Opinion Corner: New season new hope? UnlikelyHere we are again Twins fans. Another season is upon us. If you close your eyes, I bet you can see the lush, green grass with a TC carved into it. You can smell the Schweigert hot dogs and taste an ice cold Minnesota brew (if you’re 21). You can hear the crack of the bat as Joe Mauer slaps another single between second and third. And you can feel the frustration of watching the well below average Twins pitchers get shelled again.
By: Casey Johnson, The Jamestown Sun
Here we are again Twins fans. Another season is upon us.
If you close your eyes, I bet you can see the lush, green grass with a TC carved into it. You can smell the Schweigert hot dogs and taste an ice cold Minnesota brew (if you’re 21). You can hear the crack of the bat as Joe Mauer slaps another single between second and third. And you can feel the frustration of watching the well below average Twins pitchers get shelled again.
The Twins’ pitching staff of last season could most aptly be described in three ways: inconsistent, injury-plagued, and incompetent.
The team’s ERA last season was 4.85, which was good for second worst in the majors. Because of the shortcomings mentioned, the Twins used nine different starters last year, and they all had about the same luck: none. The Twins trotted out such talented (sarcasm) pitchers as Kevin Slowey (6.67 ERA in 8 starts), Scott Diamond (5.08 ERA in 7 starts), and Brian Duensing (5.23 ERA in 28 starts).
The results of the Twins bullpen are also sadly illuminated by the team’s 4.85 ERA. Although a major league team generally has seven or eight relievers at a time on the 25-man roster, the Twins still somehow managed to use 20 different pitchers in relief last season (including Michael Cuddyer once). Most of these relievers, however, were no-names and/or castaways that weren’t able to cut it for any other team. These pitchers included, among others, Dusty Hughes, Jim Hoey, Chuck James, Jeff Manship, Eric Hacker, Kyle Waldrop, and Lester Oliveros. The correct response now would be, “Who?”
To be fair, relievers don’t always get the most publicity, and it is a position where no-names emerge all of the time. Clearly, however, that did not happen, and the Twins grossly mismanaged and misjudged their resources as they replaced Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Brian Fuentes, and Jon Rauch with the aforementioned nobodies.
As I mentioned, I know that the Twins faced injury problems last year with their pitchers, so the pitching struggles can, in part, be attributed to a depleted talent pool, which was already fairly bare as far as minor league depth goes. However, the injury excuse and all the others get old after a while, and fans still want to see success regardless of the hand that has been dealt to their team. Similarly, fans don’t want to sit silently and watch the same garbage happen again the next season.
So what did the Twins do to address their pitching woes coming into this season?
To upgrade the starting rotation, the Twins signed veteran Jason Marquis who has a career 4.55 ERA in 12 major league seasons. If all goes well, he might very well stabilize the back-end of the Twins rotation.
The team apparently deemed that move sufficient to stabilize the starting staff, since they made no other moves to acquire starting pitching. Interestingly enough, the Twins decided that the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” approach would serve just fine to answer their question at closer, as they decided to stick with Matt Capps who blew nine saves last season. And in an attempt to bolster their middle relief, the Twins acquired Matt Maloney and Jeff Gray, whose respective 5.40 and 4.57 career ERAs and lack of significant major league success truly speak for themselves. (I hope that the sarcasm has been thick enough to pick up on.)
In all sincerity, I believe that the only gutsy, relatively noteworthy move made by the Twins to improve their pitching was acquiring Joel Zumaya. Unfortunately, his health issues once again caught up with him, and he won’t pitch this year, as a result of a torn elbow ligament in his throwing arm. At least it represented a legitimate attempt to add some true talent and major league experience to the pitching staff, though. It’s the kind of risk that the Twins aren’t known for taking, but it’s the kind of calculated gamble that you occasionally have to try, even if it could backfire like in this case.
Don’t get me wrong, I hope that the Twins’ pitching staff drastically overachieves and that the team has an ERA somewhere below 4.0. I hope that Francisco Liriano finally gets his head screwed on right and becomes the “ace” that so many still puzzlingly believe he can be.
I hope that Liam Hendricks can develop into a competent young starter, and I hope that Jason Marquis can keep his ERA below 4.0 and chew up some innings at the back of the rotation.
Furthermore, I hope the collection of failed starters, journeymen middle relievers, and a burnt out closer can create a formidable bullpen. But as a college professor of mine used to say, “You better light a candle and say a prayer,” because the chances of all those things happening are pretty grim.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. By that definition, the Twins must be insane because they have decided to take virtually the same approach this offseason as they did the last, even after losing 99 games last year.
I will admit that, when the Twins made their playoff runs throughout the 2000s, they weren’t going out and acquiring pitchers. They were developing them, and that’s great. However, if the cupboard is bare, like it is now, you can either keep losing and slowly rebuild, or you can decide to be more aggressive and acquire proven pitching help from outside of the organization.
I know it’s easier said than done, but I think Twins fans everywhere would appreciate a more obvious indication that the team is aware of their pitching deficiencies and that they’re trying to do something about them, especially at the front-end of the rotation. Because, as most Twins fans know, even if we were to somehow miraculously make the playoffs, there is no way we’re going to win a playoff series until we have a staff ace.
To be clear, I don’t mean to be a wet blanket and just point out negatives. With a new season does come new hope and new possibilities. It is going to take a lot of unproven, unknown, and unspectacular pitchers to step up in big ways in order to prove me wrong. But boy do I hope they do.
Johnson is a 2007 graduate of Jamestown High School. He works and lives in the Twin Cities. Read his blog at www. http://caseyjohns.wordpress.com/