Don’t give up on the Twins

August 10, 2009

by Matt Kane

As former Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino once said, “all the negativity that’s in this town sucks.”

Pitino was talking about Boston’s sometimes harsh treatment of its superstar athletes, but I want to use Pitino’s quotation to describe Twins Territory in recent weeks.

Everywhere I go, someone is ripping on the Twins, and declaring their season over.

It seems last week’s 2-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians Thursday afternoon really tipped the fans negatively against the usually lovable Twins. Even the players seem to be taking shots at each other and pointing fingers as to who is to blame for that loss.

Justin Morneau says Alexi Casilla’s strikeout in the second inning was the key at-bat in the game, and manager Ron Gardenhire said the Casilla at-bat and Mike Redmond’s line-out that followed “set a bad tone.”

All Friday morning and afternoon, I listened to disgruntled fans and talking heads on the radio vent their displeasure over the team’s play, even questioning why Redmond and Casilla were even in the game at all.

I understand having Redmond in the lineup so Joe Mauer can rest his knees as the designated hitter, but I will have to agree with the belief that Casilla should be nowhere near a big league diamond.

The Twins have given Casilla chance after chance to prove he belongs, and, with the end of last season being the only exception, he has not done so as a member of the Minnesota Twins.

I like having Redmond on the team, but I was disturbed with the excuses he gave for the poor at-bat in the second inning against Cleveland’s Fausto Carmona. The Star Tribune’s Joe Christensen reported Redmond as saying, “I did the best I could. That’s a tough draw for a backup player. That guy’s nasty. I haven’t hit a ball out of the infield off him yet. That’s the way it goes. Righties hit .170 off him, and lefties hit about .370 off him.”

Redmond is 0-6 in his career against Carmona, so the numbers support Redmond’s claim that he fares poorly against the Cleveland right-hander, but I don’t think I ever want to hear a Major League Baseball players say he doesn’t have a chance against any pitcher.

As a backup player way on the end of the bench, I would never admit I don’t have a chance against a pitcher. Hitting has a lot to do with confidence, and, if Redmond entered the game thinking he had no chance at hitting Carmona, I’m not surprised with the outcome.

I didn’t plan on joining the rest of Twins Territory by complaining about how the Twins are playing when I began writing this column, so I’m sorry for that. Instead, I intended to take the glass-half-full mentality and declare that there is plenty of season remaining for the Twins to pick up their game and contend for an American League Central Division championship.

Pitino knows what I mean. He ended the opening quotation with a sentence that sums up my thoughts, saying “The only thing that will turn this around is being upbeat and positive.”

After Thursday’s loss to Cleveland, the Twins were 4 1/2 games behind the Central Division-leading Detroit Tigers. That’s a little bit of a margin, but we’ve definitely seen the Twins play some good baseball in August and September before.

Remember the 2006 season?

If you don’t, the Twins won the Central Division on the final day of the season over the Detroit Tigers. And that fourth division title came with names like Carlos Silva, Rondell White and Juan Rincon in the box score. And guess who was the starting catcher that night — Mike Redmond.

I realize it took a Kansas City Royals’ sweep of the Tigers that year for the Twins to win the division, but it happens, and don’t try to tell me it cannot happen again.

I wrote this column just hours after the Twins acquired starting pitcher Carl Pavano from the Indians. Initially, I rolled my eyes, thinking about what little Pavano did with the New York Yankees over the previous four seasons, but, after pondering his addition, I am thinking adding Pavano is no risk at all. He had nine wins on a bad Cleveland team, which is more than all but two of the Twins starters. Kevin Slowey, who is out for the season, has 10 wins, and Scott Baker is equal with Pavano with nine wins.

The Pavano signing has me a little excited, but, for once, the Twins put an ear-to-ear smile on my face July 31 when they traded for shortstop Orlando Cabrera.

Cabrera bats right handed, and the man can hit. Twins fans have seen this in the week he has been in a Minnesota uniform. Cabrera also brings a lot of experience and a World Series win to the Twins. He knows how to win, not just division titles, but World Series championships. Maybe the Twins need to see what it takes from a guy who has done it, so they know how to get over that early-postseason-departure slump.

Writing this column, especially the paragraphs about the new Twins players, has actually gotten me excited for the remainder of the season. And you, too, should be excited. It’s Twins baseball.

Remember those guys, like Mauer and Morneau, who we worship? They are still on the team, and Minnesota has a pretty darn good closer, too. So shout a hip, hooray, and cheer for your Minnesota Twins today!”