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.

For the Twins, the time for judgment is at hand

Posted by: Howard Sinker Updated: July 12, 2013 - 1:13 PM


We've now reached the point of the season where things are going pretty much as we thought they would. The Twins have deteriorated into a flawed mess that is leaking losses at home and on the road. The saddest part -- and there's some competition here, so I could be wrong -- is watching Gardy and Rick Anderson in the dugout waiting to see what will happen next. Or make sense of what  just happened.

To me, they sometimes look like two old guys trying to figure out how to use the GPS on their cell phone.

On Thursday, Patrick Reusse threw the Ron Gardenhire-as-manager discussion into overdrive with his column that the Twins should spare Gardy the coming grief and make a change sooner rather than later. Putting a new guy behind the manager's desk won't solve the problems, but the manager is the most representative symbol of a team's failure. (Players are the symbol of success, so it's never quite fair, but that's the way it is.)

The Twins have disserved Gardenhire with flawed personnel moves, whether they were free-agent decisions, trade giveaways or the unwillingness to bring in the type of veteran who have served as a competitive bridge to the future.I think Gardy bears some responsibility, especially because the field staff's opinion had to weigh more heavily during Bill Smith's failed term as general manager, if for no other reason than Smith was not a "baseball guy."

I also think Gardy will manage someplace else before retiring and will do well.

The mere arrival of Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario and the pitchers-with-promise guarantees little except new faces and short-term excitement. There will be a need for able veterans to make sure that whomever whoever is managing the club has experienced hands to model the way things need to be. In 1987, that was Bert Blyleven, Dan Gladden, Jeff Reardon and the late-season addition of Don Baylor. In '91, it was Jack Morris, Chili Davis and Mike Pagliarulo. Those teams already had established stars, but needed that much more to get to a championship level.

To say the Twins were not going to settle for .500 this season -- a Terry Ryan contention from season's start -- while forcing Gardenhire to regularly use getting-experience and makeshift lineups is a disservice to the manager and an insult to ticket-buying fans. The Twins currently have a $76 million payroll -- about half going to two guys whose names begin with M -- so there was room to bring in talent without spending beyond reason (whatever that is).

Aaron Hicks being the regular center fielder because there was no viable alternative, not because he hit three home runs in an exhibition game; promised competition for Trevor Plouffe at third base never materialized; Jamey Carroll is back to playing as often as not. The Caleb Thielbar scoreless streak and the Michael Tonkin story are sweet distractions, but even a dozen such successes doesn't take a team from 95 losses to 70.

Fans looking to the future and saying they're fine with Plouffe or Chris Parmelee at first base instead of Morneau for financial reasons -- yes, I've really heard that -- are following a road map that will continue the Twins toward being Kansas City North.

There are other paths, and it's up to the general manager to find them and ownership to finance them.

To say the Twins have been the victims of injuries and bad fortune since the last trip to the postseason doesn't take into the account the decision making that has gotten us to July 2013. Not that Delmon Young shouldn't have been traded, but he was given away. Not that J.J. Hardy would be putting up his current numbers with the Twins, but trading him for Jim Hoey*. Not that Jesse Crain wouldn't have been a nice bullpen anchor, but ... You get the idea.

For longer than I would care to admit, I have deflected some criticism of the coaching staff by saying that major leaguers are pretty much responsible for their own improvement. I've been queried specifically in the last couple of years in that regard about Rick Anderson. The troubling thing is that I can't think of a single established pitcher who has come to the Twins and shown marked improvement.

Meanwhile, the departures of Crain, Kyle Lohse, R.A. Dickey, Jason Marquis, Craig Breslow, Pat Neshek and .... what's his name ... oh, yeah, Francisco Liriano (9-3, 2.00 in 12 starts for Pittsburgh)  ... resulted in all of those guys finding more success than they had while pitching for the Twins. (Some of the comparisons between those players are apples and oranges, but are in the fruit family.)

And here's what the Twins have to show in return for those guys:



 I'm not going to turn this into a car wreck's aftermath and try to establish percentages of blame among ownership, management, the field staff and the players. But this is a time when 110 percent pretty much bites.

So here's the deal: The bad state of the current team is the result of failures on all levels that needs to result in hard judgments over the next few months.Some people chided me for calling out the Twins' lack of attention to 2013 in the off season, but I can't imagine those people being satisfied with what they've watched this half-season -- and some of the happy talk that's been serving as a distraction. Others chided me for hanging with a team they felt was commited to mediocrity, but walking away isn't on my list of options.

Until a couple of weeks ago, the debate was more abstract: Were Gardenhire, Anderson and other coaches the right people to handle the next generation of Twins? Until recently, Gardenhire appeared to have more supporters than detractors. Now, however, those who dislike Gardy and many of those who care for him, are saying change is needed.

Now, we know the time for judgment is coming. Will the Twins really try to pass off a change in manager as the cure? Or will the organization take a hard look at what's going on, from top to bottom, and come to the conclusion that the franchise's failures run much, much deeper?

*Jim Hoey has a 1.08 ERA -- for the Somerset Patriots in an independent league! He says he's regained his fastball! Really!



Buffalo 17 FINAL
New England 9
Cleveland 10 FINAL
Baltimore 20
Dallas 44 FINAL
Washington 17
Indianapolis 27 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Jacksonville 17 FINAL
Houston 23
San Diego 7 FINAL
Kansas City 19
NY Jets 37 FINAL
Miami 24
Chicago 9 FINAL
Minnesota 13
Philadelphia 34 FINAL
NY Giants 26
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Tampa Bay 20
Carolina 10 2nd Qtr 10:27
Atlanta 3
Detroit 0 2nd Qtr 10:20
Green Bay 7
Oakland 7 2nd Qtr
Denver 10
Arizona 7 2nd Qtr 12:33
San Francisco 10
St. Louis 3 2nd Qtr 9:28
Seattle 0
Cincinnati 7:30 PM
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA 1/4/15 2:00 AM
TBA 1/4/15 2:00 AM
Detroit 17 2nd Qtr 10:49
Cleveland 32
Houston 6:00 PM
San Antonio
Oklahoma City 6:30 PM
New York 8:00 PM
Toronto 8:00 PM
Phoenix 8:30 PM
LA Lakers
Toronto 0 1st Prd 20:00
Florida 0
Vancouver 7:00 PM
Tulane 57 FINAL
St Johns 82
Central Conn St 48 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Iona 81 FINAL
Drexel 62
Concordia (MI) 42 FINAL
Eastern Mich 100
Harvard 46 FINAL
Arizona State 56
Longwood 64 FINAL
Ball State 69
Sacred Heart 76 FINAL
Brown 79
Colgate 64 FINAL
Columbia 69
MD-Eastern Shore 78 FINAL
Duquesne 69
UNC Greensboro 50 FINAL
East Carolina 71
Marist 64 FINAL
Elon 69
Lafayette 76
Cincinnati Christian 58 FINAL
Liberty 78
Morgan State 53 FINAL
Marquette 81
Campbell 56 FINAL
Samford 65
Bucknell 71 FINAL
Siena 73
Long Beach State 67 FINAL
Syracuse 85
Coppin State 80 FINAL
Evansville 85
Indiana State 70
Hofstra 88 FINAL
Long Island 62
Coast Guard 48 FINAL
Army 93
Thomas (GA) 48 FINAL
High Point 85
Texas Southern 52 2nd Half 0:16
Kansas State 55
Rutgers 59 FINAL
Monmouth 58
NC Wesleyan 54 FINAL
NC A&T 58
South Dakota St 63 FINAL
Northern Iowa 74
Central Penn College 69 FINAL
Radford 119
Bowling Green 79 FINAL
South Florida 70
Harris-Stowe 66 FINAL
SE Missouri St 94
Robert Morris-IL 56 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 104
Northland College 59 FINAL
North Dakota St 83
Milwaukee 60 FINAL
South Dakota 84
Northwestern St 80 2nd Half 5:33
Arkansas 87
Saint Peters 28 2nd Half 13:18
Cornell 30
St Katherine 36 2nd Half 14:48
Fresno State 65
Haskell 22 2nd Half 18:48
Oral Roberts 46
Wake Forest 35 2nd Half 16:25
Richmond 32
Fla Gulf Coast 29 2nd Half
Xavier 43
SD Christian 19 2nd Half 16:27
Northern Ariz 48
Judson 12 1st Half 10:26
IUPU-Ft Wayne 20
Ill-Chicago 4 1st Half 18:48
Bradley 2
Loyola-Maryland 7 1st Half 15:43
Fairfield 3
Miss Valley St 4:00 PM
Lehigh 4:00 PM
Delaware State 2 1st Half 15:42
Temple 8
Belmont 5:00 PM
Howard 5:00 PM
NW Christian 5:00 PM
UC Davis 5:00 PM
Washington St
Abilene Christian 5:00 PM
Grand Canyon
UCLA 5:30 PM
Stony Brook 7:00 PM
Buffalo 7:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield 9:00 PM
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Toledo 1/4/15 8:00 PM
Arkansas State
Drexel 71 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 54
Holy Cross 63 FINAL
Norfolk State 62
East Carolina 62 FINAL
South Florida 69
(10) Oregon State 63 FINAL
(8) Tennessee 74
Providence 51 FINAL
Boston College 79
Florida A&M 47 FINAL
Miami-Florida 83
Oakland 69 FINAL
Central Michigan 74
Chattanooga 59 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 49
Fairfield 59 FINAL
La Salle 73
St Francis-PA 59 FINAL
Pittsburgh 97
Milwaukee 72 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 78
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Longwood 63
New Hampshire 58 FINAL
Manhattan 54
Bucknell 68 FINAL
Binghamton 57
Northeastern 70 FINAL
Albany 67
George Mason 70 FINAL
Towson 72
Richmond 59 FINAL
William & Mary 56
Tulane 60 FINAL
Cincinnati 50
North Florida 51 FINAL
Florida 63
(14) Georgia 51 FINAL
Seton Hall 70
Tennessee St 75 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 87
American Univ 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 77
Massachusetts 78 FINAL
Boston U 57
Quinnipiac 69 FINAL
Saint Josephs 67
Lafayette 49 FINAL
Saint Peters 34
Northwestern 61 FINAL
(20) Michigan State 57
Duquesne 82 FINAL
Lehigh 75
George Washington 72 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 49
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Indiana 51
(24) Green Bay 66 FINAL
Dayton 72
Western Mich 55 FINAL
Stony Brook 59
Davidson 67 FINAL
Virginia 57
Denver 63 FINAL
North Texas 55
VA Commonwealth 63 FINAL
Coppin State 52
Huston-Tillotson 36 FINAL
Houston Baptist 86
Lamar 63 FINAL
Rice 97
Miss Valley St 40 FINAL
Alabama 71
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 49
Middle Tennessee 98 FINAL
Tenn Tech 76
Penn State 52 FINAL
(23) Iowa 77
Purdue 62 FINAL
Illinois 55
UNC Greensboro 57 2nd Half 0:54
LSU 80
DePaul 99 FINAL
Illinois State 62
Sam Houston St 46 FINAL
Wichita State 70
South Dakota 69 2nd Half 3:51
TX-San Antonio 61
(4) Notre Dame 42 2nd Half
Coll of Charleston 20 2nd Half
SC State 41
Alcorn State 21 2nd Half 19:19
Texas-El Paso 23
Dartmouth 43 2nd Half 14:40
Niagara 34
Colgate 15 1st Half 4:45
Siena 28
Michigan 21 2nd Half
Wisconsin 28
Fla Gulf Coast 32 1st Half 2:46
CS-Northridge 29
Yale 14 1st Half 6:01
(25) Arizona State 28
Jackson State 4:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara 2 1st Half 17:14
(16) Stanford 2
Long Island 2 1st Half 16:26
Long Beach St 2
Eureka 4:30 PM
Western Ill
Cornell 5:00 PM
(22) Syracuse
Temple 7:30 PM


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