Souhan: Drastic change must override Twins' status quo

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 18, 2014 - 3:16 PM
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Ron Gardenhire’s job might be in jeopardy if the Twins don’t have a strong second half.

Before the All-Star break, the Twins won five of seven games on a road trip, then lobbied for General Manager Terry Ryan to keep the roster intact instead of dismantling the team at the trade deadline.

A successful week and a few optimistic words don’t alter reality: The Twins are marginally better today than they have been at this juncture the past three years, but this is not a good team, nor a promising team. The Twins would have to post a record of 37-31 in their final 68 games merely to reach .500. They might have to finish 43-25 or so to contend for a playoff spot. That is highly unlikely.

The Twins are tied for last place in a mediocre division. If Ryan can trade a player who is not part of the team’s long-term plans for value, he should.

Kurt Suzuki has excelled for three months. His value is higher than ever. If Ryan can trade the catcher for a good player or prospect, he should.

Potential trades will occupy the minds of fans for the next two weeks, but there are more important questions facing the franchise:

1. How long can even a franchise known for patience and stability keep key figures in place after four noncompetitive seasons?

While the Pohlads are known for staying the course, they have never before been in this situation, because they have never before lost so many games while playing in a new, expensive, state-of-the-art ballpark. The stakes are higher now because sellouts make the Pohlads so much money, and empty seats cost them so much.

2. Will Ryan keep the job long-term?

Ryan will turn 61 in October. He missed spring training and the beginning of the season while recovering from cancer. He has rebuilt the farm system and strengthened the front office and coaching staff, but injuries to top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, and the time required to break in even top pitching prospects, mean his team might not be ready to contend until 2016.

Does Ryan have the patience and energy to handle a draining job for years to come? (Ryan turned down an interview request this week.)

Remember, he retired after the 2007 season despite being being considered, at the time, one of the great GMs in the game.

3. If Ryan retires again, would ownership turn to assistant general manager Rob Antony or, for the first time since hiring Andy MacPhail from the Houston Astros, would ownership look outside the organization?

4. Will the Twins keep manager Ron Gardenhire if the 2014 team doesn’t rally? The Twins stuck with Tom Kelly through eight consecutive losing seasons, from 1993-2000, but he had won two World Series and was working for an owner who had intentionally stripped the payroll. The Twins signed Gardenhire to a two-year extension last year, which seemed more an attempt by Ryan to avoid blaming Gardenhire for the team’s problems than a long-term vote of confidence.

5. If Gardenhire’s run ends at the end of the season, is there any doubt Paul Molitor would be the next manager?

He was the most intelligent player of his generation. He is friendly with ownership. He has a rapport with the Twins’ top prospects, having worked closely with them in his previous job as minor league instructor. This spring, when I asked Buxton and Sano who they went to for advice, both said, quickly, “Molitor.”

Molitor has the cachet and name recognition of a homegrown Hall of Famer. While Gardenhire isn’t to blame for the poor pitching staffs he’s been handed, the sheer weight of losing, and the number of players who have thrived elsewhere after leaving the Twins, leaves him operating under a cloud.

So the final question for the Pohlads is this:

How much more losing can they stomach before they make a change?

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Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 8 Bottom 7th Inning
Arizona 5
Atlanta 52 3rd Qtr
Charlotte 57
New York 7:00 PM
Chicago
Golden State 7:30 PM
Milwaukee
Oklahoma City 8:00 PM
Utah
Denver 9:00 PM
Portland
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 2nd Prd
Carolina 0
Florida 0 2nd Prd
Montreal 1
Ottawa 0 2nd Prd
Toronto 0
Los Angeles 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Columbus 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 8:00 PM
Colorado
Dallas 9:00 PM
Vancouver
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Wisconsin 70
Canisius 17 1st Half 8:28
NJIT 21
Notre Dame 7:49 PM
Kentucky
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 2nd Half
D.C. 0
Sporting Kansas City 1 2nd Half
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 0 1st Half 36:00
Columbus 0
Portland 7:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Colorado 7:30 PM
Houston
Seattle 7:30 PM
FC Dallas
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 34 2nd Half
(6) Tennessee 34

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