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 would bet that Kevin Correia never imagined that he would be featured in a commercial touting the Twins chances in 2013. Without being harsh -- because the day when pitchers and catchers report to spring training is no time for snark -- the 10-year veteran with the sub-.500 record doesn't exactly inspire the kind of optimism that I'd like to associate with February in Fort Myers.
Of course, that the Twins have resorted to sarcasm in their radio ads doesn't help, either. You've probably heard it, the ad about "your new pitchers" -- Vance Worley, Correia and Mike Pelfrey -- and how "they'll win every game! Yessssss!"
That doesn't even qualify as a sorta deep thought, although I guess it's better than "Fighting for fourth place since 2011."
The best thing the Twins have going for them is a Twin Cities sports market that has taken a dramatic and stunning nosedive in recent weeks. The Timberwolves have gone from possible playoff contender to their natural habitat of last place. The Wild are celebrating its first road victory and have already turned the Xcel Energy Center crowd to booing. Tubby Smith and his Gophers have become a dispiriting train wreck. Jerry Kill and his Gophers just signed the lowest-ranked recruiting class in the Big Ten.
Even Don Lucia and his Gophers, the best reason for hope among local teams of some profile, have dropped from No. 1 in the national rankings -- dropping behind a college you probably can't name and almost certainly can't find on a map.
It's enough to make you want to follow Class A high school hockey.
It is onto that bleak landscape that the Twins step this week with their pitchers and catchers -- the healthy ones, anyway -- going through the preseason rituals that will excite many of us, at present, only because they're taking place in warm weather.
This is the time of year when we'll hear guys like Pelfrey saying stuff like this: "From my understanding, this offense is going to put up some runs. If we can keep them in the game and get the ball over to the bullpen, I like our chances." (Read that one here.)
That's an offense without a leadoff or No. 2 hitter, at present, and more positions in the lineup unsettled than settled. And the comments come from a pitcher who had Tommy John surgery on May 1 and expects to be ready for the start of the season. From Adrian Peterson's knee to Pelfrey's arm to God's ears, I suppose.
Remember, at this time last year we were excited about Joel Zumaya.
Here's the disconnect between what you read and hear from the experts and you may be feeling as a fan: Many of the experts are willing to buy into the drawing of a bigger picture and have the patience needed to wait for it to come into view. They can look at a team that's dropped dramatically from first to worst in its division and offer wisdom about the benefits of waiting a couple of more years until things will be better. They'll contend that the minor-league system, after a significant dry spell, is stocked full of hope -- and fans should be patient for 20-whenever.
I've heard those experts talk about the inevitable "down cycles," the wisdom of piling up prospects and their disdain for fans who want the Twins to take shortcuts to success. I saw a tweet from a radio guy about how the Wild's slow start justifies the Twins approach.
I've heard fans argue that a "down cycle" should have the Twins on the edge of contention instead of battling to lose fewer than 100 games. I've heard the skepticism about relying so heavily on prospects, steeped in the list of failures that any serious fan can create if given a few minutes. I've contended that bringing in veteran players to hold down key positions until the prospects are expected to be ready isn't a shortcut as much as it's an obligation from a financially able ownership to its ticket-buying public.
So far, I've kept the promise of my last post not to use the phrase "Kansas City North" in describing the Twins -- and I'm not going to use the phrase "Kansas City North" because snark will not come from this keyboard on the day that pitchers and catchers report.
After all, we've been promised that Worley, Correia and Pelfrey are going to win every game! Yessssss!
So cheer up, OK?
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