Twins' Problems Piling Up Too Quickly

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 12: Manager Ron Gardenhire #35 of the Minnesota Twins speaks with home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez #72 as Justin Morneau #33 of the Minnesota Twins walks away following the third inning of their game on April 12, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

In a piece titled "Maybe It Is Time To Panic In Minnesota," Dave Cameron writes:

It's not just the Twins' 4-8 start and early three game deficit to the White Sox that's the problem - it's all the issues associated with their roster that have arisen since opening day. As Joe wrote yesterday, Francisco Liriano's struggles are a legitimate concern, as his velocity is down and he's looked nothing like the pitcher who led the American League in xFIP a year ago. Tsuyoshi Nishioka is on the DL with a broken fibula, and the Twins weren't exactly deep up the middle to begin with. And now, news comes that Joe Mauer is going on the disabled list with "bilateral leg weakness", an an unusual diagnosis and one that leaves an open-ended time frame for his return.

Before the season, the best projections showed the Twins in essentially a dead heat with both the White Sox and the Tigers. In my infinite wisdom, I picked the Twins, mostly because they always seem to be there at the end of the season. But if Liriano's not good this season and Mauer's not Mauer ... Well, a full and healthy season from Justin Morneau would obviously help, but it's hard to figure how the Twins aren't the third best team in the division right now. At best. Not with Mauer out and Liriano struggling. You take an MVP candidate and a Cy Young candidate away from an 85-win team -- that's roughly where the Twins projected just a few weeks ago -- and what do you have? Seventy-five wins? At that point, are the Twins better than the Indians?

Of course, on the 15th of April this is mostly rank speculation. But Mauer's injury has to be a real concern. ESPN.com's Stephania Bell:

If Mauer has weakness in both legs -- meaning that strength testing reveals true deficits as opposed to his just feeling soreness -- the spectrum of possible causes raises the level of concern. Although there is too little information at this point to speculate about a cause, prognosis or timetable for return, what can be said is that it is highly unusual for both legs to become weak simultaneously. Typical orthopedic injuries such as strains, sprains, bruises and breaks, even pinched nerves tend to occur on one side of the body.

... Mauer is traveling to Baltimore to consult with his doctor. In 2009, when Mauer was unable to start the season because of inflammation in his sacroiliac joint (where the spine meets the pelvis), he consulted with a specialist (although what type of specialist was never revealed) ... in Baltimore.

This is probably where we have to mention that the Twins have invested a huge amount of money in Joe Mauer's future - $184 million: $23 million per season, from 2011 through 2018, when Mauer will turn 35.

When the Twins inked Mauer to the contract last year, it was widely hailed as something the franchise had to do. The failure to retain one of the game's best players -- and a hometown hero, to boot -- would have killed the Twins' ability to compete on the field, and in the stands. So the deal got done, with Mauer taking perhaps a little less than he might have gained on the open market. And nary a discouraging word was heard.

Every contract constitutes risk for the club. But considering Mauer's prior medical history and the general tendency for catchers to age less than gracefully, the Twins assumed an exceptionally large risk in this case.

Not that panicking will help. It won't make Mauer healthy, and panicking about the team's chances immediate situation probably won't lead to more wins.

If I'm a Twins fan, though? My knuckles are white, my fingernails already half-bitten.

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