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Twins organization: Overrated

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This piece from CBS Sportsline's Scott Miller caught my eye ...

The Twins, under the direction of GM Terry Ryan, for years have been a model franchise in terms of scouting, intelligence and efficiency. Yet, partly because the Twins aren't into self-promotion, whenever GM jobs opened, franchises tapped into other pipelines.

See the full article for more nonsense.  And then I was reading this article by Murray Chass of the New York Times, who wrote, in part ...

Moneyball extolled the talents of Beane, portraying him as superior to other teams' general managers. Lewis celebrated Beane for his ability to produce winning teams with small payrolls, but Terry Ryan has done the same thing with the Twins, a fact Lewis didn't acknowledge.

And my question for both of these writers is: How can anyone in his right mind put the achievements of the Twins on an equal footing with organizations like the Athletics or Braves -- or the Indians?

I don't think the Twins organization has been underrated.  In fact, the more I think about it, they've become quite overrated, and I am as guilty as anyone of perpetuating it.  Over and over again, I have thrown around the Twins as one of the great modern development organizations in the game, along with the Braves and the Athletics.  And purely for drafting and development, I think they probably deserve a stature at or near the level of those teams.

But as an overall organization?  Hell no.  The Twins' five-year "renaissance," such as it is, has amounted to average of 88.8 wins per season.  The Athletics, meanwhile, won 96.6 games per season over their five-year peak, 2000-2004.  And last season -- their "off-year" -- the Athletics won 88 games, which is as many as the Twins won during their "peak."  And the Athletics did it in a much tougher division, and certainly with no more resources to work with.

How desperate does one have to be to tear down Moneyball to come up with the idea that those two track records are equivalent?  Eight wins per season for five years is no small difference!  And the Twins can't even claim superiority as a pure development organization. After all, have their players done better than Giambi, Mulder, Zito, Hudson, Chavez, Tejada, Harden, Crosby and Street? Or, for that matter, better than Belle, Thome, Ramirez, Giles, Colon, Sexson, Sabathia, Martinez, Sizemore and Peralta?

UPDATE: mjmarble contributes this Ken Rosenthal piece as another example:

The Reds' role model is 220 miles northeast of Cincinnati, playing in the same state and a similar market. The Indians rebuilt by improving their farm system and trading for younger, cheaper players. New Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky ... spent the past 10 years with the Twins, a low-revenue club even more accomplished than the Indians.

Let's take the Athletics out of the equation and just compare the Twins' track record with the Indians'.  The Twins briefly presided over what is arguably the weakest period of competition in the history of the AL Central, 2002-2004.  Their toughest opponent over that stretch was the 2003 White Sox, 86-76.  The Twins best record, 94-68, came in a season when no other team had a winning record.  And by the way, that's their best record of the past 15 years.

Of course, the same charges could be levelled against the Indians.  They too played against weak competition, plus, you could argue, the Indians had all that fat Jacobs Field money to throw around.  But Jacobs Field money clearly did not build the 1994-1996 Indians, which kept up a 102-win pace for three seasons. (Actually, more like 2.6 seasons with the strike in there.)  A quality organization built that team, not hordes of cash -- and unlike the 2002-2004 Twins, the 1994-1996 Indians weren't playing an unbalanced schedule.

Even more damning, money obviously didn't build the 2005 Indians, who were better than any Twins team of the past decade -- arguably of the past three decades. The 2005 Indians managed 93 wins in a division with two other winning teams, one with 99 wins and the other with 83 wins.  The 2002 Twins faced no winning teams at all, yet they managed exactly one more win than the 2005 Indians.  And that was their best team.  And what did this supposedly great Twins team do in 2005, finally faced with real competition?  Did they rise to the occasion with 99 wins like the White Sox, or gut it out to 93 wins like the Indians?  No, they folded like a cheap suit and were lucky to finish over .500.

So maybe it's time to put away the auto-worship for the Twins organization.  Sure, they develop a lot of very good players.  Sure, they run a pretty efficient shop.  But they make a lot of mistakes, too.  Huge mistakes.  Signing Shannon Stewart mistakes.  Releasing David Ortiz mistakes.  Tony Batista.  They simply don't have the track record to measure up with the game's truly elite organizations.

Maybe it's time to recognize that it's no accident that half the big-league teams are being run by former Indians and Athletics executives.  There's a reason for that, and it isn't because some guy wrote a book.

UPDATE: Two more interesting articles about the Twins, not really related to the above topic. The first discusses the Twins as a dark horse contender in 2006, with plenty of support for the idea from Mark Shapiro. (Quite a switch from the doom-and-gloom of the Indians' beat folks.) Not sure if I agree or disagree with the idea; I tend to see the Twins as a greater threat in 2007 than 2006. The second speculates that the Twins really might be contracted after the 2006 season, with an announcement due by July 1.