Joe Mauer was in right field last night because the Twins were horribly short-handed and had no choice but to stick him out there, but that’s only a symptom of the larger set of problems the club has.
To grasp how bad the Twins truly are, you have to look at their record against the mediocre AL Central.
Against the Tigers, they’re 3-9; but playing the White Sox, Royals and Indians they’re 21-14. It could be worse.
But if you see how they’ve fared against other divisions, the situation becomes clear. They’re 9-22 against the AL East. Put them in the AL East full time and they’re well on the way to losing 100 games.
They’re awful and it’s no secret why.
For a predominately successful organization, the Twins are notoriously devoid of rational thought when looking toward the future. Did they really think that giving Tsuyoshi Nishioka $9 million was a good idea? He’s what Kaz Matsui was to the Mets, only worse.
Did they have an inkling that they were going to possibly shift Mauer out from behind the plate at least part of the time last year when they traded Wilson Ramos to the Nationals for Matt Capps and didn’t find a backup who could perform more competently than Drew Butera?
Did they realize that if they did move Mauer for 20 or so games that it’s a bit difficult to function in the major leagues with Butera behind the plate?
Even if there was no immediate intent to move Mauer to first base, the outfield or have him DH 10-15 games, they should’ve had a contingency plan better than Butera just in case what happened did happen—Mauer getting hurt.
The injury excuse doesn’t gloss over the multitude of potential disasters they had when the season started.
Their bullpen was gutted; they overpaid to keep Carl Pavano; there are black holes in the lineup; they counted on repeat seasons from the likes of the recently dispatched Delmon Young and Pavano; and they’ve endured injuries to the key players Justin Morneau and Mauer.
The biggest issue they have is their pitching, which has been top-to-bottom terrible. In years past, they’ve gotten by with mostly average starters because of a deep bullpen and a lineup that could score; but considering the bullpen subtractions without adequate replacements, the bad starting pitching, the injuries and aforementioned black holes, how could they contend?
There’s been a general reluctance from the Twins to give up on seasons and they’ve been validated for that strategy by staging remarkable comebacks in 2008 and 2009; but there’s no such magic now and it was acknowledged when they dumped Young on the Tigers for a low-level minor leaguer.
Will they trade Jim Thome now that he’s hit his 600th homer and would be in relatively high demand for a contending club to bolster their lineup? They should. But that doesn’t mean they will.
Are the injuries to Mauer and Morneau as much of a factor in this disappointing season as has been implied by those who were expecting a “normal” season from the Twins? Only if you want to engage in “what ifs” as I have by suggesting they’d lose 100 games if they were in the AL East. If Mauer and Morneau were 100% from the beginning of the season until now, the Twins would probably be within striking distance of the top of a weak division.
But they’re not.
They’re a bad team.