Saturday, September 3, 2011

2012 Wish List, Part I: Admit Your Mistake on the Nishioka Experiment

A note from k-bro: We're all in agreement that the Twins are merely playing out the rest of 2011 with no hope of October baseball. So I have a whole bunch of ideas on how to improve the team (and by "improve the team," I mean "make me happy") for 2012 and the future. Like, about 84 bizillion words' worth of ideas (because none of us wants to live through this again). And rather than putting all those words in one long post, causing you to choke on your coffee and skip the whole thing, I'll chunk them up over a series of posts. I know that doing this kind of thing seems like an off-season activity, but frankly, I've nothing of value to say now anyway, so I'll just go for it. Besides, I don't want to forget what I wanted to say.

Step 1: Respectfully inform Tsuyoshi Nishioka that, come Spring Training, he must legitimately beat out Trevor Plouffe for the spot on the roster. If he can't, either send him down or buy out his contract so he can move on.

When Nishioka was signed, we all expected that he would require a pretty generous adjustment period. A new country and a faster style of play would be a lot to take in and adapt to. I was thinking he would need, like, a month...

Now, as the season is nearing an end, he is still playing like a boy among men. He's tentative both in the field and at the plate. He has limited range, he can't throw well, and he backs out of the batter's box when he's hitting. He never drives the ball, but he doesn't really slap it well either. And the broken leg he suffered back in April probably sapped a lot of his speed.

Obviously, the scouts saw something of value in him, or the Twins would never have signed him; he didn't make up all those accomplishments he achieved in Japan. The expectations around him seemed real and reasonable, and, because of that, the Twins front office seems to have redoubled its commitment to sticking with him for the future. It was pretty costly to bring him here  -- not only did they have to pay his posting fee and his contract, but they also traded JJ Hardy to make room for him -- and it sounds like they don't want to admit failure.

However, this whole situation is a mess. I think fans would be more tolerant if there were some real signs of improvement. But this lack of discernible progress should indicate that his ability to play in the MLB has likely plateaued. It's time to end the experiment and move on. 

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