Friday, December 31, 2010 End of the Year Podcast Extravaganza

Last night Seth Stohs of put together a great end of the year Podcast that included interviews with many bloggers, media personalities, and current players.  It is a two hour long show and it really captures the year that was for the 2010 Minnesota Twins.  

You can listen to the entire show here (Listen now to the End of the Year Podcast Extravaganza).  I come on about 10 minutes into the show so feel free to pull up the entire episode and listen to all of the end of the year topics.  

Here are my answers to the three questions that Seth asked me.  I wasn't able to answer all of these parts on the air last night because he had a lot of different guests to interview.  If I would have had more time on the air I would have

1.  In your mind, what are the two biggest stories of 2010 for the Minnesota Twins?

The one story line that seemed to follow the team for most of the season was the injury of Joe Nathan.  This injury impacted much of the 2010 season.  The Twins spent the end of Spring Training searching for a closer.  Jon Rauch did a very good job in his role for the first half of the season.  I would even go as far to say that he did a much better job than I expected him to do.  The Twins spent the second half of the season bolstering their bullpen.  The trade of Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps was directly related to the Joe Nathan injury.  Also picking up Brian Fuentes was another piece to the bullpen/closer puzzle.  By the end of the season the Twins would have three closers on the team with 20 plus saves.  Which all relates back to the Nathan injury.  

The second biggest story for me was the opening of Target Field.  There had been anticipation of a new stadium from Twins fans for the better portion of a decade.  The opening of Target Field surpassed all of those expectations.  It is everything that the Metrodome wasn't.  A beautiful outdoor ballpark that has connections to all of Twins Territory.  From the statues on Target Plaza to the limestone that graces the outer shell, there is something for every Twins fan to enjoy.  As a fan I couldn't wait to get in the doors.  The Season Ticket Holder Open House was my first trip there and I remember being in awe of the entire experience.  Opening Day was another great experience.  My buddies and I even had a local TV station follow us around.  Target Field will be the focal point of the warehouse district and downtown Minneapolis for decades to come.  

The best memory that I have from a game that I was at, besides Opening Day, was Jim Thome's bash off the flag pole on Labor Day (September 6, 2010).  As soon as it left the bat it looked like it might never land. Fans on the plaza were ready to catch the ball but something stood in the way.  The tallest flag pole at Target Field.  One fan ran out of the stadium to retrieve the ball.  The problem was that the ball never made it out of the stadium and the fan couldn't re-enter the ballpark. Thome had hit the American flag pole that use to reside at Metropolitan Stadium.  The Twins won the game 5-4 so the homerun was a difference maker on this day.

2.  Your #1 move that you would make this offseason

My number one move on my Twins offseason blueprint was to trade for Zach Greinke.  Since that is now out of the question, I feel that adding a veteran arm in the bullpen would be the number one move to make.  With resigning Carl Pavano being a close second.  I just feel that with the way that the rotation is shaping up for next season that a solid veteran relief pitcher would be an excellent addition to the 2011 Twins.

3.  One projection for the 2011 season

Francisco Liriano wins close to 20 games and is a leading candidate for the Cy Young.  The Twins see what kind of season he is having a sign him to a three to four year extension before the season is complete.

Have a very safe and happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Twins Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook

With the start of a new year only a couple days away there is time to sit back and reflect on what 2010 meant for the Minnesota Twins (This will be more of the focus for my post tomorrow).  It also means that it is time to look to the new year and what 2011 could bring to the hometown team.

Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press looked at all of the Minnesota teams and what the best and worse case scenarios would be for each of them.  He offers a lot of different things that will have to go right for the Twins to succeed and some of the things that could happen to make 2011 a disaster.  Mr. Powers didn't get into much detail with each of these items so I will try and fill in some of those gaps.

Below you will see the statements that he made and how I feel the 2011 Twins will play out in relation to each of those statements.

"I hate to say it but I see similarities between the Twins of next year and the Vikings of this year."  It is pretty hard to compare a professional football team and a MLB baseball team.  Both teams did have a lot of veteran players that were part of their teams, but the Twins have gone in another direction.  They have dumped older and slower players for more speed and youth.  The Vikings stuck with their old players and it looks like a youthful Joe Webb might have been a better choice.

"The Twins' World Series window was in 2010."  I sure hope not.  The Twins have a core of young players that should help to keep this team viable for the foreseeable future.  By investing large contracts Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau the Twins have built cornerstones to the franchise.  Don't tell these players that their only window of opportunity for a World Series was last season.  The Twins picked a bad time of the year to have a cold streak.


"Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan come back a hundred percent."  My vote would be that Morneau will be back at close to full strength and that Joe Nathan is going to need more time.  It was a sight to see for any fan that saw Morneau taking batting practice at the end of last season.  He was spraying HR balls all over Target Field.  With the amount of concussions that he has had in the past there are going to be challenges for him.  There might be days that he needs to rest his head and Ron Gardenhire is going to have accept that for one of his star players.  Nathan is not going to be 100% for most, if not all, of the 2011 season.  These type of arm injuries take time to recover from and Nathan is not going to be an exception to that rule.

"Bill Smith finds a way to patch up the bullpen."  Bill Smith could get lucky.  All of the players that could be members of the bullpen have something to prove.  Each of them could have the season of their life and find their niche in that bullpen.  At this point in the offseason I see the Twins adding one other veteran arm to the bullpen and relying on the younger talent that is part of the organization.  I also think that if the bullpen is an issue that Smith will try and fix it in the middle of the season.  Over the last two years he has been able to add the right pieces to the puzzle to make the Twins champions of the Central.

"Carl Pavano re-signs."  It's going to happen.  I think that Howard Sinker summed it up best with his post earlier today on the Star Tribune website.  Carl Pavano is getting older in age and probably doesn't have many seasons left in him.  Does he want to play on the Twins and have a legitimate chance at contending?  Or does he want to go to Washington and have only a handful of games with any meaning to them?  The choice is his.

"Kyle Gibson steps into the rotation and becomes a force."  Kyle Gibson will have to be part of the Twins rotation this season.  I don't think he needs to be a force for the team to succeed.  If he can come and give the team a boost in the second half of the season that might be as much force as they need out of him.  For the 2011 season I think the ideal situation would be to need Gibson to be a number three starter behind Liriano and Pavano.  He will pick up some big wins down the stretch to help the team make a run toward the post season.

"The Twins will compete for the wild-card spot.  The White Sox have spent a fortune this winter and likely will win the division."  The Central Division has gotten much stronger this offseason.  Both the Tiger and White Sox have made some additions that could make a three-peat for the Twins quite the challenge.  There is a long season where lots can go wrong for any of these teams.  I will say that getting two teams into the playoffs out of the Central would be quite the accomplishment with how strong Red Sox and Yankees look on paper.  If the Twins are a wild-card over one of those team I think I would be happy with how good the team looked.


"Morneau and Nathan aren't quite right."  Morneau will be fine and Nathan will need time.  See above for more details.

"Pavano signs elsewhere."  If a team is willing to offer him a third year then he most likely will be exiting the Twin Cities.  In that story-line others in the Twins organization would need to occupy the hole left in the rotation by the absence of the 'stache.

"Gibson needs several months at Class AAA Rochester."  Gibson won't be in the starting rotation coming out of Spring Training.  There is no way with the current contract situation in place that the Twins will bring him up until the beginning of July.  He will get a few months in Rochester to get his feet under him again.  Then it will be time for the bigs.

 "Alexi Casilla can't handle the starting shortstop job."  The Twins have plenty of other players that will be jumping at the chance to steal the starting job from Alexi Casilla.  This might be good for the organization to have players pushing Casilla to keep his production at a high level.  Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, and Matt Tolbert will give Casilla a run for his money and that could make the infield stronger down the stretch.

"In that case, the Twins go 81-81 and the summer becomes tedious."  With the way that the current roster sits.  I think this is a fair assessment.  There are a lot of question marks for the 2011 season, so it isn't hard to imagine there being some struggles next season.  One injury, a couple bad starting pitchers, and the season can slip away in a hurry.

Here's hoping the rest of the offseason isn't too tedious...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

BBA Recommends Alomar, Blyleven for Hall of Fame

Press Release

Contact: Daniel Shoptaw                                                               FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
E-mail:                                  12:30 AM EDT, December 30, 2010

Second baseman Roberto Alomar and starting pitcher Bert Blyleven were named today as the recommended 2011 Hall of Fame class by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

Alomar, who is on the ballot for his second year, and Blyleven, looking at his fourteenth time, both finished just shy of the BBA's recommendation in 2010 at just a fraction under the 75% threshold.  As was the case last year, both Alomar and Blyleven received the same amount of votes from the BBA membership in 2010, but this time it was enough to push them into the recommended status.

Both players received 117 votes out of the 154 ballots cast, resulting in a 75.97% approval rate.  Again echoing the vote taken at the end of 2009, shortstop Barry Larkin was the third man in the balloting, missing selection by being named on just 70.78% of the ballots.

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance's vote has no impact on the official vote taken by the Baseball Writers of America and the members of the Hall of Fame.  However, the BBA has been often a predictor of awards granted by the writers, matching their selection in fourteen of the sixteen major awards in the last two postseasons combined.

The final voting results are as follows:

Roberto Alomar, 75.97%
Bert Blyleven, 75.97%
Barry Larkin, 70.78%
Jeff Bagwell, 62.34%
Edgar Martinez, 59.09%
Tim Raines, 54.55%
Mark McGwire, 44.16%
Lee Smith, 38.96%
Alan Trammell, 35.71%
Don Mattingly, 33.12%
Larry Walker, 31.17%
Fred McGriff, 27.27%
Jack Morris, 25.97%
Rafael Palmerio, 20.78%
Dale Murphy, 16.23%
Dave Parker, 12.34%
Harold Baines, 10.39%
Kevin Brown, 9.09%
John Franco, 7.14%
Tino Martinez, 5.19%
John Olerud, 5.19%
Al Leiter, 4.55%
Bret Boone, 3.90%
Juan Gonzalez, 3.90%
Marquis Grissom, 2.60%
Benito Santiago, 1.30%
Bobby Higginson, 0.65%
Charles Johnson, 0.65%
Kirk Rueter, 0.65%
Carlos Baerga, 0.00%
Raul Mondesi, 0.00%
BJ Surhoff, 0.00%

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance was established in the fall of 2009 for the purpose of fostering collaboration and communication among bloggers from across baseball.  The BBA has quickly grown to its current membership of 256 blogs, including some of the most prominent blogs on the internet, spanning all major league teams and various other general aspects of the game.

More information about the BBA can be found at their website,, or by contacting the founder and administrator of the organization, Daniel Shoptaw, at

Fuentes: Twins Free Agent Fix

The Twins bullpen continues to be an area of question for the 2011 season.  The Twins have seen players such as Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier leave for greener pastures.  One player that the Twins have been rumored to still have interest in is Brian Fuentes.

According to various reports there are many teams that are still interested in the services of Fuentes for the 2011 season.  This list could include as many as eleven teams according to Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman. It also seems that Fuentes is in the market for a long-term deal that many other relievers have been getting this offseason.  

Fuentes is in his mid-30's so signing him to a two or three year contract would lock him into a team's bullpen until he was almost 40.  That is a long time to be committed to a relief pitcher who could be declining over the course of the contract.

There is a good chance that Fuentes will be paid a little extra for the amount of saves that he has accumulated over the course of the last six seasons.  Since 2005 Fuentes has 183 saves with the Rockies, Angels, and Twins.  For his career Fuentes has a 3.41 ERA and averages 65 innings pitched a season.

The Twins will be entering the 2010 season with a bullpen group that includes many players that will have something to prove.  Joe Nathan, Matt Capps, Pat Neshek, Jose Mijares, Alex Burnett, and Glen Perkins are a few of the names that could play an integral part in the bullpen picture.  Patrick Reusse of 1500 ESPN looks at the internal options with the Twins and how they may be happy going with what they already have for next season.

As this offseason has progressed I have felt more and more that having a veteran presence in the bullpen is a necessity for the success of the 2011 Twins.  Ron Gardenhire has been able to rely on the arms of Crain and Guerrier over the past few seasons.  Those arms are gone and Fuentes could fill that late inning role to bridge the gap to whomever the closer may be.  

Will Fuentes be the difference between the Twins and a World Series next season?  Most likely no...
But with the moves that the Tigers and White Sox have been making it could help the team to stay competitive in a division that is becoming increasingly difficult.  He could be a free agent fix that fans are looking for as pitchers and catchers report in only 49 days.  

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cordova's daughter in a coma

When I was a young Twins fan I had a connection to the Twins right fielders.  Most times that I went to the Metrodome I was sitting in the right field bleachers.  This meant that the player that I was closest to was the right fielder.  In the mid to late 1990's that player was Marty Cordova.  During some rough seasons in the mid-90's Cordova was a middle of the line-up hitter with the Twins and won the AL Rookie of the Year in 1995.

Sometimes it is important to remember that baseball is just a game...

It was released last night that Cordova is going through a very personal matter.  His 15-year-old daughter, Ashley McAdam, was in a tragic car accident that has left her in a coma.  The car accident happened 12 days ago (December 16) in her high school parking lot in Salt Lake City, Utah.

All of the members in McAdam's car were injured and have had to undergo surgery.  Ashley took the brunt of the force and had the most injury because of it.  She has been unresponsive since the accident.

Cordova and the mother of Ashley, Tamara McAdam-Burleigh, have set up a Facebook page to support their daughter.  There are tons of messages from friends, family, and friends to support Marty and his family during this trying time.  Marty and Tamara have promised to update Ashley's status everyday to followers of the group.

The Facebook group seems to be growing significantly since the national publication of the story.  The family is also asking for donations to help with the medical bills that have begun to pile up.  People can make a donation by following this link.

There was a quote from Cordova that seemed to summarize the feelings of many parents that have had children involved in an accident such as this.  "What I want is for people to see that this can happen to your own kids.  Hug your kids, spend time with them."

In an incident like this it is important to remember that life can be bigger than baseball.

Please leave a message on the "Supporting Ashley McAdam" page on Facebook.  It will be great to see all of the support left to Marty and Tamara in their time of need.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Punto Possibilities

He has been the little engine that could for the Twins franchise over their recent run of division championships.  He has played every position from 3B, SS, 2B, OF, and even DH.  Nick Punto has seem to embody the heart and soul of the Twins team in the Piranha Era.  He has hustled and played outstanding defense while not hitting for a high average.

The Twins declined to pick up Punto's $5 million dollar option for the 2011 season.  From a financial standpoint this was a very good move for the Twins.  Punto is not a $5 million player.  As a free agent he could make a very reasonable option for a team off the bench in a part-time role.  Considering all of that there is a very real possibility that Punto could end up in another jersey for next season.  

Ron Gardenhire has expressed interest in Punto returning for next season.  He has even gone as far as to ask the front office to offer Punto a contract for next season.  This was really no surprise since Gardenhire has seemed to have a man-crush on Punto over the last few seasons.  Gardy has turned to Punto every time he has needed a spot filled in the infield even when other choices might have offered more upside.  

One team that has expressed interest in the services of Punto is the Cleveland Indians.  As a fellow AL Central club the Indians have seen Punto a lot over the course of the last half of a decade.  The are also in the market for some cheap options to complete their roster.  There is a chance that Punto would be offered the starting 3B job in Cleveland

The 3B position in Minnesota, barring any injury, will not be available next season.  Danny Valencia surged on to the scene last season and took the starting spot away from Punto.  The middle infield situation seems to be one of the concerning areas for the Twins entering next season.  New Twin Tsuyoshi Nishioka will be manning one of the middle infield positions.  The other spot seems to be Alexi Casilla's to lose.  Having Punto as a back-up option would be a solid addition to the bench but there are cost limits involved with offering him a contract.  

If other teams, such as Cleveland, are going to be offering Punto the type of money a starting infielder is due then he should do what is best for himself and leave the Twins.  If he wants to enter Spring Training with a chance to fight for a middle infield position but not have a starting job that is guaranteed to be his, then returning to the Twins could be an option.  A return to the Twins would have to mean a discounted contract for the 2011 season.  

His head first slides into first base might have become a trademark at the Metrodome and Target Field but his time with the Twins might slowly be coming to an end. 

If this is goodbye Mr. Punto, then thanks for the memories.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Twas the Night Before Christmas: Twins Themed

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through Target Field
Not a worker was stirring, for every door had been sealed;

The stockings were hung by the dugout with care,
In hopes that a free agent soon would be there;

Every fan was nestled all snug in their beds, 
While visions of championships danced in their heads;

And Bill Smith in his 'kerchief, and Gardy in a cap,
Seem to be spending the offseason on a long winter's nap;

Cliff Lee had signed and still no deals had been made,
On many fans minds this problem heavily weighed;

When out on the field there arose such a clatter,
Smith sprang from the bed to see what was the matter;

 A star from Japan who flew like a flash,
Left fans hoping that his contract wouldn't be too brash;

The Dome had crumpled under the new fallen snow,
The rest of the offseason moves seemed to come slow;

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
Thoughts of Pavano returning would let the fans cheer;

Gardy wants a new team that is lively and quick,
He is also pushing for the return of a Nick.

The free agents they left for more fortune and fame,
A title in the Central will be hard to reclaim;

Crain and Guerrier were the first ones to fly,
While the others will most surely be saying goodbye;

There are question marks from bottom to top,
Questioning Mr. Smith seems to be nonstop;

With the new year changes will come,
It is still hard not to feel glum;

A star pitcher would make the fans clamor,
Or a bullpen pitcher who can drop the hammer;

The wish list is long for fans this holiday season,
Trying to overcome the Yankees is definitely the reason;

Fans want a plan so they can be merry,
Because making no moves seems all too scary;

A Christmas signing wrapped in a bow,
Could make up for this excess of snow.

Back to sleep I will go with the hope of a good dream,
For the Twins will continue to be our baseball team;

There is still plenty of offseason to make things right,
Until then "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."


Wishing Everyone a Very Happy Holiday Season!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The mental and physical barriers after Tommy John surgery

The bullpen is one of the biggest question marks for the Twins this offseason.  There are many questions left to be answered:
Who is going to fill the holes left by the departure of Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, and others?
What unproven players can step-up to fill those late inning roles?
Are the Twins going to add another veteran arm to solidify the bullpen?

One of the biggest question marks surrounding the bullpen this offseason is the return of closer Joe Nathan.  Following his injury in last year's Spring Training the team spent a lot of time trying to fill the hole that he left at the back end of the bullpen.

Nathan is recovering from Tommy John surgery (ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery).  The Twins have seen a handful of pitchers in their organization take at least a season to recovery fully.  Fransisco Liriano returned to form in 2010 after having the surgery in the second half of the 2006 season.  Pat Neshek is another well know member of the Twins that has gone through this reconstructive operation.  Neshek pitched last season but not at the level he had been prior to the surgery.  Parker Hageman of Over the Baggy does a good job in this post of breaking down some of the players that have had Tommy John surgery and what their velocities were like when they returned.

There are two major barriers that a player must overcome when it comes to recovering fully from the Tommy John operation.

Physical Barrier
There are many physical challenges that face a pitcher when he is in recovery mode.  Some pitchers have to adjust their throwing motion in order to be comfortable on the mound following the procedure.  This can mean a loss of velocity on the array of pitches that a pitcher has in their repertoire.  Aaron Gleeman spent time looking at Liriano's recovery during the middle of this past season.  This picture from Gleeman's post show how close Liriano's throwing motion was back to form by comparing him before Tommy John surgery and after the surgery.  You can see a slight change in the height of his arm at the release point.
For right now there is only the before surgery version of Joe Nathan.  Nathan stand taller than Liriano and has a higher release point.  It will be interesting to see if Nathan's physical stance on the mound has to change because of the surgery.
As a fan I found great comfort in seeing Nathan on the field training with the Twins at the end of the 2010 season.  It was a boost of confidence to see that he was healthy and still a part of the team even if he wasn't able to contribute directly on the field.  He was getting his body physically ready for what ever challenges will face him in the 2011 season.
Mental Barrier
Athletes are going to remember their last time on a mound and for a pitcher like Nathan that was a painful experience.  There is a mental barrier to cross before thoughts of re-injuring that elbow are going to leave a players mind.  Thoughts like:
Is it okay to throw my fastball that hard again?
Is throwing a breaking pitch going to snap that ligament?
Is that newly constructed ligament  going to be able to withstand the riggers of a major league season.

It is going to take time for a pitcher to be able to trust his arm again.  It is a very mental process that a player has to spend some time on to recover from.  Nathan is going to spend Spring Training trying to regain his form.  That form might not be reached next season and there are good odds that Matt Capps will start the season as the closer of the Twins.  That is also another mental issue that Nathan will have to deal with next season.  He won't be pitching in the bottom of the 9th with the pressure on him.  A lot of closers have a tough time getting in the right mental state when they come into a game in a non-save situation.

During the entire recovery process he has being saying all of the right things to get himself in the right state of mind.  In a recent interview he said that at the beginning of Spring Training he wants to prove that he is "fully capable of going 100 percent right out of the chute."

He is starting to make his way over the mental barriers which is an important step in the right direction.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Funny Twins Photos: Create Your Own Caption

I decided to go with a little different approach to my post for today.  The idea for this post originated from a picture that I posted on Twitter yesterday of Tsuyoshi Nishioka.  After I posted it one of my followers responded with "I wonder what he is thinking."

So it is time to make you to create the funniest caption for some of the pictures I have provided below.  Just leave a comment and let me know which picture it is about, if it isn't clear from your caption.  Have fun and try to keep it clean (even though that might be hard to do with some of them).

#1 Nishioka and the Snow

#2 Knoblauch Kissing the Bat

#3 Span Dancing and A-Rod?

#4 Ouch!

#5 Meeting on the Mound

#6 Young "Break-dancing" 

#7 Stuck-On You

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Zach Greinke Effect for the Twins

I was wrong and yes, I admit it.  Maybe it wasn't so much being wrong as it was wishful thinking.
The big part of my Twins offseason blueprint was to bring in the services of Zach Greinke. After the events of this weekend that will not be part of the plan for the 2011 Twins.

Greinke has been traded from the Kansas City Royals, a fellow AL Central team, to the Milwaukee Brewers.  The Brewers emptied their farm system to complete this trade to set-up an all-or-nothing attitude for the 2011 season.  Both Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks are scheduled to become free agents at the end of next season so the time is "now"for the Brew Crew.

There are going to be some definite impacts on the Twins in what I like to call the "Zach Greinke Effect."

Carl Pavano
One of the first effects of the Greinke trade is that Doug Melvin has said that the Brew Crew is no longer interested in Carl Pavano.  The Brewers had yet to make an offer to Pavano but that still means that there is one less team fighting with the Twins for the Pavano's right arm.  Jon Morosi of Fox Sports wrote that it is "more likely than ever that Carl Pavano will re-sign with the Minnesota Twins."

AL Central (Present Day)
Another easy to see effect of the Greinke's exodus from KC is the fact that the Twins won't face him as many times in the season.  With the Royals being in the AL Central the Twins had to counter Greinke on four occasions last season.  The Twins seemed to have Greinke's number last season as he finished the year with an 0-4 record against them with an 8.18 ERA.  He will be playing on the Twins National League "rival" so the Twins could face Greinke a couple of times in Interleague play.  Out of all of the AL Central teams Greinke has had the worst ERA (4.90) when he has gone against the Twins.  This has led him to a (3-8) overall record in decisions against the Twins.  With how well the Twins have done against Greinke it might actually be a negative that Greinke is out of the division.

AL Central (Future)
It is hard to judge a trade the day after it happens.  The players that the Royals got in exchange for Greinke could end up being duds.  On the other hand all of these players could live up to their potential and make the Royals a considerable threat in the very near future.  According to the 2010 Baseball America Prospect Rankings for the Brewers the Royals just got the #1 (Alcides Escobar), #8 (Lorenzo Cain), #9 (Jake Odorizzi), and "Best Fastball" (Jeremy Jeffress) in the Milwaukee organization.  Phil Rodgers of the Chicago Tribune even claimed that the Royals might be able to pull off a "Twins-like run" in the AL Central because of the talent they received in this trade.

Was Zach Greinke ever going to be a member of the Minnesota Twins? No.
The Royals saw no reason to trade him in the division and this make sense.  They didn't want to have to face Greinke on a more consistent basis.  From the sounds of it the Twins tried to get involved with the Royals but they didn't want anything to do with the Twins.  Another factor might have been that the Twins weren't going to put together a package as good as the one that Brewers put together.  The Twins weren't going to part ways with their number one prospect, Kyle Gibson.  The Brewers were able to offer their number one prospect and that was most likely a deciding factor.

The pressure is on the Royals now to develop this young talent and put a winning product on the field. And that's something that they haven't been able to do for quite some time.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fan Forum with Danny Valencia and Ben Revere

What do you get when you combine over 2200 Twins fans and two rising stars in one phone conversation?  A great experience for all season ticket holders across Twins Territory.

As one of the perks of being a season ticket holder the Twins offered fans the opportunity to be part of a live telephone chat with Danny Valencia and Ben Revere.  This was an hour long chat that was hosted by Dick Bremer.  It was also one of the first parts of the Sweet Spot that I explained a few months ago.

Fans were allowed to ask questions and listen to responses from both of these future stars.  There were also prizes given away.  These prizes included fours passes to the buffet in the Metropolitan Club and autograph photos of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer.

Valencia and Revere spent time answering a variety of questions over the course of the hour.  Here is a look into just a few of their answers.

What was your favorite team and player when you were growing up?
Valencia: Atlanta, Florida, and Seattle.  His favorite player was Ken Griffey Jr.
Revere:  Atlanta.  His favorite players were Chipper Jones and Andrew Jones.

What are your favorite ballparks and least favorite ballparks to play at in the majors?
Valencia: One of his favorites was Kansas City.  He didn't like the Oakland and Tampa Bay.
Revere:  He didn't have much major league experience to go off of but said that the atmosphere in Chicago was fun to be a part of.

Thoughts on Crain going to the White Sox?
Valencia: Said that he and Crain would joke about what would happen if they faced each other.  Crain told Valencia that he would strike him out.  Valencia said that he would get a homerun.  Only time will tell who will win that match-up.

How will they handle the language barrier in the infield next season?
Valencia: He and Bremer joked about the variety of languages that will be spoken in the infield next season.  They jokingly said that there would be four languages spoken between the infielders (Valencia=English, Alexi Casilla=Spanish, Tsuyoshi Nishioka=Japanese, Morneau=Canadian).

What was it like wearing those crazy rookie dress-up costumes?
Both players said it was pretty embarrassing but all in good fun.  If you haven't seen the photos yet check them out here.  

With all of the recent winter weather how do you approach cold weather games?
Valencia:  Thought that it isn't that bad to play in cold weather especially with all of the new cold weather gear that the teams have to wear.  He also said that he gets use to the cold when he starts moving around on the field.
Revere:  Doesn't like the cold! 

Will Revere continue to wear his specialized face mask in 2011?
Revere:  No way!  He said that in the Arizona Fall League he didn't wear the mask.  He also said that the mask really bothered him during his time with the major league club.  He wanted to remove the mask but the big league club wouldn't let him.

Do you like to study the history of baseball?
Valencia:  Loves watching old games late at night when he can't sleep.  He said games with Twins Legends are fun to see.
Revere:  Has been taking some bunting tips from old footage of Rod Carew.  

Are you superstitious before a game?
Valencia:  Follows the same routine before every game and before every at-bat (taking swings off the tee in the cage)
Revere:  Says a prayer before every game.
It was a fun and unique experience and every fan that asked a question thanked the players for volunteering their time.  I look forward to other opportunities like this the rest of the season.  

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Decision: Jesse Crain Edition

Benedict Arnold, Judas Iscariot, Lebron James, and now Jesse Crain.
It might not be that extreme but Jesse Crain just made a whole lot of enemies throughout Twins Territory.  Instead of taking his talents to South Beach, his "Decision" is to take his talents to the Southside of Chicago.  Crain signed a three-year contract with one of the Twins most hated rivals, the Chicago White Sox.

Earlier in the day Crain saw fellow bullpen member Matt Guerrier start the mass exodus out of Minnesota.  Guerrier signed a lucrative contract for a relief pitcher, a 3-year $12 million contract, with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In an offseason where a lot of money is being tossed around both of these pitchers received top-of-the-line contracts for their role in relief innings.  Giving three year contracts to relief pitchers is something that some teams shy away from but this tandem was able to accomplish that on the free agent market.  Craig Calcaterra looks at the scary side of giving relief pitchers three-year contracts.

As a fan I hoped to see either one of these pitchers back with the Twins next season.  A veteran presence in the bullpen is something that the Twins will be searching for in the coming months.  Fans have gotten comfortable with the likes of Crain and Guerrier in the late innings of games.  There will be new faces out there to record those outs and that is something that fans will need to get acclimated to next season.

In the time that Crain spent with the Twins there was always talk that he would be the closer of the future.  That time never came for Crain in Minnesota.  He might get this opportunity with the White Sox next season.

I can only imagine the amount of boos that will come his way as he runs on the field for the first time at Target Field.  It will no doubt rival many of the boo-lashings that have been handed to AJ Pierzynksi in his time with the White Sox.  Having those two players as a possible battery combination at Target Field in the late innings of a pennant race will make many fans throat's sore.

As a free agent player Crain did what he had to do.  I'm sure his off season checklist included the following items:
1.  The chance to be a closer
2.  Play for a team that could contend
3.  A contract that was similar to or better than the other free agent relief pitchers.

Crain did what he had to but I will still be one of those fans booing until my throat is hoarse when the White Sox come to town.

I dislike your "Decision" Mr. Crain.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Evolution of Carl Pavano (in timeline form)

UPDATE (1-19-11): Twins signed Pavano to a 2-year, $16.5 million contract.  The 'stache is back in the Twin Cities.
Last night multiple sources listed Carl Pavano as leaning toward returning to Minnesota next season.  (NBC Hardball Talk and Jerry Crasnick of ESPN)

Carl Pavano has had quite the journey over his career.  This journey has been full of highs (2010 season, 2003 World Series) and lows (his entire contract with the Yankees).

Here are some of the most important events to his career thus far.

-Drafted in the 13th Round of the MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox

-November Traded from Boston to Montreal in a trade that brought Pedro Martinez to the Red Sox

-May 23 Major League Debut with Montreal against Phillies (7.0 IP, 3 H, 6 K, 0 BB, 1 ER)
-July 2 First major league win at Philadelphia in his 3rd start (7.1 IP, 4 H, 4 K, 2 BB, 2 ER)
-September 27 Gives up Mark McGwire's historic 70th homerun in the final game of the season

-June 13 First complete game vs Tampa Bay (9 IP, 3 H, 6 K, 3 BB, 0 ER)
-July 11 Last start of the season before an injury that would cost the rest of the year

-June 24 Another injury shorten season with this date being his last appearance of the season

-August-September Was only able to pitch in the last couple months of the season and with little success (42.2 IP, 59 H, 6.33 ERA)

-July Traded from Montreal to Florida, where he would pitch mainly in a relief role for the rest of the season.

-August 24 Won his 10th game of the season reaching double digits in wins for the first time
-October 1 First playoff win in a relief role during the NLDS against Florida
-October 19 First World Series appearance in a relief role
-October 22 Starts Game 4 of the World Series and pitches 8 innings in a no decision but the Marlins still win the game (8 IP, 1 ER, 4 K, 7H)
-October 25 Marlins are World Series Champs

-July 13 Pitches in 1st All Star Game (2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER- David Ortiz HR, 1 K)
-September 29 Ends the season with a career high 18 wins, 222.1 IP, 139 K, and an ERA of 3.00
-Offseason Enter free agency for the first time.  Turns down higher offers from Boston and Cincinnati to sign a four-year $40 million contract with the New York Yankees

-May 22 Starts the season 4-2 before injuring his shoulder he wouldn't win another game that season

-March Injures a muscle in his buttocks during Spring Training and won't pitch for the Yankees that season
-August 15 Gets in a car accident and fails to tell the Yankees who were ready for him to come off the DL

-April 2 Starts Opening Day at Yankee Stadium but only lasted into the 4th inning
-April 6 Final start and only win of the season comes at the Metrodome against the Twins
-May 23 Decides to have Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow

-August 23 First start back from the surgery at Baltimore (5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K)
-September 25 Ends the season with a loss and a (4-2) record with a 5.77 ERA

-January 6 Signs a one-year deal with the Cleveland Indians
-August 7 Traded to the Minnesota Twins
-October 11 Starts the final Twins game ever played at the Metrodome, a 1-4 Twins loss to his former team the Yankees
-December 7 Accepts Twins arbitration offer for the 2010 season

-April 12 Starts the first game in the history of Target Field, a Twins win over the Red Sox (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K)
-June 20 & 26 Back to back complete games at Phillies and Mets (18 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB)
-July 17 & 22 Back to back complete games vs. Chicago and Baltimore (18 IP, 2 ER, 1 BB)
-October 7 Starts Game 2 of the ALDS against the Yankees at Target Field (Twins lose 5-2)
-December 14 With Cliff Lee signing he becomes the best available starting pitcher on the free agent market

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bill Smith: Bring it Yankees

Bill Smith wants the Yankees again next year.

The good news is reports this morning have Cliff Lee, the biggest name on the free agent market, spurning the Yankees and going to the Phillies.

Not only does he want to face the Yankees in the playoffs he wants the match-up in the first round again.

"You can't run scared of any team in the first round... I hope we get the opportunity again."

Smith might not be running scared but he doesn't have to play the game on the field.  His job is to get the best team he possibly can out there to face the Yankees.

One can make the argument that the Twins had their best possible team out there last season.  The team won 94 games in the regular season.  There were issues at 3rd base, 1st base, and in the bullpen.  Smith and other members of the organization worked to get those wrinkles ironed out.  Like he said, "We picked a bad time not to play well."

A 2011 playoff match-up between the Twins and Yankees could have a much different feel.  There would be many new faces for the Twins and even some new faces on the Yankees.  The 3/4th's of the Twins infield could be different from last years playoffs (1B, 2B, & SS) and the bullpen will have a complete face lift.  The Yankees were on the brink of adding another ace to their staff in the form of Cliff Lee.  That plan didn't work out so it will be interesting to see how they spend their millions.  This is could be a great sign for the Twins.  Lee has been almost impossible to beat in the playoffs so for AL fans it's great to see him choosing the NL.

If the current Twins are going to exercise their demons and make a run at another World Series the path is going to have to go through the Evil Empire in New York.  The Twins and Yankees have been two of the most consistent teams at qualifying for the playoffs so the odds are in favor of the two teams meeting up.

That is just the way that the Hollywood script will have to be written.  The plot line would play out as the small market team gets a beautiful new ballpark.  Their hometown star leads the team in a David vs Goliath contest against one of their most hated rivals.

It would be a new script and story line to the MLB playoffs.

If the Twins and Yankees meet again remember that it was Bill Smith that asked for it.  I'm not sure I would be able to handle that heartbreaking punishment again.  Smith must be a glutton for punishment but he is very clear in his battle cry...

Bring on the Yankees.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Metrodome Roof Issues and the Twins

If you were under a rock for the entire weekend you might have missed the news that the Teflon roof at the Metrodome collapsed under the weight of 17 inches of snow that fell in the Twin Cities.  It was quite the sight to behold.  Here is a live Fox Sports video of the roof caving in.

There have been a history of issues with the roof at the Metrodome and this impacted the Twins on multiple occasions.  Curiously enough on both occasions the Twins were playing the California Angels.

April 14, 1983: Twins vs. Angels (Part I)
Heavy snow was the culprit on this early season game.  This game had to be postponed.  The teams ended up playing three more games that weekend.  A much quicker fix than the current predicament with the Metrodome.

This game wouldn't be made up until the Angles returned to the Twin Cities in August.  It was the first game of a Monday double-header that the teams would split.  The Angles won the make-up game 12-6 and the Twins won the second game 7-0.  Rick Lysander pitched a complete game shutout for the Twins while giving up 11 hits.

April 26, 1986: Twins vs. Angles (Part II)
This time the cause was high winds that caused a small tear.  The roof didn't completely collapse and this  was a quick fix.  It only caused a nine-minute delay in the seventh inning.

The Twins lost this contest 7-6 because of six runs scored by the Angles in the top of the 9th.  Frank Viola pitched into 9th but the wheels fell off there.  He was replaced by Ron Davis who blew the save (much like the roof) by giving up four runs including two homeruns.

This was the last issue with the roof until the events of this weekend.

Here are a few photos I took of the Metrodome yesterday.  It's a quick video so feel free to check it out (You'll need QuickTime to view it).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Baseball Bloggers Alliance Day

Happy Baseball Bloggers Alliance Day to one and all!

What's that?
You haven't heard of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  Well let me explain...

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) was developed to encourage collaboration between baseball bloggers in markets across the country.  There are blogs from across MLB including current teams, baseball history, fantasy baseball, and various other baseball topics.

Besides being able to collaborate with other bloggers there are many other benefits to being a member of the BBA.  The Alliance collaborates to vote on a variety of different awards and honors.  In October the members of the BBA vote on the year-end awards in all of the major categories that are voted on by the Baseball Writers of America.  Around the Mid-Summer Classic bloggers are asked to submit their All-Star rosters.  Currently the members are submitting their votes for this year's Hall of Fame class.

I came to know about the BBA from Seth Stohs of  During October he began to post information about an association that he belonged to and the awards that they had voted on.  I went to the BBA website and explored their Constitution.  I quickly found that it is an organization that would help me to have a bigger presence on the web and to allow me to get connected to other bloggers.

I haven't been a member of the BBA for a long time but I have enjoyed the last couple months of membership.

There are currently six members of the BBA that are associated with the Minnesota Twins.  You can visit their sites and check out their BBA Day posts (if they write one).
Over the Baggy

Seth Speaks

Twinkie Talk

Twins Target

Twins Trivia

To find out some more information about the BBA check out this interview with Daniel Shoptaw, the founder of BBA.

Have a Happy Baseball Bloggers Alliance Day!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

JJ Hardy: Already out the door

Day three at the Winter Meetings was all about JJ Hardy for the Minnesota Twins.  It seems that the Twins already have the door open and are ready to push Hardy out of it.

The team waiting in line to receive Hardy is the Baltimore Orioles. Reports out of Baltimore have the Orioles offering Brett Jacobson and another minor leaguer, Jim Hoey.

Let's meet Brett Jacobson:
He's 6'6" and 220 pounds.  A big boy that throws the ball very hard.  He came to the Orioles organization in 2009 from the Tigers (Aubrey Huff trade).  His 2010 stats broke down like this:
Record: 8-1
ERA: 2.79
Games: 34
IP: 71.0
K: 67

Let's meet Jim Hoey:
He's 6'6" and 210 pounds.  He does have some major league experience in '06 and '07. The Orioles have been his team since he was drafted.  His 2010 stats at AAA and AA broke down like this:
Record: 6-0
ERA: 3.25
Games: 42
IP: 52.2
K: 70

If these reports are true the Twins would be giving up the best available shortstop on the market for only one player that is ready to compete at the major league level.  This can be seen as a positive and a negative.  The positive being that your team can develop young talent.  One of the negatives being that there might not be anyone to immediately help the Twins to win games.

I feel that trading Hardy for two prospects could be a huge mistake.  Jacobson could be with his third team in three seasons.  How good of a player could he be if every team that he is with tries to get rid of him?  He is 25 years old so the Twins could take a couple years to develop him into a major league reliever.  Hoey is almost 28 years old and may only get one more chance at the major league level.

As I wrote about on Tuesday there have been some bridges burned between Hardy and the Twins.  He is only under team control for next season.  It seems that Hardy isn't in the long term plans for the Twins.  This might be the best time to trade Hardy and get value for him.

Twins fans are going to be upset no matter what happens with Hardy.

Hardy Stays: If Hardy stays there is a good chance that he will leave next offseason when he is no longer under team control.  The bridge has been burned and it seems that Hardy is already out the door.

Hardy Goes: The Twins will get some prospects back and hopefully be able to develop them into major league ready talent.  The door is open and it seems that Hardy will be wearing a different uniform next season.

UPDATE:  It sounds as if Brendan Harris will also be included in the trade.  That will be a huge salary dump for the Twins roster next season.  The deal has been completed with the minor league players I mentioned above for Hardy and Harris.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Possibility of Pavano

One of the big Twins related stories from Day Two at the Winter Meetings was that the Twins were scheduled to meet with Carl Pavano's agent.

Many reports have stated that Pavano is looking for a three-year contract.  This could be a gamble with a pitcher that will be in his late 30's.  From man reports there are multiple other teams interested in Pavano.

This meeting with the Twins could be the beginning of the end for Pavano in Minnesota.  Overpaying for a veteran pitcher might not be the best use of the Twins funds in 2011. There are other holes that the Twins need to fill.

The Twins also seem content with the many of the pitchers that are currently in the system.  If the Twins don't make any moves for next season the rotation would be:

1.  Francisco Liriano
2.  Scott Baker
3.  Nick Blackburn
4.  Brian Duensing
5.  Kevin Slowey

There are a lot of players in that projected rotation that will have something to prove.  There is also the possibility that if one of these pitchers fizzles out that the organization will turn to one of their younger pitchers such as Kyle Gibson.

Many of the free agent moves this offseason will be gauged around what happens with Cliff Lee.  When Lee has decided on a location and dollar amount the rest of the deals will be able to fall into place. If Pavano were to return to the Twins it would most likely have to be at a discount.  There would be benefits to doing this.  He would have the a good chance to make the postseason again, he already knows the organization, and he is familiar with the fans and community.

Will the famous mustache be gracing Target Field next season?
My gut feeling is no.  The team seems willing to enter next season with the rotation the way that it currently sits.  The market could come back to the Twins and make Pavano a more reasonable transaction for the Twins.  With Pavano being projected as possibly the second best available starter, someone will pay him and pay him the contract that he wants.

This probably won't be with the Twins.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Nishioka Fever leads to Hardy Possibilities

All of the Twins news coming out of the Winter Meetings on Monday surrounded one player, Tsuyoshi Nishioka.  In yesterday's post I wrote about the Twins Checklist for the Winter Meetings.  The first item on my list was to decide on the starting infield.  Nishioka is a piece that could fit into the Twins infield for the foreseeable future.

The Twins met with Nishioka's agent, Rick Thurman, on Monday.  There are multiple reports that have come out of that meeting.  The first report states that the Twins are looking at two or three year deal that would be in the neighborhood of $6 to $12 million.  The second report has the Twins offering him a three year contract that could be from $9 to $10 million.

By getting a deal finalized with Nishioka the rest of the infield picture could become a little clearer.  One route the Twins could follow would be to seriously listen to offers for JJ Hardy.  The Twins have holes that need to be filled in the bullpen and starting rotation.  A Hardy trade could fill one of these holes.

I feel that Hardy is the Twins best option at shortstop for next season.  They have Hardy at the extra low cost of $6 million.  To trade him for relief help would be a waste of his talents.  If he is included in a package to improve the starting rotation this could be a better move for the Twins.  The problem is that there won't be a team jumping to offer a top-of-the-line starter for a shortstop that has been injury prone.

There might have been some bridges burned between the Twins and Hardy over the last couple weeks.  He is only under control of the team for next season.  At this point would the Twins want to offer him a long-term contract?  Hardy has been getting asked about his situation with the Twins for the last couple weeks.  Once the season starts there still could be questions for Hardy.  Could he be traded at the mid-point of the season?

The Hardy situation will be an interesting one to watch during the rest of this offseason.  But getting Nishioka signed is the first step in that equation.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Twins Winter Meeting Checklist

The Annual Winter Meetings are held this week for general managers and other baseball personnel.  The Twins usually take a quiet approach at the meetings but these meeting can lay the foundations for all of the moves that the Twins will make this offseason.

Here is my checklist for the things that I feel the Twins need to accomplish this week at the Winter Meetings.  There are things on this list that might not be accomplished this week but the groundwork of some of these moves needs to be in place by the end of the week.

1.  Decide on a starting infield:  Twins players and their fans are anxious to know who will be playing up the middle for the Twins in 2011.  There has been a buzz about Tsuyoshi Nishioka.  Will he be part of this infield plan?  The Twins have 20 days left to work out a contract with the Japanese sensation.  Another piece in the infield puzzle is JJ Hardy.  Will he be back with the Twins?  Bill Smith will be, at the very least, shopping Hardy around to see what the market is for a very solid SS.  There aren't that many available this offseason so if the offer is right Hardy could be playing for his third team in three years.

2.  Solidify the bullpen:  As the roster currently sits there would be a lot of question marks in the Twins bullpen for the 2011 season.  Both Joe Nathan and Pat Neshek are on the rebound from elbow surgery.  Matt Capps will be back as an insurance blanket for Nathan but there are a lot of other innings that need to be eaten by a bullpen.  The Twins need one more veteran pitcher to help to solidify the late innings of games.  This could be a familiar face in the form of Matt Guerrier or Jesse Crain.  There are also other veteran bullpen arms that are available to assist the Twins next season.

3.  Add a quality starting pitcher:  This might be more of a wish than actual reality.  It would be nice for the Twins to find another starting pitcher fill the hole that will be left by Carl Pavano.  The Twins do have many candidates in their organization but none of them have stepped up to the challenge in the past.  Could Zach Greinke become a member of the Twins?  That was part of my offseason blueprint but it sounds like the Royals don't want to trade him in the division.  Is there another pitcher the Twins could go after?  The other scenario would be to use the pitchers that the Twins have and then call-up Kyle Gibson at the beginning of July.  The Twins star prospect could be a shot in the arm for team in the second half of the season.

It's going to be a fun week with the Winter Meetings...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Twins Zubaz: They're back?

As I was walking through the Fargo Mall last weekend a bright neon colored sign caught my eye.

I couldn't believe it.  Zubaz, the popular pant from the early 1990's, are making the rounds again.  These light weight pants were created by two Minnesota men, Dan Stock and Bob Traux.  These men were weight lifters and they wanted shorts that could be used in workouts.  Little did they know how much of a craze they would create.  The shorts would expand to the more popular pants, and even caps and shirts.

My run-in this week with Zubaz didn't end at the mall.  I was perusing  the Star Tribune website and I happened to click on the link for the Twins Fan Shop.  There they were again, Zubaz in Twins colors.  
Since Zubaz are a Minnesota based company they have had their place in Minnesota baseball lore.  The St. Paul Saints wore Zubaz pants during a game in 2008

Maybe next year will bring a new fad for Target Field. 
The Twins can paint the bases in zebra stripes like the Saints did for their Zubaz theme game.
Everyone can invest in a pair of these zebra striped pants and to enjoy the Twins in 2011.
A flashback to the 90's...
We will change the world, one pair of pants at a time.
Stay tuned next week for all the news and notes from the Winter Meetings.  I will discuss all of the rumors surrounding the Twins.  
  • Will JJ Hardy be traded?
  • Can the Twins sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka?
  • Will the Twins trade for a starting pitcher?
  • How can the Twins solidify their bullpen?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Most Important Position in Baseball

With the mega-contract that was signed by Troy Tulowitzki earlier this week Andrew Kneeland of Twins Target posed the question, "What is the most important position in baseball?"

This is a great question for bloggers to write about because there can be so many different ways to interpret the question and there are a variety of ways to approach finding an answer.

I tried not to read too much about what the others had written on this topic (You can see their links at the bottom of this article).

I decided to make a three tier system for players.  Tier 1 will include my top position players, Tier 2 will include my middle level position players, and Tier 3 will include my lower level position players.

Tier 1: Starting Pitcher, Catcher, and Shortstop
Starting Pitcher:  The starting pitcher can dominate a game.  If players can't hit a pitcher it doesn't matter what defensive players are behind him.
Catcher:  The catcher can set the tone of the game.  A catcher calling a good game can help a pitcher to dominate.  Having a defensive catcher can stop runners from moving around the basepath.
Shortstop:  A dominant shortstop can control the defensive pace of the game behind the pitcher.  If a pitcher doesn't have his best stuff the defensive behind him needs to be even better.  The shortstop can control that defense.

Tier 2: Center Field, Third Base, Second Base, and Relief Pitcher
Center Field:  The man in control of the outfield.  A bad center fielder can lead to some interest plays in the outfield.  Great athletes are usually designated to center field because of the multitude of tasks that is required of this position.
Third Base:  The hot corner can be a position that is the difference between an out and a double.  Quick reflexes and a solid glove are all part of a third baseman's make-up.   
Second Base:  The other part of the double-play combination can be a thriving part of a team's defensive game plan.  Having a mobile second baseman can help to compensate for other positions that might be lacking defensively.  
Relief Pitcher:  The importance of relief pitching continues to play a role in the sport of baseball.  One bad inning or one bad pitch can be the difference in winning a World Series or not even qualifying for the playoffs.  

Tier 3: First Base, Right Field, and Left Field
First Base:  There are many unathletic players that are placed at this position.  These players can be in the line-up solely for their hitting prowess.       
Right Field:  With the center fielder covering lots of ground, the right fielder can be a position in which a team hides a lower level player.  Some great center fielders have had to make the shift to right field in the later portion of their careers.
Left Field:  The other corner outfield position can be another hiding spot for a young up-and-coming player or an aging veteran.  

Here are some links to other bloggers opinion on the topic:

The folks at Knuckleballs had a couple different opinions:  The first is looking to score a 10 from the position players and the second gives love to starting pitchers

As part of this post I posed the question on my Facebook profile to see what kind of responses I would get from my family and friends.  Here are the responses:

-Catcher, they are like the captain!
-Catcher.  They are the eyes of the whole field.
-Pitcher. Without them you have a lot of people standing around :)
-Catcher, they hold that team together and keep the pitcher going.  Without them the team would be a mess!
-The pitcher because they are the main defensive player
-Everything starts with the pitcher, catcher in a close second.... or the guy that 100% of the time that hits homers
-Catcher or middle reliever, although I guess you can't pin the middle reliever as just one position, I would more say the bullpen (minus the closer)
-Well the most important position on the field is the pitcher....They (I consider the entire staff playing one position) can win and lose the game depending on how they throw...
-I have to go with either SS or 3B.  Good defense can bail out everyone else on the team.
-I would say pitcher
-Starting pitcher ?
-Shortstop.  Something about how that position sets a tone for what goes on behind the pitcher, in front of the outfield, and make the play that inspires teammates to play a bit tougher, with more of an edge.  If you have a shortstop that knows situations, communicates with the outfielders and infielders, bring a positive attitude to every play, you've got a team that is on the same page and is thinking ahead.  Your shortstop is usually one of your most intelligent defensive players and makes other better around them.  Defense wins games.
-I wold say the Closer.  Look what happened to the Astros (Brad Lidge) in 2005 when Albert owned him, or even Nathan in the '09 playoffs when he was unable to bury the Evil Team no one likes.  You need the person at the end of the game you can count on to bring home the W.