Minnesota Twins: Playoffs? Not This Year
The Minnesota Twins blew yet another opportunity this past weekend in Detroit when they lost the rubber match on Sunday 8-7 in a game where they led 3-0 with their hottest starter, Scott Baker, on the mound and looking good, until the 4th inning. The Twins made a comeback attempt, tying the game at 6 late, only to relinquish the lead in the next half inning.
This was just the latest disappointment in a season full of failing to meet expectations. Overall, what was thought to be the rock of the team, the starting pitching, has collectively underwhelmed throughout the season. Individually, Baker, Blackburn, Slowey (until injury) had shown glimpses of dominance. When they would pitch well, we had a over-matched bullpen ready to blow a lead of any amount, except for Joe Nathan, unless the opponent is a division leader in the Angels or Yankees, then he becomes a mere mortal. Liriano has the look and sound of a pitcher that has no idea what to do. The Twins need to get him out of the rotation and put him in the bullpen. One shutout inning at a time as a reliever will do wonders for him in the long run.
Our offense has surpassed expectations so far in 2009. Sparked by a season of power not seen in Minnesota since 1988, the Twins have already surpassed their 2008 home run total, have four guys who will have over 20 home runs in Kubel, Cuddyer, Mauer (already at a career high 20), and Morneau (already at 28); possibly five with Joe Crede, currently with 14 in only 78 games of his injury riddled season. The Twins have a deceiving +9 in the runs scored v. runs allowed category, which rivals wins and losses as one of the more irrelevant statistics in baseball. Morneau leads the AL in RBI with 91, Mauer leads the MLB in batting average at .365, and Morneau is second in the AL in home runs; a near ‘teammate triple crown’.
Despite all that, the Minnesota Twins enter Tuesday only five games back of the division lead, currently held by Detroit. That alone is a miracle.
In yesterday’s Star Tribune, there was a great article highlighting some statistics relating to the chances of the Twins making the playoffs. The most glaring scenario brought up: if the Tigers go .500 the rest of the season, the Twins will have to go 32-19 to surpass Detroit and hope that Chicago falters as well. Chicago faltering seems unlikely, as they are being aggressive in trading for Jake Peavy and claiming Alex Rios off waivers.
These are the types of moves that the Twins need to start making. Hoarding prospects as they have usually done is not going to work, not if they want to become a championship caliber team. Usually, moves and changes are made when a team fails. I thought last year would bring change. The only change came when the team decided to go with retro jerseys for Saturday home games. The Twins didn’t change because they thought there was no change needed. Remember, they were one swing of the bat away from the playoffs. Being so close, what possibly could they change? Dumb thought process there.
If you want to see an improved team for the 2010 season, hope that the Twins not only miss the playoffs, but miss by a long shot. Pressure from the fan base will mount on the front office led by Bill Smith to make a couple significant moves. Pressure will also come from Joe Mauer, who’s contract expires after the 2010 season, who has said that he wants to see that the team is committed to winning.
We will know soon enough if the October 4 game vs. Kansas City will be the last Twins game in the Metrodome. I hope it is. 2010 is the one opportunity for a fresh start for everyone.