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It’s not rocket science, but it may be chemistry

China Launches Meteorological Satellite Fengyun-3E Photo by VCG via Getty Images

It’s increasingly difficult to accentuate the positive when it comes to this season for the Minnesota Twins. It was merely a week ago when some of you were thinking “take two of three from the Sox and then play the weak Royals and….well…you never know.” Well, actually, this season, you knew. We all knew.

You’ve been doing your best to maintain some level of optimism, but deep down, maybe just below the surface, you’ve all known what we’ve all been watching this season. It’s dreadful. It’s not over ‘til it’s over, but having been swept in Chicago, and now (as I write this) holding only the hope of salvaging one game in Kansas City…well…it’s not good.

Last week, I wrote about the seemingly impossible math required to make the playoffs, now the math seems increasingly impossible just to reach .500. So, it’s time to embrace it. The Twins are not good this year. It happens to all of us. My own career started slowly and then tapered off, so I’m no stranger to limited success. One does the best one can with what one has. The Twins seem to still be giving effort, I mean they are being paid and everything, so that’s a requirement, of course, but still, it’s something. Effort is critical, especially for those who fail to achieve much in the way of results.

In my profession, students often suggest that their grades should be based on effort, if the results aren’t particularly good. They assure me, that their effort is outstanding. It may be. Hard for me to know all the time, or even most of the time. The Twins seem to be giving effort, but it’s hard for me to really tell. I will, in an effort to be my best self, simply accept that they continue to try, and since they are trying, I shouldn’t be hypercritical.

On the upside, Donaldson’s most recent injury seems hardly worth any gnashing of teeth. It’s fine. Let him rest. Whether we love his fire, or we lament his inability to recognize that loud talk in the absence of accomplishment is a particularly unattractive trait, let him rest. Let him take stock and come back mentally strong so that his next leg injury will be taken in stride…so to speak.

Speaking of striding, perhaps Donaldson should limit all of his hits to singles, as rounding first base seems especially problematic. Remember Kirk Gibson in the World Series for the Dodgers, limping around first base, pumping his fist after hitting a homerun? I’m not a major league baseball player. The very worst player in the league is far better than I would be. I’m also not a major league hitting coach. But. Perhaps Donaldson should swing out of his shoes every at bat, as running at anything more than a comfortable jog seems extremely dangerous. One works with what they have.

Maybe it’s chemistry. Whenever anyone thinks of team chemistry, the logical response is “what about the 1970s Oakland A’s who seemed to genuinely dislike each other and nevertheless won world championships?” My theory concerning that particular aberration is that “if you have more talent than anyone else you can hate each other and still win.” The corollary to this would be “if you don’t have more talent than the teams you’re playing, you may need better chemistry.”

I don’t claim to know what is happening in the Twins clubhouse. Maybe they are all one big happy family. They have each other’s backs. But, to this particular outsider, it doesn’t necessarily seem that way. I mean, I haven’t seen them fighting in the dugout, but maybe, just maybe, these guys aren’t a great mix.

Early this spring, in my most controversial baseball writing (not involving Buxton’s many injuries), I questioned the addition of Simmons. I questioned it based on his judgment involving non-baseball related issues. Maybe he’s an awesome guy, only concerned about his teammates, but then again, it seems to me that if he’s traded in the coming weeks, hardly anyone will shed a tear. I mean, we gave him a shot, even if he wouldn’t take a shot for his teammates (sorry, there I go again, being controversial and hypercritical).

I didn’t intend to be this negative. While I didn’t envision the Twins actually going to the World Series this year, despite lofty projections, I did have them winning a playoff game or two. I was wrong. They simply aren’t very good. What happened? It’s mostly the same players who we thought were really good last year. I mean Buxton has been hurt most of the year, and he’s fantastic when he plays, but the Twins as an organization must surely be prepared to play without him, it’s a rite of summer. So…the only rational explanation, or possibly irrational explanation is… you guessed it…chemistry.

When a chemistry experiment goes horribly awry, people can get hurt. When team chemistry goes horribly awry, people must be traded, released, sent down, etc… In sum, heads somehow need to roll.

The interest in the Twins, for all but the most hardcore of fans, always wanes when football season comes along. They must contend, given the popularity and coverage of the NFL. What are the Twins going to be like in September? How will we keep our interest in them? How will they keep their interest in themselves? Will they be able to not kill each other in the dugout?

Talking about “chemistry” may be the last refuge of the sports writer, just as talking about patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. I don’t know what the chemistry is like on this team, but from my vantage point in front of the TV, it doesn’t seem like they are having the times of their lives. Does the losing destroy what was once good chemistry? Or…is the bad chemistry simply showing this year, and the losing is a product of that?

I don’t claim to know much about chemistry, but the math isn’t good, the physiology seems to be breaking down more with each passing day, and frankly, it’s just sad to have to grade highly paid professionals on “effort” alone. So, like Twins fans everywhere, it’s sadness, and gloom, as we await the trade deadline and see if, even if nothing can be done about most of the academic subjects listed above, at least perhaps the chemistry can be addressed.