The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 28, 2007

Predictions, guaranteed to be accurate (unless they aren’t)

By Edward Thoma

In the field of predictions, it’s difficult to top this gem from a Pioneer Press columnist for covering all the possibilities:



If the Twins can’t re-sign free agent Torii Hunter, plans are to trade, sign a free agent or go in-house to find his center field replacement.



Charley Walters has learned well from Sid Hartman. Whatever happens, Walters will be able to say he saw it coming.

Such vagueness, of course, merely underlines what Walters is trying to hide: He doesn’t know what’s going to happen with Hunter.

Neither do I. But that won’t stop me from making a guess:

He will not return to the Twins. I would rank his likely destinations thusly: White Sox, Rangers, Cubs.

A few more offseason predictions, none of them any more reliable than the first and none of them necessarily worth the price of this newspaper:

* Carlos Silva will get a four-year contract for at least $40 million. That deal will not come from the Twins.

If the contract comes from a National League team in a pitcher’s park — San Francisco, San Diego, the Mets, Los Angeles — Silva will make that team’s general manager look smart. Otherwise, not so much.

* The Twins will trade a young pitcher — most likely Boof Bonser or Kevin Slowey — for a center fielder. Slowey should be the more valuable trading chip.

Most likely trading partners: Mets, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Arizona.

* The Twins will reach a contract extension with Johan Santana. Five years, $20 million a year. Good luck getting that one insured.

* Barry Bonds will go loudly into retirement. He wants to play next season, but he won’t take what the market will offer.

Make no mistake: He remains a very productive hitter — his on-base percentage was .480 last season. He would make the Twins lineup better, even if they are already overwhelmingly left-handed.

But he’s limited now to DHing, his reputation is tattered and his status as a drawing card outside of San Francisco is nil. He’s not an $18 million a year player now, but he may not understand that.

* The New York Yankees will hire Don Mattingly to replace Joe Torre as manager. This will not go well.

Donnie Baseball says he’s ready for the job because he’s been managing in his head for years. But even if he knows when to put the hit-and-run on or even when to let his pitcher face one more batter, that part of the job is only part of it.

Mattingly has never had to bench a player, never had to crush a player’s hopes by releasing or demoting him. He’s always been a player or the players’ pal. He’s never had to be the heavy.

There have been managers who succeeded without ever having held the job before on any level, but they are few. Mattingly would have a better chance if he had a couple years in the minors on his resume.

* Alex Rodriguez, who has opted out of his contract with the New York Yankees, will wind up taking a pay cut wherever he lands.

The Yankees were getting a fat subsidy from the Texas Rangers on A-Rod’s $25 million contract. Without that, the Yanks insist, they aren’t interested in retaining the presumptive AL MVP.

Rodriguez’ agent, Scott Boras, expects to get A-Rod a raise. With the Yankees out of the the picture, who’s going to do that?

* Every free agent who signs with a new team will say he signed there because he expects to win. Not a one will say it was all about the money.

Not a one will be telling the truth.



On the Web

With the World Series having ended Sunday, this is the last print column of the season. Check www.mankatofreepress.com/ethomabaseball/ during the offseason for periodic commentary on developments with the Twins and elsewhere in the sport.



Edward Thoma is a Free Press staff writer. He is at 344-6377 or at ethoma@ mankatofreepress.com. He also has a baseball blog.