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Thursday, February 21, 2008

So Long Santana...So Long Twins?

OK, I know I've been putting up a lot of sports posts up lately. Which is sad because I generally feel that's sports, while entertaining, are viewed to be a bit more important in society than they really are. We have to be careful about that or else we end up living a society where something like this happens:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2004147443_rboverview27m0.html

But sports are fun to talk about and there's been a lot of sporting news out there. And I know you're anxious to get my take on it all. Well, today I'm going to talk about a certain pitcher by the name of Johan Santana.
In case you didn’t know, Johan Santana was traded to the New York Mets for this:That’s right, magic beans. Four to be exact. You see, the thing about magic beans is that you don’t know what will come of them. Maybe they’ll grow into a giant beanstalk and lead you to the goose that lays golden eggs or maybe they’ll not grow at all and you’re just left with a lot of wasted energy. The fact is, no matter how you evaluate the bean, you just never know.
Sometimes selling a cow for magic beans will work out for you. But you have to make sure the cow you sell is worth the risk. If it’s a good cow that may be near its end but still has a few years of quality milk left to produce, perhaps it’s best to sell it for some magic beans and hope for the best. When you have a prize cow that is the best milk producer of all cows today and also craps out golden eggs, then perhaps it’s wise to just keep the cow instead of selling it for 4 magic beans which, even if they do sprout into beanstalks, still wouldn’t be as valuable as the cow you gave up. That’s just stupid.

OK, I think I’ve taken this metaphor as far as it can go. Needless to say, Santana is the prized cow and the four prospects we traded for him for are the magic beans. A lot of people say it had to be this way. A lot of people say that we HAD to take this trade. To both of those statements I call shenanigans. Let’s evaluate the arguments.

1. Johan Santana’s too expensive for the Twins to keep to begin with:
Last time checked the Twins had the richest owner in baseball…who will be given $392 million to help build a stadium which will help make more money for him.
Beyond that, the Twins just failed to sign Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva. This helps their money situation out immensely. Look at it this way, the Twins payroll last year was $71 million, this year it will be $49 million. If they had signed the same contract with Santana that Santana signed with the Mets, the Twins payroll this year would be approximately $70 million. Yes, they could have kept Santana and still have lowered the payroll from last year.
What it really came down to was the number of years Santana wanted in his contract. God forbid the Twins overpay for player in 5 years while they are raking in the money from the new stadium, right?

2. Santana didn’t want to play in Minnesota anymore:
If that’s the case, then that’s the case. But I would’ve preferred the Twins to offer the money to Santana and see how badly he really wanted out. If Santana rejected a Mets like deal, then I could’ve swallowed this move a lot easier.

3. Every team knew the Twins had to trade Santana, so the teams low balled the Twins:
If you’re trading the best pitcher in baseball and other teams are low balling you, you know what you do? Sign him.

4. Santana forced the Twins hand by threatening to invoke his no trade clause:
Supposedly Santana’s agent said they needed a resolution in two days or Santana would refuse to be traded the rest of the season and wait for free agency. If that’s the case, and you can’t get a good offer, you call Santana’s bluff.
Are you saying that if the Twins waited two weeks and the news of Curt Schilling’s injury and Andy Pettite’s possible suspension hit Boston and New York and a bidding war for Santana sparked between the two teams that Santana would refuse to be traded to teams like the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox? I think not.
The fact is, the Twins had the worst timing here. If they traded Santana earlier they could have had better packages included guys like Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera or Jacoby Ellsbury and some Boston prospects. Both packages included major league players that are a level above ‘magic bean’ status.
But the Twins thought they could do better and waited things out and both offers were pulled of the table. If the Twins waited a few weeks after the actual trade, then the bidding war I suggested above may have happened. The way I look at it, the Twins traded Santana at the worst possible time and ended up getting only prospects from a terrible farm system of the New York Mets. It just screamed of poor management.

5. Fans just don’t like prospects because they never heard of them but this still could be a good deal:
No matter how good these players turn out, this will still be a bad trade because we should’ve been able to get these players plus more for the best pitcher in baseball.
And I understand that fans don’t scout prospects so when you trade for prospects fans get upset because they never heard of any of them. But aren’t the fans the reason sports exist? Don’t fans supply the money to pay athletes? Shouldn’t keeping fans happy be part of your decision making process?

6. Every non-large-market team needs to go through a rebuilding phase:
OK, I’ll buy that. But what are the Twins rebuilding from? Four division titles, three of which came because the division was weak and only one playoff series win between all four years? I figure a team should at least be built in some way before you start rebuilding.

That last point brings me to my grand conclusion. I have very little reason to cheer for the Twins. What the Twins proved the last few years is that they are content with being mediocre and will never actually ‘go for it’. To ‘go for it’ you need to get a good team and then sign those one or two extra players to make you a great team. The Twins had been good 4 of the past 6 years, but they were never great and I never felt that they made a move to at least attempt to become great.
So now that they’re ‘rebuilding’, what motivation do I have to watch the team? Sure, I could watch them become good, but the Twins have shown that they won’t spend the extra money to change their good team to a great team. I could watch this team for young stars like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. But how can I invest in these guys when, if they become great and reach their prime, the Twins will just jettison them because they’re too expensive.
Frankly, this is a minor league team. It develops talent and then ships it out. So I’m not going give this team major league attention until it acts like a major league team. In fact, I am going to try and not spend a penny on this team this year. I feel betrayed by an owner whose taking our money to buy a stadium and has so far proved that he won’t reinvest that money into the team. I also feel like this team just won’t be very good. So, I may watch a few games but I’m not opening my wallet for the Minnesota Twins.
What the Twins must do is something simple. Many have done it before and many will do it again. Minnesota Twins, your task is to prove that you’re smarter than me. I think you made a mistake in trading Santana and made your team worse. I think you’re going to be lousy. Prove me to be wrong. Start winning. Prove that you can win with this low budget roster and I’ll start paying attention. If you can show me that you’re fielding a major league team that can contend for championships then I won’t care what your payroll is. And only when I consider you major league once again will I open my wallet to you.

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