Posted on: February 16, 2010 1:55 pm
Can you feel it?!?! Fresh cut grass, the Florida sunshine, and the crack of a wooden bat...that's right - Spring Training 2010 is almost here!
As pitchers and catchers report this week and have their first workouts next week, I'm looking forward to what, on paper, appears to be one of the most promising Twins teams in years. With an overabundance of young arms, a bullpen that can be considered one of the best in the majors, and a lineup that is extremely well-rounded in power/speed/contact the Twins should be the hands-down favorite for the AL Central and in the discussion for best in the AL.
This aspect of the roster will be the determining factor for how the season goes. It is currently the biggest question mark because most of them are still very young, but also shows the most promise as they have all proved at one point or another they belong in the big leagues. With Baker named opening day starter the rotation will go Baker, Pavano, Slowey, Blackburn, and a 5th start TBD in spring. That 5th spot will more than likely belong to a lefty and I would lean towards Liriano if he continues his resurgance that we've all heard about from the Dominican league this winter. Washburn is still a possibility to sign (although I'm very doubtful that'll still happen) and Duensing showed a lot of promise last year down the stretch. The point is, no matter who performs and who flops, we've got some interchangability among pitchers. If they are able to step in and take a start or two from a guy who is struggling, it will be a very nice convenience for Ron Gardenhire. It can also provide the front office with some nice trading chips to fill holes that will come about during the season.
After being the best or near the best in the majors over the past several years, the bullpen faltered at times last year and it was enough to have fans worrying whenever a starter came out. I am not, and have never been, a huge fan of Jesse Crain and would put him about on the same level as Juan Rincon for middle inning relief. I think if he struggles again this year as he did through a lot of last year, he'll end up in the same place as Juan...on the waiver wire. With that said, I'm extremely excited to see Neshek coming back this year and anxious to see what he can do while returning from surgery. Very rarely do you see anyone have a stellar year returning from major surgery, but he was one of the best set-up men in baseball before getting hurt and it'll be exciting to see if he can return to that form as the season progresses. Rauch, Mijares, Duensing (if he's not a starter) are all awesome options to eat up innings and, ohh yeah, we still have one of the best closers in baseball in Joe Nathan. While a lot of people think we should have traded him to free up some money, I think many of those same people are pleased to see that we were able to spend money this offseason without trading him. Despite his struggles in the post-season last year, this guy is still a lights out closer and I'm happy to have him on our team.
What's not to be excited about? You have perhaps one of the best up-and-coming lead-off men in the game in Denard Span, you have a proven high percentage player in O-Hud, and then one of, if not the, best 3-4 punch in all of baseball in Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Follow them up with a taste of Kubel/Thome, Cuddyer, Hardy, and Young (September hitting) you've got a lineup of all-star talent. As much as I can't stand his offensive incompetence, even Punto can contribute to this lineup as a number 9 hitter. His on-base percentage got better last year when he learned to velcro the bat to his shoulder and take some walks. This appears to be something that could be very special and is a very exciting way to open the new ballpark this year.
I'll even go as far to say this line-up, from top to bottom, is better than the New York Yankees line-up this year! That's right, I said it...better than the New York Yankees. I'll compare on a position-by-position basis. Outfield - outside of Granderson the Yankees are in a world of hurt here, 2-1 Twins. 3B - A-Rod hand-down is better than Punto, 2-2. Shortstop - Hardy will recover from his abissmal season last year and Jeter is on the decline, Hardy's numbers will be better than Jeter's this year, 3-2 Twins. 2B - I'll give the nod to Cano here, Hudson is solid, but I think Cano provides more potential and consistency, 3-3. 1B - This is very arguable, Tex or my favorite Canadian...I'm gonna call this one a draw, I believe they'll have very similar numbers and will both benefit greatly from the protection they have in the lineup, still 3-3. Catcher, easy...Joe Mauer, 4-3 Twins. And finally you have the DH, a place the Yankees usually have an abundance of power in but are lacking this year with somebody like Nick Johnson or Nick Swisher who can both hit for power, but nothing special. Put them against Thome and Kubel and I think again, you give the slight edge to the Twins putting the final score at 5-3 which I hope is the final score of Game 7 of the ALCS this year with the Twins over the Yankees!
Tried and true, the Twins always have a stellar defense and I really hope this year will be no different. Gold glove catcher, an outfield that has three guys with cannon arms, and a renewed infield that all has incredible range and gold-glove potential (O-Hud already has 3 of them). A big consideration, however, is the new ballpark (see worries for more on that). I'm confident though that Gardy and the coaching staff will have them ready for this change and given some time, they'll be right back at or near the top as they've been the past several years.
There are some things to consider with the team this year. As I mentioned, the pitching, with the exception of Pavano, is all really young and all of them still need to prove they can be consistently solid throughout an entire season. It's a worry, but not a large one I think. The biggest worry I have is a subject that one of my favorite members to follow (JohnnyBalls) brings up frequently in the message boards....this field is new to both the Twins and other teams. The Twins have had a tremendous "Dome-Field Advantage" being in the Metrodome with weird turf hops, bright lights under a roof the same color as a baseball, and a crowd that could be louder than any in the league. Under the open skies on real grass is something they'll have to get used to at home. Sure, they are professionals and play on real surfaces all the time over the course of the season, but you aren't gonna stuff 50,000+ fans into Target Field (capacity is 39,800 last I heard) which means you have less people screaming and also don't have the roof to cause all of the extreme noise. They're gonna have to get used to the different nuances of the field and that will take some time. Sure they'll get used to it over time, but even if it causes a 1 or 2 game difference, would that be enough to find them missing playoffs. I don't think it will and I surely hope it doesn't.
Phew - a lot to read, hope you enjoyed! I'm excited to hear your opinions on the 2010 Minnesota Twins as well so please correct me if I'm off on something and add to it if I'm missing anything. Thanks for reading!
Posted on: January 7, 2010 1:35 pm
Well, it won't be long until we're booking, or at least wish we were booking, flights down to Florida or Arizona to cheer on our teams as they get ready for the 2010 season. It's been a while since I have written about anything and I know there are already a ton of blogs out there about it, but I can't get enough of the fun convos that start out of blog entries.
The Rumor Mill Plug
First off, I'd like to give my gratitude and thanks to Tim Dierkes for having the best site any hardcore baseball fan could ask for at www.mlbtraderumors.com. The site has constant feeds and updates of everything happening in baseball and is always looking at ways to improve. It provides a great way to get updates from all over on everything going on. If you haven't been to the site, go and check it out...I'll bet it'll quickly become one of your favorite rumors mills on the net.
There have actually been a good amount of big name players traded throughout this offseason that has made it interesting as who could be dealt next. Here are a few of them that interested me:
**Blue Jays moving Roy Halladay to the Phillies and Cliff Lee going to the Mariners which was very interesting and led me to a couple of questions:
1) How could the Phillies trade a guy that was a stud for them the entire time he was there?
Answer: They're getting one of the best in the game, Roy Halladay instead of having a guy that many people feel could go right back to being mediocre in the blink of an eye.
2) Why did the Blue Jays wait until the offseason when they got far less in return than they could have mid-season?
Answer: Anybody feel free to chip in on this one, I'm still trying to figure it out. I'm guessing it had something to do with Halladay figuring out a new contract in the middle of a season, but still don't know??
3) Are the Mariners trying to become a contender immediately this year?
Answer: Yes, they most definitely are. With the Angels losing a lot of talent (Chone Figgins, John Lacker, and possibly Vlade Guerrero) the Mariners have a great chance to climb right to the top in that division
**Carlos Silva to the Cubs for Milton Bradley to the Mariners
Awesome move for the Mariners who, if they can contain his attitude, will get a great improvement in their outfield. Carlos Silva is a waste of time and money and purely benefited off of a weak free agent class and a 200+ inning season with the Twins to get that kind of money that he does not at all deserve. I like the Cubs and will continue to have hope, but they will go another 100 years without a title if they keep this up.
**Jeremy Hermida to the Red Sox
I think this could pay big dividends for the Red Sox. Hermida was very highly touted coming into the league (Baseball America's 4th best prospect), still has a couple of years to mature into his potential, and the Sox only had to give up a couple lefty minor leaguers to get him. Hermida reminds me of a Delmon Young who was traded despite having a ton of potential for a young player that just hasn't come into play yet in the bigs. Will this end up being like the Twins who gave up Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza (both have panned out very well for the Rays) or will Hermida come to play immediately for the Red Sox?
**JJ Hardy to the Twins and Carlos Gomez to the Brewers
I know...I'm a Twins homer...but hey, it's what I know and discuss best! Carlos Gomez has tremendous upside and is already a proven CF that could be gold-glove calibur once Torii Hunter is no longer in the picture in the AL. If he can get that pop in his bat like he showed in spring training last year, he could be a weapon similar to a Curtis Granderson. JJ Hardy provides the Twins with a much needed SS that can also have a presence at the plate. O-Cab was a great pick-up for the Twins midseason last year, however, his range and arm are clearly lacking and the Twins needed a solution rather than a stop-gap at this position.
I purposely have left out the Granderson deal from any analysis because I think enough Yankess fans have probably already given their rant on that. My only question for them is - Who else is going to play outfield for you next year?
I'll try to write more very soon and I promise it definitely will not be another 9 months before you hear from me again. I'm missing baseball as I'm sure many of you are and need to spout my mouth off more often!
Posted on: March 23, 2009 10:04 pm
I'm really curious to hear opinions on this because it's a topic I struggle with myself at times.
On one hand, it's a very nice way to see many of the world's stars prior to the season starting and is almost like a mini multi-cultural all-star game on most nights. On the other hand, not all of the MLB stars play in this tournament and there were a few players on the US team that I could not even name whom they played for.
There are some more detailed reasons on why the World Baseball Classic is a good thing. Probably most importantly is for many MLB stars - it gives them the chance to compete at a high-level of competition prior to the season starting. You look at Derek Jeter, for example, who after the 2006 WBC had one of his best years offensively. Could this have been coincidence - of course it could have been - but I think for pitchers and hitters alike, the extra time can never hurt. Another very good thing about the WBC is that it gives many international players exposure on an international level. You look at much of the Cuba team this year or the stellar performance of Dice-K in 2006. For a baseball geek like myself, it's exciting to see this young talent and know what could be coming to MLB within the next couple of years.
Now the bad things. Biggest problem I have with the WBC is that the timing of it couldn't be worse for the MLB players. This doesn't just affect the US team like I am so sick of hearing on PTI, Around The Horn, and SportsCenter - it affects almost all of the teams! Many MLB teams do not want their star players going out and over-working their unconditioned bodies. There are a few teams (Tigers, Red Sox, Twins, etc) that will not hold back their players from competing for their country, but many do have worries about their players getting hurt or being overworked - and rightfully so. This leads to another downfall of the WBC is that it is not a true showcase of the entire world's talent. Stars such as Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Grady Sizemore, etc all were either scratched due to concern or not playing in the tournament.
I think there's a lot that could be done to make this tournament better, but for now it's a great source of good competitive (usually) baseball and for a guy like myself this time of year...it definitely keeps me interested!
Posted on: March 17, 2009 9:49 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2009 12:06 am
Never really blogged before much but figured I'd start because I have a ton of stuff to say about sports and never get tired of talking about it.
The Minnesota Twins - Can't wait for the season to begin!! This year is interesting because outside of the big pick-up Joe Crede we are really almost the same team as last year. The only difference is now the Twins are getting the respect they've deserved all along. Last year we were put at the bottom of the central division by many sports writers and the writers that didn't put the Twins at the bottom had them in 4th only in front of the lowly Royals.
Our young pitching staff is still fairly inexperienced but showed last year that they have a massive amount of talent and can compete with the best. My only concerns for this season are:
Looking forward to it! For now, it's watching the WBC and spring training. Hopefully some of the March Madness for basketball will take away some of the anticipation woes as well!