digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.

Section 219: Throwing cold water on the hot stove

Posted by: Howard Sinker Updated: November 15, 2012 - 8:54 AM

You know, I don't really want to hear much about baseball right now, and it isn't fun to feel that way.

It is discouraging to see the postseason awards handed out without anyone from the hometown team even remotely under consideration. That R.A. Dickey guy who won the Cy Young Award. He was a Twins pitcher once, right?

It is discouraging to see the discussion about Scott Baker leaving the Twins, because whether or not Baker was going to be part of the 2013 Twins wasn't likely to make much difference. He was a placeholder, one that should be able to be replaced pretty easily. More cheaply even, if that matters.

It is discouraging to see the Toronto Blue Jays make a bold move and pickup a star shortstop and two starting pitchers in one monster trade. The Jays get Jose Reyes. But, hey, maybe the Twins will sign Jo-Jo Reyes. He won six games in Triple-A last season!

It is discouraging to have a conversation in the office, as happened this week, about whether the Twins as currently constructed are a 100-loss team ... or a 110-loss team. Yeah, that's a bit gloomy, but it's a conversation the Twins created with their talk of a "perfect storm" that lead to what we watched in 2011 and the dismal encore of this season.

In 2011 and 2012, the Twins pretty much fielded 100-loss teams that managed to lose only 99 games and 96 games.

It is discouraging to be this discouraged.

The Section 219 household has cut back its ticket-holdings by one-fourth for 2013. I don't know how many of us are in the "giving-it-one-more-year camp," but right now I can't see throwing more good money at bad performance if we endure a third season of crudtastic baseball.

We've been quick to mock Tsuyoshi Nishioka. But aren't the Twins pretty much the Nishiokas of major league baseball right now? What else should you call the last-place team in the worst division in baseball for two years running?

No, the 2014 All-Star Game will not be incentive enough to renew my season tickets. From the conversations I've had, I know I'm not alone. Unlike some people, I'll keep going to games even if the Twins are wretched. But I'd be switching from having my box of season tickets in the basement to buying cheap ones on the street.

I've pretty much stayed away from blogging since the end of the season -- save for the changing of the coaches -- because I haven't felt there's much I could add to the conversation. I feel an obligation to say nothing if I can't contribute to a healthy dialog.

But some stuff needs to be said on behalf of those who have been faithful and might think their faith is being taken for granted. And for the people who have already walked away until things get better at 1 Twins Way.

I agree that you don't need a $100+ million payroll to be a postseason contender. Half of the teams that played into October were in the bottom half of MLB's 2012 payrolls -- at $82 million or less. Oakland was 30th among the 30 teams.


But if your* roster and farm system has been shredded by bad decisions and bad fortune and your* ownership is as committed to winning as to having a beautiful ballpark with craft beers and gelato, then it behooves you* to bust payroll constraints that exist because of formulas that you* have set as opposed to resources that you* have available. To retain customer loyalty, sometimes you* have to do things that hurt you* a little bit more in the bank account than you* would like.

(*You and *Your = Twins ownership, a/k/a the royal You.)

In the Twins' case, that means spending on starting pitchers -- spending more than management was planning back when Target Field was being built and postseason baseball in Minnesota was a common occurrence. (Yes, that era ended only two years ago, even if feels like two decades ago.)

Sometimes, the dramatic moves don't work. Look at Miami.

Sometimes, they do. Look at Detroit.

And here's my statement of faith: Give Terry Ryan the resources to make moves right now. Buy and trade for several of the proven starting pitchers that are on the market. Add a couple of arms to a bullpen that should be pretty good if it isn't worked into submission. Good pitching can carry a team that has weaknesses elsewhere.

But nothing can carry a team into contention if its pitching is atrocious. If the pitching is good enough, I don't care if Darin Mastroianni and Chris Parmelee split right field, the shortstop is a competent fielding .220 hitter and the second baseman is as close to my age as my son's age.

When you're done reading this, you should read the new TwinsCentric post by Seth Stohs, who knows more about the Twins minor-league system than you and I combined. He makes the argument that the Twins should be building for 2015, and writes about the promising young players the Twins can expect to have ready by then.

But the Twins should not write off 2013 and '14. If there is as much future talent in the system as Seth suggests, some of it should be used to procure players who can help now.

The Twins must build a bridge to their future that fans can feel comfortable walking across, as opposed to a bridge that requires a detour deeper into irrelevance. In a 10-team playoff system, it is not unreasonable to expect the Twins -- with some combination of Mauer, Willingham, Morneau, Span, Plouffe, Revere, Perkins and a few others -- to compete for one of those spots in 2013.

In the bigger picture, I'm still lowering my expectations. Not long ago, we were talking about how the Twins needed to make the move from playoff participant to World Series winners. Now, we're talking about bold strokes just to color the Twins as contenders for the expanded postseason.

The Twins must go hard, not just nibble at the corners.

When I see that happening, I promise to stop feeling so discouraged.


New England 5:30 PM
Miami 83 FINAL
Boston 75
LA Lakers 80 FINAL
New York 92
Arizona 3 FINAL
Montreal 2
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Nashville 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Minnesota 2 3rd Prd
Vancouver 0
Miami-Florida 54 FINAL
Florida State 55
Oakland 96 FINAL
Youngstown St 80
Cincinnati 46 FINAL
East Carolina 50
Michigan 66 FINAL
Michigan State 76
Marist 75 FINAL
Canisius 67
Fordham 77 FINAL
Dayton 101
Manhattan 87 FINAL
Monmouth 76
Quinnipiac 100 FINAL
Niagara 105
Utah 67 FINAL
USC 39
Connecticut 56 2nd Half 1:53
Houston 62
California 85 2nd Half 2:28
Washington 81
North Dakota St 64 FINAL
Western Ill 62
Penn State 65 FINAL
(22) Rutgers 76
(14) Texas 59 FINAL
TCU 64
Coll of Charleston 49 FINAL
Towson 71
Cornell 53 FINAL
Yale 60
Xavier 68 FINAL
Providence 57
Drexel 61 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 44
Stony Brook 60 FINAL
New Hampshire 52
Maine 52 FINAL
Albany 44
Miami-Florida 66 FINAL
Pittsburgh 81
(21) Georgia 72 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 80
Arizona 69 FINAL
Colorado 81
Wake Forest 63 FINAL
(4) Notre Dame 92
Loyola-Chicago 56 FINAL
Illinois State 72
(24) Oklahoma 69 FINAL
West Virginia 78
St Johns 73 FINAL
Seton Hall 78
Delaware 73 FINAL
Hofstra 62
Binghamton 49 FINAL
UMass Lowell 66
Vermont 49 FINAL
Hartford 60
William & Mary 72 FINAL
Northeastern 66
Boston College 60 FINAL
(16) North Carolina 72
Virginia 77 FINAL
Clemson 72
(2) Connecticut 83 FINAL
Temple 49
Arkansas 53 FINAL
Alabama 42
Virginia Tech 71 FINAL
Georgia Tech 79
Kansas 58 FINAL
(3) Baylor 66
Canisius 51 FINAL
Rider 52
Monmouth 52 FINAL
Fairfield 54
Quinnipiac 81 FINAL
Saint Peters 50
Butler 55 FINAL
Creighton 62
Wichita State 61 FINAL
Drake 64
Evansville 52 FINAL
Indiana State 67
Villanova 47 FINAL
DePaul 49
Auburn 45 FINAL
(12) Texas A&M 78
(11) Arizona State 58 FINAL
Utah 48
Michigan 60 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 75
Minnesota 49 FINAL
Northwestern 70
(18) Miss State 65 2nd Half 1:27
(6) Tennessee 76
Georgetown 67 2nd Half 1:41
Marquette 71
North Texas 48 1st OT
Rice 48
Missouri State 56 2nd Half 0:38
Northern Iowa 63
Wisconsin 67 2nd Half 4:03
Illinois 55
Bradley 55 2nd Half 1:32
Southern Ill 64
Florida 32 2nd Half
Vanderbilt 22
(20) Iowa 41 1st Half 1:15
(5) Maryland 39
(1) South Carolina 8 1st Half 12:39
Ole Miss 12


question of the day

Poll: Who wins the Super Bowl?

Weekly Question





Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters