Happy New Year! The temperature here in Minneapolis got down to a minus 8 degrees early this morning but as the calendar turns to a new month and a new year I know that spring training is not that far away. I wish I could be more optimistic about the upcoming Minnesota Twins 2013 season but I find it very hard to do so with the moves or the lack of moves the club has made so far.
The starting pitching is not much to crow about even after the Twins have traded for starters Vance Worley and signed free agent starters Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, and Rich Harden. I don’t think Harden will start more than a handful of games and will pitch primarily out of the bullpen when he happens to be healthy, which his history indicates will be rare. I have very little faith in Pelfrey being much of an improvement over what Nick Blackburn has shown us the last few years plus I am not sure he will even be ready when the season opens. I actually like Correia in the back-end of the rotation and he won’t always be pretty to watch but he has shown that he can win some games having won 10 or more games each of the last 4 years pitching for the San Diego Padres and Pittsburgh Pirates. Worley is an unknown to me but he could turn into the best pitcher on the staff if he is healthy. I was disappointed to hear that Scott Diamond has under gone clean-up elbow surgery and I was really frustrated that the Twins did not resign Scott Baker.
I expect Justin Morneau who is still only 31 to have a very good year, not a MVP type season but back to the numbers that he is capable of putting up and showing a lot of Twins fans that he belongs in Minnesota. The rest of the infield is shaky at best, I am hoping that Brian Dozier can take over and play second base day in and day out. At third base Trevor Plouffe is not the answer either as he has shown he can neither field the position nor can he hit on a consistent basis although he does have some pop in his bat. Todate Plouffe has a career minor league batting average of .257 and with the Twins he is hitting .231 so there is not too much hope there. At shortstop I know that Pedro Florimon has not shown much with his bat but he has a good glove and I think the Twins can live with his stick if they are going to play Plouffe and Dozier in the same infield. The outfield is interesting with no center fielder and I would be surprised if Joe Benson himself coming off a very forgettable 2012 season is not the Twins center fielder when the season opens. Willingham is dismal in left field but the Twins need his power and will be forced to keep him in the line-up. I sure wish they could have traded Willingham coming off his career year but that did not happen. Chris Parmelee will take over right and he is young with a good bat and I think he can become at least an average right fielder. Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia are hopefully going to be pounding on the outfield door as the season moves along to keep everyone on their toes and that gives me some hope. Doumit is perfect for the DH role although I know that makes Gardy nervous when he has his back-up catcher at DH but realistically, how often will that really be an issue? The Twins might carry a third catcher anyway. You have Joe Mauer catching and your main utility guys are Jamey Carroll, Darin Mastroianni and probably Eduardo Escobar. I am big on experience and when you look at the Twins you don’t see a lot here, only Mauer catching, Morneau at 1B, Willingham in left and Doumit at DH and that usually makes for bad baseball.
I guess that the core of the 2013 Twins is in place and spring training will have a few battles for the open positions but I just find it hard to get really enthused about this bunch of players. To me it seems like the Twins are afraid to pick a side, either go young or get some better experienced players and try to field a competitive team. I feel bad that Ron Gardenhire finds himself in the position he does but life is not always fair and this team could easily end Gardy’s reign as a Twins manager and I think that will be a bad thing for both the team and the fans. There has been speculation that Paul Molitor is waiting in the wings to take over as the Twins new skipper but I for one hope that does not happen. Molitor has no managerial experience and does not seem to be the least bit interested in earning a manager’s job by working his way up the minor league chain but instead appears to send a message that his hall of fame playing career qualifies him to be the Twins next manager. I don’t see Molitor as a great communicator or even a great teacher for that matter. What has Molitor done over the years to qualify for the job? Nothing and I think hiring Molitor to manage the Twins would set this franchise back for years to come.
In spite of their new ballpark and the 2014 All-Star game on the horizon the Twins are dropping like a rock in the eyes of many Minnesota fans with the basketball Timbewolves moving up, the Vikings making the playoffs, and maybe even the NHL players and owners will agree to a new deal soon and the Wild will once again be relevant. There are only so many entertainment dollars to go around and if the Minnesota Twins don’t put a decent product on the field they will be left in the dust. Todays Twins fans are not the Twins fans of the past and will not tolerate the bad play of past Twins teams, they will simply find another place to spend their money and it will not be fun to watch the Twins play to a meager fan base with a lot of empty seats in Target Field. Twins management seems to have forgotten the old business axiom that it is easier to keep your existing customers than it is to get new customers.
Even their August 2012 announced move to the Pohlad owned FM station KTWN 96.3 station in 2013 seems like a slap in the face to Twins fans. Many baseball fans listen to Twins games on the radio and now even that access may be harder to find. In July of 2012 KTWN did not even make the Twins Cities top 20 radio stations with a measly 1.4% share of the listening public. Both of the previous stations that carried the Twins games since the team moved to Minnesota back in 1961 WCCO from 1961-2007 and KSTP from 2007-2012 had an AM transmitter power rating of 50,ooo watts and while the Twins new home at KTWN is an FM signal, its transmitter power is a paltry 19,000 watts. The WCCO signal was rated to extend about 90 miles, the KSTP signal was rated for 60 miles during the day and 30 miles at night and the Twins new home at KTWN is rated for 20 miles.
I know all this sounds depressing but that is the sad and sorry state of the Twins as they prepare for the 2013 season. The team has done nothing that I can see to get the fan base excited about the up-coming baseball season and that disappoints me. I will follow the Twins in 2013 but sadly, many former Twins fans will not. Hard as I try, I don’t see the Twins finishing anywhere except in the AL Central division basement once again this coming season.