If it were nto for the ongoing theme of the Long, Cold Winter post titles, this post would have been called “How to dick over a franchise.”
Hoooookay, so maybe that is a bit harsh. But how often do you see a baseball franchise take such a dive, so quickly, and spend the offseason….not improving? Even the Astros 2006-present fall from grace was a bit more gradual. However, in 2010 the Minnesota Twins had a record of 94-68 (.580). In 2011, they managed a 63-99 (.389).
Twenty-nine games. The Twins won 29 more games in 2010 than 2011, much of which can be attributed to the loss of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Tsuyoshi Nishioka and the less-than-well, good pitching on the team. Joe Nathan was still clawing his way up from a terrible arm injury – yet still highlighting not the worst – but certainly one of the more flaccid and boring bullpens…ever.
So, of course, GM Bill Smith was fired and the Minnesota brass brought in young-and-up & coming hotshot GM Terry – wait….what? Terry Ryan? The Red Foreman of baseball GMs?
In an articles I read researching this one, the Twins were described as “the most conservative franchise in baseball”. Well, I suppose so. But being conservative simply doesn’t work in today’s game.
Sure, sign the hometown hero quarterback Joe Mauer. Extend Justin Morneau. And then – fire the GM when they get hurt? Really? And bring in a more bull-headed, old-school GM in Terry Ryan?
Come on, Minnesota. Forget 2011 happened. If Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau can play in 2012, you should compete.
But then, there is the loss of Twins mainstays Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Joe Nathan. All of whom can be replaced, yet the Twins payroll, sagging under the Morneau and Mauer contracts, has only managed to support the additions of Josh Willingham, Jamey Carroll (puke), Ryan Doumit and Joel Zumaya.
While on paper, these additions look as though they could easily fill the void, err, compact parking space left by Kubel and Cuddyer – the health of Zumaya is always in question – along with the presence of Ryan Doumit’s clandestine bat. Jamey Carroll was a meaningless addition – hardly an upgrade over Alexi Casilla and certainly a downgrade from Nishioka in full health and form (yes, he is a good player – give him a chance!)
And while the Twins pitching staff isn’t necessarily bad, they’re not all that good, either. Or interesting to watch. Yes, occasionally we see glimpses of brilliance from Francisco Liriano and gritty, inspiration complete game 12-hit 2-run games from Carl Pavano, there just isn’t anything to get excited about in Minnesota this season.
Which is why, of course, this team may surprise us. Last season, they were the whipping boy of the American League. This season, with a healthy Morneau and Mauer splitting DH and 1B time, Doumit behind the plate and Willingham in RF, this might not be such a terrible team. They won’t however, be a great team. I see them in the 75-80 win range, but certainly not a repeat of 2011.