For those who are too afraid to watch the Twins this year, now you don't have to. Last year's Minnesota Twins team played its worst baseball in over a decade to the dismay of everyone who a piece of their heart attached to this organization. Some compared it to the wretched teams the Twins put on the field in the late '90s.
During the 1990's, the Twins came out of the gate roaring with 95 wins and a WS championship in '91 and probably an even better team in '92 that fell just short of the A's. Then '93 happened... but a bit of resurgence returned in 1994 before the league went on strike. When baseball returned in 1995 the fans of Minnesota did not, the payroll was slashed and the "Dark Ages" of this franchise was in full swing. In 2000 Bud Selig said "NO MAS!" and decided it was in the best interest of baseball if we just didn't have a team at all.
To compare what happened starting in 1995 and what is happening now is a bit premature. Last year was painful. I can understand the fear of putting yourself back out there and being positive about the 2012 season.
For those that just can't do it, have no fear; the future has already been written and I will share it with you. For those that don't want me to spoil your summer either look away now or pretend that I am just making this stuff up. The 2012 Minnesota Twins story is ahead after the jump.
There are few better feelings I get than seeing that first glimpse of spring training. The Twins, for the first time in a long time, have nothing but healthy bodies at camp on P&C reporting day. It's February 18th and Gardy is talking about his pitching staff.
"Well, Andy and I have some evaluation to do. We have some decisions to make." (typical boring take - it will be heard on sound bites over and over... )
One of these decisions will take place in the bullpen with a few of guys out of options; Anthony Swarzak, Jeff Manship & Matt Maloney. Swarzak seems to have an edge on a spot in the bullpen as one of the long relievers due to his contributions last year but Maloney was a highly rated Reds prospect the last few years that the Twins got off waivers during the off-season. Manship has been up and down the last 3 years with the Twins and will have to fight hard to go north with the team.
As we move forward to February 23rd all of the players are on time. Justin Morneau is taking ground balls at first base and all looks good at this point. Mauer is catching a bullpen session from Scott Baker. New Twin Ryan Doumit is shagging fly balls in the outfield. Earlier in the day he caught a bullpen session from new Twin Jeff Gray who is looking for a spot in the bullpen as well.
The only position player not healthy enough to participate is Luke Hughes who earlier in February injured his shoulder playing in Australia.
As Spring Training rolls along players get there shot in the line-up, in the field, and on the mound. On the bright side Tsuyoshi Nishioka is having a nice spring. He has shot to the top of the depth chart at 2B again and Gardy has been batting him 2nd and 8th. He will end up hitting .345 in the spring and people will again wonder if maybe he has talent after all.
On the down side of things Francisco Liriano has been shut down for a few weeks with shoulder tendonitis, Ryan Doumit sprained his ankle and will be out for a couple of weeks but the worst news is on Justin Morneau: He has not played in a game yet this spring, will start the season on the DL and will take extended Spring Training for an undetermined amount of time.
The Twins are preparing for their first regular season game in Baltimore & the cuts are difficult. With Luke Hughes, Liriano and Morneau on the DL to start the year it opens up a few spots for some guys that weren't necessarily on the predicted 25-man roster.
Chris Parmelee is your opening day starter at 1B. He had a great spring leading the team with 5 HR's and playing surprisingly solid defense. He has slowly become one Gardy's guys, even gaining the nickname "Parmsy" from the ever-creative Manager.
Sean Burroughs is your final infielder. A nice story coming into Spring Training, Sean made the most of what may be his final opportunity to make a big league squad by hitting 2 mammoth HR's in his first spring game. They would be his only of the Grapefruit League season but it was enough to make an impression. He ended up hitting .310 with a team leading 25 RBIs.
Jared Burton makes the team out of spring training in Liriano's place and Anthony Swarzak is your 5th starter... at least for the time being.
Pitchers Jason Bulger, Matt Maloney, Jeff Manship and OF Wilkin Ramirez all clear waivers and accept a minor league assignment.
Here is your 2012 Opening Day Roster:
1B: Justin Morneau (DL), Chris Parmelee
2B: Luke Hughes (DL), Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Alexi Casilla
3B: Danny Valencia, Sean Burroughs
SS: Jamey Carroll
SP: Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano (DL), Nick Blackburn, Jason Marquis, Anthony Swarzak
RP: Jared Burton, Jeff Gray, Glen Perkins, Joel Zumaya, Matt Capps, Alex Burnett, Brian Duensing
As predicted by many, the Twins get off to a slow start. Mauer is playing about every other day to start the season as he is battling a plethora of ailments again. The most severe is lower back issue. He is playing through it and they expect it to heal on its own.
The rotation has pitched pretty well. Liriano has come off the DL to pitch great; Swarzak moved back the bullpen and the Twins sent Burton through Waivers where he was picked up by the Colorado Rockies.
Joe Benson was put on the DL with a minor injury and Rene Tosoni took his place. Benson was playing well as the 4th OF, getting late inning duties for Willingham and playing RF against tough lefties and when Willingham DH'd.
The best news heading into the end of May is that Morneau is playing pretty much every day and almost looking like the Morneau of old. The Twins sent Parmelee down despite leading us in HR's over the first 6 weeks with 7. Doumit and Morneau are playing the bulk of 1B but we have seen another Mauer sighting there again this year.
The worst news was Sean Burroughs tore his Achilles only 3 weeks into the season. There was an interesting dynamic starting between and Valencia and Burroughs. Burroughs really pushed Valencia and resulted in Danny actually becoming a little more patient at the plate. Now that 3B is entirely his again it seems like Valencia has reverted to a more undisciplined approach again.
Nick Blackburn went to the DL with shoulder stiffness. It would later be determined that he would need season ending shoulder surgery after making 12 ineffective starts.
As the temperature started heating up so have the Twins. They are only 2 back of the 1st place Indians and a solid 6 games ahead of the disappointing Tigers. The Twins are 29-25 entering June and after a solid month in June they head into the All-Star break playing their best ball of the season. People begin to wonder... at 48-40 at the break will the Twins make a move?
They do. The Twins struggle out of the break, drop to below .500 for the first time since May 15th and their thought moving ahead is to trade their most valuable commodity. At 10-5 and working on a personal 5 game winning streak Francisco Liriano is the hottest trade bait out there. With many offers in hand Terry Ryan trades him to the Milwaukee Brewers for 4 prospects including Ps Jed Bradley and Jimmy Nelson. Liriano would later sign a 5 year/ $89M deal with the Brewers during the 2012 off-season.
Jamey Carroll has been about as dependable as the Twins Front Office hoped he would be. Steady at SS, not showing great range but has been very steady and has solidified that position for now biding some time until Levi Michael is ready to take the reins from him.
Justin Morneau has begun to hit HR's again and is now up to 14 on the year. He has hit a team high 9 in July alone.
Mauer is having a very solid, if not a "Mauer-Like" year and is a candidate for "Comeback Player of the Year". He has started hitting an occasional HR and his average has been hovering around the .300 mark with his OBP back over .400.
The outfield has been the Twins real shining spot this year. Ben Revere has played pretty much every day this year and is 5th in the AL in steals with 29. Denard Span has shown no ill effects from his concussion and leads the team in runs with 65. Josh Willingham has been a rock this year. His power numbers are tremendous and despite a slow start and some rumblings that he does not like hitting in Target Field he leads the team in HR's and RBIs.
Matt Maloney was called up after the Twins traded Liriano to take his spot in the rotation. About a week before they traded Liriano, Jason Marquis blew out his elbow and will have Tommy John surgery. Liam Hendriks would eventually take that spot after Swarzak had back to back ineffective starts. Anthony has been much more effective in a relief role this season but he would contribute 16 starts.
Despite it being predicted as one of the worst bullpens in baseball this Twins version has been rather steady all year. Gardy started out with Matt Capps as the closer but by mid July that duty has gone exclusively to Glen Perkins who has been absolutely lights out this year.
The home stretch is here and the Twins are making one last charge up the standings. With the Indians and Tigers tied on August 20th they are 8 games ahead of the Twins. A strong push at the end of August would put the Twins 5 games over .500 heading into September and just 4 games back of the Indians.
Ryan Doumit finally succumbs to the inevitable extended DL trip with another ankle injury, shoulder issues and a tough season at the plate. The Twins shut him down for the remainder of the season. The team however is playing in a pennant race, they alternate Willingham and Morneau at DH with Chris Parmelee and Joe Benson getting time at 1B and RF respectively.
Unfortunately, a disappointing home stand from 9/7-9/16 didn't get the Twins any closer and now the season has really come down to a pair of 3-game series' at the 1st place Indians and 2nd place Tigers. Scott Baker has won his last 6 decisions and is putting together the best season of his career. He faces Ubaldo Jimenez in a critical game; Baker throws well but not well enough as the Tribe takes game one.
The Twins would go on to lose 2 of 3 in both of these series and are now 8 games back. The Yankees take 2 of 3 at Target Field to officially knock the Twins out of the Central race. The only consolation at this point is the chance to beat the Tigers who are in town and desperately need to sweep the Twins to keep pace with Cleveland who is red-hot right now.
Carl Pavano takes the hill in Game 1 and delivers a critical blow to the Tigers Central Division Championship hopes and knocks them out of any Wild Card talks as well. Two days later the Twins complete the sweep and the final knock-out blow to the Tigers.
As disappointing as the season was for the Twins it was a huge upgrade over 2011. In addition to the Twins actually being close to being in a pennant race again and winning 84 games, we also got our first glimpse of our future with Aaron Hicks. With his solid AAA season and a nice MLB debut for him in 2012, the writing is on the wall in CF. Denard Span looks like he will be traded during the 2012 off-season.
Final MLB Standings
American League W-L
LA Angels 94-68
Kansas City 78-84
Chicago WS 69-93
NY Yankees 89-73
National League W-L
San Francisco 90-72
LA Dodgers 72-90
San Diego 70-92
St. Louis 78-84
Chicago Cubs 72-90
New York Mets 75-87
Albert Pujols, LAA
Jered Weaver, LAA
Rookie of the Year:
Matt Moore, Tampa
Comeback Player of the Year:
Grady Sizemore, Cleveland
Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado
Matt Cain, San Francisco
Rookie of the Year:
Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta
Comeback Player of the Year:
Buster Posey, San Francisco