Clues to Twins' slow starts can be found in weather and gambling
While listening to a Sunday morning sports talk show out of the Twin Cities a couple weeks ago, I heard a caller complain about how the Minnesota Twins always seem to play lousy baseball for the first couple months of the season.
Neither one of the sports oracles he was calling had an answer for his question. I do, but it comes in two parts.
When you are playing a summer game in a state like Minnesota, where snowballs can be flying in April just as easily as baseballs, the major leaguers have to bow to the whims of Mother Nature like the rest of us.
That is one of the reasons why the Metrodome was built in 1982. Five years after the Metrodome opened, the Twins won the World Series for the first time. Four years after that, they won it again. The fans and the players never froze in the Metrodome and they never got wet.
The way the Minnesota Twins are struggling with injuries to their starting pitchers these days, it is hard to say Target Field does bear some of the blame. It is no secret that pitchers have a tough time loosening up in cold weather.
I remember a trip our family made to Target Field. It was day game in early May. We all wore winter coats and shivered through a lousy game. The vendors were hawking "cold beer," but for some strange reason, it was not a hot item. I went looking for a "hot item" about the fifth inning and I had to stand in line for it. The beverage was called "coffee."
We all know the Twins do not play all of their early season games in Minnesota. So what is the rest of the reason for their crummy starts?
The Twins are not a big market team, so they do not spend money like the New York Yankees. They share one thing in common with the Yankees - they like experience in their lineup. But while the Yankees can run out and buy a Curtis Granderson or a C.C. Sabathia, the Twins feel they have to gamble on marginal guys like pitcher Sidney Ponson - who won 14 games for Baltimore one season but was cut May 13 of his first season with the Twins, or Tony Batista - a home run hitter who was going to solve all the problems at third base and did not.
There is a third possibility as well but I do not like to bring it up. The Twins may not be as smart about talent as we like to believe they are.
Look at the players they have traded or lost through free agency - Johan Santana, David Ortiz, Matt Garza, Torii Hunter, R.A. Dickey, J.J. Hardy and Michael Cuddyer. These guys have all done well after leaving the Twins.
Maybe what it all comes down to is the Twins are like any other major league team - they make some good moves and some bad ones. There are two facts that are hard to ignore - fielding mediocre talent and playing outdoor baseball in Minnesota in the springtime are never going to translate into great starts.