"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


It has seemed to me that the Twins have been on a downward trend for some weeks now. They've been slowly sinking in the standings, wasting opportunities, struggling to get opposing hitters out, and generally stinking up the joint on a pretty regular basis. So let's put that impression up against the numbers.

Twins hitting:

per game
April23.274 .342.7539.
May27.260 .314.7059.
June18.267 .310.7499.
last 7 days6.236.284.65382.60.82.828.72

Hmm. Pretty steady there, up until the last week or so. And this last week has indeed sucked with all the force and enthusiasm of a quicksand pit in an old black and white adventure movie. Now, that whole GIDP every game thing has got to stop (I'm looking at you, Cuddyer. You lead the American League in GIDP. Stop that!), but otherwise our boys are doing okay at the plate, the last few games excepted. They're middle of the pack in most hitting categories, which is par for the course. Pitching and fielding have been and remain this team's backbone.

Fielding stats, alas, are not available by month, but I will note that the Twins are 8th in the league in fielding (I'm looking at you again, Cuddyer), and 9.3% of the runs the Twins have allowed so far this season were unearned. That's, um, pretty bad. Verging on atrocious. That rate, however, has been slowly but steadily decreasing, from a high of 9.7% in April to 9.1% so far this month, 8.9% the last 7 days. This information was gleaned from pitching stats. Speaking of which...

Twins pitching:
per game
last 7 days6156.59013.

Well, that explains the last week, doesn't it? June as a whole screams "control problems"--more walks, more hits (lots more hits), more home runs (though, curiously, fewer in the last hideous week), more extra-base hits, more walks. Add in the fact that the hitters aren't hitting, and that 1-5 record makes perfect sense.

So, what needs to happen? Well, the pitching and hitting have to stabilize and improve, obviously. The fielding needs to improve faster. I don't know why our pitchers have lost their control lately, but I certainly hope [pitching coach] Rick Anderson does!

Let's leave the numbers for a moment and go back to gut feeling. The Twins just look flat lately. Limp, slow, helpless and hopeless in the field, on the mound and at the plate. Sound harsh? Were you there last night? This team needs harsh. This team needs a spark, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Team officials have been hinting lately that they're hoping to make a trade before the break to liven up the team and bring some production to the field. They're looking, basically, for another Shannon Stewart-for-Bobby Kielty trade.

Which brings me to the best idea I've heard all season.
You think this year's team is struggling? The Stewart trade occured when that team had lost eight in a row and 12 of 13. During that eight-game losing streak they got outscored 58-20, demoted Joe Mays to the bullpen, benched shortstop Cristian Guzman, reinstated Guzman when third baseman Corey Koskie hurt his back, watched J.C. Romero rebuke catcher A.J. Pierzynski on the mound, saw Pierzynski throw a fit when left out of the lineup in Anaheim, and heard first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz threaten to "name names" if the team didn't start winning.
It was the most divisive, lackluster team I've ever seen in Twins uniforms -- one that came back to win the division after the Stewart trade. Making another deal of that magnitude will be virtually impossible. This is a weak trade market, and many of the good players available are overpriced.
After reviewing big-league rosters and salaries, only one name jumps out at me as a quintessential Twins acquisition: Reds third baseman Joe Randa.
He's making only $2.15 million on a one-year contract. Randa is hitting .292 with 11 homers and 38 RBI. And he plays one of the positions the Twins need to upgrade.
The Twins rank 10th or worst in OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in the American League at three positions -- second base, shortstop and third base.
They can live with shortstop being a defensive position, because Juan Castro has been superb in the field. They can't thrive without getting run production from a third of their lineup. Michael Cuddyer has yet to impress with the glove or bat, and he actually plays better at second base than third. The Twins would have their second baseman if Nick Punto could stay healthy, but they could be out of contention by the time he comes back.

So now I'm thinking: Cuddyer and Rivas to the Reds for Randa and his salary. We get a third baseman who can hit and field (remember what that felt like?), and with that veteran infield presence at third we can bring back Jason Bartlett and his hitting potential, moving Castro's defensive genius (and veteran infield presence) to second until Punto is healthy.

I've wanted to see Joe Randa in a Twins uniform since, a couple of days after we found out Corey Koskie would no longer be manning the hot corner for us, an interview with Randa revealed his hope that the Twins would consider him for the open position. And now, after half a season of hacks, GIDPs, missed plays and wild throws from the organizational golden boy over there, the thought of Randa in a Twins uniform makes me salivate like one of Pavlov's dogs.

I wonder if the Reds would like to throw in a lefthanded reliever who doesn't go all Wile E. Coyote with runners on? Hey, I can dream.

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