If you’re among the Twins fans who were optimistic during the 100 games that mattered, you don’t have anything to apologize about.
And if you give up on the season now, you don’t have any reason to apologize, either.
If you were in it until now, you lasted longer than Twins management. The lack of commitment to improving the bullpen (or doing anything else in recent weeks) meant that the front office took a look at the schedule when moves could have been made and decided the cost of competing for the postseason wasn’t worth it.
If they make an argument otherwise, feel free to be skeptical. Maybe that was a realistic position, but it's also a painful one to acknowledge.
If anyone in management or on FSN North now talks about what needs to happen to “get back into the race,” eye-rolling is an appropriate (and understated) response.
Now you’re going to be asked to believe in the future. Build all the optimistic scenarios you want, but expecting things to be better “just because,” is a blueprint that could make the 2016 Twins first cousins with this year’s Milwaukee Brewers, who were expected to build off a 2014 season that looked a lot like the current Twins. Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas and Oswaldo Arcia were expected to be part of whatever Twins improvement took place this season and that didn’t quite happen, right?
If we are looking to the future, here’s what I want to see over the final six weeks of the season:
*An outfield of Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Aaron Hicks. That puts Torii Hunter on the bench. Hunter’s OPS+ has atrophied to 90 and his on-base percentage is in downward free fall. It’s .288 for the season,.206 since the All-Star break and .163 in August. Any idea about Hunter returning for 2016 should be dismissed. There should be no need for him. Buxton is hitting .412 in 12 games at Rochester. Bring him back.
*Think seriously about the choice of Rosario over Arcia in 2016. We like Rosario for all kinds of reasons, some of which are based on him performing better than expected. But there’s a troubling on-base percentage (.301) fueled by 10 walks in 314 plate appearances that needs to improve. Is he the fourth outfielder who can also play the infield in an emergency? I’m up for giving Arcia another shot. At the minimum, I'm up for competition between the two.
*Bring up Jose Berrios. Let him deal with the bumps of being a rookie pitcher right now. I’m not seeing Mike Pelfrey as part of the Twins’ future. Make that switch. Let Pelfrey pitch out of the bullpen, or even let him go.
*Get Trevor May back in the rotation. Nothing good is served right now by keeping him in the bullpen. If you need an alternate closer, put Kevin Jepsen in that role.
*A batting order with Hicks, Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano at the top. This isn’t Joe Mauer bashing. If manager Paul Molitor isn’t going to move Mauer into the No. 2 spot on the regular basis, find him a place in the batting order where he belongs based on performance instead of legacy.
*An acknowledgment from general manager Terry Ryan that the Twins hurt their chances by not working hard to upgrade the bullpen. That’s not an attempt to extract I-told-you-so satisfaction. I want to hear it in tandem with a vow to be better prepared for 2016, whether it’s fixing the bullpen or finding a shortstop or whatever.
If you’re looking for an angry replay of the last couple of games, it’s not going to come from here. Yeah, it was maddening to watch such a colossal combination of failure – everything from Kyle Gibson falling behind in the first inning on Monday through the likely-to-fail bullpen strategy on Tuesday, with poor fielding, bad base-running and shaky managing decisions mixed in.
But everything that happened stemmed from conditions that made failure against the Yankees (and on the previous horrible road trip) more likely.
The Twins must address those conditions.