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.
These last half-dozen games have been a reminder of how the Twins will typically fare when they play teams that don't stink.
I figured I'd be as direct as possible there, if only because (judging by some of the comments from my last post) some people think the Twins are merely a quick fix away from contending for something.
Philadelphia and Milwaukee are by no means excellent teams. Both are a half-dozen games under .500 in their National League division. If you need more, here goes: In the dozen games on either side of beating the Twins 2 out of 3, the Phillies have lost 11 of them. The Brewers came here and won 2 out of 3 after getting swept by Kansas City.
Friends, even with fine play from a number of parties -- both expected and unexpected -- the Twins are still under repair from allowing their infrastructure to crumble. Their handling of Ben Revere and Trevor Plouffe, against a backdrop of skeptics, appears to be paying off. Even with the strikeouts, I would rather have Josh Willingham's numbers than Michael Cuddyer's. Scott Diamond's success is a stroke of unexpected good fortune. Brian Dozier should be better for playing his way through struggles. And the Glen Perkins/Jared Burton combo in the bullpen deserves more leads to hold.
The Joe Mauer paragraph: Yes, if someone offered me a No. 1 catcher with a .415 on-base percentage, I would take him and pay him a lot even if I knew he was leading the league by grounding into 14 double plays. I would encourage him to take a rip at more first-pitch fastballs, but maybe that's just me. I might harbor some frustration that he's not on pace to hit 20 home runs, but I'd try to keep that frustration at the same level as my frustration over not winning the Powerball.
The Justin Morneau paragraph: I'm really happy that Morneau is fit enough to be an everyday player and he makes the infield better as first base. I'm glad that he's mashing the ball against right-handed pitchers (a .393 on-base percentage and a .607 slugging percentage). I'm also concerned that his Adam Dunn-in-2011 numbers against lefties -- six hits and two walks in 66 plate appearances -- are collateral damage from his collection of injuries. How he figures into the Twins figure, in the next couple of months or the next couple of years, is a question that I can't answer with any certainty. Given his production and his place on the payroll, I assume the Twins would consider the right offer from a contender, even if Terry Ryan and the others can't say that out loud.
The Denard Span/Matt Capps/Francisco Liriano/Jamey Carroll/Ryan Doumit and more paragraph: Like it or not, those guys (and others) should be available for the right offer. The Twins have traded bit players in the past for substantial help. They need to do it again.
The Twins need to sell at the trading deadline and be aggressive players in the free agent market. I promise, they are not a tweak or two away from anything, and I promise that the front office knows that. After three years, selling the ballpark experience of Target Field will ring hollower against a backdrop of close-to-100 loss seasons.
Now on pace to lose about 97 games, the Twins should already recognize they need to stem the tide of fans drifting from buying tickets to watching from the sofa -- or doing something else entirely.
They can ride oversized yams, meat balls and craft beers only so far.
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