Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Minnesota Twins Decade Retrospective: 2008

Well…um…yeah. It’s been awhile eh? Hopefully you have all had plenty of time to catch up on any former Decade Retrospective posts you missed (all found in the sidebar). Again, I apologize for the delay, but this time instead of continuing to make excuses, I am just going to admit I am a wiener. If it makes you feel better, you can follow me on Twitter. It would certainly make me feel better…

2008 began as an unknown. Fresh off the departures of Johan Santana and Torii Hunter, nobody really knew what to expect. There was excitement surrounding Delmon Young and at least some hopefulness surrounding Carlos Gomez.

With Mauer and Morneau still leading the offense, many fans expected the team to be competitive once again, but remained unsure about whether the team could truly compete.

The rotation had a giant Livan Hernandez plugged gap (which, oddly, even a man of his size could not fill), while the lineup had plenty of holes.

When the Twins found a way to compete, it came as a pleasant, and exciting, surprise to all fans. While the team ultimately fell short in game 163, 2008 was an enjoyable year for the 88-75, second place Twins.

Here is a review for everyone before I begin. You know, since it’s been so long. Even I forgot the criteria…

: 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.

Memorableness: 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.

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.

Alright. On to the ratings.

Successfulness – 5

Right in the middle of the pack is the perfect place for the 2008 Twins. They were an undeniably flawed team that finished second in a weak division.

Of course, on the way to their second-place finish, the team supplied fans with one of the most memorable games of the decade (more on that in a minute).

The Twins 2008 success came as a surprise. And surprise success is the most enjoyable success of all.

Memorableness – 7

As a whole, 2008 wasn’t an exceptional year. In fact, if it wasn’t for the last week of the season, 2008 would have been just another year.

The Twins would have contended, but been unspectacular.

What set 2008 above so many other seasons was squirrely little Carlos Gomez dashing across home plate as Denard Span had a combination of a seizure/stroke/panic attack/I dunno, let’s say shingles at third base.

I am, of course, talking about the game in late September against the White Sox that moved the Twins into first place.

You want to talk about a game that toyed with fans emotions? That was a game that toyed with fans emotions.

By winning the first two games of the series, the Twins set themselves up to move half a game up on the White Sox by completing the sweep. Half a game back, with three games left to play, every game was a must win for the Twins.

When Kevin Slowey was literally knocked out of the game by a line drive in the fourth inning with the Twins down 6-1 I just remember gunning an empty Gatorade bottle across my living room and letting out a long set of expletives. Needless to say, I was none-too-pleased.

I sat fuming, as the Twins clawed back with runs in the fourth and sixth. I was hopeful but skeptical.

When the eighth inning came, and Denard Span yanked his line drive into the right field corner, I just remember jumping up and down in my apartment, screaming at the top of my lungs, and scaring the shit out of my ambivalent roommates. It was one of the five greatest moments I have ever had on a couch in my life.

Of course, the comeback wasn’t complete until Alexi Casilla singled home Nick Punto in the tenth inning, but by that point I was so winded, and my hand hurt so much from pounding the wall I could barely move. I was spent.

Luckily, the fact that I had no energy left didn’t matter since, you know, the Twins crapped away the Royals series and lost game 163.

At least we’ll always have that one game against the White Sox though.

Likeability – 8

Carlos Gomez was new and exciting in 2008. Between his weird relationship with Alexi Casilla, and the ridiculous joy I got out of watching interviews Gomez (especially the feature on him and Casilla -- I understood exactly three things they said) the 2008 Twins had some enjoyable characters.

With the old reliable fan favorites like Mauer and Morneau, and guys like Span emerging there was a lot to enjoy about the 2008 Twins.

The fact that they truly weren’t expected to compete, and were seen as all but a rebuilding project really made they even more fun to watch. Where as in other years the “little engine that could” mentality was annoying, it actually fit in 2008, and was actually enjoyable.

Intangibles – 6

One of my favorite subplots of the 2008 season was the relationship between the starting pitchers.

Blackburn, Slowey, Baker, and Perkins always sat together in the dugout, and I figure they thought of themselves as an exclusive little club that didn’t want other members. This was especially funny to me because they are all goofy looking white guys and the fifth man in the rotation (at least later in the year) was Liriano.

I guess I just kind of pictured Liriano asking to join their clique, the four other pitchers laughing at him and telling him he doesn’t belong, then going to cause mischief down by the old mill while Liriano sat in his kitchen and stared sadly out the window.

This would also explain why Liriano sucked in 2009. He was sad and lonely.

…Yeah. What can I say? Other than that game against the White Sox there wasn’t a whole lot going on in 2008.

Overall – 26

In looking back at 2008, the season was really made by one game. Luckily, that one game was one of the most enjoyable of the decade.

In a nutshell Denard Span jumping up and down like a mad man carried the 2008 season to number 4 on this list.

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