Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Twins and A's: Not Proof

After another complaint to a friend of mine about the competitive imbalance in baseball, the guy brought up the Twins and A's as proofs that money isn't everything; after all, those teams proved you could be spendthrift and win!

Time to debunk that one:

The Twins have lucked out in that they're in one of baseball's cheapest divisions. While there's an elite big-market money club or two in each other division in baseball (AL East- Yankees, AL West - Angels, NL East - Schmets, NL Central -Cardinals/Cubs, NL West -Dodgers), the only team in the AL Central that comes close is the Chicago Mets a.k.a. White Sox. (Although Detroit, with Ilitch's Red Wings locked out, has stepped it up a few notches). And when Cleveland was spending tons of money, Minny didn't stand a chance. So Minny was lucky in that the Sox, Royals, and Tigers were severely mismanaged the past few years and Cleveland was rebuilding. And thanks to the chemically imbalanced schedule, the Twins were able to play these awful teams many times a year and put up a solid record. Basically, they came out on top of the heap.

And in the playoffs, the Twins never stood a chance. They've had a consistent lineup from top to bottom (not too many holes), but nobody sticks out at you and scares you. Torii Hunter is a solid player, and so is Jacque Jones, but I can think of at least 50 other guys I'd rather have up in a big spot. You can't tell me the Twins had what it takes to win it all last October, or the year before that. Having what it takes to win a weak division and having what it takes to win a championship are two different things. And the Twins could've used some serious dough to build a champion.

And like so many other small-market teams, they lack depth. After Johan Santana and Brad Radke, they have scrubs like Kyle Lohse and Joe Mays holding up the back end of the rotation. And in last year's ALDS, once the Junkees got to their middle relief, it was over. The Twins would've loved to have had LaTroy Hawkins last October. Too bad they couldn't afford him. Juan Rincon is okay, but can he handle October?

Okay, so they were able to re-sign Radke. But now, they've lost Cristian Guzman and Corey Koskie. I've heard they have decent prospects who are ready to play those positions, but prospects are always a risk. Koskie and Guzman may have been unspectacular, but were reliable everyday players.

However, I must admit, you have to give GM Terry Ryan credit. He's made some solid moves, like the trade of AJ Pierzynski for Joe Nathan. And even after losing Pierzynski, Hawkins, Guardado and Milton last year, his team didn't skip a beat.

And as a Red Sox fan, I'm forever grateful for the Twins for releasing David Ortiz. But that also had to do with money; he was due for arbitration after '03, and the Twins couldn't afford him.

Finally, this coming year, the Twins' reign on the AL Central is being threatened. The Tigers are spending again and are more of a threat, especially if their pitching holds up. If Cleveland's bullpen is effective this year and everything works out right, they can be this year's '03 Marlins surprise. And if El Duque and Contreras have something to contribute, the Sox are a threat.

And who knows? Maybe losing a lot of regulars and the reality of baseball's financial imbalance will finally catch up to the Twins.

Okay, this is too long. Next time, the A's.

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