ANAHEIM, CALIF. - Joe Mauer's illness this weekend prompted one of his teammates to play a prank, so when he walked to his locker Sunday, he found a handful of surgical masks.
Someone should distribute them to the entire Twins organization. This franchise needs to go under the knife.
Success can be a trap. Millionaires can create millions in debt. Celebrity can destroy normalcy.
Or, in the case of our highly successful baseball franchise, success can make you soft.
Besides injuries, what is wrong with the 2011 Twins is that they've been so good for so long that they've been flying on auto-pilot. Auto-pilot is convenient until turbulence shakes you awake and you realize you've forgotten how to navigate on your own.
The Twins lost again on Sunday, 4-1 to the Los Angeles Angels. They are headed for their worst finish since 1999, and injuries are not their only problem. The organization is choking on self-congratulation and complacency.
To avoid the kind of collapse that led the franchise to the brink of contraction in the 1990s, the Twins will have to break from their model of stability. They need to do some firing and hiring this winter.
General Manager Bill Smith shouldn't lose his job because of one horrid season, but he needs to be put on notice.
The Twins' current decision-makers include Smith, an admitted administrator; assistant GM Rob Antony, a valuable contributor who has worked in many roles in the organization; vice president of personnel Mike Radcliff, a respected amateur talent evaluator who lives in Kansas City; and former GM Terry Ryan.
Ryan is not the constant presence he once was. He isn't positioned to make this franchise's biggest decisions.
To save the organization, Smith needs to do something that would be uncomfortable for any of us. He needs to hire someone capable of replacing him.
There are two intelligent options.
He could talk Ryan out of retirement and make Ryan the most important voice in the organization again. But no one who knows Ryan believes he wants to change his current, comfortable role.
Smith's other option is advisable and possible. He should hire Wayne Krivsky.
Krivsky served as an assistant GM to Ryan when the Twins were becoming one of the most admired franchises in sports. He left to become the general manager of the Cincinnati Reds in 2006 and now works for the Mets.
Krivsky is an evaluator. He's also experienced and tough. He can stare down a powerful agent, put a player on notice and make an unpopular trade without holding his finger to the wind.
The Twins need someone who can objectively parse the organization and add a fresh perspective to a franchise that erred on the side of loyalty. It seems every day this team offers an example of how far it has fallen.
Sunday, in the bottom of the third inning, the Angels put runners on first and third with one out. Howie Kendrick hit a routine grounder to Twins third baseman Danny Valencia.
Valencia appeared in no particular hurry to throw the ball to second, and second baseman Trevor Plouffe, who had played very well of late, took the throw and put his head down, as if he had recorded the third out.
The runner from third scored, and the Twins had provided another example of how far their fundamentals have slipped.
Nobody is preparing these people to play in the big leagues. The minor league teams have performed at an embarrassing level for the past two seasons, and that would be excusable only if the players they sent to the Twins were polished.
The Twins need to overhaul this roster, and that will require a personnel man with the guts to make difficult decisions, someone who can trade a whiner like Kevin Slowey for value. Someone who can shake up the minor leagues and reestablish a talent pipeline worthy of this franchise's reputation.
Losing has become a habit in the Twins farm system. Someone has got to stop it from becoming a habit in the majors. Krivsky is my choice to snap on a surgical mask and start snipping away.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org