Zulgad: All Twins can offer at this point is hope and professionalism
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Hope and professionalism.
That's likely all the 2012 Minnesota Twins are going to be able to offer their fan base.
The team took a four-game winning streak into Sunday's game at Milwaukee, but still was 14-26 and nine games behind first-place Cleveland in what is shaping up to be a bad division in the American League Central.
Coming off a 99-loss season in 2011, there was talk of "The Twins Way" having been abandoned. Forget "The Twins Way", just a little bit of competence would be nice.
It seems as if we've started to see that a bit more often since Brian Dozier was summoned from Triple-A Rochester to play shortstop. Pitchers Scott Diamond (3-0, 1.40 ERA) and P.J. Walters (1-1, 3.65) also have helped to stabilize things.
On the flip side, Danny Valencia not only struggled at third base but also didn't seem to understand what the Twins wanted from him and thus was dispatched to Rochester earlier this month. There has been plenty of discussion about whether Valencia will ever see the big leagues again in a Twins uniform.
It's one thing to have a bad ballclub, it's another to allow a piece of that roster to drive you up the wall with constant mistakes that aren't deemed acceptable at this level.
General Manager Terry Ryan has seemed to hit on the type of player he wants on this roster with three of his free-agent moves this offseason. Left fielder Josh Willingham was hitting .289 and had a team-leading eight home runs with 24 RBI entering Sunday.
Catcher and designated hitter Ryan Doumit has hit .264 with five homers and was tied with Willingham for the team lead with 24 RBI.
Jamey Carroll isn't going to wow anyone with his offensive production, but he has brought an every-day level of professionalism no matter whether he is playing short, second or third base.
With Valencia gone, the Twins were hoping that Trevor Plouffe could prove himself at third base. It quickly became apparent that might be an issue so Carroll was moved from short to second to third in a matter of days, never complained and quickly solved any defensive issues that might have arisen.
Willingham was signed to a three-year, $21 million deal and figures to be in a Twins uniform for a few years. Doumit got a one-year, $3 million deal and Carroll received a two-year, $6.5 million contract.
This means that they will either continue to contribute to the Twins or could prove to have value in potential trade deadline moves.
Unfortunately for Ryan, not all of his free-agent acquisitions have worked out as well as Willingham, Doumit and Carroll.
Jason Marquis got a one-year, $3 million deal from the Twins on Dec. 22. The decision to add Marquis wasn't a surprise considering the Twins needed starting pitching but the fact the team settled on the veteran righthander did surprise some.
What real value did Marquis bring to a pitching staff that appeared to be filled with question marks and holes?
Well, we've gotten the answer and in this case the critics were right. Marquis appears to be a pitcher with nothing left.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire mentioned last week that Sunday's start in Milwaukee would be a big one for Marquis and this came before the Twins started a winning streak that appeared to give them some much-needed momentum.
Marquis' pitching line from Sunday: 1 2/3 innings, eight hits, eight runs (all earned) and a walk. The Twins gave Marquis a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning and he immediately gave it back by giving up a leadoff home run to Corey Hart. Two batters later, Jonathan Lucroy also homered.
In his previous start, Marquis surrendered five runs, nine hits and three home runs in a 5-0 loss to Cleveland.
Reading between the lines, and that isn't too hard, Gardenhire was making a case that Marquis didn't show improvement on Sunday that might be it for him. Instead of pitching better, Marquis was worse.
Whenever the 33-year-old Marquis takes the mound it's difficult for the Twins or their fans to have much hope. In a season when professionalism and hope is all this team has to offer, that means Marquis' days in a Twins uniform should be over.