Souhan: Twins need major overhaul

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 16, 2012 - 6:46 AM

They have the worst record in the American League and too many holes to expect any rapid improvement.

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Minnesota center fielder Ben Revere had a good look at Yoenis Cespedes' second-inning home run off Brian Duensing.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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The 2012 Twins are doing the impossible. They are making the 2011 Twins look good by comparison.

The 2011 Twins might have given us the most disappointing season in Twins history, losing 99 games with a $115 payroll after entering spring training as a favorite to win the American League Central.

After getting swept this weekend by Oakland, the 2012 Twins ventured down a path that would make them even worse than the 2011 slackers.

The 2012 Twins have healthy stars and thriving free-agent acquisitions and yet have fallen behind the pace of the 2011 team, which at least managed to remain within striking distance of .500 and the division lead until late July. The 2012 Twins, after a pathetic display of baserunning, fielding, baseball intelligence and pitching this weekend, are now 36-52, with a burned-out bullpen and a dearth of reliable starting pitchers.

This team has the worst record in the American League, and it will get worse before it gets better.

The Twins' problems are pervasive and will not be easily fixed. They lack starting pitching, power arms, young power bats and major league-ready prospects.

Many pro sports organizations would sacrifice a visible member of the organization to appease angry fans, but owner Jim Pohlad and President Dave St. Peter just hired General Manager Terry Ryan and have publicly defended manager Ron Gardenhire.

St. Peter said Sunday that the team will pursue "every avenue'' to improve. Every avenue will be required.

Yes, the Pohlads should spend more on the payroll and allow Ryan to sign high-priced free-agent pitching ... but this season is proof that even shrewd moves in free agency are not enough to transform a franchise in disrepair.

Yes, the Twins should attempt to trade current players such as Francisco Liriano and Denard Span for pitching prospects, but young players acquired in such a deal would be unlikely to make an immediate impact.

Yes, the Twins should continue to emphasize power arms during the draft, as they did this year, but rare is the player who can excel within a couple of years of being drafted. Drafting and developing pitching is vital. It is also the opposite of a quick fix.

Yes, the Twins need to continue revising their minor league field staffs. Gene Glynn was an excellent hire as the new Class AAA manager, but the past two seasons have proved that young players in the organization are not being schooled in fundamentals, including sound baserunning. More changes should be made this winter, but those moves won't be transformative.

The Twins' brain trust had hoped that 2011 was an aberration. Turns out it was an introduction.

The Twins' problems can't be pinned on a scapegoat or a symbol, even one as simplistic as Joe Mauer's contract. The Twins' problems are systemic.

This franchise wins when quality young players emerge as a group. Problem is, the Twins' current Class AAA team offers little promise.

To right this ship, the Twins will need the likes of Trevor Plouffe, Brian Dozier, Kyle Gibson, Scott Diamond, Ben Revere, Liam Hendriks, Joe Benson, Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia to create an affordable core of young talent that can blend with Mauer and Josh Willingham.

They will need hitters such as Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario to rise quickly through the minors.

That group of young players will also have to re-establish the Twins as a team that can play with fire and intelligence, both of which were lacking this weekend at Target Field.

The team's current malaise is bigger than any individual or even any one category. It's big enough to ruin a decade if the organization doesn't begin drafting and properly developing power arms and power bats.

The last outstanding power hitter drafted by the Twins was Justin Morneau, in 1999.

The last pitcher who could be described as an ace who was drafted by the Twins was Brad Radke, in 1991.

The Twins are overdue for more than just a win.

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

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