Monday, January 4, 2010

Minnesota Twins Decade Retrospective: 2005

I’m continuing my Twins decade retrospective today with the 9th best season of the decade. If you haven’t read the 10th place entry yet, or need a refresher on the rules, check both out here.

When one of the best things about the year is a goofy looking Australian guy batting .425 in very limited play, your team probably didn’t fair very well.

Enter Glenn Williams and the 2005 Minnesota Twins.

After three straight playoff berths, the Twins had high expectations in 2005. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau’s arrival, coupled with Brad Radke, Johan Santana, Torii Hunter, and Joe Nathan had Twins fans thinking beyond the ALDS.

However, below-expectation play from Mauer and Morneau, an ankle injury to Hunter, and a black hole for an infield derailed the Twins high hopes and led to an 83-79, third-place finish; their third worst showing of the 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.

Overall: 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 – 3

In hindsight, the Twins lack of success in 2005 isn’t actually all that surprising. The only established bats the team had were Hunter, Jacque Jones, and Shannon Stewart; each solid in their own right, but none truly capable of carrying a team – with all due respect to Stewart’s spark-plugging in 2003.

The problem with the 2005 Twins was Mauer (age 22) and Morneau (age 24) were basically told to carry the offense, a nearly impossible task for such young players.
To put this in perspective, I’m 22 and I can barely function in day-to-day society, so I can’t even imagine someone telling me I am now the most integral part of their organization. I feel like that scenario would end poorly.

Point being, hinging your team’s entire offensive success on two guys who have yet to play a full season of Major League Baseball is going to end poorly 93.2% of the time. A stat I call WHOOPS. And, yes, I created a complex mathematical formula you won’t understand to arrive at WHOOPS, so you know it’s legit.

Seriously though, the Twins offense was awful in 2005, which led directly to the team’s subpar season. Of course, eventually you have to throw your young players into the mix, and doing so helped prepare Mauer and Morneau to lead the 2006 Twins to a 96-66 record. Basically, 2005, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, probably saved 2006. (Yep, you just got Nicholsoned.)

Memorableness – 2

The one thing I will always remember 2005 for was a misjudged right hook. I call it the “Punto Punch.”

At the end of 2005 when the Twins were farting along and Justin Morneau was apparently out doing body shots of hookers every night (note: probably not true), the injured and ultra-competitive Torii Hunter became fed up with the team’s play.

Hunter, believing Morneau needed an attitude adjustment, took a swing at the first baseman, somehow missing his large, Canadian head and making contact with Nick Punto instead. A moment that is somewhere in the top 10 of things I wish I had witnessed in person. I just love imagining the “Punto Punch” scenario playing out. The thought of Punto getting socked in the head by Hunter is indescribably remarkable. Plus I’m sure the look on Punto’s face was his “just-flew-out-to-center” look of disgust. You all know what I am talking about.

The punch, while completely ridiculous and probably a poor decision, turned out to be step one in a two step process of turning Morneau into an MVP. (With the second step, of course, being the most homoerotic move in the history of franchise altering moves: Mauer and Morneau moving in together. More on this in the 2006 entry.)

Other than the “Punto Punch?” Not a whole lot going on in 2005.

Likeability – 2

2005 was weird because you had the old fan favorites in Hunter, Radke, and Santana mixed in with the new fan favorites in Mauer and Morneau. The whole thing just created a mess.

The problem was Mauer and Morneau weren’t really deserving of the “fan favorite” tag yet, and it just confused everyone.

We wanted to root for the new guys, but they weren’t that good yet. And we wanted to root for the old guys, but damn, look at those sideburns. It was just an awkward, uncomfortable situation that ended with everyone playing poorly.

Basically, it wasn’t so much that the 2005 Twins weren’t likeable, they just didn’t mesh yet and it seemed to create a favoritism divide.

Luckily, we had Glenn Williams to unite us.

Intangibles – 1

There was really nothing randomly enjoyable about the 2005 Twins. They just petered along all year, never went on a big winning streak, and never really had enough to compete. Aside from a 15-8 April, they were completely mediocre all year.

The only thing that stands out about the 2005 Twins is they were so inept offensively, that Brad Radke (who pitched 200 innings) had ten no decisions. Ten! Seriously, he was 9-12. That shouldn’t happen. It seemed like every time Radke pitched, he gave up a few runs, the offense would score a few runs, and the game ended up being decided in the eighth or ninth inning.

And, actually, after stat-digging deeper, the entire rotation had at least 10 no decisions except Kyle Lohse who had nine. The solid rotation, and fairly deep bullpen, wasn’t nearly enough to make up for the Twins abysmal offense.

And the worst part about the pitching/hitting disparity was that although the games were close, they were never exciting. Probably because everyone knew the Twins would end up losing 3-2 or 2-1 or something shitty along those lines. Hell, I think I was at a game when Jacque Jones hit a walk off home run, and even that was boring.

Couple the boredom with Santana getting hosed for Cy Young and the Bret Boone experience, and 2005 struggled in the excitement department.

Overall – 8

In looking at the 2005 Twins Baseball Reference page, it becomes pretty obvious why the team was so forgettable: they sucked.

Almost everyone on the team had their worst season. Mauer and Morneau were a year away from becoming Mauer and Morneau. Torii Hunter was hurt. And Shannon Stewart was thrown off by everybody else’s crappiness. Not a good year.

Even if the offense had been decent, however, the Twins probably did not have enough to compete with the 90+ win White Sox and Indians. Sure the Twins had a solid pitching staff, but claiming an offensively superior would have won 90 games is bold. And probably too much so.

It just wasn’t the Twins year.

What was the worst part about 2005, though? The White Sox won the World Series. What a terrible fucking year.

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