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.
I understand that many Twins fans are skeptical about the future of the team, and I share their skepticism to some degree. My main reason for feeling shaky is the lack of foresight in the front office that allowed the team to deteriorate as much it has in the last couple of seasons. After a decade sprinkled with division titles, it is still unfathomable that we're now discussing whether or not the 2012 Twins will lose 100 games and whether things will be any better in '13.
My main reason for hope is the turnover in the front office, which seems to be bringing a more aggressive approach to fixing the Twins' problems. The demotion of Nick Blackburn on Monday -- not only sending him to the minors but taking him off the 40-man roster -- was a sign of the demeanor that I hope Terry Ryan exhibits more frequently, both in managing down to the field and up to team ownership.
Monday's move basically relegated $8.5 million in ill-advised contracts (the money owed Blackburn and Tsuyoshi Nishioka) to the minor-league roster. If you want to get a sense of how wretched Blackburn has been -- not only recently but since 2010 -- you should take a look at Aaron Gleeman's newest blog post. (If you don't want to look, Gleeman shows that Blackburn has basically turned every hitter he's faced "into a better version of (Justin) Morneau" since the start of 2010.)
Now, that should make you look
The Blackburn demotion came about a week after Ron Gardenhire said on his weekly radio show that Blackburn will be one of the team's pitchers again in 2013, a comment that I'm sure sent shudders through those who will need to convince ticket-buyers to remain faithful.
Honestly, I let that remark go in one ear and out the other because I remember the last run of lean times when Tom Kelly used to say of his roster that it was his job to use the players given to him by the general manager. I filed the Gardenhire comment on Blackburn as stuff managers say.
Suspecting ulterior motives is part of the deal. We can debate the backstory about why the Twins didn't call up Chris Parmelee last week and I'll suggest that, maybe, the Twins were trying to keep Rochester's roster as strong as possible because of the team's outside shot at a playoff berth. Far-fetched? Not after Rochester and the Twins just agreed to a two-year extension of their working agreement after some prior queasiness in their relationship.
The Twins can say they wanted to take a look at Matt Carson instead of bringing back Parmelee, and they could well be telling the truth and not the whole truth. The same could apply if the Twins call up a pitcher other than Liam Hendriks for Wednesday's start at Oakland. (Update: So much for that part of the theory: the Twins have called Hendriks.)
The next wait-and-see will be how aggressive the Twins are in the free-agent market, which the Twins have been reluctant to enter with the enthusiasm that some would like. I'll repeat the short version rather than go into depth: The Twins need a couple of proven starting pitchers, bullpen help and a solid middle infielder to get them where they need to be for 2013, and provide a bridge to their future.
I'm going to trust Ryan to convince ownership to go that route and trust his skills to make good choices with more money than the Pohlads may have been planning to spend. If the discussion going into next season is whether the Twins are a better bet to lose 90 games or 100, then the Target Field stands will start looking like a cross between what we're seeing this week in Oakland and the student section for Gophers football at TCF Bank Stadium.
Trust me on that.
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