I was out on the back fields of the CenturyLink Sports Complex on Friday afternoon watching the Twins AA and AAA teams take on the Red Sox AA and AAA teams. Both games started about 1 PM but I was particularly interested in the AA Chattanooga game and was surprised to see Mark Hamburger start the game for Doug Mientkiewicz ‘s gang. I was disappointed that Miguel Sano was not playing but Byron Buxton, Adam Walker, and Max Kepler all played. Once of the hardest hit balls in that game was a bullet line drive over the head of the Red Sox minor leaguer center fielder off the bat of Max Kepler who was DHing in this game. I had asked Max earlier how his arm was doing and he said it was good but obviously management is still not ready to play him in the field, at least they didn’t on this particular day. Kepler has a beautiful level swing and line drives just shoot off his bat, with his size if he applied some lift to the ball he would hit a bunch of home runs.
The crowd watching the games was pretty small, the players not playing in either game and sitting in the stands watching the games out numbered the fans by about five to one. As normal GM Terry Ryan, with stop watch in hand was standing between the two fields and keeping an eye on both games. I decided to give the poor guy a break today and not bother him with my questions and comments. About 2 or 2:30 PM I looked over where Ryan had been standing and he was nowhere to be seen. That seemed very unusual to me because Ryan always seems to be out there when games are under way on the back fields, he seldom leaves before the games end. After a couple of hours in the hot sun I decided I had seen enough and headed home myself.
Around 5:30 PM I sat down on my PC to look at some of the pictures I had taken at the ballpark when I was shocked to see a report that Twins pitcher Ervin Santana had been suspended for 80 games for PED use. There was no chatter about this at the ballpark earlier and news like this would have spread like a wild-fire. Shortly there after Press Releases were flying in every direction. MLB had their PR announcing the suspension, the Twins had their PR statement on the suspension, The Twins sent out another PR on the recall of Aaron Thompson and of course Santana had his own PR through the players union which actually seemed to have a time stamp even before the official MLB PR regarding his suspension. I don’t know how the process works for these kinds of deals but MLB must give the player and team a heads up on what is coming in an upcoming PR and then at the agreed upon time everyone hits the send button on their press releases.
This suspension is a killer for everyone, Santana himself, the Twins team, and of course the fans. Santana loses about $6.5 million, the team loses a good starting pitcher, and the fans lose even more hope in a team that wasn’t expected to be in the playoff hunt but had hopes of at least making a run at .500 baseball.
Now as the new season is about to begin and fans all across Twins Territory prepare to watch their new team strut their stuff in 2015 this suspension strikes clear out of the blue and Twins haters come firing out of the woodwork to blame Ervin Santana and the Twins organization. I am not saying Santana is innocent here but who knows for sure if he took this on purpose or if he indeed did take it without knowing he did so. I haven’t heard any whispers about Santana and PED’s previously so I am willing to give the man the benefit of the doubt here. Still it hurts to lose a pitcher of his caliber for half the season.
How can you blame the Twins organization for this? They obviously would not have gone after Santana and paid him the money they did if they had any idea that something like this would happen. But yet it is another ding on team that has been barely treading water since 2010. The Twins have had their share of bad luck, injuries, and bad decisions by management. Twins fans are grasping for anything that will show them that there is reason for hope but it seems like when the Twins take a step forward they also take a step back and it is hard to get anywhere at that pace. The ballclub is mired in this muck and their only hope is their cadre of young future stars that are banging on the clubhouse door. The Twins have spent the last year or two bragging about the potential of their farm system and most everyone in baseball agrees that the Twins have some young stars in the wings but yet the Twins keep signing mediocre players to play at Target field and keep sending the young guns to Rochester and Chattanooga.
It is like a poker game, you can only bluff so long before you have to put your cards on the table and show us what you got. I think it is a bunch of BS that you can bring up a young player too soon and traumatize him to the point that he will never be the player that they could have been with another year or two in the minors. The guys have played baseball their entire lives and they have had their share of butt-kickings, losses, and lessons learned, another humiliation or two at the big league level won’t kill them. What is the old saying? What doesn’t kill you helps to build your character. Football and basketball have no problems bringing kids straight to the big leagues when warranted, why can’t baseball do more of this? I think it is time for the Twins to bring their young studs to the table and let Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, Alex Meyer, Trevor May, and Jose Berrios play some ball at Target Field. Give us Twins fans a reason to come to the ballpark and see something new instead of the same old wait until next year crap. The Twins can’t spend $250 million dollars on player salaries so they have to look for new and creative ways to be competitive, maybe the old tried and proven older methods needs to be tossed out on their ear and some new radical ideas need to be tried. What have you got to lose? Loyalty and experience are great but if you have young players that appear to be better than what you have on the big league club, why not give the young guns a chance to prove they are what you think and say they are.
So Mr. Ryan, do yourself and all of us Twins fans a favor and bring up these young stars sooner than later because every hit they get at Chattanooga or Rochester is one less hit they will get in Minnesota. If these guys show us they can’t pitch or hit at the big league level then we are ahead of the game, we know something that we didn’t know before. Potential is worth nothing unless it can be realized. Taking Mike Pelfrey from the bullpen and putting him in the starting rotation again isn’t exactly trying something new, how can you expect something new and better when you keep doing the same old things?