Calling Doctor Phil

Word to the wise: if you're the general manager of a Major League baseball team and the Baseball America prize patrol shows up at your house to offer you organization of the year honors, don't answer the door.

Because, my God, a funny --actually, not so funny-- thing happened to the Minnesota Twins on their way to world domination. This team is just plain fucked up. There's no more diplomatic way to put it. No one person's to blame for everything that's gone wrong this season, but that's certainly not to say that no one's culpable. When general manager Terry Ryan told the Pioneer Press a month or so ago: "This has been the situation: Sometimes it's the offense. Sometimes it's the pitching. Sometimes it's fielding," he was talking about this season's train wreck, but he might just as easily have been talking about last year, when it seemed like every night there was a different hero or particular component of the game that carried the team to victory.

Last year's team needed an around-the-clock medical staff, and yet managed to run away with the Central division despite being snakebit by injuries virtually the entire season. This year's club needs a full crisis-center complement of shrinks and counselors. Joe Mays --the Brian Wilson of Major League pitchers-- deserves his own personal attending psychiatrist. This is a guy who has thrown out all his clothes, changed his daily routines (including where he buys his hamburgers, apparently), moved his locker, and stopped talking to reporters. That last is a bit of a shame, since Joe in his happier days --actually, it didn't matter if he was happy or not-- could always be counted on for narcolepsy-inducing monologues that filled notebooks and destroyed miles of micro-cassette tape. All the same, I wish Mays nothing but luck, yet I'm afraid what he really needs --a full cranial transplant-- remains, so far as I know, a largely undeveloped medical procedure whose practice is at present wholly restricted to the ranks of criminal amateurs.

Mays isn't alone, however. This is a team of serious head cases, as Tuesday night's confounding 7-5 loss to the Orioles so perfectly illustrated. Once again what cost the Twins a chance to gain a game on the Kansas City Royals wasn't bad luck or superior play by an opponent, but a mind-boggling series of brain cramps and just plain hapless baseball.

I'm not prepared at this point to defend either the manager or the coaching staff --the failures of this club have raised some fairly serious questions about game preparation and the game-to-game, at bat-to-at bat approach of both the pitchers and the hitters-- but as the old cliche goes, the coaches can't throw the ball over the plate, swing the bat, or make the plays in the field for the players. And last night the Twins lost a very winnable game due solely to the failure of the players to execute basic fundamental baseball.

If you saw or listened to the game, or even took a look at the game stories or box scores in the morning paper, you likely know the pathetic details by now. You know that the Twins lost this game because they couldn't make a routine play on a sacrifice bunt attempt. You know that Jay Gibbons worked a full count against LaTroy Hawkins, and fouled off six pitches before finally drawing a walk on a wild pitch that scored the go-ahead run (give the guy credit, it was a great at bat, but with runners on first and third in a tie game, you have every right to wonder at the decision to try to throw a curveball to Gibbons with Carlos Mendez --who was hitting .250 with no homeruns coming into the game, and had gone 0-3 in the game to that point-- on deck. Gibbons, it should also be noted, was already two-for-three with a homerun and three runs batted in).

You also likely know that the Twins drew back-to-back walks off the wretched Hector Carrasco to lead off the bottom half of the eighth, only to have Torii Hunter and A.J. Pierzynski strike out swinging and pinch hitter Todd Sears ground to first to end the threat. That, of course, has been an all too familiar scenario this season, as the Twins have continued to be wretched with runners in scoring position. A guy walks two straight batters and you go up there flailing at everything the bum tosses at you? Seriously, what the hell? Knock, knock: that was Hector Fucking Carrasco on the mound, fellas.

Refresh my memory, if you would: has Hunter had a truly big hit all season? And consider this: as of today Luis Rivas --who came into last night's game hitting .293 over his last 61 games and proceeded to go 2-4 with a homerun and a walk, and also came up with a couple splendid plays in the field-- has an on base percentage of .321. Hunter's OBP is .322. He is now hitting .238 with runners in scoring position, and of his 18 homeruns only three have come with RISP.

Johan Santana's performance last night can't go unremarked, either. All year a lot of folks --myself included-- have been carping about the fact that Santana deserved to be in the rotation, and in the last week the guy has gone out there and fallen on his face. Last week against Kansas City, in what was arguably the biggest game of the year to date, he lasted just five-and-a-third innings and gave up five runs (and three homeruns). Last night he wasn't a whole lot better, putting the Twins in 3-0 hole after the first inning, and giving up --again-- five earned runs in five-and-two-thirds innings.

I don't know what else to say at this point. I think it's time for everybody --myself included-- to just shut up. What the hell do any of us know? I certainly haven't had a bright idea that's amounted to diddly fuck all year, and neither has anybody else that I've talked to or heard from. I'm not entirely prepared to declare the Twins toast, but they're sure as hell in the toaster. The small consolation, I guess, and the only reason I'm not yet entirely willing to throw in the towel, is the fact that Minnesota does have an awfully soft schedule in August and September, particularly compared to Kansas City and Chicago. I know that the odds are stacked against the Twins now, but let's not forget the fact that during the team's May surge --their one good month so far-- they managed to obliterate Kansas City's eight-game lead in a hurry.

I realize that's crossing fingers of the most pathetic sort, but, dammit, what choice do any of us have?

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