Column: The Minnesota Twins and the Domino Theory

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 21, 2007

Jon Laging, Talking Sports

It was about this time last year when I got a chance to talk to Francisco Liriano. During the short interview I couldn&8217;t think of a specific question to ask him so I went back 50 years to a question that was common then. &8220;How&8217;s your arm?&8221; Liriano said &8220;good&8221; then paused a split second and said &8220;great.&8221; Who knows, if I had pushed him further, I may have had a huge scoop on my hands.

But I didn&8217;t and fell back on another common question: &8220;What do you like to do when you&8217;re not playing baseball?&8221; Liriano said &8220;Dominos.&8221;

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I was thinking about our &8220;bumper car Twins&8221; today and their trouble scoring runs after the three sluggers of Cuddyer, Morneau and Hunter had batted. Dominos came to mind.

Dominos have an old history beginning in 12th century China, spreading across Europe in the 18th. It has not really changed much in all that time. Dominos have become very popular in Latin America, particularly the Caribbean, which probably explains Liriano&8217;s fondness for the game.

So Dominos have a long and rich history. They came to have another meaning besides the game itself. The Netherlands hold a domino toppling event. In 2006 more than 4 million dominos were toppled. That&8217;s a lot of dominos. All that work of setting them up, gone in a few minutes

Domino toppling is directly related to the Domino Theory of statecraft. John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under Eisenhower, proclaimed the theory. It was Dulles&8217; thinking that if a foreign country toppled to communism it led to a neighboring country doing the same. That countries would topple one after another like dominos placed in a row. The theory help lead to our early involvement in Southeast Asia and Vietnam.

The domino theory can also be used to explain the often times futility of the Twins&8217; bats. I don&8217;t think we can blame Terry Ryan for problems in the line-up. Well we can, but Ryan probably thought he had the team&8217;s lineup secured. With Rondell White batting seventh after Hunter and Kubel eighth, where not that much would be expected from him, Jason could have slowly become a respected hitter as both injured knees rounded into shape.

Such was not to be as White injured his calf muscle and has been rehabbing for most of the year, putting more pressure on Kubel and the rest of the bottom of the lineup. The Twins could have withstood that loss, but something else occurred to further hurt the team. Nick Punto is not hitting this year. His batting average is in the .220s. He is again what he was prior to last year. A fast, slick fielding utility infielder. Not a hard hitting third baseman. The loss of White and the lack of hitting from Punto and Cirillo has had a domino effect. Joe Mauer has been moved up to second in the line-up replacing Punto along with Cuddyer, Morneau and Hunter also moving up a place, leaving a second string catcher batting sixth and very little behind him. Unless one or two of the sluggers are hitting the Twins are finding it very difficult to score runs. If you don&8217;t have the last three hitters in your lineup hitting well, too much reliance is placed on the top of the lineup.

How is this solved? The answer is simple. Trade for a major league third baseman. Give up one or two of the young arms in return for a shot at the World Series. If the trade is not made, we will have wasted potentially fine years from Mauer, Cuddyer, Morneau and the beginnings of a wonderful year from Torii Hunter.

Jon Laging writes a regional column from his home in Preston.