A few days ago while on Twitter, a reminder of a very dark Twins past was presented. While it hasn't been all that long since Minnesota was in the doldrums of the AL Central, and in the midst of perfecting 90 loss seasons, the memory of the 2015 season makes it seem like yesteryear. That reminder brought things full circle though, and well, it made me think.
Let's get you caught up first, here's that reminder:
Respect and understand angst and concern about our offense this spring. Need to be better. But amazed at focus on 25th man on the roster.— Dave St. Peter (@TwinsPrez) March 29, 2014
So the year is 2014, what would end up being the last of long time manager Ron Gardenhire's tenure. Minnesota was coming off of a third straight 90 loss season, and things weren't looking good. President Dave St. Peter felt the need to address roster concern, and took issue with the frustration of how the Twins decided to round out the group.
The 2014 Twins roster featured starters such as Pedro Florimon, and Jason Kubel. There was a bench spot given to Jason Bartlett, and the relief corps included Samuel Deduno. Regardless of which of those guys you'd like to peg as being the 25th man, there was plenty of reason for displeasure when looking at big league talent. The Twins had virtually punted on fielding a competitive big league group, and St. Peter seemed somewhat oblivious to that notion. Sure, it'd be fun to rehash what a horrible set of decisions took place to get the Twins to that point in 2014, there's a much bigger story that has since developed here.
Fast forward to present day, and we're just recently removed from the Minnesota Twins unveiling a 25 man roster that belongs to a team coming off an 83 win season and near playoff berth. The current group includes a very sound starting lineup, with power threats such as Miguel Sano and Byung Ho Park. Top prospect Byron Buxton will man centerfield from day one, and the bench is rounded out by a legitimate two way catcher in John Ryan Murphy, along with an intriguing super utility man in Danny Santana. In short, the Twins have turned a very significant corner.
A year ago, Minnesota had the benefit of surprise on their side. Expected to do very little in the AL Central, that Twins not only surprised, but made things incredibly interesting down the stretch. Not being eliminated from playoff contention until the final weekend of the season, Molitor's first year at the helm was a smashing success. What it has done is set up a new era in Twins baseball, and really helped to turn the corner from what was.
There's multitudes of metrics to suggest that the Twins 2015 season was filled with outliers. Exceptional hitting in high leverage situations, as well as unexpected production with runners in scoring position no doubt led to more wins than would have been anticipated. While those situations are based upon averages, Minnesota performed well above what expectations had been laid out for them. Despite baseball being a sport in which regression to the mean is generally accepted, Molitor and his club have done something that good teams generally accomplish.
Beginning in 2015, and carrying over into the year ahead, the Twins have stacked the deck in their favor.
While banking on beating expectations, or performing well above average in uncontrollable scenarios isn't a good bet, the most controllable part of the equation is the talent that you put onto the field. When considering the 25th man that fans or pundits may have been displeased with St. Peter's collective putting forth in 2014, you'd be hard pressed to find a consensus. Whether one of the poor excuses for a starter in the lineup, or a retread claiming a bench spot, that roster had holes all over it. Looking at where the organization is today, the change couldn't be more present.
Baseball is constructed by determining nine men to play the field, and five that start any given day on the mound. The World Series is generally won by the team with a collective ability to cycle through the secondary parts without missing a beat. Minnesota isn't yet among the highest tier when looking at the landscape of Major League Baseball, but what a difference a couple of years can make.
The roster is void of retreads and handouts, there isn't gaping holes in the lineup, and even while there may be some contention among the pitching inclusions, far worse options could have been presented (and we've seen it before). Let the chips fall where they may come October, but it's hard to suggest the Twins haven't stacked the deck in their favor.