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.
That Carl Pavano bat-smashing thing was pretty special, huh? Pitch badly, suffer from terrible defense and watch your team's batters continue the struggles that make them look like minor-league talent, which does describe a hefty chunk of the current roster.
Did anyone else spit their Sierra Mist when Gardy was asked after the game if he saw anything positive in Carl's tantrum?
Maybe things will magically turn around and the story of Carl and his bat will take on the same reverence as the August 2004 afternoon in Cleveland when Corey Koskie smashed a chair with his bat in response to his team's poor play. The difference was that the Twins were in first place at the time and Koskie hit a game-winning home run later that afternoon. (Gardy also dramatically shuffled the batting order in that game but it's more fun to think that the smashed chair was the difference, right?)
And as badly as the Twins were playing at the time,. it was nothing like the month of stink with which the Twins have started the 2011 season.
Yes, this is an injury-depleted team.
But, yes, this is a team that is suffering more because of flawed performances by players who should know better, underperforming veterans and personnel decisions that have so far blown up in the faces of those who made them over the winter. The embarrassing play of Alexi Casilla shows how wrong the Twins were in thinking that he would thrive if given a second chance at what was supposedly his best position. (I bought into that one, by the way.) The starting rotation -- a collection of No. 3 starters in the best of times -- has too often looked like guys better suited to long relief. Relievers Dusty Hughes, Jim Hoey and Alex Burnett are basically Rochester-worthy.
The Twins' offensive statistics would look good if they were put together by a fast-pitch softball team. Most players have on-base percentages that look like batting averages. Justin Morneau ain't quite right at bat and in the field, a subject that would get more attention if there weren't so many guys missing, or performing even worse.
Name a statistic and the Twins are likely near the bottom of the league, which is what you should expect from a team that has the worst record in baseball.
*Amazingly, the Twins started May with four more hits than the Yankees. The Yankees, though, had almost four times as many home runs (43 to 11) and 52 more runs. The hitting has been horrid; the hitting (and base running) in scoring situations has been worse.
*The Twins are "pitching to contact" so well that they are first in hits yielded and last in strikeouts.They also have the highest ERA in the majors.
*Seattle and Oakland are 12th and 13th in American League on base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) at .656. The Twins are 14th and last, trailing them by 43 points. In other words, the Twins have a .613 OPS. Stats geeks had some fun this spring when Baltimore's Cesar Izturis signed a contract that included a $25,000 bonus for winning a Silver Slugger Award -- because his career OPS is the second-lowest among currently rostered players with at least 2,000 career at-bats. His OPS is .618.
*Among AL pitchers who've thrown at least a dozen innings, Francisco Liriano has the highest ERA at 9.13. Nobody else is within a run of him -- and the pitcher closest (Kyle Davies of the Royals) got his one victory of the season against the Twins.
Now, try to find some more of those yourself -- and feel free to share. Can Christian Ponder pitch?
The points here? Gardy and the front office could make a point by releasing Casilla. If they don't, they could be charged with violating the Herb Brooks-ism: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." The bullpen situation will be a bigger and more creative challenge for the scouts and personnel folks, but there have to be better answers than Hughes and Hoey. Finding them is management's job, not mine.
It is fair to expect Danny Valencia and Michael Cuddyer to snap out of their funks and for Morneau to carry his weight. It is fair to expect major leaguers to run the bases and execute rundowns better than a high school junior varsity. It is fair to expect better than the give-up at-bats that have permeated the first month of games.
I'm not quite sure what Gardy should do right now, other than to watch his diet -- and not delude himself into putting his name in the line-up card at shortstop.
At least he's not pretending that his team is battling its tail off and getting after it.
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