June 1, 2006

Twins Notes Whatever

I intended to make this an installment of "Twins Notes," because I haven't discussed the team in bullet-point form since last week. I have a bunch of Twins-related topics set aside to cover at some point and I typically try to clear out most of them before the folder becomes unmanageable. Last night I started typing up the entry, beginning with my thoughts on Scott Baker being demoted to Triple-A.

About three sentences into it I no longer felt the urge to discuss the move, so I set that aside for a moment and switched to Torii Hunter wanting to stick around until the new ballpark opens in 2010. Same thing. No matter how many of the saved-up topics I attempted to get started on, I simply couldn't muster up the energy to actually write about them.

As anyone who has read this site for any length of time knows all too well, I've never had a problem babbling about whatever random, ancillary things pop into my head on a given day. All of which means that, as sad as it may sound, I think I've probably reached the point where I no longer really care about the Twins on a day-to-day basis.

If Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire don't care enough to stop trotting out Juan Castro and Tony Batista, why should I care about whether they win or lose a series against the Angels? If the team refuses to stock the roster with the organization's best players, leaving Jason Bartlett to hit .300 at Triple-A for a third straight season, why should I care if the Twins decide to call up Terry Tiffee or Shawn Wooten?

Being in fourth place doesn't bother me after sticking with the team through eight straight losing seasons. What bothers me is that the Twins seem either unable or unwilling to address the issues that have plagued the team since last season. Crappy veterans continue to play far too much, young players are still jerked around constantly, and no one will own up to the mistakes that were made during the offseason.

Castro dropped a routine pop up the other night and I couldn't help but think back to when Bartlett did the same thing in a spring training game. Gardenhire criticized him to anyone who would listen, turning the mistake into an indictment of Bartlett's leadership ability, and then Ryan quickly shipped him back to Rochester and handed Castro the job for a second straight season. Not only didn't Castro receive a fraction of that response, no one even acknowledges that he's been sloppy defensively all year.

(Photos courtesy of Sun Appled Wood.)

Whether deserved or not, Castro got a reputation for being a great defensive player many years ago. I find it hard to fathom that anyone who watches the team on a regular basis continues to think that's true, and if a .231/.270/.337 career hitter is no longer an elite defender where exactly does his value come from? It'd be one thing if the Twins lacked other options, but Bartlett played his 174th game at Rochester last night and went 2-for-4 to raise his batting average to .308.

When Batista signed this offseason Ryan showed a lack of understanding about how to score runs by saying that the Twins were willing to live with his gigantic faults because Batista had much-needed power. Batista has been predictably awful both offensively and defensively, hitting .247/.308/.412 with five measly homers in 44 games while costing the Twins countless runs with his statue-like range at third base. The move has been an unmitigated disaster, yet continues to go on with no end in sight.

I don't blame the Twins for Rondell White's horrible performance, because much like Luis Castillo there was plenty of reason to think that he'd be a solid addition to the lineup. I also don't blame the team for what's happened to the pitching staff, because I don't think anyone could have seen that coming to this degree. However, there are plenty of blatantly obvious mistakes that the Twins have no one to blame for but themselves.

That the Twins choose to misguidedly shuffle more and more deck chairs rather than actually address their wider-reaching organizational issues is what has my interest in the remaining two-thirds of the season waning. I'm perfectly willing to support a losing team, but I'm not able to care about a losing team that makes no real effort to fix its problems and compounds previous mistakes with new ones that stem from the same issues.

The Twins talk about focusing on defense, yet have been brutal in the field this year. The Twins talk about "playing the right way" and "doing the little things," yet struggle just to get bunts down, rarely hustle, and routinely let veterans off the hook for sloppy play. The Twins talk about priding themselves on developing young talent, yet treat those same players like crap once they near the big leagues.

Pollyannaish fans, the laughably uncritical mainstream media, and the team's Teflon-like front office have been slow to admit it, but something is rotten in Denmark. The Twins are 75-87 over their last 162 games.

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