Engaging with fans since 2009
Not even a deep fried pork chop can get between me and a bad deal

Nick Blackburn and being a good pitcher

Posted: July 1st, 2010 | Author: bsmith | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Allow me to let you in on a little secret. The secret to pitching, as it were.

The correct way to pitch is as follows:

  • Throw fastballs inside the strike zone
  • Don’t ever walk anyone
  • Rely on your defense to get outs
  • Pitch to the score: the bigger your lead, the meatier your pitches

If you do those things, you’re a great pitcher. That’s why, when I saw Jarrod Washburn dominate in Seattle and then implode in Detroit, despite identical peripheral numbers, I knew he was the sort of guy I wanted on my team. His success is totally reliant on his teammates, and that makes him a team player.

Of course, my pursuit of Washburn came up empty; but not to worry, there’s an even more perfect pitcher who needs a contract, and he happened to be right under my nose!

Nick Blackburn is exactly that sort of pitcher. He’s the mold of that perfect pitcher. He has a sinking fastball that I’m told generates oodles of ground balls conveniently straight at our defenders — that’s what sinking fastballs do, right? He doesn’t walk people or strike them out, and does a great job of keeping his teammates engaged in the game by making them chase down balls in play for every batter.

Nobody is better at pitching to the score than Blackburn. For example, in 2008 we played Game 163 against the White Sox, and Blackburn pitched great. The offense wasn’t scoring any runs, so he needed to excel to keep it close. And he did. The only blemish was a home run to Jim Thome, which I can’t fault him for … after all, if you’re serving up nothing but meaty fastballs to a great hitter like Thome, eventually he’ll get you. Not Nicky’s fault! Another example I like is the game against the Athletics in July of 2009: the offense scored 12 runs in the first 3 innings, which left Blackie plenty of wiggle room. Like any good pitcher, he went right after the opposing pitchers with thigh-high “sinkers,” and reverted to innings-eater mode. That he was knocked out after completing only 5 innings, or that he gave up 7 runs, or that we ended up losing the game 14-13 are not important. The important thing is that he pitched to the score, which is exactly what I want him doing. It’s what I want all our pitchers to do.

So that’s why I was so excited to offer Blackburn a contract. Some people accused me of making a bad deal, since I just guaranteed him money that I didn’t need to, and I didn’t get any extra years of team control out of it. I mean, sure, I could have gone year-to-year with Blackburn throughout his arbitration years, but if there’s anything I know about the arbitration process it’s that those arbiters really value guys who can eat up 200 innings per year and post consistent ERAs and have a .500 record. If I went year-to-year with him, we’d be looking at huge salaries, well over $10M per season. So I saved a ton of money.

And besides, why would I want to guarantee him any more years beyond his four year deal? He’ll be over 30 by then, and probably won’t be any good any more.


The REAL Q&A about the trade deadline!

Posted: July 30th, 2009 | Author: bsmith | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

There is an article up with a Q&A, featuring me as the A, discussing my thoughts about the team and the trade deadline. You know with those media people you just have to spout the party line and make up a bunch of crap, right? But I really love you, the fans, and so I wanted to give it to you straight and give my real answers to these questions. No bullshit, this is the real deal!

Q: How would you assess the supply and demand across the league, and the cost of acquiring players?

Well, obviously, the cost is extremely high. For example, in order to buy Freddy Sanchez, the Giants had to give up a top, top prospect. The Indians were trying to sell on Cliff Lee, a Cy Young pitcher, and they didn’t get the top prospects from the Phillies. So basically, whether you’re trying to buy or sell, the costs are really high.

Q: Has this been a busier than usual deadline for you?

No, not really. I mean, I’m always busy. Do you know how long a round of golf takes if you can’t break 100? We have really good scouts though, and they’re all watching major league games and players, and I have a group of top interns working the phones all day long, waiting on hold for me until I can actually get through to a major league GM. We’re just trying to evaluate what we can do.

Q: Sunday morning you guys were five games back; entering Wednesday’s game you were two back. Are you buyers, sellers or are you content to stand pat?

Stand pat is our default position. Um, wait. No, no, we’re buyers. We’re definitely trying to make the team better. Did you know you can buy playoff tickets now to get priority for season tickets in the new stadium next year? No refunds. We’re being really aggressive. We’ll see.

Q: What factors do you consider when you’re weighing whether you should add to your team?

Well, I weigh how good the acquired player will be against how good we expect our prospects to be (multiplied by about four or five, normally). That’s the first step, I think. We want our players to know we believe in them, so we don’t want to go out saying we need to get new guys or anything … that’d be insulting to them! But we also want them to know we’re dedicated to winning, so there’s definitely a balance there. We’re hoping we have enough depth in the minors to go out and help the major league club, but you never know. Other GMs keep calling me right after we agree to a deal and asking for more value. Sometimes I do it and all you people yell at me, and sometimes I don’t and all you people still yell at me. So I have to weigh that risk too. You know?

Q: Manager Ron Gardenhire has mentioned a lack of depth. Do you feel like you have the depth at this point to supplement this team?

I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I don’t think that’s what he meant. He was talking about depth on the major league roster and in AAA, guys who can come up and help right now. But the depth you need to supplement the team via trades is further down in the minors, like A and AA. At least that’s what I aim for when I trade away big-time players. But whenever I’m trying to buy big-time players, everyone’s always asking for major-league-ready superstars with 0 service time and 3 options left and making the minimum. I don’t know why they’d want players like that … I usually try to get prospects who will never be superstars so I never have to pay them a lot of money or worry about this buy/sell hassle. Also it’s nice to get guys with no options left, like Delmon Young, so I know I won’t have to worry about hurting their feelings by sending them down to the minors. Also, Gardy should remember who signs his checks. I’m just saying.

Q: After watching your team for four months now, what do you consider your greatest need?

Consistency. Some days we go out and score 10 runs, and other days we go out and don’t score 10. If we could just be consistent and score 10 every night, I think we’d be doing pretty well. That’s really all we need, it all comes from there. Consistency.

Q: Over the last 10 years, this team has acquired one impact player at the deadline, Shannon Stewart in 2003. Why does this organization not do more, especially with the team always contending for the division title?

Well, I don’t know. I think it’s funny because we were criticized pretty heavily for that trade at the time. Shows what all you guys know. We work really hard. We always try to make deals. We should get credit for effort; that’s why we always give so much credit to Nicky Punto, because he’s always giving us 100% effort.

Q: Your players are aware of the how few deals this team has made at the deadline, and they might take that as a lack of belief in them. As GM, how do you want your players to interpret a lack of moves?

I’d like them to interpret them as full, unadulterated belief in them. You see, by not making a deal, I’m telling them that I believe in them to win as is, and none of them have to be sent to the minors to make room for the new guy! I’m also telling them I believe in their abilities to sign a big-money contract somewhere else once they become a free agent, because there’ll be a cheap prospect ready to take their place. After all, I didn’t trade the prospects away! See?

Q: The time is nearing to re-sign Joe Mauer. Do you feel pressure to show him that the team is willing to spend money or assets to acquire players and win now?

No comment. No comment. I’m just … oh boy … I need a Dome Dog. Excuse me!


Delmon Young’s adjustments, and his future

Posted: July 25th, 2009 | Author: bsmith | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Paul DePodesta is a smart man, a baseball man, and like me he has a blog to talk to his beloved fans. Last month he was asked a question about moving prospects too quickly through the system — and then suffering as they struggle in the majors. He answered:

Remember, regardless of the preparation they receive in the minors, young players will almost always struggle early on in the Majors, often for two or three seasons, before hitting their stride. Adrian Gonzalez hit .229/.272/.401 in 2004 and 2005 combined for the Texas Rangers, and there are countless other examples. Just like any other job, there’s only so much you can do to prepare before actually doing the job.
And I think that’s a great point. Delmon Young’s numbers are much much better than that, and when he adjusts to the league he’ll be a premier hitter. So stop criticizing me for trading away Garza and Bartlett to get him!

When Young is a cross between Adrian Gonzalez and Manny Ramirez, that trade will look pretty good.

The trade that won’t look good is the one that’ll happen shortly before he becomes an offensive powerhouse. The one where I send him to another team in exchange for someone who’s less far down the path to their ceiling, which is ultimately lower than the guy’s that I’m trading away, and he’s the final piece to their puzzle and they suddenly become contenders while we wallow in mediocrity.

Mark my words, I’ll do it!


Perkins needs to stop complaining about injuries

Posted: July 25th, 2009 | Author: bsmith | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

As some of you may have noted on LaVelle’s blog, Gardy’s lectured Perkins on when he admits he’s been battling injuries. It was really me that forced Gardy to lecture him like that, because I don’t like the excuses.

I know as well as anyone that Perkins is a great pitcher — a left handed Radke! — but I don’t like this nonsense about pretending to be injured whenever you have a bad day. Tough through it, Glen, I don’t want you to miss any starts!

Although … what kind of injuries do office workers suffer? Next time I make a trade, I’m going to claim I was suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. That way nobody can blame me for the bad deal.


The Slowey update … all deals are off

Posted: July 24th, 2009 | Author: bsmith | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

So some of you may have heard that we shut Slowey down. I wanted to explain some of our thinking here.

First, when he first got injured, we made sure to let him keep pitching for several weeks. We learned that trick from the Royals, and frankly I think it’s a pretty great move. You know you still have to pay players when they’re on the DL? We need to get them back on the field as fast as possible, people!

But when he finally couldn’t pitch any more we had to put him on the DL. I was pretty upset about it. I wanted to send him to the minors before DLing him, but some jerks in the office yelled at me, and who am I to defy someone with an opinion? So he’s still getting his full paychecks. Still, we wanted to get him back as soon as possible, so we went with the “rest for a few days, and then you’ll be able to get back to pitching with that bone chip in your wrist” approach.

It was going great, and he was scheduled to pitch on Saturday for Rochester, but apparently he’s not even capable of playing catch. I’m pretty angry with him. I’ll have to tell Gardy to jerk his chain around a bit. In my experience, that really teaches these young hot shots a lesson.

And I’m stunned the rest&rehab approach didn’t work this time. It worked great for Liriano, Boof, Neshek, Crain, and everyone else!

But you might all be wondering about how this will effect how we operate at the trade deadline. We were planning to try to deal a starter since Swarzak has been so amazingly great — next Radke, I’m telling you! — but now we won’t be able to. We have to keep our hands on as many pitchers as we can, because something might go wrong. And also, I’m pleased to report that we’ve been talking to possible trade partners about upgrading the middle infield and middle relief help.

We were about to send Span, Blackburn, Tosoni and Revere to get Chad Bradford, who would have been a huge help. But when I tried to call their GM my Motorola RAZR dropped the call and we weren’t able to get Bradford. So I regret to inform you that we really won’t be able to make any deals … but fortunately for us we’re happy with where the team’s at and we’re confident that the boys will start battling harder.

It’s too bad Slowey got hurt and he’s wasting our money and we won’t be able to make a trade because of it. Oh, but if you buy a package of playoff tickets now, you can get priority for season tickets next season!

We could really use the money. I promise that if we had more money, we’d be making moves to improve the team constantly. Definitely World Series bound!


Response to the open letter!

Posted: July 24th, 2009 | Author: bsmith | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Dear My Fans,

I have decided to respond to the open letter you sent me this morning. It was a really nice letter, and I’m glad you care so much about the Twins. It’s the best team!

Thank you for the congratulations. I think we’ve done a great job of making a nice profit with our limited resources. Since I became the GM, I’ve cut our payroll down from its franchise-record $71M all the way to a more reasonable $56M! And I did it while increasing revenues from TV and ticket sales! I’m extremely proud of this, and I couldn’t have done it without you, the fans. So I’m proud of you, too!

We here at the Twins are really looking forward to getting out of the Metrodome and playing baseball outdoors, where it was meant to be played. It’ll be pretty great, won’t it? I know you all agree with me that getting a stadium built was 100% necessary. If the last 30 years have shown us anything, it’s that you simply can’t win a World Series if you play in a dome.

Allow me to try to address the things you don’t understand, one by one, if I may.

1) We don’t understand why, during a season in which your club has once again played well enough to put itself in contention they have not been rewarded with a key move or two that could put them over the top.

Oh, we’re constantly on the lookout for good deals, but don’t you remember the last time we made a move to help improve the team? You guys all hated it! So we need to balance your expected response to any deal with our complete disregard for your feelings, and that takes pretty much all day. Scouting for trades is hard work, you know?

2) We don’t understand why the Twins are seemingly content to play for division titles when other teams talk about and aim for (see: add requisite pieces to get to) the World Series.

Don’t you know where you live? This is the Midwest, not some glamorous coastal city! You should be happy that we’re better than Cleveland, and shouldn’t be jealous of the flashiness of New York.

3) We don’t understand the claim that the Twins are a ‘small market’ team when our attendance — in Metrodome, this year — is actually among the league’s best and our media market is, in fact, in the top third of MLB markets.

It makes us sound better at our jobs if people think we’re disadvantaged. We really don’t want anyone to know that we’re raking in all kinds of dough, because then they might expect us to give away millions of dollars to worthless prima donna players. I’ve heard some of them aren’t even from this country!

4) We don’t understand your willingness to watch as career years from your three best hitters are dashed upon the rocks of front office inaction.

I’m really happy about Nick Punto’s performance this year too, though I think he could raise his average to like .220 or something if he dove headfirst just a little more. I’ll let him know. But I really don’t think it’s the front office that’s making him play so well, that’s just how good he is. So I can’t take all the credit.

Finally, I feel that I need to defend myself just a little bit, against the end of your open letter. I believe I’ve demonstrated an ability to make some very aggressive trades. If you recall, I traded Johan Santana to the Mets. I thought I was being extremely aggressive … if Carlos Gomez had gotten much, much better it would have worked out great! That’s what happens when you’re aggressive, sometimes the gamble doesn’t pay off. And since this one didn’t really pay off, ipso facto, I was aggressive.

And it’s the same thing when I traded Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to the Rays, and instantly turned them into a title contender. I know a lot of people told me Delmon Young wasn’t really that great of a hitter and had regressed since high school, but I was being aggressive! If all those reports had been incorrect, and Delmon Young actually WAS a future hall of famer, that would have been a great trade! You can’t tell me I’m not trying to improve this team. I am. And also I’m not listening.

I really hope that answered all your questions. I’m pretty tired now, since I don’t like to spend this much time in front of a computer. I’m going to get back to work now, calling other GMs and waiting on hold while they do whatever it is those flashy big city GMs do. One of these days I might actually get to talk directly to one of them!

So wish me luck.

Love, Bill