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Twins likely to bypass Teixeira
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
This is not the forum to debate whether Twins owner Carl Pohlad cares, or whether he'd just as soon let other major-league owners buy him out and fold up the franchise. However, if Pohlad has any interest in saving baseball in Minnesota, his window is open.
The Twins have the pitching to be respectable, with a rotation of Brad Radke, Eric Milton, Matt Kinney and Mark Redman and a deep, balanced bullpen that could be one of the league's best if LaTroy Hawkins turns out to be a legitimate closer. There are some good young players, like Cristian Guzman, Matt Lawton, Torii Hunter and Corey Koskie. "We really need to get more power and production," says general manager Terry Ryan, but he wasn't given the financial wherewithal to go get a $4-6 million bat or two. Instead, the Twins will take the revenue-sharing cash and stuff it under the bed.
The Twins have the first pick in the June draft and this is one of those rare times that there's a ready-for-prime-time college hitter who is not only the best player available, but the player who best fits what the Twins need. Georgia Tech third baseman Mark Teixeira not only is everyone's preseason college player of the year, but a monster switch-hitter who has an incredibly short, quick stroke from each side of the plate and work habits and character traits that are off the chart. "Everything you've heard about Mark is true," says Tech coach Danny Hall. "There aren't many like him, anywhere." Former Tech stars Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek come to mind for Hall, as do Darin Erstad and Pat Burrell.
Put Teixeira in the middle of that Twins lineup -- before Milton, Lawton, Guzman, et al are hitting the free-agent road -- and the franchise could be rejuvenated. But Ryan won't be allowed to draft Teixeira. Too expensive. A Scott Boras client. No, the Twins will set a price they're willing to pay, draft the player who agrees to take it and Teixeira will move on to live happily ever after with the Cubs and join a future infield of Hee Seop Choi, Bobby Hill and Luis Montanez. That's an infield that should help end the mediocre mentality that's fermented at quaint Wrigley these many years.
Unless there's a cap on amateur signing bonuses -- and that's not happening soon -- then this is the classic case of what's wrong with the system. Pohlad is close to the wealthiest man in Minnesota, made a profit the last two years in baseball and could invest in Teixeira. But he won't. And the chicken little mentality of some of the small-market teams has prevented a rules change that allows those draft picks to be traded. Those teams claim that if draft picks can be traded, the agents will stonewall everybody, driving up prices even more. OK, that would happen if there were draft-day deals, but if a club were allowed to deal its first pick up to three or four months before the actual draft day, then the Twins could at least help themselves.
Everyone knows Mark Teixeira. Everyone knows that he's a Pat Burrell-type talent, maybe better because he's a switch-hitter. Wouldn't the Yankees die to get their hands on him and have him as their next superstar with that power in that park, beginning in 2002 or 2003? Aren't the Twins better off with Alfonso Soriano, a pitcher and a couple of the extra picks the Yanks got for Denny Neagle or Jeff Nelson? Absolutely.
If the draft isn't going to work in terms of getting the best players to the worst teams, then let the Twins, Royals, Expos and others barter with those picks. And when deals are being made in July and, say, the Yankees are trying to get Everyday Eddie Guardardo, why not allow them to throw a 2002 pick into the deal? It would be a pick in the 20th-to-50th range, and the Twins could conceivably afford the player (although they did not sign their sandwich and first second-round pick last year).
Of course, the reason Teixeira is available this June is that the Red Sox tried to bully his father, John, when they drafted him in the ninth round in 1998. Teixeira wanted to sign and had a number ($1.85 million) less than what the Red Sox gave pitchers Sang Hoon Lee or Robinson (Crusoe) Checo, but the cursing and bully attempts so disgusted the family that they would not allow him to sign with Boston. Hall and several Georgia Tech people thought of that when they saw the Sox last summer after John Valentin went down. Not that the whole thing is some curse, but John Teixeira's high school friend and teammate was .... yes, Bucky Dent.
News and notes
The AL East may only have Mike Sirotka (Toronto), John Parrish (Baltimore), Wilson Alvarez (Tampa Bay) and Andy Pettitte (Yankees). But in what may be baseball's best division, the NL West, the Rockies will have three or four lefty starters, the Giants two and the D-Backs two -- and most of them are very good pitchers, from Randy Johnson to Mike Hampton to Shawn Estes. That's bad news for the Padres, who were 19-30 in games started by opposing lefties last season. Left-handers greatly negate Ryan Klesko's power.
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