Twins Talk, Sept 30 30 Sep 16

Twins Talk

Photos and Story by Gordy Jones

Good Riddance to the 2016 Twins’ Season

As we come to the close of another Twins season, I have to say that 2016 was the Twins’ most disappointing year in history. Coming into this season, I never dreamed things could’ve gone this far south. I am the eternal Twins optimist, and I find very little to smile about. Sure, Brian Dozier had a terrific season, but then again, he is a terrific ballplayer. It’s only a shame that when he finally gets to shine and have a banner year, it’s all for nothing. He is at 42 home runs as I write this, and they’ve lost most of the games when he has hit them.

The pitching has been a disaster all year. The team ERA was 5.71, with 101 losses, and five games to go. There were 34 games in which the Twins’ offense scored more than four runs, but still lost. In fact, in one game the offense mustered up 11 runs, but the pitching staff gave up 13. There was one game in August when the pitching staff was so ineffective and overtired that infielder Eduardo Escobar had to pitch an inning. He told me that he had pitched before in the minors, but this was his first time in the big leagues. He went on to say, “Molly (Paul Molitor) asked me in the 8th, ‘Hey Eckie, you want to throw in the 9th?’ I said yes. I warmed up a little, then in the 9th Molly said I’m putting you in as pitcher; you’re going to close the game. I was very nervous. But I took the mound and they said I threw the ball 91 miles an hour, and I got batters out.” He looked very happy as he finished his story.

There were many injuries on the staff, and that forced minor-leaguers to advance on a moment’s notice. That is always a crapshoot. Some kids come up here and produce, and others press themselves and fail. Most of the Twins’ rookies failed. Byron Buxton couldn’t handle the pressure at first, and got a lot of frequent flyer miles rotating between Minneapolis and Rochester. Finally, at the end of the season, he is settling in and looking comfortable at the plate as he begins to produce offensively. Buxton has made some fantastic defensive plays. He needs to play some winter ball and let that carry over into next year.   

The Sano experiment in right field was a huge disaster. At third base Sano can make an unbelievable play one inning, then an embarrassing error the next. He has been charged with 21 errors, but has misplayed the ball at least that many times without being charged. He has struck out 172 times in the 111 games he has played. He has 24 home runs, which were powerful blasts. I think for Miguel to succeed, he will have to work much harder. He will need to lose some weight and learn to concentrate on the game.

Our German import, Max Kepler, brought some fun to the team when he went on a rampage in July and early August. He was one of the rookies I was referring to who were forced to the majors because of injuries. He took Sano’s place in right field (thank God).  In one series against the Indians, Max hit four homers, scored eight times, and had 10 RBIs. It was said at that time he might be considered for Rookie of the Year. However, he has since cooled off dramatically. The pitchers probably have got his number, and he is trying too hard. I still believe that he is a big part of the Twins’ future.

The first half of the season, the Twins played so bad, it was difficult to find an All-Star candidate. There must be at least one player from every team, and since Eduardo Nunez was having a banner June and July, he was the Twins’ representative. The Twins realized Eduardo’s stock was about as high as it ever will be, and soon after the break, they traded him to the Giants for pitching prospect Adalberto Mejia. Fans were stunned by this move. Since the trade, Eduardo has played in 50 games and is batting .269. At the time of the trade, it was said Mejia might see some major league action within a couple of years. But the Twins’ pitching staff has been so taxed, he has already been up and pitched a couple of innings. He will probably start in Rochester next season, unless he has a fabulous spring.

The biggest surprise of the year was the firing of general manager Terry Ryan. Terry is a solid and honest baseball man who can smell talent and has been the face of the organization. There is a rumor that the Twins might offer Terry a consulting job. They should…he has more baseball knowledge in his little finger than the rest of the organization has combined (excluding Molitor). The Pohlads have said they’ll give manager Paul Molitor another chance. He’s a smart guy and has proven that as a player, and let’s not forget he managed the team to a winning season in 2015. They should’ve given Terry another year and another chance. It’s not his fault that guys get hurt or choke. But the big man that he is, he has taken ownership of the team’s failure, publicly.

Now I see it’s going to take two people to replace Terry. They are hiring Derek Falvey, assistant GM with the Indians, to oversee the baseball operations, and a person, unknown at this point, to do the day-to-day GM duties. People want change; well, they are going to get it. The front office will have a whole new look. Let’s see if it carries over to the field.

So long for now! I will have some reports this winter from Justin Morneau’s Casino Night and Joe Mauer’s Bowling for the Highland Friendship Club, both in November. Then I will write about the winter banquet circuit and Twins Fest; both should l have a new feel with the new Twins front office. Then, before you know it, it will be time for spring training. Ahhh, to be 0-0 and tied for first again.