Barely a month ago — April 4 — the Twins embarked on a 2016 season filled with optimism and promise. Even those who cautioned that last year might have featured a decent amount of overachieving had to acknowledge that, at worst, the Twins figured to tread water this season and that the best years for this franchise were certainly ahead in the not-too-distant future.
One month into the season, however, everything has changed. It has changed so swiftly that we now must ask the critical question: Is this rock bottom for the Twins, or can things still get worse?
I ask that right now, in particular, because of a series of rapid-fire events that speak to the depth of the mess the organization appears to be in at the moment. Namely:
* After an 0-9 start that was briefly mitigated by a four-game winning streak, the Twins are now 8-20. The most recent of those losses was a 16-4 drubbing at Houston, a game in which all of their flaws were laid bare. Equally galling, though, was a recent loss in which Miguel Sano was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple with the Twins trailing by one run with two outs in the ninth. Per ESPN and Patrick Reusse’s tweet last night, that’s the first time going back to 1930 that such a thing happened — that someone was thrown out in that exact scenario. So the Twins can lose big. The Twins can lose close. They can beat themselves in a lot of ways.
* They are rearranging their roster with a “hope something sticks” fervor that doesn’t exactly resemble a plan. The latest: Outfielder Darin Mastroianni and catcher Juan Centeno are joining the team for Friday’s game, while pitchers J.R. Graham and Ryan O’Rourke have been designated for assignment and struggling catcher John Ryan Murphy has been sent to AAA Rochester. Meanwhile, Casey Fien and Tommy Milone have been placed on waivers. That’s a whole lot of roster movement, with very little of it having any connection to injuries.
* Chip Scoggins’ column after interviewing owner Jim Pohlad is the kicker. Pohlad acknowledges the Twins this season have experienced a “total system failure” — an utterance that could very well haunt much like “bilateral leg weakness,” “I play when I want to play” and “I have a family to feed” in the annals of Twin Cities sports quotes — but offers few answers other than trying to stay the course when it comes to improvement. If fans were fuming — or worse for the Twins, have already checked out — after an 8-20 start, Pohlad’s comments didn’t do much to re-invigorate the base in a positive way.
So this feels like a nadir, but it also feels like the Twins are walking into a potential sweep in Chicago, where the White Sox will throw three red-hot pitchers at them this weekend. And it doesn’t feel like the Twins’ overall problem — this is a roster that just doesn’t seem to fit together in the right way, in terms of both chemistry and skill sets — has anything close to a guarantee of getting much better.
Still, there exists the chance that we will come to look back on this moment in time as rock bottom — that what we’ve seen for the first month, while not an aberration, is perhaps at least an extreme. In any event, one month into the year expectations have been seriously re-calibrated. Instead of hoping to get a playoff spot, the Twins need to hope they can get within shouting distance of .500.
If they can’t, and this descends back into another 2011-14 type season with 90-plus losses, suddenly everything the franchise has been building toward beyond 2016 is subject to question.