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Few moves made by local teams — particularly the Twins — are universally hailed as smart decisions. But I really thought the news Tuesday that Brian Dozier had signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Twins might be one of those exceptions. In addition to being win-win (Dozier gets security, the Twins get value), it showed a level of commitment to a very good player.
The comments section was, once again, set ablaze from every direction. Sure, there were some who praised the move. Others, however, barked everything from “overpaid!” to complaining about the Twins making a move they didn’t need to make to numerous digs at Dozier’s batting average.
It’s the last point on which we’d like to focus for a little while.
In an ideal world, Dozier wouldn’t hit in the .240s, like he has the past two seasons. He would instead hit in the .270s. (OK, in an ideal world every Twins hitter would bat 1.000, games would never end because nobody could get them out and eventually MLB would have to just step in and name them World Series champs. Dozier hitting .270 is more of the ideal realistic world).
There are reasons to believe that Dozier will settle in closer to that .270 range than his current .240s. He will mature as a hitter, continue to spray the ball more (last season, most of his line drives and ground balls went toward left field).
But even if Dozier never becomes more than what he is, he will be a very valuable hitter (and overall player) for the Twins. Among MLB second basemen last season, Dozier ranked 5th in on-base percentage — largely because he walked 89 times, far more than any other second baseman in the league. His OPS of .762 was fourth among 2Bs. And his WAR (wins above replacement) was fifth.
He’s an above-average player, and in a lot of very important categories he’s arguably elite. A better batting average would likely help all his other numbers, too (assuming it didn’t come at the expense of power), but there’s no reason he has to improve in that area to be valuable.
If he has four years over the duration of his $20 million contract that are similar to his 2014 season — FanGraphs says his 2014 season was worth more than that alone — the Twins will be very happy with their return on investment.
Adrian Peterson missed almost the entire 2014 season — though still made a lot of money — because he assaulted his 4-year-old child. Yes, we can call it that. Reckless assault is the misdemeanor charge to which Peterson pleaded, avoiding jail time.
The respectable course of action on Peterson’s part after that would have been contrition and a desire to make it right with a team and a fan base that was justified in its reactions to what happened.
Instead, Peterson and his representatives have behaved in the exact opposite way — having the gall to try to turn this into an opportunity to either get more money or force a trade, all the while trying (unsuccessfully) to portray Peterson as a victim in all of this.
It’s despicable. Whereas a lot of fans were willing to give Peterson a second chance, attempting to understand that he made a mistake based on unfortunate learned behavior, now public opinion has turned even more harshly against Peterson. We’ve reached the “good riddance” stage.
The final tipping point might be the comment from his agent, Ben Dogra, as quoted by ESPN.com on Monday night: “I don’t think it’s in Adrian’s best interest to play in Minnesota. Why would it be?”
What a gross, arrogant position.
The Vikings, of course, need to play this correctly (as they have so far). They need to maintain a public stance that they intend to keep Peterson. Under no circumstance should they give him a raise or a new contract — not now, after the way this has unfolded. Under no circumstance should they release him. Giving him a raise sends the wrong message, and keeping him in any way creates a cloud over the entire 2015 season. Releasing him brings nothing in return.
What they should do, and what they probably are doing, is quietly shop him to the highest bidder in a trade. They don’t need to be blown away by an offer. They just need to keep working until they get the best deal they can get.
And then they need to move on from one of the five greatest players to ever wear a Vikings uniform as fast as they can.
For those of you who like all your rumors in one place, this post has you covered. And for those of you who accuse me of shameless headlines/items aimed at page views, I should note I could have EASILY put these items into two separate posts. But I didn’t (mostly because I needed to give that hard-hitting Adrian Peterson/camel post some time to breathe).
Item 1: Jason La Canfora at CBS Sports has a story under a pretty juicy headline: “Peterson wants out from Vikes badly, but how much is he willing to lose?”
The actual meat of the story isn’t nearly as compelling, but it does have some choice bits:
Make no mistake, Peterson’s representatives have made it very clear to the Vikings that he has no interest in playing another game for them. … From everything I have gathered about how badly Peterson wants out, short of the Vikings throwing a ton more money at him — you know, the way sore feelings are often assuaged in pro sports — he won’t make it easy on them and his resolve will be strong and it’ll be an uncomfortable OTA and preseason around Minnesota.
La Canfora is writing pretty strongly here about just how bad the relationship is between Peterson and the Vikings. It would be absurd for the Vikings to give him a raise, so we could very well be headed toward a showdown.
Item 2: Kevin Love wasn’t included in LeBron James’ Instagram photo of teammates who are part of his “clique.” Love was asked about it and said, with honesty, that the two are not “best friends.”
Part of me thinks this is no big deal, but when you factor in all the other little strains in the Love/LeBron/Cavs relationship this year, it starts to add up.
In modern sports — and in the NBA in particular — relationships are currency. Free agents are lured to cities and lifestyles, but just as often now they are drawn to a chance to win and to cultures that allow them to thrive. There’s ever indication that LeBron hand-picked Love to be part of a team he thought could win a championship, convincing Cleveland to part with Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett to get him. LeBron excluding Love from the picture, along with Love’s words, could mean that not only aren’t they friends but that their working relationship is strained.
At my 30th birthday, I ate a ton of chicken wings. It was awesome. At my wife’s 30th birthday, we rented out the 7th Street Entry and did karaoke with about 100 friends on the stage. That was even more awesome.
But Adrian Peterson? He rode a camel. Can’t decide if it’s awesome or not, but it’s … something?
As bad as the Twins’ starting pitching has been the past four years, sinking the team’s fortunes every season, let’s not forget that for much of the 90-loss season misery, the offense has been almost as bad.
The 2011 Twins ranked 25th in the majors in runs scored, as did the 2013 Twins. The 2012 squad was closer to middle-of-the-pack (16th), but it was still nothing special. Last year was a big surprise, as an offense that figured to struggle again took a big step forward and ended up finishing 7th in MLB in runs.
For long stretches of 2011-14, the yearly questions about the lineup, which evolved into daily questions, involved major holes. Who would bat leadoff? If Joe Mauer struggled, was there a No. 3 hitter anywhere to be found? When everyone bats one or two spots higher than they should — if they belong at all — a team will struggle.
The questions this year are, in a word, different. New manager Paul Molitor, while smartly noting that last year’s sample size is small (particularly with Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas, two young hitters who led the charge in the second half last year), has more good options than the Twins have had in five years.
Between Santana, Brian Dozier, Mauer, Vargas, Torii Hunter, Trevor Plouffe, Oswaldo Arcia and Kurt Suzuki, there are a lot of ways to assemble the 1-8 spots in the order and have them not only make sense but appear dangerous. It’s part of the reason the Twins can survive with Aaron Hicks in center, at least until Byron Buxton arrives. If Hicks hits .230 and gets on base in the No. 9 spot, that should be plenty based on this lineup and what he brings on defense.
That’s not to say that everyone in the lineup will produce. But for now, it looks like Molitor can fill out a card based on matchups and his philosophy … instead of mere desperation.
|Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson||10||FINAL|
|NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker||2|
|Sporting Kansas City||1||FINAL|
|New York City||0|
|Red Bull New York||2||FINAL|