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!



Kansas City - J. Guthrie 7:07 PM
San Francisco - T. Hudson
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Dallas 57 3rd Qtr
Orlando 46
New York 24 2nd Qtr 12:00
Toronto 24
San Antonio 7:00 PM
Miami 7:00 PM
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Phoenix 8:00 PM
Sacramento 9:00 PM
LA Lakers
Denver 9:30 PM
Golden State
Portland 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Dallas 0 2nd Prd
New Jersey 1
Tampa Bay 7:00 PM
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Carolina 8:30 PM
Columbus 9:00 PM
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 3 2nd Qtr 9:00
Cincinnati 10
Troy 0 2nd Qtr
South Alabama 10
BYU 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Houston 7:00 PM
Montreal 13
Ottawa 7
Saskatchewan 8:30 PM
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM


question of the day

Poll: Who wins and loses in football this weekend?

Weekly Question





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