So far this spring, the real star in the Twins organization has unquestionably been Target Field. Every event in the new park - the first public open house, the first college game, the exhibition games - has been covered breathlessly in every possible forum. Only some rudimentary web searching will turn up pictures, descriptions, video clips, and opinions about every inch of Target Field, from the farthest reaches of the upper deck to the cushy seats behind the plate.
But the team, on the other hand - with Opening Day today, no one really knows how good the Twins will be this year.
Lucky for you, I’m here once again to give you the 2010 Season In Review - before the first pitch is even thrown.
And so the season begins, as it has the habit of doing, in....
... as a confused Torii Hunter shows up in Minneapolis for the first game of the year, despite the Twins and the rest of the Angels being in Anaheim to open the season. Hunter later admits to being befuddled by the re-emergence of Jacque Jones, causing the center fielder to assume that it was 2004 again and that he belonged in Minneapolis. A mid-cycle Matt Lawton punches 43 parked cars in a chemically-induced response, but is unable to be reached for spoken comment.
Jesse Crain states that his favorite part of the new park is that "the booing doesn’t echo as much."
Delmon Young drops 15 more pounds, but bats just .137 in the month as a result of being too weak to lift the bat from his shoulder. Young sets a personal record by walking eight times in the month, but also strikes out looking 47 times. Says Joe Vavra, "We were hoping it was a sign he’d finally learned some pitch recognition."
An excited-to-be-back Pat Neshek sets a baseball record by throwing fourteen wild pitches in one inning. Neshek also hugs two umpires and attempts to pitch left-handed before being led away to a nice quiet room.
Scandal rocks the Twins when reports emerge that Joe Mauer, despite wanting only half a glass of water more, allows a waitress to pour him a full glass. The catcher apologizes to all Twins fans. "I thought I was entitled," says a tearful Mauer.
Alexi Casilla gets into only two games in the entire month, both ninth-inning pinch-running appearances in seven-run losses. Ron Gardenhire demands that management call up Matt Tolbert as a replacement.
Nick Blackburn struggles with confidence, as Jim Thome keeps hitting his warmup pitches 500 feet.
Drew Butera fails to get a single hit in four games. Coaches later discover that Butera has been using a Wiffle bat at the plate. Unfortunately, correcting this oversight does not help.
With the backup catcher position in turmoil, the season moves on to...
... as Ron Gardenhire demands that management call up Matt Tolbert as a replacement catcher. The team gets Jose Morales back, instead.
With Morales’s return, the team finally feels comfortable enough to break the news to Dan Gladden: "No, that wasn’t your former teammate Sal, it was his son. We told him to humor you."
The Twins bring in a consultant to help Delmon Young regain weight. The consultant is known in the organization only by the code name "Livan Hernandez."
Carlos Gomez makes his triumphant return to Minneapolis. The fans attempt to give the former Twin a standing ovation as he comes to the plate, but Gomez manages to strike out before most fans can reach their feet.
A Prince Fielder fly ball hits the corner of the right-field overlook and bounces into the left-field bleachers. Fielder is awarded a double. Michael Cuddyer is led gently off the field with shell-shock. The stadium designers are forced to write "Pointless ballpark features that interfere with the game are stupid in all cases" one hundred times each on a blackboard.
A.J. Pierzynski sets off the first bench-clearing brawl in Target Field, an event mostly noticeable for the donnybrook at the entrance to the bullpens. "Maybe we need separate runways for these guys," say team officials.
Joe Mauer is again beset by scandal when it is revealed that the catcher, caught short at the gas station, takes eleven cents from the "Take a penny, leave a penny" tray at the counter. "My behavior has been a personal disappointment," says an embarrassed Mauer.
Despite this, the Twins hope all is forgotten in...
... as a game against Kansas City is delayed 45 minutes because umpire Phil Cuzzi can’t find the field.
Jon Rauch blows four saves in a row. Ron Gardenhire demands that management call up Matt Tolbert as a replacement.
The Atlanta Braves make their first visit to Target Field. Mark Lemke gets nine hits in the series, but a series of Lonnie Smith baserunning gaffes allow the Twins to sweep.
Due to injuries, Nick Punto makes his first-ever start in centerfield. He has to be removed from the game in the third inning, after he is unable to resist building sand castles on the warning track during play.
A "tell-all" interview with Joe Mauer in Esquire greatly disappoints, as Mauer’s most shocking revelation is that he once filled up a fountain pop at SuperAmerica with "a little of every flavor." "I was more animal than man," says Mauer contritely.
J.J. Hardy and Jason Kubel start a foundation to help provide emergency goatee relief to the people of Haiti.
With charity on everyone’s mind, the calendar turns over to...
... as Justin Morneau and Jesse Crain are forced to spend Canada Day in Tampa Bay. "There has to be something in the Canadian constitution about this," say the pair. Prime Minister Stephen Harper considers military action, then remembers that the Canadian military gets weekends off in the summer.
Jon Rauch is revealed to be former Timberwolf Felton Spencer, in disguise. "Let’s face it, this isn’t a surprise," says Rauch/Spencer. "I’m 6’11", and I can’t even throw the ball 90 miles an hour."
Matt Guerrier, attempting to make himself look "more like a closer," decides to adopt the Eddie Guardado mannerism of hitting himself in the cup with the baseball prior to his first pitch of the inning. Guerrier temporarily forgets that he does not wear a cup, and spends three weeks on the DL. Ron Gardenhire demands that management call up Matt Tolbert as a replacement.
Joe Mauer again is forced to make a public apology, this time for pressing all of the buttons in an elevator, then stepping off. "I knew my actions were wrong," says Mauer, " but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply."
Jose Mijares misses another flight due to visa problems. The front office investigates and then gently reminds the lefty that you don’t need a visa to leave the International House of Pancakes.
Pat Neshek and Jim Thome have a much-publicized clubhouse disagreement, as the vegan Neshek takes issue with Thome’s pregame snack of three steaks, five pork chops, and a generous helping of bear jerky.
With turmoil in the air, the Twins need a month to cleanse the palate, a month like ...
... as the first real batch of mosquitoes descend upon Target Field. Unable to fend for himself, Nick Punto is carried off by a particularly aggressive group.
Justin Morneau, having hit .485 with 39 home runs in the first four months of the season, begins to tail off. The slugger hits just three singles in the entire month, and is later revealed to be playing with two broken fingers, a herniated disk, a calf strain, a slight rotator cuff tear, and walking pneumonia. Morneau’s locker is also beset by carnivorous ferrets. After investigation, the team determines that Morneau is being affected by an annual late-summer curse, cast by noted Canadian witch-doctor Geddy Lee.
White Sox outfielders lose two balls in an overcast sky. Ozzie Guillen demands that the Twins play only on sunny days.
Upon his first visit to Target Field, Torii Hunter declares that he wants to be in Minnesota again, thus opening the "Torii Hunter Angles for a Contract In Every American League City Tour" earlier than expected.
A game is delayed twenty-two minutes when security is forced to use electric cattle prods to chase Jose Mijares out of the State Fair concessions stand in center field.
A scandal-ridden year for Joe Mauer continues, as neighbors reveal that the catcher has been seen recycling pop bottles with the caps still on. Says Mauer, "I felt that I had worked hard my life and deserved to enjoy the temptations around me."
Alexi Casilla sets a major-league record when he makes his 100th pinch-running appearance without ever coming to bat. In response, Ron Gardenhire demands that management call up Matt Tolbert as a replacement.
The team is clearly in need of some autumn weather, and what better to provide it than...
...as the weather turns slightly chilly again. Dunderheaded columnists across the nation write about how the Twins should have to play inside again. Bud Selig is narrowly foiled in an attempt to make the Twins play home games in Milwaukee.
The Twins bring up 7’1" Loek Van Mil for a week, but later admit it was only so they could chase him while carrying torches and pitchforks.
A bored Jim Thome gets in trouble for arm-wrestling fans in Hrbek’s during the third inning of a midweek game against Kansas City.
The team considers sending Joe Mauer away for treatment after the catcher is in trouble again, this time for loosening the tops of salt shakers in the clubhouse. Mauer is clearly chastened. "Parents used to point to me as a role model for their kids," he says. "I owe all of those families a special apology."
Fox Sports Net is fined $150,000 by the FCC after its closed captioner attempts to phonetically transcribe an interview with Orlando Hudson. "We think he may have invented five new swears," says an FCC spokesman.
The team actually brings Matt Tolbert up as a September call-up. Ron Gardenhire says that he is "finally happy," despite an eight-game losing streak.
And so, the season once again concludes in...
... with another AL Central title.
Or will someone else take the Central crown? Even I can’t tell you that.