Excuses or Reality?
∑ At about 10:20 today, Iíll be on KFAN with Paul Allen to talk about the Twins. Listen on am1130 in the Twin Cities, or on one of their affiliates, or even at www. KFAN.com.
The Twins lost 5-4 last night to the Baltimore Orioles. Nick Blackburn gave up five runs on seven hits and a walk in seven innings. Take away the two big home runs (to Matt Weiters and Vlad Guerrero) and he pitched well. Offensively, the Twins scored four runs. The first came on a Michael Cuddyer home run. It was his first home run and first RBI of the year. Danny Valencia drove in three runs. Two on a single up the middle with runners on 2nd and 3rd, and one later in the game on an 0-2 pitch that he singled sharply into left field.
With the loss, the Twins are now 6-12 on the early season. We expected the team to struggle early in the season. The bullpen was expected to take awhile to mesh. The middle infield was new. They had to play just five of their first 20 games at home. So, it is no surprise that the team is not playing great baseball right now. However, if they were 9-9 right now, it would probably have been a little better than expected.
Things that could not have been assumed were that the bullpen would be completed altered this early in the season. The two bright spots have been Matt Capps and Glen Perkins. Alex Burnett, Jim Hoey and Eric Hacker have already been called up. No surprise that Tsuyoshi Nishioka didnít look great early in the season, but it is unfortunate that he broke his fibula and lost that development time. As much as most Twins fans didnít believe in Alexi Casilla, I donít think anyone could have anticipated he would be this terrible.
Joe Mauer is already on the disabled list with a virus that has made him lose a dozen pounds. Justin Morneauís flu has cost him the last four games. Delmon Young has now missed two games with the flu and an injury to his side which hopefully is not an oblique injury because that would mean he would go on the disabled list too.
And, itís normal for some players to get off to a slow start at the plate. Itís normal for guys to go through slumps throughout the season. But for pretty much everyone but Denard Span and Jason Kubel to be hitting canít be expected.
I hear people talking about this stuff being the fault of the manager. I say that is crazy. Look at the lineups the last three or four games and consider the guys who were able to play that were on the bench? The manager doesnít have many choices right now. After the games, some people donít like that he says that we need to get some guys back. I think thatís a fair statement.
In my opinion, it is a testament to Ron Gardenhire that this team is even 6-12 right now. There were concerns that many wanted the front office to address this offseason, and all of these injuries and illnesses are really speaking volumes to the teamís lack of depth. However, the team basically has the same bench as it had last year. It just never had to go through a stretch like this.
When a team loses its opening day 2, 3, 4 and 5 hitters, and theyíre being replaced by the likes of Jason Repko, Drew Butera, Steve Holm, Matt Tolbert and Luke Hughes, there is no surprise that they arenít putting together wins. People can say that the Mauers and Morneaus and Youngs werenít hitting anyway. That is true, but based on their track records, they will. No worries about that.
Imagine how the Red Sox would be doing if they had to go a week without Carl Crawford, Kevin Youklis, David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez. Imagine the Yankees lineup if it didnít have Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano for a week. The Tigers lost Victor Martinez to the DL, but imagine if they also lost, well, whoever their 2-3-4-5 hitters are. No team in baseball would be able to win consistently with that against them.
Are those excuses? Sure. Of course. But they are, right now unfortunately also the reality. The team struggled for the first few games of the season with some of those players. Take them away, and frankly, this isnít a very good baseball team. The starting pitching has probably been a little better than I expected. And, the bullpen, for all its transitions, really hasnít cost the team more than a couple of games to this point.
Like I said, I think that the manager deserves a lot of credit right now for this team even being 6-12 because he doesnít have much to work with.
Feel free to comment.