Nobody I know is a better student of sports in this area than Dave Mona, my partner on Sunday morning’s “Sports Huddle with Sid and Dave’’ on WCCO Radio.
Dave is the son of a great high school coach in Lute Mona, played basketball in high school at Minneapolis Roosevelt and followed sports from his days growing up in a home in which sports was talked about all of the time.
So for the above reasons I have a lot of respect for Mona’s opinion. And after a study by Mona of the Twins’ troubles the past two years, he pins a lot of the blame on poor draft results from players selected between 2002 and ’09.
“There are a lot of reasons for the Twins’ poor performance over the past three years, but it’s hard to ignore their lack of success in the draft,” Mona said. “The strength of their team now should reflect the drafts between 2002 and 2009.”
Mona points out that those combined drafts have produced four current starting position players for the Twins — Aaron Hicks, Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee — and none of them have been particularly productive.
Year-by-year, here’s what the Twins have had to show from that drafting period, with several of the players no longer with the club:
• 2002: Denard Span, Jesse Crain, Pat Neshek.
• 2003: Scott Baker.
• 2004: Plouffe, Glen Perkins, Anthony Swarzak.
• 2005: Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey, Brian Duensing.
• 2006: Parmelee, Joe Benson, Danny Valencia.
• 2007: Ben Revere.
• 2008: Hicks
• 2009: Dozier, Kyle Gibson, Chris Herrmann.
Of those 18 players, only seven still are in the organization, and of that group only one, Perkins, is a player that an opposing team would give much for in a trade.
Still, Mona noted that to the organization’s credit, much of the Twins’ future talent came from the signing of a number of free-agent Latin players such as Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco and Oswaldo Arcia.
Now with Major League Baseball’s amateur draft beginning Thursday and the Twins owning the fourth overall pick, maybe they can hit the jackpot and draft players on par with their past two drafts, in which they did a much better job.
There was a time when the Twins’ best players came from the organization’s draft picks, but recently that hasn’t been the case.
Players know stakes
Twins General Manager Terry Ryan recently said that when the team goes through a rough stretch, such as its recent 10-game losing streak, everyone feels the pressure.
“This is an industry where you’re paid to perform,” Ryan said. “I think everyone understands that when you take the field or you’re on this ballclub or on this team, no matter what you’re doing, we’re under the obligation to put a club out there that can respond and put wins on the board. People pay a lot of money to come see these guys play, and they understand that if they don’t perform we’re probably going to have to look for replacements.”
One player who absorbed that pressure and rebounded is Hicks, who struggled at the plate for a long time but has shown a lot of improvement recently. Patience in Hicks from Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire has paid off.
Hicks entered Wednesday leading American League rookies in runs (24), home runs (six), RBI (19), and stolen bases (four). In his past 13 games before Wednesday, Hicks was hitting .277 with seven extra-base hits — three doubles, one triple, three home runs — seven runs scored and four RBI.
• The Vikings have signed the final six players they drafted but none of their three first-round choices.
• That was Ken Mauer, the St. Paul native and NBA referee, who worked Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals between Indiana and Miami.
• Josh Adel, who was hired by new Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino as assistant director of basketball operations, will move up to succeed Steve Goodson as director of basketball operations. Goodson was expected to join Tubby Smith at Texas Tech, but instead he will be the basketball coach at Rancho Solano Prep School in the Phoenix area. Woodson turned down a prep coaching job last year.
• Mike Balado, initially hired by Pitino as director of basketball operations, will be drawing a much bigger salary than he would at Minnesota because he is an assistant at Louisville. The defending NCAA champion Cardinals are coached by Pitino’s father, Rick.
• The Aspire Group, which was hired by the Gophers athletic department to help with ticket sales, has sold out all of the suites at TCF Bank Stadium for Gophers football this year.
• After two rough starts, Cole De Vries has pitched back-to-back games in which he gave up two runs for the Twins’ Class AAA Rochester affiliate.
• Neshek, the former Twins reliever, is having a second consecutive stellar year with the Oakland Athletics. He is 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 21 innings pitched. He has struck out 16 and allowed 22 hits. Through two seasons with the A’s, Neshek has a 1.99 ERA in 40 ⅔ innings.
• Wofford, a college that had a number of Minnesota natives on its men’s basketball squad in the past, still has one in C.J. Neuman of Cretin-Derham Hall. Wofford will be on the Gophers’ nonconference schedule in 2013-14.
• The Gophers athletic department spent $525,000 to modernize the Maroon and Gold football offices in the Bierman Building.
• The word is that Gophers pitcher Tom Windle could go in the second or third round of the baseball draft and fellow lefthander DJ Snelten in the fifth or sixth round.
• Former Gopher Seth Rosin is 3-3 with a 3.84 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 63 ⅓ innings for the Reading Phillies, Philadelphia’s Class AAA affiliate.
• Joe Aase, an outstanding guard on the Austin High School basketball that was unbeaten going into the state tournament, signed a letter of intent to play at Davidson.
• Timberwolves forward Kevin Love will be co-hosting “Mike & Mike in the Morning’’ on ESPN Radio (1500-AM) on Thursday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. to talk about the NBA Finals.
• The Anchorage Daily News reports that two of the six finalists for the hockey head coaching job at Alaska Anchorage are Augsburg coach Chris Brown and Kevin Hartzell, a former Gophers captain who has coached two USHL teams.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m.