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Last Week the theme of the week was perspective. Perspective that, even though the season had begun poorly, there weren’t enough games played to make a conclusive decision just yet. This week, the most fitting theme seems to be progress. Progress that, even though the ship isn’t sailing the smoothest right now, at least it’s not gaining water like it was last week. It’s still an uphill battle for the Twins as the Detroit Tigers still hold a five game lead and show little signs of letting up. However, the horizons look bright if this week’s trends continue.
Previously, the Twins were wallowing in mediocrity on the offensive side (.190 BA as a team) and the pitchers did little to help out. (6.28 ERA for starters) This week though, the Twins have shown enough signs of life to believe that better things are around the corner. They’re still only 4-8 as a team, but the people who need to perform, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, seem to have found their Zen over the last week.
The positive side of the coin shows that the cornerstones of the Twins, Morneau and Mauer, are poised to have bounce back years competing for the “Most Improved Player” award at the end of the year. In Mauer’s last seven games he’s batting .370 with five RBI’s, four runs and an OBP of .469. For Justin Morneau, the power seems to be back. In those same seven games Morneau has four home runs, six RBI’s, five runs and a slugging percentage of .731. Yes, those samples are still small, but for Morneau, another hurdle was reached. On Wednesday, Morneau produced his first two home run game since May 31st of last year. Time heals all wounds and maybe this two home run game was all that Morneau needs to get back to the MVP caliber player most fans hope he can become again.
Now it’s time for the negativity. Yes, Mauer and Morneau are regaining their form and yes, the team is .500 in their last eight games but as far as the pitching goes, it has to improve soon. Francisco Liriano has continued to disappoint, giving up more runs (17) than innings pitched, (11.33) and even though Carl Pavano had a solid outing Monday (7 IP and 3 ER) he still needs to be lower in the rotation. If you look at the rest of the AL Central, the Royals have Zach Greinke, the Indians have Ubaldo Jimenez, the White Sox have Jake Peavy and the Tigers have the reigning CY Young and MVP in Justin Verlander as the aces of their rotations. Those four pitchers have produced three CY Young’s and an MVP. Pavano is no slouch, but he doesn’t have the stuff to be the ace of a team with playoff aspirations.
In the end, it’s about an identity. Identities are what establish teams from the rest. You can be an offensive juggernaut, a defensive vacuum cleaner or even a team of rag tag misfits. The point is, as soon as you know what you’re great at, you grow your strength so that other teams have to prepare harder for you. The Yankees and Red Sox understand that they’re the ones who spend the most money while getting power hitters that every team would kill to have and the San Francisco Giant’s believe that strong pitching can cover whatever offensive faults they possess.
So what’s the identity for the Twins? Do they have an identity? It used to be
simple. We have Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Johan Santana and nobody else has that. It was a simple plan that worked great. Now though, they need to find a reliable ace, it’s that simple. I will continue to yell that to the rooftops until it happens. There’s always a good pitcher being dangled at the trade deadline. I know the Twins don’t have a ton of money but at least try and rent a player. If Carl Pavano and Anthony Swarzak are your “stoppers,” it produces a team that loses far more games than they win as the fan base continues to yell obscenities left and right. Nobody wants that.
Photo by:Brad Rempel