July 27, 2005

The End Is Near, I Fear

Taken in isolation, being dominated by Randy Johnson is certainly nothing to get overly discouraged about. He's done it many times to many teams, including the Twins, and he was simply on top of his game last night (and the generous strike zone didn't hurt either). However, the ongoing lack of offense is getting to be a bit of a joke.

The Twins have now scored five or more runs in just three of their 13 games since the All-Star break, and after being shut out last night they are averaging 3.15 runs per game in the second half. Take away the inexplicable 10-run outburst against Jason Johnson and the Tigers last Thursday and the Twins are averaging 2.6 runs over their last dozen games.

With the division long gone and the Wild Card slowing slipping away, I think the real danger now is that Terry Ryan might think he is forced to make a major move before Sunday's trade deadline. The reality is that this team is past the point of needing one hitter to turn things around. Whether it is Alfonso Soriano or Babe Ruth, the lineup has been pitiful of late and the team will go nowhere unless the entire group steps things up very soon.

A team averaging three runs per game doesn't just add a good hitter and suddenly average five runs per game. The problems run a lot deeper than that. Sadly, what looked to me this spring like potentially the strongest Twins team since at least 1991 may end up being the team to snap the streak of consecutive postseason appearances at three.

The White Sox have successfully run away and hid, and the odds of this team outplaying both the Yankees and the A's down the stretch seem remote. That leaves the Twins in an in-between stage. They're still in the postseason race, so you can't just give up on this season and focus on what looks like a very bright future (and the team can't deal away spare parts for future value). And their playoff chances don't appear good enough to get all that excited about the remainder of this season.

As for all the talk here and other places about perhaps acquiring Soriano ... it's all just noise until someone explains how the Twins will fit his expected $10 million salary for next season on their payroll. Until then, he would be a two-month rental with a cost far outweighing his value over the course of roughly 60 games.

Thankfully, it appears as though the Twins agree with me on this. Or at least Ron Gardenhire does:

Gardenhire said the Twins would not deal pitching prospects Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano, who have been asked about by other teams.

"We're not going to give up a bunch of good, young players for a rent-a-player," he said.

Of course, he didn't say anything about J.D. Durbin, Boof Bonser or Travis Bowyer, but hopefully the general point isn't dependent on specific prospects.

Being half a game back for a playoff spot never looked so bad.

WILD CARD       W      L     WIN%      GB
New York 53 45 .541 ---
Oakland 54 46 .540 ---
Minnesota 53 46 .535 0.5

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Resurrection in Oakland (by Aaron Gleeman)
- Shakeup in San Diego (by Vinay Kumar)
- Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)

Today's Picks (82-69, +$1,160):
Cleveland (Elarton) +165 over Oakland (Haren)

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