Ominous Signs For The Twins

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If Twins’ GM Terry Ryan’s recent moves and statements are any indication, the team is well on the way to another long lull similar to the one they experienced from 1994-2000 when they were not only considered a dead franchise, but they were almost contracted from MLB entirely.

Considering the context of his remarks at the SABR 42 convention, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more vitriol coming from the stat person crowd at Ryan’s open decision to stay the course with his beliefs of scouting and intuition rather than numbers.

I’m no stat guy and I don’t think any organization in any industry should be run on numbers alone. I have no use for people who’ve watched baseball for two years, can read a stat sheet and pompously and condescendingly declare that they know more than people who’ve been involved with the game for decades, but those that haven’t fully incorporated the use of statistics into the equation are missing out on factors that can be used to make more informed choices.

Under no circumstances do I believe in absolutes when building an organization.

The statement of alteration in their draft strategy would concern me.

Ryan said that Target Field has changed his team’s Draft philosophies. The Twins used to look at left-handed pitchers and hitters when they played at the Metrodome, but he said that the team’s new outdoor facility favors right-handed hitters and outfielders who can cover a lot of ground.

Drafting to the ballpark or the organizational belief system has its place within reason. I wouldn’t draft a player who had a history of drug or alcohol problems; trouble with the law; character issues unless I was convinced the incidents were isolated or had been handled and hadn’t occurred in recent history. I wouldn’t exclude a player if he didn’t prototypically “fit” into my big league ballpark. If there was a debate between two players of similar ability and one was a better fit for the big league park, then it’s a sensible to take him. Specifically looking for players that fit into a big league park is a doomed strategy.

In football or basketball, where a player is stepping out of the amateurs and into the highest level of professional competition, it’s an understandable method to draft based on need. Not so in baseball. For most players it will take several years for them to be ready for the big leagues; foreseeing the “need” argument for 3-5 years down the line is impossible.

The absolutist mentality came into prominence after Moneyball because the narrative suggested that Billy Beane had stumbled upon the perfect method of drafting. But there is no perfect method of drafting. It doesn’t exist.

There does have to be adaptation.

The question about Ryan becomes is he equipped to function in today’s game? Is he willing to do what’s necessary to turn the Twins around? They just signed Ryan Doumit to a contract extension—a questionable move. They should look to trade Justin Morneau. Will they?

They’re currently a disaster and have little talent to speak of in their system. He’s got a lot of work to do and is functioning under an “interim” tag.

It doesn’t sound as if the Twins have learned from their mistakes in building this monstrosity. They’re changing their way of doing things, but still following strategies that were en vogue 20 years ago. They’ve taken a different form.

There were some nice moments during the SABR convention and Ryan was gracious to appear and share his views, but I can’t help but picture many of the participants rolling their eyes and referring to Ryan as an old-school dinosaur who’s refusing to change with the times and knowing that the Twins are in trouble if he sticks to the template he outlined.

Ryan’s been a high-quality executive, a good baseball man and a decent person.

But maybe it’s time for someone else to oversee this reconstruction; someone with fresh eyes; someone open to doing things differently.

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