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Week in Review: Nail in the Coffin


The Twins talked trash, got thrashed, and saw the embers of their fleeting contention hopes turn to ash. 

Let's review a tough week and set the stage for trade deadline SZN.

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/28 through Sun, 7/4

***

Record Last Week: 1-5 (Overall: 34-48)
Run Differential Last Week: -16 (Overall: -64)
Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (14.5 GB)

Last Week's Game Recaps:

Game 77 | CWS 7, MIN 6: Offense Can't Overcome Maeda's Messy Start
Game 78 | CWS 13, MIN 3: Sox Launch 6 Homers in Ugly Blowout
Game 79 | CWS 8, MIN 5: Swept Out of the South Side
Game 80 | KC 7, MIN 4: Royals Snap 9-Game Losing Streak
Game 81 | KC 6, MIN 3: Jax Knocked Around in First MLB Start
Game 82 | MIN 6, KC 2: Twins Salvage a Win Behind Maeda

NEWS & NOTES

The Matt Shoemaker era has officially ended in Minnesota. One of the worst free agent signings in franchise history saw his Twins tenure come to an end last week, as his egregiously bad relief outing against the White Sox – 2.2 IP, 8 ER, 3 HR – proved to be the last straw. He was designated for assignment the following day, taking with him an 8.06 ERA in 60 ⅓ innings. 

Short-handed as they are on usable arms, the Twins simply could not afford to send Shoemaker out there anymore. If the guy can't get you through a few innings of mop-up duty without getting bombed, what's the point?

Replacing him on the roster is Derek Law, who actually looked pretty solid in his return to the major-league mound on Thursday, generating eight swings-and-misses on 32 pitches in 1 ⅔ innings. He added two scoreless frames against Kansas City on Saturday. It behooves the Twins to take a long look at Law in the second half and evaluate whether he might be of potential use to their bullpen in 2022.

HIGHLIGHTS

Fresh after turning 41, and on the heels of another very strong week at the plate – 7-for-18 with a homer, a double, three RBIs and four walks – Nelson Cruz was named to his seventh All-Star Game. He'll be Minnesota's lone representative but a worthy one. 

Cruz slumped a bit in May but snapped out of it with a scorching tear that stacks up to the most productive stretches of his career. Since June 1st, Nelly is slashing .367/.453/.700 with eight home runs, 20 RBIs, and a 17-to-14 K/BB ratio in 25 games. His wOBA of .477 during that span ranks third in baseball behind MVP front-runners Shohei Ohtani and Vladimir Guerrero Jr

Alongside Cruz, the rookie outfield tandem of Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach is one of the few things keeping Twins games watchable at this point in time. As the club spirals around them, these promising young hitters continue to excel. Kirilloff went 7-for-25 and Larnach went 8-for-24, with each chipping in a home run and two doubles.

To be honest, the real highlights for the Twins organization over the past week took place across the river in St. Paul. The two fastest-rising prospects in the system, infielder Jose Miranda and pitcher Josh Winder, made their respective Triple-A debuts and they were both sensational.

Making his first appearance as a Saint on Tuesday night, Miranda had an offensive game for the ages, launching three home runs (including a grand slam) in a five-hit performance that cemented his bat's legitimacy. 

Three days later, Winder made his first start in Triple-A and didn't miss a beat, exhibiting the same dominance that produced a 1.98 ERA in 10 Double-A starts and led to a promotion. Winder took a no-hitter into the sixth, struck out eight, and allowed just one run on one hit in 5 ⅔ innings, improving to 4-0 on the season overall.

LOWLIGHTS

If the Twins are going to lose nonstop, I personally would prefer if they did so with some level of grace. Josh Donaldson's taunting and trash-talking might strike me as fun under different circumstances, but when it's coming from a laughably bad team that is legitimately struggling to stay out of last place, it just seems kinda sad and pitiful.

To recap: Donaldson's homered in his first at-bat to open the Chicago series, putting the Twins up 2-0. He loudly yelled "Hands not sticky anymore!" – an allusion to Sox starter Lucas Giolito – while crossing home plate in an ostensible effort to pump up his own dugout. It didn't work.

From that point forward, Chicago outscored Minnesota 28-12 in a lopsided sweep that snuffed out any glimmer of hope for the Twins to make a run in the division. Press conferences were held, debates rung out about likability, and JD successfully made himself the center of attention. 

Meanwhile the Twins got their asses kicked all over the field. Giolito and the rest of Chicago's pitchers did just fine with no sticky stuff, while Minnesota's staff was completely unable to contain a White Sox lineup that had been mired in a terrible slump. After slashing .204/.292/.308 with 27 total runs in their previous nine games, the Sox exploded for a .356/.417/.634 line with 28 runs in three games against the woeful Twins.

Donaldson has certainly talked a big game, and to his credit he had a good week with two homers, two doubles, and four RBIs, but generally speaking his production has not justified the bravado. In the first season-and-a-half of his historic four-year, $92 million contract, Donaldson has played in 93 of a possible 142 games (65%), contributing 2.2 WAR and 0.77 WPA over that span.

He's been good, but certainly not franchise-altering, and he's been absent in the biggest spots. He got himself kicked out of their most critical regular-season game last year so he could show up an umpire, and he was unavailable when the Twins were swept out of the playoffs. This season, amidst the quality production and relative durability, he's been one of the slowest runners in baseball and miserably ineffective in clutch spots.

Incidentally, it sounds as though the Twins have engaged in preliminary trade talks involving Donaldson, but with the third baseman battling yet another leg issue (he pulled up with a tight hamstring after rounding first on Saturday), he might be difficult to move.

Having said all that, there's not much Donaldson can do about the Twins pitching, which is obscenely bad and clearly the primary source of Minnesota's season-long struggles. The past week featured plenty more abjectly awful performances, from Shoemaker punching his ticket out of town, to J.A. Happ laying yet another egg in KC, to Griffin Jax getting pounded by the Royals in his first MLB start, to Kenta Maeda putting forth the worst start of his career. Truly hideous stuff.

TRENDING STORYLINE

It's July, the trade deadline is looming, and the Twins are open for business. Cruz's hot hitting bodes well for his value and he certainly looks like one of the most likely players to get dealt, although it's unclear just how much of a return can be expected for a 41-year-old designated hitter with two months left on his contract, even if he's one of the league's best hitters.

Health will be a sticking point (pun intended) for some of the Twins' most valuable assets including Donaldson. His proneness to leg injury is a reality that cannot be ignored regardless of the outcome with his current hammy issue, but if he can rebound quickly and return to the field, as he has with previous instances this year, it may help alleviate some of the concern. 

Michael Pineda, meanwhile, should certainly have appeal to pitching-needy contenders, provided there is confidence his arm is okay. Pineda's brutal first rehab start in St. Paul on Sunday – 4 IP, 4 ER, 3 BB, 1 K – won't help on the latter front. 

LOOKING AHEAD

With tails between their legs, the beaten-down Minnesota Twins return to Target Field for seven games against Chicago and Detroit. Minnesota could've infused the White Sox series with some measure of drama by delivering a strong performance at Guaranteed Rate Field last week, but instead they'll simply be trying to regain some dignity and escape from last place. 

The Twins are set to play 15 straight against the White Sox and Tigers, with the All-Star break sandwiched in the middle. 

MONDAY, 7/5: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Dylan Cease v. RHP Bailey Ober
TUESDAY, 7/6: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – LHP Carlos Rodón v. RHP José Berríos
WEDNESDAY, 7/7: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Lance Lynn v. LHP J.A. Happ
THURSDAY, 7/8: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Tarik Skubal v. TBD
FRIDAY, 7/9: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Matt Manning v. RHP Kenta Maeda
SATURDAY, 7/10: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Jose Urena v. RHP Bailey Ober
SUNDAY, 7/11: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Wily Peralta v. RHP Jose Berrios

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1 hour ago, 1991 said:

I have to wonder if Rocco has completely lost this locker room, for reasons no one knows about.  This season is a total meltdown.

The team has lost the starting rotation, the bull pen, defense, RISP and Buxton. And now they can't find their way to the locker room? How much worse can it get?

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Isn't there a non-zero chance Shoemaker stays with the organization? No other team is claiming him, obviously, so it might be up to Shoemaker's pride whether or not he wants to accept a St. Paul assignment. Not that I'm endorsing this, of course; I just know this franchise and won't be shocked if he's seen pitching for the Twins again.  

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I find it ironic that fans request fire, passion, emotion, however you want to describe from players and managers. Then when they see it, they say “Wait, not that kind of passion!” I’m not saying Nick specifically has asked for this. 
 

Donaldson was trying to wake up the team before management takes action trading people away. He responded, and most of his teammates that pitch didn’t respond. 
 

There’s a lot of directions the Twins can go over the next 3 weeks… Finding pitching is the #1 priority starting now until opening day 2022. 

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40 minutes ago, Yawn Gardenhose said:

Isn't there a non-zero chance Shoemaker stays with the organization? No other team is claiming him, obviously, so it might be up to Shoemaker's pride whether or not he wants to accept a St. Paul assignment. Not that I'm endorsing this, of course; I just know this franchise and won't be shocked if he's seen pitching for the Twins again.  

I would say the chances of him pitching for the St. Paul Saints as a non-40 roster guy are extremely low. But you're right, non-zero. 

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12 minutes ago, Vanimal46 said:

I find it ironic that fans request fire, passion, emotion, however you want to describe from players and fans. Then when they see it, they can say “Wait, not that kind of passion!” I’m not saying Nick specifically has asked for this. 

I've heard this a lot but I think it's overblown and kind of a straw man.

I didn't really have a problem with Mauer's lack of fire, but even those that did can understand there is a time and place for everything.

Donaldson's umpire blow-up last year came at literally one of the worst times possible. If he got himself kicked out of a blowout in Kansas City in a non-condensed season it wouldn't have been quite so bothersome. 

Mouthing off to a team that has you buried by 12 games in the standings, and is on the way to sweeping you into irrelevance? Taunting their pitchers when you yourself have one of the most embarrassing staffs in the league? I mean, take yourself out of the Twins fan lens and think about how laughable this looks to anyone on the outside, especially the White Sox. 

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19 minutes ago, Nick Nelson said:

Mouthing off to a team that has you buried by 12 games in the standings, and is on the way to sweeping you into irrelevance? Taunting their pitchers when you yourself have one of the most embarrassing staffs in the league? I mean, take yourself out of the Twins fan lens and think about how laughable this looks to anyone on the outside, especially the White Sox. 

I never saw any taunting from Donaldson. He kept his face, body, voice, and tone directed toward his own dugout and teammates the entire time.

Listening the the national pods on this, from Effectively Wild, to Jomboy, to Starting 9, and everything in between, they all had the same take. Giolitto responded poorly to "fire up/encourage his own team" kind of action from JD.

If anyone should be embarrassed, it's Giolitto. 

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24 minutes ago, Nick Nelson said:

I've heard this a lot but I think it's overblown and kind of a straw man.

I didn't really have a problem with Mauer's lack of fire, but even those that did can understand there is a time and place for everything.

Donaldson's umpire blow-up last year came at literally one of the worst times possible. If he got himself kicked out of a blowout in Kansas City in a non-condensed season it wouldn't have been quite so bothersome. 

Mouthing off to a team that has you buried by 12 games in the standings, and is on the way to sweeping you into irrelevance? Taunting their pitchers when you yourself have one of the most embarrassing staffs in the league? I mean, take yourself out of the Twins fan lens and think about how laughable this looks to anyone on the outside, especially the White Sox. 

He’s had a checkered history in his MLB career, I’m not defending that. The latest incident appears to be a non-issue after it was addressed in the parking lot. The true issue in your argument is timing. If it was a personal beef with Giolito, he said it the first opportunity playing him after the sticky stuff ban. Then backed it up, so I’m not sure why we’re mad? Team standings is getting into unwritten rules territory… When should the players become emotionless robots? 😉 when they’re 10 games out of the race?
 

I don’t really understand what else JD has done to turn on him as a Twins player. It sucks he was gone for a vast majority of the 60 game pandemic season. Other than the 2 week IL stint in early April, he was playing 6 out of 7 games. Cross fingers he’s only out a couple games recovering from this flare up with his legs and he’s back at it. 

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Rocco may be in over his head, I have no idea, but can anyone say what is the RIGHT way to manage a team whose pitching staff has collapsed? That said, I hope that the organization will train youngsters like Winder to go long and not be persuaded that six competent innings is a major accomplishment. 

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3 hours ago, Nick Nelson said:

I stand corrected! Good call.

 

Well the tough part is out of the way. I *guarantee* that Shoemaker will be called back up sometime after the fire sale. He'll have three or four "encouraging" outings in St. Paul, perhaps in a tweaked bullpen role; maybe there will be reports about how he's honing his splitter and using it as his primary pitch. 

The FO doesn't seem to prefer quick and clean breakups. I'm still baffled at the odd love affair they had with Matt Belisle.      

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On a more hopeful note I was able to watch Miranda’s AAA debut and a few days later Winder’s in person.  Winder was hitting 96 regularly according to the ballpark radar and seemed to have great command of all of his pitches.  Miranda’s 3 homers were all smoked.  I would love to know the exit velo on two of them. Scarcely time to stand up before they left the yard.

Both nights were pretty cool.  These were the first Saints games I have seen in years as I live in San Diego.  

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38 minutes ago, Wizard11 said:

On a more hopeful note I was able to watch Miranda’s AAA debut and a few days later Winder’s in person.  Winder was hitting 96 regularly according to the ballpark radar and seemed to have great command of all of his pitches.  Miranda’s 3 homers were all smoked.  I would love to know the exit velo on two of them. Scarcely time to stand up before they left the yard.

Both nights were pretty cool.  These were the first Saints games I have seen in years as I live in San Diego.  

Wow, you picked a couple good ones! Fun little ballpark, isn't it?

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1 hour ago, Nick Nelson said:

Wow, you picked a couple good ones! Fun little ballpark, isn't it?

The Twins have an awesome AAA setup.  St Paul should be really proud of that beautiful park.

On the night Miranda debuted their was a double rainbow.  Sign, yes?

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I feel like any realistic chance the Twins had at the division or playoffs this year was really overblown over the past couple weeks. The White Sox were scuffling a little bit skewing the numbers the Twins' way, and the Twins won a few games. It was wishful thinking in my opinion. The Twins are a bad team this year and it's not a luck fueled fluke.

That said, I don't think Donaldson was anything other than his classic self out there and fans and the front office need to come to terms with that if they're having issues with his behavior. Honestly, I've seen a heck of a lot more embarrassing behavior from Carlos Gomez in a Twins uniform, and Go-Go almost always got a pass owing to him just being enthusiastic and old fuddy duddy stick in the mud fans just not appreciating fun.

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