As we head into the final two months of the season, the Twins' top focus will be keeping pace with the Tigers and White Sox in what has predictably become a highly competitive AL Central division. There is, however, another competing entity that the Twins will have to keep in mind here as we prepare to turn our calendars to August: the Vikings.
Some sources claim that Brett Favre will be announcing his intent to play for the Vikings in the upcoming 2009 season by the end of this week. Others say he will wait until the July 30 deadline to make his announcement. The one thing that remains consistent among reports from nearly any source close to the situation, though, is that Favre will be playing quarterback for the Vikings this season. And there is zero doubt that his arrival in Minnesota will bring with it a flurry of media attention, both local and national. We've already seen the hoopla start to kick up over the past couple months as rumors have mounted and gained traction about the mutual desires of Favre and the Vikings to form a partnership this fall.
The Twins always find themselves in the position of competing with the Vikings for attention as NFL training camps kick off in early August. This year, that battle will be more challenging than ever for the Twins. Regardless of your feelings about Favre, there's no denying that he is a magnet for attention no matter where he goes, and there are plenty of aspects to his joining the Vikings right now that make the situation a perfect storm for rampant media and sports fan fixation.
If the Twins sit quietly through the trade deadline period and subsequently fade from the standings over the final two months of the season, they'll have a tough time maintaining any local attention while the Brett Favre Frenzy gets underway. Given that fading attention leads to lower TV ratings and lower ticket sales, the Twins have plenty of incentive to keep people interested. As such, there is added urgency for Bill Smith to craft a strategy that will keep the Twins at or near the top of the division down the stretch.
While not a bad signing, Mark Grudzielanek is probably not the answer. And to be honest, I'm not really sure what the answer is. The Twins are a fairly good team, but at their current rate they'll have a hard time separating themselves from the pack. I have a hard time getting excited about the possibility of trading for Freddy Sanchez. The idea of trading for Roy Halladay is wishful thinking. (Although, if the Jays are truly in full sell mode, the Twins had better be inquiring about relievers Scott Downs, Jason Frasor and Brandon League.) It could be that Smith's best course of action would be to sit out the deadline action and hope that Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano and Kevin Slowey can pull it together and carry the team in the final weeks of the season. Of course, remaining inactive on the trade market is a risk; if it doesn't work out, Smith risks alienating fans and even Twins players who have grown increasingly frustrated with a perceived lack of effort from this front office.