Sunday, December 2, 2007
Six Questions with
Battle Your Tail Off
Before I get started with another Six Questions, I did want to mention that I will be going to the Vikings/Lions game this afternoon including some pregame tailgating. With my luck, the Twins will make a move or two while I am out. If so, please be sure to fill the Comments with your thoughts.
More Twins perspective, from another Twins related site. It isn’t a blog, although there is one. Battle Your Tail Off is primarily a message board for the Twins community. Jay Wescott from BYTO is here today to give us more opinions on the Twins and this offseason. Be sure to bookmark their site as well.
SethSpeaks: You’re the GM, what do you do about Johan Santana? To trade, or not to trade? If your answer is “To Trade”, what would it require in return to make it happen?
BYTO: I've always thought the Twins' biggest mistake of the last few years was trying to market Torii Hunter like he was the next Kirby Puckett. Not that Hunter wasn't a really good player for the Twins, but he was never electric as Puckett. Santana is a different story. He is the best pitcher in baseball. And this organization hasn't had that since Walter Johnson took the hill for them. Even when Frank Viola was really good, Roger Clemens and Mike Scott were better.
There's an old sabermetric principle that states that the distribution of player talent is like a pyramid. At the professional level, let's say there are dozens of Nick Puntos out there. Once you move to Torii Hunters, the air gets a little more rarified. Yeah, Aaron Rowand is as good, and there are probably a few players above him. Once you get to Santana though, you're at the top of the pyramid. There's no one above him or even next to him really. You can't replace him (not even with Francisco Liriano, Phil Hughes or Clay Bucholz). It's kind of similar to the lesson the Wolves are learning right now without Kevin Garnett. When they had Garnett, they were always only just a Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell kind of move away from being in the thick of things. Now, they might be hard pressed to beat a Felton Spencer led Wolves team from yesteryears, and suddenly you have to pin your hopes on Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley panning out. Al Jefferson is a really good player. But odds are he's never going to be Kevin Garnett. Odds are that neither Phil Hughes nor Clay Bucholz will be Johan Santana either. It's less pronounced with the Twins, but they're still a better team with Santana than they are without him. Suddenly, it's not a Jack Cust kind of move that will put the team over the top. It's something much bigger..
I hear the arguments all the time. It's too much a chunk of payroll. He'll only play every five days. And they're all good points, but they don't grasp at the bigger picture. With Santana, the Twins are a few minor tweaks away from being a World Series team Without him, it's a lot harder road. What he's asking for is high, but at the same time but at the same time a six year extension puts him under contract until age 35-- an age when Schilling, Johnson, Maddux, Carlton and so on were still legit aces.
And to bring the point full-circle, how hurt would you have been if Kirby Puckett went in the Hall-of-Fame wearing a Boston cap if the Twins hadn't offered him the richest contract in baseball history? Santana would be just as hurtful.
SethSpeaks: The Twins have been hesitant in the past to trade young pitchers. It sounds like that theory may be somewhat altered this offseason. Are there any of the Twins young pitchers that you would call untouchable?
BYTO: I'm from the Theo Epstein school. No player is untouchable. And to belabor the point, if the Yankees actually did back up the truck and offered Hughes, Cano and Cabrera for Johan, I'd help him pack. The question is always what can you get back in return for a player. Love the Matt Garza trade or hate the Matt Garza trade, the Twins got a lot in return. Delmon Young is just a couple of years removed from being the best prospect in baseball, for crying out loud.
SethSpeaks: As of today, where would you rank the Twins in the AL Central?
BYTO: I'd Right now, the Indians are the best team in the division because they have very few holes and some really good players in Hafner, Sabathia and Sizemore. After that the Twins and Tigers are on pretty equal footing for second. The best Twins players are a lot better than the Tigers, but the Tigers have a lot fewer holes in general. For that reason, it will be a lot harder for the Tigers to catch up to the Indians than the Twins because they don't have the explosive players to propel them to the top, and moving Carlos Guillen from shortstop to first base makes that more of the case. At the same time, the Tigers are a safer bet for second than the Twins because they can survive an injury to say Pudge Rodriguez better than the Twins can survive one to Joe Mauer. The Royals are fourth because of the upside to their young hitters, and the White Sox bring up the rear. It's a lot heavier of a rebuild job than Kenny Williams thinks.
SethSpeaks: What would you consider the top three things that the Twins need to do this offseason?
BYTO: I guess a week ago it would have been third baseman, centerfielder DH in that order. Now it's shortstop, third baseman and centerfield. I suppose the upside though is that Pridie may well solve the centerfield hole if his breakout season last year was legit. But this team is really going to miss Jason Bartlett. He was pretty much the best Twins' shortstop since Roy Smalley in the 70s. Or at the very least, the first Twins shortstop who could get to balls in the field and not be a complete miasma in terms of on-base percentage (Juan Castro, Cristian Guzman, Pat Meares, Greg Gagne, je t'accuse).
SethSpeaks: On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you that Bill Smith will be able to do the things that the Twins need to compete?
BYTO: I don't know if we have enough information to judge Smith yet. He's only made two moves. What we do know is he's a lot more of a gambler than Terry Ryan ever was. That may or may not be a good thing. Every one has seen the commercials enough to know that problem gambling can lead to you losing your car, your house, your life. He made the right decision in letting Hunter walk. 5 years was way to long to commit big money to Hunter. Whether or not he made the right call on the Garza/Young deal is questionable at this point. Young definitely has the biggest upside of the bunch, but the question is whether he'll reach it or not. If he doesn't, Smith loses his first trade, because the second component of the trade favors Tampa. Right now, I'll give Smith a 6.
SethSpeaks: Tell us a little about what you do on your blog, where we can find it and what you write about during the offseason?
BYTO: We have a blog at Battle Your Tail Off? Kidding (RP, please call back the team of assassin ninjas you just sent after me). I suppose the upside to BYTO is that we're not a blog, we're a message board with a blog attached to it. And if I don't want to write anything or (more usually) don't have the time to do it, nothing slows down. Business carries on as usual on the message boards. Blogs are a great source for getting one person's opinion out, and they're definitely a vital part of this new internet baseball worship environment. But message boards build communities. And IMO, if I never wrote another word on the BYTO blog, there are five or six people posting on the message board who could easily step up and take my place easily. To me, I take more joy in reading some of the other blogs that have sprung up on BYTO than looking back at some of my own work.
Thank you to Jay and the folks at Battle Your Tail Off. That’s what Gardy expects of his players and what he expects of us!!. Keep checking back throughout the weekend. If you have any questions, comments or ideas for future postings, please e-mail me.