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.
That was a bad midweek for baseball.
The Twins put together a stunning comeback on Saturday and take out one of the best pitchers in baseball on Sunday and then go to Milwaukee -- playing a team they have pretty much owned in recent years -- and play like the Baltimore Orioles. Thursday's performance, which most of us I'm guessing had the good fortune to miss for one reason or another, was marked by a dismal enough showing for Justin Morneau to express concern about a lack of energy.
The Twins didn't exactly get after it in Milwaukee, much less do the little things rights ... or battle their tails off ... or even do the things that fans have a right to expect of them (and that players should expect from themselves).
Playing without energy, or whatever, makes the current group look like spoiled children who expect others to do more and more for them while they do less and less.
I had been pondering the energy issue a couple of weeks back, and again after the Nick Blackburn puker in Philadelphia last Friday. I was starting to wonder if the Twins, for all of their talent, were missing Orlando Cabrera.
It was Cabrera who gave the Twins a dugout presence last season when he arrived from Oakland. And while I tend to minimize that sort of fire in favor of production -- Cabrera had a .313 on-base percentage batting in the No. 2 spot and was inconsistent in the field (11 errors in 57 games) -- when a star player like Morneau starts talking "energy," it makes me wonder.
This is the part of the season -- interleague play -- that the Twins typically own. They will need to beat the Mets 2 out of 3 to finish this year's version at .500. That will be followed by a stretch against the Tigers, Rays, Jays and White Sox during which the kind of play current on display, if continued, could easily land them in third place in their winnable division.
The Twins are a team that have been doted on by their management and fans -- new ballpark with fabulous facilities, an upgraded roster and daily capacity crowds. In addition, they are playing in a division that doesn't feature the three best teams in baseball. (And they are finished with the Yankees and Red Sox, at least until October.)
The Twins shouldn't need a flawed cheerleader like Cabrera to make them right.
For "energy" to even be an issue is lame.
A few weekend-starting thoughts:
If you like the idea of Michael Cuddyer at third base to get more offense, you'll have to live with balls he can't get to. There were two balls hit in Wednesday's game that I would have bet on a more skilled third baseman handling. And I'm not putting a failed double-play turn that night on him as much as Orlando Hudson's slow turn at second. Cuddyer wasn't a good third baseman back when he played the position regularly and he's no better at the position now. And as much of a Cuddyer fan as I am, there would be no harm in sitting him now and again with Delmon in left and Jason Kubel in right.
The fifth spot update: Cuddyer is batting .229 with runners in scoring position with a .302 on-base percentage and a .337 slugging percentage. Delmon is batting .379 in those situations with a .397 OBP and .576 slugging percentage. Delmon's OPS with runners in scoring position is 333 points higher than Cuddyer's. Delmon has 47 RBI in 241 plate appearances; Cuddyer has 33 in 294.
Perhaps moving the player with the team's second highest OPS up in the batting order would impart some, ummmmmmm, energy into the lineup.
Nick Blackburn has gone through these wretched stretches before. Last season, there was a stretch of six starts in which he barely got through four innings per game and gave up more than a run per inning. And his 2008 season was marked by games in which he was unable to hold leads. In both seasons, he pitched through those problems and was a big-game performer at season's end. While the latter should be heartening, I think it's reasonable to expect a maturing pitcher (with a contract that runs through 2013) to avoid stretches like the current one -- five starts, 18 2/3 innings, 25 earned runs.
Maybe having Brian Duensing take Blackburn's next start would bring about a more permanent cure.
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