Monday, November 29, 2004

It's About Respect

Let me begin by apologizing for the lack of new material lately. The lack of news coming from the Twins has created a breeding ground for writers block. The hot stove can be one of the most exciting times in baseball but is sprinkled with pockets of inactivity. Because of this, it seemed like a perfect time (Thanksgiving also having something to do with it) to take a little time off. We will try to refrain from doing this as much as possible in the future. That might mean branching out and adding more non-Twins baseball content. We hope this is acceptable and we welcome your feedback, as always. Remember, we are first baseball fans. We love the game, we love the Twins and we love writing.

Sports Weekly, formerly know as Baseball Weekly, recently ran an article that featured Johan Santana. The article mostly talked about Santana’s rising star, especially in his home country of Venezuela. It recapped his amazing season and it also speculated about his future. Contained in that speculation was a slightly alarming quote from Santana.

This isn’t about money," Santana says. "It’s about respect.” He won’t forget the Twins’ decision to keep him in the bullpen most of 2003 after being told he’d be in the rotation. He asked for a trade last year, just as he did in 2002, when he was buried in the bullpen.

I had to re-read this quote several times. I was aware that Santana was upset when the Twins made the decision to sign Kenny Rogers but I thought it had gone away when he entered the rotation and become such a large part of the team’s success. Santana gave very little indication of his frustration throughout is magnificent season. Part of what makes Santana such a great pitcher is his calm mound demeanor.

Behind that calmness though, lurks a fierce competitor with the ability to go after a batter for the kill. If Santana is still upset with the Twins it is not a good sign for resigning him. He is only a year away from free agency and eligible for arbitration this winter. The Twins have talked about trying to sign him to a long-term deal but at the moment that appears to be something the team is saving for later. Santana proved this year that his previous success was no fluke. He is the rare "true number one" starter in baseball. The direction the team takes with Santana is a signal of where the Twins plans to be in the standings during the coming years.

The team beat Santana in arbitration last year and there is a good chance they will go back this year. Arbitration has a way of adding to bad feelings because teams and players must argue about how good the player is and the team must downplay his worth to win. The Twins need to pursue a long-term deal as soon as possible to show Santana what he means for the organization and avoid stirring up more bad blood in arbitration. His stock is only going up and the team must regret not giving him a long-term deal last spring when it had the chance. Santana is not Joe Mays, and it would be a sound investment to lock him up.

The good news is that Santana will be in a Twins uniform no matter what next year. The final quote of the article is a great indication of what that will mean for opposing hitters.

“We want to prove this is something that didn’t just happen, and that we were lucky. Now we have to prove why we won this award (Cy Young).”