Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Why Do So Many Twins Fans Miss The Boat?

Let me preface with the reality that fandom comes in different shapes and sizes. I realize there are those that are more casual observers, and there are diehards. There are those who watch the game, and then there are those that know the game. Simply defining someone watching Minnesota Twins baseball as a fan doesn't do the categorization justice. When it comes to the 2017 home nine though, there seems to be a growing and unfortunate confusion.

Arguably the most frustrating notion is that this team is destined to be bad because, well, they lost 103 games last season. That's absolutely a fact regarding the loss total, outside of that, the statement couldn't be less confusing. Given the Twins emerged from nowhere in 2015 and won 83 games finishing 2nd in the AL Central, how can that be immediately dismissed?

In 2016, Paul Molitor had virtually the same starting infield as he did the year prior (save for Eduardo Escobar replacing Danny Santana at shortstop). He had a new outfield that consisted of Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Eddie Rosario as opposed to the 2015 contingent of Oswaldo Arcia, Jordan Schafer, and Torii Hunter. Picking up the extra at bats as the designated hitter was Byungho Park instead of the replaced Kennys Vargas from 2015. As a whole, the Opening Day lineup remained a virtual clone.

On the mound, Tyler Duffey replaced Mike Pelfrey in the big league rotation. The bullpen was thrown together with relatively similar pieces, and Molitor had a couple of new coaches at his disposal. What held true though was that nothing was truly groundbreaking.

Here's the thing though, in 2015 the Twins overachieved significantly. Virtually all metrics suggested regression was coming, and the fact of the matter was there were too many placeholders to simply fill all of the holes. If 2015 gave you as a fan hope for 2016, you were likely as misguided as suggesting 2016 is a precursor for the season to come.

So Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton, and Miguel Sano are prospects you've heard about forever and haven't produced to the level you perceived? Is it incredibly surprising that a 22 year-old and two 23 year-old's are taking a bit longer to adjust at the big league level? Of course it isn't. Sano already has 40 career homers under his belt, Berrios has made a handful of starts, and Buxton is already playing Gold Glove caliber defense. At 23 years old, Kirby Puckett was at Single-A and Johan Santana was a reliever with a career 5.90 ERA.

Exposure has given us a heightened level of insight into young prospects. There's lists, articles, Twitter, and countless other sources of information for the game's next stars. You may hear about a player earlier, but that doesn't change the adjustment period, or the reality that knowledge beyond those sources is key to understanding how quickly a kid may take to a man's game.

Rounding out the trio of complaints is the one that encompasses both the overlooking of past results, and well as current roster construction. Why didn't Derek Falvey and Thad Levine come in and do more this offseason? The long and short of it is that they didn't have to. Both astute baseball minds, they realize this club is going to need to be carried by the likes of the Sano's and Buxton's. Signing a big bat, or a major arm, prior to the young guys being ready to shoulder more of the load, is a wasted year.

Going into the offseason, I suggested multiple times that standing pat would be a good place for the Twins. I was interested in Wilson Ramos pre-injury. Jason Castro emerged, and then made immediate sense. He helps to address pitching and defense, is a low cost signing, and can hit at least to the level Kurt Suzuki was capable of. Outside of that, a throw in reliever until some of the young arms made sense. Minnesota has really strong relief prospects, and blocking them with significant retread veterans never would have been a good idea.

Right now, the Twins executed everything as they needed to, and really, it's on you to see that. There's no one suggesting this club is making the playoffs, and even a .500 record would be a nice bonus. They aren't close to a 59 win team though, and the reasoning is relatively simple. The youth will continue to develop, and banking on those names you've heard forever to be stars is still a good bet. Finally, when it comes time to supplement with outside talent (and Minnesota is close to that point), then Falvey and Levine will be aware of the fact they are building, and not rebuilding.

Don't miss the boat, and don't throw out baseless frustration. Whether comment sections, casual discussion, Twitter, or some other place is your stomping ground, have a little foundation to stand upon when considering what is being brought to the table. Baseball is a sport that allows you to consume it in multiple different ways. Understanding that opinions are also a reflection of that is a must.

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