Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Twins Reunion That Makes Sense

Of recent, the Minnesota Twins have made a history of reuniting with players on the field that don't make a ton of sense. Whether it was Jason Bartlett, Matt Guerrier, or Jason Kubel, veterans on the tail end of their careers aren't a great move for a bad team. In hiring Torii Hunter, LaTroy Hawkins, and Michael Cuddyer as Special Assistants, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine seem to have picked a meaningful reunion.

While the trio will no doubt be asked to provide value, they are not in significant positions of power. Instead, as Special Assistants, they'll be called upon to provide their insight from both a player perspective as well as having significant ties to the organization and its inner workings as a whole. Sure, they could have been brought in as Spring Training figureheads, but there's no downside to this move either.

Then there's the bit of information I gleaned in reading over Mike Berardino's piece for the Pioneer Press. He noted that other Twins Special Assistants include Bert Blyleven, Rod Carew, Jack Morris, Kent Hrbek, and Tony Oliva. Of that group, there's a few thoughts that come to mind. I'd imagine both Carew and Oliva are more present in spirit than practice at this point given their age. The duo of Blyleven and Morris though are what jumped out at me in reading their names in Mike's piece.

When thinking about former players involved with current Twins happenings, there's few that come across as more aloof than Bert Blyleven. On the air, Bert rambles nonsensically about his Hall of Fame career while providing little to no game value. The Twins broadcast routinely grades out among the worst in all of baseball, and an astute listener can only put up with Blyleven for so long. While he's likely forgotten more about the game than I'll ever know, he's hardly someone I'd entrust with teaching today's game to up and coming stars.

Getting to Morris turns a different page entirely. While I think he brings significantly more to the air than most former players analyzing Twins action, he too represents a dated way of thinking. He's a big proponent of the pitcher win stat, and his chauvinistic comments from his playing days have really never left him. At the end of the day though, it's pretty clear that this new trio was necessary.

In looking at LaTroy, Michael, and Torii, the group combines a wide array of personalities. There's outspoken individuals as well as more reserved players. All have had the designation of clubhouse leader, and each has gone on to win elsewhere in recent memory and with adjusted perspective. While Torii is admittedly not a fan of saber metrics, and LaTroy doesn't mind mixing it up on Twitter, there's little reason to believe that a fresh and younger perspective to the game won't help the current club.

Admittedly I have no idea what the job of a Special Assistant entails, I'd be willing to guess the new grouping won't be simply telling stories of yesteryear to the young pups. This is far from a scholarship program that has played out on the field in the past, and it's a breath of fresh air to a group of Special Assistants that very clearly needed it.

While Minnesota needs to organizationally shift from a way of thinking that has allowed them to tread water for years, Falvey and Levine accomplish little by alienating those that could be in their corner. Hunter, Hawkins, and Cuddyer can now champion for the new regime while understanding the old, and there's some real benefit to that. We may rarely see what the actual results are from the dollars spent, but I'd bet that the net is a positive one.

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