The ideal major league shortstop is a guy who swallows up everything that comes within 30 feet of him. But for the Twins, it seems to be the other way around. It's the shortstops themselves who keep getting swallowed up.
"Every team seems to have a black hole, a position that's just really tough to fill," said Rob Antony, Twins assistant general manager. "And for us recently, it's been shortstop. You find guys who can field the ball, but they don't hit much. Other guys you think will hit, but they don't make enough of the plays."
And, Antony admits, some of the most costly errors in recent years can be charged to the front office. J.J. Hardy? "Yeah, I wish we still had him." Tsuyoshi Nishioka? "No doubt, we failed." Alexi Casilla? "So frustrating."
Perhaps fitting for a franchise called Twins, the shortstop problem is virtually identical to the one just to the other side of second base. Come April, Minnesota will start a different player at shortstop for the eighth consecutive season; whoever takes the field across the way will be the sixth different Opening Day second baseman in seven years.
"It's baseball. There [are] things you can control, and things you can't," shrugged manager Ron Gardenhire, a middle infielder himself during the early 1980s. "Hopefully we won't have to [search] after this year. Maybe someone will take off. ... We may have one right here in camp."
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