Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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Between the Wolves' shootaround and their opener in Memphis, I spoke with a handful of people connected to the Twins' managerial search. No hard news to report, but here's a summary of what I learned...
-Paul Molitor definitely wants the job. This is not a situation where he's being passive aggressive, or saying, ``I'll do it if you want me to.'' He knows this might be his last, and best, chance to be a manager, and perhaps his only chance to manage his hometown team. He's all-in as a candidate.
-If Terry Ryan has made a final decision. he hasn't told many people, even in the Twins' inner circles. His search, or at least his decision-making process, appears to be ongoing.
-Even if Ryan came to a decision soon, the Twins would not likely hold a press conference on Thursday, when the Wolves will be holding their home opener. Friday is Halloween. Unless news leaks and the Twins feel they have to rush to throw together a press conference, next week makes more sense in terms of timing an announcement.
-Ryan is known in scouting circles for his due diligence. This is the first time he has displayed it during a managerial search. The last time he chose a manager, Ron Gardenhire and Molitor were the front-runners, and Gardenhire became the choice in part because of his long tenure as a coach, and in part because key people outside of baseball operations believed that Gardenhire would be ideal as a friendly face of the franchise ,and someone willing to do all of the media relations and marketing outings the Twins value. That is one question about Molitor: Will he be willing to submit to the media and marketing grind? Managers have brutal schedules even without all of the extras.
-Ryan is in Arizona, where he watched top prospect Byron Buxton break his finger. Ryan could certainly fly home quickly to hold a press conference, but there were no indications as of Wednesday afternoon that he planned to do so.
-I've thought all along that Molitor should and will get the job, but the longer it goes, the more I have reason to doubt that he will be the hire.
One thing a few key people said to me today: A lot of the national speculation has been off-base, because few know what's going through Ryan's head right now.
Jerry Zgoda and I are in Memphis covering the Wolves' opener tonight. Just spoke with coach Flip Saunders, who said that Kevin Martin has a sore ankle, and that he might be replaced in the starting lineup.
Saunders is in good spirits. He said this is an unusual situation because this is his first team that won't be judged by wins and losses, but by gradual improvement of younger players.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 and on 1500ESPN at a different time tomorrow - 9:45, while I'm on a layover heading back to the Twin Cities.
The Twins reached the All-Star break at 44-50 after beating Colorado on Sunday.
Here's how that compares to their record at the three previous All-Star breaks:
Slightly better starting pitching, due mostly to Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson, has made the Twins a little better this season despite vital injuries to key hitters, like Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham, and the failure of Aaron Hicks to become a useful big-league hitter.
But the Twins' chances to finish strong could be handicapped by the innings limit on AAA pitcher Alex Meyer, and the expectation that the Twins will trade away a few valuable players as the trade deadline approaches.
Spent a few days in Fort Myers with the Class A Miracle last week. The Miracle is the Twins' high-Class A affiliate.
Wrote about ace Jose Berrios, one of the most promising players in the farm system.
The position players who jumped out at me were shortstop Jorge Polanco, and infielder/outfielder Eddie Rosario.
Polanco played mostly second base last year at low-A Cedar Rapids, but with Brian Dozier looking like a long-term keeper in the majors at second, the Twins are trying out players at other positions. Polanco has made too many errors at short, but when I was in town he made spectacular plays, displaying great range and plenty of arm. He can hit, too.
But the best player on the field was Rosario, recently reinstated after a 50-game drug violation.
Rosario looks smooth at second, and the Miracle also played him in left and center. Again, this is due to Dozier's presence.
Rosario might be a wonderful big-league second baseman. He also looks comfortable in the outfield, and can throw well enough to play out there.
But what really jumps out at you is his bat. He has an unconventional swing. He looks like he's throwing the bat-head at the ball. He has an uncanny knack for hitting the ball hard to all fields, and for serving tough pitches on a line to centerfield.
Rosario could be the Twins' future leftfielder. He's insurance in case Dozier doesn't hold up. But with his talent and the trouble he's caused, he also might be a prime candidate to be traded if the Twins can drum up a market.
Personally, I'd keep him.
Again, here's my future Twins dream lineup: Buxton CF, Mauer 1b (if he regains his form and usual on-base percentage), Sano 3b, Arcia RF, Pinto C, Vargys DH, Rosario LF, Dozier 2b, Santana SS.
That's 7 guys who could hit 20 homers, three or four guys who could steal 30 bases, and three or four guys who could win Gold Gloves.
Still reeling with a hockey hangover, I'm at the Twins' game today at Target Field.
The season will be close to one-quarter finished by the end of the day, so it's getting to the time of year where statistical standards are more than just flukish.
The Twins rank fifth in the American League in runs scored. That's pretty good for a rebuilding team with a patchwork lineup. The concern is that the Twins may have already gotten the best offensive performances they're going to get from Chris Colabello, Jason Kubel, Kurt Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe.
The bullpen ERA of 3.59 ranks sixth in the American League, consistent with the belief that this is a strong bullpen when given a reasonable workload.
Here's what's worrisome: After spending all that money on two free-agent pitchers, and getting a few dominant outings out of Kyle Gibson, the best young pitcher in the current rotation, the Twins still entered Thursday's game with a league-worst 5.45 starting pitching ERA.
So in the Twins' pursuit of competence, they need to find a way to sustain their offensive performance (not likely) while improving the performance of their starting pitching. The latter is a necessity if the Twins are going to avoid losing 90 games again this year.
So my previous post addressed the importance of Aaron Hicks getting on base in the leadoff role. I still think that will be the key to the Twins' lineup for the bulk of the season, but Ron Gardenhire's first lineup is this:
I already hate this lineup.
For this team to be good, Hicks will have to be an offensive contributor. Suzuki is not a No. 2 hitter on any major-league club, not even the Twins. The rest of the lineup is essentially Gardenhire making the best of a bad situation, but there is no reason to bat one of your worst offensive players second in the order. You'd be better off batting Mauer leadoff, Dozier second, Willingham third, etc. This is a terrible sign.
He has a career .309 on-base percentage. He's an automatic out with no power. This is not a good decision.
I'll be on @1500ESPN at 12:15 to rip this lineup.
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