Sunday, October 12, 2008

Time to hand out the grades for the Twins organization

Jim, Bob, and Bill Pohlad, owners of the Twins – Grade of B+

The Pohlads let Torii Hunter leave, but did sign Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan to long–term contract extensions. Hunter had an average year with his new team while Morneau had an MVP worthy season, and Nathan remains a dominate closer.

The Pohlad brothers also were willing to eat the remainder of the contracts for Craig Monroe, Livan Hernandez, and Mike Lamb when it became obvious their time was up. It’s not the Pohlads fault that GM Bill Smith choose to bring these guys instead of going with the youngsters right away.

The Pohlads did offer big money to Johan Sanatana, but there was no way they could have given Santana the $140 million he got from the Mets.

Bill Smith, general manager of the Twins – Grade of D

Smith gets an F bringing in free agent Livan Hernandez, Adam Everett, and Mike Lamb, and for trading for and Craig Monroe. I had written that I thought Everett’s gold glove caliber defense would help the Twins. However, you cannot help a team when you can’t play. Everett’s season long battle with injuries was unfortunate. Also unfortunate was Lamb’s inability to handle the full time job at 3rd. I, and a lot of other people, expected Lamb to hit 15-20 HR’s. He hit 1. Monroe had a couple of big home runs, but mostly looked old and slow. Hernandez meanwhile did get some early wins, but quickly turned into the most hittable pitcher in baseball.

Smith trade of Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to Tampa for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris looks bad too. Garza is now living out his promise as a top flight starting pitcher while Bartlett’s play at short was so good, the Tampa area media voted Bartlett the division winning Tampa Bay Rays team MVP. Harris started the season as the Twins second baseman and looked lost. A move to short and then to 3rd help him a lot in the field, and he was solid with the bat. Unfortunately he looks like nothing more than a platoon player. Delmon Young was supposed to be a superstar in waiting. Will we are still waiting. In Young’s defense he was asked to switch positions from his natural right field to left field in a stadium – the Metrodome – where it is hard to play the outfield. Young did hit for a solid average, but he must hit for more power. He is very young, so he may yet have a bright future, but right now this trade is looking real bad.

Smith gets an incomplete for the trade of Johan Santana to the Mets for Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra. Santana had another fine year, and did nothing to make the Mets regret the move. Gomez quickly became a Twins fan favorite with his display of dynamic talent. As a defensive player Gomez as more range and a stronger arm in center field than his gold glove winning predecessor Torii Hunter. Gomez has speed to burn and stole most bases by a Twin in over a decade. Gomez also looks to have some power potential. Unfortunately Gomez also swings too freely, and a can get a little too worked up. Still, he is a major talent.

Humber and Mulvey look to be noting more than fifth starters or long relievers. Humber is out of options so the Twins have to either keep him on the major league team or trade or release him. Guerra has a live pitching arm, but is very raw. Time will be needed with him.

A lot was asked of Bill Smith in his first year and he did not deliver. I do give him credit for admitting his mistakes and getting rid of them. With a less hectic off-season approaching perhaps Smith can focus in and get something productive done.

Ron Gardenhire, manager – Grade A

I like to second guess some of Gardenhire’s moves during a game, but I cannot question the job he did this season with this team. Working with three everyday players (Gomez, Spahn, and Casilla) who were basically rookies; handling a staring pitching staff with pitchers who had little major league experience, and having to deal with a bullpen on the verge of meltdown; Gardenhire somehow willed this team into being within a run of winning the central division.