Jim Souhan: Front office should give surprising Twins a chance
- Article by: JIM SOUHAN
- Star Tribune
- June 24, 2008 - 7:33 AM
The Twins' 5-3 victory over Arizona on Sunday gives them eight victories in nine games, a six-game winning streak and a special place in team history:
The 2008 Twins are now more of a miracle than the 2006 Twins who won the division on the last day of the season.
And now that the 2008 Twins are four games above .500 and only 1½ games behind first-place Chicago, it's time for the front office to cut its losses on many of its botched offseason moves and treat this as a pennant race instead of the rebuilding year it was supposed to be.
As miraculous as that 2006 season seemed at the time, a look at the roster and final statistics bears out that team's excellence. The 2008 team is more of a riddle, considering that the 2007 Twins finished 79-83 with Johan Santana and Torii Hunter on the roster, and precious few of the moves made to improve the 2008 team have worked.
Here's the list of players brought in from outside the organization this winter: Adam Everett, Brendan Harris, Mike Lamb, Livan Hernandez, Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez and Craig Monroe.
Everett and Lamb have been busts. Harris didn't stick at second base and could lose his shortstop job to Nick Punto, if he stays healthy and gets an occasional hit.
Hernandez is 8-4, but his ERA (5.23) is worrisome at best. Monroe is hitting .211, and .113 against lefties, and his job is to hit lefties.
Gomez has been entertaining but erratic. And Young has been the biggest disappointment of all.
Sunday, Young let a single roll under his glove for a two-base error that cost the Twins two runs and could have lost the game. He hit a double, but only because Arizona left fielder Conor Jackson lost the ball in the roof. Young entered Sunday hitting .193 in day games, and he is hitting only .250 against lefties.
And there is this: He has hit one home run in 276 at-bats.
The Twins traded Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett for Young and Harris. If the Twins had not made that trade (and I liked the deal at the time) they would be in first place, perhaps comfortably.
The finagling and coaxing of manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson, the outstanding play of the Twins' elite players (Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Joe Nathan), and the improvement of several youngsters (Alexi Casilla, Jason Kubel and Gomez) has kept this team afloat.
For this team to contend all summer, the front office will have to embrace homegrown youth to the exclusion of many of the players acquired this winter. The front office proved adept at signing its core players to reasonable long-term deals, but it struck out in acquiring former Rays and Astros.
Lamb has no role with this team. The Twins signed him to a two-year deal worth $6.6 million. They need to try to trade him, or release him, despite the cost, if there are no takers.
The Twins can't give up on Young's talent at the age of 22, but they can lessen his negative impact on this team. They should call up Denard Span to share time with Young in left, and to spell Gomez and Michael Cuddyer.
Entering Sunday, Span had an on-base percentage of .463 and a slugging percentage of .516 at Class AAA Rochester. He has transformed himself as a player. He can help this team.
Punto, activated from the disabled list Sunday, might become the primary shortstop because he has vastly more range than Harris. That would leave Harris as a utility player and part-time third baseman, along with Brian Buscher.
That's the strange thing about this season: The Twins' efforts to acquire talent from other organizations has only made their own youngsters, -- Casilla, Buscher, Span and Kubel -- look more worthwhile.
The '08 Twins remain a long shot to contend, but when you're this close to first place in late June, the onus should be on the front office to make up for a bad winter and give this team a chance.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. • email@example.com
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