Tim Bouvine: Is the joke on Twins and their fans in 2012?

Tim Bouvine

If what goes around comes around is indeed true, the Minnesota Twins of 2012 are apparently at the wrong end of the vicious cycle that is professional sports unless you are the New York Yankees in an uncapped Major League Baseball salary world.

When current Minnesota Twins General Manager Terry Ryan was in his first stint with the club, the team was able to climb out of the abyss and achieve industry wide acclaim as a model small market franchise.

After the 2002 season, Ryan was named Sporting News Executive of the Year and the franchise was honored by Baseball America as the Organization of the Year in the same season.

The team had developed a stellar reputation of developing minor league talent along with an efficient style of play that featured fundamentals, pitching and defense. The “Twins way” became a catchphrase that signaled an organizational-wide point of emphasis after a disastrous stretch in the 1990’s that displayed anything but redeemable baseball related skills.

That stretch from futility to fashion lasted nearly a decade until the Twins moved into Target Field and somehow lost their way, perhaps falling into the anticipated luxury revenue trap that has ensnarled too many professional franchises.

There appears to be a paucity of potential top-notch major league talent in their farm system as the 2012 regular season approaches. The thought of the Twins as a model franchise is as out of date as the Metrodome.

Worse yet is the sullied reputation of the “Twins way” that captured the hearts of Upper Midwest baseball fans in the past decade.

“Pitch to contact” was the Twins motto for crisply paced defensive innings, but without any Gold Glove caliber fielders in the organization, the philosophy is terribly misguided. Years of drafting control pitchers with limited velocity has placed the farm system behind the power arms of the Central Division for both the starting rotation and especially the bullpen.

“Pitch to contact” has now become derisive in place of acclaim from fans and foes alike as the Twins loaded up with too much of a good thing at the expense of a well-rounded game plan.

Former Twins such as David Ortiz and J.J. Hardy who flourished after leaving the Twin Cities have made no secret of their displeasure of the organization’s hitting philosophy. Pull-hitting and power appear to be frowned upon, with the slap-happy opposite field hitting approach espoused by one-time Twins manager Tom Kelly becoming sacrosanct in the Minnesota clubhouse.

Once again, friend and foe alike have disparaged and ridiculed the “Twins way” as an outdated and unproductive style of hitting.

The club’s apparent eye for talent was blinded by the Japanese sun when the Pohlad’s threw away a ridiculous sum of cash to acquire Tsuyoshi Nishioka when the Japanese import infielder couldn’t even turn a double-play pivot from either middle infielder position.

The front office has arbitrarily placed a $100 million payroll limit for 2012 after lining the Pohlad’s coffers with a new ballpark and record revenue the first two seasons at Target Field. Somehow the fans that waited for over a decade in the hopes of competing with the upper echelon of MLB with enhanced revenues are told that “money can’t buy” titles and belts will have to be tightened. Who is laughing now?

The cornerstones of the franchise, the M. & M. boys of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau were formerly fan-favorites, but now have become the butt of jokes rather than shock and awe of their athletic talents. They weren’t named after candy, but the M. & M. boys should be traded in for Snickers as the pair are laughed at on a consistent basis for their drop in production despite out of this world salaries.

The only thing worse than being ridiculed by your peers would be the inability to detect that one is now the franchise being laughed at, rather than emulated.

Eh, Ryan, are you listening to your peers and counterparts as they cackle behind your back?

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