Monday, October 11, 2010

E-Z Passed


Many Twins fans took exception to the above headline, which appeared on the cover of the New York Daily News prior to the ALDS. The newspaper, known for being outrageous and controversial, was condescendingly declaring the Twins to be no challenge for the Yankees, a sentiment that seemed echo throughout the Big Apple.

As it would turn out, the arrogance was well warranted. The Twins brandished home field advantage and a $100 million payroll this time around, but the result was no different from past meetings with the Yankees: complete and utter failure.

In fact, this was Minnesota's most feeble postseason effort against the Bombers yet. In 2003 and 2004, the Twins at least managed to take a game. Last year, while they were swept, the Yankees needed extra-inning heroics and help from an umpire to win Game 2.

This year, the Yankees came into Minnesota and soundly defeated the Twins in a pair of games that held little drama. When the series went back to New York, the Yankees vanquished their dejected opponents with such ease and nonchalance that the result seemed predetermined.

We can spout off all we want about the Yankees' hex over the Twins or Ron Gardenhire's ineptitude in the postseason, but ultimately what this comes down to is a complete letdown by this team's players. These guys fought so hard all season to get to the big stage, and once they got there no one could step up and carry the load.

Francisco Liriano was among the league's most dominant starting pitchers this season. He certainly looked like it over the first five innings of Game 1. Somehow things spiraled so badly that when it was all said and done, Liriano -- who held lefty hitters to a .517 OPS this season -- was chased in the sixth inning by a two-run triple off the bat of a guy who has never hit southpaws.

Carl Pavano pitched so many brilliant games this season; he just couldn't do it when they needed him most.

Brian Duensing continually amazed us all summer long, but when push came to shove in Game 3, he was made to look like a player who did not belong in the major leagues. (Duensing threw 58 pitches in that outing; the Yankees did not swing and miss at one of them.)

Jesse Crain was, by any measure, one of the league's most dominant relievers this season, even accounting for his early-season struggles. Over the final four months, his tweaked slider was a pitch that rivaled Mariano Rivera's cutter in effectiveness. Yet, with a playoff game on the line and Mark Teixeira -- himself coming off an unremarkable season and battling wrist soreness -- at the plate, Crain left that slider hanging and it cost the Twins dearly.

Joe Mauer was a stud this season, shaking off a pedestrian first half to key the offenese with some monster production after the All-Star break. He contributed three singles in the series.

Delmon Young had a breakout campaign, becoming the chief run producer in the lineup after Justin Morneau went down in early July. He drove in 112 runs during the regular season. In this series, he drove in zero runs and managed zero extra-base hits.

Jim Thome was one of the league's most feared hitters this season. He came up with one single in 10 at-bats.

Jason Kubel has homered 69 times in the past three seasons and has delivered some of the team's biggest clutch hits during that span. He went 0-for-8 in the series and is now 2-for-29 lifetime in the postseason.

None of the role players did much of anything, but it wouldn't have made a whole lot of difference. When you get those kind of performances from your core players, you're not going to win a series against a team like New York.

I think it's hard to ignore the fact that almost none of the players mentioned above was playing at a high level as the season came to an end. Team momentum might be overrated, but when almost each and every one of your key players slumps into the end of the regular season, maybe you shouldn't be so surprised that they all come out ice cold in the playoffs.

The natural reaction for many fans is to blame the manager. After all, Gardenhire has been the one common thread among all these disappointing postseason teams. Yet, I find that almost lazy. He's proven his ability to win games, of both large and small magnitude, throughout his managerial tenure. I can't find fault much with the way he prepared the team for the playoffs nor the way he managed once they got there. It almost defies belief that so many of a good team's players can simultaneously shut down at the most important point in the season, and I'm sure Gardy's more baffled than anyone.

Maybe the visceral masses are correct. Maybe Gardenhire has a mental block when it comes to the Yankees and he lets it soak into his players. Maybe he made the wrong choice in giving Pavano a few extra days rest between his final regular-season and first postseason starts. Maybe he should have let banged up starters keep playing after the team clinched to keep them sharp. Maybe these 12 straight playoff losses really are on his shoulders.

But the manager can't go out there and complete six innings for Liriano. He can't stop Crain from leaving a high slider to Teixeira. He can't make the team's No. 3 hitter and reigning MVP deliver a danged extra-base hit in the postseason for once.

It's on the players. The teams that win in the postseason do so on the foundation of lights-out pitching performances and big hits, and in this series the Twins got neither of each, just like usual.

So ends the sixth season I've covered the Twins on my blog. During that span, I've watched the team make the playoffs three times and I still haven't had the chance to write about one single postseason victory. That's hard to swallow.

I'd say this one stings the most, but I don't know if that's true. Compared to 2006 and 2009, this club's regular season came to an anticlimactic end and the ALDS sweep by the Yankees was so quick and bereft of drama or memorable moments that it's almost like it didn't happen.

I feel a little robbed. Maybe that's why this one stings the most after all.

54 comments:

Rob said...

But the manager can't go out there and complete six innings for Liriano.

No, but he can yank him when it's obvious he's gassed in front of the league's leading offense.

I generally don't fall in line with "fire the manager" calls, but in this case, it may be warranted. They haven't won a postseason series since 2002, and haven't won a single game since 2004. Time for the axe to fall.

Anonymous said...

The thing to do now is look ahead. Emotionally, I want to fire Gardenhire (that's what G Steinbrenner would do), but that is not going to happen.

After watching this team win six division titles, what is painfully clear is that division titles are irrelevant. I hope the organization now realizes that.

The play-offs have gone like this: six team fighting their asses off, one team (Reds) happy to be there, and twenty-one teams wondering if they could fare better than the Twins.

Nick is right to call out the players. Now is time for the team to do something about that. Kubel MUST go.

The rotation should be gutted. We need some flamethrowing studs who are not afraid to hurl at someone's head. Can anyone explain to me why NONE of our starters did not whiz one behind Jeter's ear in the 1st inning? That is what Bob Gibson would have done.

The owner needs to call out the 184M singles hitter, and then put him in his place by making Morneau the team captain.

The Twins are the laughing-stock of baseball because they are lambs. They have no October passion, their best player disappears on the big stage; they take curtain calls when they TIE games.

This is a long rant, and a long way of saying we need some a*&holes on our team, ala Kirk Gibson '88 Dodgers, and we need an ace who strikes out 220 batters a year.

We have a bunch of polite, milque-toast gentlemen who are happy to oblige Yankee sweeps.

Isn't anyone else PISSED OFF?

On the road with.... said...

This was a tough ending, being there in person to watch it end was worse. I'm not an advocate of canning Gardy but I'm probably only a year away. This was the toughest of all of the defeats, this one seemed like it could be different.

Nick N. said...

Pull Liriano in favor of whom? You trust Jose Mijares against Granderson more than even a "gassed" Liriano? I'm not sure I do; that was an ideal match-up for Liriano and he failed to get it done.

In a game where the decisive hit was a two-run homer off the Twins' bullpen ace, I don't think you can blame Gardenhire for leaving the starter in too long. No one could get the job done.

Nate G said...

Can't agree more, we all had such high expectations going into the playoffs this year compared to the past years because we won the AL central convincingly, rested everyone so they were ready for playoff baseball but once again it didn't matter. Maybe the twins do need Morneau when we play real teams. The fans overlooked what he did for this club in the 1st half when Mauer was hurt and struggling. He basically kept us within reach until the other guys got going. 2011 will probably field a similar team, hopefully it fields a different result.

On the road with.... said...

I really didn't think Liriano pitched terribly. I have heard a lot about Granderson working with his hitting coach and getting it against lefties. Not terribly interested.

Ben said...
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Ben said...
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Jack Steal said...

Nick,

I can't believe you and the Twins Centric members continue to kiss up to the Minnesota Twins organization. What happened to the Twins in the playoffs was not only embarassing, it was disgraceful. We are the laughing stock of MLB and you believe we should not make any major changes to turn this thing around.

A great manager (Ozzie Guillen) said in a press conference earlier this season that "Everything that happens on the field is my responsiblity." Than Gardy and his coaches are responsible for losing in the playoffs it's that simple. He is responsible for being 18-57 against the Yankees and a lifetime of 6-21 in the playoffs. We have lost 12 straight playoff games in a row and have not won a single game since the 2004 ALDS. He has had 9 years to accomplish something in the playoffs and has failed in a humilating fashion!! How long should we wait? I know lets wait another 15-20 years to win just 1 playoff game. The Pohlad family has already said they will re-sign Gardy to a contract extension so it's a forgone conclusion that he will be here.

However, I believe once Target Field wears out it's welcome this team will be like Cleveland in another 5 years. How many chances does Gardy deserve? If Gardy is such a great manager why does he continue to baby these players?? Because he wants to be their buddie not their manager. GM Bill Smith should have Paul Molitor on his speed dial because he is the only person out there that can turn this thing around. Just be honest with yourself and your followers for once in your life. Would Gardy keep his job in New York, L.A., Chicago, Detroit, or Boston? The answer is he would have been fired years ago so why is Mediocrity accepted so freely here in Minnesota? Because he is a nice guy!! Come one, thats not acceptable to me a season ticket holder who shells out $3,200.00 a year and should not be acceptable to you. The bottom line is someone needs to be held accountable.

Ben said...

This one hurts the most. Last year I was upset, but not surprised because of the situation leading up to the games against the Yankees. The year before? Well I was pretty upset, but I just don't remember it feeling like this one.

Its time to start holding players, and coaching, accountable for their actions/play. Yes, Joe Mauer is a stud, but three singles in the series? That's it? You're supposed to be the team leader, especially without Morneau in the lineup. You looked frightened and intimidated through the postseason, you ran out there with the tail between your legs and the team followed suit.

It was more apparent this year that we need Morneau against the major league teams. And its even more apparent that we don't need Kubel...I mean at all...All his numbers we're down and he posted his worst BA, OBP, and SLG (obviously leading to OPS as well) since 2006. Then don't even get me started on his postseason 'performance'. Bye bye Jason.

As someone else has said, emotionally right now I want Gardy gone. He's been ineffective at leading the team past the first round. I've loved him for so long and it pains me to say such things about him, but winning the division isn't good enough anymore. This isn't the mid 1990's where we'll be happy just to have a .500 record. Just a few examples of this year, obviously leaving Liriano and Pavano in in the playoffs are a big one. Liriano looked gassed before that and Pavano was already getting hit all game, just getting lucky that it wasn't leading to anything yet. You ask who to put in for Liriano when you don't trust Mijares? Use Fuentes. You have what has been one of the best pen's in all of baseball and when its most needed, you wait too long to use it.

The team limped into the playoffs once they clinched and my take is that is placed on the manager.

I've touched on a few other thoughts on another thread so I won't repeat them here and I feel I've ranted on long enough on this one as well now.

This one definitely stings more. We're told its going to be different, we're told with a higher payroll from the new stadium, we can get the players to advance. We're told that for once since Gardy has time to set his lineups and rotations weeks in advance that its going to be different. Yet its still the same. There's only one constant through all of it, unfortunately that Gardy (and Cuddyer I guess as well). Like I said, this one stings.

Anonymous said...

If you dont want to blame the manager when the players dont perform, then why do you give him credit when they do?

The twins couldnt have been hotter in 06 and they were swept. Plenty of evidence that not keeping the foot on the gas makes no difference in postseason play. The twins just had no one play well in 3 spaced out 3 game series against good teams. Unlikely result but at this point i think people are over analyzing what it means. They werent as good as the yankees but they could have beaten them, they just didnt. Baseball is too random to get much from a 3 game series. The twins were cold, thats it.

Larry said...

Nick, I'm Larry from IIATMS, the Yankees SweetSpot blog. I'm the guy who answered your five questions. I think you may need a few more questions answered. Forgive me for intruding on your grief, I know what it feels like to mourn a season, but I come here to praise the Twins and not to bury them, so I'm hoping you won't mind my commenting here.

First of all, on behalf of New York specifically and all of civilization in general, let me apologize for the work of the NY mainstream media. That headline was unprofessional, and also inaccurate. Not to mention disgusting, arrogant and full of everything that makes the rest of the nation hate NY. I'm certain the day will come when you'll be able to take a similar headline and jam it down our throats. I think you know that the writers at IIATMS hold ourselves to higher standards.

Next: I don't know what series YOU were watching, but I was on the edge of my seat for all but one half-inning of games 1 and 2. The Live Win probability graphs at FanGraphs bear me out. They swung past 50% more often than was good for my GI system.

Next: you guys lost Morneau. You lost Nathan. I don't think Mauer was anywhere near 100%. Imagine the Yanks without Teix and Mo, and with Jorge at 50%.

Next: certain teams match up well against other teams. You were a good match for us. You don't run, for one thing. You seem vulnerable to left-handed pitching. This doesn't say anything bad about the Twins. For example: for some reason the Yanks never play well against the Mariners.

Next: we played a good series! Give us some credit. Hughes dialed his way back to the way he pitched in April. Pettitte dialed his way back to the year 2000.

Next: a best of five series is not a fair test for a baseball team. You know that. Small sample size. Billy Beane's famous statement that his, er, STUFF, doesn't work in the playoffs. You've done the log-5 math before: no one comes into the playoffs as a favorite. You want revenge on Yankeedom, bait a few rabid Yankee fans and get them to bet their team against the field. That's still a good bet.

You have to judge your team by how they play in the regular season. Theo Epstein makes it the BoSox goal to make the post-season, then he hopes for the best. That's pretty much Cashman's approach too. Keep making the playoffs, and you'll eventually get back to the promised land.

The playoffs are a crap shoot. It takes a lot of luck to negotiate them all the way to victory in November.

You guys were great during the regular season, which is the only fair test for a baseball team.

The Twins have the respect and admiration of every member of the IIATMS team. I'm happy to try to talk some of you off the ledge you've climbed onto. I hope you'll do the same for me if we roll snake eyes in the next round of this crap shoot.

SethSpeaks said...

Larry,
Thank you very much for posting that. It took the view from a Yankees fan to better portray what I am thinking. The reminder of the Beane quote was something I've been looking for. Game 3 was really the only game that was without question. Just... thank you!

Nick N. said...

Larry,

Thanks for the lengthy and thoughtful comment. Good to get some intelligent insight from the other side. Analysis of that nature serves as a great reminder that we shouldn't always judge Yankee fans by the way the NY media represents them.

With that being said, I think you're missing out on some perspective that might be hard to grasp as a fan of a team that has achieved such vast postseason success.

You cheer for a franchise that has advanced past the divisional series four times during the past decade. The Twins have lost 12 straight playoff games -- it's one of the worst postseason droughts in history. Of course I understand that baseball is random and that no team can be judged on a five-game series, but ultimately the name of the game is advancing in the playoffs and the Twins' failure in that regard nearly escapes comprehension at this point.

In the years I have written this blog, I've seen the Twins enter the playoffs red-hot and ice-cold; with a $50M payroll and a $100M payroll; with vastly different rosters... the end result has always been a quick elimination.

The first two games of the series might have been riveting for you, especially because of the outcome, but for me and most Twins fans it was difficult to overcome a queasy feeling the entire time that in the end proved justified.

Call it irrational if you want, but that feeling is unavoidable after watching the Twins' complete futility against your club over the past decade.

Anonymous said...

nick, did you watch the last game? gardy had given up. he stood on the steps of the dugout with his arm on the fence and his chin resting on his arm. he needs to be firing his guys up. they showed him enough and every single time that is what i saw.

this team had no heart. that starts with the manager. when guys are just standing up there and teeing off, you need to brush them back. did we work inside at all that game? where is the fire? one of their big name guys should have been beaned. if they never fight back, we are never going to get over this inferiority complex we have with the jankees. they will continue to walk all over the twins because they know they can. they have no fear of us. that is what we need, to put some fear into them.

Ed Bast said...

Saturday's game was basically unwatchable. Very, very embarrassing to see that the Twins had given up, and showed no interest in winning that game. Give Hughes some credit, but he was leaving a bunch of fastballs up in the zone. Basically daring the Twins to hit, and the Twins cowered like they did all series.

This series really illuminated what I feel to be an organizational problem for the Twins. From top to bottom, they are set up to compete for the AL Central and nothing more. If they are serious about winning a World Series (not sure that they are, to be honest), they need to make some changes. I know they'll never get rid of Gardy - this has to be the only town where a manager with his historically bad playoff record not only keeps his job but gets rewarded with an extension - so in the end nobody will be held accountable for the miserable playoff showing.

So what to do? First, draft a few power arms. Power starters win in the playoffs. The Twins need a shutdown ace that can overcome their soft, soft hitters. Aces don't come on trees, and they can't afford the big FAs. Draft power arms.

Also, if you can get a bona fide ace via trade, for god's sake, do it. Cliff Lee anyone? They should've offered more for him. This was as good a shot as any for this club. They're going to get dismantled a bit in the offseason, and I think next year they're going to take a step back. With their veteran contracts, I don't see this team being as good as they were this year for a while.

Other than that...a RH power hitter would help...a leadoff hitter who gets on base? I don't know. It's more than one or two missing pieces. It's an organizational problem. The team is terribly soft.

I think fans just need to adjust their expectations for the club. The Twins are more interested in division titles as a business model: be relevant in your division, bring people to the ballpark, make money. This seems to extend to the team itself: they were playing good ball up until the day they clinched; then they quit. It's like emotions of celebrating that division title were so much that they couldn't conjure up the effort or emotion to keep playing. They'd achieved their goal. What now?

Sad times in Twins Territory.

Ed Bast said...

"We are proud of what we accomplished here."

-Bill Smith

Anonymous said...

It nice that so many people are seeing the benefit of missing bats since the twins have been swept away. Typically when i make my anti blackburn, duensing, pavano arguments Im quickly reminded that pitching isnt a strikeout contest and that unsustainable babips, lob%, dp rate, hr rates should be dismissed because they how to pitch and have gotten away with it for a month or some other irrelevant sample size. Scott baker was every bit the power pitcher phil hughes was this year, the twins almost left him of the playoff roster. Its nice gardy is giving lip service about power pitching but he doesnt believe it

Matt said...

I'm kind of with Ed on this one. The Twins draft college pitchers that lack a sexy fastball but don't walk anybody. That's fine when facing the Royals, et all but we need gas in the postseason. Bullpen too. There's no gas in there, with Jeckyl/Hyde (Capps) and Crain being the "barely" exceptions.
Denard Span should be better next year, and along with Young and Hardy, are solid players. But even with Morneau back and Mauer healthy, the Twins are still not really built to win in October. Fans are excited for Nathan to come back, but he's no more than a $11.25M uncertainty, and a bunch of guys out there will be FAs so the bullpen is going to look vastly different next year.
If we're going to say the organization needs a fundamental change, maybe it's time the Pohlads send Tom Kelly packing. Maybe the approach of not walking guys and relying too much on defense and running (niether of which was particularly a strong point this year) worked in October in the early 90s but it's not getting it done anymore. Kelly makes a lot of personnel decisions, time for Tom to go.

FRvw said...

The curse of the Bambino has shifter from Boston to the Twin Cities.

How else can we explain the mighty Twins turning into the TwinKIES?

Nick N. said...

Now we're going back to the argument that the Twins can't win in the playoffs without power pitchers? You people do realize that Liriano was one of the league's best strikeout pitchers and he achieved no more success in this series than Carl Pavano who strikes out almost nobody, right?

The Twins don't hit in the playoffs. We don't need to look any further to figure out why they've been losing. They had one of the league's better offenses during the regular season and they simply could not come up with any big hits when the playoffs rolled around.

It's a tough problem to solve.

Anonymous said...

Liriano is a power pitcher when all is going well. But when adversity hits (ala 6th inning), he is far, far, far below the aces of the world (Lee, Halladay, Lincecum) in terms of buckling down, grabbing some stones, and blowing high heat by the opposition.

As someone else has inferred, when the Twins refused to meet Seattle's asking price for Lee, whatever it was, they essentially declared that they were not willing to do what it takes to win a world series. Or at least to take a legitimate shot.

What did Seattle want, anyway? The catcher we sent to Washington, one of our starters (Baker, Blackburn, Slowey. Take your pick), and a top prospect, Ben Revere? Last I checked Revere was the second-coming of Denard Span, whom we already have.

Someone just needs to put the Twins and their small-minded no-fire club out of its misery. Well, I guess the Yankees have done that. Again.

Ed Bast said...

Nick,

It's about an "ace". They need an ace precisely because they can't hit in the playoffs.

Liriano was not successful because he's mentally and physically soft. He throws too many pitches and can't go deep into games. Quick, how many complete games has he thrown in his career? And he completely melts down under pressure.

He's a very good #2 guy. Being an ace is about way more than strikeout totals. It's about being a go-to guy who can single-handedly win a game for you. Liriano is neither. He's the anti-ace: guy with great stuff who absolutely can't be trusted when the stakes are raised.

Look, the Twins are stuck with this cream-puff lineup - they are financially invested way too much to think they'll be able to impart any significant change in it. So I say, go get an ace who can overcome their weak, pathetic hitters in a Game 1. Goes without saying, but a Game 1 win changes everything - less pressure on Frankie, the hitters, everyone.

You're not suggesting they just cross their fingers and hope this group of hitters, the core of which has failed to deliver a single cluth hit or win since I can't remember when, suddenly figures it out next year, are you?

Ty said...

Classic Gardy defense.

regular season.....

"Complain all you want but this man has led the team to 6 division titles in 9 years!"

and regarding playoffs...

"Gardy cannot be held responsible for players not stepping up in the playoffs!"

Life must be good for Gardy - you get all the credit when the team wins and when the team loses its the players fault.

Man I need a managerial position like this where I work!

Credit for accomplishments, no blame for failures!! What a system!

Larry said...

Nick, I won't try to convince you that I know how it feels to be a fan of a losing team. Even if I succeeded, it wouldn't do any good. Losing hurts. Nothing changes that. If all you'd written was about how bad this feels, I probably would not have posted.

But there was all that other stuff in your post, and particularly in the comments. So-and-so should be fired. Or, the team lacks vital body parts (heart, guts, stones). You could go read the NY press right now (you COULD; I recommend that you don't), and you'd get an equal helping of the kind of intangible stuff they write about the winning team: character, experience, moxie, and all that. This is all a bunch of nonsense. It's what you write when you have to spin a popular narrative, and you don't really understand what goes into winning and losing.

If you want to understand what happened, it's best to go back to the stuff we read and wrote before the series. When you asked for a key reason why the Yanks might win or lose, I responded: "Same key reason both times: starting pitching. If the Yanks can hold you guys to an average of 4.5 runs a game, then we like our chances." I'm not often right about these things, but I was eerily right this time.

Nothing to do with guts and stones, character and moxie. Something to do with cutters on the inside part of the plate. A lot to do with luck.

The best log-5 style calculation we saw before the ALDS gave the Yankees an 18% chance to win the World Series, the highest percentage given to any playoff team. The Twins were given a 10% chance. That makes it sound like the Yanks were a lot better than the Twins, but that's not really the case. The same calculation gave the Twins a 43% chance to win the ALDS.

Sadly, you could reverse these odds on us next year, and we might still beat you in a short series. You and I both have to be a bit nuts, investing so much psychologically in a post season where even the Yanks are a 4-1 underdog. This game is guaranteed to break your heart, and that's the only thing I've said here so far that is a certainty.

Of course you'd want to examine your team at this point and ask how they can get better. But remember that your team was very, very good in 2010. Remember that they had a 43% chance to beat the Yanks in 2010, which does not suggest that anything is radically wrong with the Twins. Remember that, no matter how much the Twins improve in 2011, about the best you can do is enter the post-season with the odds of winning the World Series about 3-1 against you. And you'd have to be crazy to like those odds.

It's the nature of the game. You need to get lucky to win. If you want to best understand your experience in the 2010 ALDS, the best explanation is that the Yanks got lucky and the Twins did not. I'll admit, that's not a satisfying explanation, but it's the explanation with the greatest truth value. It's got a lot more truth value than discussing intangibles that cannot be measured and that are assigned after the fact, based on nothing more than the final score. And it's got a hell of a lot more truth value than discussions of missing body parts.

I'll close with this. Congratulations, Twins and Twins fans. You had a great season. You're odds-on favorites to win the AL Central in 2011. You wouldn't be true fans if you didn't want more than this, but reflect on the likelihood that your future looks brightest if you build on this position instead of tearing it down.

See you next year.

Nick N. said...

What did Seattle want, anyway?

No one really actually knows, so these complaints are based on information you don't have. Much like many of the criticisms of Gardy.

Maybe Bill Smith really is to blame for missing out on Lee (I contend there's no player the Twins could have realistically offered that would have trumped Smoak), and maybe Gardenhire's tactical decisions are to blame. I don't know.

Both seem like uninformed, emotional reactions. We don't have enough information about either situation to make those assertions.

It's about an "ace". They need an ace precisely because they can't hit in the playoffs.

They had one in 2003 and 2004 -- Johan Santana. They won both the games he started, and still lost both series handily. It's not realistic to believe the Twins will ever boast a three-headed monster like Philadelphia currently has in its rotation; the Twins have got to start hitting in the postseason or they will never advance.

Liriano was not successful because he's mentally and physically soft. He throws too many pitches and can't go deep into games. Quick, how many complete games has he thrown in his career?

Carl Pavano led the league in complete games this season and pitched no better than Liriano.

You're not suggesting they just cross their fingers and hope this group of hitters, the core of which has failed to deliver a single cluth hit or win since I can't remember when, suddenly figures it out next year, are you?

Yes, that's pretty much what I'm suggesting. The Twins were a top 5 offense in the AL this year, they're going to have a hard time putting together a better offensive group. They'll just have to hope to be healthier when October rolls around next year, and that includes having Morneau in action.

There are no obvious personnel issues at hand. This is clearly a talented team that deservedly won the AL Central by a mile. That they've completely shut down in the playoffs once again is inexplicable but not a sign that the entire team needs to be reconstructed.

Nick N. said...

Life must be good for Gardy - you get all the credit when the team wins and when the team loses its the players fault.

I don't really credit Gardenhire for the team's regular-season success over the past decade, I credit the players and the front office for putting those players in place.

My point is that clearly Gardy has never really got in the way of the team's success during that span -- you could hardly expect more than six division titles in nine years. I have a hard time believing he's the main thing standing between the team and success in the postseason, especially when no one can point to any poignant examples of his managerial failures in this series. Howard Sinker attempted to do so on his blog today and it came off really weak to me.

Ed Bast said...

"They had one in 2003 and 2004 -- Johan Santana."

You've said numerous times that what happened in the past should mean absolutely nothing when compared to this year - things were supposed to be totally different this year, I thought?

For a team that gripped the bat tighter and tighter as the series went on, you can't possibly say the series would have played out the same if the Twins had won game 1.

Also, I'm tired of the Morneau excuse. Yes, it sucks he was out. But a) Thome got way more at bats because of it than he ever would have, and led the team in HRs, OPS, etc; and b) the team had plenty of chances to win the series without him.

I'm tired of all the excuses, frankly. The Twins failed in the clutch - hitting and pitching. They failed. They could have won and they failed. Why do we feel the need to excuse every single one of the Twins postseason failures? They failed for 2 games and quit before the 3rd one even started. End of story.

Good luck with just praying they magically become a good playoff team next year. Let me know how that works out.

Nick N. said...

But there was all that other stuff in your post, and particularly in the comments. So-and-so should be fired. Or, the team lacks vital body parts (heart, guts, stones).

I didn't write any of that stuff in this post, Larry. Commenters are going to say what they're going to say -- hardcore fans are understandably at the point of emotional exhaustion at this point.

All I said was that the players completely shut down. There's no two ways about it. I don't think it's because they're hexed, I don't think it's because they're not good enough, and I don't think it's because of the manager. It was bad timing, bad luck, injuries. It's just the way the wind blows and there's not much to be done about it except try again next year.

I can hardly blame anyone for being pissed off though. This lengthy run of postseason futility has gotten out of hand.

Anonymous said...

I kinda like larry. I think people are far too willing to use baseless, hocus pocus explanations for things they cant explain. Club house leadership, fire, heart etc, theres never any basis to it. Do you really believe liriano was unable to get granderson because he was mentally weak? Or is a better explanation that granderson is going to get a hit of liriano a certain percentage of the time and he happened to get him this time.

And this season is exactly why i never want the twins to trade prospects for major league talent. If the twins had traded a million good pieces for cliff lee they still almost certainly would have lost this series. Maybe they could have won a game but probably not much more. And the second we didnt win the world series the trade become lopsided. Even if you think capps did a great job for the twins he made no difference in the teams ability to win a playoff series and we are still out a young, cheap, right handed player. Even if ramos never develops into a good player, trading away prospect irresponsibly with the rationalization of win now is very low percentage.

Anonymous said...

Howard Sinker is a moron. You shouldnt link his stuff. What if some unsuspecting reader goes there, assumes that because hes editorializing for a major news paper about the twins that it must be an intelligent view point, and internalizes some of it. Scary stuff.

Ed Bast said...

"Club house leadership, fire, heart etc, theres never any basis to it."

Anyone who watched Game 3 would dispute this. Season on the line and they absolutely lay down for the Yankees. Who was the "leader" in that embarrassment? Pretty courageous effort, right? And boy, the fire they showed, scratching and clawing to a 6-1 defeat that felt more like 16-1.

That's what angered me most about the series: the Twins utterly cowering in the face of adversity.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time believing he's the main thing standing between the team and success in the postseason, especially when no one can point to any poignant examples of his managerial failures in this series.

This year I think you can point to the fact that he let all of his players treat the last 2 weeks like games that didn't matter. When you go through games like they aren't important, it is hard to flip on a switch and play the games differently again once they do matter.

gardy needed to let his players know that coasting through those last weeks wasn't acceptable. Sure, you can give guys breaks, play them for half the game, whatever. but when they are out there, they need to be focused and playing the game just like it was a big game. it was pathetic to lose 8 out of the last 10 games of the season the way they did and it was 10 times more pathetic to watch them help the yankees tune up for the ALCS.

momentum and rest are nice going into the playoffs, but even more important is having your players in game mode.

Anonymous said...

ed bast is absolutely right. the twins couldn't wait to get out of yankee stadium. what a joke of a series that was.

delmon was about the only player that didn't look completely intimidated by the yankees. mauer looked awful. i've never seen a player take so many great pitches and then swing at borderline ones. kubel looked like he wanted to cry the whole time. what about that managerial decision to put him in the 4 hole for the last game?

we do need some guys that are a-holes on this team. not just a bunch of guys that are just happy to be out there. they got pushed around all series and just took it.

the series was over before it started because of the attitudes of the twins. they just thought they would be given the series when they got the lead in game 1. then the yanks came roaring back and the twins mailed it in. no fight, no guts, no wins.

Nick N. said...

This year I think you can point to the fact that he let all of his players treat the last 2 weeks like games that didn't matter.

What do you mean he "let" this happen? Did you read any of Gardenhire's quotes during the final two weeks of the season? He was clearly frustrated and did not view the team's lackluster play as acceptable. A bunch of backups played in those final weeks -- which is the right idea, running injured regulars into the ground in games that truly don't matter much would be a terrible idea -- and when the starters played they slumped. The same thing happened for pretty much every team after they clinched. I'm sure Gardy would have much preferred that the regulars look sharper, but he has no control over how they play or how healthy they are.

Once again, this criticism of Gardenhire is being made on the basis of assumptions, not information you actually have.

Anonymous said...

saying things to the media and your players are 2 different things. he needs to get on them during the games, not call them out to the media afterward. saying and doing are 2 different things. i could get up there and tell the media that i am frustrated. could i manage the twins?

if this guy has no control over his players, let's just let him keep his job because they have feasted on the weak AL Central.

Larry said...

Sorry Nick. I took too much from the comments and not enough from your post.

I can question some of the language you used. You used the word "failure", which is harsh. "Failure" does not seem like the right word to use for a team that won 90+ regular season games, then was unable to negotiate a division series. You used the word "feeble", again harsh. You refer to a "letdown", a failure to "step up". All negatives. True enough, you did not question the character of the team, their inner stuff, and I was wrong not to have mentioned this.

What your comments fail to capture is what I saw on the field: the Yanks played their best baseball of the season, and the Twins happened to be unlucky enough to be on the receiving end. What I saw was two good teams play two close games and one not so close. The worst thing you can say about the Twins is that they lost to a better team. The more accurate thing you can say is that two good teams met over a best of five, and one team got the majority of the breaks, had luck break on its side.

You want to hear me describe a DS differently? Ask me what I think about either NLDS series.

Go back to games 1 and 2. The Twins held the lead for 4 innings in game 1 and 2 innings in game 2. In both games, the Yanks came back to take the lead, and in both games the Twins came back to tie the game. Attack, counter-attack, counter-attack, counter-attack. The Twins were able to "step up" twice in each of these games, but the Yanks had an answer each time.

Yes, it's terribly frustrating to lose games like that. This time of year, I don't know any good ways to lose games.

It's my weakness as a writer. I say too much. All I should have said was three things. The Twins are a terrific team. Congratulations. Don't lose faith.

Oh, a fourth thing: when I remember 2010, I'll remember fans filling a beautiful new stadium to the rafters, and the home team responding with a great season of baseball.

Anonymous said...

I would like for the front office to stop acting like this was a successful year. How many more little flags do we need hanging in the outfield that say Central champs?

I would like for the front office to say, succinctly, that the players failed when it mattered most, and that their (the front office's) objective this off-season is to acquire players who do not buckle under the weight of post-season pressure.

I would like for that same front office to also state that there are certain players (Kubel the greatest offender) who will not be wearing a Twins uniform next year.

Dr. Truth said...

"...Once again, this criticism of Gardenhire is being made on the basis of assumptions, not information you actually have..."

Okay here's some information I actually have: Gardy has lost 12 straight playoff games. he's lost these with with different hitters, pitchers, stadiums, GMs, owners, seeds, momentum, payrolls, types of teams, etc. the constants over that stretch are a team that plays very tight, can't get a clutch hit or pitch, and has Gardy as its "leader".

12 in a row. That's a fact. Yet you seem to blame it all on "luck." Take off the blinders, man. its okay to admit Gardy doesnt get his teams ready to play in the playoffs. you can say it without damaging your reputation. you can say it and still want him around as a manager. who else are they gonna get? its clear - gardy doesnt know how to shift into playoff mode, and neither do his players. how is this debatable?

Anonymous said...

wow there are some terribly stupid comments on here, to many to go through to I'll pick one out that I've seen a few times.

The Twins organization only cares about the division and doesn't build a team to make a World Series run.

Really? you think anyone in the front office is thinking "Screw the WS?" Some of you don't know how baseball works. Ask any GM they will tell you that you don't build a team to win 11 games in October, you build a team to win 100 games over the summer. The playoffs are too random to try and build a team for such a short season.

Objectivity the Twins FO did a great job this season, bringing in vets to help with needed areas in the field, trading for good RP near the end of the season, keeping the extra OF whenever said trade one

Sometimes teams just lose to the better team

Ed Bast said...

"The playoffs are too random to try and build a team for such a short season."

Tell that to the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, et. al. In other words, the teams that have won recent WS.

Being built to win in the playoffs usually means you can win in the regular season too. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

And from a business perspective, it's certainly not in the Twins' interest to spend a bunch of money on a World Series run. It makes much more financial sense to spend just enough to get people out to the games and spend money year in and year out than it does to spend a bunch of payroll on a Series run only to go into the tank the next year (see: Marlins, Florida).

From a purely business standpoint, it's hard to fault the way this ownership runs things. From a fan's standpoint, though, it's frustrating.

Anonymous said...

some people just want nothing out of their manager.

my feelings that gardy should be fired don't even need to be based on the playoff record. did you see the looks on everyone's faces in the dugout (including gardy) after they fell behind in games 2 and 3? they had resigned themselves to losing. it was over. i don't even care that they lost, i want to see some effort, some attitude, some fight. they just laid down.

Ryan said...

A very good friend of mine went to high school and is very close to one of the Twin's players. They speak and see each other regularly. I saw this friend of mine on Saturday and she told me she had talked to the player that day and he said that the series was over. A bit concerning right? Probably not the mentality you want going into a must win game?

I don't know if this feeling represents just 1 player or a mood in the clubhouse before game 3. I do know this; every time we play the Yankees I have a feeling of impending doom regardless of the situation or score. To think that the players who are closer to the game and these experiences don't feel some similar "fate" defies logic. I played high school soccer on a team that had not won a conference game in 4 years. Everyone was aware of the streak. It didn't change our preparation or play that I could tell but when we lost it felt normal, almost comfortable. When we finally won a game my senior year we celebrated like it was a state title. Probably not a mentality conducive to winning a championship right?

I love Gardy. I love him as much as any player on this team and he fits the organization perfectly. Long term I think we win more games/playoff births with him as a manager and maybe we break this playoff/Yankee hex in the next few years as well. But short term a managerial change gives us a better CHANCE at a title sooner in my opinion. The old mentality would be gone and I would think all the talent on this team could not help my take note of the consequence of playoff futility (getting a good manager fired). We could experience a situation like Joe Maddon's first year in Tampa... or not.

Switching managers is risky. I think it decreases our chances of winning the division next year but increases our chances of advancing in the playoffs if we make it. I'm conflicted on whether Gardy should stick around or not. I think the question is whether you want to be consistently good (Gardy) or have a better CHANCE of being occasionally great (new blood). Just look at the Twins and White Sox results over the last decade and their respective managers. I’m not sure how I would answer this question right now.

Anonymous said...

If I were a conspiracy theorist I would say the Twins were told, “the fix is in, you guys will lose because the Yankees will bring in a lot more TV revenue for the MLB so don’t even think about trying to win this.” And the Twins obeyed, they gave a little showing of muster in the first two games and then folded up. In the third game they simply scored one run so as not to be shut out and then they went silently into the night.

I have resorted to spinning conspiracy theories because there are no other rational explanations for why the Twins were so lifeless on the field, in the dugout, in the clubhouse and on the pre and post game interviews. They were all like flat cardboard cut-outs of themselves. I have never seen a professional sports team whiff like that and appear so flat. It is stunning, really. Like the Twilight Zone.

Anonymous said...

Ed did you really just compare the business model to the Florida Marlins? do you watch baseball?

Ed Bast said...

Anon, do you read?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words, Larry. It took a Yankee fan to bring some perspective and sanity to the proceedings here! I'm bitter about another playoff disappointment. I felt like it was a huge step backward. The games were more competitve last year we had less talent, less rest, no opportunity to set up our rotation, and were playing a better Yankee team.

That said, if you had told me on the eve of spring training that we would lose Nathan for the entire season, Morneau for the second half, Hudson and Hardy for a bunch of games, and that Cuddyer, Span, Kubel and Mauer would all see their numbers from last year drop significantly, I would have told you that the team would be lucky to finish third in the division.

Gotta keep on truckin' and get back there in '11. One of these years, things are bound to go our way for once.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of whether we needed an ace, or if we missed Morneau, or if Gardy should or should not be fired, we can all agree on:

1. The Twins played with the spectre of defeat hanging over them.

2. The hitters, collectively, tanked under pressure.

3. The "leader," Joe Mauer, went MIA.

4. The rest of MLB no longer takes the Twins seriously, if they ever did, as an October contender.

Since we can all agree on those four points, I would like to know what we can propose to the Twins to do about those shortcomings.

USAFChief said...

"It's not realistic to believe the Twins will ever boast a three-headed monster like Philadelphia currently has in its rotation; "

This, in a nutshell, is EXACTLY why the Twins struggle to win in the postseason.

'We're small time. We're in flyover land. We can't expect our ownership, or our GM, to put together a real rotation. We couldn't possibly trade for Cliff Lee, my goodness, who would play center field in 2016? We couldn't possibly trade for Roy Oswalt, even if the Astros kicked in $11M and we had Nathan's insurance money to play. Good HEAVENS...the payroll is ALMOST $100M as it IS!

There is no reason on earth why the Twins COULDN'T have a rotation that doesn't include Brian Duensing pitching in Yankee Stadium in an elimination game, with Nick 'hit me' Blackburn set to go in game four if you somehow get through game 3.

Nick N. said...

Chief, Halladay/Oswalt/Hamels are will make over $45M combined next year. Tell me how the Twins are going to afford that + Mauer/Morneau while fielding a competent team otherwise.

USAFChief said...

Nick: First, you used the Philly example as something the Twins could NEVER have. Why can't the Twins have three starters of that capability? That's more my point, the willingness of the Twins, and many fans, to simply accept that mediocrity is inevitable because, well, because they're the Twins.

Second, in the specific case of Cliff Lee, money was not the issue. The Twins were interested, they just refused to pay the price. In the case of Oswalt (who was always the more doable and logical choice this year anyway) they had the Nathan insurance money to play with, which would have payed most of his remaining 2010 salary, and the $11M the Astros gave the Philies means Oswalt would've cost the Twins $5M in 2011. The Twins could have had one of those in their 2010 postseason rotation, they chose not to.

hotshotLIVES said...

Nick. I hope in the end Kyle Gibson and prospects were worth a championship by not getting Cliff Lee.

It might not have mattered in the end anyway. We just had some terrible luck this year with Nathan's injury and Morneau's concussion. And if ODawg and Hardy are healthy all year and Slowey and Blackburn dont have terrible June swoons, we dont play the Yankees in the first round.

We just had some bad luck, and it tends to happen in baseball.

Nick N. said...

Nick. I hope in the end Kyle Gibson and prospects were worth a championship by not getting Cliff Lee.

You think that with Cliff Lee this team is suddenly guaranteed a championship? They didn't win a single playoff game and averaged just over 2 R/G while getting swept. With Lee, maybe they win one but then Lee's gone this offseason and the Twins are out all of their best prospects going forward.

The notion that one single player at any position could ever be the difference between a first-round sweep and a World Series victory is preposterous.

Sean said...

Gardy has a contract for life with the Pohlads. So the discussion regarding his firing is like banging our heads against the wall. Maybe there could be some change in the way things are done in his staff.

Nolan Ryan has directed pitchers to gain strength in the season by pitching through jams instead of getting a butt pat if they get through 6 innings. Bert Blyleven has a similar philosophy and a curve ball every Twins pitcher should be learning. Plus he'll probably strangle Dick B. if he continues another year next to him.

And of course, the oddest promotion in MLB coaching is discussed at link below. Maybe Gardy back to the bag would be good for him.

http://firegardy.com/2008/05/18/the-worst-thing-about-ron-gardenhire/