I’ve always considered myself to be an optimistic person. I try to see things with an open mind. The glass is half full, as they say. Before the start of the season, all of Twins Territory was full of excitement and hope. The season could not start soon enough. After 53 games, all hope and excitement has vanquished.
As I write this article, the Minnesota Twins are 16 -37, 14 games out off first place and tied with the Atlanta Braves for the worst record in baseball. That’s right. With all the young talented prospects in the world, a manager that was revered by all last season, a Korean slugger who can hit the ball as far as any steroid using slugger from the 90s, and general manager with a baseball IQ that could rival any front office personnel, the Twins have gone from and up-and-coming team, to an organizational joke. Why?
After the 2011 season, when the Twins finished with a record of 63 wins and 99 losses, most fans assumed there was going to be a rebuilding period. Thus, there was very little complaining when the 99 loss season was followed by consecutive 96 loss seasons and a 92 loss season in 2014. During this time, general manager, Terry Ryan, and his team of scouts were stacking up the farm system with many high-ceiling prospects to go along with Miguel Sano, Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario. Prospects that would give hope to Twins’ fans across the Nation. Prospects that would enable fans to endure back-to-back-to-back-to-back 90 plus loss seasons. The Twins now had the top farm system with the addition of : Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, Nick Burdi, J.T. Chargois, Nick Gordon and Tyler Jay, not to mention, Trevor May and Alex Meyer, both of whom were acquired via trade in 2012.
Fast forward to the 2015 season, the Twins have signed Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey and Ricky Nolasco to go along with their 2009 first rounder, Kyle Gibson. While the season had it’s ups and downs, there was plenty of reasons to believe the Twins were heading in the right direction. Even though Santana was suspended 80 games for PED use, he finished the year pretty strong. Gibson had his best year as a professional, leading the staff with 32 starts, 194.2 innings pitched, 145 strikeouts and a solid 3.84 ERA. Trevor May looked absolutely solid coming out of the bullpen, and when Tyler Duffey was called up to replace an injured Nolasco, fans got to see one of the future pieces to the starting rotation. In the 10 games he started, Duffey had 7 quality starts, 5 wins and an impressive 3.10 ERA.
At the plate, we all got to witness the power of Sano. In 50 games, the powerful slugger crushed 18 homeruns and drove in 52 RBI. Eddie Rosario was swinging, and hitting, just about anything out of the strike zone finishing with 18 doubles, 15 triples and 13 homers. Plouffe ended with 22 dingers and drove in 86. Dozier was an all-star leading the squad with 28 homeruns.
When the 2015 season came to a close, the Twins were second in the AL Central with 83 wins and 79 losses. There was a feeling of hope all throughout Twins Territory. There were all-stars. Prospects were soon to arrive. The tide was starting to turn. Fans were excited.
Present day: Fans got what they wanted when top pitching prospect, Jose Berrios received the call to make his major league debut April 27. The much anticipated moment was pushed back 45 minutes due to a rain delay, which may have been a sign. In his first start, Berrios lasted just 4 innings while giving up 5 earned runs, walking a pair and striking out five. After 4 starts, Berrios had an ERA of 10.20 and opponents were hitting .328 off of the righty. Optioned to (AAA) Rochester.
Byron Buxton started the year the way he finished last season, cold. The very talented prospect has a strikeout to walk ration of 27/2 and a batting average of .170. He was optioned to Rochester earlier this season, where he absolutely dominated pitchers. He was recently recalled to replace an injured Danny Santana. If he can make contact and lower his strikeout percentage, the issues at the plate should disappear. Buxton is still a 5-tool prospect with more potential than 99% of any other MLB player. He’s already one of the best center fielders, so once his plate discipline improves, he will become the superstar all Twins’ fans want to see.
Since being named an all-star in 2015, Brian Dozier has been on a steady decline. While his defense is still above average, he seemingly can’t do anything at the plate. He simply looks lost. If his current slash line of .207/.306/.352 does not improve soon, one has to wonder whether or not Terry Ryan should make a change because Jorge Polanco is waiting in the wings.
The issues with the offense does not come from just Buxton and Dozier. As a team, the Twins are hitting .242 ranking them 20th in the MLB and have scored just 198 runs ranking them 26th.
Likewise, the issues with pitching go well beyond Berrios. The starting rotation ranks 24th with a 4.82 ERA while the bullpen ranks 25th with a 4.37 ERA.
Sadly, the 2016 season is lost. Who’s to blame? Is it Terry Ryan’s fault? He ultimately has the last say in draft selections, trades made or not made, and free agent signings. He traded for Alex Meyer, who has been MIA since being optioned back to Rochester in May. He decided not to sign a relief pitcher during the offseason. He signed Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, Ricky Nolasco, just to point out a few questionable moves.
Maybe it’s on the owner, Carl Pohlad? Ryan is given a budget and can only work with what he has. Maybe if he had more money to spend, the Twins may have passed on one or two of the middle-of-the-rotation starters and tried to sign a legitimate ace? Imagine for a second if the "casual" fan lost interest and stopped going to the ballpark. Imagine for a second if the seats at Target Field were empty. This is not hard to imagine as attendance is steadily declining. The casual fan can only watch a below average squad for so long before giving up. Maybe if this continues, changes for the better will be made? I have to think Mr. Pohlad would rather Target Field at full capacity.
Perhaps the blame is to be shared? The 2016 season has been nothing short of a mystery. The Twins are not struggling in just one area–but in every facet of the game. At the end of the season, regardless of the Twins’ record, ownership will need to assess everyone: front office personnel, scouting, managers, and players.
We will not know what changes, if any, will be made until the end of the season. Meanwhile, I plan to keep a positive outlook and enjoy watching our youth grow into future all-stars (being optimistic). One thing is almost a certainty, my season ticket prices for 2017 will not increase.