Jim Souhan: Time for Twins front office to get in game

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 15, 2009 - 11:58 AM

Bill Smith and Co. have done little to improve obvious weaknesses.

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Bringing back Nick Punto was one of the few moves the Twins front office made this mostly quiet offseason.

Photo: Jennifer Simonson, Star Tribune

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I have just one favor to ask of the Twins front office:

Give us a sign of life. Please. Your families are worried.

Hold a mirror under your noses. Fire off a flare. Send a picture of you holding today's newspaper. Give us some reason to believe you haven't been kidnapped by a South American dictator or sucked into that temple by the black cloud monster on ''Lost." (If you don't get that reference, don't worry about it -- those of us who watch the show don't get it, either.)

This is a likeable bunch of people. General Manager Bill Smith, assistant GM Rob Antony and Vice President of Personnel Mike Radcliff have ascended to their current positions through sheer diligence. They are as down-to-earth as any management team in pro sports. Which is why it's such a shame they have been abducted by aliens.

In October, the Twins fell one victory shy of winning the AL Central. On that day, everyone in baseball knew what the Twins needed -- a hard-throwing eighth-inning reliever and an everyday third baseman.

More than four months later, the Twins are convening in Fort Myers, and everyone in baseball knows what they need -- a hard-throwing eighth-inning reliever and an everyday third baseman.

In the age of instant video, the Twins front office is a Polaroid. In the age of HDTV, the Twins front office is one of those old RCAs where you had to hold the rabbit ears just right to be able to see ''The Dick Van Dyke Show."

This would not be surprising if this were 1999, when the Twins typically signed the worst and cheapest free agents available and tried to limp through the season without losing 100 games. A decade later, there is no excuse for this kind of inactivity, unless the front office spent the winter partying with Michael Phelps and can't think past the next attack of themunchies.

The Twins are well under even their own self-imposed payroll limits. They are one or two players away from making themselves one of the favorites in the division. They are riding a crest of good feelings about the team's performance this decade and the advent of a beautiful new stadium.

They have money to spend, and they will have even more when the new stadium opens 14 months from now.

What has that wealth bought this winter? One scratch 'n' dent item, slumping reliever Luis Ayala, and one used Nick Punto.

The Twins haven't locked up Joe Mauer for the rest of his life. They haven't cut a deal with Joe Crede. They found Casey Blake overpriced. They were slow on the trigger when the Indians dealt for Mark DeRosa, who, like Blake, is exactly the kind of player manager Ron Gardenhire loves. Months after Gardenhire hinted that Delmon Young wasn't foremost in his plans, he is still on the team, maybe as the fourth of four outfielders.

When you grow a tree from seedling to sapling, you might want to keep watering it during a drought.

The Twins have built a franchise that, all decade, has won more games than it should have, has overachieved in relation to dollars spent and superstars employed. This is a franchise, though, without a killer instinct.

The organizational philosophy seems to be: ''Let's try to win 90 games, and hope that's good enough." That has kept the Twins interesting and competitive all decade, but last year was a quintessential Twins season: They overachieved and yet wound up one game short, meaning they were one good player short.

This winter, the Indians look formidable again, and their signature move might have been making the trade for DeRosa that the Twins should have made.

So please, Twins bosses, let us know you're OK. Mail a card, send up a smoke signal, stick a message in a bottle, maybe even sign Crede. Just to let us know you're alive.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP • jsouhan@startribune.com

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