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: Twins compromised into ugliness

Posted by: Howard Sinker under Ron Gardenhire, Target Field, Twins fans, Twins management, Twins offense, Twins pitching, On the road Updated: April 9, 2012 - 7:24 AM

What do the Yankees, Red Sox and Twins have in common? They're all 0-3.

The difference between the Eastern teams and the local team is in the likelihood of losing 100 games or so.

Even before things started to come unwired toward the end of spring training, the debate over the weakest team in the AL Central always included a heavy dose of Twins talk. That was before Justin Morneau was relegated to DH and two of the expected five starting pitchers opened the season not in the rotation.

A team without much margin for error, even to reach .500, was being forced into make-do mode before the first pitch in Baltimore.

Add to that  the compromises that had been struck by design and the recipe is there for an awkward season that could turn the Twins into successors to the pre-Rubio Timberwolves in how they are perceived in Minnesota.

Some of the compromises were on glaring display during the opening series of losses to the Orioles.

*When Morneau is the full-time DH -- a best-use decision for his health -- it means that Ryan Doumit has to use a glove. When he was signed as a free agent, the Twins made it clear that it was for his bat, not his defense. On Friday, he misplayed a deep fly ball into a triple -- taking a bad route and having the ball go off his glove -- that helped Baltimore stretch its 2-0 lead into 4-0. Ben Revere was the starting right fielder in the next two games, a compromise because his subpar arm is more suited for left, the position that Josh Willingham is playing, Gardy said, because Willingham is more comfortable there. (If you missed it, Willingham mishandled two balls for errors on Saturday.)

*The starting rotation is compromised by its reliance on hope: Hope that Francisco Liriano's spring training is more indicative of how he'll do than his 2011 season, that Scott Baker would be healthy and Carl Pavano would return to something close to his 2010 form. Saturday's start for Liriano was promising -- until the second inning.  Baker, who should be the strongest starter, is out with arm problems and Jason Marquis isn't ready yet because of the attention he's properly paid to his daughter's health. Add to that Liam Hendricks' food-poising bout and Pavano's lack of velocity on Opening Day and the Twins are 5-for-5 in rotation issues just three games into the season. Are we going to have to hear about 2012 as Perfect Storm, the sequel?

*Over the winter, Terry Ryan opted to duplicate the painful path of 2011 in regard to looking for relievers. The Twins opted against the numerous veterans who were on the market -- save for re-signing Matt Capps -- in favor of another venture to the discard rack  for guys no longer wanted by their previous employers. A bunch of them didn't make it out of spring training; a couple of them didn't look so good in Baltimore. Just after the TV guys were talking Saturday about Jared Burton's track record of not giving up home runs, two guys took him deep. Matt Maloney turned 1-0 into 3-0 on Sunday, in part because of a glaring mental mistake that resulted in a double steal. (See: Doing the little things right.) You were warned that a good March means little in April. Anyone remember Keith Comstock? Joe Klink? Tom Klawitter? Don't make me recite three decades of names.

Beyond those compromises, the Twins spent the opening series making three Orioles starting pitchers with mediocre (at best) career records look like C.J. Wilson, Jared Weaver and Dan Haren, the three Angels pitchers whom the Twins are scheduled to face at Target Field this week. Will the Twins will make those three look like Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller and Bert Blyleven? And for all of the appreciation of Anthony Swarzak's work on Sunday, if he wore Orioles colors, we'd be talking about him in the same terms that we've used for that team's starters.

Also, Gardy had issues with Danny Valencia's defense, Burton and Joe Mauer's inability to grasp the scouting report on Nick Markakis (No changeups, darn it) and Maloney's failure to watch runners. Combine that with a top-of-the-order that got four singles in three games and the other statistical shortcomings that should shake themselves out, and you have 0-3 with the next 10 games against postseason-built opponents.

Allow me to cherry-pick some numbers for a second: The Twins managed to finish 36 games under .500 in 2011 despite a midseason stretch of winning 30 out of 50 games. Take away that middle third and the Twins, counting this year's opening series, have a .287 winning percentage (33-82) going back to the start of last season.

For those of you who need to bring a math question to class this week, try this: A team that plays .287 baseball over a 162-game season suffers how many losses?

Answer: 116.

I'm not saying it will be that bad. The 1991 Twins lost nine of their 11 games (with Jack Morris going 0-3, 6.38) before getting straightened out and winning the World Series. The 1987 Twins, the other Series champions, gave up more runs than they scored and had a .358 winning percentage on the road.

Teams can find ways to overcome their shortcomings, so you'd be jumping to conclusions by kissing off the season with 159 games to play. (Offstage voice: OK, I'll give it another week.)

I am saying that the first weekend of games gave us very little about which to be optimistic. Will the first week of home games be any different?

You're not foolish to wonder.

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Tampa Bay - WP: J. McGee 6 FINAL
Toronto - LP: B. Morrow 5
Cleveland - LP: B. Shaw 4 FINAL
Detroit - WP: P. Coke 6
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: J. Niese 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: E. Volquez 7
Miami - WP: A. DeSclafani 5 FINAL
Philadelphia - LP: J. Papelbon 4
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 2 FINAL
Milwaukee - WP: M. Garza 9
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 8 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 4
Minnesota - WP: T. May 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 4
Colorado - LP: J. Lyles 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Gonzales 4
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 3 FINAL
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 10
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 6 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 1
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 4 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2
San Diego - LP: O. Despaigne 6 FINAL
Arizona - WP: Z. Spruill 8
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 4 FINAL
Seattle - LP: C. Young 0
NY Yankees 1 Bottom 8th Inning
Baltimore 1
Miami 10 FINAL
Buffalo 29
Jacksonville 10 FINAL
Washington 41
Dallas 26 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Arizona 25 FINAL
NY Giants 14
New England 30 FINAL
Minnesota 7
New Orleans 24 FINAL
Cleveland 26
Atlanta 10 FINAL
Cincinnati 24
Detroit 7 FINAL
Carolina 24
St. Louis 19 FINAL
Tampa Bay 17
Seattle 21 FINAL
San Diego 30
NY Jets 24 FINAL
Green Bay 31
Kansas City 17 FINAL
Denver 24
Houston 30 FINAL
Oakland 14
Chicago 7 3rd Qtr 5:56
San Francisco 20
Philadelphia 9/15/14 7:30 PM
Indianapolis
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
Boise State 38 FINAL
Connecticut 21
Indiana 42 FINAL
Bowling Green 45
Ga Southern 38 FINAL
Georgia Tech 42
Syracuse 40 FINAL
Central Mich 3
UCF 10 FINAL
(18) Missouri 38
Massachusetts 31 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
Ohio U 14 FINAL
Marshall 44
West Virginia 40 FINAL
Maryland 37
Kent State 0 FINAL
(23) Ohio State 66
Pittsburgh 42 FINAL
FIU 25
East Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia Tech 21
Louisville 21 FINAL
Virginia 23
Wyoming 14 FINAL
(2) Oregon 48
Air Force 48 FINAL
Georgia State 38
(13) Georgia 35 FINAL
(14) So Carolina 38
Arkansas 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 28
Iowa State 20 FINAL
Iowa 17
Miami-Ohio 10 FINAL
Michigan 34
Kansas 3 FINAL
Duke 41
NC State 49 FINAL
So Florida 17
Arkansas State 20 FINAL
Miami-Florida 41
Miss State 35 FINAL
South Alabama 3
Louisiana 15 FINAL
(10) Ole Miss 56
Minnesota 7 FINAL
TCU 30
Illinois 19 FINAL
Washington 44
Army 0 FINAL
(16) Stanford 35
Western Mich 45 FINAL
Idaho 33
Eastern Mich 3 FINAL
Old Dominion 17
Southern Miss 12 FINAL
(3) Alabama 52
Northern Ill 48 FINAL
UNLV 34
Tulsa 21 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 50
ULM 0 FINAL
(8) LSU 31
Wake Forest 24 FINAL
Utah State 36
Western Ky 47 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 50
TX-San Antonio 13 FINAL
(25) Oklahoma State 43
Purdue 14 FINAL
(9) Notre Dame 30
Kentucky 30 FINAL
Florida 36
New Mexico St 24 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 42
Tennessee 10 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 34
(17) USC 31 FINAL
Boston College 37
Navy 35 FINAL
Texas State 21
(12) UCLA 20 FINAL
Texas 17
Penn State 13 FINAL
Rutgers 10
Rice 10 FINAL
(6) Texas A&M 38
(15) Arizona State 38 FINAL
Colorado 24
(24) Nebraska 55 FINAL
Fresno State 19
Nevada 28 FINAL
Arizona 35
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
San Jose 1
Montreal 16 FINAL
Edmonton 33
Toronto 33 FINAL
Calgary 40
Winnipeg 9 FINAL
Brt Columbia 26
Saskatchewan 3 FINAL
Hamilton 28
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