HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

September 10, 2007

Twins are losing that cute image

By Jesse Menden

Maybe the Minnesota Twins aren’t the cute little club we thought they were.
During last year’s remarkable run, the Twins were a lovable team that everybody could wrap their arms around.

The Twins’ recent struggles have brought out a nastiness among some of the players and coaches that we thought only East Coast teams were capable of.

The Twins have more daily drama than General Hospital, and just think, this is only the beginning.

It all started back on July 30 when the club traded away Luis Castillo, one of the best second baseman in baseball, even though they were in the middle of a pennant race. It continued the next day when the team did not make a move before the non-waiver trade deadline.

General Manager Terry Ryan claimed he worked hard to get something done to help the team, but that did not appease anybody in the club house. Several of the players openly spoke out and questioned whether the organization wanted to win.

Now fast forward to the past couple of weeks and the players and the club house is in even more turmoil. The Twins are in a large tailspin and nobody is going down without getting their verbal jabs in first.

But the first shot taken in the recent episodes of the Twins’ drama-filled season was more symbolic than verbal.

Torii Hunter and Johan Santana were no-shows at the new ballpark ground breaking, even though they are intricate parts of the new team and are two large faces of the organization.

Their absence from the ground-breaking shows that they have no faith in the team and both doubt they will be resigned by the club when their contracts expire.

Last week, things really came to a boiling point with those two star players.

Santana was quoted saying the team wasn’t giving 100 percent.

How dare Santana call out ‘the little club that could’ like that? The Twins not playing with full effort. . . that’s like saying Rachael Ray can’t cook Italian.

Just hours before Santana made that comment, Hunter revealed he recently rejected a three-year contract extension worth $45 million. My problem is not with Hunter, however, it is with the man that offered it to him.

Ryan offered him that deal knowing that Hunter would never sign it. Was it just a point to start the negotiations, or was it offered just so Ryan could tell fans that he tried to resign the second-best center fielder in team history? Unfortunately, I’m leaning towards the latter.

Offering a deal like that to Hunter did nothing more than add fuel to the fire of growing resentment towards the organization.

All summer I have been telling everybody the Twins will bring back Hunter, but now I am starting to believe they won’t, and they’re trying to make it look like Hunter is the one who left the Twins, rather than the club letting him go.

And then there was one thing that really surprised me last week. Ron Gardenhire and Joe Mauer were so upset last week that they made an issue of two newspaper columns that suggested the Twins should move the talented catcher to third base.

Both of them were visably upset with some of the media members and took some shots.

Suddenly, this team does not appear so perfect and like one big, happy family. That is the reputation the front office has been trying project for so many years, but losing and underachieving is undoing that effort.

The whole team could come apart at the seams this fall and winter, if this keeps up. Just imagine if the Twins don’t re-sign Hunter. There is no doubt you will hear barking from those like Santana. And if their star left-hander is not happy, there is no way he will take a little less money to resign with the Twins.

The organization would also hear it from the fans when they have another outfielder who can’t hit playing in center field.

All of the hostility aimed at upper management by the player is just the beginning.

With other players like Joe Nathan, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer up for contracts in the near future besides Hunter and Santana, this team could be in for a public relations nightmare if they can’t find a way to bring some of those guys back.

Even though the Twins would save a lot of money by not signing Hunter, I think it would be even less likely they sign Santana because the organization would not be showing the pitcher that they want to win.

If that were to happen, the Twins would be going down a very dangerous path with all of the upcoming free agents, and fans too.

Right now, the Twins are not that cute little club that they want us to believe. Ryan and the Twins will have to make several right moves in the coming months to restore that image.