Twins enter the terrible twos
Parents talk about the "terrible twos" and how their darlings transform into difficulties.
Last year's Minnesota Twins were the darlings. They entered the season with an unproven pitching staff and some very young outfielders and infielders. The fans were skeptical about their chances and the experts were picking them to finish fourth.
So what happened? All of these guys came through. Ron Gardenhire was able to convince these youngsters they were great players and the fans enjoyed an exciting season -- culminating in a one-game playoff with the Chicago White Sox for the division crown. The Twins lost that game 1-0 but it looked like they had turned a very important corner during the season. They had risen to be contenders.
Gardenhire raised hell in Milwaukee last year and he caught his team on a night they were willing to listen. They went on to win 88 games without two of their big 2007 stars -- Johan Santana and Torii Hunter -- and one of their most promising young starting pitchers, Matt Garza.
Gardy did a great job. If the Tampa Bay Rays had not played out of their minds and won the American League flag last year, he would have been a good bet for AL Manager of the Year.
Everyone was ready for the Twins to take hold of the division early this year and build up a solid 10-12 game lead by the All-Star break. It was in the bag. They had Mike Cuddyer coming back and they even managed to snag a power-hitting third baseman, Joe Crede.
Yet here we are, two weeks away from the All-Star break and the Twins are playing .500 baseball. Their longest win streak is just four games. They are ranked 12th out of 30 teams in the power rankings. They are treading water while they wait for the rescue boat to come along.
Most of us can only speculate at what is going on inside the Twins' club house. There have been some unfortunate injuries but every team has to deal with those. What it really comes down to is that a lot of players have not performed the way we thought they would -- Scott Baker, Glen Perkins, Alexi Casilla, Francisco Liriano, Brian Buscher, Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert, Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez. The list is pretty long.
You also have to consider the competition. The Detroit Tigers are a much better team than last year. They recently moved five spots in the power rankings and won seven straight. You can't expect any club coached by Jim Leyland to just sit there. The majors are full of clubs in Minnesota's ballpark when it comes to win/loss records. Only two clubs -- Boston and the Los Angeles Dodgers -- have winning percentages of more than .600.
Perhaps what Gardy is doing this year is telling his players "hey you mugs, I am not going to take you by the hand again. You showed us what you could do last year -- now it's up to you."
Most fans know that the Twins are basically a bunch of pups. Gomez and Young are still too young to tie their own shoes. The Twins have one of the youngest starting rotations in baseball. There are high school sophomores that look older than Kevin Slowey.
If the Twins could look into a crystal ball right now and see how they will finish the season it might give them some incentive. Right now it looks like 81-81.
It is the terrible twos, Ron, and you are just going to have to hang on and hope for the best like the rest of us.