What the Twins' World Needs Right Now

The trade deadline is looming over the heads of Twins fans right now. Like a honed knife's edge, like a hunter's net, like a disapproving parent at the doorway of a kegger thrown by their independent child: it's looming.

At least that's my feeling. And I admit it's a weird one. After all the Twins are sellers (again) in a seller's market (witness the hauls for relatively unimpressive talents thus far). We should be confident. We should be beaming with pride. We should be the belle of the ball, fending off suitors for our valuable assets. Sure they aren't that valuable, but who cares? It's the trade deadline, value is inflated and we've got what other teams want.

So why does the deadline worry me so much?

Twins War Room (artist depiction)

Because I feel like we need to get something great out of it, far more than any contending team does.

Because I feel like we need a win. And if they aren't coming from the field, then they need to come from the smoke-filled rooms where deals are made. (Though I suppose, since smoking bans went into effect the rooms are probably just filled with smug self-importance.)

It's not that surprising or worrying that the Twins are sellers. It's not surprising that the season is in tatters and we're all debating what they can steal from some desperate rival's hands. What is surprising is that I'm nervous about it, and I'm all too resigned to seeing the deadline pass with another unimpressive whimper.

After three years of supporting management's decisions, I'm dumbstruck. I've supported patience and measured responses. I've supported building from within. I've supported the cautious investments in low-end free agents. But now I've got nothing, and I'm desperate.

I can't figure out why woefully struggling players trot out to the field long past their sell-by date. I've got no idea why our young players are accepted as consistently inconsistent. And I'm at an utter loss to understand why prospects are left to languish in the minor leagues when there's no better rival for the position in the bigs.
My cat has already given up
In short. I'm a Twins fan. And I am desperate.
We need a win here. We didn't just lose 7 games on the home stand. We lost a year of development for Sano. We lost half-a-year for Buxton. We lost a couple months of Meyer and May learning the big league routine. We lost a chunk of cash on Pelfry and Nolasco. We lost the feel good memories of Bartlett, Kubel and Matty G. We lost the hope of a consistent Arcia, a burgeoning Pinto, a resiliant Hicks. We are in a constant state of losing Joe Mauer: day by day, sore inch by sore inch, percentage point by percentage point, insult by insult...until, I'm convinced, some day he wakes up and either can't play or can't wait to play anywhere but here.

We might be the unluckiest team in baseball, but right now we are definitely losers. And we're starting to feel like we're always going to be losers (hence the widely reported swing towards apathy this last week). This feels like a chance, a golden chance to get a win. But that's the problem with feeling like losers: even when you have a golden chance to win...you start expecting that you WILL LOSE.

That's why the trade deadline's looming. This is our chance to turn Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia and Kurt Suzuki into Gold* (See note below). But there's that nagging fear that they'll turn into a flaming bag of poo instead. After all, when you're as desperate as I feel right now, you don't make the best choices.

We need a win right now. I want us to win right now. And I have very little confidence that we will.

But hey...If I wanted to feel confidence on a regular basis I wouldn't be a Twins fan. If I was on the point of collapsing into apathy or anger I wouldn't keep using the "we" pronoun when talking about a team that has never employed me or asked my opinion about anything.

*Honestly, I know they aren't worth gold and no GM would give us gold, but if we could get a couple pieces of bronze, and an opportunity to see a piece of silver from the vault, I'd call that a win.


What I Learned from the 2014 All Star Game

I'm surprised to note that I have not blogged about an al-star game in three years. Not in Kansas City, nor in New York. Maybe I was actually off living my life. But with the game in the Twin Cities, I was eager to both celebrate the festivities in person, and watch the game (with all the excellent athletes and irritating announcers that come along with it).

Here's what I learned.

Atmosphere > Imagine Dragons--I'm not much of a musical person, but I have to say that going to the All-Star weekend concert (free courtesy of Mrs. Peanut's work connections) was much more enjoyable for Atmosphere's presence rather than Imagine Dragons. However, for future reference major touring pop bands that play all-star games (because I know you all read my blog), if you want to make fans forever, play a personalized version of that team's "song". If Imagine Dragons had played "We're Gonna Win Twins"...or even the first 8 measures, I'd have been a fan for life.

My mom makes interesting bets--Rather than predict or argue over silly inconsequential things in the baseball game, like who will win, or how they'll score, my mother had a fun time predicting exactly what stupid things singers would do during All-Star Festivities. Singing for a living has that effect, and though the exact number of trills, flats, sharps, and unfortunate breath marks were never exactly cross-referenced with any website, it was good fun to bet on it never the less.

Even body language is tough for Joe
Joe Buck Can't Read--My father prefers to channel his baseball watching towards the announcers. Usually, this involves rolling his eyes at Bert or clapping along with Dick Bremer, but when the national announcers call the game it involves total exasperation with Joe Buck, who doesn't seem to understand that it's a good idea to read a scorecard while calling a game to cover simple things like: the teams, who's batting, the score and which inning it is. But by god he can say "cold Coors Light" better than any other announcer in history so, he'll keep on announcing until we're all old and gray.

Alcohol Helps--Speaking of cold Coors Lights...I don't drink them. But I do drink other things, and when subjected to Joe Buck, I encourage others to do the same.

John Bonnes/Nick Nelson Help--Speaking of drinking, special kudos to Twins Daily peoples for hosting a fantastic happy hour at Mason's on Monday night. Attending with the better half of the blogging duo (Mrs. Peanut/Stinky/Kristina) we were treated to beer and cheery conversation--even if John doesn't approve of Little Big League like we do, it was nice to talk to fellow nerds.

Everyone has a connection to Derek Jeter--Speaking of nerds, did you know that Derek Jeter's not a nerd? Did you know that Derek Jeter has known Derek Jeter all of his life? Let's see if Derek Jeter would sit down for a candid interview with Derek Jeter to discuss how Derek Jeter Derek Jetered Derek Jeter. (Any more broadcasts like this Fox and I think he's legally allowed to file a restraining order)

We need to love water more than oil--Fans at the game spotted a sign above the jumbotron around the fourth inning, and Twitter responded as it usually does, with one giant "#WTF?!?!" Still, point taken giant sign, I'll stop cuddling my own personal barrel of crude oil and start snuggling with an 8 pack of Evian.

Local Boys Done Good--Glen Perkins got the save, Kurt Suzuki had a nice relaxing day in the bullpen catching other guys and Pat Neshek...well...maybe we shouldn't mention Neshek as he took the loss. But he did make it to the All-Star game by a far more circuitous route than any of us would have expected when he was on the final ballot 7 years ago. So in a truly Minnesotan spirit let's just say "good for him."

Minnesotans Don't Like Loud Noises--Fireworks went boom, we were upset, that's all that really needs to be said.
Mike "Derek Jeter" Trout wins the
Derek Jeter award for Derek Jetering

Mike Trout is Good at Baseball--Unfortunately, when he makes his retirement tour the first question he'll be asked was "how did it feel to win the All-Star Game MVP in Derek Jeter's final season?"

So we're on to the second half, and with the World Cup done I might actually blog more frequently! Oh wait, school starts in a month...well, it'll be a fun month at least.


Cliff Notes Guide to the 2014 Twins: "When I bound the Rose sheaves"

Summary: Ch. 3 "June"
Entering the month of June the Twins were still lurking on the fringes of what could be defined as a "dangerous" team. One that didn't know it wasn't good enough to be playing like it was. One that could rely on youthful exuberance, energy and enthusiasm to see them through good days and bad, perhaps best symbolized by Oswaldo Arcia's triumphant return to the fan base's hearts and minds against Milwaukee.
Pity it didn't last

Yet Arcia's twisted ankle in the next inning is an obvious harbinger of the difficulties to come. Because into this scene of insouciant optimism came the Houston Astros, the Twins' mirror image in both youth, recent history and foolish optimism. Faced with their mirror image, an given an opportunity to own their identity, the Twins instead reverted to a feeling of smug superiority and were critically exposed in a series loss to a "team" in name only.

Rather than grab hold of our inadequacy and owning it in a moment of self-realization, the Twins sought external intervention from Kendrys Morales. Morales' veteran acumen made him a likely mentor-figure, but his tragic flaw of both doughy physique and extended absence from the game made it challenging for him to halt our emerging malaise.

Sure enough, the longer we journeyed away from our safety net, our security blanket (if you will), the harder it became for us to survive as up-and-comers. Step by step the Tigers, Red Sox, Angels and Rangers battered our fledgling optimism until it an all other hopes for greatness were bundled away for the year, as the rose sheaves in Robert Browning's poem. Whether or not this recognition serves to benefit or bedraggle the Twins has yet to be seen...that's what the second half of the season is for...obviously.

Character Development
Kyle Gibson/Phil Hughes--The dueling courters for the fickle fan's hearts these two pitchers seem to alternate hot and cold by the month. Their mystique is engaging, yet aggravating, as fans continue to quest for their one true pitching love. 
Brian Dozier--Dozier's progress continues in fits and spurts. Blooms of triumph are tempered with the storms of inaccuracy and self-imposed pressure. His emergence still makes him the closest thing to a protagonist this season has, but his fall may mirror the story's as well.
Joe Mauer--As with all things Mauer, his month featured  both flickers of hope and shadows of despair. His hitting stroke returned, but the team faltered again. His command of the strike zone was more evident, but he was injured near the end of the month and seemed poised to vanish again into the backdrop of the story as swiftly as he emerged.
Glen Perkins--Joining Mauer in the ranks of under-developed static characters of the season is closer Glen Perkins. Rumors of his tremendous performance are everywhere. Like graffiti tags asking "who is John Gault?" or the infamous red "V" from Frank Miller's dystopian graphic novel: V for Vendetta. Yet, he appears so infrequently that there's little to appreciate and even less to dissect.
Kendrys Morales--The third chapter of our season introduces a new character, a rarity for the Twins' series of season-long books, but a welcome one. Morales' dualism--symbol of contender status/presence on a losing team; designated hitter/ineffective hitter--offers another confounding presence that is hotly debated in literary/baseball circles.

Key Quotes/Stats Explained
Pitcher WHIP with 3-5 Runs of Support--1.505. Unsurprisingly, the Twins perform poorly when they have 2 or fewer runs, and are great when they have more than 6. But most of the season they've been in the 3-5 runs of support range. Unfortunately, that's when the pitchers have had their worst Walks + Hits Per Inning Pitch (a measure of average base runners allowed per inning). To reach that average we likely have three base runners every two innings. That's not bad if you have one single in one inning, but it gets rougher if you have a walk followed by a double, you're playing with fire.
Team Road tOPS+--91--the tOPS measures how far above or below the total On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage is (100 = the same, 0-99 = Worse,  101+ = better). For all the talk about Target Field being a hitters park, the Twins as a team are significantly better at home than on the road, and that's most apparent in the driving forces for the team. Brian Dozier's tOPS+ is 69, and Kurt Suzuki's is 79. While each man is an increasingly beloved fixture for the team, their performance near loved ones is clearly different than their performance elsewhere.

Literary Term to Impress your Teacher/Attractive English Major Friend:
In time almost every baseball season shift their focus away from the starry-eyed romantic or idealistic perspective towards the genre of Naturalism. This stark, honest, appraisal of reality is clearly evidenced in the tonal shift of the Twins' June. Gone are the fanciful imaginings or idyllic appraisals of our present and future, instead we confront the world as it is with a fuller experience of both the trials of frequent defeats interspersed with notable joys (i.e. sweeping the White Sox). While this may seem disappointing, cynical or unpleasant in comparison with the happy fluffy early stage of the season, Naturalism is really a genre designed to rediscover the beautiful by stripping away the false claims and artificial window dressing that most artists rely on. If you have wanted the Twins to be focused on the future rather than the present, you really want them to be as Naturalistic as possible the rest of the season.