In Minneapolis, Jim Souhan noted Twins GM Terry Ryan's "decisions this winter don't seem to have excited Twins fans, many of whom crave familiarity or fireworks." Ryan has "allowed the popular" RF Michael Cuddyer to leave in free agency, along with P Joe Nathan and RF Jason Kubel. He has "plugged a hole at shortstop" by signing Jamey Carroll, a "37-year-old with no power." But Ryan "doesn't believe in making a splash; he believes in sensible moves that create ripple effects." Ryan said, "Anything that we do, I picture as a significant move. I don't do anything here that I don't think is going to make some sort of significant improvement with the club. I know some fans might not think some of these moves are significant, but when you look at how they fit with our roster, I think they're more than tweaks" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/21).
EXPECTATION NATION: In DC, Thomas Boswell writes the Nationals' "baseball people lay out clearly what they want to achieve in the offseason," but as the "offseason unfolds, nothing happens." It is "probably because ownership is tensing up, tightening the leash again." This is a "particularly ugly moment for the franchise to appear paralyzed because at some point next year, the Nats will have a new deal with MASN that doubles or even triples their current rights fee." Boswell: "Now it's between $25 million and $30 million. Soon it’ll be at least $30 million higher. The industry knows this elephant-in-the-room windfall is coming" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/22).
FOOLED BY A PIRATE: In Pittsburgh, Bob Smizik wrote the Pirates have "so dumbed down fan and, yes, media expectations that to many another team's leftovers look good." The Pirates "upgraded their roster by acquiring infielder Casey McGehee," and it "speaks to the success of the relentless PR campaign conducted by the Pirates that some people believe they are serious -- as in financially serious -- about getting better." Smizik: "They are not. They are content to dabble along with 90-loss teams. There is scant indication that this type of losing is about to disappear in Pittsburgh" (POST-GAZETTE.com, 12/21).
FEAR OF COMMITMENT? The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin notes while most consider Rogers Communications’ "current administration of the Blue Jays competent, fans also see the conflict between the goals of [the] team and those of the owners." When the Blue Jays are outbid for negotiating rights to Japanese P Yu Darvish "or decline to bid on major free agents, many fans look at a Top Ten metropolitan market in baseball and wonder why can’t the Jays spend like the Yankees or Rangers all the time, not this once." The "optics of Rogers’ financial commitment toward the Blue Jays will remain a sore point with their fans," and one that "has just a single cure: Winning." Dowbiggin: "And that doesn’t appear imminent" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/22).
ONE MILLION SERVED: The Brewers announced that they have "already sold one million tickets for next season, the earliest date in franchise history that milestone has been reached." In Milwaukee, Don Walker noted the "previous record for the earliest date when one million tickets were sold occurred on Jan. 19 of last season and in 2009." The Brewers in '11 set a "franchise attendance record, with 3,071,373 fans at Miller Park." They also "set a record in sales of their holiday four-packs." An estimated "7,700 four-game packs have been sold over the holidays, beating the old mark of 7,400, set after the 2008 playoff season" (JSONLINE.com, 12/21).