Saturday, September 10, 2011

2012 Wish List, Part II: Take Care of the Foundation

The minor league teams are very important pieces to any Major League team. These teams are where young players develop their talents and learn the speed of the game. The minor leagues are preparation for the big leagues just like grade school, middle school, and high school prepares students for college -- people have to succeed at every level in order to move to the next...and the really good ones move along faster.

Of course, the minor leagues differ from my college analogy in that everyone kind moves along at different paces, and the really talented players -- the ones who are on the 40-man roster -- kind of sit "on call" in case there is a need on the big league team. Those players need to be ready for prime time at a moment's notice, while they still contribute to the team they're on.

However, these teams are much more than just claw machines full of bodies waiting to be plucked by the big league team. These are actual professional baseball teams with sponsors, advertisers, season-ticket holders, and loyal fans. They want to be competitive and they want to win. And they rely heavily on their big league teams to help them succeed. These teams, at all levels, provide the foundation for the future of the big league team.

Unfortunately, everything surrounding the AAA affiliate Rochester Red Wings has been a shambles the last couple years. They're a proud team that dates back to 1877. However, they have been terrible the last two years, with a combined record of 102-186. This absolutely needs to improve.

Of course, they've been the victim of some very bad luck. It's difficult to play well and win with the amount of thrash they've suffered due to all the injuries on the Twins team. However, at least in the Twins' front office opinion, they've also suffered from some unsatisfactory managing and coaching.

At least the Twins are aware there are problems and are working to resolve them. The Red Wings on-field manager Tom Nieto and hitting coach Floyd Rayford have been let go. There have been rumblings and rumors that the players didn't like playing under Nieto. And, earlier in the season, Ron Gardenhire, among others, questioned the Red Wings' focus on fundamentals.

The Twins insist that they fired Nieto and Rayford strictly due to on-field performance and that it had nothing to do with the readiness of the players who were called up. However, it's clear that the players who were called up could've been more prepared.

Now that they've taken the first step to turning the Red Wings around, the Twins still have more work to do to make them into winners again. Winning teams generate confidence in the players, and that confidence will translate into their big league play when they're called up.

The Twins need to limit the number of injuries on their big league squad (a rant for another wish list post) so that they're not plucking so many Rochester players out.

Also, even though they say they didn't do these firings because of player development, the Twins need to make player development and fundamental baseball skills a priority when they hire the new staff. The players should come to the AAA level with good fundamental skills, but they also need to move up to big league level with even better fundamental skills.

And, lastly, the Twins need to continue to reinforce the good relationship they have with the Red Wings organization. The player development contract between the Red Wings and the Twins is due to expire after the 2012 season, and the Twins need to impress the Red Wings enough to ensure a contract renewal.

If the Twins support the Red Wings in their effort to become winners, the Red Wings, in turn, will support the Twins.

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