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.
Watching the Twins broadcasters after Thursday night's frustrating-for-all loss to Detroit was a little bit like listening to me talk about the basketball teams I used to coach -- the elementary school team in the Golden Valley/Crystal Park and Rec League and the sixth-grade B team I coached in Hopkins. After a loss, we'd chatter about the effort and look for the bright spots -- winning the fourth quarter against the tough kids from Eden Prairie or how we'd run some good offense and "did everything but make the shot."
That's how it should be when you're coaching preteens.
The Twitterverse was a bit cranky after the Twins blew that lead in Detroit.
One of my friends tweeted: "After 9 straight losses, this is where we'll find out what kind of Twins fans we are. Does that represent the kind of person we are too."
To which someone responded: "I don't think that expressing frustration and expecting those who run the Twins to do better constitutes being a bad fan."
When Bert Blyleven tweeted this afterward:
Now that was a tough loss 4 the Twins. Good thing about baseball: tomorrow is another day to play the beautiful game of baseball. Go Twins— Bert Blyleven (@BertBlyleven28) May 24, 2013
Someone responded: "Oh c'mon, Bert, the team sucks! When Molitor takes over, I hope you are the pitching coach."
And so it went. In the best of times, some true fans hold animosity against those who jump on the bandwagon, which is silly. In bad times, they sometimes talk smack at each other, which deflects from the real problem of how incredibly poorly the Twins have been playing since the start of their last homestand.
That 2-7 stretch followed by a clean sheet of defeat on the first half of the current 10-game road trip has landed the Twins solidly at the bottom of the AL Central, with the only worse record in the league belonging to pathetic Houston. In the name of looking at the present and future, I called a personal halt at the start of the season to writing about how the mistakes of the last few years had created a team for which there was little hope.
"Kansas City North" was the term I used a few times, and Twins fans are getting a first-hand look at what that means. We used to watch the Royals talk about how better stuff was ahead and then they'd get off a respectable start -- followed by a tumble to the bottom. That's exactly what's been happening to the 2013 Twins, who worked so hard to be respectable for the first five weeks that little appears to be left for the next five months.
(Quick aside: I know I'm not the only one a bit skeptical about all of the optimism being directed toward the Twins of the future who are currently playing their way through the lower minors. Hopeful, yes. Convinced, no.)
The awful starting pitching has begotten tired relief pitching. The poor pitching has created an overall sense of hopelessness, leading some fans to bicker about who should be called up from Rochester among the collection of players currently in last place in the International League.
The biggest frustration there is the perceived "Anthony Slama treatment" of pitcher Kyle Gibson by Twins management, which has called up Samuel Deduno and P.J. Walters as current stopgaps. We've heard buckets about how Gibson has thrown shutouts in two of his last four starts, one against a team with a record almost as bad as Houston's (and the other also against a sub-.500 team), and little about the other two.
In the other two, Gibson gave up nine runs and 18 hits in 7 2/3 innings against two of the league's better teams.
For the Twins to seek more consistency from Gibson is understandable.
For fans to expect (and have expected) more competence from the Twins is, too.
|Texas - WP: S. Tolleson||16||FINAL|
|Oakland - LP: D. Hooker||15|
|San Diego St||58|
|Sam Houston St||49||FINAL|
|Stephen F Austin||68|
|New Mexico St||77|
|Red Bull New York||1|
|Sporting Kansas City||1|
|Real Salt Lake||3||FINAL|
|Fla Gulf Coast||64|
|Coll of Charleston||52||FINAL|
|Stephen F Austin||80|
|(22) Middle Tennessee||84|