johan Santana left.
Speaking of starting pitchers, good luck to the Brewers and Royals with this Zack Greinke thing. I don't have much to offer, except that Carl Pavano no longer seems relevant to Milwaukee, which is good news for the Twins.
The Royals are perpetually rebuilding and they have received a promising young outfielder, their 132nd shortstop in the last six years, a minor-league pitcher and a player to be named later. Fourth place in the AL Central is within their grasp.
Rather than set off on my own about the complicated Greinke, the best thing is to leave you with this wonderful blog post from Joe Posnanski. It's very long.
Sometimes 3,500 words are worth more than a picture.
But if you really need a picture, here's one from the Twins:
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