I' ve been working on this post for a while, predating the current Twintietown debate and even Nelson's post, so please forgive the redundancy.
recently read a post by Nick Nelson (kindly moderator insert weblink here) about how the Orioles rise to contention could be a template for a similar move by the Twins. I'd been thinking the same thing for a while, but more widely in connection with the A's and Pirates as well as the O's. Nelson's post was met with a lot of derision, as sabermetricians denounced the O's as a statistically unsustainable paradox, with a run differential that was only matched by a couple of World Series winners ever, one of them being...the 1987 Minnesota Twins.
Ahh, the '87 Twins. The only reason as a lifelong Idaho resident I am a Twins fan (although I've since learned that there are some Duensing's buried in the tiny Lutheran church cemetery in the farm community I grew up in.) I was 13 and watching the World Series for the first time, and the plucky-defy the odds "grit" the Twins showed woke me up to the imaginative power of underdog sports. I also rooted for the Marino led Miami Dolphins, who went to the Super Bowl against the juggernaut Walsh/Montana 49ers in Marino's rookie season, and then subsequently suffered through nearly two decades mediocrity, which included a constant attempt to upgrade the running game that at one point was tailbacked by Bernie Parmalee. I still have trouble saying "Chris."
I also rooted for the Twin Towers of the Houston Rockets, with Sampson and Olajuwon (and later Clutch City) in the underdog role against the vaunted Boston Celtics.
And, my love of baseball was cemented by Kirk Gibson in '88 and Pucket and Morris in '91. I spent my summers working on the farm in a time when the only baseball I could have played was in the summer (I played one t-ball season at age 5. I'll never forget the ringing in my ears or the vibrations running through my arms as I swung low on a "high heater,) and the only baseball I could watch was on Saturdays, when I was usually stuck on a tractor. So October baseball was it for me, and it turned me onto the sport in general and the Twins specifically.
As someone who has never seen a good Hollywood movie made about a sports team that was supposed to win, I favor the unlikely, statistically improbable, the emotionally inspiring. I think sabermetrics are useful, informative, and ultimately pointless. With saber metrics the Packers would be NFL champs, the BCS wouldn't be a farce, and the Twins would never have won a World Series.
The fixit plan after the jump.
I'm not going to talk much about the lineup, other than to say it seems to me veteran lineups win championships. Veteran pitching staffs do too, but it seems that just as often a young stud like Josh Beckett or Adam Wainright goes on a tear and helps lead his team to victory. Of course, the overuse might lead to diminished careers, but its a trade I'd make if I were a player--sorry Stephen Strasburg. (Get ready for a super-deluxe marketing ploy--the Nationals will end up starting him in a crucial playoff game, he'll knock off the rust and become legend. The fact they are pretending they'll use him as a pinch hitter on the playoff roster is laughable--what bigger risk is there to a pitcher than running the bases?)
The Twins have a veteran lineup that has been through the fire, felt disappointment in their youth, and feels the clock ticking. The time to strike is now--these guys are primed and looking good. WS winners often have a dynamic youngster who plays a key role, Miguel Cabrera for instance, but you need the proven guys and the Aaron Boones, Trot Nixons, and ?Jamey Carrolls of the world as well. So I'll leave it at that.
Bullpen: Not too worried; if they are contending they can flush out any detritus by picking up guys like Rauch and Fuentes at the deadline. Perk-Burt-Dunse are a pretty decent triumvirate.
Starting pitching, of course, is the crux of the matter. Running out a rotation that was mediocre at best when in Rochester won't get it done. Herewith are a few examples of how teams have fixed rotations without spending tens and hundreds of millions of dollars:
Astute Rule V pickups: The Twins did it with Santana. Diamond may not be Santana, but he's done a decent impression of a left-handed Brad Radke. The Twins might nab another Santana in this year's draft, though I wouldn't count on him to be a starter out of the gate. But who knows.
Former Top Prospects Who Flamed Out But Came Back: Brandon McCarthy and Jason Hammel come to mind. Scott Baker kind of fits this category, but guess who's available...Brandon McCarthy himself. They're out there.
Young Studs Acquired For a Steep Price: Michael Pineda and Mat Latos come to mind. This might require giving up a Hicks, which, if the young stud gets hurt like Pineda, might become some sort of paradoxical situation a la Adam Jones for Eric Bedard, which is a trade that has certainly helped the O's in their rise to contention. On the other hand, Hicks could end up like Cameron Maybin or Jesus Montero or Wilson Ramos--good, but not future Hall of Famers. Meanwhile, you have a Latos (or as another example, Garza) anchoring your rotation.
Draft and Sign Well: Pick your example (Kershaw, Cueto, Verlander, et al.) but the Twins at least have hope in Gibson and a lesser extent Hendriks for next year, and their are some intriguing arms in the lower minors.
Young Players Traded for Even Younger Players: The A's are the template here--the list of young pitcher's they traded/let go is long Hudson, Mulder, Vito, Haren, Gonzalez, and Bauer. The Twins don't have any youngish pitchers to trade outside of maybe Diamond that fit this bill, but Revere and Parmalee are expendable and perhaps could net someones like Randall Delgado and/or Julio Teheran or you fill in the blank here. Hicks and Arcia are near ready and far superior prospects, and if insulated by a veteran lineup could thrive by midsummer. Wishful thinking I know, but I am looking for a magic season, and that would be magic. (I think I could also reference the Pierzinsky trade here.)
Proven Scrap Heap Veterans: I'm thinking Carpenter, Kuroda, (Jack Morris or even Carl Pavano). I'm not talking the Livan Hernandez or Jason Marquis's of the world. They will be out there. If Kuroda and (not in the same category) Edwin Jackson can sign for expensive but one year deals, there will be more of the same available to astute buyers.
Lesser Scrap Heap Vets: I'm thinking Vogelsong, R.A. Dickey, Colby Lewis, hell, 2012 Andy Pettitte. A little closer to the Marquis/Hernandez/Ponson's of the world, but still worth a flyer. Sam Deduno fits here, as does 9 out of 10 invitees to spring training who don't pan out. I'm thinking Nick Blackburn will land on his feet somewhere next year--maybe not R.A. Dickey style, but serviceable.
Spend mega-bucks on Zach Greinke, who at least has the chance to be an ace, or mini-mega buck on Marcum or Loshe who could well fade into the sunset, and handicap the organization for years to come, although the Giants seemed to manage to overcome the Zito signing.