You might or might not have questions about the 2018 Twins.
We might or might not have answers.
Q: Should everyone be fired?
Paul Molitor was the American League manager of the year in 2017. You don’t fire the reigning manager of the year in May unless CSI: Minneapolis starts wrapping a lot of police tape around his house. You don’t fire anyone one month into a three-year contract.
As for the front office, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine traded for a front-line starter in spring training, then signed one of the better starting pitchers and sluggers on the free-agent market. You can’t complain about the Twins’ cheapness for decades, then complain when they spend on talent and it doesn’t immediately work out.
Q: Is there hope?
Losing 11 of 12 is damaging, but if the Twins play reasonably well over the final five months of the season, they’ll be in contention for a playoff spot in September.
Q: Is the slump this April comparable to the slump in April of 2016 that led to 103 losses?
Yes, in terms of the poor quality of play. No, in terms of roster construction. In 2016, the Twins were relying on an incredibly young roster filled with players who had rarely experienced losing. They faced high expectations, veteran closer Glen Perkins immediately got hurt, and the Twins were out of contention by late April. The kids didn’t know how to handle that.
This year’s team does not lack quality experience. Fernando Rodney might not get the closer job done, but if he fails, it won’t be for a lack of guts or savvy.
Q: Could this poor April benefit anyone?
Maybe. The Twins have been basing their plans around Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano for most of the decade, and were uninterested in signing Brian Dozier to a long-term contract this spring. What is already being reiterated this season is that Dozier is durable and productive, and some of his younger teammates — including Buxton, Sano and Jorge Polanco — have not been as available.
Maybe that will cause Dozier’s value to rise in the eyes of the front office.
Q: What led to the slump?
The Twins were 7-4 on April 12. Because of weather, they didn’t play again until April 17 in Puerto Rico, where many of their players celebrated island life with gusto. Following Tuesday’s 7-4 loss, the Twins were 1-11 since leaving Puerto Rico.
The Twins went almost a week without taking on-field batting practice. In a game of refined skill, those lulls matter.
Q: Is there hope for the rotation?
The biggest difference between this team and the 2016 version — or the 2017 version — is the depth of potential quality pitching. Bartolo Colon will not be needed this year. Despite the results to date, a rotation of Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson and Fernando Romero is as good as the Twins have had in a decade or more. If Lynn pitches to his career norms, this group will become a team strength.
Q: Should I worry about Sano’s hamstring injury?
Sano hasn’t produced 500 plate appearances in any season since he was in Class A and AA in 2013. So: Yes.
Q: Why should I watch this team?
Lynn signed late. Many of the team’s Latin American players figure to play better in warmer temperatures. Berrios, Buxton, Sano, Max Kepler, Dozier or Eddie Rosario could get hot and produce All-Star caliber seasons.
The great variable for this franchise is the health and production of Buxton and Sano. On Tuesday, Buxton couldn’t run and Sano was placed on the disabled list.
So if you were going to buy tickets to only one Twins game this year, you might want to choose the portion of the summer during which Ervin Santana, Polanco, Buxton and Sano are available.
Q: Why don’t you want me to be angry?
Oh, you can be angry. The Twins have stunk for two weeks. Just remember there is a large difference in baseball between stinking now, and stinking permanently.