As Twins burn, ownership fiddles

If your baseball team is playing a must-win series before Mother’s Day, you have a very bad baseball team.

The Minnesota Twins, who open a series tonight against the best-in-the-league Chicago White Sox, are a very bad baseball team.

How did this happen? How could barrels of ink be spent on following the squad for more than a month in spring training and have not a single article pointing out that the team — currently 8-20 in the American League Central — isn’t very good?

“What’s not to like?” Star Tribune columnist Pat Reusse asked in a column just before the season started, a column in which he took a shot at fans and social media for not being more excited about the team’s prospects.

A month later, he admitted he got it wrong.

Everybody got it wrong and now that the team has the second-worst record in baseball, they’re unloading on the franchise.

Now the bad news. The owner of the Twins are OK with the people running the operation even though he acknowledges a total system failure, Chip Scoggins writes today in the Star Tribune.

Truth is, this nonsense rests at the feet of Pohlad, Ryan, Molitor, Brian Dozier, Phil Hughes, Tom Brunansky and everyone else with a direct link to the on-field product.

The organization did nothing significant to address a weak bullpen in the offseason. The Miguel Sano right-field experiment never made sense. The lineup was stacked with strikeout artists and now they’re on a record pace for whiffs.

Even Pohlad admitted that his team has looked disorganized at times, which reflects poorly on Molitor and his staff.

Fans are tired of hearing about the future, tired of being told to wait for prospects to develop. The organization can’t keep asking for patience and selling hope.

“We don’t ever want to give fans the message of ‘Be patient’ because that’s not the way we’re approaching it,” Pohlad said. “We wanted to be a contender. We wanted to take it one step further, at least, than we did last year. So it’s not about being patient.”

“The family is happy with the way the family manages the team,” the owner said of general manager Terry Ryan, the architect of what Scoggins calls an “unmitigated mess.”

The fans are wise to the hype. Attendance is down 15% from a season ago

Over at the Pioneer Press, writer Mike Berardino thinks the problem is the retirement of Torii Hunter.

If, indeed, the Twins find themselves staggering around in a post-Hunter funk, they wouldn’t be the first team to deal with that sort of withdrawal.

The last two teams Hunter departed dropped off by an average of 13.5 wins in his first season outside their clubhouse.

In 2013 the Los Angeles Angels sagged to 78-84 and a third-place finish after going 89-73 in Hunter’s fifth and final season in the southern California sun.

Last season the Detroit Tigers finished 74-87 and dead last in the American League Central after going 90-72 and claiming their fourth straight division title in 2014 with Hunter.

“We miss Torii, there’s no doubt about that,” Tigers television analyst Rod Allen said last season. “There are some leaders that are quiet. Miguel Cabrera is a quiet leader. Justin Verlander … pretty much a quiet leader. But Torii is very vocal, very outspoken, very loud, very charismatic.

“He kept things loose, kept things light.

None of the young players who were supposed to become superstars is getting any better, none of the trades from the front office worked, the baseball season could, for all practical purposes, be over by Sunday afternoon in Minnesota.

But at least the Pohlad family is happy with the way the family is managing the team.

  • Gary F
  • wjc

    Sure am glad we built that ballpark! Eeech!

    • Jeff

      Beats sitting in the Metrodome watching them lose.

  • Rob

    If I were an optimist, I’d say that a winning percentage of .250 could be worse. If I were an optimist.

  • Mike

    The Twins season was over when they decided not to do anything with the bullpen in the off season. But how about the food selection at the park?!?!

    • Tim

      Target Field has become an open-air restaurant where you get to watch a baseball game too.

      • Rob

        Did you mean over-priced open-air restaurant?

  • PaulJ

    What does that mean – “the team is disorganized”? Beyond gambling on what players to hire, why is it the boss’s fault the work isn’t getting done?

    • tboom

      >>What does that mean – “the team is disorganized”? <<

      It must mean they’ve taken the names off the lockers and they’re about to take the numbers off the jerseys. Nobody knows who they are or where they should be, at least that’s the way they play.

  • Chris

    Unless they are willing to spend the money for top flight pitching, they will never contend. And wouldn’t be nice to have Ben Revere, JJ Hardy, Denard Span playing for us, to name a few.

    • Whatevs

      I completely agree that them going out and getting pitching help is critical, but this is nonsense. Revere and Span were traded for pitching prospects, and neither of them are above average players, or even decent players. You could quibble with what the Twins got in return for them, but the record would be the same with them in the lineup. And Escobar, when given regular games, is a match for Hardy at SS. The Span and Revere trades were completely defensible, and good teams make those deals. The Twins simply picked the wrong guys or got unlucky.

      I’m not defending the regime, as they should all be fired (ESPECIALLY ownership), but these three are not missed in the least.

      • One step the Twins can take is when they fire someone, they actually LEAVE the organization.

      • chris

        Well, it may be nonsense (what do I know), but Ben Revere is .300 hitter and would be a lot better in CF right now than how Buxton has panned out. A good club wouldn’t have needed to trade Revere at that point but the Twins were desperate to get any kind of help. A good club would have kept Revere and given Buxton more time to get his bat ready. Good clubs get the better end of these deals anyway, you can’t just say, well they tried! The Twins have proven terrible at developing the talent they manage to acquire, giving up too soon, and then trading away players who somehow manage to do well elsewhere.

      • lindblomeagles

        The Twins philosophy, and Bob knows this, is “small ball.” That’s really how the Twins won their two World Series Titles – a bunch of young guys, two with legitimate pop in the bat, coupled with veteran pitchers, took the baseball world by surprise, driving balls into gaps at Metrodome that frequently rocketed to the warning track before an opposing player could catch up to it. Though the players changed, the team kept its small ball identity (which is why Big Papi was a bad fit here). The club then built an outdoor stadium with natural grass and all the shadows the sun creates with its many angles. Suddenly, those slap hits Twins’ hitters hit dribbled into the infield. Stopped by the grass, these bloops became easy outs at first. When those hits occasionally made it past the infield, the balls frequently didn’t carry far enough to get extra base hits (or, as we’ve seen with Joe Mauer, easily enough to get out of the park the way his balls did inside Metrodome). Now, you NEED hitters like Big Papi in order to score runs at Target Field. The Twins still haven’t figured that out yet. As for the pitching, the Twins went from developing a couple of guys during the 2000s, to locating middling veterans foolish enough to take a pay cut as their careers spiraled downward, the result of which is a team that surprises people who think of them as an easy win, like they did last year, until teams take the Twins seriously, uncovering the mess that the team actually is, as has been the case this year.

    • Jeff

      We got Nolasco. Wayne Garland might still be available.

  • Mike Worcester

    I will admit I’ve been pretty shocked by the team’s performance so far. While I certainly did not expect perfection, I fully expected to see improvement over last year. So far, that has not materialized. On the plus side (if you want to call it that), good seats are easier to come by this season.

  • CHS

    So glad I opted to buy Saints tickets for the summer instead of for the Twins. Got free tickets to a game during the first homestand. They were free for a reason. They had a grand total of 3 hits that night, and I think Joe accounted for two of them.

    Like the others said, it is a great open air restaurant though, I’ll give it that.

    • I tried to buy Saints tickets but was shutout. They didn’t have any seats together.

      I kind of miss the old “spunky little team” days.

      • CHS

        The new ballpark has made it hard to get seats, which was never an issue before. I do miss that part, and the more personal feel of the old park. We had to get our tickets for the whole summer at the end of March, first week of April, and even then there were lots of games we couldn’t get seats to. They do reserve tickets for first come first serve for every game though, so if you want to get either standing room or ‘berm’ tickets day of you can usually snag them if you go early when the box office opens.

    • Postal Customer

      “Like the others said, it is a great open air restaurant though, I’ll give it that.”

      Sure, if you enjoy spending $20 on a brat and a beer.

      Seriously, though, the food at Target Field is not that good. It certainly doesn’t live up to the hype that the local media gives it each year, or the emperor-has-no-clothes reputation it’s received among the general public.

      • tboom

        Nothing more disappointing than a Tony O Sandwich, extremely bland.

      • CHS

        I agree with you that the hype has been and continues to be over the top, it’s like we all need to collectively have something to be proud of and the food is it since it obviously can’t be the team. I do think the food there is pretty good though, definitely some things to avoid and some are way over priced, but I’ve always enjoyed it for what it is.

  • crystals

    “The family is happy with the way the family manages the team” is an absolutely bonkers thing to say on multiple levels.

    • Rob

      It sounds like a Yogi Berra-ism

  • Jeff

    Hell hath no fury like when fans expectations are raised then dashed.

    I was sort of wondering early in the season when I heard writer LaVelle Neal on the radio saying he was talking to Dozier and giving him hitting advice (something like taking inside pitches and hitting to the opposite field every now and then). Dozier acted like it never occurred to him.

    I think they can start by moving Sano to a position where he’s comfortable and can concentrate on hitting. Of course then they don’t have many options to move Plouffe from 3rd or Mauer from 1st or Park out of DH which was why he’s in right field to begin with.

  • kennedy

    Wait, you mean the public paid for this fancy new stadium and the thing that makes the owners happy is not fielding a competitive team but that they are making money?

    I am shocked.

    • Khatti

      I know I’ll never be the same either.

  • Khatti

    This all isn’t making me sad I’m not a baseball fan.