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The Price of Tanking Again

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The Twins need to find something, anything, to make fans interested in them for the rest of 2014.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

I'm not one of those guys who talks about their fantasy teams because I know how boring it is for you guys, but I hope you'll indulge me for a paragraph. I promise it will go somewhere.

I'm tanking in one of my simulation leagues that is replaying the 2013 season. I'm pretty good at it too, having recently lost 25 out of 26 games and lining myself up to pick high in next year's draft and have young position players like Anthony Rizzo and Jose Altuve who will drive my offense next year when I want to compete again. I'm feeling pretty smug about it too.

I can do that in fantasy baseball, of course. Any idiot can fill his roster with bad players and lottery tickets and hope enough of them work out to build something decent. In the real world, however, I'd find myself where the Twins are this year. Now 3-7 coming out of the All Star Break, it looks as though Minnesota's annual late season collapse has begun early this year. With Kurt Suzuki, Josh Willingham, and maybe others being shipped out at the trade deadline, their performance is only going to slip further. It has left fans bored and distracted, and Target Field empty.

It's nice not to have to worry about filling a stadium, or TV ratings, or being profitable. Terry Ryan does, and I don't envy him. The Twins are at a critical juncture. Despite being sixth in the American League in paid attendance, they are projected to draw fewer fans (28,267 per game) than their last season in the Metrodome (29830). That also doesn't account for all the unused tickets and all the concessions not purchased by the scores of fans who decide they'd rather spend their afternoons or evenings doing something that makes them happy, rather than being bummed out by another awful Twins loss. Without the All Star Game to drive season ticket sales next year, those numbers are likely to plummet even further. And once that apathy sets in, it takes multiple years for it to fully go away.

This fanbase has no reason to go to Twins games anymore this year, and no reason to expect next year will be any better. That's why I'm completely baffled as to why Trevor May and Alex Meyer are still pitching in Rochester. The Twins have given 19 starts to Yohan Pino, Sam Deduno, Kris Johnson, and Logan Darnell so far, and gotten a 4.88 ERA out of it. None of them project as anything more better than a fifth starter. Maybe if everything breaks right, one of them could have a Scott Diamond-esque run of success before collapsing again. Meanwhile, in his last ten appearances, May has a 1.75 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 56.2 innings. Meyer has a 2.90 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 49.2 innings in his last 10 appearances. Both of them have the stuff and the potential to be top end starters in a major league rotation, and both would be upgrades for this one. There are no worries that either would be eligible for Super-two arbitration status, and they will be under control for the next six full seasons, regardless of what the club does with them. They're in their mid-20s. The time for Meyer and May is now.

The Twins can't simply play out the string for the fourth year in a row. They can't just tank and assume that fans will come back next year. Minnesota fans need an excuse to watch this team. Those excuses are just sitting at Rochester and are a phone call away. If Terry Ryan won't make that call, he's not doing right by the organization he works for or the fanbase he desperately has to appease.