TWINS DONE! WHAT’S NEXT?

After being totally blown out, over-powered, out-classed, and just generally having the hell beat out of them in a three game sweep by the New York Yankees, the Twins have a lot to do in the off-season.

Let’s start with the why-fors of the embarrassing three game sweep by New York. I am going out on the line to place 75% of the blame on this embarrassment on Manager Ron Gardenhire. The Twins were the first major league team to clinch a playoff spot. They won the AL Central Division with a dozen or so remaining games on the regular season schedule. The next goal should have been to challenge his team, to manage his team, to win out the season and secure home field advantage for the playoffs. By taking that tack, you accomplish two goals, neither one of which the Twins accomplished, one, you DO get home field advantage, and two, you have your squad primed, honed, and ready for post-season play. Gardenhire chose the remaining games to “rest” his starters and get a look at the end of season minor league call-up players. WRONG!!! The team is in a fight to win games for better position in the post season. Teams that are eliminated from the playoff hunt can “rest” players and look at minor leaguers but not a team in hot competition. I guess Gardenhire and I have a different view of how to prepare a perennial post season first round loser team for advancing in the playoffs further than the first round for once! Gardenhire lost his focus, his edge, and his great energy in those last three series. The speed of the troops is the speed of the leader. Gardenhire wasn’t managing this team to win, he was “resting” his players and himself for the grueling three game sweep they were facing in playoff round one. The Twins knew from the time they clinched the division crown they would be facing either New York or Tampa Bay in the first round. Those two teams, season in and season out, pound the Twins like they are a high school team. Now at toward the end of the regular season, both of those teams sputtered. They basically opened the door for the Twins to waltz in to the best record and therefore home field advantage. Obviously Gardenhire and the Twins didn’t see it my way. What was so exasperating about this whole end of season debacle followed by the usual first round collapse was I, and many others, thought for once the Twins have an opportunity to get past the first round. I am not saying Gardenhire should be fired, not at all, he’s a great manager, but, I think nest year, the Twins upper level management and owners need to perhaps spell out clearly to Gardenhire what the expectations are and what the consequences for not meeting the expectations will be. Maybe, that will help “Gardy” keep his, and therefore his charges, their focus coming into the post season next year. I will give 15% of the post season failure blame to the Twins hitters, particularly in the heart of the batting order, for totally taking the gas in the series. Come on, at one point they were 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position. Talk about choking! Joe, “Baby Jesus” Mauer hit a whopping .200 something batting third. I point this out because he’s a great regular season hitter and is commencing on his new 23 million dollar per year contract. For that kind of money, I think we fans deserve better out of our three hole hitter! Jason Kubel, for the fourth playoff disaster in a row was non-existent, etc, etc, etc. I’ll assign 10% of the post season problem on the Twins pitching, particularly the starters. When our feeble and star-struck hitters are giving them the lead in the nine out of the past ten games in the first few innings, they weren’t able to hold a single lead, NOT ONE! How does a team reach such a dubious record?

The difference in the Yankees and the Twins was obvious. The Yankees are a powerhouse team, they are light years better than the Twins. For the Twins to beat a team like this, they have to play perfect baseball. That’s a tall order against the Yankees because they wouldn’t let the Twins play perfect baseball. They are way too strong for the Twins. You’ll notice the Yankees carry themselves with a certain “swagger” or confidence that just wills them to pound whoever they are facing. They are so good and so confident, that when the post season starts, they make the decision to win, and win they do! They literally make a team like the Twins, a division champion team with only one less regular season loss than the Yankees look like a high school team. The Twins were clearly intimidated, even on their own field. The other problem with the Twins was they were rusty. Having taken off the prior two weeks to “rest”, they just weren’t ready to face the Yankees. You can’t just throw a switch and turn on the attitude, the talent, and the game playing karma to win post season games.

Hopefully, finally, the Twins will actually learn from this blood bath. For next season, they will be favored to win the AL Central again, and they should, but what do they need to do to go farther in the post season? First, the field manager needs to manage to win all 162 games of the regular season. Second, it’s time to dump the “injury prone malingerers”, say good-bye to Hardy, Morneau, Hudson, Rausch, and Neshak. Most of these guys have life left, though injury prone, in the major leagues. The Twins need to re-sign Pavano and then add a power pitcher, a true flame thrower to the starting line-up. The Twins have a tradition of not walking batters. That’s great until they play true pro hitters like the ones filling the Yankees line-up. They can feast on pitchers that work in the strike zone. Now they need a power guy to just blow a pitch past the hitters! Other than the malingerers, the bullpen is fine. I think it will be important for the Twins to bring Jim Thome back for his last year in the majors. He can hit his 600th homer, still contribute in so many ways on the field and in the clubhouse, and ultimately offer him a coaching job. He really is a class act.

In taking a closer look at the New York Yankees, you’ll notice the core of that team is “home-grown”. In other words, Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Pettite, and Robby Cano all came up through the Yankees farm system. Robby Cano, in my opinion, should be the AL MVP this year, as he should have been last year. This guy truly is a super star! The Yankees are a great baseball “team”. Their pitching is second to none, they have a line-up and bench of truly professional hitters, and they are the best fielding team in the majors. This shows another little difference between the Twins and Yankees. The Twins have always prided themselves for being fundamentally sound, a great fielding team year after year. This year was no exception, they led the majors in fielding until they lost focus at the end of the season and started booting the ball around. The Yankees are pros, they don’t have those lapses, they go out everyday and get the job done. New York is still a baseball town. They love the Yankees and Mets, the Giants and Jets are definitely a step below. New Yorker’s appreciate great baseball. I love Yankees fans. They are not too obnoxious and they are very knowledgable fans of the game. I think true baseball fans are the best sports fans because they know such about a game that does require a lot of attention and skill to both play and be a fan of. I can’t wait for the day the Twin Cities becomes a baseball town again. There is a hard-core base of baseball and Twins fans here that are a source of so much joy for me. I could “talk baseball” all day long!

So, as you can see, the Twins only need to fix a few things, player wise, change the way they prepare for the post season, and continue being the Twin Cities’ leader for sports teams in decency and community involvement. I love the Twins, and I’m already jazzed for the “hot stove” season this winter. I hope the changes can be made to get to the next level. Thanks for today’s read, and as always, I look forward to reading your comments!
Cam Obert

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