From the Catbird Seat: A call to action
While we wait for the Brett Favre saga to (hopefully) play itself out over the coming week, it's time to sneak in one or two more thoughts about the Twins before the Vikings dominate the conversation over the next few weeks.
A distressing article appeared in Monday's Minneapolis paper in which three of the biggest names on the Twins, and three of the bigger names in baseball, expressed frustration with the team's inability, or unwillingness, to trade for major league help.
In separate interviews, Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau all said the team needs to make a move if it is to succeed. Naturally, that's easy for them to say - as stars, they aren't going anywhere - but the truth of their words is indisputable.
Watching the detritus that is the Twins current road trip, it can't be doubted that they need help. The starting pitching has been largely horrible, the loss of a ten-run lead in Oakland showed flaws throughout the current roster, and the same baffling personnel decisions continue to rear their collective ugly head.
Mauer's quote is especially troubling. "Yeah, there's frustration," he told the Star Tribune. " But I've learned over the last few years not to try to get my hopes up that we'll have something, then get disappointed.'
Coming from a player the Twins will soon ask to sign a long-term contract as one of the cornerstones of the new team in the new playground, that's simply an alarming thing to read. Nathan's words regarding the 'give-up' trade of Luis Castillo to the Mets in 2007 were just as bad:
""That left a bad taste in our mouths," he said. "Are we trying?'
It's hard to argue that the Twins have no higher priority than getting Mauer signed. Arguably the best pure hitter in baseball, there is certainly no other catcher who is capable of putting up the kinds of numbers Mauer can. He can name his price, but as the 'hometown boy,' the Twins simply must do what is necessary to keep him in the fold.
It's different in this case from a Kevin Garnett, or a Randy Moss, or even a Johan Santana or a Torii Hunter. Minnesota fans are sick to death of seeing their superstars traded away or allowed to leave for far less than their market value.
The problem, of course, is this - General Manager Bill Smith's record in the market is only slightly better than AIG's. Clearly, the trade with the Devil Rays that resulted in the departure of Matt Garza and All-Star shortstop Jason Bartlett is looking more lopsided every day, especially with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire's insistence on playing the .208-hitting Nick Punto ahead of Brendan Harris.
But more on that in a moment. The Twins really haven't received value from the Santana deal either, though pitcher Deolis Guerra is doing well in the mid-minors. So it's understandable if Smith is reluctant to deal. With a streak like he's on, I'm not sure I'd want to pull a trigger either.
Yet, something has to be done. The Twins' middle infield offense when Punto and Alexi Casilla play together is absolutely woeful, and without Joe Crede in the lineup, there are only five professional hitters most nights - a 6-9 order of Brian Buscher, Carlos Gomez, Punto and Casilla doesn't exactly fill fans with confidence.
It's bad enough that Smith actually signed 39-year old infielder Mark Grudzielanek, who hasn't played in eighteen months, to a minor league contact. And it's downright depressing to think that he might be good enough to take a spot in the Twins' middle infield. The next few weeks will tell all in that case.
It's frustrating being a Minnesota sports fan. The only team that seems to get it at the moment is, somewhat surprisingly, the Vikings.
They've spent millions on parts, but until they show they've spent more than 20 bucks on their control tower, their jury is still out.
Yet the Twins are different. The daily drama of the baseball season pulls fans into the season in a way no other sport can match. For a baseball fan, watching your team die every summer is a painful and slow process. It's even more painful when that death is preventable - as at least three players seem to think it is in this case.
Morneau gets the final word regarding Mauer.
"If we don't do anything this year, I can't see how he's going to want to come back and go through this every year,' Morneau told the Star Tribune.
Mr. Smith, the proverbial shot has just gone across your bow. It's time for some action.