LIVE › 9-11:59 p.m. Sports Center Tonight
NEXT › Midnight ESPN SportsCenter
Updated: May 15th, 2011 10:27pm
Mackey: Cause for Twins' struggles starts at the top of the payroll

Mackey: Cause for Twins' struggles starts at the top of the payroll

SportsWire Daily

Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports

by Phil Mackey

MINNEAPOLIS -- At 12-26, the Minnesota Twins are off to their worst start since 1995, and the corresponding numbers are pretty cartoonish.

Opposing teams have outscored the Twins by 90 runs. If that pace were to somehow continue, the Twins would be staring at a -391 run differential.

The Twins are on pace to finish 52-110, which isn't as much of a shock considering that with the promotion of left-hander Phil Dumatrait on Sunday the team has now summoned 11 different players from Triple-A Rochester -- the definition of replacement-level.

Blue Jays slugger/cyborg Jose Bautista hit nearly as many home runs this weekend at Target Field (five) as the Twins have all season (six).

Considering the hype from 2010, the plethora of health-related hurdles seemingly cleared during spring training, and the $115 million payroll, this is without a doubt turning into one of the most embarrassing seasons in franchise history.

And players are feeling the burden -- especially those at the top of the food chain.

"I think you're going to (feel more pressure), yeah -- I mean, with the struggle and everything," Michael Cuddyer said. "When things are going well, things kind of happen good for you. And obviously when things are going bad you try to make things happen. It's a double-edge sword. It's the snowball effect ... Unfortunately we haven't been able to right it yet."

Injuries, the struggles of Francisco Liriano and Alexi Casilla, a slew of bullpen meltdowns and the absence of an offensive pulse from the backup catchers have all played key roles in the Twins' tailspin.

But the lack of productivity starts at the top of the payroll.

Joe Mauer ($23 million) has played only nine games due to bilateral leg weakness, and not one since April 12. When he was in the lineup, admittedly ailing, the catcher hit just .235/.289/.265 with one extra-base hit in 38 plate appearances.

Despite missing a handful of games in April with a nasty flu virus, Justin Morneau ($14 million) has played nearly every day in his return from last year's concussion -- a credit, considering nobody knew what his status would be as recently as mid-March. But he has one home run, a .228 batting average and a .296 on-base percentage, and that includes a recent hot streak that saw him collect six hits (four doubles) and three walks in four games.

Joe Nathan ($11.25 million) can't control the fact that he's simply not the same pitcher he was prior to going under the knife, but nevertheless his ERA is 7-and-a-half, and he's allowed four crooked numbers already.

Cuddyer ($10.5 million) entered Sunday's game batting .319 with four home runs with the bases empty. But he's 4-for-34 (.118) with runners in scoring position, and he's batting .172 with men on base.

Carl Pavano ($8 million), with his 5.89 ERA, has the fewest strikeouts per nine innings (3.42) of any qualified starter, and more starts of allowing six earned runs or more (four) than quality starts (three).

Add it all up and the Twins are pumping $66.75 million dollars into five guys who are either injured, underperforming drastically, or both.

There are 10 teams in baseball with entire payrolls lower than $66.75 million.

Not to mention Delmon Young ($5.375 million), who at one point this weekend struck out swinging six consecutive times. Young recently missed three weeks with sore ribs, and he is hitting .203/.250/.246 with zero home runs. Plus, his GPS in left field is in dire need of an upgrade.

"There's definitely a sense to force it," Cuddyer said about the mindset of the healthy veterans. "You're trying to figure out day after day a way to change things, whether it's the way you're playing or your luck or whatever, you definitely try and force the issue, because nobody in here likes losing. You try and change things up, and everything we've done, nothing's worked yet."

"It gets exhausting. Just losing in general gets exhausting, mentally tiring, and wears on you. Because nobody in here is a loser. Everybody in here is a winner, and everybody in here has won, and when you're not doing something you're used to, you get drained."

In that case, the Twins are really in trouble.

Because they're no longer used to winning either.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd