Baseball is the GREAT American pasttime. It always has been, and it should always be. There are so many things to love about the game, from the lack of a time clock to the one on one matchups within a team concept. Baseball is the greatest game.
Baseball is also a great game because it is so easy to second guess and question everything. Players aren't perfect and don't get a hit or make the play on defense every time. Managers don't always use the right reliever or write out the perfect lineup.
Likewise, General Managers do not always bat 1.000 either. Twins GM Bill Smith is no different from the majority of Major League Baseball's 29 other general managers. You can find a few good moves Smith has made, and we can really see a couple of moves that haven't worked out so well, in hindsight. Every trade, free agent acquisition and rumor is easily second guessed.
The GM stands at the forefront a couple of times each year. First during the Winter Meetings and the entire offseason when he is building his team for the next season. The second time he stands out is at the July Trade Deadline. Teams can trade players without them clearing waivers until July 31st. Every team's fans wants their team to be active participants, whether it is acquiring talent to push to a title, or selling off veterans to build for the future.
Twins fans are no different. We want to see the Twins make moves and improve a solid 2009 Twins team that we all thought would, and continue to think could, contend for the AL Central title and a playoff berth. There are a couple of obvious holes that can be filled. It's such a big topic among baseball fans that a book could be written on it.
It is easy to critique a General Manager for the moves he makes. However, does a General Manager ever get credit for the moves that he did not make?
During this past offseason, Twins fans at various blogs and other communities chat areas wanted to the Twins to make a move. They wanted a relief pitcher. They wanted a 3B. They wanted something. Here are some of the names mentioned for the Twins at 3B, and how they are doing this year so far?
- Garrett Atkins - Colorado Rockies - He is hitting .230, barely getting on base 30% of the time, and has hit just six home runs for the Rockies.
- Kevin Kouzmanoff - San Diego Padres - His is hitting .244, getting on base just 28% of the time. He does have 12 home runs, but plays below average defense.
- Adrian Beltre - Seattle Mariners - He is hitting .259/.291/.374 with five homers, by far his worst season. He just had shoulder surgery and will make $12 million in 2009.
Bill Smith played hard ball with Super Agent Scott Boras and signed Joe Crede to a one year, $2.5 million deal with incentives to get up to $7 million. Like those mentioned above, Crede is not hitting great. He is hitting like he always has. He is hitting .234, getting on base almost 30% of the time and has 14 home runs. Unlike the others this year, Crede is playing stellar, Gold Glove caliber defense at the hot corner.
The same story can be said in the bullpen. The Twins signed Luis Ayala to a one year deal worth about $1.2 million. He was recently released due to his apparent belief that he should have been pitching in the 8th inning. He left with an ERA of 4.18 and a WHIP of 1.42. Compare those numbers to some of the other relievers that Twins fans cried for:
- Juan Cruz - signed a two year, $8 million deal with Kansas City which also cost the Royals a draft pick (2nd round pick for Royals, would have been 1st round pick if Twins). Cruz has improved in June and his overall numbers include an ERA of 4.08 and a WHIP of 1.24 (due to 21 walks in 39.2 innings).
- Russ Springer - signed with the A's and he has a 5.04 ERA and a 1.81 WHIP.
- Eric Gagne - almost signed with the Twins before the team backed out. He signed a minor league deal with the Brewers, but they let him go before the end of spring training. He is playing independent league baseball.
So, no, Luis Ayala was not a great signing, but things could have been much worse and much more expensive. As fans, we don't have a front row seat to the front office discussions. I just think it is important to remember that sometimes the best moves are the ones that aren't made.