Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Minnesota Twins Decade Retrospective: 2007

I’m continuing my Twins decade retrospective today with the 8th best season of the aughts. If you haven’t read the 9th place entry check it out here. And if you haven’t seen the 10th place entry, or need a refresher on the rules click here. Also, if you enjoy offseason countdowns check out Josh’s Johnson’s top 50 Twins prospects series, and Andrew Kneeland’s top 15 Twins prospects series. Both solid prospecting.

2007 deserves a special place in decade history because it served as a bridge between the early aughts Twins, and the late aughts Twins. Brad Radke retired before the season, Torii Hunter and Johan Santana were on the way out, and it was quite obvious to everyone that the Twins had become Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau’s team.

The 2007 Twins were in a state of flux, and not everyone would make it through the transition.

With two fan favorites facing contract situations (Hunter and Santana) and the team facing future budget concerns (Mauer and Morneau) it was pretty obvious that 2007 was the end of the line for at least one big name.

Heading into the 2007 offseason, however, Twins fans held out hope that the team could reach deals with Hunter and Santana, or at the very least Hunter or Santana. Neither happened.

I think everyone knew in the back of their mind the Twins weren’t going to sign both players, but nobody wanted to admit it. And, while it is easy to say in hindsight the Twins massively fucked up both moves, it is really hard to argue with the theory at the time.

That, however, is an argument for another day. Today we are looking at what makes 2007 the 8th best season of the Twins decade.

Let’s review the criteria before we move onto the ratings:

Successfulness: This one is pretty simple. Most successful team gets the highest score, least successful team gets the lowest score, and the rest fall somewhere in between. More cut and dry than the others, but there is some room for debate.

First off, yes, I know memorableness isn’t a word. I don’t care. Deal with it. This category is simply both how memorable the year was as a whole, and how many single moments stand out.

Likeability: This will be mostly about how likeable the team was, and how enjoyable they were to watch as a fan.

Intangibles: Other basic randomness that makes the year more or less enjoyable.

The overall score will be the total of the other four categories added up. In other words, 40 is a perfect score, and 4 is me in calculus (epic failure). However, once I have assigned a 1 in a category, no other season can receive a score of 1. I will be ranking each category 1-10, making a perfect (or anti-perfect) score highly unlikely.

Successfulness – 2

The 2007 Twins never really had enough to compete. The team was relying far too heavily on repeat performances from Nick Punto, a patched-together rotation, and a mystery DH.

Coupled with injuries to Mauer, and offensive regressions from almost everyone, the Twins holes were pretty much insurmountable. Because of these issues, the Twins ended with only their second sub-.500 season of the decade (79-83) and another third place finish.

With the end of the season, the fate of the Twins was altered forever. The most important offseason of the decade was botched, and the fate of the franchise was altered completely.

All because of one man and his elbow:

Francisco Liriano.

Consider the following assumption-laden scenario:

Liriano never gets hurt. He dominates all the way through 2006, and the Twins head into 2007 with two healthy aces in Santana and Liriano.

Having the foresight to realize they can’t keep both pitchers, one of whom is young and cheap; the other about to get a gigantic pay raise, the Twins put Santana on the market with two years left on his contract. The return for Santana following his 2006 Cy Young is impossible to say, but it certainly would have been far superior to the crappy quartet of Mets, and likely would have included truly talented, Major Leauge ready pitchers.

Instead of all the contractual uncertainties, the team settles on a 2007 rotation that features Liriano/Silva/Baker/trade piece(s).

The Twins probably still wouldn’t have made the playoffs, but the team would have been set up very well for 2008.

Then, with plenty of young talent already in pocket, the Twins could have locked up Hunter, instead of taking part in the merry-go-round of trades. Granted, the Twins finances would have been almost completely tied up in Morneau, Mauer, Cuddyer, and Hunter, but the team would have had enough young, cheap talent to make up for this problem.

Basically, Liriano’s elbow injury is to blame for every problem since 2006.

Memorableness – 3

2007 was memorable for me because I attended the Twins vs. White Sox series in Chicago featuring a Friday double header. Some highlights of said double header:

Game 1
- Twins scored 20 runs.
- Carmen Cali tries as hard as he can to throw game by giving up 4 runs in the ninth, but the Twins hold on for a tense 20-14 victory.
- Game lasts approximately 312740332087 hours in approximately 3203870483 degree heat, resulting in my group taking turns filling up a water cup to be passed a round.
- I, for the first time in my life look forward to the end of a baseball game by proclaiming: “When the fuck is this game going to end?”

Game 2
- Justin Morneau hits three home runs.
- My buddy drops one of said home runs, resulting in an angry serial killer face for the rest of the game.
- Twins win 12-0.
- Buddy murders a hooker.

As far as you and the state of Illinois know, one of those things didn’t happen. The rest are completely true. Certainly a memorable day, but I am pretty sure I lost 20 lbs in sweat that weekend.

(For the record, we went to the next two games as well, but the highlight of those games was Vince Vaughn being shown on the jumbotron. The weather was equally hot, and the Twins lost the Saturday and Sunday games, so aside from the doubleheader, the rest of the weekend kind of blew.

The worst part of that series, by the way, was how much I enjoyed the White Sox pregame jumbotron montage. An awesome highlight video coupled with the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song, topped off by the Thunderstruck leading the White Sox onto the field is the best pregame introduction I have ever seen. Why did it have to be done by the White Sox? I hate myself for liking it.)

Likeability – 2

2007 was the year that everyone bitched about Joe Mauer being a pussy, even though it turned out he was actually hurt. This was kind of a downer, if you ask me.

Additionally, the Twins were coming off 2006, one of the most enjoyable teams of the decade, setting up the 2007 team for an inevitable likeability letdown.

The losses of Radke and Liriano led to minus five likeability points, and the addition of Ponson and Ortiz led to minus 91074827408 likeability points. Luckily, the ever-delightful Tommy Watkin’s September call-up brought the team’s final likeability score to 2. Don’t question the math, just accept it.

Intangibles – 2

The random highlights about 2007 were pretty much all bad things: Santana’s last year, Hunter’s last year, Jason Tyner’s 328 plate appearances.

Not good.

Really, 2007 was much more about the offseason than the season itself. Hunter’s Thanksgiving Del Taco signing, and Twins fans’ refusal to leave their computers throughout the Winter Meetings were the storylines that 2007 were all about.

On the field, Hunter’s emotional last game at the Metrodome will stand out, but will become almost completely forgotten with time. I do, however, remember watching that and feeling like everyone knew he wasn’t coming back. Yet, in the back of my mind, and right up until he actually signed with the Angels, I told myself he would re-sign.

And you know what? I said at the time the Twins shouldn’t have let Hunter walk, and I still believe it now.

Torii Hunter is exactly what the Twins need.

Underrated offensive ability aside, the team lacks a level of intensity that Hunter brought. Losing Hunter was far worse than losing Santana, because the Twins actually had a shot at keeping Torii.

Overall – 10

2007 is the first season of the decade to crack double digits in my scoring system, so things get a whole lot rosier from here on out. In fact, with 2000, 2005, and 2007 out of the way, the rest of the decade looks pretty good.

Really, the entire decade could have been divided into two groups:

Group 1: 2000, 2005, 2007

Group 2: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009

On one side you have the years that were at least somewhat enjoyable, and on the other you have years that pretty much completely sucked.

2007, my friends, completely sucked.


  1. Good post - u got a new follower in TFelton.

  2. Good stuff, Eric. You bring up a good point about the value of keeping Hunter around. I'd like to add that the Delmon Young trade would likely have never happened then, so the both the infield and the rotation would pretty much be set. Keeping Garza in the rotation means the Twins also wouldn't have had to slot Francisco Liriano in the number two spot so soon after surgery, thus he could've taken as much time as he needed to regain his pre-surgery form.

  3. I completely agree Erin. Keeping Hunter around would have changed a lot of things and I think it certainly would have been worth the cost.