Startribune.com 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...

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.

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