Following are opinions from Mille Lacs County Times editor-sports editor Gary Larson, reporter Luther Dorr and former Times intern Logan Marxhausen. Note: This feature is written on Monday each week.
•Question: The Minnesota Twins are strengthening their hold on the worst record in the majors. It’s been suggested that if the team continues down this path the jobs of manager Ron Gardenhire and some of his coaches could be in jeopardy. What do you think?.
-Dorr: Given that the organization has been one that seems loyal to its employees, I don’t think the firing of Gardenhire is imminent. If they pick a fall guy, as organizations often do, it may be hitting coach Joe Vavra. I’ve not been a big Gardenhire fan through the years but I don’t think he will get fired, unless the Twins keep playing the way they have for the next two or three more weeks. I don’t understand why the team let Luke Hughes get away and kept Sean Burroughs. Nor do I understand the need for three catchers when the team is hitting so poorly. Calling up Drew Butera was a wasted move. When I watched R. A.. Dickey (4-1 for the Mets) throw a shutout for eight innings Sunday I wondered, again, why he couldn’t make the team here. I also watched Joe Mauer take a 3-1 pitch Sunday for a strike as Jamey Carroll got thrown out trying to steal. Mauer, almost arrogantly, reached down to unbuckle his shin guard, acting like he had gotten a walk, instead of swinging. I have no idea if Bryce Harper, the 19-year-old prospect for Washington, will be a star. But he got a game-winning hit by swinging at a pitch on the outside corner and driving it with a man on base. Mauer usually takes that pitch. I am so sick of watching Minnesota hitters take fastballs, get behind on the count, and then having to swing at a borderline pitch. Mauer (1 for his last 20 at that point), in his third at-bat Monday night, took two strikes and then swung at an outside pitch, pulled it and hit one of his many four-hoppers for an out. I gave up after the seventh inning Monday night to write answers to Gary’s questions.
-Marxhausen: Gardenhire has done numerous things with the Twins and has become a fan favorite over the past decade, but at what point is it enough and time to move on with a different manager? I have a hard time blaming Gardenhire for everything that has occurred over the past three years, resulting in a worse record each year. If anyone is to blame, it is the Pohlads and general manager Terry Ryan. The Pohlads, after a dismal 2011 season marked by injuries and poor play, scratched some big contracts from the team and decided to fill only where needed with sub-par contract dealings. Josh Willingham was a great replacement for Michael Cuddyer, but what about replacing the losses of Delmon Young, Jason Kubel and Jim Thome? Besides Carl Pavano, when have the Twins attempted to get a big name pitcher? I cannot place the blame solely on Gardenhire because there are more people responsible for the Twins’ record besides the manager.
-Larson: If the misery continues, and it will, some heads will be chopped, starting with pitching coach Rick Anderson. He’s had three-plus seasons to work with the current starting pitchers and all have regressed. Maybe, these pitchers just don’t have it. That could be argued but you would think at least one or two would’ve have shown some progress.
Mention the Twins on the street or in a bar and you’ll get biting, sarcastic remarks. Mention former Minnesota idol Joe Mauer or former folk hero Gardenhire and you’ll get the same. Gardy is starting to look like a befuddled old man when he lumbers out to the mound, with no more spark or solutions to offer. Ownership wants fans in the seats and it might just take a new hand filling out the lineup card to do that.
•Question: A story in the Monday, May 7 Minneapolis StarTribune pointed out that so far this season the Twins are averaging about 5,000 fans less per game than in their first two Aprils at Target Field. The story also said ticket scalpers are “struggling to unload their gobs of tickets.” Has the shine of the new field already worn off, with fans now basing their attendance on the team’s performance?
-Dorr: Many of the fans who attended the first year, and then much of the second year, were there just to be a part of the scene. That was obvious by the fact that they disappeared for many innings during the games, preferring, instead, to eat and drink in the corridors and restaurants instead of watching the game. They weren’t real baseball fans. And now that it’s not the “in” place to be at this time, those fans are staying home. It’ll get worse if the team continues to play poorly and the weather doesn’t improve on this nine-game home stand. And Monday night Joe Mauer was mired deep in a slump, Josh Willingham was sick, and Justin Morneau was on the DL. Sound at all like 2011?
-Marxhausen: Target Field is a very beautiful structure and still beams whenever the sun is shining brightly. It has been completely modernized for an outdoor ball park and is an instant fan favorite. Target Field is a beautiful monument that puts the Metrodome to shame for being considered a baseball field. Attendance is going to dwindle when the once optimistic fans are finding reasons not to go. My reaction at the beginning of the season was to make it to a game or two before the Twins were in contention for the worst record in baseball. Being a Twins fan can be very frustrating, especially when you witness them keel over or put up little to zero runs a game while giving up five or more. After a while, it becomes embarrassing to wear Twins gear out in public because of the images the team is reflecting.
-Larson: I predicted this was coming before Target Field even opened but I figured it would take a little longer before the lure of “outdoor baseball” wore off and fans began to demand “winning outdoor baseball.” Fans were told by the Pohlads that the new stadium would result in more revenue which would result in top notch talent being brought in. Fans were looking for big moves after last season’s disaster and that didn’t happen. The team has only itself to blame for the attendance drop.
•Question: How about some true or false questions?
-The Twins will surpass their 99 losses last season and finish with 100 or more this year. False – I think. Or am I just hoping?
-A Twins player will hit 20 or more home runs. True, if Josh Willingham can hit some homers on the road.
-A Twins pitcher will win 10 or more games. True. Someone – I don’t know who – will somehow get to 10 wins.
-Joe Mauer will bat over .300. Likely true. But will he drive in any runs?
-Drew Butera will bat over .150. In the minors or the majors? Let’s go with True.
-Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another has a shot at the Triple Crown. False. But wouldn’t it be a great story?
-The Miami Heat will win the NBA playoffs. I can’t name more than a few teams who are in the playoffs but I’ll go with true.
-Unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. (43-0), who defeated Miguel Cotto via a unanimous decision for the WBA middleweight title last Saturday, is the best fighter in boxing. True. Who else is there?
-The Twins will surpass their 99 losses last season and finish with 100 or more this year. True. Believe it or not, this team is struggling more than last season and has yet to even find one starting pitcher who can consistently make it past a couple innings.
-A Twins player will hit 20 or more home runs. True. I still feel that Josh Willingham has what it takes to make it to 20.
-A Twins pitcher will win 10 or more games. True, but only just 10. Carl Pavano has what it takes to be that pitcher who controls a majority of the game to hold on for a win. After a while the Twins will get sick of losing and try to rally at some point, boosting Pavano to a 10-win season.
-Joe Mauer will bat over .300. False. I like Mauer and his smooth swing. He has patience and a good eye for the ball. The only way he will finish with a .300 average, though, is if he works it back up to the .300 mark and goes on the inactive roster the rest of the season.
-Drew Butera will bat over .150. False. Ryan Doumit has taken most of the back-up catcher playing time and will continue to do that when Mauer is not behind the plate. Butera could possibly reach the .150 mark if he plays around 10-15 games and gets on a roll.
-Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another has a shot at the Triple Crown. False. Although the question is that I’ll Have Another has a shot at the Triple Crown which is hypothetically true because I’ll Have Another won the first of three, but there are a lot of horses out there with better odds that I see disrupting I’ll Have Another’s chance at the Triple Crown.
-The Miami Heat will win the NBA playoffs. True. Right now the only teams I see beating the Heat are the Spurs or the Thunder. The Spurs seem to be the better matchup of the two for the Heat because they meet the physicality of the Heat in each position whereas the Thunder will come up short.
-Unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. (43-0), who defeated Miguel Cotto via a unanimous decision for the WBA middleweight title last Saturday, is the best fighter in boxing. False. To be the best you have to beat the best. There is a lot of hype behind the fight, but until Mayweather and Pacquiao finally go head-to-head, neither can be called the best fighter in boxing.
-The Twins will surpass their 99 losses last season and finish with 100 or more this year. True. How about 102? The Twins will be facing pretty much a better team in every game the rest of the season.
-A Twins player will hit 20 or more home runs. False. Josh Willingham will finish with 18. No one else will have more than 12.
-A Twins pitcher will win 10 or more games. False. The only way is if that pitcher isn’t presently on the roster.
-Joe Mauer will bat over .300. True. Put Joe at .303.
-Drew Butera will bat over .150. True. Put Drew at .156.
-Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another has a shot at the Triple Crown. False. The competition is too close for one horse to win all three races this year.
-The Miami Heat will win the NBA playoffs. False. Miami will find a way to lose in the finals against either San Antonio or Oklahoma City. And, either of those two might just be better than the Heat.
-Unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. (43-0), who defeated Miguel Cotto via a unanimous decision for the WBA middleweight title last Saturday, is the best fighter in boxing. True. Holding titles at five different weights makes him No. 1.
Do you have an opinion on any of this week’s questions? Do you agree or disagree with the sportswriters? Let us know by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or a note to Mille Lacs County Times, 225 S.W. 2nd St. Milaca, MN 56353. Or comment online.