Thursday, July 01, 2004

Living on the Edge

“The quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all.”

-Galadriel in “The Fellowhip of the Ring” (2001)

I know I may be labeled a geek and berated for bringing “The Lord of the Rings” to Twins Chatter, but I honestly think that the above quote sums up the Twins’ current predicament quite appropriately. In case you’ve been living under a rock these past three days, our Minnesota Twins were swept at home by the now first-place Chicago White Sox. Right now, I feel too numb to provide any thorough statistical analysis of the series, or to speculate as to what the Twins could/should have done differently.

Here’s what it all comes down to: the White Sox are simply a better team than the Twins right now. There is no way you can really prove otherwise. The Sox outplayed the hometown nine in almost every facet of the game, and the Twins looked helpless to stop them (Johan being the lone exception). Like every true Twins fan, I predicted that the Twins would win the Central once again this year. I said (with fingers crossed) that the rotation would stabilize; the bullpen would emerge; and that offense would be a strength of this Twins team.

Despite the fact that the team sits with a record of 41-36 and is still just two games out of first place, I have been wrong on all three accounts thus far. The rotation is incomplete and inconsistent, the bullpen is falling apart, and the offense has been bad (if not atrocious). This week’s series only served to accentuate those myriad weaknesses.

The Twins’ season truly stands upon the edge of a knife. The date is still only July 2; it is not too late by any means. But one thing IS for certain: something must be done, and this something (whatever it may be) must be done soon, before it is too late. I’m pretty certain you only get one Shannon Stewart mid-season miracle per lifetime. Terry Ryan needs to take action, as the current 25-man roster will not win a third straight division title and most certainly will not advance in the playoffs. Perhaps TR has already seen enough—perhaps he doesn’t feel like he has the financial flexibility to improve this team through a trade and therefore decides to start trading off veterans (like JJ and Koskie) for prospects. It’s a little premature to be discussing such things on July 2, but the way it looks right now, that isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Or maybe TR will decide to revamp the roster with players within the organization. That would mean benching Mientkiewicz and handing the first base job to Morneau. That would mean calling up Jesse Crain and give him a baptism by fire. That would mean magically conjuring a suitable 5th starter from the scrap heap that is Rochester’s rotation (or giving Scott Baker a similar baptism). Now this is just a hunch, but I don’t think such an approach has turned around too many seasons. With the Twins’ minor league talent, however, you never know.

The third option, and probably the most conventional (if also the most unlikely given the front office’s history and financial restraints), is to improve the team through the trade market. This year, it won’t be as simple as adding that one key piece to the jigsaw puzzle. It’s going to take more than that. The Twins need at least one more solid bullpen arm and a starting pitcher, if not more. I’m not sure if anything less than that can change the course of events that seem to be unfolding before our eyes right now. I discussed a few trade possibilities the other day, but your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the specifics. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

In the meantime, the Twins are heading to the Valley of the Sun to take on the last-place Diamondbacks for three games. If there ever was a cure for the we-just-got-swept-by-out-division-rivals-at-home blues, it should be a series with a team that has a .359 winning percentage. But with these Twins, you never know. The Sox sharpened the blade, and the Twins’ chances for a three-peat may soon come crashing down.