For the Twins, it's been a season of injuries that won't go away. And as much as we'd like to, we can't expect the offseason to serve as a cure-all.
Joe Mauer has been the most frustrating and perplexing example, even for medical professionals or students in online nursing programs and sports medicine classes. He underwent a knee operation that was considered minor last December, but hadn't recovered in time for spring training and -- after subsequently spending two months on the disabled list -- still hasn't shown that his legs are anywhere near full strength. He hit .356 in July but managed only four extra-base hits. In 18 August games he's hitting .268/.312/.352. This is just not the premier hitter we've come to know.
Scott Baker underwent elbow surgery during the offseason that, like Mauer's, was deemed minor. The right-hander reportedly dealt with "setbacks" in spring training, and now those issues have seemingly resurfaced, as he's on the disabled list for the second time since mid-July.
Then there are the brain injuries. Justin Morneau took a thump on the head last July and hasn't been the same since, while Denard Span suffered his own concussion 11 months later and has gone 2-for-35 between DL stints in the aftermath.
You can make a case that, when healthy, this foursome represents Minnesota's three best position players and their best pitcher. All face significant health uncertainty that could very well stretch beyond the 2011 season. And they're all under contract next year, for a combined $46.5 million.
The front office faces a lot of important decisions in the coming months as they try to get this derailed mess of a team back on track, but those decisions may not be particularly consequential unless these four players can return to satisfactory levels of health and production.
Everything the team does the rest of this season should be built around that focus. It seems likely that Baker and Span are already finished for the year, and one could certainly make the argument that Mauer ought to be shut down as well.
As for Morneau, there's not much to be done other than hoping things will start to click for him with continued reps. Right now, he's headed in the wrong direction, with a .121/.206/.226 hitting line since returning from his neck surgery.