Column: Playing the waiting game with the Minnesota Twins

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 8, 2006

Jon Laging, Sports Talk

Last week’s column was devoted to predicting the future ranging all the way from Nostradamus 16th century prophecies to modern day futurists. In it a prediction was made concerning Vikings’ new head coach Brad Childress and my intent with this column was to move onto the Minnesota Twins. To build a scenario that would foretell the Twins’ future.

That was my thinking last week, however, the premise I had in mind was made more unlikely by the Twins’ play on the West Coast. My optimistic thought was that the team would be in position to make a move into contention the last 2/3 of the season.

My thinking was that the White Sox and the Tigers were showing signs of weakness. The Sox were missing Aaron Rowand, last year’s fine centerfielder and their pitching has not been up to last year’s level. Pitching problems also reared its head with the Tigers. Their staff was being depleted by injury and it was doubtful the team could maintain the same pace the rest of the season. So it appears that these teams were not invincible. I began to have high hopes for our Twins.

Our Twins’ pitching staff was starting to come on. Santana was the Cy Young winner of old. Brad Radke had returned to form. Carlos Silva had done well in two relief appearances, Boof Bonser had shown he was a competent major league pitcher. And most encouraging of all, Francisco Liriano has looked to be the second coming of Sandy Koufax or at the minimum, another Santana. Wow, can you imagine the impact Liriano would have had on a major market such as the Yankees play in? The lift he would have given the city and the team! The media would have shouted from the rooftops and given the Yankees the World Series. Team manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson would have been praised and other team’s fans would have complained that they didn’t have a Terry Ryan as general manager.

The relief pitching has also shown signs of revival. Jesse Crain is finding his groove, Juan Rincon is pitching well, along with Matt Guerrier and Willie Eyre. Joe Nathan continued to be one of the best five relievers in the majors and has worked like it.

In addition to the renaissance of the pitching staff, Joe Mauer has been either leading the league in hitting or been close to it. He has begun driving in runs and it seems the Twins have baseball’s next superstar. Justin Morneau has been slowly raising his average and leads the team in RBI. He may become the slugger the Twins had hoped for. In addition, Rondell White, with his close to .300 lifetime batting average is bound to hit better. Prior to the West Coast trip Hunter and Cuddyer

have been acting like real four and five place hitters in the Twins’ lineup.

Given all that the team appeared poised to make their move. Ten games behind is not impossible to overcome if they get on a roll. I had high expectations, but their revival has not happened and as time wears on, I am beginning to wonder if it will.

The team and Gardenhire continue to shoot themselves in the foot and the scenario I had envisioned is beginning to seem further and further away. I’m certainly willing to give them one more week or even several more weeks if necessary to change their future. However, if they do not improve I have another scenario I would be pleased to share in the future.