Results tagged ‘ Nick Punto ’

When Delmon Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy

Twins_Rays_Baseball_sff_185986_game.jpgOne of the startling (but in a good way) characteristics of the 2009 Minnesota Twins has been their ability to overcome injury adversity and play on despite extended DL trips for three starters (Orlando Hudson, Nick Punto, and Justin Morneau) and a beat-up Joe Mauer.  Guys like Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Alexi Casilla, Drew Butera, and Danny Valencia have found their niches over the past few months.

However, if the first two games dropped in Tropicana tell us anything (besides the fact that the Rays are fast and shouldn’t be walked, respectively), it is that Delmon Young is the key to everything right now (at least with Morneau still on the sidelines).  So far against Rays pitching, Delmon is 1-9.  Without him spraying the ball everywhere, the Twins just don’t have enough lineup depth to keep mounting rallies when needed.

Thus, against good teams that we can’t just clobber, we all too often send a bullpen full of late-inning collapsers (Guerrier, Crain, Mijares) into the game at the most pressure-filled situations.  Unless the splits/matchups go exactly our way, bad things are almost bound to happen.

I’m not saying that the pen is altogether rotten, but put it this way…right now I have as much confidence in Jesse Crain as in anyone else that comes out of those swinging doors, and anybody who has read my blog in the past knows how difficult it is for me to even CONSIDER that statement.

Notes:

-Another good start for Duensing (just one mistake that happened to be hammered by Sean Rodriguez), but still too many walks, which only serve to raise the pitch count and tack on runs that shouldn’t ever materialize.

-Woke up this morning, heard Brett Favre had texted his retirement to the Vikings, and thought “Well, the Twins had better be the bread-winners this sports season”.  Of course, that would mean I actually BELIEVE #4…

Preview (59-48, 2nd, 1.5 GB CWS): Scott Baker (9-9, 5.00) vs. David Price (14-5, 2.90).

I’m So Sick Of You, Brendan Harris

Well, the Twins were able to right the ship this weekend in Oakland (taking two of three from the A’s) after a rough week in Seattle.  Despite some shakiness of late and a rash of injuries/sickness, we’re still managing to win enough ballgames to not feel much heat from the Tigers.

I would like to touch on a subject that really got under my skin yesterday:

In the eighth inning of yesterday’s game, the Twins finally were rallying to try and make things interesting.  Delmon Young whalloped a two-run dinger to get the Twins within one, then Jim Thome doubled to put the tying run in scoring position.  Up to the plate came Brendan Harris, who proceeded to quickly strike out, taking a called third strike right down broadway and proceeding to berate the ump for the easiest call he made all night:

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Right now, I don’t think I could be more sick of Harris. A little history:

After the 2007 season, the Twins traded for Harris (along with Young) in the swap that netted the Rays Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett.

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It was thought that Harris would be our everyday second baseman in 2008, but that experiment failed miserably, as Harris could not field the position.  Thus, in 2008-2010, he has bounced around between third base and shortstop, never being able to land a starting gig for any prolonged period of time.  Were he even just a decently consistent hitter, he could easily see more playing time over the likes of Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert, but (although his bat sometimes has a little pop in it) he is prone to streaks where he is about as automatic an out as is human possible.

This season, Harris’ average has hovered around .150, but it is his attitude that really bothers me.  When Justin Morneau or Michael Cuddyer strike out looking (and know it), they might show some frustration, but only at themselves.  Harris, on the other hand, is: A. So lost at the plate that he apparently doesn’t know what a strike is or isn’t anymore; and B. Ready, willing, and able to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of anyone else, preferably the umpires.

I usually don’t like singling players out like this, but in this case I’ve just had it with Harris’ antics.

Contemplating The Yanks

This weekend, the Twins will head to Yankee Stadium in New York for three games with their own particular version of kryptonite: the Yankees.

There is a particular amount of buzz about this series in the Twins Cities area right now (whether suffocating or stimulating is up for interpretation), primarily due to the Twins’ hot start and the potential to erase a few past demons.  Basically, we haven’t been able to do squat against the Yankees since, ironically enough, we started winning on a consitent basis back in 2002.  However, here is the reason why I finally see the Twins turning things around…starting tomorrow night:

 

baseball_back_1024.jpgTo me, the difference between the Twins and the Yankees has always been a deep bench.  Whether Joe Torre or Joe Girardi, in late-inning situations there’s also a big bat coming off the bench that can wreak havoc.  The best example of this was in the ’04 ALDS, when Ruben Sierra came off their bench as opposed to Michael Ryan off ours.  Ouch.

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The picture above more accurately represents our bench (in past years) in a time of need.  Gardy scans the length of the dugout and finds such guys as Brian Buscher, Ryan, Nick Punto, or Matt Tolbert to try and create runs off of Joba Chamberlain or Mariano Rivera.  Not likely.

However, this year we have both the lineup depth AND the pitching to keep pace with the mighty Yankees.  They may still outpace us in top-tier (Sabathia, Burnett, A-Rod, Jeter, etc.) talent, but we now have the bats to hang with them even into the late innings.

Plus, remember this…

In 2003, we took the first game at Yankee stadium before collapsing.  In ’04, we took the first and almost had the second if not for a Nathan blown save.  Last year, we played them toughed in nearly every regular season game (a lot of walk-off wins for them), and had a chance to win all three of those playoffs games if we could have gotten some clutch hits.

Could this be the start of a new era for the Twins (competing with the big boys)?  This weekend provides the first test.

Back In Business

twins-harris.jpgWell, after a few games against Baltimore (two losses and one win) in which the lineup didn’t exactly produce a bevy of runs, the bats came through today, albeit in the most unlikely of places.  Though Joe Mauer had a key hit towards the end of the game, it was the 8-2 slots in the order that did most (all!) of the damage…

Brendan Harris: 3-4, 2 R

Alexi Casilla: 2-4, 2 R, 1 RBI

Denard Span: 3-4, 2 R, 3 RBI

Nick Punto: 2-3, 2 RBI

This is nice to see from this club, as the 2006 season proved what magic can happen when both the big boppers and scrappy “piranhas” alternate in picking each other up.

Of course, it helped today that Nick Blackburn stymied the O’s bats for seven innings (what should happen when one faces that dead-end squad).  After missing his previous scheduled start due to a family emergency, it was nice to see Blackie turn in a great effort after struggling so in the month of April.

In other news, the reason for the week-long break from this blog was due to the fact that our family just completely the vast majority of a move from Fergus Falls, Minnesota (the town I had grown up in since Kindergarten) to Forest Lake, MN, a town about 30 miles or so north of the Metro area.  The negative: Uprooting an entire family (I’m currently living with my parents and multiple siblings).  The positive: Closer to Target Field!!

Preview (21-11, 1st, 3.5 GA DET): Freddy Garcia (1-2, 5.28) vs. Kevin Slowey (4-2, 4.93).  Off day Monday (I bet Mauer is relaxing at his cabin already!) before the rival ChiSox make their first trip to our new home turf.  Let’s home it is just as “accommodating” to them as the old place.

A Tall Order (Beating The Twins, That Is)

Twins_Angels_Baseball_sff_164043_game.jpg Well, here we are just three games into the 2010 baseball season, and the Twins already look like a much more polished team from the under-achieving gang of ’09.  I can only imagine the thoughts that must run through the minds of the opposition:

Opposing pitchers have to navigate through one of the strongest 1-6 in the American League, plus now Delmon Young and JJ Hardy (another homer tonight, along with Justin Morneau) are swinging the bat well, creating quite a Murderers Row, of sorts.

Opposing batters know that, no matter who they face in a series against the Twins (especially if Pavano keeps throwing like he did tonight), there will be no “gimme” games…all five starters give us a chance to win.  Add in a deep pen that doesn’t really on just one or two guys to get late-inning outs, and that creates the all-important sense of pressure on every opposing at-bat.

The final blow we administer has been, so far, in an area (closer) presumed to be a gaping hole after the devastating Joe Nathan injury.  Well, Rauch has saved two in a row without much trouble (although he did give up a run tonight).

I know I have to keep in mind that, for as down as I was after the season opener, I shouldn’t get too high after two straight wins.  But this team just has oh so much potential that it is difficult not to get pumped up when things start rolling.

Notes:

-Pavano had to pitch out of many jams tonight, but I liked his ability to make the Angels whiff.  He’s never struck me as a guy with anything near overpowering stuff, but tonight he really located well and had great ball movement.  I’m not as down on him as some, but my knock on him was always that he could compete against the bad teams but get hammered by the good ones.  Not this time!

-JJ Hardy showed some great range in the ninth, coralling a ball deep in the hole and firing it to first for the out.

-Had a laugh at something the announcers said tonight after Punto tripled.  He’s been pretty good in the last two even-numbered years (’06, ’08), but horrendous in the odd ones (’07, ’09).  Kind of like watching Star Trek movies for all you fellow sci-fi geeks out there!

Preview (2-1, 1st, 0.5 GA All): Kevin Slowey (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Joel Pineiro (0-0, 0.00 ERA).

All According To Plan

The last time reliever Jon Rauch was on the mound to start a ninth-inning save situation, he was closing out games for the worst team in the National League…

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Now, he’ll (hopefully) be doing much of the same, only this time for a competitive squad in the junior circuit:

Jon_Rauch_2009.jpg Today, Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire announced that Rauch will be closing games for the Twins in 2010 (at least to start the year).  This didn’t surprise me one bit, considering the big man’s experience in the final frame.  If he suceeds, then great.  If he fails, then perhaps Neshek will be ready.

No word yet on an entrance theme.  Perhaps something from “Papa Roach”?!

In other late Spring Training news:

Brendan Harris hit .357 during the Florida exhibitions, Nick Punto finished in the low .200s.  Guess who will be starting on Opening Day?  If you know Gardy, the answer will be obvious.

Minnesota Twins Spring Training Preview 2010

sect-101-450.jpgNow that the Twins are cranking things up down in Fort Myers, here is a little preview of what to expect in terms of the build-up to Opening Day 2010:

Last Year: 87-76, 1st in American League Central Division (1 GA of Detroit Tigers), lost to New York Yankees in ALDS (3-0).

 

Manager: Once again, the Twins will have Ron Gardenhire at the helm.  Since taking the reins from Tom Kelly back in 2002, Gardy has posted a 709-588 (.547) record with the Twins.  Besides the lone 1969 Billy Martin tenure, that winning percentage constitutes the highest mark in franchise history, and trails only TK (1140-1244) in overall wins.

 

Venue: After nearly three decades of playing in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the Twins will now christen open-air Target Field as their new home.  Dimensions: LF-339, LCF-377, CF-404, RCF-367, RF-328.

 

Projected Starting Lineup & Positions:

 

  1. Denard Span (R), CF (2009 stats: .311 BA, 97 R, 180 H, 23 SB, .807 OPS): Though primarily just a singles hitter who runs the bases well, Span is very adept at working counts, getting on base, and coming up big in the clutch.  The best lead-off hitter wearing “TC” since Chuck Knoblauch jumped ship.  Plays Torii Hunter-like defense in the outfield.
  2. Orlando Hudson (S), 2B (for LA Dodgers: .283 BA, 74 R, 35 2B, .774 OPS, All-Star, Gold Glove): One of the newcomers this year.  Can’t say I’ve watched him play much, but the stats don’t seem to lie.  He’s very comparable to the departed Orlando Cabrera, who did wonders for the top of the order down the stretch in ’09.
  3. Joe Mauer (L), C (.365 BA, 94 R, 96 RBI, 28 HR, 1.031 OPS, All-Star, Gold Glove, MVP, Silver Slugger): Perhaps the most talented player in baseball this side of Albert Pujols.  The kind of guy who could hit .320 and call it a “down year”.
  4. Justin Morneau (L), 1B (.274 BA, 100 RBI, 30 HR, .878 OPS, All-Star): Take a look at those stats, and then consider he missed the final month of ’09 due to injury.  His ability to hit for average and maintain a selective eye separates him from the hackers.
  5. Michael Cuddyer (R), RF (.276 BA, 93 R, 94 RBI, 32 HR, .862 OPS): The biggest hurdle for Cuddy is making it through an entire season.  When hurt, he struggles with things like consistency and strike outs.  When healthy, he puts up numbers like last season.  Possesses a rifle arm.
  6. Jason Kubel (L), DH (.300 BA, 28 HR, 103 RBI, .907 OPS): Could be the cleanup hitter in many other teams’ lineups.  Is just coming into his own (a bit late) after struggling through a serious knee injury as a rookie.  Can also more than hold his own in the outfield, where he may find himself on more than a few occasions if Jim Thome heats up.
  7. Delmon Young (R), LF (.284 BA, 60 RBI, 12 HR, .733 OPS): Will be the first to sit if Kubel and Thome play their way into the lineup, but also has tremendous upside.  Is clumsy in the field (but just good enough to make up for it) and prone to hitting nothing but singles for long stretches, but when locked in can be a deadly force.
  8. J.J. Hardy (R), SS (for Milwaukee Brewers: .229 BA, 53 R, 47 RBI, 11 HR, .659 OPS): The Twins are hoping for the ’07-’08 Hardy to re-emerge…the one who hit 25+ homers and posted a respectable average.  The verdict is still out on his D, which is decent but not Punto-like.
  9. Nick Punto (S) (.228 BA, 56 R, 82 H, 16 SB, .621 OPS) or Brendan Harris (R), 3B (.261 BA, 44 R, 108 H, .672 OPS): A classic “offense vs. defense” choice here.  Gardy loves Punto for the defense he brings to the infield, but Little Nicky is often an albatross at the bottom of the order.  Harris is an average fielder, but can rattle one off the wall every so often.

 

Bench:

 

  1. Jim Thome (DH/1B, L) (for White Sox & Dodgers: .249 BA, 23 HR, 77 RBI, .847 OPS): Hopefully the big bat the Twins have desperately needed off the pine.  Could easily play his way into everyday lineup if balls start clearing the walls.
  2. Jose Morales (C, S) (.311 BA, 119 AB, .742 OPS): Showed enough poise as a youngster for the Twins to let veteran Mike Redmond leave.
  3. Alexi Casilla (2B, S) (.202, 228 AB, .538 OPS): At times provides a spark to the top of the order and plays flashy D, but is still far too prone to mental errors/goofs that Gardy can’t stand.
  4. Matt Tolbert (IF, S) (.232, 198 AB, .611 OPS): Plays the kind of scrappy ball and defense that the manager loves and his adept at handling the bat (if not racking up hits).

-Others battling for roster spots include Drew Butera (C), Wilson Ramos (C), Jacque Jones (OF), Luke Hughes (IF), Trevor Plouffe (IF), and Danny Valencia (IF).

 

Starting Rotation:

 

  1. Scott Baker (RHP, 15-9, 4.36 ERA, 200 IP): Baker has shown spurts of ace-like outings, but needs to consistently pitch further into games to really match up against the league’s best.
  2. Nick Blackburn (RHP, 11-11, 4.03 ERA, 205.2 IP): Has a knack for coming up big in the clutch starts, but also needs to work on consistency.  A typical sinkerball pitcher in that if the ball isn’t diving, it’s jumping (off bats, that is).
  3. Kevin Slowey (RHP, 10-3, 4.86 ERA, 90.2 IP): At times looks like the second coming of Brad Radke, but needs to stay healthy for an entire season to prove it.  Has absolutely pin-point accuracy with an assortment of pitches to keep the hitters guessing.
  4. Carl Pavano (RHP, 5-4, 4.64 ERA, 73.2 IP): The only veteran in the starting rotation, but his overall effectiveness is questionable.  Showed he could compete against the AL Central after being acquired during the latter months of the season, but needs to prove his worth against the “big boys” of the league.
  5. Francisco Liriano (LHP, 5-13, 5.80 ERA, 136.2 IP), Glen Perkins (LHP, 6-7, 5.89 ERA, 96.1 IP), Brian Duensing (LHP, 5-2, 3.64 ERA, 84 IP), Anthony Swarzak (RHP, 3-7, 6.25 ERA, 59 IP), or Jeff Manship (RHP, 1-1, 5.68 ERA, 31.2 IP): Liriano is obviously the wild card of this group, as he could become unquestioned ace of the staff or play himself right out of the majors.  Perkins is not on the organization’s good side after squabbles over service time and just plain poor performance, while Duensing is the conservative pick after impressing in the heat of the pennant race last year.  Swarzak and/or Manship would have to pitch their tails off to even warrant consideration.

 

Bullpen:

 

  1. Joe Nathan (RHP, 2.10 ERA, 68.2 IP, 47 SV): Still a top-tier closer in all of baseball, but somehow needs to shake late- (and post-) season demons.  Too many batters (7) tagged him with the long ball last year, so that is a good place to start.
  2. Matt Guerrier (RHP, 2.36 ERA, 76.1 IP): The primary setup man to Nathan.  Is very solid, but fatigue always an issue due to over-use.
  3. Jose Mijares (LHP, 2.34 ERA, 61.2 IP): The lefty-lefty matchup guy who his almost unhittable when in decent shape and possessing a clear head.  Has tendency to put balls in the dirt and sometimes inexplicably loses his control for short periods of time.
  4. Pat Neshek (RHP, DNP-Injured): After missing almost two whole seasons due to Tommy John surgery, the side-winding Minnesota native is back to confuse opponents once again.  Could be a god-send to take some of the strain off Matty G.
  5. Jon Rauch (RHP, 1.72 ERA, 15.2 IP): One of the big (literally!) reasons the Twins made the playoffs last season.  Is very flexible in terms of duration (1-3 innings).
  6. Jesse Crain (RHP, 4.70 ERA, 51.2 IP): An enigma: some fans love his electric stuff, while others cringe at his predictability, wobbly control, and inability to pitch out of jams after creating them.
  7. Clay Condrey (RHP, for Philadelphia: 3.00 ERA, 42 IP): A newcomer who is coming off two solid seasons in the National League.  Adds valuable depth to a unit that would often carry a green rookie or past-his-prime vet in this spot.

 

Prediction: If the starting pitching holds up for the entire season and the bats produce even a trifling of what they should, this could be a very scary team.  Must prove first and foremost that, as well as beating up on the Kansas City’s and Cleveland’s of the world, they now have the firepower to take on the likes of New York and Anaheim (teams that destroyed them in ’09).  A division championship is a very achievable goal, with the sights set on further venturing into the playoff tournament.

 

From One Orlando To Another

At the end of last season, the Twins picked up Orlando Cabrera…

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…to anchor the SS position and provide some pop at the top of the order.

Unfortunately, Cabrera is somewhat of a bid-hunter in the baseball business, and thus was all but assured a ticket elsewhere.  So, just a few days ago, the Twins picked up another Orlando (this one carrying the moniker of Hudson)…

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…to, once again, anchor an infield position (this time 2B) and hit in between Denard “Singles Machine” Span and Joe “Drive ‘Em In” Mauer.

I really like this move, as it continues to reduce the number of weak outs the Twins have in their lineup.  A possible Opening-Day squad now looks like this:

1. Denard Span

2. Orlando Hudson

3. Joe Mauer

4. Justin Morneau

5. Michael Cuddyer

6. Jason Kubel

7. Delmon Young

8. J.J. Hardy

9. Nick Punto/Brendan Harris

Compared to past years, that lineup has the real potential to put some feet on home plate.

I have to give it to the Twins organization this season for opening up the wallet a bit.  The combination of “new stadium funds” and “trying to woo Mauer into staying” seems to be working quite well together!  Instead of just treading water and competing in our weak division, if our pitching gets back on track we could have a real contending squad. 

Gardy

ron-gardenhire-picture.jpgA while back, the balloting for the American League Manager of the Year Award was announced, and (once again) Twins’ skipper Ron Gardenhire was the bridesmaid, this time to Mike Scoscia of the Angels. I was not too steamed at this, to be honest, and here is why: I’ll start with the positive:

I think that Gardy is a very good fit for this Minnesota Twins ballclub. He preaches fundamentals (a must for a young team, which the Twins will always be under the current economic structure of baseball), keeps a cool head (another “lead by example trait for the youngsters), and is just a good guy, plain and simple.  He isn’t a complete nutcase like Ozzie Guillen, and he isn’t too full of himself like, say, a Lou Pineilla.  Since Gardy succeeded a burnt-out Tom Kelly as manager, five division titles (and one near-miss) speak for themselves.

That being said, I didn’t necessarily cry myself to sleep at Gardy not getting Manager of the Year for two particular reasons:

First, is his loyalty to certain players (well, one player in particular):

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Back when T.K. was at the helm, he always said that as long as he was a major league manager, Dick Such would be his pitching coach. The same can now be said for Gardenhire and Nick Punto.  While other players (like Alexi Casilla, for instance) can make one mistake and instantly be demoted to Gardy’s “doghouse”, a place that is easy to languish in for extended periods of time, Punto pretty much gets a free pass.  Though this kind of loyalty is nice in a personable sort of way, I think it gets Gardy in trouble a little bit in terms of on-field potential.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the skipper himself was that same type of utility player back in his playing days with the Mets:

 

ron_gardenhire_autograph.jpg2. The other issue is his playoff-managing style.  Instead of “going for the throat”, Gardy tends to manage a playoff game like any other regular season game.  This was evidenced in the ALDS against the Yankees when Francisco Liriano was the first arm out of the pen in a close Game One against the mighty Yanks.  Was he just playing the matchups, or hedging his bet that Frankie could somehow get out of the jam and save the good relievers for later?  I have my suspicions it was the latter.  Of course, later never happened (and often does not in a playoff series).  This was not the first instance of that problem, either.

To re-iterate, though, I think that Ron Gardenhire is the man that the Twins need at the helm right now.  He’s great at teaching the fundamentals of the game to young players, as well as trying to keep them on an even keel and just play the game in front of them.  There’s just a few things that could be improved upon…like not already penciling in Punto as a starting infielder and batting ninth.

The Sad State Of Baseball Economics

mmw_baseball_101608_article.jpgAfter watching my beloved Minnesota Twins got stomped by the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs this past season, and then seeing Cleveland-bred C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee pitch the Yanks and Phillies into the World Series, I believe that now is the time for me to comment on the sad economic state of baseball these days.  This has always been a very hot-button topic for me (as I root for the small-market Twins), so I would like to take a few moments to explain why the current system is broken and what can be done to fix it:

Basically, the problem started way back in the 1900s, when both the American and National Leagues were first established.

mathewson-ruth-wagner-cobb-johnson.jpg Instead of free agency, there was something called the reserve clause, which was essentially a legal precedent that baseball used to keep players on one team until their owner decided differently.  The players were treated not too much different from a cattle-range steer, to be bought and sold as commodities.  It wasn’t, by any means, the greatest system in the world (as the only option a player had to fight against an unfair salary, which were very common in those days when most owners made Carl Pohlad look like the Monopoly Guy, was to quit playing altogether), but it did help the competitive balance of the game, allowing all teams (if managed/owned sensibly) to have a shot at competing for a championship.

That all changed in the 1970s when Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals challenged the reserve clause all the way to the Supreme Court.

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Though Flood didn’t actually win his case, he shed so much light on the matter that a free agency sytem was quickly established by MLB. During the 1980s, the system actually worked like it was supposed to…players had better rights, AND the game was still competitive.  But, starting in the mid-1990s, salaries began exploding (along with the economy) and suddenly the system was skewered.  Teams in huge economic markets like New York, Los Angeles, and Boston were able to throw huge wads of cash in the pockets of all the top free agents, all but assuring there services.  Sometimes, in the case of Ted Turner’s Atlanta Braves, all it took was an incredibly rich owner to give a team a distinct advantage.

Those big markets had (and continue to have) such an advantage for a few different reasons: First and foremost is the fact that, just by sheer geography, a team like the Yankees can much more easily fill their ballpark every night than, say, the Twins can out here in Minny.  Also, teams on both coasts have established their own TV networks (YES Network for the Yankees and NESN for the Red Sox), which bring in enormous profits compared to what the Twins get from Fox Sports North.

After about ten years of this broken system, when the same teams started making the playoffs year in and year out, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig established the “luxury tax” system into the game.  Essentially, this is known as the Robin Hood system, as it robs from the rich to give to the poor.

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This has helped a little bit (e.g. the Twins signed Justin Morneau to a long-term deal and have at least a shot at doing the same with Joe Mauer), but it din’t get to the root of the problem, as teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and Mets can continue to reach into their deep pockets to get the best players.  Essentially, they are saying “luxury tax be damned” and just paying the fine for going over the payroll limit.  This is evidenced very toughly for Twins fans by these two photos:

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johan-santana.jpgThe Twins gave very decent offers to both Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, but couldn’t come close to matching the amount of years the Halos offered Hunter or the sheer dollar amount the Mets dangled in front of Santana.  Another obvious example was the beginning of this season, when the Yankees went out and got C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, while the biggest moves the Twins made was signing Nick Punto, bringing in R.A. Dickey (what a joke) and getting a Joe Crede whose back was so bad that he essentially a non-factor.  Those “moves” were all we could afford.  Imagine how different the 2009 ALDS might have been if Hunter had been patrolling the outfield instead of Delmon Young, or if Santana had made the Game One start instead of Brian Duensing.

Now, to be fair, there are some criticisms of instituting a salary cap into MLB, but I would like to give my rebuttal to two of them:

1. Why should the Yankees be penalized for running an efficent system?  It seems as if Yankee fans could just criticize Carl Pohlad for being a tightwad all those years and not spending money to improve his team, but that really isn’t a fair criticism.  First of all, George Steinbrenner isn’t really spending much (if any) of his OWN MONEY on the Yankees, instead relying on seemingly endless revenue streams based on his sheer geography.  Without those streams, other owners (like the Pohlad family) would be dipping into their own personal reserves, which would be like you paying for your office supplies/furnishings or me paying for Wal-Mart shelf labels. 

Secondly, then, is that if teams know they can’t spend with the Yankees, then why even try?  The Twins know that, under the current economic system, they are already beaten in trying to sign free agents, so instead we save our money to try and lock up as many of our good players as possible (which, in this age of inflated salaries, is fewer and fewer each season).

2. The second criticism of the the salary cap is that it really isn’t needed, due to the fact that the 1998-2000 championship run of the Yankees was accomplished primarily with home-grown players like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posade, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera.

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That may be true, but funny how those great players STILL WEAR YANKEE PINSTRIPES! Instead of losing those great players to a higher bidder, the Yanks can just keep them.  Plus, whether the free agents work out (Jimmy Key, Paul O’Neill, Johnny Damon, Sabathia, etc.) or flop (Kevin Brown, Chuck Knoblauch, Carl Pavano), the Yanks can just “pay through” and be done with it.  If the Twins make a mistake in signing the wrong player to an expensive contract, it would hamper the organization for a decade.

Thus, until MLB institutes a salary cap like the NFL and NBA (to a certain extent) have in place, the economics of the game will remain skewered towards the large markets, and that severely troubles me.  I consider baseball to be my favorite sport, the one that captivated me as a child and still does to this day, but right now the NFL is gaining ground and fast due to the fact that in the NFL setup, all teams have a chance to be competitive.  It is only through bad ownership (Al Davis, Matt Millen, etc.) that teams completely fail.

I know that this situation isn’t likely to change anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean that it is right or correct.  Until Bud Selig can take charge of the National Pastime like he should and not just cater to the owners, the Yankees will continue to unfairly dominate the Twins for years and years to come.

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