Monday, August 8, 2011

Maybe Next Year



After a weekend sweep at the hands of the Chicago White Sox, the Twins season is all but mathematically over. The Twins are currently 10 games back of Detroit with just 48 to go, and with the Tigers on pace to win 87 games, the Twins would need to go a ridiculous 37-11 to end the season, and even then 88 wins isn't guaranteed to be enough to win the division.

Basically, no matter how great the Twins play down the stretch, a 37-11 record is all but impossible, and even if the Twins magically put up that kind of a 48-game stretch, Detroit could still win the division. After cutting a 16.5 game deficit to 6.5 games in 20 days, the Twins appeared poised to catch the Indians and Tigers and if they could have stayed hot likely passed them in the standings.

Unfortunately, the Twins have come back to earth over the last three weeks, and what was once a 6 game deficit is once again into the double digits. Poor decisions during the off-season really hurt this team, as the bullpen and the team's middle infield have been the two weakest parts of the team. Trading JJ Hardy for basically nothing while he's breaking out again in Baltimore would be disappointing if it wasn't so predictable. Refusing to sign any solid relievers despite losing four key ones was a mistake, and seeing cheap free agent options like Chad Qualls pitching well elsewhere is frustrating.

And, going with Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing over Kevin Slowey in the rotation was a mistake from opening day, and now Slowey is in the doghouse and sitting in AAA for not wanting to pitch out of the bullpen, while Blackburn and Duensing have been pretty disappointing. But yet Slowey continues to sit in AAA, because the Twins are upset with the way he handled being moved to the bullpen, which is insane. It's a professional sport, personal grudges need to be put aside so the executives can put the best team possible on the field. Kevin Slowey gives the Twins a better chance to win much more consistently than Duensing or Blackburn, but because Slowey is in the doghouse, he's not getting any real chances to make the big league club again this year.

The whole "It's Happening" thing should die down now, as even the most optimistic of Twins fans can't expect the team to climb out of a 10 game hole in 48 games. Hopefully, the team will be able to cash in some of their aging veterans before the August waiver trade deadline, after failing to trade anyone before the July deadline. If Carlos Beltran can get Zach Wheeler, a former #6 overall pick who's been dominating in the minors this year, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel should be able to fetch at least a future starting caliber player. Beltran certainly had more value than Cuddyer or Kubel, so expecting a Wheeler type return is silly, but a solid return would be likely. Of course, the team probably would have gotten quite a bit more for their veterans on July 31, but Bill Smith and company refused to make the tough decision and sell parts.

The Twins season is all but over, and without much of a race over the last month the team could use September to take a look at some of their minor leaguers, although with Kyle Gibson's recent elbow injury and no other top prospects considered close to major league ready, the September callups are unlikely to draw a lot of attention.

As is always the case for Minnesota sports fans, there's always next year.