Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Giving Thanks

Today is my birthday and I was thinking about how thankful I am for the Twins success so far. Luckily, for me, a lot has gone right lately so I have been in an altogether good mood as a result. I have an extra bounce in my step and I get to talk trash about the White Sox. The Twins being in first place is one of my best birthday presents.

I am most thankful for the off-season trades the Twins made. Where would this team be without Carlos Silva and Joe Nathan? Silva probably can't keep it up as he got lit up for the first time in his past start. Still, he's got himself a nasty sinker that has yet to induce groundballs at the rate he is used to. With a solid defense behind him his performance should remain strong once hitters begin to put the ball on the ground. Nathan got off to a shaky start but has quickly taken to his role. Having a closer that doesn't give everyone a heart attack is a godsend. This guy is automatic and a pleasure to watch.

Christian Guzman appears to be back and that means only good things. As he continues to gain confidence there is no reason to assume he will falter anytime soon. This guy pressures defenses and sets up the Twins lineup at the top of the order. He can also be one of the most exiting players in the game to watch, though also one of the most frustrating.

Michael Cuddyer is finally getting regular at bats. We have been waiting for this kid for 5 years. All along the way we were told that he could hit and then he got to the majors and never really was given a chance to. In limited action he has been mediocre with flashes of power. Now, all Twins fans get the chance to see if he was worth the hype or if it is time to cut bait. So far he has produced in his role and I expect he will continue.

Joe Mauer is on his way back. This is a double bonus because that means we won't have to suffer through too many more Henry Blanco at-bats. No one knows for sure how fast Mauer is progressing but he is steadily improving. That means he should be back within a month at the latest. This is an upgrade both in the field and at bat.

I see Luis Rivas's average is steadily creeping upwards...

Forget No Name Steaks, the No Name Bullpen is quickly becoming the best deal around. Roa, Rincon, Fultz and Muholland all are giving the Twins quality innings at a discount price. These guys are keeping the team in games and are proving to be better then advertised. This is yet another key to the team's success and more proof that Terry Ryan is one of the best general managers in the game.

I'm thankful for a starting rotation that seems to be putting things together. Heck we don't even need Rick "Longball" Helling anymore. The rotation is no longer just keeping the team in games, it is starting to win some. This team was a fluke without its starters. Even Kyle Lohse pitched decent in his last outing giving the team a chance to win no matter who starts.

Jacque Jones ate his Wheaties and now he can hit lefties. This guy is straight-up scary for opposing pitchers. He is the best pure hitter on the team and capable of someday winning a batting title if he can keep it up against the southpaws. Take that Royals- what do you think of your 4 lefties in the rotation now?

I have thought Torii Hunter was overrated for years but right now he is going through one of his patented hot streaks that make everyone love the guy. Torii, it is really nice to have you back in center and providing the power this team needs from you.

Lew Ford is back to raising his batting average which bodes well for this website. We were getting worried that perhaps we had errored in so quickly jumping to proclaim him our official player. He continues to reward our faith as do you, our readers. We are thankful for your support always and that we have the good fortune of following a great baseball team. Here's hoping my birthday present is a series win up in Toronto tonight.

Peter Gammons is Ripping Off My Ideas!

While perusing through my daily Internet baseball site, I came across this article by Peter Gammons. I think it ties in perfectly to my post for today (see directly below). After you read mine (keep in mind that I'm no Peter Gammons- at least not yet) I encourage you to click on the following link and see what Gammons has to say on the subject of our Twins. Very solid piece: ESPN.com - Gammons: Budgetball.

How Do They Do It?

Monday’s 9-5 victory over the Blue Jays at Skydome really got me thinking about the Minnesota Twins franchise. Now, the game in itself doesn’t appear to have been that extraordinary. Radke pitched well but not spectacularly; J.C. did not pitch that well but was hurt by a couple of unfortunate defensive plays (Hunter’s near-catch on Cash’s double and Rivas’ poor relay to Guzie on Delgado’s grounder); and the bullpen blew a three-run lead.

But lately, I think that the rest of the country is finally figuring out what Twins fans have known since 2001: this is a franchise that has it figured out! Now I don’t mean to say that Terry Ryan can predict the future or anything, but things seem to work out for the Twins more often than not. I honestly believe that most people around the country thought that the 2002-03 Twins were a fluke: the team had gotten lucky when a bunch of talented players hit the big leagues at the same time, nicely complementing the pieces already in place. Many thought that once that little “bubble” was broken this past winter the team would spiral downward and join the rest of its small-market brethren at the bottom of the standings.

Obviously, this has not been the case. Monday’s game perfectly exemplifies the spirit of these Minnesota Twins. It doesn’t matter if things look like they are spinning out of control- someone will inevitably step up and right the ship. Monday that someone was Jacque Jones. Strangely enough, even though J.C. had blown that lead in the 7th there was no doubt in my mind that the Twins would win that game. Even when Nakamura looked so tough in the 8th my faith was not shaken. Even though the Twins were playing on the road, I did not falter. In my mind, it was just Jacque’s turn to step up. I’ll bet JJ will say the same thing.

What is it that separates the Twins from all those other teams that languish in futility? Is it the front office? Is it Terry Ryan? Is it Ron Gardenhire? Even TK perhaps? Or is it simply luck?

And yet another question: Why have the Royals been so unsuccessful in trying to emulate the follow-up success of the 2002 Twins (coming off their nice 2003 season)? I don’t think there is a simple answer to that question (although Rob Neyer tried recently), but it is an interesting topic to explore at another time. In the meantime, fellow Twins fans, we need to realize just how fortunate we are to have a franchise that defies conventional “logic” and just keeps on winning. Monday was just one more drop in the bucket.