Souhan: Twins’ awful stretch of baseball does not mean it’s time to give up

Jim Souhan, Star Tribune
·4 min read

I agree with the masses.

It's time for the Minnesota Twins — who are 7-13 after losing 6-2 to Pittsburgh on Sunday at Target Field — to panic.

Just like they did in 1991, when they started 2-9 and fired Tom Kelly.

Or when the 2003 Twins lost six in a row to fall to 3-6 on April 10 and jettisoned Rick Reed, who earned two of those losses.

Or when the 2006 Twins were 9-16 on May 1 and released Justin Morneau, who was batting .208 with 22 strikeouts in 77 at-bats.

Yes, the Twins are terrible right now. Sunday, they made a starting pitcher with an incoming ERA of 13.50 look like Clayton Kershaw.

And there are legitimate reasons for sustained concern. Mitch Garver hasn't hit since 2019, Jorge Polanco isn't driving the ball, Kenta Maeda has pitched poorly, a third of the lineup is out of action, and some players are so unconcerned about being good teammates or intelligent humans that they didn't get the vaccine.

The Twins have already lost two games on the kinds of plays that haunt dreams — when Alexander Colome threw to the wrong base in Milwaukee, and when Colome induced consecutive, game-winning groundballs in Oakland, only to have neither grounder turned into an out.

Identifying the problems is easy. Fixing them without damaging the roster is more difficult.

Take Colome, the easiest player for Minnesotans to attack right now, because he hasn't built any equity with this fan base.

Colome, like his team, has performed poorly. His ERA is 5.63 and he has blown three saves.

But what do those numbers really mean on April 25?

He "blew" one save by throwing to the wrong base, and another when two fielders failed to convert routine grounders into game-ending outs. His pitching itself has cost the Twins just one loss. Would you really demote a veteran closer with a career ERA that was below 3.00 before the season started because of a couple of bizarre endings?

Wouldn't your players think that was unfair, and perhaps even an act of scapegoating? And how would you replace Colome? Taylor Rogers is excelling as the Twins' best late-inning, tough-situation pitcher, and as their best left-on-left reliever. Hansel Robles has excellent stuff but has been erratic.

Move Rogers to full-time closer, and Colome may be forced into high-leverage situations in which he may be forced to face the opponent's best lefthanded hitter.

The smart move, for now, is giving Colome a chance to right himself.

The Twins' overarching goal this season is to make the playoffs, then prove they can win in the postseason. Five American League teams will make the playoffs.

The Twins are 7-13. They won 62% of their games in 2019-2020. If they win 62% of their remaining games, they will finish 95-67 (presuming they play all 162 games). If they win 95 games, they will likely make the playoffs.

It's possible that this team isn't good enough to right itself, or is destined for a season of continued bad luck, injuries, illnesses and failures.

But if they don't make the playoffs this season, it won't be because they stunk in April. It will be because of what happens the next five months, and how they perform in the massive number of games they will play within the division.

If this were the NFL, the Twins would now be in the second quarter of their second game. In the Land of Football, it's hard to get baseball observers to understand just how long the MLB season is.

In 2019, the Twins won 101 games, and yet went 8-11 from June 30 to July 24. Every team slumps. It just looks worse in April, and particularly in what we can only hope will be the Twins' last COVID April, as their starting shortstop and right fielder missed time with the virus.

With Andrelton Simmons, Miguel Sano and Max Kepler out, Twins fans are getting to see that their favorite role players should remain role players.

"Our guys need to settle in a little bit," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "And this has been a difficult year to settle in."

Sometimes facts and excuses are identical.

Jim Souhan's podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. jsouhan@startribune.com