Minnesota Twins Lack Killer Instinct


Win two, lose one. On paper, that method of baseball seems pretty successful. A winning percentage of .667, winning every series and a very solid way to earn a post-season berth. The Minnesota Twins have done nearly exactly that through 69 games, yet the Twins don’t exactly feel like a team that can make any noise come October.

By Peter Christian

2010 Minnesota Twins

The Twins have won 14 of their first 23 series’ (splitting 3 and losing 6) and of those 14, 10 have come by way of the Twins winning the first two games of a 3 game series. Only twice have the Twins been able to complete the sweep. Now, it’s nice that the Twins are presently 11 games over .500 and have been in first place of the AL Central since April 7th but the inability to close out a 3 game series sweep is getting old fast.

There are plenty of reasons/excuses that the Twins have not won those 8 series finales but none really mask the fact that the Twins don’t have the cold-hearted ability to stomp on a team when it’s down.

Granted, we’re talking about games in April, May and June but the pattern is pretty clear. If a team doesn’t carry the killer instinct in it’s DNA, it isn’t something that will develop over the course of the season. The only way to get the killer instinct is to change the DNA (i.e. make some changes).

It’s no secret that the team is at least one or two roster moves away from being post-season ready but an addition or subtraction to the 25 man roster isn’t the only type of change I’m talking about.

Ron Gardenhire Twins Manager

I don’t mean to be overcritical of Ron Gardenhire or to come off that I’m not a fan of Gardy (because I am), but I get really tired of his stubbornness and unwillingness to even consider change. Gardenhire’s winning has masked many of his bad lineup mistakes and hypocrite behavior but now that the team is portraying that they want to make the leap from a team that’s just happy to make the playoffs into one that wants to get back to the World Series, he’s going to have to be the first one to change.

Minnesota Twins World Series Champions

That means asking Joe Mauer to catch a day game after a night game occasionally. That means shaking up the lineup when certain players (ahem, Michael Cuddyer) are slumping. That means giving that same slumping player a day off to get fresh if necessary.

Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire was the Nick Punto of yesteryear.

That means he might have to subside some his obvious love of players that remind him of himself (weak bat, solid defense, extraordinary hustle) and put the best lineup on the card more often than not. That means don’t just slide a replacement (injury or day off) into the everyday player’s slot in the lineup. There’s no reason for Matt Tolbert to be batting 2nd in the lineup. Ever. However, most importantly, it means that Gardenhire can’t set the tone for the team by sending out an obviously inferior lineup in the series finale. If the manager doesn’t take the game seriously, why should the team?

Again, I do approve of Gardenhire’s overall managerial performance and his willingness to protect his players but he needs to recognize there are slight differences between World Series champion managers and AL Central champion managers. If the Twins front office wants the team to develop the killer instinct they lack, they must start the change at the top of the clubhouse.

Personnel wise, there also needs to be a different approach to how the Twins fill gaps created by injury or the previously mentioned slumps. Currently, the Twins employ a strategy of utilizing utility/bench players to become everyday starters in the event of an injury while minor league call-ups then become the back-ups. That strategy needs to be reversed. If a player like Brendan Harris or Matt Tolbert isn’t good enough to be an everyday player (whether its due to their bat, glove or both), they should remain in their roles and the young prospect call-ups should get the chance to play everyday. If both players are less talented than the everyday player they are replacing why not give the player with the higher ceiling the opportunity to showcase his talents and possibly grow at the Major League level?

Lastly, the addition of a few upgrades via a trade or shrewd signing will be the final way to install a carnivore attitude inside the Twins clubhouse. Whether they add a pit bull pitcher that attacks opponents, a motivating hitter that has an infectious disease of going for the kill versus a wounded opponent or a dominating reliever that causes everyone around him to elevate their game it will be a guy that is interactive with the club and will immediately put his stamp on the team.

All three of those changes would most definitely elevate the Twins to being a World Series contender, but let’s be honest, they’ll likely settle for 2 out of 3.

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  1. Peter,

    Well done and a great piece to read for any diehard Twins fan. Your points seem to be those you would hear if MSP had decent sports talk radio. As a casual baseball fan, it seems to me that just about every team has trouble closing out a series. What is the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves record in similar situations?


  2. paulmbanks says:

    nicely done with the symmetry at the beginning at the end. I really do enjoy your Twins and Vikings stuff when you write it.

    2.5 games!!!!! WE’RE RUNNING UP ON YA!!!

    Thank You Milwaukee for that sweep :) That was so nice

  3. The problem is we can’t seem to pitch 3 quality starts in a row this season. It seems to always go like this: Gem, horrid start, quality start, horrid start, gem, quality start, horrid start, etc.

    I think Brian Duensing should be given the 5th spot over Nick Blackburn at this point.

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