I am a lifelong fan of your team, but from time to time you do things that make absolutely no sense. We all have our shortcomings, but sometimes we are not fully aware of them until a close friend points them out and helps us correct them. Allow me to be that friend, Twins, because I care about you. This is for your own good.
I have identified six areas of concern, some of which are on-the-field problems, and some which are off-the-field. Because I am extra helpful, I have also provided foolproof solutions to these problems. Please act quickly, Twins.
6. Wally the Beer Man is gone
Once upon a time, there was a man who made people happy by bringing them delicious beer. Then one day, thanks to a sheisty government sting operation, he was arrested for allegedly selling that delicious beer to minors (he was later acquitted). Then you suspended him, presumably because you hate justice and happiness. Wally “the Beer Man” McNeil is a Minnesota icon. Getting rid of him was like punching Mary Tyler Moore in the face, or running over Garrison Keillor’s dog.
HOW TO FIX IT: To be fair, it appears to have been McNeil’s decision not to return to Target Field after his acquittal, but you should not have taken no for an answer. Make up for it by offering him a raise, a new title, or whatever it took for him to come back to Target Field. Hey, why not put him in charge of the team medical staff? He probably couldn’t do any worse than the current team, and a few cold beers would probably do a lot to calm a pitcher’s nerves when he hears he has to have Tommy John Surgery.
5. Anthony Slama still languishes at AAA
This is a pet cause of the Twins’ blogosphere, and I am happy to ride that particular bandwagon. There is no reason, short of complete insanity, to keep Slama at AAA right now. The man has a K/9 rate of 14.4. The Twins claim that Slama’s stuff won’t translate to Major League success, and it’s possible that could be true.
HOW TO FIX IT: If you were fighting for a playoff spot, it might be too risky to bring up a player like Slama for an audition. But unless the team planes carrying the Tigers, Indians, White Sox, and Royals all crash into each other, your team isn’t going anywhere this season. So why not give Slama the ball and let him pitch 30 or 40 MLB innings? If he failed, all his supporters (including me) would finally shut up. If he succeeded, the Twins would gain a talented setup man.
4. Number 36 is not retired!
Slama’s cause is a popular one on the internet, but this one gets far less attention. Jim Kaat was the Minnesota Twins’ all-time win leader when you released him in 1973, and he still is. You could have chosen to retire his number 36 jersey after that season. You could have done so when Kaat finally retired a decade later. You could have retired number 36 in the late 80s or early 90s, while Kaat served as a well-liked Twins’ television color commentator. This offseason, Kaat narrowly missed election to the Hall of Fame just as Joe Nathan, who had been wearing number 36 for the previous seven seasons, left via free agency. It was a perfect opportunity to announce the retirement. Instead, you gave the jersey to Clete Thomas. That’s right. Clete Freakin’ Thomas.
HOW TO FIX IT: It’s one thing to wait four decades to retire the number of (arguably) your team’s best pitcher ever. It’s still another to give that number away to a AAAA outfielder you arbitrarily pluck off the waiver wire. Show some respect, Twins, and retire Kaat’s number already!
3. I miss the Trees
The inaugural season at Target Field featured 14 majestic pine trees just beyond the center field wall. A couple hitters complained that the trees in center field prevented them from hitting well. So you yanked them out and batting averages suddenly skyrocket. Just kidding. Your hitters were far worse in 2011, which would seem to prove that they were full of it when they blamed their problems on that little forest. But alas, the trees stayed gone. As a result, you now have their very own curse story. As much as I love a good baseball curse myth, this one is nowhere near as good as The Curse of the Bambino or the Black Sox scandal. And I definitely don’t want a curse myth for my own favorite team. Besides, we already have the Curse of Corey Koskie.
HOW TO FIX IT: Replant the trees, obviously. If you’re afraid to replant the whole forest, at least bring back two or three of them. A couple trees won’t hurt the batters’ vision, and it might be just enough to drain the magic out of that curse.
2. You can’t seem to buy a home run
Remember the Steroid Era, when power hitters routinely bashed 40, 50, even 60+ homers per year? Of course you don’t remember it, because you it entirely. Sure, it’s good that your players generally abstained from PEDs, but it would be nice if you had brought in at least one or two legitimate mashers from time to time. As it stands, you have not had a player hit 35 or more in a season since 1970. Entire generations of Twins fans have grown up not knowing what it’s like to have a slugger who can instill fear into a pitcher’s heart. And that is just sad.
HOW TO FIX IT: Hopefully, Miguel Sano and/or Travis Harrison will fix this problem on their own in a few years. But it would be nice if you devoted a little more attention to scouting power hitters and developing that tool among its minor leaguers.
1. You Keep Bringing in Awful Pitchers
Do you like watching that army of subpar groundball pitchers? You know, the guys who throw 90 mph fastballs and give up 10 to 12 hits every time they take the mound? Trick question. I know you love these guys, Twins, because you keep bringing them in at the expense of power pitchers and other guys who can actually produce a strikeout from time to time. Why keep Matt Garza when you can sign guys like Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis? Makes perfect sense.
HOW TO FIX IT: Fully addressing this issue would require a shift in organizational philosophy. It would take years of work to fully re-stock the organization with quality arms. But in the meantime, Twins, you have a golden opportunity to start the process in the 2012 draft (and probably the 2013 draft as well). The best way to get a strikeout machine is to draft him high in the first round. Take Mark Appel or Kevin Gausman with the #2 pick. Then this offseason, make a serious attempt to sign Zack Greinke, just to prove that you really care about this pressing issue.
Fix these six issues of concern, and I will have no substantial complaints with you, Twins. And you’ll be a better team as a result.