Thursday, March 23, 2006

Shaking Off This Winter of Our Discontent

From the Strib:

The Twins could buy out third baseman Tony Batista's contract for $312,500 next Tuesday. It won't happen. "Batista's doing fine," Terry Ryan said. "There will be some days where it doesn't look so good, but there also will be days like Saturday, when he makes an outstanding play and hits a home run."

It's quotes like this which make it hard to get revved up about the Twins, even as we get within a couple weeks of Opening Day. Just when the fantastic World Baseball Classic had me hyped about baseball again, I have to read a dispiriting quote like that.

Can anyone explain how the man in charge of the Minnesota Twins, a professional baseball franchise, actually thinks he can get a fresh bead on Tony Batista by watching him play practice games for a few weeks?

It's not as if Batista lacks a track record. We know he hit .263/.294/.463 in 591 PA's with the Hawks in Japan last year, .241/.272/.455 with the Expos in 2004, and .244/.309/.457 with the Orioles the year before that. We're talking about data covering 1911 plate appearances. That's 218 PA's more than Terry Ryan gave David Ortiz before cutting bait on him. Let that sink in.

We know what Tony Batista is capable of doing anymore. We don't need to watch him work out in Florida to know that he's going to have a lot of "days where it doesn't look so good," periodically interrupted by a home run. Who does the GM think he's kidding?

Is he kidding himself?

There are things I look forward to seeing from the Twins this season, particularly the progress of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Jason Bartlett. I hope to see Michael Cuddyer stick in the regular lineup and finally make good on his potential. The promise of Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, and Jason Kubel still piques my interest. Of course, there is still Johan Santana and Joe Nathan, Prez and VP, "Starting and Closing for America." Maybe Torii Hunter will feel inspired by all the young talent pushing him in his contract year, too.

There are players who should be fun to watch this year. But there are also problems with the lineup, the worst in the AL last year, which the GM failed to address, problems not likely to be solved by trading for a speedy singles hitter who had leg injuries last season (and is again already this spring), signing a washed-up out machine to play 3rd base and an injury-prone DH, and just hoping that everyone who disappointed in 2005 will happen to play better in 2006.

When a GM gives a non-guaranteed contract to a player who just washed out of the Japanese leagues and yet promises him a starting 3B job--not only that, but Ryan indicated more than once to the press that he promised Batista a starting job without any serious competition for it in camp--then it's hard not to get the impression that the club is stumbling in the dark while the man at the helm has no idea of where to go from here.

I wish I could say I expected the Twins to make another run at a division title and October baseball this year, but a repeat of last year's results seems more likely. Hopes of anything better are riding on nothing but a wing and a prayer.

Now that I've got that off my chest, maybe I can get past it and try to focus on the small pleasures we may have in store for us. We'll see what I can do to catch some sunshine and Spring Fever by next time....


At 3/23/2006 3:29 PM, Anonymous Jim H. said...

When it comes to the 2006 edition of the Twins, your phrase "small pleasures" is apt. Except as applied to Batista's girth. And, we hope, Morneau's 29 home runs.

At 3/27/2006 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, considering our other options for 3rd last year is Batista any worse?

At 3/27/2006 6:48 PM, Blogger frightwig said...

Yes, actually. I could address that question in my next post.

At 3/28/2006 11:54 PM, Blogger Nick N. said...

This is a good article Frightwig. Linked it on our blog today. Keep up the good work.


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