Sunday, April 4, 2010

A New Baseball Season for the Twins

A new baseball season has arrived. I think the Minnesota Twins will have a good season. The everyday lineup of Denard Span, Orlando Hudson, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, J.J. Hardy, Delmon Young, and either Nick Punto or Brendan Harris will be formidable. Mauer is the best player in baseball. Morneau, Span, Kubel, and Cuddyer are All-Star level players. Hudson and Hardy were once All-Stars and have the ability to be so again.

With Jim Thome, Jose Morales (once he is off the disabled list), either Harris or Punto, and Alexi Casilla on the bench, the best manager in baseball will have more weapons to call on the he ever has.

I can easily see this team leading the league in runs scored. It is also a strong defensive team. In fact this is the best everyday roster the Twins have ever had outside of 1991 when the Twins won the World Series.

A minor leaguer to watch to watch is catcher Wilson Ramos who almost made the team this year. Ramos won’t be able to catch everyday in the majors because of some guy named Joe Mauer. However, Mauer and Ramos could combine to share the catcher and dh roles next year making the Twins offense even stronger.

Pitching of course is the key to all winning. The Twins starting staff of Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Carl Pavano, Kevin Slowey, and Francisco Liriano looks strong. Baker and Blackburn have had back to back good years while Pavano looks to have regained his his 2004 form. Slowey looks good, but needs to prove he can stay healthy all year. Liriano has to prove he is back to being a good pitcher again.

Keep an eye on Kyle Gibson the Twins #1 draft pick last year. It sounds like he could make a quick trip through the minor league system and could be ready for action in the majors next year.

One area of concern this year is who will close. The Twins bullpen is deep and talented. Jose Mijares, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain, Pat Neshek, Clay Condrey, and Brian Dunesing have all proved themselves affective relievers at the major league level. However, none of them is Joe Nathan. With Nathan lost for the season, the Twins need to manage their bullpen well as not to let things unravel.

I think the closer role is overrated. If you can get people out in the 7th or 8th innings, why not the 9th – the pressure assigned to the 9th inning is artificial. Ron Gardenhire says he will use Rauch as closer and leave the 7th and 8th innings to Guerrier and Mijares. Hopefully the starters will regularly pitch 7 innings, so the bullpen will only have to handle a couple of innings each games. That is why good starting pitching is so important.

I look forward to the new baseball season, and the Twins new ballpark Target Field. I will be going to a game in May. I heard mostly nice things about Target Field. I heard there are a couple of spots that have obstructed views plus the seats in the outfield are mostly benches. I prefer an actual seat, and will buy my tickets accordingly.

I look forward to an exciting and successful season for the Twins who incidentally will be celebrating 50 Years in Minnesota.

On a side note I have recently received signed baseball cards from 3 former Twins I have been trying to get a response from for some time.

Dan Ford who played for the Twins in the 70s had a great nickname (Disco Dan) and a home run trot to be remembered (just before reaching home plate he would turn around and walk backwards across the plate). Mr. Ford has eluded me for some time, but not only did he sign a card for me (which was a card of him as an Angel), but sent a signed card of his own with him as a Twin. Thank you Mr. Ford!

Shane Mack played for the Twins in the 90’s and was a key member of the 1991 World Championship team. He too has eluded me for years. He seems to keep moving which caused me to get a lot of “return to sender – unable to forward” messages on my returned letters. Well after over a 300 day wait Mr. Mack finally signed a card for me. It goes to show perseverance pays off. Thanks for signing Mr. Mack!

Doug Mientkiewicz was a key member of the 2001 – 2003 teams that won 2 divisions and revived baseball in Minnesota. I started collecting signed cards through the mail after Doug had left the Twins. I have tried sending to him for the last 3 years and never got a response. Well this year he signed 1 of 2 cards for me. Thanks Doug!