Souhan: Time for Twins to stop the bleeding

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 16, 2012 - 6:28 AM

With the worst record in baseball, the Twins need bold changes. Here's where to start.

Since the beginning of the 2011 season, the Twins' record is 73-125. Since July 18, their record is 29-76.

This can't go on, not with a $100 million club playing in a limestone palace. While change should never be made for change's sake, change in this case is necessary to remind everyone involved that Major League Baseball is a meritocracy, not a country club.

Tuesday, after losing 5-0 to Cleveland at Target Field, the Twins activated Justin Morneau from the disabled list and optioned Chris Parmelee to Class AAA Rochester. With Parmelee hitting .179, the move was inevitable, but Parmelee did not rank as one of the Twins' biggest problems. He's a promising kid who fell into a slump. He'll be back.

A team playing this bad for this long requires larger alterations. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Cut loose Jason Marquis

Marquis was signed to provide innings, throw strikes and act as a positive influence on young pitchers. He's 0-for-3.

Tuesday, he conducted walkabouts between pitches, displayed horrible body language and inflated his ERA to 6.68. He talks like a gamer and has the reputation of a gamer but pitches like Livan Hernandez on quaaludes.

It's time to conduct open tryouts for rotation spots. Scott Diamond and P.J. Walters have at least momentarily claimed two. Bring back Liam Hendricks (1.54 ERA at Class AAA) to replace Marquis, and have Brian Duensing or Anthony Swarzak ready to replace the next failed starter.

2. Try to trade Denard Span

Span is a quality player and a quality guy. He's also the rare player on the Twins roster who can be traded for value.

Joe Mauer has a no-trade clause. Justin Morneau's injury history will keep other teams from offering fair compensation. Span plays a position of organizational strength, and could bring a starting pitcher or two in return.

The Twins have talked to the Washington Nationals for the last year about a deal, but the Nats might not have the right pitchers to offer after trading three top pitching prospects for Gio Gonzalez.

The Twins need to make a reverse-Delmon trade. They traded Matt Garza for Delmon Young because they were so confident in their platoon of young arms. Now they're desperate for arms and have plenty of capable or promising outfielders in the organization.

Trade Span for a pitcher or two and call up Ben Revere to play center, and you would have improved your team immediately and for the future.

3. Reassign Joe Vavra

I've been covering big-league ball since 1993 and I've never known a good big-league hitter who relied solely on the big-league hitting instructor, so the Twins' hitting woes should not all be blamed on Vavra. But the hitters' approach against Derek Lowe was pathetic on Tuesday, and the team is hitting .184 this month.

Vavra can add value elsewhere in the organization, and the young hitters all rave about Class AAA hitting coach Tom Brunansky.

The Twins' coaching staff has enjoyed a lot of success but lacks three things: A hitting coach with a rapport with young players; a charismatic former big-leaguer who can scare a young player; and a Latin American coach who can communicate comfortably with Spanish-speaking players.

Brunansky would solve two of those problems. Dan Gladden and Paul Molitor would be great additions, too. And when Francisco Liriano or Alexi Casilla goes into a funk, they would benefit from a coach who speaks their language.

4. Wield the hammer

Much of Ryan's success as a general manager was due to patience and loyalty, but circumstances have changed. He's not running a $30 million team in a dump. He's expected to turn this franchise around quickly. He's going to need to shock this organization out of its lethargy.

I've defended manager Ron Gardenhire, because I don't believe any manager could win with these players, but he and Ryan will have to be willing to make changes if either of them wants to contend again, or survive.

Both might have to adopt the Darwinian motto favored by the rest of the professional sports world: Fire or be fired.

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

 

  • Cleveland 5, Twins 0 Up next: 6:05 p.m. today at Detroit TV: FSN (1500-AM)
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