Just two seasons ago the organization was opening Target Field with the hopes of contending for the World Series. Now the Twins are just hoping that they haven’t replaced the Royals as the perennial basement dwellers of the American League Central. The fall from grace has been quick and painful for a fan base that has been spoiled by six division titles in twelve years, but there is good news amongst the 15-29 record. The Twins are not that bad actually.
There are three types of bad teams in baseball; teams that lack talent (San Diego Padres), teams that are young (Kansas City Royals) and teams that are unlucky. Take a quick glance at the roster and you can immediately recognize which category the current Twins fall under.
With two former MVP’s on their roster (Mauer and Morneau), it’s evident that they still have the necessary talent to be, at the very least, a mediocre team. Add in the consistent play of Denard Span and the power of Josh Willingham and the Twins lineup should be enough to balance out the fact that the rotation consists mostly of AAA pitchers. They are not a talentless team by any stretch.
The Twins are far from being a young team as well. Brian Dozier is the lone rookie to see consistent time in the lineup since being promoted from Rochester. Yes, the rotation is filled with inexperienced starters, but they have just recently been called up after veterans Jason Marquis, Nick Blackburn and Francisco Liriano sputtered out of the gate. The Twins pitching struggles can hardly be blamed on the current rotations work.
That leaves one last explanation for the Twins poor start; luck, or lack thereof. To put it bluntly, the Twins have been extremely unlucky this season. One of their offseason signings, Jason Marquis, missed a large portion of spring training after his daughter was hospitalized. When he did return to the Twins he looked disinterested and unfocused which led to his horrific 8.47 ERA and subsequent release.
Injuries have also taken its toll on the team. Justin Morneau made his annual stop on the DL with a wrist injury, Denard Span has dealt with the nagging hamstring injury, Ryan Doumit’s strained right calf has landed him on the DL and Nick Blackburn is also there with left quad strain. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming that injuries are based on luck. I realize that some players are more injury prone than others (yes Morneau, I’m looking at you). The timing of the injuries on the other hand, that is mostly luck. If the Twins lineup were healthy this is what it would look like.
1. Denard Span CF
2. Brian Dozier SS
3. Joe Mauer C
4. Josh Willingham LF
5. Justin Morneau 1B
6. Ryan Doumit DH
7. Trevor Plouffe 3B
8. Ben Revere RF
9. Jamey Carroll 2B
The lineup isn’t playoff quality by any means but it isn’t the worst in the league either. If the Twins ever managed to field this team there would be a good possibility that their record would climb to near .500 considering the weak division that they play in. That is a very big ‘if’ though. If history has taught us anything it’s that it’s only a matter of time before Morneau is back on the DL and Mauer is joining him with an ailment of his own.
Then again maybe this year is different. Maybe Morneau stays healthy and returns to his pre-concussion form. Maybe Mauer contends for the batting title and is able to remain behind the plate for a large chunk of the season. It’s all possible. Unlikely, but possible.
The main thing to take away is that there is hope. Not for a playoff push, but for respectability. At this point in the Twins season, respectability is all we can ask for.