Lost in the shock of Minnesota firing Bill Smith as general manager and replacing him with the man he replaced in 2007, Terry Ryan, is that they dropped another bombshell on Twins fans, with Ryan revealing midway through the press conference that the team’s payroll will decline to “somewhere around $100 million.”
If true that would represent a $15 million drop from this year and leave little room to re-sign Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, and Joe Nathan, let alone add other free agents. Based on the current roster the Twins already have about $82 million committed for 2012.
As a Twins fan that’s incredibly frustrating because they need all kinds of help following a 99-loss season and Target Field was built on the notion that the increased revenue would lead to sustaining a large payroll. Instead they’re slicing the payroll by 10-15 percent in Year 3 of the taxpayer-funded ballpark and coming off arguably the worst season in team history.
Ryan replacing Smith was positive news for Twins fans, but he has a very difficult task ahead of him, significantly less spending money than expected, and plenty of holes to fill.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉