Category Archives: Twins

The 2016 Minnesota Twins: The Team You’ve Already Forgotten, Apparently

“The Twins will finish at exactly .500, and you will forget that they exist 16 times during the season.”

Jesse Spector of Sporting News meant this as an “over-the-top proclamation to regret later.” Trouble is, the proclamation’s a little too on-the-nose.

This team finished second in the AL Central last year with 83 wins.

But everyone’s already forgetting.

USA Today projects the Twins will win 80 games, good for last in the Central. FanGraphs puts them in the American League basement with 78 wins. Vegas says the team needs luck to win more than 77.

The division is stacked this year, which no doubt accounts for the projected regression. But consider three players the team spent at least half of 2015 without: (1) Ervin Santana — indisputably no longer in his prime, but this team’s Opening Day Starter nonetheless who ought to relieve the bullpen of at least 15-20 more innings over the course of this year; (2) Miguel Sano, who still managed 18 homers in his half-season and posted an OPS of .916 for a team that desperately needs on-base guys; (3) John Ryan Murphy, an actual backup for (or outright alternative to) catcher Kurt Suzuki — and, fingers-crossed, another net positive for the team’s dismal 2015 on-base figures.

Add all that up — full seasons from these three, and even a middling MLB debut from Byung-Ho Park — and the idea of a 77-win season is simply absurd. That doesn’t mean the Twins are good bets to win the division, or even the second Wild Card spot. But it would mean the likely Central champions — the Royals or Indians, probably — will have some rough road trips to Target Field. The Twins are part of the stacking in the AL Central, not the team that gets crushed underneath the mess.

Look, Jesse Spector of Sporting News is not wrong. The Twins’ rotation is easily the worst in the division, a fact accentuated by the likelihood that Ricky Nolasco will suck this year. When his sucking costs the Twins a win too many, manager Paul Molitor will have to call on José Berrios or Tyler Duffey and hope they’re positioned stop the bleeding. Santana and Phil Hughes are question marks. Joe Mauer is still a net asset for this team, but Spector’s right to muse about the beginning of a “painful” divorce with the hometown boy. Organizationally, the franchise is torpid; too slow to embrace the Moneyball roster-building that defines this era of baseball. The Twins do “teeter awkwardly between past and future, good and bad.”

It’s just that word: “forget.” This franchise was one of baseball’s best in the 2000s and entered the 2010s with practically nothing to show for it — nothing, other than an ALCS berth against a West Coast team and a handful of ALDS run-ins with an East Coast juggernaut. It’s so easy to forget because, even at its most recent best, the team never insisted upon being remembered. For the Twins sympathizers, the F-word touches a sore.

But more than anything, as a fan, I’m tired of forgetting. The routine of popping a Forget-Me-Now after a disastrous campaign like 2011, or like 2012, or like 2013, or like 2014 is getting a little tiresome. 2015 was a breath of fresh air, but we remember the freshness more than the team’s overall performance — with the lone exception probably being this:
DozierWalkoff1

 

Here’s to a season worth not forgetting completely. Too much to hope for, you say? Eh, whatever. It’s spring of Next Year, the spring we forgetful fans were waiting all winter for.

Knock out a home run, shout a hip-hooray…

WinTwinsSignFULL

The Ballpark Of My Childhood Had A Roof Made Out Of Teflon, Or: Why I’ll Miss The Metrodome

The original Metrodome Roof. You know, pre-collapse. (Kyle Stokes)

The original Metrodome Roof. You know, pre-collapse. (Kyle Stokes)

It was April 14, 2001. I was finishing up sixth grade. And against the grey of the Metrodome’s Teflon roof, Carlos Lee had lost a pop-fly.

Only God knows how I’d have found my love of baseball if he hadn’t.

At the crack of the bat, I watched as Lee (or was it his White Sox teammate in center field, Chris Singleton?) looked up, slid to his left, scanned the Teflon sky for the hovering ball, then panicked. He raised his arms helplessly as if to say, Where is it? Where is it? A second later, 30 feet in front of Lee, the ball bounced hard on the AstroTurf in left field. Base hit.

I was one of more than 26,480 people in the Metrodome that Saturday night. My family’s seats down the third baseline were awful. But after a decade of fecklessness, the Minnesota Twins had won seven of their first nine in 2001. So 26,000 turned up on a Saturday night, as excited about the team’s early tear as they were skeptical. Can this little team be for real?

My dad, my youngest brother and I standing in the upper deck of the Metrodome after the Minnesota Twins played their last regularly-scheduled regular season game there on October 4, 2009.

My dad, my youngest brother and I standing in the upper deck of the Metrodome after the Minnesota Twins played their last regularly-scheduled regular season game there on October 4, 2009.

The Twins won 9-4 that night. Cristian Guzman and Doug Mientkiewicz homered. Luis Rivas tripled, then scored on a Corey Koskie groundout. A.J. Pierzynski doubled. David Ortiz singled and scored.

But the most gleeful cheers rose from the blue plastic seats that night when Carlos Lee lost the ball in the Metrodome roof.

I’m telling you — we went nuts when our building cost their left fielder an easy put-out.

So this is what it means to play baseball in Minnesota. I was 12, and I was hooked. Continue reading

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‘How Does A Team Win…’

(Minnesota Historical Society)

(Minnesota Historical Society)

They told this joke when, in 1961, a team owner Calvin Griffith had wanted to call the “Twin Cities Twins” (striking that club name ranks among MLB’s best decisions ever) arrived for the first time at the old Met.

“How,” the joke went, “does a team win with a Lemon leftfielder, a Green centerfielder, and a Battey catcher?”

They didn’t know then, and we sure as hell don’t know now. But I’d rather live with this team this year than without it.

In 1962, by the way, that team was in the pennant race. ‘Shout a hip hooray’?

Joe Mauer: Phoning It In At 28?

Jim Souhan drops this bombshell in the Sunday Strib:

In the past six months, I’ve spoken with dozens of key people working at all levels of the Twins organization about Mauer. Most expressed disgust or dismay over the way he conducted himself last season.

A few defended him, saying his primary problem is an inability to communicate clearly. None, at the point of our conversations, had directly told Mauer how damaging and infuriating his 2011 season was to his teammates, bosses and fans. All of them said they believed Mauer viewed criticism aimed at him as ignorant and irrelevant…

Whether Mauer had anything to do with their mindsets or not is difficult to ascertain, but Joe Nathan and Michael Cuddyer, two long-term Twins who had spoken of wanting to end their careers in Minnesota, left in free agency, and a group of young players the veterans nicknamed “The Fun Bunch” seemed pleased to draw a big-league paycheck regardless whether the Twins won or lost.

Mauer’s on the record as being “embarrassed” about last year’s finish, and Souhan himself points out Mauer’s widely viewed as “down-to-earth,” despite his $184 million contract. Fans — especially in Minnesota — love him for that.

But there’s another term for what we see as humility: passivity.

I don’t think it’s clear that Mauer’s “phoning it in.” If Souhan’s right, it seems some in the Twins organization think otherwise. That perception may be just as important for the team’s future.

But even if Souhan’s wrong, if $184 million can’t buy a healthier knee, it ought to be enough to buy a little leadership from a team’s franchise player.

Two of my favorite things in one post: GK & The Twins

The image itself makes you believe.

A pre-playoff blessing from Garrison Keillor:

“Here in the northern latitudes, our backs to Canada, we’re naturally romantic about the game, and that’s why we’re such tolerant fans.  We don’t boo our team, we aren’t demented or demanding or cranky.  Outsiders think we’re indifferent, but it’s not true.  It’s just that we’re so very happy to be looking at green grass…. All our baseball ghosts can come to rest in this exaltation of a ballpark, this astonishment on Fifth Street.  Every year we will rise from our torpors and revive ourselves with a hot dog and mustard and fresh air and transfixed by what we’ve loved since we were kids.  When the game starts, time stops, and we’re all young again, it’s spring, and the sun is shining.”

This is the year, folks.  This is the year.

Wait Till This Year

August 17, 2010

Look at that photo and tell me you don’t believe in the Minnesota Twins.

This Twins cynic’s sold.  If you want to be in the city with the biggest party on November 4, 2010, book your flights to Minneapolis now:  this is The Year.  Minnie and Paul are winning it all.  The Twins are winning the World Series this season.

I’m being rational about this: This is the same team that’s down an MVP first baseman, has an unproven starting rotation, hasn’t won a postseason series since 2002, and has two playoff wins since 2003.

But that does not mean I’m writing this to build myself up just to let my heart get broken.  I’m writing it because I believe it, and this year, I’ve never believed it more.

Continue reading

Coming Home for the First Time

It’s like Christmas Eve for Twins fans — a Christmas Eve where you get to open presents early.  Today, the Twins beat the White Sox in come-from-behind fashion again to ensure two series victories to start the year.  AndMonday’s the figurative Yuletide Morn, when fans get to watch the first game ever (that counts) in the new Target Field.

That doesn’t mean Minneapolis is without its Grinches.

Granted: from a public policy perspective, it’s really easy to poke holes in Minnesota’s new taxpayer-funded ballpark.  It’s a $522 million LEED-certified, bona-fide gem of a stadium… paid for by $392 million in county tax money levied on Hennepin County voters — without a vote.  The skyline view of downtown Minneapolis is picturesque, but the financing isn’t as pretty. In fact, it’s kinda shady, and it kinda sucks.

Continue reading

Make Me Right, Twins

I have always said that the Minnesota Twins were theoretically one major expenditure away from the World Series.  This offseason, the Twins have made three.

Just like Orlando Hudson (now officially in Twin-stripes for next year), I’m about to hop a plane for Twins Territory — where I think it’s safe to say the Twins front office is spending on new players and investing in its team in a way fans haven’t seen since the early ’90s. Twins beat writer La Velle E. Neal III says this is the best Twins team on paper in his 13 years of covering the team. Continue reading

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Mauer Deal Likely In The Offing

It’s looking more and more like Joe Mauer will be a Minnesota Twin for a long time to come. Despite conflicting media reports (from Ch. 4 and Ch. 11) on the state of the deal, it appears as though a long-term agreement is likely.

WCCO’s sports guru Mark Rosen had reported a source close to the deal says the basic framework of a 10-year deal is in place. Despite contradictions from KARE-TV, the Star Trib, and ESPN’s Buster Olney, Rosen’s standing by his report.

No matter the state of the deal’s completion — and despite a lot of anxiety among Twins fans — there are multiple reports of optimism about the negotiations from all sides.

MLB.com Twins beat writer Kelly Theiser broke down really well exactly why the deal’s so likely. (1) The Twins’ payroll has grown by over $25 million as the team moves into Target Field. (2) The Twins consider Mauer their franchise player. And (3) Ron Shapiro — Mauer’s agent, who represented Kirby Puckett and Cal Ripken in their days — is known to keep players in one place if the situation’s right.

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