The Twins’ brass hailed it as an opportunity to showcase the nicest, shiniest ballpark in baseball. Owner Jim Pohlad took it a step further, openly discussing how much hosting the event would mean to the city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota respectively.
Pohlad may be correct there. After all, it gives Minnesotans a few days to forget the plight of their hometown team.
After winning their final game before the All-Star break, the Twins currently sit at 44-50 and in last place in the AL Central. Offensively, the Twins rank 11th in runs scored, 20th in batting average and 25th in slugging percentage. The pitching hasn’t been much better, with the Twins 13th out of 15 AL clubs in ERA.
Yet the Twins will insist that hope hangs in the air. They’ll point to improvements in Kyle Gibson, who has been merely adequate with an 8-7 record and 3.92 ERA in 18 starts. Joe Mauer, the hometown hero worth a whopping amount of money, is still around. And then there are the impending arrivals of promising talents Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano in coming years.
Minnesotans have heard all this before from the Twins however. In fact, the Twins have been selling hope for the past four years with little to show for it.
Since the start of 2011, the Twins have racked up a record of 239-341 while posting three straight 90-loss seasons. The offense, defense and fielding has ranged from spotty to terrible during each of those campaigns. None of that appears ready to change if the first half of 2014 is any indication.
It’s therefore understandable that both the Twins and their fans are so pumped about the All-Star Game. Competent, skilled professional players will take to the turf at Target Field for the first time in four years on Tuesday. As a rare sight for Twins fans, the locals would do well to enjoy it all because reality will set in quickly after that.
The reality is that the Twins are still several years from meaningful contention. The current roster is made up of unproven young talent and somewhat serviceable veterans. Ricky Nolasco has been a major disappointment on the mound after signing for $49 million over four years. Josh Willingham continues to be a bust after his strong 2012 season. Even Mauer, baseball’s best 6-foot-6 singles hitter, has tailed off to the tune of a .271 batting average this season.
In other words, the current picture is a bleak one for the Twins and their fans.
Eventually, Minnesota may again figure things out again on the baseball diamond. It wasn’t all that long ago that the Twins were considered a model franchise in the eyes of baseball executives everywhere. Until then, the Twins will continue to sell hope. Why? Because there is little else to sell.
Enjoy the All-Star Game Twins fans, it may be awhile before the chance to celebrate baseball comes around again.