For the Minnesota Twins, Signing Carl Pavano Should Be Just the Beginning

Eric JohnsonContributor IDecember 7, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 11: Carl Pavano #48 of the Minnesota Twins delivers the ball against the New York Yankees in Game Three of the ALDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on October 11, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Ace List

Roger Clemens. Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling. Jarrod Washburn. Josh Beckett. Schilling again. Mark Buehrle. Chris Carpenter. Beckett again. Cole Hamels. C.C. Sabathia.

The ace list.

The ace list of number one starters from each World Series champion of the "oughts."

Aside from Washburn, who pitched very well for the Angels, but is a guy few would consider an “ace,” the list is impressive.

Yes. The ace list.

Who will be added to that list next year? It is sure to be a top notch starter; the type of pitcher who can lead a staff, and stop a losing streak.

Tim Lincecum, perhaps?

Sabathia again?

Maybe King Felix?

The answer, of course, is unknown. What can be said with relative certainty, however, is that Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, and Kevin Slowey are not the type of pitcher you associate with the ace list.

Sure, they are somewhere between solid and good candidates when filling out the two-thru-five spots in the rotation, but there is nary an ace among them.

And therein lies the problem with re-signing Carl Pavano.

While Pavano could certainly ace the large nose, squinty eyed all stars; he certainly cannot ace a major league starting rotation. I think all Twins fans can agree on this, and would assume the Twins front office would as well.

I’m not claiming the Twins are signing Carl Pavano to be their ace. However, I think at this point we all fully expect them to enter the whatever-we-decide-to-call-next-decades with a rotation (in no particular order) of Baker, Slowey, Blackburn, Pavano, and the revolvo-de-garbage.

This is a fact with which I take umbrage. In fact, all our umbs should be fully raged. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Most statistical analyses I have seen show Pavano’s peripheral numbers were much better than his 5.10 ERA would suggest, a fact made obvious from watching his 12 starts for the Twins. He was a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy. Better than a 5.10 ERA, but certainly not a top-tier pitcher.

Pavano’s overall stats were skewed greatly by his atrocious April—featuring a one inning, 9 ER shit show, and an ERA of 9.50 for the month. It’s hard to deflate your numbers after getting blown up like that. (Just ask John Smoltz who, aside from one epically bad game in early April, was a dominant closer in 2002. Smoltz got rocked for eight runs in 2/3 innings on April 6th, and it took until mid-July just to get his ERA below 4.00.)

I fully accept Pavano for what he is, as long as the Twins don’t ask him to be what he is not.

Assuming the Twins will not make another starting pitching move, signing Pavano was a poor decision. If the choices come down to Pavano or a Harden/Sheets/Bedard-type instead of Pavano and Harden/Sheets/Bedard-type—as seems the case—Pavano was the wrong choice.

Signing Pavano is just another deal that epitomizes the Twins franchise-wide creed of “good enough to contend,” and, by likely no fault of Pavano, the move will prove to be a bust.

Before re-signing Pavano the Twins rotation needed an ace. After re-signing Pavano, the rotation needs more of the same.

Would Sheets, Harden, or Bedard be the missing ace? Maybe.

There are no guarantees they would stay healthy, but they certainly have ace ability. Sometimes, that potential ability is worth taking a chance on a player’s health.

The difference between just making the playoffs, and contending for a World Series title, is taking a flier on high risk/high reward players. Sometimes, you have to unhook the training wheels, close your eyes, and let your bike fly. Sometimes you crash. And sometimes, you make it all the way to the finish, flying past all obstacles.

Taking that leap of faith is the difference between being good, or merely being good enough.

The Twins still have time to prove whether the Pavano signing is more than just good enough. If signing Pavano is the first step to solidifying a rotation that also needs an ace, the move was good. If re-signing Pavano leads to nothing but Pavano, the move was merely good enough.

The final grade of the Pavano deal stands at incomplete. What Bill Smith does between now and the regular season, will decide the deal’s final marks.

If Pavano leads to acquiring Bedard, Sheets, Harden, or someone else with ace ability, the grade will certainly increase. If not, it will look more like my college calculus grade.

Hopefully, the Twins will understand this fact, and move on someone with the ability to become the 2011 inductee of the ace list. Because, while I cannot guarantee another pitcher would find his way onto the ace list, I can certainly guarantee you Pavano, Baker, Blackburn, or Slowey will not.