The Vanimal Experiment May Be Over

Posted: May 22, 2013 by Crackin' Wax in Talkin' Twins
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What may be obvious to this Twins fan is something that Minnesota’s front office may deny with a half-hearted smile. In an era where Joe Mauer is supposed to be more up-front and vocal, the ladies and gentlemen that run the show behind the curtain are staying hush-hush. As they say, though, actions speak louder than words.

In an exercise of common sense, let us take a look back a few years. Let us look back upon the past decade in the history of the Minnesota Twins. In a small market and on a budget mandated by owner Carl Pohlad to be shoestring, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan seemed to work miracles. He never did get his team to the World Series, but the Twins seemed to be perennial postseason participants since their run at the American League pennant in 2002. Ryan and his minor league cohorts were often hailed as geniuses for their ability to scout and farm quality prospects who would then become successes at the Major League level. At the end of the 2007 season, Ryan handed the reigns over to Assistant GM Bill Smith. Ryan, who had become just as well known for his uncanny trades (think A.J. Pierzynski for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, Boof Bonser and cash considerations) as he was for letting talent go before they became too expensive, was suddenly replaced by a guy who put together some of the worst trade packages in recent Twins history (the first and perhaps most notable being Johan Santana for Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, Phil Humber and Kevin Mulvey) and had nearly the reverse philosophy of Terry Ryan’s in regards to how to build a team on a budget. Instead of spending as little as possible, he loosened the Pohlads’ purse strings and bloated the budget to over $100M for the first time in Twins history. Instead of applying this money to good pitching, he spread it around to what, at the time, ended up being one of the better offenses Minnesota had seen in some time. Consisting of Mauer and Morneau (who, at the time, were still worth their money), a healthier Jason Kubel who was just as much of a power threat as Josh Willingham was last year, a fit and productive version of Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Orlando Hudson, J.J. Hardy and Jim Thome. That, to me, is still one of the more impressive line-ups I’ve ever seen. However, as they say, good pitching will ALWAYS beat good hitting. There was only so much the high octane 2010 offense could do. With the starting rotation consisting of Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing, there was just no way the Twins could make it deep into the playoffs. When the bloated budget experiment failed to produce a trophy in 2010 and the starting pitching began to become more of an infection to the team than a weakness in 2011 (causing the Twins to lose nearly 100 games after winning 90+ games the previous season), Terry Ryan was brought back in to clean up the mess his predecessor made all over Twins Territory. In doing so, Ryan went right back to his old game plan of getting rid of the guys that would cost his boss too much money and restocking the minor league affiliates with quality prospects. He also stockpiled his farm squads with plenty of pitching through the draft. Why? Because the Twins currently have none to speak of. During the offseason, Ryan also cleaned house and replaced nearly every 2012 Opening Day starting pitcher. The names he brought in? Vance Worley. Kevin Correia. Mike Pelfrey.

Now, this is where the exercise in common sense comes in. Why else would Terry Ryan first fortify his minor league squads with plenty of pitching and then replace his big league squad with the likes of Worley, Correia and Pelfrey? Ryan certainly isn’t about to spend money on a decent established arm. He hasn’t done it before and he likely never will. Considering his history and what has happened in the offseason, the only conclusion that my common sense can come up with is that these three faces are merely here to bridge the gap to the future.

Oh, but we’ve been told that the Twins will be competitive in 2013. They won’t stand to lose nearly 100 games for a third year in a row. They want to entertain fans again. They want to give fans hope. They even spoon fed us the lovely 2013 Twins catchphrase “silver linings.” To me, the Twins are admitting that they’re going to be bad this year by using such fluffy wordplay.

Don’t get me wrong. I get that approach. First and foremost, the Minnesota Twins are a business entity. Their main priority is to make that almighty dollar. They’re likely to sell more tickets by serving up positive fluff, no matter how false it may be, than by being painfully honest, now matter how truthful it might be. Bringing in these new faces might have sold a few tickets to uneducated fans but may have also lost some educated season ticket holders. What better way to offset that potential loss than by gently caressing the fans with hyperbole spin as if to tell us sweetly “everything is going to be okay.” Trying to lull us into some sort of false sense of hope might have worked before Opening Day, but there’s no hiding the truth today.

CREDIT: 14,000 Phillies

One of those faces have been sent packing to Rochester, New York. After handing the Twins their 8th consecutive loss, Vance Worley and his 1-5 record and his 7.21 ERA were shown the door. The Opening Day starter, #1 in the rotation, was the first to get the axe. Does this mean that the Twins mean what they say when they tell us they’re going to be competitive this year? Will they no longer tolerate such poor pitching? If that’s the case, why bring in Worley in the first place? Because, without spending money, he was only here to bridge the gap to the future. What’s unfortunate, however, is how poorly he performed. I feel bad for the guy. I really wanted him to do well here.

Who am I kidding, though? Pitchers don’t do well here. When they do, they get shipped off in bad trades.

The truth that bore its ugly face today is that things are not going to be okay in 2013. The Twins are not going to be competitive this year. This is a lost season. What convinces me of this fact even further is how early in the season the Twins gave up on the poor pitching Worley–who was sent down shortly after Pedro Hernandez, another Twins starter, was also optioned.

The question now is why was the move made? Was it made because Terry Ryan is legitimately trying to put out a competitive team or was it made to keep up the appearance that Terry Ryan is trying to put out a competitive team? Neither answer is likely correct. Instead, the real answer likely lies in why Worley was brought to the team in the first place–to serve as a bridge to the future.

Kyle Gibson

Kyle Gibson, a prospect that we Twins fans have been waiting on for what seems like nearly a decade, is primed to make his Major League debut this year at the age of 25. The problem? Due to his status, he may not be called up until mid-June. Why? Calling him up before then puts him in Super-Two status and gives him an additional year of arbitration eligibility. If I know Terry Ryan like I think I do, he’s going to want to hold out as long as he can to save his boss as much money as he can. With two starting pitchers already removed from the rotation and with the Twins claiming they want to be competitive this year, the Twins seem to be stuck. Do they bring up their best pitching prospect, who has pitched two complete game shutouts in his last four minor league starts, or do they call up yet another stop-gap in the hopes that the team can just hold on for another few weeks?

In my opinion, there’s no question about it. They will wait on Gibson. They don’t need one pitcher who might win most of his games, they need all of their pitchers to give their team a chance to win every single game. So, unless the current starting rotation suddenly turns things around, bringing Gibson in early would be a mistake. If Gibson won every game he pitched in the next 4 weeks and if the Twins keep playing the way they have in the last 8 games, the best they could hope for is about 6 wins. If my math is correct, and it is, those 6 wins will not make up for the last 8 losses. The Twins are already so deep in the hole at this point that it doesn’t make sense to bring Gibson in sooner than they have to. Why waste the money? Why waste the arm?

Bringing in Vance “Vanimal” Worley was, to me, nothing more than Terry Ryan’s fingers-crossed temporary solution until he could start calling upon the future of the Twins–pitchers like Kyle Gibson, Alex Meyer and Trevor May. Remember, he said the Twins would be competitive, he didn’t say they’d be winners. He wanted us to believe they’d be shooting for .500 and not merely to win just a few more games than last year. However, Vanimal played an unfortunate role in the Twins’ current downward spiral.

No matter how much of a fan I am of the Twins, no matter how much I wanted Vanimal to succeed, no matter how much I wanted to believe Terry Ryan when he said the Twins would be competitive, today justified my initial feeling at the beginning of this season. The Twins are not about 2013, they’re about 2014 and beyond–no matter what they tell you.

  1. No mention of the fact that Gibson is coming off Tommy John and will be shut down early even if they do bring him up?

    btw, Mauer is still worth the money

    • topher says:

      Good point on Gibson. Also, Mauer may be worth the money he’s getting if he were on a coast team, but not so much on the Pohlad Penny-pinching Payroll.

  2. Jesse Donahue says:

    I agree with Rhubarb_Runner. Joe is worth his money on no matter the team you put him on. His numbers are not the only reason either. To play the catcher position and do what he does behind the dish pads that even more. You have prospects every year that come through the ranks that can hit and play D but not every year you get a gold glove catcher who can hit like he does. Thats why the Posey, Molina, and Mauer type guys are so special and valued.

    Also, Worley may not be the top level pitcher people hoped he’d be but I still see someone who can in time be a back-end guy. Is he struggling now ,yes, but he has shown spurts of being a guy who can go out and give quality innings like a 4-5 guy should. If we didn’t make that trade you can knock May off your prospects that are up and coming.

    Twins got a future 1-2 guy in May and a solid 4-5 (When back to normal self) in Worley. Revere has absolutely nothing that Hicks doesn’t posses. Hicks will give 25SB’s with 15-20HR’s and gap power with an average around .300 with good defense. Revere will give 60Sb’s with .300 average and great D. There is a clear difference of a solid player and an all-star caliber player. Hicks is the type of guy who can develop into an all-star guy.

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