Miguel Sano slammed a locker door, angry that he got thrown out at third base to end the game. Ricky Nolasco blamed himself for giving up a three-run homer on his last pitch.
The Twins lost 6-5 to Detroit on Sunday at Target Field, falling to 7-18 and creating a dark mood in their clubhouse.
They have failed to hit in the clutch, failed to produce runs, at times failed to make fundamental plays, but their struggles since 2010 go beyond short-term circumstances.
Why are the Twins so bad this season?
Why were they so consistently good in the 2000s?
The answer to both questions is the same: trades.
By the time you read this the Twins will be in Houston, where Alex Meyer is scheduled to start a game and John Ryan Murphy probably will catch one and Danny Santana will play center field.
Each player in his own way is emblematic of the Twins’ current struggles and the decisions that contributed to their team’s shockingly bad start. For the past 15 years, the Twins’ peaks and valleys have usually been reflective of the quality of their trades. Meyer, Murphy and Santana are with this team because of trades that did not cover the Twins’ decisionmakers in glory.
There have been four distinct chapters in Twins history since Terry Ryan succeeded Andy MacPhail as the Twins’ general manager in 1994. In the first, from 1994 to ’98, Ryan operated with a minuscule budget in the Metrodome and the Twins lost a lot. In the second, from 1998 to 2008, starting with the Chuck Knoblauch deal, Ryan built a winner while relying heavily on deft trades.
In the third, from 2008 to ’11, Bill Smith took over as GM and the quality of the team’s trades damaged the franchise. In the current chapter, Ryan has built a strong farm system but has been unable to make the kind of favorable trades that made the Twins winners in Chapter 2.
The Twins have traded four promising center fielders in the past seven years — Carlos Gomez, Ben Revere, Denard Span and Aaron Hicks. They turned Gomez into one season of J.J. Hardy and then two worthless relief pitchers. They turned Revere into Vance Worley and Trevor May. They turned Span into Meyer, and Hicks into Murphy.
They traded Gomez because of their depth at the position, and Revere and Span because of the presence of Hicks, and Hicks because of the rise of Byron Buxton.
During Ryan’s best years, he would turn players he didn’t want into good players and prospects, including a handful of All-Stars. Since 2008, he and Smith have turned valuable players into less valuable players.
Matt Garza for Delmon Young, who was later traded for Cole Nelson and Lester Oliveros. Johan Santana for Gomez, who was traded for Hardy, who was traded for Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson.
Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps.
Trading from a deep group of center fielders made sense, but the returns have not been ideal. May has developed into a key reliever, but Meyer, once thought to be the Twins’ top pitching prospect, has not shown an ability to handle big-league pressure. Worley performed poorly.
Trading Hicks for Murphy is another seemingly logical move that, based only on a month of play, looks ominous. Murphy was supposed to push Kurt Suzuki for playing time and offer a better-hitting alternative in the future. Instead, Murphy is hitting .086.
The recent demotion of Buxton means that a team that once had a wealth of center field talent is now playing Danny Santana, a converted shortstop, at the position.
Every big-league team is hit-and-miss in the draft. For the Twins, who rarely are hyperactive or successful in the free-agent market, trades used to be their competitive edge. Now they are not.
If Meyer had become the ace the Twins thought he might be, and Worley had become a reliable starter, Murphy was outhitting Suzuki and Buxton had become an impact player at a young age, the Twins probably would be much better than 7-18.
Instead, the Twins packed for their flight to Houston in a clubhouse quiet except for the sound of a door slamming shut.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org