When are the Twins going to get serious?
by, 04-16-2012 at 05:22 PM (712 Views)
Nine games into the season, the Minnesota Twins sit with a record of 2-7. This is second only to the San Diego Padres who hold a record of 2-8. After pulling out two wins against the Los Angeles Angels, the Twins were swept by the high powered Texas Rangers in three games. Two steps forward, three giant flops back. Is there a method to this madness?
The blame game has been in full tilt already this season ranging from blaming the lack of home runs on the stadium design (Jim Thome sure didn't have a problem blasting home runs to right field) to the lineup just not clicking yet. While that makes for some laughable articles to be sure, what it comes down to is the Twins need to get serious. A weekend article in the Pioneer Press by Tom Powers (Storm clouds forming early over Twins) begged the question of "when will the Twins stop screwing around?" Excellent question Tom!
Yes, this is only April. Yes, the season lasts into September. However, how long before the players, the manager and the executives start to take their predicament seriously? This isn't just a early season drought. The Twins are headed for real trouble in 2012.
The first step to getting serious is to take a hard look at the lineup. Who is performing and who is not? There are a handful of Twins that seem to be on a "scholarship program" of sorts. Manager Ron Gardenhire definitely has his favorites that seem to get more chances to make it in the majors than an other team would have afforded them. At the top of the scholarship list is second baseman Alexi Casilla. Casilla is hitting .190 so far this season and has batted .251 in his young career. However, the second baseman has only shown flashes of what his potential is said to be. A notoriously slow starter, Casilla does seem to be able to rebound in the batting department but only for limited amounts of time. Casilla put up strong numbers in his Dominican League play over the winter with a .336 batting average but that can hardly compare to major league pitching. Casilla also had a strong spring but, as is common with him, has started the regular season hitting below the Mendoza line after hitting .438 this spring. Couple this with his mental lapses that he has in the field and this makes for a player who may need a scenery change. The Twins have Brian Dozier waiting in the wings, this may be the time to put him into place in the infield. In fact, the Twins have several prospects who are playing out of their minds and are just waiting for their shot at the big leagues. Someone may need to light a fire under these veterans to get them going.
Another step towards getting serious about the 2012 season is to start having some accountability. While the Twins have a reputation of having a "nice clubhouse" as far as personalities and procedure, it might be time to get tough. Call out the player who needs to work on something, send a message to the bullpen that they need to do their job. Act like this is the major leagues and stop calling your players by nicknames, Mr. Gardenhire. Let the starting pitchers know that they are on notice. Every time their shoulder "stiffens up" or they "don't feel comfortable" doesn't mean they need to leave the game. Do you see the likes of Roy Halliday, Cliff Lee, Justin Verlander and others constantly leaving the game in the 5th and 6th innings? No, you don't. Sometimes getting through a tough spot means you need to leave your pitchers out on the mound and make them learn how to push through. They won't learn if they don't get the chance to do it.
This Minnesota Twins team was touted as an "upgraded version" to the 2011 squad by Terry Ryan. Once again, fans and this author can see one of two things: 1. Ryan lied to us or 2. The Twins are underachievers. On paper, the current mix of players does indeed appear to have stronger numbers than last year, even with the absence of Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel in the middle of the lineup so it is unlikely that Ryan blatantly lied but it does beg the question of whether or not the Twins are living up to their potential or not...the first nine games definitely say that they are not.
Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau as the #3 and #4 hitters in the lineup must start producing if the Twins hope to win any games. The series against the Rangers once again had the "M & M" boys popping out with bases loaded and grounding into double plays with runners on. Morneau is not catching up to pitches as he used to and Mauer just isn't getting the job done when it counts most. As the veteran leaders, these two need to step up more than ever. Fans cannot and will not accept seeing their two highest paid players continuing to fail at what they are being paid to do--driving in runs. Thank goodness for Josh Willingham as he has accounted for almost one quarter of the Twins' 28 runs this year (Willingham has 7 RBI). Mauer and Morneau need to prove that they are worth the money their contracts say they are. If they don't, the Twins should probably start to shop Morneau to trade him before the all-star break.
Sadly, many fans have started to wonder what the point is in even watching the games any more. Promised a better team this season, Twins fans have been given another ragtag group of players that can't seem to and don't care to get it together as a team. As in a previous blog by this author, there still seems to be no passion in the Twins' play. As Tom Powers said in his article, base running has gone from aggressive to station-to-station running. The Twins lack the speed and apparently the desire to do any damage on the base paths. Also, the Minnesota Twins need to make some adjustments to their starting rotation that seems to have the durability of a wet paper bag and also to the everyday lineup.
Dear Mr. Gardenhire, please let go of your obsession with the Mauer/Morneau tandem back to back in the lineup. Make Mauer the #2 hitter, Morneau #3 and Willingham #4...shake it up! Either that or at least get Morneau to the #5 spot and Willingham to the #4 slot. Joe Mauer is not a #3 hitter, never has been and never will be.
While it is only April, this has already been a long season for Twins fans. While hope springs eternal, this author has learned that even though the Twins' front office says they are making improvements it isn't necessarily true. They will say anything to sell tickets. Even if the team says they will make the necessary changes they need to this season, take it with a grain of salt. To borrow from the Aeneid, beware of Greeks (Twins) bearing gifts.
Originally posted on author's website: http://wp.me/p234Gt-19