Souhan: Six weeks of slop brings blame, concern

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 16, 2011 - 10:04 PM

In 2011, the Twins are endangering everything they've built, from their huge season-ticket base to their long-held reputation as a resilient and hyper-competitive team.

hide

Joe Nathan is just one example of a big-money player who has struggled. For his $11.25 million salary this season, he has a 7.43 ERA.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune file

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Remember the good ol' days of Twins baseball? Remember back in ought-10, when Minnesota's most likeable franchise opened Target Field, the Happiest Place on the Prairie, and frolicked through a near-perfect summer of glowing sunshine and inspirational play?

That celebratory season seems long ago and far away as a childhood beach vacation. In 2011, the Twins are endangering everything they've built, from their huge season-ticket base to their long-held reputation as a resilient and hyper-competitive team.

Sun-warmed sellout crowds cheering for a division champion have yielded to smatterings of damp and angry fans wondering why their model franchise can't throw strikes or run the bases. Sunday, in their 11-3 loss to Toronto at Target Field, they fell to a baseball-worst 12-26, continued to perform at a historically inept pace at the plate, and offered the sad spectacle of left fielder Delmon Young refusing to chase after a baseball while pointing at center fielder Denard Span for help.

This team is in danger of becoming the biggest disappointment in franchise history.

The 2011 Twins are facing short- and long-term problems. They eliminated themselves from contention by mid-May, and their horrid play and numerous injuries have revealed a lack of organizational depth that could haunt them for years.

Their problems raise two pointed questions:

1. Who's to blame?

2. Where do they go from here?

The vocal public seems to be blaming manager Ron Gardenhire, but he has operated in exactly the same way that won him the AL Manager of the Year award last year. What has changed is not managerial strategy but the makeup and health of the roster.

The front office is more culpable, because the plan of rebuilding a bullpen from spare parts and extracting a competent season out of Alexi Casilla at shortstop has backfired.

What has hamstrung this team the most, though, is injuries and failures at the top of the payroll. The 2011 Twins are paying a franchise-record $113 million in player salaries. They have received almost nothing from the five players who command nearly $68 million of that total -- Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan, Michael Cuddyer and Carl Pavano. Without those players performing, the Twins are essentially the Houston Astros or Pittsburgh Pirates.

Without Mauer healthy or Morneau and Cuddyer producing, a team that was built to win by scoring enough runs to support an average pitching staff has fallen apart. And without Mauer, Morneau and Cuddyer producing, the clubhouse has lacked a leader with the athletic authority to rally or rebuke teammates.

At a recent team meeting, after Gardenhire spoke and opened the floor to players, there was protracted silence before Span finally rose and said something like, "I have never lost in this jersey, and I'm not going to start losing here now."

While Twins officials have cited the remarkable comeback of 2006 as hope for this season, that team featured two of the most dominating starting pitchers in baseball -- Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano -- and received exceptional seasons from four everyday players -- Morneau, Mauer, Torii Hunter and Cuddyer, as well as their All-Star closer, Nathan. The 2011 team lacks aces, dominant relievers and position players compiling career seasons.

What's more intriguing than the current, sad, state of the team is the murkiness of its future. By next spring, the Twins might be without Nathan, Matt Capps, Cuddyer, Jim Thome and Jason Kubel, and might be looking for a new position for Mauer, all while dealing with a dearth of big-league-ready prospects.

Just as alarming, they might be forced to pay two key, underperforming players -- Young and Liriano -- hefty salaries via salary arbitration one year after both proved untrustworthy.

As a franchise, the Twins have faced greater calamities -- the prospect of contraction, the decline of Kirby Puckett, the collapse of the team in the '90s -- than conducting a lost season in a new ballpark.

Since the Twins resurrected themselves in 2001, though, they never have played worse, embarrassed themselves more or cast more doubts about their future than they have the past six weeks.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Atlanta 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 6 Top 9th Inning
San Francisco 8
Los Angeles 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
San Diego 3 Bottom 8th Inning
Seattle 8
Cleveland 9 Bottom 9th Inning
Cincinnati 3
Milwaukee 2 Bottom 8th Inning
LA Angels 3
Oakland 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 4 FINAL
Kansas City 5
Colorado 3 FINAL
Arizona 4
NY Mets 4 Bottom 3rd Inning
Washington 0
Boston 6:05 PM
Minnesota
Toronto 6:05 PM
Baltimore
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Chicago
Dallas 9:30 PM
Portland
Calgary 6:00 PM
Boston
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Washington
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Dallas 6:30 PM
Florida
NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Nashville
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Arizona
Montreal 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Morgan State 76 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 89
Niagara 28 2nd Half 16:11
Siena 49
Holy Cross 6:00 PM
Bucknell
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Navy 6:00 PM
Colgate
Temple 6:00 PM
East Carolina
UAB 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
Lafayette
American Univ 6:00 PM
Lehigh
Wisconsin 6:00 PM
Minnesota
Fairfield 6:00 PM
Saint Peters
Arkansas 6:00 PM
South Carolina
Morehead State 6:00 PM
UT Martin
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
North Florida
Southern Ill 6:05 PM
Missouri State
Texas State 6:30 PM
Appalachian St
SC State 6:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Delaware State 6:30 PM
Coppin State
Middle Tennessee 6:30 PM
FIU
Texas-Arlington 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Norfolk State 6:30 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 6:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 7:00 PM
Florida A&M
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Georgia State 7:00 PM
ULM
Marshall 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Rice 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ark-Little Rock 7:15 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 7:30 PM
Arkansas State
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Grambling St
Alabama A&M 7:30 PM
Jackson State
Sam Houston St 7:30 PM
Lamar
Central Arkansas 7:30 PM
Nicholls
Portland State 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Southern U 7:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Houston Baptist 7:30 PM
TX A&M-CC
SE Louisiana 7:45 PM
New Orleans
California 8:00 PM
Arizona
Eastern Ill 8:00 PM
Belmont
Memphis 8:00 PM
Connecticut
VA Commonwealth 8:00 PM
Davidson
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Marist 8:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Northwestern St 8:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
North Texas 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 8:00 PM
Washington
Idaho 8:00 PM
Weber State
Abilene Christian 8:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Eastern Wash 8:05 PM
Idaho State
Bradley 8:35 PM
Drake
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Long Beach State
UC Riverside 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Stanford 10:00 PM
Arizona State
Utah 10:00 PM
Washington St
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Massachusetts 63 FINAL
Richmond 67
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Campbell 65 FINAL
Winthrop 52
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Oregon 64 FINAL
Washington St 66
Indiana 52 FINAL
(23) Rutgers 63
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 68
Auburn 47 FINAL
(18) Texas A&M 57
Morehead St 66 FINAL
Tennessee St 81
Western Carolina 53 FINAL
East Tenn St 73
George Mason 41 2nd Half 3:44
Saint Josephs 63
Arizona 24 2nd Half
UCLA 37
Texas State 39 2nd Half 15:07
Appalachian St 43
TX-Arlington 40 2nd Half 15:43
Georgia Southern 13
SC State 13 1st Half 7:33
Bethune-Cookman 14
Delaware State 23 2nd Half
Coppin State 38
Portland 19 1st Half 3:21
Santa Clara 31
Norfolk State 15 1st Half 3:44
Hampton 23
NC A&T 33 1st Half 4:55
NC Central 11
Savannah State 5:00 PM
Florida A&M
Virginia Tech 5:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Central Arkansas 5:00 PM
Nicholls
Houston Baptist 5:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Gardner-Webb 5:00 PM
Radford
Georgia 5:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 5:00 PM
Marshall
Ark-Little Rock 5:00 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 5:05 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 5:15 PM
ULM
Sam Houston St 5:30 PM
Lamar
SE Louisiana 5:30 PM
New Orleans
Northwestern St 5:30 PM
Stephen F Austin
Alabama A&M 5:30 PM
Jackson State
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Grambling
Southern U 5:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 5:45 PM
Mercer
Abilene Christian 6:00 PM
Incarnate Word
La Salle 6:00 PM
Rhode Island
Illinois 6:00 PM
Nebraska
TX-San Antonio 6:00 PM
Rice
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
Oakland
Missouri State 6:05 PM
Indiana State
Georgia Tech 7:00 PM
(15) North Carolina
Presbyterian 7:00 PM
High Point
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Florida Atlantic 7:00 PM
UAB
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
North Texas
Wichita State 7:00 PM
Evansville
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Bradley 7:05 PM
Drake
Vanderbilt 7:30 PM
(12) Kentucky
Colorado 8:00 PM
USC
San Francisco 8:00 PM
Pacific
FIU 8:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Idaho State 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
Weber State 8:00 PM
Idaho
Purdue 8:25 PM
Minnesota
Cal-Irvine 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Long Beach St 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Hawaii 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis 9:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Northern Ariz 9:00 PM
Portland State
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Utah 10:30 PM
Washington
BYU 10:30 PM
St Marys-CA
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close