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.

Section 219: When the wheels fall off

Posted by: Howard Sinker under Ron Gardenhire, Target Field, Twins management, Twins offense, Twins pitching Updated: May 15, 2011 - 6:19 PM

Remember when people were frustrated last year because of Gardy's use of the "Sunday lineup," when some regulars would get rested and there was a perception that the Twins were pretty much fielding a B team? Fans didn't want to hear about how Joe Mauer or Delmon Young or whomever needed a day off now and again.

Well, for several weeks the Twins have been fielding a B lineup pretty much on a daily basis. One of the Red Sox radio announcers offered up last Monday that if the Twins sent the lineup to a road exhibition game that they used at Fenway Park, that the commissioner would probably fine them.

And, of course, it doesn't help that almost all of the name players who are healthy enough to play are underperforming. Rene Tosoni couldn't have had as bad a weekend as Delmon had, with his six straight strikeouts (Tosoni only had four in his Twins finale) and his weak play in left field.

This is how a team gets to be 12-26 -- the worst record in baseball by two games.

Those t-shirts Mike Redmond printed up a few years back -- you remember, the ones about RBIs that said "Smell 'em" -- now have a whole new meaning.

The Twins showed Sunday they could give up 11 runs to a team whose Nos. 4 and 5 batters entered the game without a home run, which was only one fewer than the Twins' 4-and-5 guys had.

The Twins showed Saturday they could one-up the Blue Jays. How? Toronto started a pitcher, Jo-Jo Reyes, who hadn't won a game in the majors since 2008 while the Twins started a catcher, Rene Rivera, who got his first major-league hit -- an infield single that looked suspiciously like an error -- since 2006.

For an encore, the Twins will go to Seattle, where the Mariners have lost six in a row and are at the bottom of the AL West. West Coast baseball has typically been an excuse to stay up late and arrive at work sleepy the next morning. This week I assume some people will use it as a reason to go to bed early.

I've seen enough bad baseball over the years to take it, more or l less, in stride. I'm not angry about all that's gone on as much as I'm amazed at how every single decision that Twins made during the offseason has pretty much blown up in their faces so far, and how everything that Gardy has tried to do to attempt to win with his undermanned roster has failed. Of course, when you're sending up Ben Revere as a pinch-hitter in a close game -- all the more in a lefty vs. lefty situation -- you know that the options are limited.

If you're less mellow about the suckage, I understand.

I've heard the theory that a complete meltdown would be better than a valiant rally that falls a few games short of winning the division. The meltdown would force the front office to reassess what the roster should look like in 2012 and beyond, without allowing management to fall back on the crock that falling short was the result of the injuries. The bullpen and shortstop situations, which aren't injury driven, would be reason enough to make a 2011 title tenuous. Bullpen 2.0 had been a flaming disaster, barely worthy of Rochester.

Bad decisions were made, some of which were supported here in Section 219 and elsewhere, and no action was taken on other matters that should have drawn attention. Those have been battered around repeatedly here and elsewhere, so I won't go into them yet again.

But those bad decisions don't explain much of what's happening on the field. Mental mistakes are being made at an astounding rate and anyone who wants to comb through the statistics can find some that are great for shock value. Jose Bautista's five home runs this weekend are one more than any Twins player has for the season, for example, and Drew Butera's meaningless single Sunday meant that collection of catchers filling in for Mauer is now 11-for-100, a .110 batting average.

That's 21 points below the Blyleven Line -- the .131 average that Bert compiled in his pre-DH and National League seasons.

I spit a bit of Coke Zero when Bert started a sentence, with one out in Sunday's bottom of the ninth, by saying: "If the Twins lose today..."

I missed the rest of it. I do know they have lost eight in a row at home and eight straight overall. I do know they were eight runs down when he said it..

Even though they were down 8-0 at the time, Sunday's fourth inning was a prime indicator of how bad things are. After loading the bases with none out , Delmon -- having already made three terrible plays in the outfield, struck out on three pitches. Cuddyer drew an RBI-walk on a pitch that looked like a knee-high strike and Danny Valencia flied out to right field. Jason Kubel stayed at third.

That, apparently, was too much for broadcaster Dan Gladden. According to colleague Patrick Reusse's Twitter feed, Gladden said: "You wouldn't want to send Kubel when you're seven runs down, especially with Drew Butera coming to the plate."

Ouch.

Butera also struck out on three pitches.

Sunday's game got so bad that someone on Twitter sent tweets to myself, TwinCentric's Seth Stohs and ESPN1500's Phil Mackey (and maybe others) saying that he was no longer going to follow us because he couldn't take it any more.

The things he'll miss.

 

 

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