Twins could use a fire salePublished 10:29am Monday, February 27, 2012
In another era, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-half of the first season would be considered a yawner.
After all, the Wolves, at 17-17 one game behind eighth-seeded Portland, would not qualify for the playoffs if they were held today. When the Vikings and Twins were making the playoffs (two years ago) and the University of Minnesota basketball (a decade ago) and football (before I was born) teams were good, the Wolves’ season would barely register among Minnesota sports fans.
This year, however, it’s all we’ve got.
Clearly, the combination of 23-year-old all-star power forward Kevin Love, 26-year-old up-and-coming center Nikola Pekovic, rookies Ricky Rubio (21) and Derrick Williams (20) and veteran coach Rick Adelman has sparked my interest.
Clearly, I’m not the only one whose interest has been sparked.
At the Knicks game I attended with family two weeks ago, the Target Center, which has been a ghost town in recent winters, was packed to the rafters with nearly 21,000 in attendance. Sure, the presence of Knicks point guard and Harvard phenom Jeremy Lin on the court didn’t hurt. But still, the atmosphere was electric.
In past years, opponents seemed to toy with the Wolves. Even in games that were close for a while, opposing players usually went on a run to put the game out of reach, as if to yawn a bit, stretch their arms out and say, “I guess it’s time we start playing now.”
Not this year. Even in the losses, such as during the Knicks game I attended, the Wolves have been staying in the games. And even in tough losses, Rubio and company have been entertaining. You feel like, if they can keep the nucleus together and make a couple of tweaks (like obtaining a real shooting guard), they can actually make some noise in the playoffs in a couple years. Especially since their payroll is among the lowest third in the league, and none of their players are in the top-30 highest paid (though that will change with Love next year).
I point this out to Twins general manager Terry Ryan. As a Twins’ fan who personally attended too many games during last year’s 99-loss season, I plead to Mr. Ryan — blow this team up and start over.
OK, I’ll be willing to reserve judgment until the season starts. But if their primary players — Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano and Scott Baker — either can’t play up to their salaries (Mauer, Pavano), to their potential (Liriano, Baker) or — in the case of Morneau, at all — then what is the purpose of keeping the team together and spending all that money again?
If early in the season, 2012 seems to be tracking the same way as 2011, then it’s time for a fire sale. Trade players for prospects, bring the most promising players up from the minors, and cut the payroll in half, if not more.
Sure, the Twins will still lose games. And sure, there will be prospects the Twins acquire who won’t work out.
But as the Timberwolves have proven, a group of young, developing players who lose but may win one day are much more entertaining to watch than a team with a bunch of older, overpaid players who lose and are never going to win again.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s Publisher. E-mail him at email@example.com