Is this the worst season in Minnesota Twins history?

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If the Twins’ season was a fight the corner would’ve thrown in the towel several rounds ago, as they’ve now lost 12 of the past 13 series, including seven in a row.

Since climbing to 50-56 on July 29 to convince the front office not to become sellers at the trading deadline the Twins have gone 9-31, which is the second-worst 40-game stretch in team history ahead of only the miserable 1982 season.

That year the Twins lost 100 games for the first and only time, going 60-102 while trading both Roy Smalley and Butch Wynegar to the Yankees and breaking in rookies Kent Hrbek, Frank Viola, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, Randy Bush, and Tim Laudner. In retrospect that mess was the start of a rebuilding process that led to a championship five years later and a second title four years after that, but it’s hard to imagine 2011 in similar context.

There are 16 games remaining and the Twins must go just 4-12 to avoid the second 100-loss season in team history, which sounds fairly simple except for the fact that they’re 4-12 in their last 16 games and also went 4-12 in the 16 games before that. They’ve already lost five more games than any other team in the Ron Gardenhire era and are a near-lock to finish with the fewest wins since the 1999 team went 63-97 under Tom Kelly.

I was born in 1983, so there’s a good chance this will be the worst Twins team of my lifetime. They’re now in last place, two games behind the Royals, and in a virtual tie with the Orioles for the AL’s worst record. They won’t be able to catch the Astros for baseball’s worst record, but the Twins’ run differential of -160 is within range of Houston at -163. Toss in the $115 million payroll with contender expectations and this might be the worst season in Twins history.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.