Monday, February 28, 2005

Justified Optimism?

"Hope springs eternal" is how the saying goes, and that certainly seems to be the case this spring, especially when it comes to the Minnesota Twins. There is a sense of optimism sorrounding every team every year during spring training (hey, even the Royals are tied for first right now!) but the Fort Myers seems to be execuding even more positive vibes than normal this time of year.

I bring this topic up today primarily because of this article Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan wrote over the weekend. Souhan's start as a columnist has seen its ups and downs thus far, but he has been at his best when writing about the Twins - with whom he is obviously extremely familiar.

Saturday's column was well written, but my question for you is this: Is Souhan's confidence in this team truly justified? Is this really the "the best Twins team to kill grass at Hammond Stadium since Gene Larkin hit that fateful fly ball in October of '91"? I'd like to think so, but quite honestly, I don't share Souhan's unbridled optimism.

Don't get me wrong: I am a huge fan and supporter of the home team (I have, after all, been writing on this site for the past 10 months). That being said, I simply don't think we should be falling all over ourselves praising this team as one of the best in Twins' history! Will the Twins be good? Yes. Will they make the playoffs again? Yes, I believe so. But is this outcome all but guarenteed? Far from it.

Yes, the Twins led the A.L. with a 4.03 team ERA last year, but isn't very possible that that number could come down to earth in 2005? For every Kyle Lohse and J.C. Romero that underachieved in '04, isn't is also possible that Juan Rincon and Carlos Silva overachieved? I know it isn't Souhan's place to openly question things such as this, but this is a scenario that every Twins fan needs to consider.

Also, who out there can safely assume (which many people are doing) that the Twins offense (ranked 10th in the A.L.) will improve considerably in '05? The Twins have scored 780, 801, and 768 runs the past three seasons respectively, which is a relatively consistent number (a spread of just .2 runs per game). It is widely assumed that no matter who (if anyone) emerges at shortstop will be at least a slight downgrade offensively from Guzman, and it is seems a safe bet to assume that Cuddyer will do no more than match Koskie's production at 3B, if even that. Is it realistic to assume that full seasons of two very young players (Mauer and Morneau) will not only make up that slack, but provide significantly increased production in an otherwise average lineup? Quite frankly, I'm not willing to blindly believe that this will necessarily be the case (although obviously I hope it happens).

I just thought I would throw these thoughts out there on this Monday morning. I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade or anything, but I think it's time we took a step back before we all become drunk with giddiness. The American League Central is going to be a very competitive division this season (perhaps more competitive than it has ever been before), and I think it's important too remember that before everyone starts getting ahead of themselves. As always, if you have any thoughts on the subject feel free to leave a comment below and I'll be sure to respond.

-Ryan Maus

Before you go, I'd like to highlight a couple of excellent links for you today. Longtime Twins Chatter supporter Seth Stohs is featuring an excellent interview with Twins' farmhand (and MN native) Pat Neshek today. Turns out that Neshek runs his own often updated webstite and is an avid autograph collector. I too have a pretty respectable collection of baseball autographs, and some pretty neat stories to go along with many of them! Perhaps sometime I'll share them in this space on a slow news day.

Meanwhile, fellow blogger Stick and Ball Guy is featuring an exclusive report from Fort Myers on his site, which Fort Myers Miracle Gal was kind enough to supply. FMMG also runs a couple of Twins minor league blogs, one about the Miracle and one about the New Britain Rock Cats! I didn't even know these sites existed before today, so you can believe that I will be checking them out often as the beginning of the season approaches.