The Twin Cities television stations and numerous radio outlets send on-air employees to the Minnesota State Fair on a daily basis. As one of those employees, I must refrain from sharing thoughts on this tradition.
On Thursday, the Twins were playing a day game against the White Sox. There were three dozen people standing in front of our location. During a break, I informed these folks the Twins had rallied to win in the bottom of the ninth, scoring the decisive run when Max Kepler was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
There was applause, plus a few cheers and thumbs up, from the Minnesotans. This was a definite improvement on fair time from 2016, when any mention of the Twins was greeted with sarcastic laughter or derisive waves of a hand.
One year earlier, on Aug. 31, the Twins had lost in Cleveland, with Pat Dean as their starting pitcher. This put their record at 49-84 with 29 games remaining.
On Friday, the Twins entered September with a 70-63 record, and again with 29 games remaining.
There is a question that has been heard occasionally on those local radio stations with a sports bent in recent weeks: “Will Paul Molitor be back as the Twins manager?’’
It is a preposterous question. Of course, Molitor will be back as the Twins manager. He has stated that he wants to return, and that should be the only issue for Derek Falvey, the young man (now 34) who was hired as the chief baseball officer last October.
Falvey has the job because the prior baseball boss, Terry Ryan, took the fall for the 59-103 record that was the worst in the Twins’ 56 seasons. There have been recent firings on the scouting staff and in the statistical department, and there figure to be more as Falvey enters his second offseason in Minnesota.
There would be no reason for Falvey to be looking for a fall guy for what has taken place with the on-field effort — and particularly not in the manager’s office.
The Twins lost 103 games and Falvey did close to nothing to improve them. The biggest change he has brought to the on-field product is the unlimited budget for shuffling fringe players from Minnesota to the Class AAA Red Wings in Rochester, N.Y.
Rare has been the week when fewer than three Red Wings were on Delta Flight 2500 at 6:45 a.m. from Rochester to MSP. “It’s the only direct of the day, and we’ve used it a lot,’’ said Mike Herman, director of team travel.
Mostly, the shuffle has provided fresher arms for the bullpen and desperate options to make starts. One of those desperate options, Bartolo Colon, has paid off to this point, and catchers Jason Castro and Chris Gimenez and reliever Matt Belisle are still around after being acquired last winter.
That’s not much, when you consider that Thursday, Los Angeles acquired outfielder Justin Upton and second baseman Brandon Phillips. As of game time Friday, the Angels were 1½ games behind the Twins for the second wild card.
There were dire forecasts for the Twins as they assembled in Florida for spring training. Molitor has rallied this flawed club from the oblivion of last season and through several downturns.
Most impressively, Molitor rallied the Twins to their best baseball in August, after Falvey and his brain trust seemed to give up by trading Jaime Garcia and Brandon Kintzler at the nonwaiver July 31 deadline.
Garcia had made one start for the Twins, and Kintzler had been the effective closer. What should have been curtains turned into a 20-10 month, as the Twins’ young core started to fiercely swing their bats.
The cast of journeyman starters offered up to Molitor has included Nik Turley, Dietrich Enns, Adam Wilk, Tim Melville and Nick Tepesch. On Friday, the Twins gave a third start to another journeyman, Dillon Gee, and he was knocked around for the second consecutive time — five runs in 2⅔ innings.
Why not Stephen Gonsalves, the lefthanded prospect at Rochester? Maybe it was Molitor’s call. I’m guessing it was Falvey’s.
It’s also his call on the manager for 2018. If Falvey passes on Molitor and goes with an anonymous statistical whiz (coach Jeff Pickler comes to mind) — try selling that to a sporting public that finally has started to reveal small cracks in its armor of Twins’ disillusionment.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org