Yesterday was an interesting day for the Minnesota Twins and their fans with the news being good, bad and ugly.
GOOD – On a cool crisp spring evening at Target Field the Twins finally got off the snide and posted their first victory of 2012. After a 0-4 start to the season and not having the lead in any game since the season began, the Twins finally took their first lead of the season in the fourth inning on Josh Willingham’s third home run of the season. Willingham by the way, has a hit in every game this season. With the 6-5 victory the Twins became the last team in major league baseball to post a “W” in the win column. Hopefully the Twins can now relax a little and start playing some good baseball. I can see it taking a some time for this Twins team to gel as it has a number of new pieces as Chris Parmelee or Joe Mauer covers first base, Jamey Carroll gets acclimated over at short, Josh Willingham takes over left field and Ryan Doumit, Trevor Plouffe, or Ben Revere play in right field. Not counting the changes to their pitching staff, that makes four new players in the eight positions on the field. It takes time to learn each other strengths and weaknesses and to play well as a team. The Twins will need to play some good ball because the Texas Rangers come to town on Friday and then Gardy’s boys play the Yankees and the Rays on the road before returning home to face the Red Sox and the Royals.
Bad – The bad news is that the Twins honeymoon at Target Field is over. Yesterdays crowd of 31,413 was the smallest crowd in Target Field history. With the team coming off a 63-99 mark a year ago and a tough 0-4 start in 2012 the fans have not been beating down Target Fields gates to buy tickets. You could see this situation developing late last season when the Twins were playing out the string and there were empty seats all over but at least those seats were bought and paid for and the fans stayed out because they had better things to do on nice fall days then to follow a baseball team that was playing poorly but the empty seats this year are just that, empty seats. If the Twins don’t put a winning team on the field, the empty seat count will rise, the revenue will decrease, and in turn the payroll will have to shrink. Twins fans have become accustomed to winning baseball and last years losing season was a tough pill to swallow but yet the fans still had hope entering this season as they expected their walking wounded in Mauer, Morneau, and Span to return true to form. Then the 2012 season opened and the Twins lost their four games. A tough break for the Twins for sure but it was not the poor start to this season that is causing the empty seats, it is last years record and the off-season acquisitions or lack there of that has the fans hesitant to open their wallets for Twins tickets in 2012. The new ballpark “smells” don’t last forever and now the Twins have to earn their ticket sales on the field.
UGLY – The ugly news yesterday was the announcement by Twins starting pitcher Scott Baker that he will undergo season ending surgery to repair the flexor pronator tendon in his right elbow before he has even thrown a single pitch that counted in 2012. The expected recovery time for this type of surgery is about six months.
The 30 year-old Baker was drafted by the Twins in the second round of the 2003 amateur draft and made his big league debut in May of 2005. Scott has a 63-48 career mark in 159 starts during hs seven seasons in a Twins uniform. Although I have gotten on Baker for his lack of emotion and how he slows the game to a crawl when he gets runners on the bases, I consider Baker to be the Twins number one starting pitcher. Francisco Liriano probably has better stuff that Baker does but he does not seem to be as mentally savvy on the mound as Baker is. Sure, Baker takes a trip to the DL now and then but when Baker is healthy, he is a very nice pitcher who unlike most Twins pitchers can strike out a batter when needed. From Baker’s point of view, the timing couldn’t be worse as the Twins hold a 2013 option for $9.5 million that is now really in question. The risk to pick up the option is huge but can the Minnesota Twins who always seem to struggle to find starting pitching pass on a proven big league pitcher?
The Twins will miss Scott Baker in the starting rotation but there is always a silver lining, when one door closes, another opens and we will have to wait and see who will latch on to Baker’s spot in the starting rotation and run with it.