Wolfson Column: Is the Twins Magic All Gone?

Updated: 05/11/2012 12:34 PM KSTP.com By: Darren Wolfson

Before the Twins’ magical run from 2002-2010 -- six division titles, plus nearly a 7th before they lost in Game No. 163 to the White Sox in 2007 -- they had a catchy marketing slogan: Get To Know ‘Em.

It’s probably time to resurrect that campaign, or maybe not depending on how you feel about the Twins’ chances over the next few years.

Whether it’s outfielder Darin Mastroianni and  right-hander P.J. Walters, who will start on Saturday, or shortstop Brian Dozier, reliever Jeff Gray, and outfielder Erik Komatsu, the landscape of the Twins’ clubhouse is seemingly ever-changing.

That’s what happens when you have the worst record in baseball since September 24, 2010. Including the playoffs, their record over that period is 74-135.

The Twins can frame the Bill Smith decision last November however they choose, but the reality is he was fired as general manager. Someone was held accountable for last year’s 63-99 disaster.

With this year spiraling out of control at an even worse rate -- the Twins are on pace to go 43-119 -- someone will eventually be held accountable.

Right or wrong, that person will likely be 11th year manager Ron Gardenhire. For the record, this roster is so beat-up from numerous bad decisions the last few years that I’m not convinced the greatest manager of the last decade, former Cardinals skipper Tony LaRussa, could win with it. But for an organization that is in the business of making money, they need to send season-ticket holders a message, especially those who are on the fence about renewing for the 2013 season.

What really needs to happen is, at minimum, five-pronged:

•    Interim general manager Terry Ryan needs to strike gold when he trades the likes of pitchers Carl Pavano, Matt Capps, Francisco Liriano, Jason Marquis, and catcher Ryan Doumit at the non-waiver deadline in late July. He’s done that in the past, acquiring then little-known commodities Kyle Lohse, Cristian Guzman, Eric Milton, Joe Nathan, Liriano, David Ortiz, Joe Mays, Alexi Casilla, and Jason Bartlett.
•    Ryan has five of the top-72 picks in June’s amateur draft, including the No. 2 overall selection. He needs to strike gold with at least a couple of those prospects. The 2013 draft will also be very important. At the rate they’re on, the Twins will have the No. 1 overall pick. When picking that high, you need to find borderline superstars.
•    Assuming the Twins will maintain a payroll in 2013 of around $100 million, they’ll have flexibility to sign free agents this winter. The richest free agent contract the Twins have given to an OUTSIDER is the $21-million deal outfielder Josh Willingham signed in the offseason. It’s time for the Twins to spend some serious money on free agents. They need at least three starting pitchers, so sign someone, or even multiple guys. Among the free agent starters that will be available: Cole Hamels (Phillies), Zack Greinke (Brewers), Edwin Jackson (Nationals), Dan Haren if the Angels decline a $16M option, Shaun Marcum (Brewers), Brandon McCarthy (A’s), Jake Peavy if the White Sox decline a $22M option, Colby Lewis (Rangers), and Anibal Sanchez (Marlins).
•    Find out if Hall of Famer Paul Molitor has any interest in coaching full-time. Viewed as an eventual manager if he chooses to go that route, his knowledge would be very helpful to many hitters on a daily basis.
•    Promote AAA hitting coach Tom Brunansky. Too many smart people say his impact in a short time in the organization has been very noticeable.