Earlier this season, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen concluded one of his trademark rants by knocking over his chair and declaring as he walked out: "I don't have any closer."
His Minnesota counterpart, Ron Gardenhire, isn't as mercurial as Ozzie, but he could well go deeper in complaining about his bullpen. Considering how good his previous bullpens have been and how ably the Twins have twice before reshaped their relief corps during his tenure, that's a major surprise.
Aaron Gleeman made a salient point on Monday: Gardenhire has twice built effective bullpens, and they were both built around unproven talent, not established closers. This bullpen features a pair of closers who will be paid a combined $19 million this year; Joe Nathan and Matt Capps have a combined ERA of 6.10 -- and what's worse, the other options available to Gardenhire right now aren't any more appealing.
I may be overly stubborn, but I still will not criticize the Twins for letting Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes leave as free agents. Committing the kind of money and years to that crew that they got on the open market would have been a long-term mistake.
The Twins expected to reload around Capps and Nathan and Jose Mijares. It hasn't worked. Tampa Bay, in contrast, let an even more productive crew of bullpen arms go last winter (Rafael Soriano, Jocquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler and others) and rebuilt around an unlikely collection of castoffs headed by Kyle Farnsworth.
The Rays have made it work. The Twins have not.