After finding themselves on the receiving end of a no-hitter, the Twins' problems are more than apparent. Even if the pitching was effective, the offense simply was not there. Fans are searching for a scapegoat and an easy fix. I'll opine on possible scapegoats and why they don't make sense:
Scapegoat 1: Joe Mauer
Let's face it: Mauer is an easy scapegoat. The highest-paid player on the team, a Minnesota native, a national MLB superstar. If he has time to make commercials he has time to work on getting more power into his swing. With what he's being paid, he shouldn't have only one home run, right?
Well, he's played in all but one game this season. His current line is .313/.406/.422/.828. He's much, much healthier than he was at this time last season. To blame all of this on Mauer is foolish, to say the least.
Scapegoat 2: Ron Gardenhire
Of course, after tonight's game, the calls for Gardy's head are much, much louder than they usually are. He's in his 11th season as manager and has yet to win a World Series. No World Series is grounds enough to give Gardy his walking papers, right?
Granted, Tom Kelly led the Twins to TWO World Series, and won both of them. But, he was also their manager in the second half of the 1990s, which were among the worst seasons the franchise ever had. If a losing season is enough to fire a manager, shouldn't TK have been fired after the 1990 season, or even after the 1993 season? The Pohlads are not reactionaries, and never will be. If they were, there's no way TK would be seeing his number being retired this summer as he would not have managed the team long enough to get that honor.
Scapegoat 3: Rick Anderson
Ah, pitching. It's what can make or break a team. Andy's been with the team for years, and his coaching style hasn't always rubbed fans the right way. The philosophy behind "pitch-to-contact" is to induce grounders, pop-ups, and fly balls, then let the defense do its thing. This worked for many years under Andy and Gardy, so why isn't it working now?
Is it Andy's fault that Scott Baker is out for the season with Tommy John Surgery? Is it Andy's fault that Francisco Liriano has been having a mental breakdown in pretty much every game he's pitched so far this season? I don't think so. While I do agree that the Twins need an ace and should go out and get a fireballer who can fool batters and get the strikeouts, I can't see that happening during the season.
Scapegoat 4: Joe Vavra
Vavra tries to work with each player's hitting style and stance. He's gotten some generally good results over the years. But some think that it's better for the players to learn to pull the ball and hit it over the fences rather than going for line-drive base hits. And for that, Vavra's got to go.
It isn't entirely Vavra's fault that the Twins have been hitting with assbats since they clinched the AL Central on September 22, 2010. (Thank you, Batgirl, for the term "assbats.") It doesn't help when players hit slumps, when guys get hurt, and when minor-leaguers who aren't entirely major-league ready get called up to fill in for injured players.
Scapegoat 5: Dave Pruemer
Pruemer leads the training staff, and if you believe any of the jokes, they rely on medieval methods or rehabilitation and recovery. Because so many of the players who land on the DL end up re-injuring themselves or have to spend more time than usual rehabbing, Pruemer is to blame and he and the entire training staff need the old heave-ho.
But wait! Didn't Scott Baker say that players often are not forthcoming with the extent of their injuries to the training staff and team doctors? Surely some of the blame for these injuries has to fall on the players. They need to be unafraid to describe their injuries in as much detail as possible. If they do that, then the training staff might be in a better position to help them. Trainers and players need to work together through injuries.
Who I personally blame
If I absolutely must pick a scapegoat in all of this, it's none of the above. I would honestly blame former GM Bill Smith for this mess. He's the one who drafted some of the players we have now. He's the one who traded JJ Hardy and then signed Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who clearly was not ready for the challenges of American MLB. Several of his bone-headed moves have come back to haunt the Twins in a big way, and Gardy, Terry Ryan, and the coaches are left having to clean up his mess. It may take a lot to get this team back into position as a contender, or it might not take much at all.
Do you agree or disagree with anything? By all means, leave your thoughts in the comments section.