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.
The optimism of a few days ago, sparked partly by the 3-3 road trip in the first week of the season and partly for no better reason that the Home Opener can bring on that kind of behavior, was replaced with the thump-thump-thump of the low-profile but high-achieving Oakland Athletics sweeping the Twins. One of the games was close, but even in that one the Twins were behind 4-0 before they got a chance to hit.
Mike Pelfrey -- whose name was misspelled "Pelfry" on the scoreboard during pregame introductions -- didn't bother in his second start with a few good innings before falling apart. On offense, the Twins called it a day remarkably quickly. Three of the first seven batters got hits; none of the next 25 did. The Athletics were dominant again, and the score would have been even more lopsided save for a baserunning flub by Nick Punto (Imagine that!) while they were expanding their lead in the sixth.
All of this was played out in front of the smallest crowd ever to show up at Target Field. It was announced at 20,650 and the out-migration started early. A Timberwolves assistant coach sitting a couple of trows in front of us left his seat in the fourth inning and never reappeared. Our seats, behind home plate and nine rows up, were grabbed off the Internet for $13 each, all fees included.
Oakland is a team of a few excellent positions players, a bunch of good pitchers and a batch of interchangeable parts. Sam Fuld, an undistinguished outfielder, hit the seventh home run of his seven-year career off Big Pelf. Punto, on his fourth team in four years since leaving the Twins, had reached base four times in 14 times up this season before reaching three times out of four on Thursday. Oakland put 18 runners on base, which meant they pretty much couldn't help but score six runs.
On the Twins side, some things evened out and some didn't. Chris Colabello ended the series with the same 11 RBI that he started with after going hitless in 13 at-bats. Twins starting pitchers have a combined 6.89 ERA through the first nine games. Take away Kyle Gibson's start (1 earned run but only 5 innings) and the other four have a combined 7.50. Darin Mastroianni was called up (finally) after the Willingham, Arcia and Bartlett injuries from that road trip and pretty much by default was placed in the leadoff spot. Joe Mauer is still on pace to drive in zero runs.
We are nine games into the season and the Twins have played only one -- Gibson's victory at Cleveland last weekend -- in which the team can take any sort of pride. The other two victories were outlasting jobs that looked more like a night in New Britain than a day in the big leagues.
The best rationale for saying that things will get better is that they can't really get much worse.
Already, the chatter among those who chatter with me is whether the 2014 Twins will finish with a worse record than the teams of the last three years. Does 3-and-6 through nine games become 54-and-108 through 162? Basically, a team that pretty much failed at improving itself in the winter has played failing-grade baseball through the first 10 or so days of the season. And if things remain the same -- on the field and off -- how can a reasonable person expect the Twins to have better success at attracting the needed talent for '15 and beyond?
Someone e-mailed me after the game, a person whose name you might know if you follow business and education issues: "Wow, a disaster is unfolding before our eyes."
There's a verse in the New Testament that describes the Twins right now. It's about reaping what you sow. Galatians 6:7. You can look it up.
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