For beleaguered Minnesota Twins General Manager, Bill Smith, life has been rough in his short tenure at the Twins helm. After two years of questionable moves, and a disgruntled fan base, Smith knows the time has come to prove himself. The time is now for the Twins to become more than just an early exit playoff team. With the imminent move to Target Field, it is time to build a World Series champion.
December 17, 2009
The following events occur in real time…
Bill Smith arrives at his office, stumbles past the boxes of bittersweet American League Central Division Champion T-shirts, and move towards the telephone. He scoops up the receiver with all the grace of Brendan Harris fielding a ground ball. His eyes furrow in a Jeter-like determination.
Smith: Michael Hill please.
Smith: Hi Michael it’s Bill Smith…Bill Smith…No. Bill. You know, GM of the Minnesota Twins…What? Yes I’m serious. I know I’ve only been on the job for two years now but come on…Yes I have made moves. Remember I traded Johan Santana?...Well anyway, I’m calling about Josh Johnson…Ok, I get it. Although, I think a simple no would have sufficed. What about Uggla?...Yes…I see…Interesting. Well, let me run through these proposals, and I’ll get back to you…Alright, bye.
Smith: Hey Rob, I just spoke to Michael Hill with the Marlins about Uggla.
Minnesota Twins Assistant General Manager, Rob Antony, enters the room.
Antony: I thought we decided Uggla wasn’t the best fit?
Smith: I know, but I just thought I’d cover all the bases. I’d still like to move Punto to the bench. I only gave him that $8 million contract because, well, you remember what Gardy did.
Smith: Speaking of Gardy, what time is it? I’m supposed to meet with him at eleven.
Antony: It’s almost ten.
Smith exits his office to meet Twins manager Ron Gardenhire at Murray’s. Everybody fucking loves Murray’s.
Smith arrives at Murray’s -- the restaurant neither packed nor empty, but with just enough patrons for the buzzing of conversation to drown out all other sounds. Gardenhire is waiting.
Smith: Hey Ron.
Gardenhire: Bill, how you doing? Traffic was a pain in the ass huh? I really battled my tail off to get here.
Smith: Yeah, there is a surprising amount of traffic this morning…Well, shall we get a table? I’ve got a couple things I want to discuss with you.
Gardenhire: Ah, making progress on re-signing Cabrera? You know I’m excited as heck to get him back. We’d have some real gamers in that infield with Cabby and Nicky.
Smith: Well actually, that is what I wanted to discuss with you. I’m glad you didn’t bring Nick with you actually, because this would’ve been a little awkward. I --
Gardenhire: (Interrupting) Yeah I let Nicky sleep in this morning. Although, frankly, I’m a little surprised my alarm didn’t wake him up.
Smith: Right…well Ron, I know this is difficult for you to hear, but I’ve got some leads on a few guys, and I would like to pursue options other than Punto. I feel like he is better suited in a utility role, and I have some leads on Beltre, Polanco, Uggla, DeRosa, and Crede. I just wanted to get your thoughts on those guys.
Gardenhire: (furrowing brow) I don’t get it Bill. I just don’t get it. Nicky’s a gamer. He’s a real gamer. How are you going to deny a guy like that? He battles his tail off. I don’t like it Bill. And what about Cabrera? He can play second. You can’t tell me he can’t play second.
Smith: That just isn’t a realistic option. It doesn’t make sense financially. I don’t really see a fit there.
Gardenhire: (noticeably upset) But Nicky? Why bench Nicky? He is a ballplayer. A real ballplayer.
Smith: I know Ron, and I don’t want to get rid of Punto, I think he is a great utility man. Obviously it is still up to you how he is utilized on the field, but if I can make some moves to improve the team, I’m going to do it. I just wanted you to know I’m exploring other options.
Gardenhire: Well I ju—
Gardenhire is iterrupted by Smith's ringing cell phone.
Smith: Excuse me Ron, hold that thought.
Smith: Hello?...What? Now?...I don’t know if I can get there that fast…Jesus Rob…Well this is a huge lead, obviously…Shit, well send the coordinates to my phone and I’ll get there as soon as I can. We can’t let him get away, this could be our only chance at getting him…Well, keep me posted.
Smith: I’ve got to run Ron. Sorry.
Gardenhire: What? What’s going on?
Smith: There’s no time Ron. We’ll be in touch.
Smith lumbers out of the restaurant and jumps into his SUV. A light snow fall has begun falling, dusting the black roadways with bright white coating.
Smith races across town, the snow swirling around, as if shot from cannon. Traffic is relatively sparse, but he is hitting almost every red light. He curses to himself as he arrives at his destination – Taco Bell.
Smith enters the restaurant and briefly considers ordering a cheesey gordita crunch, but decides against it when he sees Alex Anthopoulos, General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, across the room. The cheesey gordita crunch will have to wait.
Smith: (shaking hands with Anthopoulos) Good to see you Alex, how are you?
Anthopoulos: Doing well Bill. And yourself?
Smith: I’m good. Just hoping this snow doesn’t turn into a good old fashioned Minnesota blizzard (chuckling). Anyway, shall we get down to business? You wanted to make an offer for Halladay?
Anthopoulos: Well the Blue Jays feel your organization has the young talent necessary to make a deal. I think we can work something out here. We have a proposal for you, and I feel it is realistic starting point.
Anthopoulos slides a sheet of paper across the table. Smith takes a moment to read it over, and glances up at Anthpolous.
Smith: Well, you certainly didn’t hold back on your first offer. But Baker, Slowey, Swarzak, Valencia, and Hicks? We’re obviously not prepared to meet those kind of demands. I understand you want quality prospects in return, so I would counter with Swarzak, Duensing, Valencia, and Tyler Robertson.
Anthopolous: We’re going to need at least one out of the Blackburn, Slowey, Baker group. You’re getting the best pitcher in baseball here.
Smith: I would say that is highly debatable, Alex.
Smith pauses for a moment to size up Anthopolous. Anthopolous is carrying himself with an unearned sense of self worth. He exudes an aura of cockiness – he is holding what everyone wants and knows it. Anthopolous has the goods, and Smith needs to keep them from falling into the wrong hands.
Smith: Parting with an established starter will drastically reduce the prospects we are willing to give up. Bear in mind, we’re only guaranteed one year out of Halladay. Baker, Blackburn and Slowey have had success, and would still be under team control for several years.
Anthopolous: Well, we’re really looking for quality over quantity.
Smith: (slightly annoyed) Well, yes, that is always the goal, but I feel our package has plenty of quality. Those are some very good, young players there.
Abthopolous: (briskly) I want one of the three; you’re getting an ace here.
Smith: Well, it is hard f—
Smith is interrupted by his ringing cell phone.
Smith: Excuse me one second.
Smith takes several steps to move out of earshot. He doesn't want to compromise the negotiation by tipping his hand in any way.
Smith: What’s up Rob?...Well that’s good news, locking up Pavano makes me more willing to part with an established starter in this Halladay deal…Alright, well let me know if anything else comes up. I think I can get this deal done...alright, bye.
Smith steps back over to his seat. He stares Anthopolous down. Neither a small nor large man, Anthopolous seems almost exceptionally average. Young and determined, he has a cocky confidence about him. When he speaks, it is almost as if he is trying to prove he belongs with every word.
Smith: Alright, Alex. I will give you Baker, but if that is the case, I’m only willing to go with a three player package. That is a very good pitcher you’re getting.
Anthopolous: (smirking) Well, frankly, you’re getting the best pitcher in baseball, so I think that justifies a fairly big return. You should know how this works after the Santana deal.
Anthopolous oozes a sickening smugness.
Smith: (voice rising slightly) I still thi –
Smith is once again interrupted by his ringing cell phone
Smith: What is it Rob?...Both of them? Damnit! Our infield options are dwindling...Alright, keep me posted.
Smith: Let’s just make this deal.
Anthopolous: (sensing Smith’s slight desperation) Well, I’m going to go back to our original offer.
Smith: (curtly) That is no longer an option.
Anthopolous: (smirking) You can’t stop this from happening.
Smith: (standing and yelling) Damnit! I’m running out of patience, and you’re running out of time! I need an answer! You have no choice here! There is only one way out of this!
Anthopolous sizes Smith up with a glance and begins to show his first signs of doubt. Smith seems like a man possessed, unwilling to concede.
Smith: (continuing to yell) Baker, Swarzak, Valencia, and Robertson. That is my final offer, and I suggest you take it!
Anthopolous stares back at Smith with a cold, empty look.
Smith: (pounding the table) I need an answer!
Anthopoulos: (quietly) Fine, deal.
Smith storms out of the Taco Bell without saying another word.
Arriving back at his office, where Antony is waiting for him, Smith takes a seat at his desk. Still reeling from his encounter with Anthopoulos, Smith maintains a level of intensity, but has cooled off since the Taco Bell incident. Smith smiles, almost devishliy, as if he had stolen Anthopoulos's smugness, and kept it for himself. The Twins have control of Halladay, avoiding potential disaster.
Smith: Well Rob, we got Halladay. Things are really starting to come together.
Antony: That is great news! We really lucked out on the timing of finishing that Pavano deal; made it easier to deal Baker. How do you want to proceed from here?
Smith: Well, I think knowing now that Polanco and DeRosa have signed elsewhere, we’re getting low on options. After bringing Halladay into the mix, I think retaining Punto is the most realistic option at second. We can absorb his offense hitting ninth.
Antony: Well Gardy will certainly be happy about that. What are you thinking at third?
Smith: Where are we at on Beltre? We can absorb a one, maybe two, year contract if he is willing to go that route.
Anotony: I spoke to Boras earlier today, and he wants the two year deal at $7 million per year.
Smith: We can handle that, let’s just get it done. Call him back and accept the deal.
Smith pauses for a moment and rubs his weary eyes.
Smith: I’ll tell you what, though, Rob; if we hadn’t signed Mauer to that big contract last week, I don’t think we could have done any of this.
Antony: We really pulled something off here today, Bill. Things are looking good.
Smith: And look at the time. Not even four o’clock yet. W saved the Twins, and it took 1/3 the time it takes that Jack Bauer to save the world.
Both men chuckle heartily.