Special thanks to Andrew Kneeland and Josh Taylor for doing the roundtable this week.
1) Recently, the Star Tribune reported that the Twins were trying to acquire Jarrod Washburn from the Seattle Mariners. The deal fell through when the Mariners tried to get too much for Washburn, who has been unimpressive this year. Does this event tell us a lot about Twins GM Bill Smith, or is its significance being exaggerated in the Twins' blogosphere?
Andrew Kneeland: I really haven't made that much of a deal out of it at all. I think it is being over-dramatized and is really just another attempt by the Twins to mess with others' heads. It must have worked.
Josh Taylor: While I was incredibly disturbed by the talk of the Twins acquiring Washburn, the most important thing about this is that the Twins ended up not making a deal with the Mariners and their delusional front office. Washburn costs too much for a mediocre pitcher, and the Twins would have been saddled with him through next season.
While I can understand (while disagreeing with) the justification for adding Washburn and shifting a starter to the bullpen for the rest of THIS season, there are other, better ways to fix the bullpen problem going into 2009. Washburn would have been the wrong fix for this team and would have just taken up the space of a better starter in 2009.
That said, the Twins' front office was trying to find a solution to what has turned into a very serious problem, so I guess I can't fault them for that. Assuming the reports are true, however, this was a very significant issue and extensive discussion about it by members of the blogosphere is both expected and appropriate.
Marty Andrade: The Twins' front office has made a number of blunders this year, along with a spattering of brilliant moves that defy their modus operandi. The Twins signed veteran hitter Craig Monroe, along with veteran pitcher Livan Hernandez, for millions of dollars, and then they dropped those two players later in the season.
Randy Ruiz, a 10-year veteran of the minor leagues, but who had never made an appearance in the majors, replaced Monroe, while the 2006 phenom Francisco Liriano replaced the terrible Livan. The Ruiz move was completely unexpected, and the willingness of the front office to go with unproven players in the middle of a playoff race should be commended.
What the Washburn deal shows me is that despite some of the moves Bill Smith has made, he still doesn’t even attempt to use objective criteria (read: advanced sabremetrics) to rate players.
He also allowed Chad Bradford to be claimed by another team after suggesting Bradford wouldn’t be an upgrade over current personnel in the Twins' bullpen. These are big mistakes in my book. I’ll give Bill Smith the benefit of the doubt for the moment; we need a few years to see what kind of GM he’ll be.
2) Speaking of the Twins' blogosphere, has the online world been unfair towards the Twins' top brass, and is it getting too negative?
AK: I think they have. As the cliché goes, "give someone a blog and they know everything." Second-guessing is what some people live by. Most bloggers wouldn't have anything to blog about if not for mistakes made by the team.
As far as the top brass goes, I am personally pretty upset with them for not making any move at the deadline, but I give them credit for being better baseball minds than I. After all, how else would they get the job they have (besides marriage)?
JT: Unfair? Too negative? We're talking about the blogosphere, right? Isn't that pretty much most blogger's stock-in-trade? I honestly don't read many blogs because I don't usually have time to do more than write for my own.
I have no idea how negative people have been getting. I personally give Bill Smith a passing grade but not a spectacular one. The decisions made in free agency were dreadful, and I'm concerned about rumblings (such as the Washburn discussion above) that surface from time to time.
However, Smith pulled off the best deal possible with Santana (and more importantly, he had the guts to make what was a necessary move) while letting Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva go and signing Joe Nathan long-term.
His moves have the Twins tied for first as I write this. Too much negativity is unwarranted. Smith has made some mistakes, in my opinion, but overall, he appears to be a very competent GM. If people are continuously blasting him (as they often do with Gardy), it's unwarranted.
MA: One of the regular criticisms of the blogosphere is the ubiquitous negativity. However, anyone that has ever read a local sports columnist for any period of time will know—negativity is everywhere in sports media.
3) As the Twins continue to battle the White Sox for top place in the AL Central, what are the Twins' greatest strengths and weaknesses? And the White Sox?
AK: The Twins' weakness is obviously relief pitching. I think September will bring more ease for the relievers, but I wouldn't expect a major drop in production/statistics. The Twins' strength is their offense. They have some of the best bats in the league in Mauer, Morneau, and now possibly even Young and Kubel.
The White Sox also have great bats. They can hit a thousand home runs a night and still have some power left in the tank. That will lead people, myself included, to believe that a team that lives and dies by the long ball will certainly fade, but the White Sox haven't. Yet.
The glaring weakness of this team is starting pitching and their bullpen. To be honest, I don't know how Chicago is still in the AL Central race with a pitching staff like theirs. Once the batting fades, the whole team will practically disappear. At least, that is the way it goes in my dreams.
JT: I continue to think that the Twins' greatest strength is the young, starting pitching. While there are occasional lapses (as with all starters), overall you can expect to get six to seven reasonably solid innings out of them.
The greatest weakness right now is unquestionably the bullpen, and not much elaboration is needed.
As for the White Sox, if I were a fan of theirs, I'd be concerned about the rotation. I realize that sounds a bit strange when Danks (3.11), Floyd (3.75), and Buehrle (3.77) all have been really good this year, and when Vazquez (4.34) has been no slouch, but I think that Danks and Floyd are overperforming, and Buehrle is something of a time bomb.
Strengths? How about MVP candidate Carlos Quentin, who seems to do everything for that squad?
MA: For the Twins, the offense has been the big surprise. July and August have seen the Twins rank in sixth and fifth, respectively, in OPS in the AL. They’re ranked eighth overall for the year.
For a team that has historically had problems with offense, scoring runs is what has made this playoff run possible. The Twins rank in the bottom third of AL teams in ERA. Both the bullpen and the starting rotation have been below average.
The White Sox don’t have any real weaknesses, and their bullpen is their greatest strength. It ranks third in ERA in the AL.
4) Name the impact September call-up. Who will help the Twins the most?
AK: Bobby Korecky, but I hope he is brought up before September.
JT: I don't think there is a true "impact" guy that is going to step in and change the complexion of the season. Any competent reliever that can get some outs in the sixth and seventh, though, would be welcome. Bobby Korecky is probably that guy.
MA: Yadda, Yadda, Bobby Korecky. He’s a reliable middle reliever, and it’s quite annoying to see him continue to perform well in the minors while our bullpen struggles.