Archived Story

Winnners and Losers

Published 7:24pm Saturday, September 10, 2011

We have mentioned here many times about the bad shape the Twins once great farm system has seemed to deteriorate. There is no quick and easy solution to the problem either.

The system has sent up a lot of players to the big team this summer and unfortunately they haven’t faired to well as the Twins are now behind the lowly Kansas City Royals and are in last place in the division. The players may have some talent somewhere inside them but they have struggled in a number of different ways.

The Twins prided themselves in playing the game “The Right Way” which is to say they were a fundamentally sound baseball team. This summer they have proven to have all the “Wrong” stuff. They haven’t covered the right bases at the right time; they have made poor throws, missed cutoffs and forgotten how many outs there are. They have also miss played a lot of easy plays. Are they not coached right in the minors? Are they not as talented as we have been led to believe? Are they not focused?

The Twins think they have taken the first step of many steps to correct things in their system. They have fired the manager and hitting coach of their AAA team Rochester. They said it wasn’t because of lack of effort or teaching, it was simply because they haven’t been winning.

Not winning, now who is to blame for that? A lot is on the shoulders of the players who have to put in the time to get better. The coaches have to instill the basics all of the time and make sure the players work. The scouts have to do a better job of finding players and the front office needs to do better in controlling all of this.

The one item I am going to touch on is the winning. In the last few years the Twins minor league teams just haven’t been winning. I don’t mean they haven’t won any championships, I mean they haven’t been winning period. Of course there is a lot of reason for losing the above paragraph are some reasons. But losing can become a disease and that is what I worry about and now the front office is concerned too.

Over the years I have played on a lot of baseball and softball teams and I have been on winners and I have been on losers. Believe me there is a big difference in the aura of a winning team and a losing team. The players on a winning team know in their minds before the game that the odds are pretty great that they are going to win. It is hard to explain to someone who hasn’t gone through this, but it is not arrogance but a calm confidence. They also know it isn’t always going to come easy so they know they can’t let their guard down and have to remain focused. They feel if they can do that they will have things go their way and they will succeed.

A losing team is exactly the opposite of all of that. The sad part is not all losing teams are untalented players but good players who actually know how to play the game. There is the old saying that “winning breeds winning and losing breeds losing.” That is what happens to a losing team who breeds losing, it becomes a disease. This team can play awesome for a few innings and then someone makes an error or bad play and the losing team falls apart. They think “here we go again” and then the wheels come off and the game is over and they have lost again. A winning team will have someone make a bad play and there thoughts are toward making a great play to pick up their teammate and the team.

I have been on these losing teams like I said, and there isn’t anything one guy can do to help. He can try and keep yelling positive things or chew them out or whatever to jolt everyone back into the game, but it just isn’t that easy. It is a disease.

The Twins minor leagues have this disease and the only cure is to start winning and that is not an easy task. It is going to take the scouts to find the right players, front office to sign them, coaches to teach them, and players to go out and do it. Sounds simple but it isn’t, it will take time. The Twins got caught with their pants down with all the success the big league team has had and I feel the minors leagues have been either neglected or run poorly.

I have said it before, the Twins have a mess on their hands and it is not going to heal very quickly.

  • Tracy Mitchell

    Nice article Tom. I know what you are saying about a culture of winning – it is contagious. And when you described the different mind sets, I couldn’t help but think of recent post-season games v. the Yankees – one team expecting good things, one team expecting bad things. It’s a complex challenge for the manager, but a lot of it can rest with what kind of leadership there is among the players. I’m really unsure, though, as to the long term effect of losing minor league games, when players may not be with a team for that long. I don’t know what the slop-over is to the player development component.

    From a management viewpoint, I think there are three elements to running the minors – 1. pumping as much talent as possible into the system, 2. developing players for the major league team, and 3. winning. My impression is that the Billy Smith crew has done a good job acquiring talent. I think the Twins have some real quality prospects. This past few years most have been in the lower levels of the system. That may be cyclical. But from the call ups, we can see that there will be a number of good young players knocking on the door next year, with some potential stars not too far behind.

    As far as the winning, the crappy records speak for themselves. If I were a Rochester or New Brittan season ticket holder, I’d be pissed. Because of unexpected injuries at the ML level, a lot of the Red Wings projected roster was in Minnesota. Nevertheless, I think Smith knows that he failed to load Rochester and New Brittan with the career minor league guys that help those teams win. Where is Bernardo Britto when you need him? I think he tried to remedy that this past year and failed. I expect better results next season.

    It’s the player development part that has me disappointed. I’m real tired of seeing guys arrive in Mpls. that can’t lay down a bunt, that can’t seem to avoid getting picked off, that don’t know what a cut-off man is, that can’t get the extra base, that forget how many outs there are, that don’t know how to field a ball and throw it to first. I recall TK having to give Koske an intensive in-season tutorial seminar on playing third base when he first came up. Why does it seem like every new player needs something like that? Why are these guys so lacking in the ability to execute the fundamentals, and seemingly, the lack of understanding about it all? What do they do down there all summer? It was reported that maybe Morneau inadvertently had something to do with the shakeup – he reportedly complained after returning from his most recent Rochester rehab assignment that nobody was working down there. Hmmmm. I have no problem with the firing of Neeto. Maybe they should fire Keeno and Spiffey too.

Editor's Picks

Eye on Otter Tail in clean water fight: Officials working with farmers to meet buffer regulations

The struggle over clean water and runoff pollution in Otter Tail County often starts with a picture. Technicians with the West Otter Tail Soil and ... Read more

Pharmacists looking to take larger role

Thrifty White: Patient prescription follow-ups could free up doctors Despite everything they are able to do, pharmacies are not recognized as health care providers under ... Read more

Plenty to do Memorial Day weekend

Services, lakes issues seminar, graduation highlight calendar We may not have had the April showers to bring May flowers, but now that temperatures are starting ... Read more

Historic resort marks 100 years

DENT — The Leonard Family, owners of East Silent Lake Resort, will celebrate the resort’s centennial this summer. They’ll be taking time to celebrate the ... Read more