Monday, August 30, 2004

Decisions Afoot

Call it the calm before the storm. Just don’t expect this storm to have much thunder and lightening. Yesterday the Twins had an off day while much of the speculation centered on the formation of the playoff roster and the August 31 waiver trade deadline. Decisions for both must be made today, with the team having a little leeway with its roster because 3 players are on the disabled list. The team has already called up top prospect Jason Kubel and has left open the option of keeping flamethrower Jesse Crain for the October roster. The question remains of whether the team will add any help from outside the organization before the deadline.

The chances of that happening are very slim. The Star Tribune reports, “the two holes the Twins would most like to fill – lefthanded bullpen help and a catcher – are particularly hard positions to fill now.” There just doesn’t seem to be a whole lot out there that will even slightly upgrade the roster. Many players who can help simply did not get through waivers, while the ones that did either aren’t very good or way overpaid. Colorado catcher Charles Johnson is an example of both. It would not be worth messing with the chemistry by making a deal to say they did and would be highly uncharacteristic of Terry Ryan to do so.

As I have stated before, my belief is the Twin’s biggest hole is in their rotation. The reality is it is too late in the season to fix this flaw unless someone within the organization steps up and according to the Star Tribune, “doesn’t appear to be a main objective.” At this point Terry Ryan cannot be blamed for not liking what he sees out there. However, if this team falters in the playoffs after a serious of poor outings from pitchers not named Brad and Johan, the organization does deserve criticism for not going the extra step earlier in the season in an attempt to get to the next level.

Interestingly enough, the team does have the third best starter ERA in the league at 4.26. There seems to be a hope coming from the organization that someone will step up and take the third spot in the final month of the season with each pitcher bringing a special attribute to the competion. There has been hardly any mention of what will happen when the team needs a 4th starter, almost a certainty should the team go deep into the playoffs. The Twins cannot expect Brad Radke and Johan Santana to handle the workload of a 3-man playoff rotation and expect success. Neither has ever had to do anything similar before in their careers. It is also ironic that much of the blame Oakland received for losing to the Twins 2 years ago came from using a 3 man rotation and now the Twins seem destined to do the same whether they receive the extra day in the division series or not.

Kubel Time
The promotion of Jason Kubel has a lot of people excited. I even saw one fan that believed the Twins had a deal in the works to move Jacque Jones and make room for Kubel now. That is probably not the plan. He is going to play when the team thinks he will help. That means the occasional start and mostly as a weapon off the bench. I don’t see him cracking the starting lineup before the playoffs but he certainly provides for better late inning match-ups. Who would you rather have coming to the plate in the middle of the 8th inning of a tie game with runners on base, Luis Rivas or Jason Kubel?
Next year I don’t expect Jacque Jones to return. Matt LeCroy will still be around to give the team an option of starting Kubel in the minors. The rest is all up to Kubel. Either he starts in the big leagues or he’ll play in the minors. He probably will not sit on the bench. He’ll get some competition for the job from LeCroy and Mike Restovich but the obvious top choice for the organization is for Kubel to step into that role. There are many people out there who expect him to do just that.

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