With the Twins out of contention, it’s time to begin preparations for next year. Or is it? It seems simple enough, but when you look at this broken-down team, there are too many question marks to even know where to begin. Will Mauer be healthy and able to catch 90 percent of the games? Or will he be halfway back and play mostly at first? Or will Morneau be healthy and back at first?
While Mauer’s body – and maybe his pride — are battered, Justin is dealing with a lingering head injury. Friends, family, doctors, management, teammates, and fans thought Morneau had finally recovered from his concussion, and were waiting for the powerful-take-charge-Justin to emerge once again, when suddenly: BAM! Concussion symptoms suddenly have returned. It’s very scary for Justin, and it’s more than the unknown status of his career. It’s scary because he’s a person, and a father, husband, and friend.
Denard Span, who was in the adolescence of a promising career, has also had concussion symptoms return from an old injury. Dealing with a head injury is frightening; there are many unknown factors.
So there are three key guys from the Twins’ starting lineup, who missed much of this season with health issues, providing us with much uncertainty for next year.
Even our Mr. Reliable Michael Cuddyer-play-anywhere-guy is hurt. The only difference is that for sure, he will be ready to play next year – but it might not be with the Twins. Michael lives in Virginia with his wife, Claudia, and son, Casey, and they have twins on the way. I think it would be mighty convenient for the Cuddyers if he played out East…somewhere near his home — like Baltimore. It would be a shame to see him go.
Jason Kubel has always come through when called upon, too. It will also be a shame if the Twins don’t sign him. He lives in California, and if not a Twin, I think he would prefer a western Amercan League team.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka might see a lot of time at Rochester. Trevor Plouffe has the talent to play, but can’t keep his head in the game. The Twins probably won’t re-sign Matt Capps, but I think they should try to re-sign Joe Nathan. He’s a leader, a role model, and I think he still has a lot of talent.
The Twins’ pitching staff is in turmoil, and their offense has been zilch. Gardy has a lot of work to do, but like I’ve said, there are a lot of unknown factors. Many fans have called for Gardenhire’s dismissal, but that would be foolish. Houdini couldn’t have escaped from this season, with the team so broken. The only thing I think the manager should do differently is this: he should make a lineup ahead of time and put a player through scrutiny if he tries to get out of playing. The Twins have always had the policy to protect the players, but I think that in the past, some players have taken advantage of it. Then that set precedent, and now guys think they should sit out with a hangnail. They need to read about Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken Jr. Both of those guys played through hangnails, flu, headaches, bruises, and it only challenged them and made them want to play more.
Many fans have called for general manager Bill Smith’s job, too. He hasn’t been perfect this year, but no one has. His job involves a lot of luck, depending whether players work out, and if things happen in his favor. I think that Bill Smith should re-evaluate his methods, though. After this season, I believe that everyone associated with the Twins should — including the fans. Twins fans need longer memories. We’ve had 10 great consecutive, fun seasons. That’s more than nearly any other major league team has. Bill Smith has made great deals that fans have loved, Gardy has won division titles and was manager of the year, Joe Mauer has been MVP and won Gold Gloves and batting titles.
This year stunk, I agree, and the fans deserve at least a better effort, if not better results. But the mean-spiritedness and viciousness recently displayed by some disgruntled fans is not the kind of Twins baseball that Harmon, Rod, and Kirby have exemplified.
(Story and Photos by Gordy Jones)