Friday, April 29, 2011


For those of us who didn’t know already, we learned in the sordid 2010 chapter of New Britain Rock Cats baseball that winning ballgames at the minor league level ranks pretty low on the importance meter.

What the Minnesota Twins took to the bank wasn’t the 44-98 debacle that reduced the Rock Cats to an Eastern League punching bag.

The silver lining that framed the cloud over New Britain Stadium included the continued development of center fielder Ben Revere, the rapid growth of right-handed starting pitcher Kyle Gibson and the sharp upward turn in the careers of multi-talented Joe Benson and sweet-swinging left-handed hitting Chris Parmelee.

The virus that left the Rock Cats as the worst Double-A team in baseball and the worst in the Eastern League in 67 years has surfaced in Minnesota. The Twins at this writing have the worst record in the American League after being torched twice in one day, at home by the Tampa Bay Rays.

So what have the Twins, a team guided by exceptionally astute and equally benevolent administrators from top to bottom, done to incur the wrath of the baseball deities? That’s a rhetorical question, Twins and Rock Cats fans. Answers are not readily available.

Let’s review the facts.

Justin Morneau, on the cusp of a brilliant career, loses half the 2010 season to a concussion that obviously included complications that only his neurologist can accurately relate. The good news is that the Canadian-born slugger is back and showing signs of regaining the prominence that has stuffed his trophy case.

Under the same heading – weird and unfortunate injuries – we have Joe Mauer, trying desperately to put what doctors say is bilateral leg weakness behind him when he gets struck down by a viral infection.

Between games of Thursday’s doubleheader from hell, he addressed the media and was quoted by Twin Cities media as saying that he thought the leg weakness would dissipate as spring training became regular season, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way. His return remains in question.

General Manager Bill Smith dips into Japanese baseball and pays big cash to sign infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Nishioka sustains a broken fibula before anybody can begin to assess what kind of impact he can have.

Outfielder Delmon Young, fresh off a sensational season that quelled chatter that the Twins’ 2007 trade which dispatched former Rock Cats Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett was a bust, is on the disabled list with that trendy injury, a strained oblique muscle. DH Jim Thome and outfielder Jason Repko are day-to-day.

Carl Pavano comes down with the flu and the Twins are forced to summon former Cat Anthony Swarzak from Triple-A Rochester for a start. The next day, Swarzak is back with Rochester and former New Britain reliever Alex Burnett has returned to Minnesota.

The curse that has befallen the Twins has wreaked havoc with Rochester. According to Rochester publicity man Chuck Hinkel, the Red Wings have promoted seven players to the majors in 22 days, the most in the International League.

Shockingly, the wholesale changes have not sliced and diced the New Britain roster. Only two who started the season as Cats – utility man Toby Gardenhire and catcher Danny Lehmann – have been moved. The
Twins have little recourse other than to disrupt the Cats' flow, which is bound to occur soon.

The Rock Cats are playing winning baseball but leave us remember, the important thing is what’s happening in the big leagues, and right now the Twins are hoping that destiny soon deals them a better fate.

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