For about a decade, the phrase “The Twins Way” resonated throughout baseball as the small market Twins won 6 AL Central titles in 9 years from 2002-2010. The Twins Way was defined by players like Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert, and Doug Mientkiewicz who played great fundamental defense, turned singles into doubles, and consistently overachieved. Home runs were out of the ordinary, and pitchers pounded the strike zone, succeeding with underwhelming “stuff”. Players played through pain, and turned a roster whose payroll hovered in the bottom third in the league about every year into a perennial power in the American League. Somewhere along the way these last 2+ years, they lost sight of The Twins Way.
Despite the somewhat successful 2-2 start to the season in 2013, some fundamental mistakes have prevented an even better opening week. Pedro Florimon and Brian Dozier were too slow on a couple of double play balls in the Detroit series. Aaron Hicks mis-judged fly balls both at Target Field (took a step backward on a shallow fly ball) and yesterday at Camden Yards (bad angle on a double over his head by Adam Jones). Josh Willingham got caught off of second base on a chopper back to the pitcher. Liam Hendriks and Casey Fien both left 0-2 and 1-2 pitches right over the heart of the plate and gave up big hits that kept innings alive yesterday. Chris Parmelee swung at a 3-2 fastball with runners in scoring position that didn’t even start in the strike zone on Opening Day. Trevor Plouffe couldn’t get to third quick enough to get a force out late in the game in Baltimore, and has had at least 2 ground balls to his left squirt under his glove – tough plays but plays he needs to make. Florimon has had a real hard in the field, botching a routine 3-hopper and throwing multiple balls in the dirt to Justin Morneau. Pitches have gotten away from Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit far too easily, and defending the stolen base has become even more of an adventure. Lastly, I’m pretty sure Morneau has struggled with three similar plays on slow rollers down the line getting a handle on the ball and flipping to the pitcher. There. Did I miss anything?
These are the little things that keep innings alive for the opponent, and kill innings offensively for the Twins. They really frustrate me as a fan, so I can’t imagine what has gone through Ron Gardenhire‘s head as these gaffs played out. Needless to say, the Twins have little margin for error this season if they even want to be a .500 club, much less a contender for the playoffs. Many of those mistakes listed above are things that just should not happen in the major leagues. I understand that all 25 men on the roster are human and that mistakes happen, but there have been way too many non-skill related mistakes these first four games.
The pitching staff got out of some big jams this week to get the Twins to a 2-2 start, but unless these fundamentals get cleaned up quickly, it’s going to be a long summer – that is, if the snow ever melts. Gardenhire may eventually even be looking at a shortstop controversy if Florimon continues to struggle, and slick-fielding Eduardo Escobar swings the bat like he has so far. We know Gardy likes Escobar, and so far he’s the one pirahna who has played “The Twins Way” of Gardy’s early managerial years.
Follow Twins Rubes on Twitter @twinsrubes.