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You Don't Get a Second Chance (You get ten) (12/03/03) --
Two weeks back, following the Boof Bonser Bonanza (possibly more commonly referred to as the A.J. Pierzynski trade), my brother and I were discussing the future of two Twins relievers, LaTroy Hawkins and Eddie Guardado. It was pretty much assumed that Minnesota wouldn’t be able to sign both of these guys, so we were discussing which one we’d rather have. I defended Hawkins, he defended Guardado, but in any case we were hoping the Twins could re-sign at least one of them.

The talk eventually turned into how many chances the Twins gave Hawkins. This is a guy that was given about ten different chances to develop into a starting pitcher. Had he been a Yankee or a Brave, he would’ve already been beyond cut and instead working the late shift at Jack-In-A-Box. But what did the Twins do when he flamed out for the umpteenth time? They made him into a closer, of course.

This little experiment worked for about a year. Then, in 2001 when the Twins were making their first run at the playoffs, Hawkins began to not just flame out, he actually spontaneously combusted one time on the Metrodome mound and set the turf on fire and melted the hefty bag. The playoff hopes, like Hawkins, went up in smoke following his implosion.

Surely now the Twins would send Hawkins out to pasture, right? Well, they hadn’t tried him at setup relief yet, so that’s where they moved him. The man who clearly failed as a Major League pitcher on a number of occasions was getting ANOTHER chance.

And by George, it worked this time. For the past two years, Hawkins has been nothing short of dominant in his setup role. With a blistering fastball and an aggressive style, LaTroy established himself as one of the top setup men in the league, sporting sub 2.00 ERA’s and high strikeout totals.

Everyone was quick to pat themselves on the back for helping make LaTroy Hawkins the type of pitcher everyone thought they could be. And we all know that if he had failed as a setup man, the Twins would’ve given him a chance to be the team valet or the guy who replaces the sanitary cakes in the Metrodome’s famous urinal troughs. There’s no way they were giving up on this guy.

Which brings me to yesterday’s news that LaTroy unexpectedly inked a three year deal with the Chicago Cubs. Don’t get me wrong on this, I am not bitter that Hawkins left for greener pastures (the emphasis is on the “green”.) That’s not the case. After developing into a solid pitcher, he had every right to go out and seek what the market would give him. My issue with this is the way in which his signing was handled.

From what I have gathered, Twins general manager Terry Ryan was counting on a gentlemen’s agreement from Hawkins that he wouldn’t seek other employment until after the Twins were done dealing with Guardado. Now, in the midst of talks with Every Day Eddie, Ryan gets a call from Hawkins’ agent informing him of the deal.

I think the guy, who was given more chances to succeed than Steve Howe, could’ve at least delayed his signing as the Twins had hoped. Even if he knew he was going to be a Cub and was just humoring Minnesota, that was the least he could have done. Wait until Guardado is signed (hopefully) then listen to Ryan’s offer. “Thanks, but no thanks, I am going to the Cubs.” That would have been perfectly acceptable.

But LaTroy has always been kind of a malcontent and I’m not surprised in the least that he handled this situation the way he did. I guess he’s not too worried because if he fails in Chicago, the Twins are always looking for someone to help change the bases in the middle of the fifth.

The Leonardite