The Twins own the worst record in the American League and the second-worst record in Major League Baseball. By any measure, the first month-plus of their season has been an abject failure.
The jobs of General Manager Terry Ryan and manager Paul Molitor apparently are not in jeopardy, though. So says Twins owner Jim Pohlad, who offered both men public support in a telephone conversation Thursday evening.
Pohlad called his team’s 8-20 record a “total system failure” but he backed his GM and manager, saying “absolutely” when asked if both Ryan and Molitor still have his 100 percent support.
Pohlad later added of Ryan, “He is the right guy.”
That statement undoubtedly will be met with frustration from Twins fans disgusted by the listless, putrid performance so far this season.
The Twins are a mess. Pohlad agrees. But the owner seems to put more blame on the players than his leaders, Ryan and Molitor.
I asked Pohlad if he is prepared to do something drastic if the team continues to lose and look so uninspired.
“Give me something drastic that — without just making us feel good by doing it – that’s necessarily going result in something better,” he said.
Fire the manager?
“No, Paul has our total support,” he said. “I don’t believe that that’s the problem. I believe that somebody on this team has to step up as individuals and start winning some games for us. I don’t mean the team. I mean individuals have to step up and win games. They do on other teams. We’ve got to do it for our team.”
Since this is an organizational failure, I asked Pohlad what he can do as owner.
“We’ve been at this for a little while … the owner can’t do a whole lot,” he said. “But what could Terry do? Or what could Paul do? I just don’t know at this point. It’s just a total system failure, so to speak.”
Anyone excited for a summer of baseball?
Truth is, this nonsense rests at the feet of Pohlad, Ryan, Molitor, Brian Dozier, Phil Hughes, Tom Brunansky and everyone else with a direct link to the on-field product.
The organization did nothing significant to address a weak bullpen in the offseason. The Miguel Sano right-field experiment never made sense. The lineup was stacked with strikeout artists and now they’re on a record pace for whiffs.
Even Pohlad admitted that his team has looked disorganized at times, which reflects poorly on Molitor and his staff.
Fans are tired of hearing about the future, tired of being told to wait for prospects to develop. The organization can’t keep asking for patience and selling hope.
“We don’t ever want to give fans the message of ‘Be patient’ because that’s not the way we’re approaching it,” Pohlad said. “We wanted to be a contender. We wanted to take it one step further, at least, than we did last year. So it’s not about being patient.”
So why not spend big money to beef up the bullpen as a sign that you’re serious as a contender?
“The money thing for 30 years has been the same theme from time to time: ‘We don’t spend enough money,’ ” Pohlad said. “I probably know something, I believe, more than the average fan in that regard. Money does not fix the issue.”
So does he believe the team’s monetary investment ($105 million payroll) has been appropriate?
“Well, at this point, for the amount we have invested and the result we’re getting, it seems like we’re wasting our money,” he said. “I don’t believe that the money thing has been a constraint on the team’s success.”
Payroll and Pohlad’s loyalty to Ryan remain hot-button issues with fans. The Twins minor league system earns praise throughout baseball, but the major league product continues to languish.
I asked Pohlad why he has resisted the urge to make wholesale changes in organizational philosophy.
“I don’t know what the difference in philosophy that people would like to see,” he said. “Everybody had universally high expectations for this season relative to last season. We bought into that. I still don’t see any flaw in that. It’s just system failure.”
Pohlad isn’t known as a meddlesome owner. He puts his trust in Ryan. I asked if he needs to become more engaged on a daily basis.
“The family is happy with the way the family manages the team,” he said.
He noted that the family is not happy right now. No one should be. This is an unmitigated mess.
Pohlad declined to say if he will consider sweeping changes in the offseason if the Twins continue down this path.
“That’s the old ‘We’ll address that in the offseason’ answer,” he said.