Monday July 28, 2003
For the better part of the last two months, we’ve been making excuses for the Twins lethargic, if not pathetic, play. We’ve been waiting for them to meet the expectations that we, as fans, and the media, have for them.
Maybe Bud Selig was right. Maybe the Twins success last year was just an “aberration.” Maybe this is a team that is nothing better than a .500 team.
Maybe Billy Koch was right when he was rambling incoherently after the Twins knocked out him and his Oakland A’s teammates in the divisional series last year. Maybe the 2002 Twins did just get a bunch of “lucky baseball bounces.”
A friend of mine (we’ll call him Mike) described in from an e-mail how tough it is to watch the Twins now. He was speaking of one particular game last week, but I think it pretty well can describe what I, and others, have been trying to say all season. Here are a couple of excerpts:
It’s “like going to the doctor to have a physical, you know that the end result is going to be unpleasant for you and your backside and you usually leave with a crushed ego”
“And to think that all Gardenhire could come up with at the end of the game was that his guys were working hard and sometimes the breaks go your way is absolutely idiotic. Was he watching the same junk as I was??? “
” I wonder where Gardy keeps his abridged guide for managing idiots?”
After losing two out of three to the lowly Cleveland Indians this weekend, it’s very hard to believe that the 2003 Twins team will be able to turn this ship around and pass both the White Sox and the Royals. I think we know the Wild Card team will not be a representative of the American League Central Division.
Here are the current standings in the AL Central:
Royals 57-46 ---
White Sox 54-51 4.0
Twins 51-53 6.5
Indians 44-61 14.0
Tigers 28-75 29.0
Are the Twins a better team than either the White Sox or the Royals? All year long, I’ve said yes, they are, it’s just a matter of time before they show it. But, I don’t think that I can say that any longer, at least not with any confidence.
I love bashing the White Sox, but they are now playing as well as the talent-level they have. Frank Thomas is an MVP candidate. Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee, Roberto Alomar, Carl Everett and Jose Valentin have all proven in the past how well they can hit. Paul Konerko can’t get any worse. Joe Crede played great in the second half last year. Their top three pitchers (Mark Buehrle, Bartolo Colon and Esteban Loaiza) are all better than any of the Twins starters (with the possible exception of Johan Santana).
The Royals? Well, they’ve got one of the best all-around players in the game in Carlos Beltran. They’ve been playing well without one of the games best hitters, Mike Sweeney, and he’s expected back in a couple more weeks. They’re getting great pitching, even a 7-0 start from Jose Lima, who was pitching with the Independent League Newark Bears the first 2 months of the season. I don’t see them lasting the whole season, but I didn’t think they’d make it this long either. And, when it comes to motivating and managing, Tony Pena is great! Pena deserves a lot of the credit for how well the Royals are playing. And, to think, he interviewed with the Twins when they had basically given Gardy the job.
The Twins won last season with pitching and defense. This year, they get no starting pitching, little relief pitching (with the exception of Hawkins), and have a really overrated closer in Eddie Guardado. The defense has been anything but high-quality, which is hard to explain because Torii Hunter continues to play great defense, Doug Mientkiewicz and Corey Koskie also are playing Gold Glove caliber defense. But, it seems that in many close games, the Twins will make an error (physical, or frequently mental) to change the outcome of the game.
The offense continues to struggle. With the exception of Doug Mientkiewicz and Corey Koskie, most Twins are not hitting as well as they did last year. With the same exceptions, no one on the roster seems to want to hit with runners in scoring position or two outs.
Is anyone else frustrated by the fact the Dustan Mohr can’t hit a fastball? That when Torii Hunter comes up with the bases loaded, he continues to swing at the first pitch and hit into a 5-4-3 double play? Same with Rivas? That the starting pitching staff can’t pitch at all consistently? That the relievers can’t pitch consistently? That Guardado can’t have a 1-2-3 inning, unless he comes in with a 3 run lead? That despite constant efforts, Guzman continues to show little effort? That Ron Gardenhire screwed up the careers of Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau within a half-season? That Gardy puts out dumb lineups that make no sense? That Terry Ryan’s one big trade landed them a 2 month player for one of the Twins best overall hitters? A hitter, Kielty, who, frankly, Ron Gardenhire had no clue how to use? That the Twins still play in the crappy Metrodome, so they won’t be able to attract any free agents, or fans?
Last year, Terry Ryan was named Executive of the Year by one publication. The Twins were Baseball America’s Organization of the Year. They were praised for their on-field success as well as the minor league system they had developed. Well, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, Gardy has messed up the careers of Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau. Michael Restovich has regressed. Mike Ryan has no trade value. Aside from Jesse Crain, a 2002 draft pick, there are no pitchers worth getting too excited over at AAA. Adam Johnson is a bust, and Grant Balfour should be in the big leagues!
NOTE – on a positive note, after yesterday’s game, Justin Morneau was optioned back to AAA Rochester. FINALLY! Now he can go back down, play every day and have a chance to get better!
So, what do the Twins do now? July 31 (Thursday) is the trade deadline for teams to make moves to improve themselves. Of course, they can still make trades until August 31, but they need to pass through waivers. Just two weeks ago, GM Terry Ryan found it necessary to give up the next four (or more) years of Bobby Kielty for less than 70 games of Shannon Stewart! Although, Stewart has done well with the Twins, if the Twins don’t get to the playoffs this season, the trade has no benefit at all!
So, what should Terry Ryan do now? Do the Twins become sellers and trade away some of their more expensive players? Will players like Rick Reed, Brad Radke and others be traded now? Maybe they trade AJ Pierzynski and call up Joe Mauer.
Mauer had a great weekend at AA New Britain against Binghamton. Sunday, he was 3-5. Saturday, he was 3-5. Friday, he was 3-5. All that after he hit a game-winning, walk-off home run to win their Thursday night game. With the weekend, his average is now up to .369.
The next three or four days should be very interesting for the Twins and Twins fans. Will the Twins make any trades? Will they add or subtract?
Can the Twins still win the division? Absolutely! But there are just 58 games left. The next 3 weeks will be vital. They play seven games against the Orioles, six against the Tigers, six against the Indians, and seven against the Royals. If, on August 24th, the Twins are within a few games of the division leader, they’ve got a chance. If they don’t take advantage of this schedule, they’re done. It’s OVER!
What do you think? Am I being too negative, or am I finally seeing the true light of this team? Any thoughts on the Twins, or anything else, send me an e-mail.
And, have a great week!
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