By JAY BOLLER | firstname.lastname@example.org
It's hard to celebrate much when your squad has an AL-worst 34-45 record. But with the struggling Twins taking an All-Star break breather, we decided to recognize the silver lining.
THE GET OFF MY BACK AWARD: JOE MAUER
It's easy to hate on a guy who makes $23.95 million more than the median U.S. household. Frustrated fans ragged on Mauer's All-Star nod, possibly ignoring the fact that he's played in 71 out of 79 games and leads the AL in on-base percentage (.417).
THE SELL HIGH AWARD: FRANCISCO LIRIANO
A putrid 9.45 ERA sent Liriano to the bullpen mid-May, but he's been on a tear since returning to the starting lineup, having surrendered just 14 earned runs over his past seven starts. But we've been duped by Frankie before; unload the inconsistent soon-to-be free agent before the July 31 trade deadline while his stock is high.
THE BETTER THAN CUDDY AWARD: JOSH WILLINGHAM
The Twins saved $10 million and two draft picks by opting to sign Willingham over re-signing clubhouse favorite Michael Cuddyer. The payoff? In terms of '12 production, Willingham leads Cuddy by a whopping .90 on-base plus slugging points.
THE BACK FROM THE DEAD AWARD: BEN REVERE
In April he was demoted to AAA in favor of something called a "Clete Thomas" (no longer with team). Fast-forward to July and Revere is back, seventh in the AL for stolen bases (15) and hitting for a meaty .324 average.
THE WELL, LOOKIE HERE AWARD: TREVOR PLOUFFE
2004 first-round draft choice Trevor Plouffe underwhelmed at every rung of the farm system ladder. His first two seasons in the bigs yielded a trifling .226 batting average. But since cracking the starting lineup this year, the 26-year-old has become an absolute beast. Plouffe, who rarely played third base in the minors, is now a fixture there. On offense, he ranks seventh in AL slugging percentage (.561) and has 18 HRs.Stats as of July 3.