ADVERTISEMENT

Central parked no longer: Division race over for Twins

  • Blog Post by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson
  • June 1, 2011 - 12:23 AM

This season, the Twins have more blown leads -- 18 -- than they have wins -- 17. Worse: eight of those 18 blown leads have come after being up after seven innings. They have the worst run differential in the American League by more than 50 runs (-91). They have scored the fewest runs, and given up the most runs, in the American League. They have yet to win a three-game series.

 
That said, they may still approach 75 wins because the offense is capable and the starting pitching can tease us enough. But defensively, in left field and right field, and at second base and shortstop, they don't represent well enough, especially when they lack enough strikeout-type pitchers. They are incapable of running the bases well and lack the ability to steal bases (12th in A.L. with 24). Plus there is an inability to score from first on balls to the gap and poor judgement from third base coach Steve Liddle. It all adds up to one simple conclusion: any hope of making the playoffs is over. 
 
Yet, all their issues pale in comparison to the bullpen. I can see why the Twins' brass thought they could get by with this collection. In the nine previous years with manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson shaping and molding the relievers, the worst they ever finished in collective earned run average was 6th-best in the A.L. They had always found a way before. But this year is different. Even with minimal success in the remaining 109 games, there is a decent chance that this collection will finish as the worst bullpen in Twins history.
 
I don't fault Smith for not offering free agents Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Brian Fuentes, and Jon Rauch multiple-year deals. Where he failed was not signing a few viable alternatives to one-year deals. Relievers can always be found on those type agreements. For example:
 
  • Kyle Farnsworth - 1 year, $3.25 million with the Rays
  • Al Alburquerque - 1 year, $400,000 with the Tigers. They were ripped for giving him a major league contract, but savvy work by general manager Dave Dombrowski's scouts has manager Jim Leyland with a solid seventh-inning option.
  • Matt Albers - 1 year, $875,000 with Boston.
  • Todd Coffey - 1 year, $1,75 million with Washington.
  • Chad Qualls - 1 year, $1.5 million with San Diego.
Statistical analysis, particularly with Coffey and Qualls, suggested that they would have bounce-back years. No level of analysis presented very positive data that Jim Hoey, Dusty Hughes, Eric Hacker, or Jeff Manship could provide any level of decency this season. In addition, reliever Billy Wagner is the exception when it comes to post-Tommy John surgery success. It was ridiculous to think that Joe Nathan would be adequate one year removed from that type of injury. 
 
It is not, however, all doom-and-gloom for the organization. Heads shouldn't roll in the front office or in the dugout. Six division titles earns Gardenhire, et al., the equity to return. This year should convince them that major player-personnel changes need to take place. The Twins haven't drafted and developed a shortstop in over 20-years. Jose Reyes will be a free agent this winter. Sign him. Like relievers, corner outfielders can be found on short-term deals in free agency -- Johnny Damon, Jeff Francoeur, etc. It's time to cut the chord on Delmon Young. Get what you can for him before making the mistake of investing big dollars and a lot of years. Michael Cuddyer is a stand-up guy, and an easy guy to root for, but his numbers since the start of 2010 trump everything else. Not an easy decision considering all that he does behind-the-scenes, but it's time to move on. Offering Jason Kubel arbitration is an easy call. Bringing him back on a one-year deal is a no-brainer, but he'll likely say no, sign elsewhere, and 2012 draft picks can be had. At the non-waiver trade deadline, offers need to be considered for Cuddyer, Young, Thome, Kubel (if the offer is better than draft picks), Matt Capps, Carl Pavano, and others.
 
Until then, all I can ask for is entertaining games. The Twins have at least provided that in the last few weeks. 46 more wins from June 1 on, and they can avoid being just the second team in history to have a $100 million payroll and lose 100 games. 

© 2014 Star Tribune