TOM COYNE: Back In Circulation — A Plea From TC To TC

For the past 23 years, the Minnesota Twins have employed a likable character named T.C. Bear as its mascot. You can find him roaming around Target Field, often leading cheers from atop the Twins’ dugout, or posing for cute pictures with young fans.

It’s easy for me to like T.C.

After all, we share the same initials and both pull for the same Major League Baseball team.

Lately though, I’ve wondered if T.C. sometimes wishes he could’ve hibernated for a while. Like maybe for most of the 2023 season.

Imagine if the big guy arose from a long slumber this week. Since he’d probably be both hungry and curious, I’d round up a batch of dollar dogs and give him a quick update on the squad.

Careful not to make him ornery, I’d begin by telling T.C. those attempts to improve the pitching staff last winter are definitely paying off.

At the All-Star break, Minnesota has a team earned run average of 3.68. Only perennial powers, Atlanta and Houston, are better. Their 870 strikeouts are second overall. Even more impressive, their WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) is tops in the majors.

Starters Sonny Gray and newly acquired Pedro Lopez made the All-Star team. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober have been great, too. Throw in a gradually recovering Kenta Maeda and a solid closer in Jhoan Duran and guess what, T.C.?

The Twins are just a half-game out of first place in the American League Central!

Hopefully by this point, the furry fellow has feasted on more franks than Joey Chestnut. Because I’m about to give him the more grisly details that are leaving us all polarized.

Yeah, the Twins have led the division for most of the season, but only because the entire quintet stinks. Their record of 45-46 would leave them 16 games back of Atlanta or 12 back of Tampa Bay.

Their offense has been offensive.

They’ve struck out 916 times. That’s dead last in the majors. By 47!

Byron Buxton has 89 of those whiffs, is hitting .208 and is now too hobbled to play in the field. Carlos Correa has 79 Ks at .225 and has left endless runners on base. Joey Gallo has been as advertised. Fifteen home runs but 95 strikeouts and a dismal .186 average.

T.C., I know you’re smarter than the average bear. At some point, you’d conclude along with the rest of us, that this Twins’ team has made too many Boo-Boos and doesn’t have enough Yogis, to be successful.

There have been far less talented Twins’ teams in their 63 seasons. But few so frustrating to follow. Night after night, Minnesota squanders stellar starting pitching and better than average defense by refusing to do anything to improve its offense.

1. Buxton’s big contract, but fragile physical state, has forced management to eat up a DH spot. No longer in the field, his projected strengths of speed and defense can’t be employed. Yet, he’s allowed to bat high in the order and flail away at pitches off the plate.

2. Max Kepler continues to struggle with a .200 average, a problem that has persisted for three seasons. Yet, he stays in the lineup when youngsters like Matt Wallner and Trevor Larnach deserve more playing time. Wallner has been tearing it up with the Saints, but for some reason,the Twins won’t promote him. Or demote Kepler.

3. It’s unclear who’s pulling the strings. But manager Rocco Baldelli has recently shown hints of frustration about putting out a daily lineup that seems solely built on a “home run or nothing” approach. The Twins are 26th in stolen bases, despite an uptick of thievery around the league. So manufacturing runs seems futile.

4.  Over their past 35 games, the Twins have scored three runs or less a whopping 20 times. Yet, other than a few minor bullpen swaps, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have refused to make significant changes. Only recently has the team shown a begrudging willingness to allow starters to go more than six innings. A necessary decision because the offense is so anemic.

So here’s what we’re left with: A dull, uninspiring team still attempting to live off its 2019 reputation, when rookie Rocco caught lightning in a bottle. This bunch of air swatters won’t come close to hitting 300 homers or winning 100 games. Instead, we pray for long balls but put people to sleep with mostly whiffs and little imagination. And then stubbornly, rinse and repeat.

Maybe you can talk to them, T.C. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Quit swinging for the fences and hit the ball the opposite way once in awhile. Wallner, Royce Lewis and Donovan Solano own the best averages, and all three hit it where it’s pitched.
  • Dump Kepler and give Wallner a look.
  • Drop Buxton down in the order.
  • Give up on the Gallos and Sanos you seem to covet.
  • Add some speed.
  • Can your new hitting coach.
  • Can Rocco.

Just do something. Right now I can’t bear to watch.

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