Spiraling not necessarily out of control but rather in its own circle are the Minnesota Twins. After a nice run in the early 2000s where they were consistently making the playoffs the Twins have not played in the postseason since 2010. In fact, they have not won more than 66 games in the last three seasons. Once a team very similar to the Oakland Athletics that valued a more “Moneyball” strategy of winning with players earning low salaries, the franchise has suddenly become an embarrassment in an already weak division.
Where did it all go wrong and why are things so bad?
The problem with refusing to pay big salaries to upcoming free agents is that they eventually leave town. For whatever reason, Minnesota doesn’t have a franchise players have stayed with for long. From the 2010 team’s starting lineup only Joe Mauer remains. Jason Kubel left briefly to play for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians, but has since returned as a fragment of the player he once was.
Even more turnover has occurred in the starting rotation and bullpen. The rotation is completely different. Included in there are outside pieces Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, and Mike Pelfrey. Once reliable pitchers, only Hughes has performed well in 2014.
The remaining question as to why this happened has to do with the team’s lack of direction. Currently they are testing out multiple young players including Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, and Josmil Pinto in the lineup with Byron Buxton still waiting for the call.
Certainly the team is in the rebuilding phase, but a few things they have done recently say otherwise. A move that shows they are trying to contend, the Twins signed free agent Kendrys Morales in June of 2014. Entirely unnecessary, it raises the question as to what the management thinks this team can do. Certainly it’s a pipe dream to think they can overcome the Detroit Tigers or even the Chicago White Sox who are one or two good pitchers away from being completely legitimate thanks to their powerful offense.
Oddest of all might be the amount of money they are paying Nolasco and Hughes on a team not yet ready to win, at least not for two more years if they are lucky. Nolasco is making $12 million in 2014 with Hughes earning $8 million. Not even combined do their salaries match Mauer’s, mostly because he is the franchise player and deserves to be paid as one.
The Twins have no identity. At a time when the Houston Astros are losing with a plan and the Los Angeles Dodgers are winning with a mission, the Twins aren’t sure where they are. For now it looks like the Twins will just have to hope all of their young players get good at once and the veterans they have on the roster get back to their better days.
Photo Credit: By Jon Marthaler (First Pitch at Target Field) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons