An ode to Bill Smith

An ode to Bill Smith

Twins

An ode to Bill Smith

Over the weekend, it came out that Willians Astudillo was a finalist for MVP of the Venezuelan winter league. That’s a fun thing! What’s utterly insane is that among the other finalists is another former Twins: Delmon Young. He’s finally made it!

In truth, I was a huge Delmon Young fan. OK, I wasn’t a fan of Delmon Young the person, and I condemn some of the things he has done and said off the field, but as a player and teammate, he wasn’t as bad, I think, as people remember him to be. What I really liked, though, was the idea of Delmon Young.

Bill Smith took the reins of the Twins when Terry Ryan decided to step away with, what at the time had been called a retirement. Smith was charged with doing things that Ryan never seemed to have the appetite for, particularly in the later years of his tenure. He had to make some big trades, including sending Johan Santana away before he reached free agency, and give out a ton of money to Joe Mauer to keep him in Minnesota.

Bill Smith was a business man more than a baseball man, and to that end, he ran the team how one would run a business. Instead of loyalty or internal development, Smith saw assets and liabilities, and he went out and sought to turn assets into liabilities. At the time, the Twins had a bunch of pitching prospects, but very few right handed hitters.

Thus, the infamous Delmon Young trade was born.

The fact that the Twins did something so bold made me love the move. Young was, well, young and extremely talented. Position players as prospects have a lower bust rate, which was also appealing, and I could never understand why the move was constantly panned, even when Young succeeded, and there was no patience as people waited for him to develop. He was in his early 20s, and his brother Dmitri blossomed later in his career as well.

Now, it is quite apparent that Bill Smith had an uncanny ability to botch trades. Garza was the one prospect that worked out among that crop of Twins pitchers. Young was the rare offensive super prospect that completely flamed out. There were more examples of his regular failure to come out ahead in trades, but his attitude towards the trade market was, in my view, the correct one.

Thad Levine has been a bit more active than Terry Ryan ever was, and was able to part with some of Minnesota’s more popular and long term players at last year’s deadline, thought he hasn’t really made too many purchases on the trade market. I trust his player judgment more than I did Bill Smith, but one thing from the Smith era should carry forward. The Twins have a strength. Use it to address a weakness

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