GameChat – Tigers @ Twins #2, 3:10pm

Let’s see… the Twins have scored one run or less for the past week against pitchers who have largely sucked all year long and today they face the best pitcher in the American League, Justin Verlander, in a game on FOX.

This should be entertaining.

TIGERS

@

TWINS
Jackson, A, CF Revere, CF
Santiago, 2B Plouffe, SS
Young, D, LF Morneau, 1B
Cabrera, Mi, 1B Kubel, DH
Martinez, V, DH Valencia, 3B
Avila, C Tosoni, LF
Peralta, Jh, SS Hughes, L, 2B
Betemit, 3B Repko, RF
Raburn, RF Butera, C
  _Verlander, P   _Pavano, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit 0 2 0 0 2 0 2 0 0 6 10 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 4 8 1

The good news is that the Twins apparently ARE capable of scoring more than one run. In fact, Luke Hughes and Jason Repko went deep back-to-back off of Justin Verlander. Verlander managed to avoid melting down, however, and recorded his 20th win of the season.

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Are Twins Fans Too Loyal?

We all know the feeling… the times when someone you genuinely love just REALLY piss you off. It might be your “significant other” or your kid or a parent or your best friend in the world. But at some point, someone you love so much that you would literally give your life for that person will do something or say something that will just make you want to scream.

The cause could be just about anything.

Maybe you asked them to do something and they didn’t do it.

Maybe you warned them not to do something and they did it anyway… and it all blew up in their face. Then you’re left sitting there with a choice of being supportive or yelling, “I TOLD you so!” (and I don’t care what anyone says… no matter how softly you utter the reminder that “I told you so”, you can’t concurrently do so AND be supportive… it will never, ever, be taken that way).

What do you do? It’s a tough choice at times. As great as it might feel to point out how smart you were in offering your initial advice, it’s not altogether helpful in the aftermath.  If you simply offer unconditional support, doesn’t that communicate that it’s just fine for your loved one to keep screwing up? It’s difficult sometimes, but you have to find a way to continue loving the person, even while hating whatever bonehead thing it might be that they’ve done.

That’s kind of my dilemma right now with regard to the Twins.

I’ve been in this relationship for 50 years. I love the Twins. I support them through words, deeds and even financially. I really want to continue giving them my unconditional love, even when seemingly every person in the organization is intent on out-boneheading everyone else in the organization.

And I know I’m not alone. The Twins blogosphere is full of people who are sitting here today in a state of confounded shock, collectively wanting to shout, “We TRIED to tell you. Why didn’t you listen to us?!”

Granted, in fairness to the Twins, we didn’t all try to tell them exactly the same thing. Sometimes, it’s difficult to sift through the white noise of the “Fire Gardy!” crowd to be able to hear rational consensus opinions. But the Twins don’t even seem to try.

An analogy comes to mind that I think most of us can relate to. I wasn’t one of the “cool group” in high school and I’m guessing you weren’t either. (Why? Because you’re reading this. Admit it, you’re as much of a geek as the rest of us and you always have been.) Did you ever have a friend who somehow made the leap in to that “cool group”? Maybe mom and dad inherited a bunch of money and “poof”, they moved up in social status. They got to eat at the cool kids table and go to all the cool kids parties.

Until something happened and they weren’t cool any more.

Then, there they were, back crying on your shoulder (either figuratively or quite literally), telling you how much they’ve always appreciated your support and how they realize that it’s at times like this that they find out who their real friends are.

Twins fans line up on bobblehead night

Target Field moved the Twins organization up to the cool kids table. It generates income at levels they couldn’t even dream about five years ago. As a result, they no longer have to rely solely on their player development process to create the next generation of Twins. They can trade and buy and sell players just like all the other cool kids in Major League Baseball.

They can overpay. They can shop in foreign markets (and not at the bargain bazaars, either… but at the upscale levels). They can even afford to make costly mistakes and shrug them off because money is no object. (I was going to say, “money grows on trees”, but since they chopped down the CF trees, that was a metaphor too far.)

Some of us tried to tell them, “You need a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.” We suggested a number of possibilities. We were ignored.

Others tried to point out that they couldn’t just let almost every serviceable bullpen arm who’s kept them in games for the past several years walk away without replacing them. But those voices were also ignored.

It was suggested to them that dumping every legitimate catching prospect just because they have Joe Mauer around was perhaps imprudent. They rolled their collective eyes.

We told them that it would be best to hang on to JJ Hardy at least until  Tsuyoshi Nishioka proved himself, but they knew better so now JJ is leading all AL shortstops in almost every offensive category, while Nishioka makes fools of the people who touted him.

We suggested that Target Field’s expansive outfield might be cause for adding some speed to that outfield defense. No response.

So now it has all come tumbling down.

Yes there were unforeseen injuries, but every team has injuries. And, frankly, not all of these injuries were completely unforeseen. Does it even count as “unforeseen” any more if Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Francisco Liriano miss a couple of months’ worth of games?

The Twins find themselves pushed out of the cook kids clique, nowhere close to the playoff contenders and on the verge of falling behind the Kansas City Royals and in to last place in the AL Central Division.

The rest of this season and all during the offseason, the organization is going to have to try to convince us we should continue to support them. The Twins were assured of attendance exceeding 3 million fans in 2011 before the first pitch was thrown at Target Field in April. It will be interesting to see what advance ticket sales are like for 2012.

It will be even more interesting to see whether the front office learned any lessons this season or whether they shrug off the 2011 failure as due to nothing more than “bad luck”.

Will Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer and Joe Nathan be this year’s Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes… allowed to go elsewhere without any legitimate attempt to keep them around?

What about starting pitching? With the free agent market so thin among top-notch starters, it would take some creativity to bring in someone new to lead the rotation. Is this front office even capable of such creativity when it’s so easy to just assume everyone who started a game for the Twins this season just had bad luck?

I could go on, but honestly, there isn’t time or space to cover every position that should be re-examined. Frankly, they ALL should be looked at with a critical eye… and that includes the catching position.

I’ve always been a pretty loyal… and forgiving… friend to those close to me and that will extend to the Twins, as well. Everyone makes mistakes. Ideally, not everyone in an organization like the Twins makes so many mistakes, all at the same time, but hey… stuff happens.

What matters to me is that I see some acknowledgment of those mistakes… an understanding of responsibility with a pledge to do better. So far, I’ve seen and heard no such thing from anyone within the Twins organization.

Dave St. Peter, Bill Smith, Ron Gardenhire, and every Twins player… I’m talking to you. It’s time to stand up and be accountable. Admit you’ve failed us and tell us… better yet show us… how you intend to make it up to us.

On the field, the players and manager can start by showing those fans who are still watching games that you care about your performance. Maybe consider not sitting out with your next hangnail. If the effort we’ve seen this week is an indication of what to expect next season, do us all a favor and get real jobs when this season is over. Spare us having to see this crap out of you again next spring.

Front office, find something… anything… to communicate to your loyal (perhaps too loyal) fan base that you’re as embarrassed as we are by the entire organization’s performance this year. Somehow… some way… give us a reason to think you understand you share responsibility for this disaster. While you’re at it, you should do something nice for the Rochester Red Wings fans, too… this is the second straight season that your organization’s ineptitude has meant an embarrassing product at the AAA level.

We deserve the courtesy of someone standing up, apologizing, and telling us why we should care about next year.

- JC