I love the Twins. You know that. I've told you why I love them, and I've told you why I think they're good enough to make the playoffs and maybe even win their division. It sounds crazy, with the Tigers and the White Sox both playing outrageously good baseball, but the Twins could do it...unless something goes wrong. What could it be, you ask? How could Minnesota, with the likes of Liriano, Santana, and Mauer on the roster, still not be good enough to compete in the AL Central? Here's at look at the Top Five reasons the Twins might not get the job done.
Reason Number Five: Brad Radke
I'll keep this short and sweet. Radke is a classic Twin; he's been with us through his best and our, well...our pretty bad. This year, he's 8-7 with a 4.83 ERA—not bad, but not good either. Radke is nothing if not predictable: he gets knocked around early, then he settles down. Truth be told, he might be the only pitcher in the league who actually improves as the game goes on—every time. Unless he starts to get some decent offense behind him, though, Twins fans can expect to see more game summaries along the lines of "Radke loses without support."
Reason Number Four: Joe Nathan
Please, don't get me wrong—I don't mean to say that there is anything wrong with Joe Nathan per se. As a matter of fact, I think that he's one of the best closers in the game, and the numbers back me up: 6-0, a 1.62 ERA, 55 strikeouts in 39 innings, and 17 saves in 18 opportunities. So where's the problem? Quite simply, Nathan isn't getting used as he should be. HE IS A CLOSER. I'm glad he's 6-0, but he shouldn't have to be. Ideally, he'd be 2-0 with at least 25 saves, but the Twins haven't been getting him into the right situations. Bottom line: he's not on the team to pitch the ninth inning of a 2-2 game. Than again, I've got to admit that it does beat bringing in...
Reason Number Three: Kyle Loshe
I feel bad writing it—I hate saying anything bad about the Twins this year—but the fact is that Loshe stinks. The Twins keep sending him to arbitration, and he keeps getting sent right back into the bullpen. I don't know who his lawyer is, but I hope Loshe has him on retainer, because his numbers (2-5, 7.18 ERA) certainly aren't the reason he's still around. He does have an uncanny ability to up his performance when his job's on the line, but he always falls apart again after he's managed to save his roster spot. Barring a miracle, he's only going to be a weight around our necks.
Reason Number Two: Rondell White
This is actually my second draft of the Rondell White paragraph, because I just watched him hit his second home run of the night, making three in the last three games. The problem, of course, is that that those three dingers have brought his season total to...three dingers. With a nagging shoulder injury, White has struggled mightily to make contact (his BA was as low as .190 at one point), which was the only reason we signed him in the off-season. He's brought his average up to .210 this week with his best hitting of the year, but you've got to wonder if he can keep it up. If he does, I'll be the first person to take back every bad word I've ever said about him, but I need to see it to believe it. Incidentally, the Twins are up 7-2 right now, which begs the same question I've been asking about Barry Bonds lately: if the homer doesn't matter, does it matter?
Reason Number One: Injuries
To say that the Twins have suffered a few injuries lately would be a serious understatement. In fact, the crowded DL is the number one reason White came back from the minors—we ran out of players to call up. All three starting outfielders—Shannon Stewart, Torii Hunter and Lew Ford—are on the shelf at the moment, and it seems like these Twins have a way of going down more often than players on other teams around the league. Their strength has come from a great minor league system—a system which has produced most of the current starting lineup—but what happens when we run out of suitable fill-ins on the farm? There's an answer out there, of course, but you're not going to hear it from me. Maybe it's obvious to everyone with half a brain...but I still don't wanna say it, and I'm not gonna say it. After all, you never know: if I keep quiet—if I stick my head in the sand and pretend I can't see what's coming down the line—maybe it won't happen...