Anybody with at least a fleeting interest in the Minnesota Twins is eying the news reports for updates about a possible trade for All Star pitcher and Cy Young Award Winner Cliff Lee of the Seattle Mariners. "Prickly," "curmudgeonly," "biggest-horses-pa-toot-who-ever-stabbed-a-cactus" are just a few of the phrases used to describe Clifton Phifer Lee (yes, you read that correctly). He's 6 Wins against 3 losses on the year, has one shutout, and has already thrown 4 complete games, causing Twins fans to be chock full of anticipation and opinions about what this fellow could do on the mound at Target Field. He rather wears on the teams he's been on, perhaps accounting for why Philadelphia elected not to sign him this past winter, instead opting to recruit another thoroughbread hurler, Roy Halliday.
Were it not for the fact that the current Twins starting rotation may have as many as 3 shaky hurlers (now appearing on your town's post office wall are convicts Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, and possibly Scott Baker), this wouldn't even be in the discussion.
These poor devils may be in line for standing boos the next time they take the hump at Target Field in Minneapolis. Even our notoriously patient, inattentive fans will pick up on how lousy these guys are flingin at some point.
Catcher Wilson Ramos, outfielder Ben Revere, and Aaron Hicks (all making the Baseball America 2010 Top 100 Prospects list) are the Twins minor leaguers frequently mentioned as possible trade bait. Slowey and/or Mr.
That last bit makes me laugh - um, doesn't Seattle have scouts taking notes on how rotten Blackburn (stellar 12.05 June ERA) and Slowey (current 4.79 ERA) have been? Or clubhouse boys who could at least read the boxscores and notify the Mariner front office? What makes anybody think adding them to the trade block makes the hairs on the Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik's arms stand up in excitement? He'd get nausea and abdominal cramps, more likely.
The conservative opinion is that bargaining chips like Ramos and Revere are too valuable! to the Twins long term future to sacrifice them for what may turn out to be one season of Lee's services, after which he may very likely elect to sign with another team as a free agent. That's even if the Twins receive 2 compensatory picks in the 2011 draft of college and high school players from the Mariners.
My thought: the muscly Ramos showed he can hit big league fastballs...it's when the breaking stuff came his way during his short stay earlier this season that he went from terrific to tortuous after his first two games. He went 7 hits in 9 at bats before falling on his...backside ("Mom, I'll be home soon in Rochester [AAA league], they're throwing me the curve..."). We have no way of knowing if he'll ever pan out. He surely hasn't set the minors on fire since his return, currently sporting an oblique muscle injury. What, we're going to take Mauer, who could well end up the greatest catcher in history, and tell him he's being replaced next year by some raw rookie who should still be playing AA ball?
Obviously, the Minnesota Twins won't turn into the New York Yankees of the 1990's, throwing money willy nilly at free agent players and the latest ice cream flavor of the month (see "Seinfeld" episode, George Costanza purchasing tasty treats for "The Boss"). They're generally going to take the safe route, put a toe in the water, see how the other players feel, if they'll need fluffy pillows to buffer them against an outburst or sullen glare from that mean, ol' veteran pitcher. Thing is, they've pledged to be more than just competitive this year. They need to demonstrate to their stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau (not to mention Hennepin County taxpayers footing the bill for Target Field) that they're aiming for a World Series berth. This is precisely the move they should make!
Furthermore, my reservation with outfielder Ben Revere is this: succinctly, I don't care if he singles and bingles the opposition to death in the minors, we've already got an outfielder with very little power (Denard Span), and we don't need two. Add to that, Revere has such a weak throwing arm, and couldn't hit the barn side of a broad if his life depended on it (I might be exaggerating Hall of Fame Twins Coach Paul Molitor's comments to that effect). Would you want to be the coach or manager who has to tell new and improved Delmon Young he's not good enough for our starting nine because we've got cool, new Ben Revere to play left field? Or tell Jason Kubel (Mr. Double Play) to go and work on his hitting since Aaron Hicks...on second thought, that might not be such a bad...er, you know what I mean...
AGAIN, trade for him. NOW!
Historically, the Twins have gambled on getting big name pitchers on their roster, at least once: Dean Chance, in 1967. All Mr. Chance did was throw two no-hitters (OK, one official 9-inning one), and nearly lead the Twins into the Series that year against the Cardinals. Um, that's a LONG time ago, boys and girls...it's 43 years ago, and I think maybe, just maybe, that we can take the plunge again! Especially with a new park, a new era, a revitalized roster, and a fired-up fan base ready to make the Twins THE ruling sports team in the Twin Cities!
May Your Taters Fly Far
(unless your name happens to
be Lee, Slowey or Blackburn)