This year has brought another frustrating season for Twins fans. Now, I know what you are thinking, thank you Captain Obvious, if I wanted to get commentary from John Madden, I would have spent my afternoon on YouTube!! Hear me out.
The interesting thing about the frustration that most Twins fans have expressed this season is that it has helped illustrate a potential larger flaw in Twins territory.
If you listen to the local microphone jockeys or read the birdcage liners, the chorus of what the Twins organization should do is pretty consistent. Give up this season and build for the future by trading their semi-valuable pieces (i.e. Frankie K or Span) in the hopes that the prospects they get in return will contribute to the team’s success down the road. There is problem with this line of thinking. It is a small market team’s philosophy. We need to change the paradigm in Twins territory.
As anyone who took a high school civics class might recall (my class was early so I had to look this up), a paradigm (pronounced PARA-DIGGUM – for kicks) is essentially an observable pattern. In social sciences, it is often described as a pattern of behavior.
For years, following the success of the 87′ and 91′ squads, Twins fans became accustomed to the small market paradigm for running a team. Low payroll, draft smart (usually below slot), and make savvy moves at the trade deadline (i.e., A.J., Shannon Stewart, etc.). And, because the address was 900 S. 5th St (aka the Homerdome), this made sense. In fact, considering our Midwestern sensibilities, this approach seemed to fit.
Well, no more. When the people of Minnesota ponied up the cash for Target Field, that mindset should have changed. Unfortunately, we are still stuck in our small market way of thinking and behaving. You see, one of the key differences between small market and big market clubs is that, at the trade deadline, big market clubs are always looking to add. Have you ever flipped on the four letter network and heard a story about the Red Sox or Yankees selling at the trade deadline? Of course not. They are always buyers.
Now, I get it, the Twins will never be the Yankees or Red Sox. Fair enough. Even I am not crazy enough to suggest that they should be. However (raise your hand if knew that was coming — well done), there is a more apt comparable of what they should strive to be in our own division.
In 2009, the Chicago White Sox were in 3rd place in the AL Central. Even though they were sort of in the race, most baseball people felt like they did not have the pieces to contend with the Tigers and Twins. That did not stop GM Kenny Williams from going out and getting ace pitcher Jake Peavy from the Padres. Yes, he gave up a decent prospects, in particular Clayton Richard, but, Peavy has pitched, and pitched well, for the White Sox for the past three years. This year he has been the anchor for the Sox and has helped keep them atop of the division. Richard has only just now started to show flashes of being a legitimate big leaguer. As a bigger market club, you have to be willing to pay the premium for that bona fide ace. The Padres asked for Richard. Williams paid it.
Right now, there are two big pitching names on the market: Zach Greinke and Cliff Lee. Either one would look fantastic in a Twins uniform. Both would require GM Terry Ryan to deplete the prospect bin (think some combination of Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks, or maybe even recent indie film star Miguel Sano). That said, with Greinke (provided he would resign) or Lee, a resigned Frankie K, and a healthy Scott Baker, the Twins would have the beginning of a fairly decent starting staff. Combine that with a decent offense and promising young bullpen, a trade to get Greinke or Lee is the prudent move for an up and coming big market team. In the race or not, it makes the Twins better now and in the immediate future.
The question is, will we as fans put enough pressure on the organization to change our current paradigm and force Ryan to make the bold move? I for one, sure hope that we do.