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.

Believing and pretending with Gardenhire's Twins

Posted by: Howard Sinker under Ron Gardenhire Updated: July 3, 2014 - 8:02 AM

We're halfway into the baseball season and this is what's certain:

(1) The Twins aren't good enough right now to be postseason contenders. The ugly combination of inconsistency on the field, some bad decisions off the field and yet another run of injuries has pretty much done them in. I tried building a case for being on the fringe of postseason contention earlier this season, but I'm done pretending about that.

(2) The "pace" you're on in baseball means nothing. The Twins' record at this point in 2014 is within a couple of games of where it was in the last three miserable seasons, when the only end-of-year question was whether they would lose 100. This team could lose 85 games and grab on to that as a positive ... or threaten yet again to lose 100. Neither would be a surprise.

(3) Because we've been focused on so many others things: Joe Mauer's lack of production, the Aaron Hicks silliness, some horrible roster management and an outfield defense that is second-to-everyone, we haven't focused on yet another season of injuries that has turned the job of managing the Twins into more of a chore than simply making the most of a bad ball club.

That last thing is what I'm talking about here.

The list of players who have missed time for one reason or another is pretty much a list of the players who make up the team: Joe Mauer at first base (now for the second time), Brian Dozier and his stiff back at second, Danny Santana and the mysterious bone bruise at shortstop and center field, Trevor Plouffe and his rib cage at third; Josh Willingham and his wrist in left; Aaron Hicks and his shoulder and psyche in center, Oswaldo Arcia and his wrist (and extended April recovery time) in right.

I'm leaving out pitcher Mike Pelfrey. He just doesn't count in the current scheme or things -- and quite likely in any future scheme for the Twins.

It's like the Passover story out there, a full-fledged plague of game-missing injuries that has spared only Kurt Suzuki, whose addition to the roster was pretty much scorned and whose solid play has been desperately needed during the first half of the season. When you watch the Twins, it looks like Suzuki gets hurt more than any other two players combined, but he hasn't yet cashed in an injury card while (so far, at least) while putting up better offensive statistics than at any time in his career.

Where am I going with this?

About this time last year, I was pretty much thinking that Ron Gardenhire's time with the Twins was done. His past work with the Twins was being done in by a hopeless looking roster filled with guys who were the return of trades made at the wrong time or forays through baseball's unemployment line. You know, the Alex Presleys, Pedro Hernandezes and Clete Thomases of the game. There was a resigned tone to Gardy's lineups, his demeanor and often to the way his team played.

That's what has been different about 2014, which has been a season where much of what counts as success has been fueled by out-of-the-box moves.

We can rightfully make fun of the Jasons (Kubel and Bartlett), but that resulted in running with Chris Colabello for as long as possible, a player who had no more reason to succeed, even if for a short time, than Kubel. (The Kendrys Morales signing has much of that action moot, as long as the Twins manage to make Morales a part of their future.)

We can wonder what's up with Hicks -- all the more with Byron Buxton in the future -- but choosing Danny Santana to be the center field option was a pretty sweet call. Gardy was quick enough to pull the plug on pretending that Eduardo Escobar was an outfield fit, but found that Eduardo Nunez can play out there when needed. And how much of a risk was it really to try Chris Parmelee in center field when your outfield is already the worst in the majors? Throw him out there and see if the ball sticks in his glove.

We can lose our focus on the team by talking about Mauer, but we're not going to do that here. He was having a wretched season until a couple of weeks ago, then started hitting at a Mauer-like pace and now he's out until after the All-Star break. But Mauer's health issues and lack of offense made it more vital that some of the things Gardy has been forced to try actually worked out.

So if you'd like, you can add a dollop of snarkiness to the season by counting down to Gardy's 1,000th career loss or scan the dugout and beg for a replacement, but I'm not going to join you there. My takeaway at the halfway point of this season is that Gardy has done a good job with the hands he's been asked to play -- surviving 7/2s from the dealer at the poker table and too many 16s at the blackjack table.

Yeah, I guess you could call it battling his managerial tail off.

The challenge for the rest of the season is to make sure the Twins stay at something close to their current pace instead of going on another skid toward toward 100 defeats. If he can do that, I want Gardy to have the chance to run this team when it becomes as good as we expect it to become.

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Denver 28 4th Qtr 5:50
Cincinnati 30
Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
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Denver
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San Francisco
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Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Denver 82 FINAL
Charlotte 110
Portland 95 FINAL
Houston 110
Utah 97 FINAL
Memphis 91
Toronto 120 FINAL
Chicago 129
Atlanta 105 FINAL
Dallas 102
LA Clippers 118 FINAL
San Antonio 125
Sacramento 35 2nd Qtr 6:14
Golden State 51
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Washington 2
Nashville 5 FINAL
Columbus 1
Pittsburgh 3 FINAL(SO)
Florida 4
Arizona 0 2nd Prd 9:16
Vancouver 4
San Jose 0 2nd Prd 9:15
Anaheim 1
Calgary 0 2nd Prd
Los Angeles 2
Ark-Little Rock 64 FINAL
Bradley 54
Brown 67 FINAL
Central Conn St 55
Stetson 59 FINAL
Florida State 63
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
Northwestern 63
Ohio 49 FINAL
George Washington 77
Southern Utah 61 FINAL
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Elon 67 FINAL
Kennesaw St 65
Dartmouth 49 FINAL
Penn State 69
Green Bay 70 FINAL
UC Irvine 72
DePaul 68 FINAL
Colorado 82
Lewis & Clark 49 FINAL
Portland 71
SC State 59 FINAL
Abilene Christian 65
Manhattan 71 FINAL
Fordham 57
Truett-McConnell 57 FINAL
Ga Southern 90
Citadel 56 FINAL
Michigan State 82
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Ohio State 93
Gardner-Webb 89 FINAL
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Northern Ky 81
Fairfield 66 FINAL
Albany 77
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Alcorn State 50
UT Martin 37 FINAL
Butler 64
SE Louisiana 65 FINAL
UCF 70
Oakland 60 FINAL
Clemson 70
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Eastern Ky 66 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 69
IUPU-Ft Wayne 43 FINAL
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Norfolk State 74 FINAL
James Madison 71
Binghamton 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 69
Towson 56 FINAL
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Long Island 73 FINAL
New Hampshire 72
Northern Ill 66 FINAL
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William & Mary 62 FINAL
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Liberty 47 FINAL
Princeton 65
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Kansas 52 FINAL
Temple 77
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East Tenn St 60 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 84
Va Military 74 FINAL
Virginia Tech 87
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West Virginia 77
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UAB 67 FINAL
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Char Southern 54 FINAL
Colorado State 75
North Florida 70 FINAL
Iowa 80
NC Central 67 FINAL
Jackson State 64
Rice 72 FINAL
Lamar 79
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Coppin State 56 FINAL
Michigan 72
Furman 76 FINAL
Minnesota 86
SE Missouri St 51 FINAL
Ole Miss 82
Weber State 51 FINAL
Oklahoma 85
Grambling St 39 FINAL
TCU 80
Loyola-Chicago 62 FINAL
Texas Tech 44
Incarnate Word 47 FINAL
Tulsa 76
Penn 50 FINAL
Vanderbilt 79
Chicago State 38 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 63
Simpson 62 FINAL
Drake 84
Tenn Tech 81 FINAL
UMKC 60
Murray State 83 FINAL
Southern Ill 71
Oral Roberts 45 FINAL
Missouri State 52
Jacksonville St 65 FINAL
Air Force 66
Milwaukee 54 FINAL
Arkansas 84
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
California 56
Coll of Charleston 47 FINAL
LSU 71
North Dakota 54 FINAL
Marquette 67
Northern New Mexico 39 FINAL
New Mexico St 78
UC Santa Barbara 78 FINAL
Oregon 82
Miami-Florida 62 FINAL
Providence 76
Northeastern 68 FINAL
St Marys-CA 72
Kent State 75 2nd Half 0:02
Texas-El Paso 78
UC Davis 73 FINAL
Northern Colorado 63
Lewis-Clark State 81 FINAL
Eastern Wash 87
Walla Walla 52 FINAL
Portland State 94
TX A&M-CC 45 2nd Half 13:50
Cal State Fullerton 52
Marshall 36 2nd Half 12:51
Nevada 57
Boise State 31 1st Half 0:41
Houston 20
UC Riverside 8 1st Half 11:29
San Diego St 14
Tulane 15 1st Half 11:40
Washington 11
Loyola Marymount 4 1st Half 12:56
Wichita State 14
Nebraska 12/23/14 12:00 AM
Hawaii
BYU 48 FINAL
Memphis 55
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
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Holy Cross 78
Temple 59 FINAL
Villanova 64
Georgia Southern 68 FINAL
Southern U 52
Xavier 60 FINAL
Kennesaw St 61
Eastern Michigan 52 FINAL
Michigan 81
Brescia 56 FINAL
Marshall 127
(21) West Virginia 54 FINAL
Ohio State 96
UMBC 87 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 78
Cornell 79 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 61
St Bonaventure 70 FINAL
Georgetown 64
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
Northeastern 62
Eastern Washington 67 FINAL
Florida 56
Rice 63 FINAL
Texas Southern 69
Butler 72 FINAL
Illinois State 60
UC Davis 59 FINAL
(16) Stanford 71
Washington St 87 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 60
Sacramento St 94 FINAL
San Jose St 97
SIU-Edwardsville 74 FINAL
UMKC 58
Oakland 92 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 84
Belmont 43 FINAL
(14) Georgia 62
George Mason 83 FINAL
Longwood 61
Kansas 81 FINAL
Creighton 84
Abilene Christian 53 FINAL
Kansas State 68
UT Martin 65 FINAL
Missouri 74
Hampton 67 FINAL
DePaul 86
Florida State 65 FINAL
Tulane 54
Murray State 44 FINAL
Illinois 64
Fla Gulf Coast 74 FINAL
Arkansas State 68
BYU 62 FINAL
Utah State 58
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