The demise of the Twinkies
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012 14:09
There’s something serious I want to talk to you guys about today. No, not the presidential election or all of this 47 percent hoopla from Romney, I want to talk about something more important: our Minnesota Twins ball club. Back-to-back losing seasons and suddenly we have become the laughing stock of the league.
“But Joe, why would you want to bring up the hopeless Twins when the Bison are rolling and are a lot sexier to talk about?” Because I care. I care about the professional team with the longest tenure in the closest city from Fargo. I care about the fact the All-Star game is coming to Minneapolis two summers from now. I care about the team that has brought my hometown its only two championships within the Big Four in the past 50 years. And this is my column; I’ll talk about whatever I want.
Okay, so how did we get here? The Twins have been the backbone of professional sports in the area for over the past decade. They were the franchise that beat the infamous Moneyball Oakland As and won six Central Division titles in ten years. But they somehow have been the same franchise at the bottom of the American League for the past two summers. When did the ship start sinking?
A casual fan would tell you the lack of payroll and the absence of a pitcher in the organization who can throw a mid-90s fastball are to blame, but I would argue no. The Twins’ payroll is smack dab in the middle of the league, with teams in playoff contention like Oakland, Tampa Bay and Pittsburg near the bottom. It isn’t simply about the money anymore; it’s about the players we invest our money in. Pitchers Scott Baker, Carl Pavano and Matt Capps are tying up 20 million of the 94 million dollar payroll. Not only are they taking up cap space, they are doing it from the bench.
The Twins haven’t had a respectable pitching staff since Johan Santana was traded and can never seem to keep the potential horses healthy. Watching Kevin Slowey’s and Nick Blackburn’s careers fall apart was like witnessing a bad car accident in slow motion, and Baker hasn’t pitched a full season since his breakout year in 2009.
The Twins have club options on both Baker and Capps for the 2013 season, and if they choose to buyout the contract, that could save the franchise nearly 20 million dollars. With all that available salary space, it would appear likely the Twins would chase a high caliber free agent this offseason.
The Twins have an opportunity to lock-up an ace this winter with Ray’s All-Star James Shields likely to hit the market along with former Twin, Kyle Lohse. All it takes is one guy to set the tone for the rotation and both of these hurlers can offer the Twins just that.
Look, the Twins summer was a bigger train wreck than “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” But unlike the horrid reality TV show, there is hope for the next season.
The Twins rank in the top 10 in the league in hitting and have a potent line-up with players like Denard Span, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau still in their primes. With Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit signed-on for the 2013 season, the Twins line-up will remain a force to be reckoned with.
All Twins fans can do now is hope GM Terry Ryan makes the right moves with the rotation and the Twinkies can go back where they belong, atop of the Central Division.