Archived Story

The Minnesota sports scene is looking brighter

Published 12:00am Thursday, December 6, 2007

By Jon Laging, Talking Sports

How fast the sports scene can change. A little while ago we were coming off the football Gophers&8217; meltdown and the Vikings 2-5 record with coach Brad Childress looking overmatched. Torii Hunter had left for big bucks and newcomer Craig Monroe wasn&8217;t the answer either offensively or defensively.

Since those dark days the Vikings have won three straight, Adrian Peterson&8217;s knee seems fine, Gopher football is over and Tubby Smith has the basketball Gophers on the move.

Not only that, the Twins are making headlines in the national news as General Manager &8220;Trader Bill&8221; Smith is startling Minnesota fans and others. Trading the team&8217;s No. 1 pitching prospect Matt Garza, shortstop Jason Bartlett and minor league pitcher Eduardo Morian to Tampa Bay for outfielder Delmon Young, infielder Brendan Harris and minor league outfielder Jason Pridie.

There is a lot of discussion as many Twins fans and bloggers feel the Twins gave up too much. I&8217;m with Trader Bill. To me it&8217;s an Occam&8217;s Razor kind of thing. William of Occam said that the simplest answer to a question is probably the right answer. The Twins&8217; questions posed are as follows. What did the Twins have in abundance last year? Pitching. What did they desperately need? Hitting. What did Smith do? He traded pitching for hitting.

It&8217;s very understandable as to why some would be concerned, feeling that we gave up too much to get what we needed. But all the great pitching in the world will not score runs. If you do a statistical analysis and assign points to all the players involved, it&8217;s possible the traded Twins players would have the most points. The conservative viewpoint of the trade would be to tell Smith not to pull the trigger. But he did and I think he was right to do so because the team needs hitting not pitching.

Terry Ryan, the previous GM, had the admiration of many including me. He is a wonderful evaluator of talent and made some great acquisitions. He appeared to make few trades unless it was lopsided in favor of the Twins. That attitude served the Twins well until last summer. The team needed help scoring runs. Ryan evidently couldn&8217;t get the trade he felt comfortable with and didn&8217;t make a move. To me, he needed to do something, anything to give the team a boost. There was a small rebellion on the Twins headed by Johan Santana. They felt there was no intention on the part of the front office to help the team. So besides Bill Smith adding hitting to the roster, he may have done wonders for the team&8217;s psyche.

It could be one of the reasons Ryan resigned was that he realized getting rid of second baseman Luis Castillo for little and then not moving Hunter before the deadline didn&8217;t make sense. Some may say he kept Hunter because he felt the Twins were still in the race. If so, why did he trade Castillo. The Mets must have thought the all-star was still a viable second baseman, they signed him to a four-year contract.

It could be that all his time in the spotlight with such a limited budget wore Ryan down and he became overly cautious and gunshy. Also during a long tenure mistakes are bound to be made and they accumulate over time. However, Ryan should be strongly commended for the job he has done. And when you think of the current trades that have been done and may be done, don&8217;t forget that Ryan made those trading chips possible. I hope that Bill Smith does as good a job as Ryan did during the coming years.

Next time &8212; the Johan Santana issues will be explored.

Jon Laging writes his regional sports column from his home in Preston.