I got my first chance to check out the Budweiser Roof Deck at Target Field on Tuesday night. It was a fun experience. My view of the game was obstructed (all of left field and most of center were blocked from where I sat) but the casual, patio-like atmosphere was well worth it. It was like hanging out at a barbeque, only you could look walk over to one side, peer over the ledge and see a beautiful baseball stadium sprawling beneath.
My enthusiasm was quickly killed by a ball game that was, in many ways, emblematic of how this Twins season has gone. I sighed as Justin Morneau rolled over a 3-1 pitch and grounded out meekly to the right side with a runner in scoring position. I groaned as Francisco Liriano moved ahead of a hitter 0-2, only to end up walking him. Same old, same old.
By the time the rain forced a stoppage in play midway through the game, the Twins were down 4-0 and Liriano had been pulled due to illness, cutting short yet another disappointing outing. As if it wasn't enough for fans to be subjected to such lackluster play, those who weren't able to find cover were soon pelted by a barrage of hail. The large chunks of ice littered the outfield, and when the rain stopped fans had to wait while the grounds crew raked up every little piece.
Those who stuck out the hour-long delay watched the game further deteriorate, as the Tigers continued to beat up on Twins pitching in a 10-2 laugher. It was the tenth time this year the hometown nine have been defeated by five runs or more.
From rain to hail.
From loss to blowout.
From bad to worse.
That's been the story for these 2011 Twins. With another loss to Detroit in yesterday's series finale, they fell to 11.5 games out in the AL Central, with a putrid 12-23 record that puts them on pace for 56 wins. They've been the worst hitting team in the league and the worst pitching team in the league. They've struggled with routine defensive plays and basic base running fundamentals. They've managed to hit into more double plays than all but five MLB teams despite ranking dead last in on-base percentage. I was more skeptical than most about the club's chances of winning the division this year, but I never could have envisioned such a horrific scenario as the one that has unfolded.
We're not halfway through May, and yet already Twins fans must come to terms with the reality that -- in all likelihood -- the season is lost.
For even when the offense gets healthier and the pitching staff rounds into shape (perhaps with some assistance from Kyle Gibson), this club will still be burdened by a terrible bullpen, a desolate middle infield and a major dilemma at the catcher position.
In grasping for hope, we can turn our thoughts to that 2006 team, which was 12 games out as late as July 15 before charging back to take the division with 96 wins, but that roster featured the AL MVP, the AL Cy Young winner, a sensational rookie Liriano, a healthy Joe Mauer and a lights-out bullpen headed by Joe Nathan at his peak. It was, quite obviously, a much better ball club.
This year's Twins roster was a flawed one to begin with, and not built to sustain this kind of disastrous prolonged slump to open the season. Even with improved health, I can't realistically envision them playing .600 ball from here on out, which would be required to reach even 88 wins. I say that without panic, without malice and without cynicism. Just with complete and utter dejection.
These are hard times for Twins fans.