The end of a season is almost always disappointing. Only one team wins the World Series each year, and for each and every other team, there is some level of failure. Some teams fail a lot more spectacularly than others. Some fail like a gas main breaking or a lady falling out of a grape-stomping rig. In a lot of ways, the 2012 Twins are like the grape-stomping lady. They asked everyone for a break while they gathered themselves from the 2011 filled with injuries and disappointment, only to fall flat on their face, writhing in agony as their biggest supporters looked on without a clue how to respond.
September of 2012 is going to be a very important month. The future of the organization can see a slight improvement, if the present it not quite so tolerable. Losing every game in September is really in the best interest of this team. Tanking is not cool though. The Minnesota Timberwolves tanked pretty visibly in the final game of the 2005-06 season, and were able to get a slightly better draft pick. They totally blew it though, and drafted Brandon Roy, only to trade him for Randy Foye. Rhymes and basketball aside, tanking has some karmic negatives, which cannot be proved using sabermetrics.
The Twins can lose as many games as needed, without resorting to all-out tanking. Last September, it was an easier task. There were so many injuries last year, the team had no issues putting out a lineup and pitching staff that couldn't match up to other teams. This year, the rotation is terrible, but the lineup and bullpen have been good. This team seems more equipped to win games this year, compared with last year's team. Now, many probably don't care about draft picks much, but under the new CBA, higher draft slot means more money to spend. Having more money could allow the team to draft some high school players and keep them from going to college.
Tanking is not an option. They can't just roll Matt Carson out every game or karma will get suspicious. This takes a more delicate touch. They have to use the best team they have available, while also giving "rest" to the veterans that need it. They are in a position to give a lot more rest to these older players. They can also introduce some youth. Young players need to be evaluated at the MLB level, and this seems like the perfect opportunity. However, all of this means that Ron Gardenhire is going to have some very difficult conversations to have. This is what they might sound like:
Gardy's Conversation with Denard Span:
"SpanMan, we need to talk. SpanMan, I know you're a gamer. You want to get out there and get at it. Your shoulder is barking and we'd love to see you back on the field. However, we want you to rest that shoulder, to be ready to get at it in 2013. We're going to give some at bats to some young guys, to see how they get at it. If you want to battle, I get it, but let's save the battle for next year."
Gardy's Conversation with Trevor Plouffe:
"Plouffey, we need to talk. Plouffey, I know you are a gamer. You are back out there and you're getting after it. Your thumb is still bothering you, but we need to see how you get at it in September. Next year, we are going to need you to battle through 162 games, because that is a full season. So, get out there, battle, and play hard through September."
Gardy's Conversation with Justin Morneau:
"Morney, it's good to see you out on that field, getting after it. We've always known that you're a gamer and that you battle. We've got some young bucks that we want to get a look at though, so we're going to give you some rest here and there. That way, you are ready to get after it again next year.
Gardy's Conversation with Josh Willingham:
Big Joshy, we have to have a chat. Joshy, I know that you want to be out there, getting after it. We want you out there battling too. We're going to sit you down a few days though, just to see how the other guys get after it. We need to see more from Benjamin, The Family Parm, and Matty Cars. We'll get you in the lineup most nights.
Gardy's Conversation with Samuel Deduno:
Deduner, time to talk. I've been impressed with how you are battling these last months. We need you keep going out there, getting after it, but start pounding the strike zone. Make sure those hitters put those balls in play and let your defense get after it as well. Battle, pound and get after it, ok?
Gardy's Conversation with Matt Capps
Capper, take a seat. I'm happy to see how the rehab is going. You could have given up, but you kept battling. We're going to need you in September to throw some innings. Keep working hard, get after it and battle. We have to see what's in the tank, so that we can find some innings for you in 2013.
Gardy's Conversation with Terry Ryan:
Terry, I need some time. I need Blackie back up here. The pitching staff is battling, but they are tired. Blackie is a bulldog and we can really use him right now. He will come up and get after it, and that is what I want in one of my pitchers. We need to see what he can give us next year and see if that sinker is sinkin'
Gardy's Conversation with Joe Mauer
Joseph, can I have a second? I know you want to be out there every day, and I'll make sure you are. Are you sure you don't want some breaks though? Maybe rest your knees? We could get you some DH time or even some days off? Will that work? You've been a warrior and a bulldog, so it would be great to give you some time off. Is that cool?
As you can see, Gardy has a lot of tough talks coming up. Resting regulars, giving "young" players some time and seeing what some retreads can do next year, are all good ways to lose without trying to lose. But really, they seem to have the losing thing down, if the last two seasons are any indication.
Yikes, this one got away from me. Sorry about that.