Saturday, December 16, 2006

To say that the Twins don't participate in Baseball's Winter Meetings is a vast understatement. It is common knowledge at this point. Twins never make any significant free agent signings at the Winter Meetings. Water is wet. E=MC2. Twins won't sign big name sluggers or pitchers. Period. End of story. Year in and year out, the Twins fans are subjected to hot stove headlines that contain the non-steroid user names like Juan Castro and Jeff Cirillo. To be honest, for ages I was bothered by that. I wanted to experience the exhilaration that only fans in Chicago, New York, Boston or Los Angeles feel when the open their paper and shout "Yes! Yes! We got him! We finally got him! We got Zito!" It just doesn't have the same oomph with the name Cirillo. Seriously. Try it. Next to the Cirillo signing, the biggest signing for the Twins had been a Minor League contract to Ken Harvey who may or may not have been panhandling on a freeway off-ramp when Terry Ryan spotted him (and the contract may or may not have been for a fresh shave and a hot meal). For the record, Twins fans should take comfort knowing that his only chance of seeing Major League time is if an elevator carrying our 40-man roster snaps and plummets 40 storys. Meche. Bonds. Thomas. Piazza. These are all names bantered about. None would have made sense for the Twins. Think about it. Aside from left field (I would personally have Rondell White back) and a designated hitter (I'm not terrible with Jason Kubel), could you honestly say you would displace any member of the starting lineup for any member of this free agent class? The murmur from the mostly dormant offseason Twins fans was at a hush, the only vocal ones made snide, but poignant, barbs about how the term "All-Star" and "Ken Harvey" were being thrown around all too loosely. Some ripped Terry Ryan for not chasing a free agent market gone wild. But here's the thing that all Twins fans should be thankful for: We're lucky to have such an even-keeled General Manager. Consider the alternatives. General Managers with an open checkbook in the off-season is like Stallone running through the Vietnamese jungles with a high-powered machine gun Rambo-style. He can do real damage, real fast. Take Chicago Cubs Gm Jim Hendry who has Alfonso Soriano signed until most of the world's uranium supply decomposes. Essentially all that will be left after a nuclear fallout will be cockroaches and Soriano playing the outfield for the Cubs. If that wasn't foolhardy enough, he then enlisted left-handed Ted Lilly to ensure that all the fans on Waveland Avenue had recieved enough souviners from the opposing team's right handed bats. Look at Pat Gillick, the Philadelphia Phillies GM. Assessing this offseason talent pool Gillick made an accurate analysis saying, "The group that's out there as free agents, it isn't the most attractive group." Gillick then signed Adam Eaton. Gillick convinced himself (or worse yet, the "market" convinced him) that his team had a need that could only be filled by earmarking $24.5 million of the Phillies money for the next three years. For a pitcher that has yet to throw 200 innings in a season. That's like walking into a bar, declaring there is nothing but deranged-looking women and then proceeding to down several Jack and Cokes until -- eh, what the hell -- one of them seems remotely attractive. The next morning are you really going to feel good about what you did? Do you think Pat Gillick could look at himself in the mirror? The Twins are the baseball equivalent to Costa Rica, we stay out of the Free Agent Wars. We are a better people for it too. Sure Twins fans can't log on to and read the latest rumor about the Twins pursuing Zito and sure no one will ever blurt out the words "Terry Ryan has signed Soriano to a 10-year/$130 million deal" but the bottomline is that Terry Ryan has created an unquestionable template for winning. If you need further proof: for the cost of a Ted Lilly, we have a two-time Cy Young Award winner in Johan Santana (4-years/$40 million)? Ryan's got a plan. Trust him.