Major League Baseball is in the midst of an offensive downturn, now that only one player, apparently, is allowed to use performance-enhancing drugs.
Never fear, Bud Selig. The Twins are working to increase the number of runs scored in the big leagues this year. They're playing a shortstop named Trevor Plouffe.
Sunday afternoon at Target Field, Plouffe escaped with only one official error, but should have been charged with three. He also could have been charged with assault after throwing a couple of balls toward the first-base box seats.
The Angels scored three runs because of Plouffe's misplays in the Twins' 6-5 loss on Sunday, hours after Twins manager Ron Gardenhire revealed the content of several stern conversations he's had with his temporary shortstop. "It's a little disappointing," Gardenhire said.
Plouffe isn't the primary reason the Twins have the worst record in baseball. He's merely emblematic of two of their many: poor fielding and an unhelpful farm system.
The Twins made Plouffe their first-round draft pick in 2004. When Alexi Casilla lost the shortstop job, Gardenhire told Plouffe to take the job and run with it. Instead, he bobbled it, then threw it into the stands.
For years, win or lose, the Twins offered an aesthetically pleasing form of baseball. The early millennium Twins covered the field with speed and style.
Their infield of Corey Koskie, Cristian Guzman, Luis Rivas and Doug Mientkiewicz spent more time in the dirt than TMZ. The infield of Nick Punto, Jason Bartlett, Luis Castillo and Justin Morneau made baseball look choreographed as a Wachowski Brothers fight scene.
Win or lose, when the home team makes diving catches and deftly turns double plays, baseball is worth watching.
Sunday, fans were forced to watch Plouffe closely just to avoid getting hit in the head by one of his throws.
"I sailed them, that's all there is," Plouffe said.
Is he thinking too much?
"It could be," he said. "I've been getting all my work in and preparing for the game the same way, it just hasn't really gone my way. I have to look at some video and see what I'm doing and make an adjustment."
What's strange about Plouffe's horrific performance is that he lobbied his way onto the field, then conducted a game-ball-for-every-fan promotion.
Saturday afternoon, Gardenhire summoned his infielders to the diamond for an instructional. Sunday morning, Gardenhire revealed he and Plouffe had met several times, with him wondering why he wasn't in the lineup, and why reporters kept coming to him to ask his reaction to Gardenhire's criticisms.
"We have had two or three conversations," Gardenhire said. "He's kind of a laid-back kid but he showed me a little something because he kept saying you guys [reporters] kept coming up to him and asking him questions that kind of got him mad, about why he's having to answer them...
"He was a little fired up, and I like that. You guys have irritated him enough that he wants to come talk to me about his play, which starts with me, goes through you guys and you take it to him. So he came and talked to me, and I enjoyed that, a couple different times."
Gardenhire said he told Plouffe that standing in left field lethargically shagging balls instead of preparing himself would not help him get back into the lineup.
That was Sunday morning, before Plouffe made like Messi and kicked the ball all over the field.
Plouffe might think this is the time to study video of his throwing motion, but he's been in the organization since 2004.
The throw from shortstop to first base is no longer in the big leagues than it is in the minors. Seven years ought to be enough time to prepare.
When Plouffe complained about reporters asking him questions, Gardenhire said he told him: "It's on your shoulders to make the damn plays and not let a guy beat out a routine ground ball to first base, and show them. Then they won't ask you any more questions."
By Sunday afternoon, Plouffe was facing another round of them.
"I can't go back and fix anything right now," Plouffe said of his misplays. "I just have to move forward."
His career path appears to be as directionally challenged as his throws.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. firstname.lastname@example.org