Column: The last stand of the Minnesota Twins

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 11, 2006

Jon Laging, Talking sports

Here we are, still in the early part of May, with four-plus months of baseball left and it appears our Minnesota Twins may be a lost cause. What happened to the team? Well, our Twins have played so poorly, it’s getting desperate and they are close to their last stand.

There have been many last stands down through the ages. Going way back in time, there was the Fall of Troy. A lot of what happened has been clouded by the blind poet Homer. And while we don’t know for sure that there was a Helen of Troy, there was definitely a Troy and the Greeks defeated them. It was Troy’s last stand as a major power in the civilized world.

Closer to home, there were Custer’s Last Stand and the Alamo. All of those last stands occurred primarily because the defenders were done in by superior forces. Dumbness played a role, but the losers were overmatched.

Simply put our Twins are in similar shape because of two reasons. 1. They are playing badly. 2. They are being beaten by better teams. What had to occur for the team to do well has not happened: Justin Morneau has not met the expectations of this being a rebound year for him. He has continued down the 2005 road with occasional flashes of power and a very low batting average. Rondell White, the bargain hitter that Terry Ryan got to bat cleanup has been a horrible bust and is hitting at about half of his expected batting average. Joe Mauer has not improved his power or RBI work. Tony Batista has been no more and no less than advertised. I like Lew Ford’s play, but he along with Morneau and Castro are not hitting much more than their weight.

A number of things had to happen for the Twins to be a threat in their division and none of them did with the exception of the play of new second baseman Luis Castillo. In addition, the team’s strength, pitching, has not done well. Their earned run average is close to the bottom of the american league. Is it no wonder that the team is fighting with Kansas City and Seattle for the label of worst team in the league.

No one has stood up and carried the team during this bad stretch as did Puckett and Hrbek during the glory years. And more recently the combined efforts of Mientkiewicz, Stewart, Koskie, Pierzynski and Hunter gave the Twins a competitive team a few years ago.

Are the Twins a lost cause? Is it over? Soon there will be not a ghost of a chance to catch the central division leader. The season may not be lost yet, soon, but not quite yet. If Terry Ryan could trade a pitcher, any pitcher with the exception of Santana and Liriano, for a big stick, like a Jim Thome or Paul Konerko of the White Sox, the Twins would have a chance to rebound. Failing that, unless the team has a complete turnaround, it appears that the Twins will have a fire sale in exchange for prospects. They should be willing to let go of everyone with the exception of Joe Mauer and the above-mentioned pitchers. Keep three or four of 25 team members. For a fan to be willing to consider that type of scenario shows how far the team has fallen.

The Vikings are again making mostly negative news. The national analysts are questioning the team’s draft choices and Fran Foley, the executive mainly responsible for the choices has been fired. He is now suing for breach of contract. It’s been reported that Foley inflated and exaggerated his resume. Don’t billionaires and their assistants ever check references? Maybe an old personnel director, or anybody willing to pick up a phone and call an applicant’s previous employer could get a job with the Vikings.