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published Friday, July 30th - 12:35am

This winning decade has allowed the Twins to develop a large and very opinionated fan base. The sporting public is always anxious for the Twins to make a trade to boost their chances, and then has a tendency to get upset when it takes young talent to make such a deal.

 

We can go back to July 2003, when the Twins - defending an AL Central title for the first time - went staggering into the All-Star Game.

There were cries for General Manager Terry Ryan to do something, and then hoots when he sent Bobby Kielty, an outfielder the fans considered promising, to Toronto for Shannon Stewart.

The veteran outfielder sparked the Twins to a second straight division title and actually stayed around for three more seasons. Kielty amounted to very little for Toronto and the teams that followed.

The Twins didn't make another significant summer deal until last year, when they obtained shortstop Orlando Cabrera on July 31 and starter Carl Pavano in a waiver trade a week later. Infielder Tyler Ladendorf was traded for Cabrera and pitcher Yohan Pino for Pavano.

We didn't know much about either kid, so there were few complaints. The complaints were that the Twins should have done more.

As it turned out, Cabrera and Pavano were crucial and reliever Jon Rauch (obtained in late August) was helpful in a surge that allowed the Twins to tie Detroit at the top of the Central and then win a one-game playoff.

This season's move to Target Field has made the fan base larger and even more opinionated. When Joe Nathan was lost in spring training, there were bellows from the public and suggestions from the media for the Twins to do what it would take to get closer Heath Bell from San Diego.

When Rauch filled the closer role in acceptable fashion, the cry became that the Twins were obligated to sacrifice whatever prospects were necessary to get an elite starter - preferably Cliff Lee from Seattle, and if not him, Danny Haren from Arizona or Roy Oswalt from Houston.

The last of those starters, Oswalt, was traded to Philadelphia on Thursday. "As usual, the Twins won't do anything,'' moaned the skeptics.

Later in the night, the Twins sent two minor leaguers, catcher Wilson Ramos and lefthanded pitcher Joe Testa, to Washington for closer Matt Capps. He was the Nationals' representative in the All-Star Game and the winning pitcher for the National League.

Those small asides did nothing to mollify the skeptics. The immediate communiqués from the public indicated unhappiness  that Ramos was sacrificed for a closer that many folks see as a minor upgrade over Rauch.

Back in March, former manager Tom Kelly said that Ramos could hit a baseball as far as anyone he had seen. And while the Twins found that power very enticing, this trade told us a few things:

A) The Twins plan on having Joe Mauer stay behind the plate for years to come.

B) The Twins had seen enough flaws from Ramos at Class AAA Rochester that they didn't rate him as highly as outfielders Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks, and several pitching prospects.

C) Phil Mackey wrote a piece for 1500espn.com early Thursday making the case that relief pitching was the No. 1 problem facing the Twins going forward. The baseball brain trust must have agreed.

In a way, I'm with the howling portion of the public on this one. Yielding Ramos in a trade isn't as bothersome as what you see when making a close inspection of Capps' track record.

He gives up a lot of hits. He strikes out a few more batters than Rauch, but not as many as you would like to see from a closer. He throws 80 percent fastballs and, even at 94 mph, that results in too-frequent home runs.

What Capps does is give depth to a bullpen that needs it. On Thursday, Mackey and I were talking Twins' pitching on the noon-2 p.m. show. My comment was basically this:

Ron Gardenhire's preferred setup guys were Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares, and I didn't like what the Twins were getting from either. There has been little noticeable life on Guerrier's pitches since before the All-Star Game. And Mijares - needed as the No. 1 bullpen lefty with Brian Duensing in the rotation - has been wholly unreliable.

Now, with Capps as the closer, Gardenhire can use either Rauch or Jesse Crain in the eighth, and go earlier with Guerrier and Mijares until they get straightened out.

Rauch is 21 of 25 on saves. And history tells us that's the same 84 percent you can expect from Capps. The Twins will sell this as a bold bid for a big-time closer, but this is more about bullpen depth than domination at the end of games.

I'm far from wild about this deal, but also agree with Mackey's piece from early Thursday. This bullpen required help for the Twins still to be standing at the finish line.