Keep Hope Alive!

“You must not surrender. You may or may not get there, but just know that you’re qualified and you hold on and hold out. We must never surrender. [The Twins] will get better and better. Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive. On tomorrow night and beyond, keep hope alive.”

Jesse Jackson at 1988 DNC (AP Photo-Ron Edmonds)

This is what it has come to… I’m resorting to channeling my inner Jesse Jackson.

For those of you too young (or too politically/socially disinterested) to recall, The “Keep Hope Alive!” quote in the first paragraph was the closing line from Reverend Jackson’s speech to the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta and he was assuring us that “America” would get better, not specifically the Twins (but if the shoe fits, right?). I may not have agreed with Rev. Jackson’s politics a whole lot, but my goodness the man could work a crowd!

With all the gloom and doom in Twinsville these days, it occurs to me that maybe a little dose of Jackson-like oratory might just be what’s called for (setting aside, for the moment anyway, the inconvenient fact that at the time Rev. Jackson gave his 1988 speech, Michael Dukakis had about a 20 point lead on George H. W. Bush in the polls… so Jackson’s speech didn’t exactly motivate the Democratic faithful enough to drive Dukakis to the White House).

I’m not sure I’m the one to turn to for motivational oratory these days, however. I not only have not posted a lot of commentary here, lately, but I’ve all but completely stopped posting comments on other blogs and podcasts. It’s not that I’ve given up on the Twins. Quite the contrary. I believe that when the “real” Twins get healthy and join Denard Span and Jason Kubel in the line up, this team will bounce back.

What I have given up on are many so-called “Twins fans”. I understand the frustration because I feel it, too. I don’t particularly enjoy watching the Twins lose game after game any more than anyone else does.

But I simply can’t tolerate the volume of the insane (and often inane) opinions regarding the reasons for the Twins’ poor showing, thus far. I listen/read some of the stuff out there and I just want to yell, “It’s the injuries, stupid!” Seriously… does anyone with half a brain think that Bill Smith, Ron Gardenhire or any other member of the Twins management should have EXPECTED to have Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Joe Mauer, Delmon Young, Jim Thome, and Jason Repko all on the Disabled List at the same time?

You want to know why the Twins can’t win more ballgames? Go back and read this post from Jim Mandelaro, in which he posts the opening day lineup for the Rochester Red Wings. Let me know if you find these names familiar… Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, Rene Tosoni, Rene Rivera. That’s right, five members of the Red Wings’ opening day lineup are currently getting regular playing time for the Minnesota Twins (and their opening day starting pitcher, Anthony Swarzak, made a brief cameo appearance for the Twins, as well). The Twins’ bullpen also has been littered with guys who started the season in Rochester.

I think we all have every reason to be surprised that the Minnesota Twins find themselves with the worst record in baseball, 11 games behind the leaders in the AL Central, as we reach mid-May.  But that’s just it… it’s not so much that the Twins are in that position… but rather the Rochester Red Wings are 11 games out in the AL Central and that really shouldn’t surprise anyone.

I know, I know… this is all just “making excuses” for the Twins’ ineptitude. That’s fine, if that’s how you choose to feel. But if you’re one of the people who refuse to acknowledge the role that injuries have played in the Twins’ results, thus far, then there’s a pretty good chance you’re just one of the “fans” who carry so much hate in your heart for everyone in authority with the Twins organization, that you actually come across as being happy about the team’s current struggles, because it allows you to pump up the volume on your “fire/trade/release everyone” rants. If that’s the kind of fan you are, congratulations, I guess. Enjoy yourself… but don’t expect me to listen to your BS.

Denard Span, one of the more prolific Tweeters on the Twins, posted this on Wednesday night: “Before I talk about the heat winning… If ur a genuine twins fan plz be positive and have faith in us bc we haven’t lost faith in ourselve”

Count me in, Denard.

Nobody associated with the Twins likes the way things are going right now and it’s fair to point out when players fail to perform up to expectations. But if you want to be fair, when you point out that six Twins are hitting below the “Mendoza Line” (.200 BA), you probably should also point out that only one of the six was expected to fill a starting role this season, while the others have had to fill in for injured regulars. And in the further interest of fairness, you could mention that three of the six were supposed to be playing in Rochester this season. But, hey… what fun is being “fair” when you can be negative?

This really isn’t rocket science and Tiger manager Jim Leyland knows it. “It’s pretty simple,” Leyland was quoted by media. “When your horses are at the vet, that’s not good. When they’re on the track, that’s good. Their horses will be on the track here shortly.”

I believe that when Mauer, Nishioka, Young, and Thome get back in the line up, this team will score runs. They will win games. Will it be enough to overcome this awful start? I don’t know. Maybe… maybe not. But they’ll be fun to watch again and I’ll enjoy doing so.

In other words, until then… Keep hope alive!

– JC

6 Replies to “Keep Hope Alive!”

  1. Great post, JC. It is important to keep things in perspective. A month from now we should have the regular crew back, and hopefully there will be plenty of time to make up whatever deficit there is.

  2. JC, I completely understand where you’re coming from. I haven’t given up on the Twins and I know the injuries are the main part of what’s wrong with this team, but honestly this begs the question: where was our depth?

    I think the Twins had to know that there was no true contingency plan for Mauer being on the shelf for longer than a week or so, and no real Plan B to the Casilla/Nishioka experiment. That’s what’s most disheartening. Anyone could have surmised that by looking at our roster and our AAA team.

  3. JC 🙂

    Obviously there were contingency plans for every situation. Sadly, most haven’t worked out. What I’m sure they didn’t imagine was how many contingency plans they would need.

    Some seasons are like that. This too shall pass.

  4. a) wow.. I actually remember that convention which means that I have been doing the political thing too long..

    b) I’m kind of with Topper here. I’m ALWAYS optimistic because that is the beauty of baseball – it’s not played on paper and tomorrow’s game is always a different lineup than today’s. However, MANY of us looked at the off-season actions and saw that depth was an issue and couldn’t believe they were leaving us so weak in the middle infield and catcher positions. So the fact that we’re struggling a bit here isn’t really a SURPRISE just something to be tolerated and worked through. Just how it goes.

  5. Contingency plans? Just what do people think a Major League team can do for contingency plans? Have someone at every position at AAA that’s capable of moving up to the Big Leagues without the big club missing a beat?

    Catcher? The Twins signed not one, but TWO free agents that at least had MLB experience. I’m not exactly sure what kind of MLB-level catching talent people think the Twins should have been able to stash away for a “contingency”. Oh wait… they were supposed to keep Morales (who was out of options and would have had to be released if he didn’t stick AND is not a good defensive catcher) or they were supposed to not give up Ramos for Capps (of course, THEN people would have been more than happy to whine about the lack of “contingency” plans when Nathan wasn’t ready to close).

    Middle infield: Again, just what kind of great-hitting middle infielders were out there that could have been stashed at AAA? Tolbert and Hughes WERE the contingency plans, but I suppose the Twins were supposed to plan for having both of their middle infielders not work out (one due to a broken leg and the other to lack of productivity). A lot of us wanted to keep Hardy but he’s just now coming off the Orioles’ DL, so chances are he just would have been one more guy on the Twins DL, too. Plus, if you keep him, you don’t have one (or more) of Pavano, Thome, Nishioka, for financial reasons.

    Outfield: Revere, Tosoni, et al, WERE the contingency plans. With all the yakking about how great these guys are and how the Twins needed to dump Cuddyer and Kubel to make room for them, guess what? They’re getting their big chances and they aren’t doing the job. But can you imagine the screaming from certain corners if the Twins had signed a FA like Melky Cabrera (which I advocated for)? OMG how DARE the Twins “block” Revere, Tosoni, Benson, Hicks and whoever else?

    And let’s not forget, the Twins also had to sign a couple of career AAA first basemen so they would have a “contingency” for Morneau, if he wasn’t ready in April.

    If you can stock your AAA team with Big League ready “contingency” players, you’d have the greatest AAA team in history.

    Nobody has that kind of talent just waiting for half a dozen starters to be unable to perform for significant stretches all at the same time.

  6. I understand the optimism and not giving up on the team yet. However it would be a little easier to swallow without the patronizing tone. Apparently, as a fan who is tired of all the excuse-making and ennabling that surrounds this organization, I’m “stupid” for being dismayed that the front office had no Plan B for the oft-injured Mauer. I “have hate in my heart” because I can’t believe the front office thought Alexi Casila would somehow blossom into a starting MLB shortstop. I’m full of “BS” if I think made the GM made the team worse than last year while adding payroll.

    Sorry, but I vehemently disagree with your condescending, self-righteous rhetroric. Get off your high horse: there’s more than one way to be a fan.

    PS: If it’s “all about the injuries, stupid”, how do you explain our healthy pitching staff having the 2nd worst ERA in the league?