Monday, August 9, 2010

Nickname Review: Minnesota Twins

The Common Man had planned to spend the weekend up at the cabin in delicious, internet free serenity. Even the AM station that carries the Twins games up there cuts out after sundown, as it runs off a solar powered antenna. It was supposed to give TCM the time he needed to get through a book he’s been asked to review. Alas, life and work schedules got in the way, and The Common Man instead ended up heading to the Twin Cities with The Uncommon Wife and The Boy for a quick visit with the parents.

TCM’s family was buzzing about the Twins, in particular his 93 year old grandmother. In short, they are frustrated, but they have hope. It was a refreshingly realistic perspective given how often the online Twins community overreacts both positively and negatively to the season’s twists and turns.

In honor of this remarkable display of self-awareness, The Common Man thinks it’s finally time to turn inward and do some self-examination, objectively ranking his team’s nickname.

Team Name: Minnesota
Nickname: Twins
NicknameTypography: Human
Definition: Two persons or things closely resembling one another, siblings born of the same litter.
Characteristics: Similarity, mind-reading potential, togetherness

The best thing about being a Minnesota Twin: Camraderie. The Common Man has never met twins that don’t actually get along. Indeed, most of the twins he has met have terrific relationships with one another that are somewhat distinct from a traditional sibling relationship. And indeed, the Minnesota Twins clubhouse has usually sported a positive vibe, especially without Torii Hunter around stirring the pot.
The worst thing about being a Minnesota Twin: Sameness. For the last twenty years, the Minnesota Twins have focused on one priority characteristic at a time for their players, which has occasionally been an advantage, but has often been a challenge.

Exhibit A: In 1991 the Twins brought in St. Paul native Jack Morris, without whom they probably would not have made it to the World Series, let alone won it. The lesson the team learned was not that they should go after good and undervalued players as free agents, but that bringing back hometown free agents was a potential box office draw. So in 1993, they brought in Dave Winfield on a two year deal as a DH. The team sunk further into mediocrity, and picked up Paul Molitor in 1996. Molly played for the Twins until 1998, and teamed with New Ulm native Terry Steinbach for the last two years of that. Steinbach would stay on until 1999, when the homecoming fetish finally ran its course.

Exhibit B: In the meantime, the Twins began falling in love with players specifically because they lacked power. In the middle of the greatest offensive era in 65 years, the Twins had exactly one player hit more than 20 homers in a season from 1996 through 2000. Matt Lawton in 1998 had 21. The club continuously preached hitting the ball the other way and minimizing strikeouts, messing up the swings of budding stars Marty Cordova and David Ortiz, among others.

Exhibit C: Left-handed hitters. This is less a organizational philosophy, TCM thinks, than an oddity, but the club has been lefty-heavy since 2001, when Doug Mientkiewicz, Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones, AJ Pierzynski, David Ortiz, and Matt Lawton all hit from the left side. Today, the Twins have a similar alignment, with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Denard Span, Jim Thome, and Jason Kubel all hitting from the left.

Exhibit D: Strike-throwing righties. The Twins have had an organizational philosophy of drafting and developing right-handed starters who throw in the low-nineties and don’t walk anyone. This emphasis has wrought Brad Radke, Carlos Silva, Joe Mays, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and others. Lots of mid-rotation talent, but not a lot of ace potential.

Exhibit E: The Twins Way. Under farm director Jim Rantz, the Twins have been famous for the way that they indoctrinate their minor league prospects in “The Twins Way,” which include how to organize a locker, how to talk to the media, what skills to emphasize, and how to stretch before games and work out in between. Apparently, if you look at a Twins minor league locker room, it’s eerie.

More good news: Well, presumably the Twins could bat out of order and nobody would notice. Also, pitchers could probably switch jerseys with one another and confuse the hell out of opposing managers. “Wait, why is Jon Rauch throwing with his left hand??? Quick, call time and pinch hit for Ryan Howard!”

On the other hand: All that similarity makes it hard to stand out and get noticed, leading to fewer endorsement opportunities and less national exposure for non-Mauer Minnesota Twins. Also, twins tend to get royally screwed when it comes to birthdays, getting fewer presents, having to split a party and a cake, and being forced to share presents. Indeed, twins may have to share the same bedroom for their entire childhood, and split toys. With that lack of individualized attention, it would be very hard to make potential free agent signings feel special. Maybe that’s why the Twins tend to make more trades and develop talent at home, rather than dip into the free agent pool. Finally, twins are in no way intimidating, but can be kind of creepy. Think Jose and Ozzie Canseco.

Final Analysis: Since it’s hard to quantify how important (or not) chemistry has been to the success of the Minnesota Twins, The Common Man is forced to conclude that the nickname just isn’t a very strong entry. After all, unless they are twin boxers or MMA fighters or something, there’s nothing inherently intimidating or frightening about twins. Even the little girls in The Shining were more disconcerting and off-putting than actually scary. Plus, the Twins’ OCD-like need to stockpile players with similar attributes at the expense of other talented players has tended to put the team at a competitive disadvantage. This is not to say that these methods have always led to poor baseball (indeed, the recent incarnations of the Twins have all had great talent), but the roster construction is very monochromatic, which can and has hurt the team on a matchup level. Final Grade: C

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