The Money Disease?

Well, this season has got me beat...


In all likelihood, it will take until mid-August for that creeping cynicism to finally take hold in the Pollyannas, and they realize that the season is shot. It's certainly taken hold of me. Do I think it's possible for the Twins to rebound? I do. Stranger things have happened. Do I, the neg-head, want a comeback? You bet--if anything, it would give me a lot to write about. Baseball is not a Hindenburg sport, like auto-racing. Disasters get old in baseball--such as having a team with a division title, MVP, batting champ and Cy Young winner one year having none of these the following season (a good possibility). Our sport's failures take forever, festering over the course of 162 games. Rare is the team that's kicked out on the final day; it's extremely rare in this day of wild-cards. Oh, we can crow all we want about overtaking the Tigers on the last contest of the 2006 season. But we all know things came to a grinding halt three contests later, while the Tigers got to see the World Series.

From now through the dog-days of August, we will tell ourselves that the Twins are only x games out of first place, a mere x and a half out of the wild card spot, and remember that just last year we were almost a dozen games out before we went and took the crown. All the while a sneaking suspicion that history will not repeat itself begins to take hold. So what do we do now? What can we learn, what can we look for?

Rookies, for one. But even there we're thwarted. Supposedly, the Twins management is keeping Matt Garza down below for contract reasons--according to those in the know, allowing Garza to pitch brilliantly in the minors gives the home team another year of free agency (in 2013) if they hold off letting the guy pitch in June, and if they can hold off until past the All-Star break they can delay arbitration until 2010, when the new stadium opens and management has to come up with exciting new excuses for why they have no money.

I sincerely hope they bring this kid up, and a bunch of other kids, because I'd frankly rather see the Twins lose with these young-uns, and all their tremendous potential, than lose with Ramon Ortiz and Carlos Silva (or Ponson). Allowing these gents to take the mound over the rookies is detrimental, I think, for a number of reasons. OK, so the Twins save a considerable amount of money in, say, six years, three years after the stadium opens (on Matt Garza). To begin with, this strikes me as an astoundingly cynical take on the game, and an affront to fans and taxpayers who have coughed up a new stadium for this team. The season's not over, and I'm guessing we'll all be happy as the proverbial clam if it were Sidney Ponson who won 20 games and marched us into the fall classic. But he didn't. Pitching has not brought the Twins to this woeful condition, but watching Garza take his lumps and show his mettle is, I would say, one of the inherent joys of the game--seeing the rookies grow.

I ask because it brings me to my second point: in these bleak days it pays to watch talent develop. It gives a person hope, just as Tigers fans watched patiently as the young pitching staff, some of whom endured that wretched 2003 season, grew stronger and stronger. Then Mike Ilitch, who was watching his goodwill slowly erode over the course of a dozen worse-than-hideous seasons, brought in some notable talent in the form of Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez to work with the youth movement. Since then, they've strung together a good team made up of myriad prospects and a few roving, powerful veterans.

Probably I'm tilting at windmills to think that the Twins will ever pull the trigger and bring in a free agent, like Jack Morris all those years ago. For the Twins to spend any money, even on rookies, undermines a philosophy that they've nurtured for almost ten years now, namely, that the Minnesota Twins have no money (despite the owner's being the richest in a group of extremely rich men), are small-market, and can only afford to develop talent and then watch it fly away later. They must keep good rookies from the majors to save money in the distant future, and cannot but hope that this model will bring home a World Series.

For now, every Twins fan is going to get a see-saw ride for the next sixty days: 2 of 3 from Milwaukee will give us renewed hope, while getting bombed by the Texas Rangers will make us blue (expect this for the rest of the year, I say). I wonder, sometimes, if we can't ask for more from this franchise, for a policy that doesn't make it seem like we're lucky to have what we have, and the rest of the league (and especially the division) moves on without us. I don't have a clue as to what we can do about it, since the Twins don't take suggestions and its not as if we're going on strike. But if the current season has you down, as it does me, I don't foresee this thing changing anytime soon. And I don't mean just this year.

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