Today’s entry in my decade retrospective series will round out the week, as well as the bottom half of my list. Check out the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th place entries if you haven’t done so yet. Also, since I am shameless, self-promoting whore, follow me on Twitter here. I just like the ego feed of acquiring new followers.
2003 was a make or break year for the Twins. Coming off their surprising 2002 playoff run, everyone was waiting to see if the Twins were legit, or simply an aberration (a word that has particularly evil connotations for me because the first time I heard it was at age 14 from the mouth of Bud Selig as he threatened to contract the Twins).
After a paltry first half in which the Twins compiled a 44-49 record (and witnessed a surprise charge from the Kansas City Royals) the Twins, fueled by Shannon Stewart, turned things around in the second half. A 46-23 post-All Star record allowed the Twins to take control of the division and return to the playoffs.
Falling just outside the top five best seasons of the aughts are another playoff disappointment, the 2003 Twins and their 90-72 record.
Criteria review, memorableness isn’t a word, blah, blah blah, onto the ratings…
Successfulness – 6
Both 2003 and 2004 were playoff years that felt nondescript. Defining moments were hard to come by for those two seasons, but the Twins took advantage of a weak Central Division and weaseled their way into the playoffs.
Out of the original run of playoff years (’02, ’03, ’04) 2003 was, by all accounts, the least successful.
After compiling the lowest number of wins from an “original run” Twins teams, the 2003 squad made a little noise by winning game one of the ALDS. Of course, they followed the surprising game one victory with three straight losses in which they scored a total of three runs, in a frustrating, albeit unsurprising, end to the season.
Like 2004, however, the Twins made the playoffs and therefore must be considered a success. And if anyone implies otherwise, the Twins will send, let’s say, Mike Radcliff to kill us all.
Memorableness – 5
There was only one thing that made 2003 memorable. And that wasn’t a thing, but a man.
After a lackluster start to the season, Twins fans were becoming increasingly worried that 2002, while fun, was nothing more than a one-time deal. These were, after all, the Twins.
Heading into the All Star break with a 44-49 record, it was obvious to everyone that if the Twins wanted to be more than a Daniel Powter-like one year wonder, they had to make a change. And that change came in the form of Shannon Stewart.
In one of the most inexplicably lopsided trades this side of the A.J. Pierzynski deal, the Twins received not only Stewart, but also a player to be named later (who turned out to be Dave Gassner, a pitcher who threw approximately 40 MPH and pitched a good game against the Indians once) for Bobby Kielty.
Kielty, who looks like a cross between Heat Miser and Carrot Top, was, contrary to some Twins fans’ beliefs, nothing more than a solid fourth outfielder. Netting an excellent leadoff hitter in Stewart for a spare part outfielder was an amazing deal for the Twins. (Signing Stewart to a three year contract after the season? Not such a great deal.)
Aside from being a solid addition, Stewart was also central to the defining moment of the 2003 season.
Facing the Angels in early December, the Twins went into the bottom of the ninth trailing 5-4 and facing Twin killer Troy Percival. With Dustan Mohr on first, Stewart lined a ball down the left field line. The ensuing play featured approximately four errors, six overthrows, at least one Molina broken arm, and Snookie getting punched in the face. Needless to say, it was chaos.
Mohr scores, Stewart scores, Twins win, and the cast of the Jersey Shore bonds together, fulfilling their dream of being a “real family.”
Just a magical day all around.
Likeability – 6
Because the core of the “original run” remained mostly the same, it is hard to really differentiate between each team. 2002 was the first of the playoff years, so that team holds a special place in Twins lore, but once 2003 rolled around, we were kind of used to the competing.
The familiarity wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the core the Twins featured was an incredibly likeable group, but once they were expected to compete, we craved a superstar that really stood out.
In 2003, we latched on to Stewart, and experienced a very enjoyable run with the leftfielder. With the rest of the team playing their to-be-expected enjoyable style, and Stewart (as well as Johan Santana) emerging in the second half, the 2003 Twins proved to be a likeable, although unspectacular team.
Intangibles – 5
As I said before, both the 2003 and 2004 teams were fairly nondescript. Both seasons were undeniably enjoyable, but when Twins fans look back, 2003 and 2004 certainly won’t be seasons that stand above the rest from an excellent decade. Thus, the scores for those years fall right in the middle of this list.
What can be said about 2003, however, is that it was the first year we got a taste of Justin Morneau.
And, while it was just a taste -- he still needed a little time to simmer -- those first bites sure were delicious.
I think we all remember the game in Milwaukee when Morneau launched a home run to dead center, taking out a chunk of the Brewer scoreboard. Not only was the blast epic, but anytime you take a chunk out of Wisconsin, you had a damn good day.
Couple the mammoth Milwaukee blast with his Kansas City bomb that went out of Kauffman stadium, and our first glimpses of Morneau had our mouths watering at the power potential soon coming our way.
Overall – 22
2003 and 2004 were very similar years for the Twins, and thus, these seasons received very similar overall scores.
While playoff years are always enjoyable, I am of the belief that unless there are several moments that truly stand out, a team that loses early in the playoffs is no better than a memorable team that barely misses the postseason.
Yes, the playoffs are an obvious measure of success, but from the standpoint of a fan, if the playoff memories quickly fade, then a regular season that stays with you is truly more enjoyable. And that, ladies and gentleman, is the reason two playoff years fell outside the top five of this list.
Hopefully, the Twins will forgive me for denigrating seasons that are supposed to epitomize the ultimate Minnesota success, and spare me the wrath of Mike Radcliff.