The Twins are 8-23, the worst record in baseball by a large margin, and there’s no doubt that this is a terrible baseball team for the second year in a row. It’s incredibly disheartening. Here are all the things that have gone wrong over the last 18 months, in roughly chronological order:
1) Twins trade JJ Hardy and Brendan Harris for two minor league relievers.
2) Twins win the rights to and sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka from Japan for a total of $18 million. Nishioka hits .226/.278/.249 in 68 games.
3) Twins sign Matt Capps for one year, $7 million.
4) Francisco Liriano shows up to Spring Training out of shape, and is urged by the Twins to “pitch to contact”.
5) Bungled treatment of a wart in the offseason requires foot surgery and keeps Michael Cuddyer out of Spring Training for almost a full month. He starts the season 3 for 28 (.107/.194/.107) through 9 games.
6) Kevin Slowey and Twins clash over role and injuries. Is publicly mocked by members of the Twins administration and the broadcast team, is sent to AAA, and eventually is traded for a minor league reliever.
7) Joe Mauer is not properly recovered from offseason knee surgery, but pushes through Spring Training. Is shut down with leg and back problems after starting the season .235/.289/.265 through 9 games. Finishes with worst season of his career.
8) As a result of this, and an offseason trade that sent Jose Morales to Colorado, Drew Butera plyas 93 games, has a 24 OPS+.
9) Joe Nathan is installed as closer less than a year after having Tommy John surgery. His velocity is down and he walks 8 batters in 10 innings while striking out 7. He loses the closer job to Matt Capps and eventually goes on the DL. Capps has the lowest strikeout rate of his career, surrenders 10 homers in 65 innings, and blows 6 of 21 save attempts.
10) Justin Morneau plays through his concussion symptoms, hits .225/.281/.338 through June 9 before re-aggravating the problem, and shutting down for two months. He returns for a month and continues to struggle before being shut down for the year. Finishes with worst season of his career.
11) Hitting .294/.361/.385, Denard Span suffers a concussion while sliding into home. He returns after almost two months off, and goes 2 for 35 and is shut down again for another month.
12) Danny Valencia and Delmon Young both play like Danny Valencia and Delmon Young.
13) Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn pitch like Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn.
14) Without adequate depth or the means to acquire it, the Twins give a full-season’s worth of plate appearances to the combination of Luke Hughes (.223/.289/.338) and Matt Tolbert (.198/.252/.266).
15) With Matt Tolbert, Michael Cuddyer, and Denard Span injured but not on the disabled list (though Span would soon go on it, and Cuddyer missed 11 days with a neck injury), and Jason Kubel attending to a family emergency, the Twins play most of an August 18 game against the New York Yankees with no bench players because Luke Hughes missed his flight to Minnesota from Rochester because he was sitting at the wrong gate. Joe Mauer has to play right field. Hughes shows up in time to pinch hit for Drew Butera in the bottom of the 9th and strikes out swinging.
16) Twins win 15 of 17. It’s Happening. Lose next 6. It’s not.
17) Scott Baker suffers an elbow injury. Starts 8 games after the All Star Break. Continues to complain of soreness in 2012 Spring Training. MRI and team diagnosis does not catch the need for Tommy John Surgery, which is discovered during a related procedure. Misses all of 2012.
18) Twins lose 30 of 36 games from August 18 to September 24.
19) Twins sign Jason Marquis for one-year, $3 million. Marquis misses much of Spring Training to be with his daughter, who suffered life-threatening injuries in a bike accident. Marquis starts 2012 in the minors, is promoted after 2 starts. Has 6.26 ERA through 5 starts, having struck out 10 batters in 27 innings.
20) Twins sign 38 year old utility man Jamey Carroll for two years, $6.5 million, who hits .218/.312/.264 through 30 games and loses the starting shortstop job to Brian Dozier.
21) Francisco Liriano continues to fall apart, posting 9.45 ERA through 6 starts with 19 BB in 27 innings.
22) Nick Blackburn pitches like Nick Blackburn.
23) Liam Hendriks proves unready to pitch in the majors. Gives up 18 runs in 18 IP, with 9 strikeouts and 5 homers allowed.
24) Luke Hughes makes the team again. Goes 2 for 10 and is DFAed.
25) Chris Parmelee, who has no experience at AAA and is a career .266/.355/.436 hitter in the minor leagues, is given the 1B job on the basis of a strong September in 2011 and 2012 Spring Training. He hits .203/.263/.297 through 80 PAs, has not started last three games.
26) Ben Revere starts 2012 in the Majors, but only starts 3 of 6 games and is sent to AAA. Recalled 12 days later, he goes 3 for 7 with a walk, a double, and 2 runs scored in back to back games. Is promptly returned to AAA. Is currently hitting .309/.351/.324 with 6 stolen bases.
27) Instead, the Twins play a combination of Trevor Plouffe (.149/.298/.234) and waiver wire pickup Clete Thomas (.143/.172/.286 with 16 Ks in 29 PAs).
3B and PH Sean Burroughs gets 18 plate appearances in 22 games. Goes 2 for 17 with a walk. Plays in the field three times. During this time, the Twins are carrying 13 pitchers and 3 bench players. Is DFAed.
28) Drew Butera is back, baby.
29) Justin Morneau starts hot, hitting .267/.353/.578 with 4 homers (as many as he hit in all of 2011) through 12 games. But he injures his wrist in Tampa, and proceeds to hit .172/.250/.276 through the next 8 games without a day off. At some point, complains that wrist is hurting. Is sent back to Minnesota for an MRI on April 30. MRI shows “no structural damage” according to team doctors, and Morneau rejoins the team. Morneau stays on the bench for another four days before the team puts him on the Disabled List, essentially choosing to play with a 1 or 2 man bench the whole time.
30) The Twins lose 23 of their first 31 games.
31) May 10, Jason Marquis, Ryan Doumit, and Trevor Plouffe allow an Edwin Encarcion pop up at home plate to plop to the ground, untouched, between them, allowing Yunel Escobar to score from second base; thus perfectly encapsulating the last 18 months. See it above, as .gif'ed by @CheapSeatChron. It is ruled a single.