Foul Tip: Cubbies come to town

What a difference a month makes, or even a couple weeks, for that matter. Not long ago, it seemed that the Twins were destined for not just a total wash of a season, but to be the kind of lackluster team that never gels and offers dull outing after dull outing.


Well, the season is still a wash, but at least the Twins are worth watching again. The reason? Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire finally blinked.

And what they saw, of course, was a team with proven young talent--think of the obvious like Santana and Mauer--and a bunch of journeyman veterans who were holding the team back. More importantly, they saw that they had a whole lot more young talent being wasted on the bench or in Rochester.

Ryan and Gardy were faced with many "on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand" choices this spring, and it's amazing how many times they picked wrong. With the exception of Luis Castillo, all the vets they picked up in the off-season have been total busts.

Not everyone could have predicted Rondell White's cringe-worthy season, but nearly everyone knew Tony Batista was not even the immediate future at third. Everyone knew that Juan Castro was an aging glove who would never be a serious bat in the line-up. And most folks could guess that the ancient Ruben Sierra--despite all hopes to the contrary--would spend most of the season on the DL.

Hindsight, is of course ... well you know. But what's even more notable is that the Twins braintrust was seemingly unaware of the bright talent already available. The most obvious case: Remember when we were told that Liriano wasn't ready to be a big-league starter? If there's one thing to thank Kyle Lohse and Carlos Silva for, it's for sucking so profoundly that the Twinks eventually had to abandon their foolish handling of Liriano.

But there are other choices that should have been so obvious. Right field should have belonged to Cuddyer instead of Lew Ford all along. Jason Kubel should have been around to alternate with Shannon Stewart in left and at DH. (Oh, and paging Mr. Stewart--please take your time coming back, if you do at all.) And Jason Bartlett should have made the squad and been the everyday shortstop coming out of Fort Meyers.

Now that all of this has been settled, there's a real optimism and even joy in watching the current lineup. The one question mark that should be resolved this weekend with the home series against the Cubs: Terry Tiffee, if given the chance, will have a couple of key hits, and will inch ever so closer to the starting job at third.

You have to feel sorry for the Cubs: Any team that is willing to pay Jacque Jones $16 million over the next three years is to be pitied. But that said, Jones is having a surprisingly good year, and good for him.

Jones was a frustrating player to have on your team when he was a Twin--his penchant for swinging at everything low and inside, his petulance whenever he struck out doing exactly that, his insecurity and immaturity. But Patrick Reusse's column in the Strib today shows Jacque to ultimately be a decent guy, and a class act.

It doesn't make sense for Twins fans to boo A.J. Pierzynski when he comes to town: All he did when he was here was catch every day and hit .300. He didn't ask to be traded. And when he was, he became the piece in what is perhaps the most successful trade in local sports history. (The Twins got Nathan, Liriano and Bonser in that deal.)

Same can be said for Jones--if Twins fans boo him tonight, then we are surely the most uninformed fans in all of sport.

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