In no particular order, ten pivotal bullet points on what was a disappointing year. If there's something big that I missed, throw it in the comments. Have a safe and happy new years eve everyone!
Going with Ponson & Ortiz over young, unproven arms.
Not too many people were happy with the organization's decision to bring in these two veterans. With an assortment of talented pitchers within, waiting in the wings, Minnesota gambled on Sidney Ponson and Ramon Ortiz in the hope of squeezing from them whatever good innings were left. While it turns out that Oritz had a few effective starts, neither pitcher lasted the year.
It's not that the younger pitchers could have necessarily done better, it was the type of veteran pitchers that were brought in that was the disappointment. There are capable options and poor options in free agency, and while both pitchers came at relatively little cost to the Twins financially, picking up two guys who were on their way out didn't make much sense considering their histories. Then again, it's much easier to call curious decisions bad decisions once the dice have been cast.
Torii Hunter's 23-game hitting streak.
From April into May, Hunter was one of the few offensive bright spots for the Twins. He destroyed opposing pitchers not just by hitting home runs, but by racking up doubles and generally just creating solid contact at-bat after at-bat. Every time he stepped up to the plate he radiated confidence, and it was hard to not expect a hit.
Jason Tyner hits his first career home run.
In late July, Jason Tyner pulled an inside pitch and Twins fans everywhere watched in awe as the white sphere cleared the right field fence. A good role player in his tenure with Minnesota, his first major league home run has to be one of his career highlights.
Johan Santana strikes out 17 Rangers.
On August 20, Santana reminded us that the strikeout is a form of art as he destroyed the Texas lineup. "You know he's on," said Torii Hunter in an interview the next day, "when after his follow through he's already walking toward third base without waiting to see what happens." Johan's 2007 campaign wasn't as dominating as his last few, but it was still a very good season by any measure for a starting pitcher. This game in late August was one of his best performances of the summer.
July 17 - 19, Swept by Detroit; Aug 27 -29, Swept by Cleveland.
Coming out of the All Star break the Twins took four straight from the Oakland Athletics, and at just six games out of first place could catapult into contention with a good showing against the Tigers. Instead, Detroit swept Minnesota: 1-0, 3-2, 4-3. Now nine games back, the division looked out of reach.
In late August the Twins had one last chance to separate themselves from mediocrity. Winners of five straight, Minnesota was only 5.5 back of the division lead and were marginally closer in the Wild Card race. Silva, Bonser and Santana were all dealt losses in what was the beginning of a 2-10 stretch which saw the Twins drop six of six to the Indians.
Trading Luis Castillo.
While Castillo was certainly better than what replaced him the rest of the season, it was the message that the organization sent the team which hurt them more than the loss of Castillo's statistical contributions. Castillo's .304/.356/.352 line wasn't bad, but 29 walks and a lot of infield singles bolstered what would have been a questionable OBP.
The Twins likely wouldn't have won many more games just by having Luis Castillo in the lineup, but trading him was a message from the organization to the players that it's exactly what they were thinking, too. In spite of the fact that the Twins were far from being out of the race, Minnesota traded Castillo and then said publicly that they expected the team could "absorb" the loss and continue to "contend", even though nothing had been added.
Terry Ryan steps down from his position as General Manager.
Initially a shock, after hearing his explanation of his decision it became quite understandable. Ryan felt he was no longer as effective in the position as he had been in the past, and that the job was wearing him down. When the job is no longer fun, it's difficult to put all of yourself into it, and Ryan realized this. Orchestrator of more good decisions than bad decisions, as well as four division championships in six seasons, he's handed his job to Bill Smith.
Trading with the Rays.
New General Manager Bill Smith's first major move involved one of the organizations biggest young arms and the starting shortstop, getting in return two usable pieces and a young hitter who promises to be a productive bat and cornerstone of the outfield for years to come. While the Rays may have come out on the best side of the deal overall, the Twins landed the biggest piece in Delmon Young.
Young's promise is still just promise, but it's very realistic that he will be a middle of the order bat that will make for a productive 3-4-5 in the lineup for the next three seasons minimum.
Quiet Winter Meetings.
It was expected that the Twins would be an integral mover and shaker in the yearly extravaganza, but things were surprisingly quiet in regards to things actually happening. Bill Smith would not, and still will not, be undersold for the services of Johan Santana. Additionally, closer Joe Nathan was another huge name who most thought would be shipped as soon as Santana departed...only Santana didn't depart.
For now, the Twins are "stuck" with one of the best starters in the game as well as one of the best closers in the game. Fans clamored for trades that would ensure a youth movement could mean the team would contend again in 2010 as the new ballpark opened, but an armchair GM's idea of the direction of a club often differs from the organization's chosen direction. The off-season is still far from over.
Torii Hunter signs with the Angels.
Five years, $90 million dollars. Unbefrickinleivable, but there it is. The Angels were looking to erase what had been an idiot's decision in Gary Matthews, and the resulting fallout meant they had to again overpay for his replacement. Two stupid decisions don't make a right, but at least the Angels actually have a player this time around.
Minnesota couldn't afford Hunter for what his market price was, and while that is no fault of Torii's it was still easy to see him go for many fans. Whether you loved him or were tired of his media-savvy quotes, there's no doubt that the Twins will miss his production. It's going to be strange not seeing 48 roam center field.