Featured Posts | Twins

Zulgad: Twins’ apologists need to open their eyes and realize there’s no excuse for awful season

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals
Jun 3, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Minnesota Twins center fielder Gilberto Celestino (79) collides with left fielder Trevor Larnach (24) as Kansas City Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson (not pictured) scores the go ahead run during the seventh inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone attempting to sum up the first 56 games of the Twins’ miserable season in one play doesn’t have to look any further than the bottom of the seventh inning on Thursday night in Kansas City.

With the score tied and one out, Andrew Benintendi lofted a fly ball toward left-center field. Trevor Larnach camped under the ball for what was going to be the second out and also keep speedy pinch runner Jarrod Dyson at second base. Only center fielder Gilberto Celestino had other ideas as he drifted into Larnach’s personal space.

Celestino got his glove on the ball, but in brushing Larnach it fell to the ground. Dyson easily took third. Celestino then made matters worse by lobbing a throw over second base. By the time first baseman Miguel Sano picked up the ball, there was nothing he could do but watch Dyson touch home for the go-ahead run in Kansas City’s 6-5 victory.

It was pointed out Celestino was the sixth player to start in center field for the Twins this season and that this was only his second big-league game. In other words, Celestino wouldn’t be in the major leagues if not for all of the injuries the Twins have suffered.

The excuse might sound good, but ultimately it’s nonsense.

No one should be given a pass for what proved to be the game-losing gaffe — including a guy just up from Double-A Wichita. If Celestino wanted the ball, he had to make it clear it was his, or let his fellow rookie catch it. A Little League outfielder would have gotten a talking-to for the mistake.

Even mild-mannered Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who does everything in his power not to criticize his team, could only sugarcoat this one so much. “It’s not a play that anyone, anyone in baseball would look up and say, ‘That’s difficult in any way,'” Baldelli said.

For Baldelli, this was tantamount to a meltdown. It was deserved, too, considering the Twins’ overall play and the fact they opened this trip by dropping two of three to the horrendous Baltimore Orioles.

Boys of Bummer, indeed.

The body language of reliever Hansel Robles also told the story. The pitcher thought he had two outs and a man on second and instead his team was now trailing. There’s only one problem with Robles showing disgust. He’s a part of the problem. Any apologist who tried to absolve Celestino of blame, had to realize Dyson was standing on second base because Robles hadn’t done his job.

Coming off a terrible pandemic-shortened season with the Angels in 2020, Robles was signed to a one-year, $2 million contract by the Twins. This continued the theme under lead executive Derek Falvey that if the Twins sign a veteran pitcher who is broken, they will fix him. Only that hasn’t been the case this season. Veteran starters Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ both have ERAs over 5.00, and while Robles carries a 3.28 ERA, he seems to love to create danger and then try to pitch out of it. Sometimes it works.

On Thursday, Robles opened the seventh inning by walking veteran Carlos Santana. Dyson ran for Santana and then stole second. He walked one more hitter before the inning ended, giving him 17 walks in 24.2 innings. While the double error on Celestino meant the go-ahead run was unearned, it was still on Robles that Dyson was standing on second at that point.

It might have been nice if the Twins were able to plug in the guy who many expected to be their top bullpen arm this season. Alex Colome, however, has become unusable in situations that carry any significance. Last season, Colome had an 0.81 ERA and 12 saves in 13 opportunities in 21 games with the White Sox. This season, he has a 5.31 ERA and two saves in five opportunities in 22 appearances.

Colome and Robles were both signed to help replace jettisoned pitchers in the bullpen. Both are healthy and both are disappointments. The same goes for Shoemaker and Happ. There are many Twins who fall into this category. Does the team have injury issues? Absolutely, as do numerous clubs this season.

But is that a reason for the back-to-back AL Central champions to be sitting at the bottom of the division, 12 games under .500 and a game behind the Detroit Tigers? Of course not. Let’s call this season what it is: An embarrassment for which there’s no excuse.