Well, Morney's gone, and he was close to the awesome-nest player in recent Twins history. Supremely talented, he was a lazy bastard in his early 20s, causing a frustrated Torii Hunter to attempt punching his slacker face (missing, and hitting Nick Punto instead, which made me love both Torii and Justin more.) Gardenhire called Morneau out during a road trip to Seattle, where Justin was "partying" (drinking booze) with homies from Vancouver, BC. Morneau responded by becoming the league's friggin' MVP. Concussions pretty much derailed his career, but he remains a truly awesome Twin, in the way Tom Kelly in the TV booth is awesome and Roy Smalley/Ron Coomer are not.
To take another example. Josh Willingham gave the Twins a monster season last year, and has been hurt this year. All wish him well in the future. Is he an Awesome Twin? No. Jim Thome gave the Twins one pretty good, by Thome standards, season, and one injury-riddled one. Is he an Awesome Twin? Good God, yes.
Relative Awesomeness has nothing to do with stats or production. It's merely how certain players connect with Twins fans, for reasons more ephemeral than can be easily quantified. And, so, I give you the Relative Awesomeness List:
Glen Perkins. The only Twins pitcher worth even considering here. (Sam Deduno had some awesomeness potential, but his shoulder hurts, and we all know what that means: paging doctor Tommy John.) Local boy. His run-to-the-mound music is "North Country" by Rocket Club, featuring a singer from KFAN, and not as horrible as most country songs. He strikes out people a lot. Talent: B+. Relative Awesomeness: A-.
Brian Dozier. This year's Danny Valencia/Trevor Plouffe breakout candidate could have more staying power than either of the above, as even before his offensive explosion post All-Star break, he was pretty darn cool as a defensive 2B. Supposedly, prospect Eddie Rosario will soon eat Dozier's flesh like ice cream. I hope not; I hope one of them can move to SS. Dozier's a pretty dang funny hick interview. Talent: B. RA: B+.
Pedro Florimon (speaking of people who might be replaced by Dozier/Rosario); meh. In the Denny Hocking/Nick Punto vein, he's a zero-hiiting, good-glove shortstop favored by manager Ron Gardenhire (who was a zero-hitting, good-glove shortstop.) I genuinely hate these players. Defense is great, Ozzie Smith was great, but trading away a dude like JJ Hardy because he could actually hit the friggin' ball is insane, and the current Twins Way. Johan Santana actually said publicly that he wanted no part of a hometown discount with the Twins after they traded away Luis Castillo (leaving Punto as the default 2B starter.) So screw these no-hit, good-glove guys. It's my worst pet peeve with Gardy. Florimon: Talent (defense) A-, offense (D+). Relative Awesomeness: F.
Ryan Doumit. I adore Doumit. He hates being a DH, he wants to play, he's a shade more range-y in the outfield than Willingham, a lot more than Delmon Young, and not as bad behind the plate as everyone said he'd be when the Twins signed him. He has the coolest/spookiest player profile roster page photo eyeballs ever. His talent is C+ at best, but for RA he's right behind Mike Redmond. And even a C+ in talent is f**k-all preferable to Drew Goddamn Butera.
Oswaldo Arcia: He's infinitely a better hitter than Aaron Goddamn Hicks, but we don't know much else about him, besides that he hides injuries to try not to be sent down, and because any idiot can hide injuries from the Twins training/medical staff which regards the application of leeches to be cutting-edge therapy. I suspect Arcia will be a fun, skilled, subtly snarky guy to watch, but I may be projecting my fantasies. Talent: ? RA: ?
Who's left? Well, Colabello, I guess we all root for him not to be the next Chris Parmalee, although every indication is that both have a talent level of C- and a Relative Twin Awesomeness of approximately zero.
So let's hit on the former Twins!
Joe Nathan. Used the running-to-the-mound song "Stand Up And Shout" from the Mark Wahlberg movie "Rock Star." Nathan picked that song because "Rock Star" was about a cover band's lead singer filling in for the rock star band's lead singer; Nathan identified with that, as he was brought in to replace well-liked Eddie Guardado. Nathan was a lot better than Guardado (except when facing the Yankees in postseason games) but totally humble about his abilities and respectful of guys who came before. Talent: A-. Relative Awesomeness: A-.
Torii Hunter: Tried to beat Morneau into taking baseball seriously, hit the atrocious Nick Punto by mistake. An advocate for MLB moving from exploiting Dominican players and developing American Black inner-city players instead. (Maybe not the best move, but, dang, let's all agree that exploiting players anywhere is crummy.) Outspoken and honest. Signed with the Angels after the Twins decided Torii was asking for one year too many; turns out he's still a good player even past the length of his Angels contract. Talent: A- in his prime, B- now. RA: A-.
A.J. Pierzynski: Utter asshat who always nears the top of the league in HBP, because he says such atrocious things behind his catcher's mask when the opposition is batting. A total loudmouth. I know I'm alone in saying this, but I wish the Twins had traded Joe Mauer for umpteen prospects and kept A.J. instead. I love A.J. Don't bother telling me I'm wrong, I know you think I'm wrong. I just love A.J., OK? Get over it. Talent level: B, after 14 years, which is pretty darn impressive. RA Level: A (for me), C- (for the rest of y'all.)
Doug Mientkiewicz: Voted Manager Of The Year at A-level. Got into a brawl with an opposing skipper, then was making peace before the umpires could get themselves together and throw both managers out. Great fielder, solid singles hitter at a traditionally power position. After being traded to the Red Sox, was inserted as a defensive replacement in the Sox's first World Series win in almost a century. Caught the Series-clinching throwout to first. The Sox basically considered Mientkiewicz an afterthought, and didn't ask for the ball. So he kept it, and MLB had to pay through the nose to get it later. If my team ignored me, that's EXACTLY what I'd do.
Along with Hunter and Koskie, Radke and Santana, Dougie M. was the soul of the Twins' 2000s resurgence. If Gardy ever just gets fed up with watching his team fail, fail, screw up the fundamentals, and fail again, I want DM to be the new manager.
Mientikiewicz: Talent: C-. Relative Twins Awesomeness: A+++.