Sunday, January 31, 2010

Minnesota Twins Decade Retrospective: 2006

It has been a magical and unnecessarily long ride, and it is finally coming to an end with the final entry in my decade retrospective series. We laughed. We cried. We did other clich├ęd things. Good times were had by somewhere between some and all. If you missed any of the entries, catch up via the sidebar.

2006 was, well, quite simply the best season of the decade. Between having the best regular season of the decade, and going on one of the most impressive mid-summer runs in franchise history, there was plenty to love about the 2006 Twins.

Oh, sure, the season didn’t end how any of us expected or wanted, but overall, it was the best year of the 2000s. Besides, I believe, to this day, that if Francisco Liriano hadn’t gotten injured, the Twins would have won the World Series, and nobody can convince me otherwise.

In reality, the Twins ended winning the Central Division with a 96-66 record via one of the most exciting regular seasons in franchise history.

For the final time, here are the rules:

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.

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.

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.

And now, without further ado, the ratings for the Twins best season of the decade:

Successfulness – 9

En route to their beset regular season of the decade, the Twins put together an amazing run of baseball that included, among other things, somewhere around -2 losses in interleague play. Roughly.

In one of the most memorable summers of Twins baseball to date, the Twins made everyone believe they were a true contender. Yes, that belief ultimately led to disappointment in the playoffs, but every season of the decade ended in playoff disappointment.

Taking the entire 2006 season into account, it is hard to argue with the success that team achieved. Especially considering they started out slow and still managed to put together one of the most successful regular seasons in franchise history.

Memorableness – 10

Joe Mauer. Justin Morneau. Franciso Liriano. Johan Santana.

Batting champ. MVP. Best pitcher in baseball. Cy Young.

And that doesn’t even include Torii Hunter, and Brad Radke’s amazing torn labrum swan song. One of the most underrated pitching seasons in Twins history. Say what you will about Radke being overrated, but his 2006 season was one of the gutsiest performances in team history.

Adding everything up, the summer of 2006 provided fans with memorable moments almost on a nightly basis. Any Liriano game was must see TV. Any Mauer or Morneau at-bat meant grabbing another beer could wait. And, while Santana had almost become cache by 2006, he was still the best pitcher in baseball not named Liriano.

(For those of you questioning my Liriano as the best pitcher in baseball claim, go back and look at his stats. He put up one of the most impressive runs not only of the decade, but in baseball history. I would put the 16 starts he made up against almost any in the history of baseball.)

Ultimately, what all those players provided was not only the best season of the decade, but one of the best moments of the decade as well on the last day of the season. Yes, they already had the wild card wrapped up, but when the team took care of the White Sox and stayed around to watch with the fans as the Royals upset the Tigers to give the Twins another division championship, it gave every Twins fans chills. Even those of us who weren’t lucky enough to actually be there.

Likeability – 10

There was almost nothing not to like about the 2006 Twins.

Do you like dreamy, side-burned catchers who finally fulfill their promise by winning the battle title and becoming the best catcher in baseball?

Meet Joe Mauer.

Are burly Canadian MVP’s more of your thing?

Say hello to Justin Morneau.

Or maybe you prefer cutsey nicknames handed out by a crazy Latino man?

Then don’t forget about the Pirhanas.

And that doesn’t even include Hunter, Santana, Liriano, Nathan, Pat Neshek’s crazy side armed delivery, and of course Tony Batisita (just kidding).

Basically, the 2006 Twins had something for everyone. If you couldn’t find something to like about the 2006 Twins, well, I have to question your ability to feel human emotions you fucking robot.

Intangibles – 10

There were a lot of random things to enjoy about 2006. However, there is one random thing about 2006 that I feel is underrated: the homoerotic relationship between Mauer and Morneau.

We’ve all heard the story about how Morneau moved in with Mauer because he needed to stop partying so much – or doing body shots off hookers, as I put it earlier. However, I feel like fans don’t appreciate how ridiculous this is.

Mauer and Morneau are not only professional athletes, but two of the best players in baseball. They both had plenty of money, and could essentially live anywhere they wanted to. They weren’t in college, they weren’t high school athletes, THEY WERE PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES!

These people don’t just move in together.

Now, what actually happened at their house was probably about what you would expect from two 20-something-year-old guys living together. The fact that they were – and stop me if I mentioned this – professional athletes just makes the whole thing seem so ridiculous.

I mean, am I the only one who pictures Morneau laying on the couch on a Sunday morning, completely hungover, while Mauer stands in the kitchen wearing an apron (and nothing else) and making scrambled eggs while calling out, “breakfast’s ready” as Morneau groans, rolls over and stumbles his way to the table?

Ok, probably. Still, I just feel like people don’t make enough out of the whole Mauer and Morneau lived together thing.

Then again, they both became MVPs so whatever.

Overall – 39

With only one point below a perfect score, the 2006 Minnesota Twins take home the award for best team of the decade. And, while every Twins team fell short of winning the World Series, the 2000s was one of the greatest in Twins history so taking that first spot is really pretty impressive.

Here's to hoping the next decade is even better.

Minnesota Twins Decade Retrospective: 2006

It has been a magical and unnecessarily long ride, and it is finally coming to an end with the final entry in my decade retrospective series. We laughed. We cried. We did other clich├ęd things. Good times were had by somewhere between some and all. If you missed any of the entries, catch up via the sidebar.

2006 was, well, quite simply the best season of the decade. Between having the best regular season of the decade, and going on one of the most impressive mid-summer runs in franchise history, there was plenty to love about 2006.

Oh, sure, the season didn’t end how any of us expected or wanted, but overall, it was the best year of the 2000s. Besides, I believe, to this day, that if Francisco Liriano hadn’t gotten injured, the Twins would have won the World Series, and nobody can convince me otherwise.

In reality, the Twins ended winning the Central Division with a 96-66 record via one of the most exciting regular seasons in franchise history.

For the final time, here are the rules:

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.

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.

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.

And now, without further ado, the ratings for the Twins best season of the decade:

Successfulness – 9

En route to their beset regular season of the decade, the Twins put together an amazing run of baseball that included, among other things, somewhere around -2 losses in interleague play. Roughly.

In one of the most memorable summers of Twins baseball, the Twins made everyone believe they were a true contender. Yes, that belief ultimately led to disappointment in the playoffs, but every season of the decade ended in playoff disappointment.

Taking the entire 2006 season into account, it is hard to argue with the success that team achieved. Especially considering they started out slow and still managed to put together one of the most successful regular seasons in franchise history.

Memorableness – 10

Joe Mauer. Justin Morneau. Franciso Liriano. Johan Santana.

Batting champ. MVP. Best pitcher in baseball. Cy Young.

And that doesn’t even include Torii Hunter, and Brad Radke’s amazing torn labrum swan song. One of the most underrated pitching seasons in Twins history. Say what you will about Radke being overrated by fans, his 2006 season was one of the gutsiest performances in team history.

Adding everything up, the summer of 2006 provided fans with memorable moments almost on a nightly basis. Any Liriano game was must see TV. Any Mauer or Morneau at-bat meant grabbing another beer could wait. And, while Santana had almost become cache by 2006, he was still the best pitcher in baseball not named Liriano.

(For those of you questioning my Liriano as the best pitcher in baseball claim, go back and look at his stats. He put up one of the most impressive runs not only of the decade, but in baseball history. I would put the 16 starts he made up against almost any in the history of baseball.)

Ultimately, what all those players provided was not only the best season of the decade, but one of the best moments of the decade as well on the last day of the season. Yes, they already had the wild card wrapped up, but when the team took care of the White Sox and stayed around to watch with the fans as the Royals upset the Tigers to give the Twins another division championship, it gave every Twins fans chills. Even those of us who weren’t lucky enough to actual be there.

Likeability – 10

There was almost nothing not to like about the 2006 Twins.

Do you like dreamy, side-burned catchers who finally fulfill their promise by winning the battle title and becoming the best catcher in baseball?

Meet Joe Mauer.

Are burly Canadian MVP’s more of your thing?

Say hello to Justin Morneau.

Or maybe you prefer cutsey nicknames handed out by a crazy Latino man?

Then don’t forget about the Pirhanas.

And that doesn’t even include Hunter, Santana, Liriano, Nathan, Pat Neshek’s crazy side armed delivery, and of course Tony Batisita (just kidding).

Basically, the 2006 Twins had something for everyone. If you couldn’t find something to like about the 2006 Twins, well, I have to question your ability to feel human emotions you fucking robot.

Intangibles – 10

There were a lot of random things to enjoy about 2006. However, there is one random thing about 2006 that I feel is underrated: the homoerotic relationship between Mauer and Morneau.

We’ve all heard the story about how Morneau moved in with Mauer because he needed to stop partying so much – or doing body shots off hookers, as I put it earlier. However, I feel like fans don’t appreciate how ridiculous this is.

Mauer and Morneau are not only professional athletes, but two of the best players in baseball. They both had plenty of money, and could essentially live anywhere they want. They weren’t in college, they weren’t high school athletes, THEY WERE PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES!

These people don’t just move in together.

Now, what actually happened at their house was probably about what you would expect from two 20-something-year-old guys living together. The fact that they were – and stop me if I mentioned this – professional athletes just makes the whole thing seem so ridiculous.

I mean am I the only one who pictures Morneau laying on the couch on a Sunday morning, completely hungover, while Mauer stands in the kitchen wearing an apron (and nothing else) and making scramble eggs while calling out, “breakfast’s ready” as Morneau groans, rolls over and stumbles his way to the table?

Ok, probably. Still, I just feel like people don’t make enough out of the whole Mauer and Morneau lived together thing.

Then again, they both became MVPs so whatever.

Overall – 39

With only one point below a perfect score, the 2006 Minnesota Twins take home the award for best team of the decade.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Forgotten Superstar

So I am going into my very small vault to bring a piece out of the archives. I know I said I was going to finish my decade retrospective today, but, well, life is disappointing. Sorry. Instead, here is something I wrote back when Ken Griffey Jr. re-signed with the Mariners this fall and only two people were reading this blog instead of four. So you know, this post should be new for two of you.

Remember 1997? Spice Girls. Titanic. The Simpsons (back when it was still good). And Ken Griffey Jr.

Ok, so maybe Griffey wasn’t a pop culture icon like Baby Spice, Leo, or Homer J(ay), but he was the unquestioned king of baseball.

He hit home runs. He made great plays. He smiled. He had fun playing. We had fun watching.

Griffey was the type of superstar professional sports yearn for. Yes, he was a little cocky with his home run strut, but what star athlete isn’t?

Griffey had a presence.

Fast forward 12 years and Griffey is no longer the player was. He is a shell of his former self, hitting .214 in partial duty, carrying a little extra weight on his once perfectly trim, athletic frame, and no longer making those Griffey signature plays.

One can justifiably argue that the Mariners made a poor choice bringing Griffey back, now in the Mays-like twilight of his career, but you can’t really blame them either. How do you say no to Ken Griffey Jr.? How do you turn him away? And more importantly, why would you want to?

It is in the best interest of the game of baseball to have Griffey around.

Not because Griffey sells tickets. He no longer does.

Not because Griffey will be breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record; a record, that Griffey once seemed destined for. He no longer will.

Not even because Griffey is a particularly productive player. He no longer is.

But because Ken Griffey Jr. is a symbol of what is right in baseball, when almost everything else seems to be going wrong.

Griffey, the once proud king of a baseball era soaked under a storm cloud of steroid suspicion, has remained dry. While Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens and countless others have faced acquisitions, congressional hearings, and perjury trials, Griffey has continued his career, devoid of suspicion.

While the sizes of McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds biceps, heads, and home run numbers grew, Griffey’s legs gave out. While the stats of McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds got better with age, Griffey’s began declining.

As sad as it is to see a superstar fade, there are few sights more comforting this day in age.

When Griffey first began his Major League career in 1989 he was already anointed “the chosen one.” He was a number one draft choice and the son of Major League player. He was a five tool player with a star attitude and star play. He was destined for greatness.

Griffey’s good-but-not-great rookie campaign was followed by a steady rise to the top. His batting average climbed. His power numbers climbed. His on base percentage climbed. He was on his way to being the best and most beloved player in the game.

Griffey’s breakout year came in 1993 at the age of 23. Where most 23 year old players – even top prospects – are either toiling away in the minors or just getting their break, Griffey was already in his fifth major league season, and ready to take over the league. His breakout year of 1993 featured 40 home runs, a .309 batting average, and an OPS of 1.025.

Over the next six years Griffey took over the baseball world. He became the most popular, and arguably best, player in the game. He did it all (including capture the adoration of a boy in Minnesota, who turned his bedroom into a Ken Griffey Jr. shrine).

Griffey was the best.

Following the 1999 season, however, everything changed. Griffey wanted out of Seattle. He demanded a trade, with a short list of acceptable destinations; number one being his hometown of Cincinnati.

Griffey made the move to a seemingly perfect situation: a smaller ballpark, in his hometown, on team that seemed ready to compete.

Griffey, however, faltered slightly in 2000 (although not as much as history may lead you to believe). He still hit 40 homers and drove in 100 runs, but it didn’t seem the same. Griffey was 30 years old, and with 12 big league season already behind him, seemed on the decline.

The next seven years in Cincinnati were disastrous. Griffey suffered through injury after injury; playing in more than 130 games only once – at the age of 37. The once great Griffey was reduced to an afterthought.

While Barry Bonds, the player Griffey was most compared to, was breaking records and performing at what seemed an impossible level for a man near 40, Griffey was nursing injuries, slowing down, and losing bat speed. Griffey was playing like an aging Major Leaguer.

He plodded along, never again reaching 40 home runs. Never making the playoffs (until a late season trade to the White Sox in 2008). Never playing like the superstar we all loved to watch in the nineties. The old Griffey was gone, and as sad as it was, it seemed oddly right.

So here we are in 2009. In a time when steroid scandals are commonplace and everyone tries to find the bad in baseball, Griffey represents the good.

We seem to forget he is fifth on the all time home run list with 630. We forget, because unlike the abusers before him, he isn’t getting better with age. He is taking the career path a superstar should. He is now the past-his-prime veteran, showing nothing but glimpses of his old self.

Griffey is lost in the steroid shuffle.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I was at a Twins game this past season when Griffey hit a home run right into the center of a “hit it here to win $25,000 from Subway” sign – the first, and only, time a player hit said sign in the Metrodome. (Nobody won the $25,000 because apparently it didn’t count if an opposing player hit the sign, which is completely ridiculous. How cheap can Subway be? I mean come on. We weren’t eating fresh enough, or what?)

The home run was a special moment, because you could still see a glimpse of that sweet Griffey swing. So still and perfect, smooth like a perfectly mixed cocktail – the smooth crisp cola, with just enough whiskey kick.

Those moments are few and far between now, and I, like any good baseball fan should, will treasure them, because once Griffey is gone, it will close the book on an era.

Maybe it is fitting that Griffey is the last to go, since he is the one we should celebrate the most.

Griffey, the forgotten superstar, is the one we should remember, from an era we want to forget.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Minnesota Twins Decade Retrospective: 2002

Well I am finally coming down to the wire. Unless something unforeseen happens, I may actually finish this silly little project this week. If you aren’t following me on Twitter by now, you should do so. And no, I won’t shut up until you do.

Whether it was the 10 wins of reliever Tony Fiore, or the delightfully nicknamed right field duo of Dusty Kilmohr (Dustan Mohr and Bobby Kielty) the 2002 Minnesota Twins had its share of unsung heroes.

What those unsung heroes managed to produce, was one of the most memorable seasons in Twins history.

After more than a decade of futility (or the Coomer years, as I lovingly call the 90s) the Twins returned to the playoffs in 2002. Fresh off their first winning season since 1992, the 2002 Twins proved right from the start that 2001 was much more than an aberration.

Playing in a notoriously weak division, the 2002 Twins cruised to a 94-67 record and an easy first place finish. A finish, that set up the most memorable playoff run of the decade.

Here are the rules again before I begin:

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.

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.

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.

And away we go…

Successfulness – 10

For fairly obvious, three victories away from the World Series related reasons, 2002 was the Twins most successful season of the aughts.

After coming into the season with uncertain expectations, the Twins won the Central Divison by 13 games. The ease with which they won the division was attributed far more to the strength of the Twins divisional foes (or lack thereof) than the Twins actual talent. Because of this, the Twins went into the playoffs as heavy underdogs.

Continuing to embrace the underdog mentality the team had patented, the Twins defeated the favored Oakland A’s in an ALDS full of memorable moments before coming to a screeching halt against the Anaheim? Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? California? -- I don’t even remember what the hell they were called that year anymore -- Angels. And of course that bastardly rally monkey.

Was it depressing as hell to watch Adam Kennedy hit three home runs to end the Twins magical run? Yes. Yes it was.

Ultimately, however, the unfortunate ending was nothing more than a blemish on one of the most enjoyable seasons in Twins history.

Memorableness – 9

I feel like of the Twins 94 wins in 2002, 90 of them were comeback wins. Obviously, this is not true, and for dramatic effect I don’t want to look up the actual number because it will probably be disappointingly small.

Point being, the 2002 Twins played in a lot of exciting games -- hell, I think even Denny Hocking had a walkoff hit once.

As exciting as the regular season was, however, what really stands out from 2002 is the Twins wild playoff ride.

I will never forget game one of the ALDS. The Twins were floundering, looking very much like the cute little team that lucked into the playoffs through a weak division (complete with one of those stupid “whose got it?” pop-ups that dropped somewhere between home plate and the pitcher’s mound). At that point everyone was thinking the same thing, “well it was fun while it lasted.”

Then, like they had done all year, the Twins began clawing back. Corey Koskie hit a home run, some other less descript stuff happened (so much for my memorableness), and the Twins ended up winning game one. Suddenly it seemed like the Twins had a chance.

The series continued to go back and forth, and when the teams headed to Oakland for a decisive game five, Twins fans hopes were high and expectations were low.

In that game the Twins, much like they had all year, found themselves in a nail-biter. With a tenuous 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth, the then-loved, now-hated A.J. Pierzynski hit a two run homer to give the Twins a 4-1 cushion. The team added another run before handing the ball over to “Everyday” Eddie Guardado.

Guardado, per usual, managed to give up 3 runs before nailing down the save and sending the Twins to an improbable berth in the ALCS.

Really, that game five was the epitome of the Twins season: keep the game close, score a few late inning runs, hand the ball over to “Everyday” Eddie, have him take the game to the brink before completing the save, and watch Denny Hocking cut his finger in a celebratory dog pile.

That last part actually doesn’t actually help epitomize the season; I just think it is funny.

Likeability – 9

Everything about the 2002 Twins was incredibly likeable. The team didn’t have any real “stars” per se (other than, arguably, Torii Hunter) so there wasn’t anyone to hog the limelight. Everyone got to choose their favorite player, and nobody could really question anyone’s choice because everyone on the team was kind of the same. Well, other than Travis Miller, that is.

Between re-introducing Twins fans to a winning team, appearing on the cover of ESPN The Magazine as the “Team that Saved Baseball,” and finally allowing the post-’91 Twins to be remembered for something other than Little Big League (which was awesome, mind you), it is impossible to argue with the joy the 2002 Twins brought fans.

Intangibles – 9

The Twins started the 2002 season in Kansas City. I remember this vividly because that first game seemed extra important. In reality, opening day means very little in the grand scheme of the season, but after a disappointing finish, and all the “aberration” driven contraction talk in 2001, the 2002 Twins had something to prove.

So when Jacque Jones strode to the plate as the first Twins batter of the season, his at bat seemed like the most important unimportant plate appearance in baseball history.

What happened?

Jones smashed a leadoff home run on the second pitch of the 2002 season.

I knew. I absolutely knew right then and there that 2002 was going to be special. Jones’s home run was just one little moment in a season full of thousands of little moments. But it is one little moment that stands out because of what it meant to all the Twins fans who had been tormented all offseason.

Did that one home run matter in the grand scheme life, or even the grand scheme of the baseball season? No.

But at that moment, nothing mattered more. And that, my friends, is why I love baseball.

Overall – 37

Monday, January 25, 2010

Notes

1. First and foremost, I will be finishing up the Decade Retrospective this week. I swear. I have every intention of posting the final two entries tomorrow and Thursday (I was about to say Wednesday, but I'm going to the Joe Mauer Homecoming taping so I won't have time, and I didn't want to lie to you all you fine people.) Should I fail to complete my Decade Retrospective by Thursday for whatever reason, you can all, I dunno, tweet derogatory things about me or something.

2. Speaking of Twitter, you should all follow me. I'm up to 75 followers, but 100 looks pretty darn good right about now. And while 100 followers seems like a fairly lofty goal right about now, I feel like the fact that I tweeted something about testicles three times yesterday and didn't lose a single follower has to be a good sign. Right?

3. Finally, I have thoughts on two potential Twins targets:

Jim Thome: Thome has been a divisive force for Twins fans the last few days, and, honestly, I don't get why. The Twins bench is absolutely awful right now (at this rate, I'm going to be the leading candidate off the bench) and the addition of Thome would certainly change that. Yes, I am well aware Thome is nothing more than a DH at this point, but with Delmon Young slump prone, and some combination of Casilla/Punto/Tolbert/Harris/Valencia playing 2B/3B Thome would get plenty of at bats as a DH/PH. It won't take much financially to get Thome, and he would give the Twins depth, specifically a power hitter, that the team sorely needs.

Felipe Lopez: I don't think Lopez would be a bad pickup per se, but he wouldn't be the savior so many people seem to be making him out to be in. Yes, I am aware he had a cute little OBP last season, and has shown some pop in the past, but he is an inconsistent player that is at best average defensively. The fact is, he really doesn't bring all that much to the table. Is Lopez better than Punto? Yes. But in terms of getting on base, they have both been inconsistent players who have shown the ability to go on OBP hot and cold streaks in the past. And, technically, Punto is due for a good year while Lopez is due for a bad year. So there.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Minnesota Twins Decade Retrospective: 2009

I am done apologizing for my lack of blogging lately. Nobody wants to listen to my sob stories, and, quite frankly, I grow weary of sobbing. Basically, I have every intention of writing more regularly now that I feel like I am actually in some sort of routine. But anyhoo, I am continuing my Decade Retrospective today (and I will finally conclude it in the next few days). As always, if you haven’t read the past entries, check them out in the nifty little sidebar I created with the rankings. Also, as always, follow me on Twitter. If you follow me, I’ll follow you. We’ll be like one big happy family. Unless you’re a porn star. I don’t need your porny charity.

2009 seems like it was just yesterday. Probably because it pretty much was yesterday.

The thing about 2009 for the Twins was it should have completely sucked. In fact, if it wasn’t for the last week of the season, 2009 very well could have been ninth on this list. Yeah, I’m going with ninth.

I hated the 2009 Twins (relatively speaking, of course) up until that last week of the season. All year long the team seemed hell bent on proving they had no interest in being a competitive club.

It didn’t help that they lost every game I went to for the first five months of the season. (An unheard of run for me, especially considering that I go to 10ish games a year, and once had a 20 game win streak of games I attended. No lie. 20.)

Sure, the 2009 Twins had likeable players like Mauer, Morneau, Span, and Cuddyer, but the team didn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, play likeable baseball.

Until the last week of the season.

As we all know, the Twins ended up in first place with an 87-76 record before getting swept out of the playoffs by the Yankees. Somewhat sadly, I suppose, that made 2009 good enough for third on this list.

On to the ratings. If you don’t know the rules yet, just check out Wednesday’s post – or any other post for that matter – they are fairly self explanatory and I like to think you are all at least relatively intelligent.

Successfulness – 8
.
I am not 100% certain how I came to the conclusion that 2009 was more successful than 2003 and 2004, but I did. I’m going to go with the overachieving underachievers theory.

Overachieving underachievers doesn’t make sense you say? Ok, technically no. But check it:

(Sorry, I’ll never do that again, I swear.)

The Twins came into 2009 with relatively high expectations. After a successful 2008, and with most of the team’s core returning, many fans expected relatively big things from the Twins.
(Big things, of course, means a playoff run in Twins speak.)
As the season wore on, however, it became painfully obvious that the Twins were not very good. They were a .500 team plain and simple.

As the summer dragged on, everyone became resigned to the fact that 2009 would simply be remembered as the last year in the Metrodome. Then, oddly, enough, the Twins found some spunk. Then they lost it. Then they found it again.

Then everyone said, ah, screw it, this team sucks but maybe they have chance.

Basically, the 2009 Twins managed to spend 5 solid months as big enough underachievers that, come September, when the team showed some signs of life, fans began to think of them as overachievers. You have to admit, that’s pretty impressive.

Or Twins fans are just stupid. Either, or.

Memorableness – 8


2009 was set up to be memorable regardless of how the season played out. I mean, the last year in the Metrodome is going to be a special time regardless, but the fact that the Twins managed to include the greatest game of the decade in 2009 is what took the season to a whole other level.

I would discuss game 163 in more detail, but I don’t feel like enough time has passed to adequately assess the game. Plus, I’m still pissed at myself for not buying a ticket to the game. Seriously? What the fuck was I thinking?

It’s both sad and impressive that not attending game 163 is the biggest regret of my 22 years on earth. Well, at least my biggest regret that I am willing to acknowledge publicly.

Likeability – 4

As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t like the 2009 Twins. For most of the summer, the team brought me very, very little joy.

Oh, sure, Mauer with his .400 flirtation was fun, but, honestly, the rest of the team was just frustrating.

I didn’t trust the pitching, half the lineup, or anyone on the bench. Plus, I have a deep-seeded resentment for Brendan Harris.

Whatever, let’s just move on.

Intangibles – 8

It is hard to boast a more impressive resume than “last season in the Metrodome” and “best game of the decade” so 2009 was tailor made for a healthy position when ranking the aughts.

Game 163 aside, 2009 featured the “farewell to the Metrodome” which featured the incredibly awkwardly enjoyable, “do we cheer Chuck Knoblauch?” situation. That was good times.

Also, personally, I feel like the Joe Crede walkoff grand slam was a little underrated (mostly because I feel like the nickname of “Midnight” Joe that The Superstar Mike Morris and the Power Trip Morning show gave Crede should have caught on. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a solid nickname. And nicknames just aren’t what they used to be.)

Overall – 28


I know there is a lot more to say about 2009. I know I didn’t do a very good job of analyzing 2009. I know these things.

The fact is, it is hard to properly put 2009 in perspective since the season is still so fresh in my mind. In a year or two, once I am able to look back and really analyze 2009 objectively, the 2009 season could fall to a very different spot on this list.

The fact is, I had to put it somewhere on this list, and at least for now, I am calling it the third best season of the decade.

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…

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.

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.

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.

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.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Know, I know. Sorry, but I'm Adjusting.

Ok, so here is the deal. I started new job on Monday, and am still trying to get into a routine/get the feel for my new lifestyle (aka not going to bed in the single digits and waking up in the double digits).

I know I haven't written anything since Monday (well, technically Sunday night) which means my Decade Retrospective series has hit a speed bump. For now.

I have not abandoned you all, I promise. If I don't post something in the next couple of days (which I intend to) I will certainly put a couple of things together this weekend. The series will be finished. I promise.

Fact is, I am in no frame of mind to be writing anyway, and what I pump out would be vastly inferior. For this reason, I have decided to hold off a few extra days and give you all quality reading (well, quality by the standars I have set here, at least) instead of pumping something crappy out faster.

In the meantime, please feel free go back and read the decade retrospective seasons I have actually completed, and everything else in my archive (both found on the sidebar). And, again, follow me on Twitter. I am stuck on 60 followers and that makes me sad. Turn my frown upside down!

Lastly, check out this excerpt from Hardball Times writer Chris Jaffe's book Evaluating Baseball's Managers, 1876-2008 about Tom Kelly. Very interesting stuff.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Minnesota Twins Decade Retrospective: Off Day

I apologize, but I am taking a day off. I started a new job today and am far too drained to write somethign that will be coherent, let alone intereseting. I still plan on finishing up the countdown this week, which means I will be doubling up posts one of the days, and/or posting on the weekend. I promise I am not abandoning you, I just need a blogging day off.

In the meantime, read the other entries in the series. And, of course, follow me on Twitter.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Minnesota Twins Decade Retrospective: 2001

It’s a new week, which means I am dipping into the Twins top five best seasons of the decade. If you haven’t read last week’s entries yet, you should check them out. You should also follow me a Twitter. That’s what all the cool kids are doing.

Without a player in the starting lineup or starting rotation older than 30, the 2001 Twins were going to sink or swim with youth. Hardly a new phenomenon for the ever-frugal Twins, fans were understandably skeptical with the 2001 squad -– the same team had lost 93 games the year before after all.

The 2001 Twins, however, flew out to a 15-3 start, and the team’s fans, equal parts confused and excited, began to wonder if they were for real.

When the Twins followed up an 18-6 April with a 16-11 May, Twins fans truly began to believe. The ever-entertaining team built on speed and defense had sucked everyone in with a group of players who were actually likeable. For the first time in about ten years, there was a buzz surrounding the Twins. We were all in.

Unsurprisingly, after spending 96 days in first place, the team faltered after their unbelievable start, and tapered off in the second half to finish with an 85-77 record, good for second place.

Disappointing finish aside, the 2001 season was an undeniable success for a franchise that hadn’t caught a whiff of a .500 record since 1992. And, most importantly, 2001 reenergized a fan base that had been dormant for years, and set up an amazing decade that featured five playoff appearances and eight winning seasons.

If you don’t know the criteria by now, I am offended that you haven’t been reading my other entries. But, if you need a review, click here. And, remember, I know memorableness still isn’t a word.

Successfulness – 4

I struggled with ranking the 2001 Twins in terms of success. While the team didn’t make the playoffs, 2001 was one of the more important seasons of the decade because of the way it set up the Twins forthcoming success.

In the end, I decided to rank the teams on more technical success in order to be more consistent. So with that in mind, and because I still don’t know who the fuck John Barnes is, the 2001 Twins check in with a successfulness score of 4.

That comes, with all due respect to how important the 2001 Twins were in setting up the rest of the decade.

Memorableness – 6

What I remember most about 2001 isn’t so much the Twins on-field play. I most remember the off-field buzz.

I was in eighth grade in 2001, and I remember as the Twins started their late spring/early summer run, all the “Twins fans” began coming out of the woodwork. Was it annoying to see all these people who had been ignoring the Twins for years suddenly become fans? Of course, but at that point I figured I would take what I could get.

Minnesota is a staunchly fair-weather fan base, so I was just happy to know that (a) people were actually talking about the Twins and (b) I was way better than all these bastards who didn’t know who Scott Klingenbeck was. (When I was in third grade a classmate responded to something I said with the rhetorical phrase “tell me something I don’t know.” To this I responded that Dave Hollins leads the Twins in home runs -– which he did at the time –- because I knew that was something he didn’t know. What can I say? I was a weird little kid.)

Point being, I followed the Twins through all the crap, so I felt smugly superior to all the fake fair weather fans. Plus, I legitimately enjoyed the Twins success, unlike everyone else who only pretended to enjoy it to be “cool.”

Likeability – 7

The 2001 Twins introduced us to a new cast of characters, and more importantly, a cast of characters we actually enjoyed. Doug Mientkiewicz became a quick fan favorite because his hot start helped propel the Twins early season run. Not to mention his weird name and hot kindergarten teaching wife.

Torii Hunter energized both teammates and fans with his infectious energy, and after several years of up-and-down play, Hunter broke out with 27 HR, 92 RBI.

Throw in A.J. Pierzynski (the trash talker), Cristian Guzman (the fast guy), Corey Koskie (the Canadian), and Brad Radke and Matt Lawton (fan favorites from the 90s) and you have a wholly likeable team.

And, of course, let us not forget Jason Maxwell.

Intangibles – 7

Everyone was confused in 2001.

The fans. The front office. Sports Illustrated. Everyone.

Naturally, this led to the above groups all overreacting to the Twins success.

The Fans: For a group that had completely forgotten what a good baseball team looked like, the 2001 Twins were a godsend. The problem, of course, was that nobody knew how to react, so we overrated everyone. Mientkiwicz was the best hitter in the league. Brad Radke was a legit ace. Joe Mays had talent. All of these claims were ridiculous, of course, but, hey, we didn’t know any better.

We were just happy to have a real team.

The Front Office: The Twins front office forgot what a winning team looks like. Because of this, they got confused and traded a veteran player at the trade deadline, because that’s what they always did. The difference was they traded that veteran for another veteran. What can I say, they were confused.

I am, of course, talking about the Lawton for Rick Reed trade. Now, technically this wasn’t a bad trade. Reed and Lawton were similar talent-wise, but it just so happened that Lawton was also the Twins most consistent hitter. While the trade ended up working out fine (the Twins almost certainly wouldn’t have made the playoffs with Lawton, and Reed had a solid 2002 campaign) it was a questionable move at the time, especially since the Twins didn’t replace Lawton’s bat.

Sports Illustrated: Matt Lawton on the cover of Sports Illustrated in April, under the headline, “Do you Believe in Miracles?" And while it was certainly exciting (and terrifying) to have the Twins on the cover of Sports Illustrated, I feel like the magazine jumped the gun a little with that story. Probably should have held off until June for the token small-market-team-gives-the-league-a-shocker piece.

So what did all this mass confusion do? Why it made for a very entertaining 2001 of course.

Overall – 24

Had 2001 taken place after 2002, it certainly would have landed much lower on this list. The Twins featured a competitive team, but ultimately feel short of the playoffs.

Ranking 2001 is a lot different than the other years, however. With the post-Puckett Twins of the 90s running out players like Orlando Merced, Darrin Jackson, Greg Colbrunn, Greg Swindell, Gregg Olson, Scott Klingenbeck, Otis Nixon, Bob Tewksbury, Dave Hollins, Roberto Kelly, and Jose Parra, among many others, Twins fans were hungry, nay starving, for a legitimately successful team.

The 2001 Twins were able to satiate fans appetites by proving the team could be competitive once again.

The 2001 Twins returned hope to a franchise that everyone had deemed hopeless.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Minnesota Twins Decade Retrospective: 2003

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.

Shannon Stewart.

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.

The result?

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.

Minnesota Twins Decade Retrospective: 2004

I’m continuing my Twins decade retrospective today with the 7th best season of the aughts. Check out the 8th, 9th, or 10th place entries if you haven’t done so yet. Also, if you just can’t get enough of those pesky 2000 Twins (and really, who can?) check out Erin’s piece at Picked Off at First. Good stuff.

I don’t want to say that by 2004 Twins playoff appearances had become cache, per se. But, well, after two straight playoff berths, and a solid core of talent still intact, a 2004 playoff appearance was pretty much assumed.

The Twins fulfilled the playoff promise by easily wrapping up a third straight division title, but unfortunately followed the division title up with a less-than-shocking playoff exit against the Yankees.

Was it a good year? Sure.

Was it a great year? Hardly.

When a team is in the playoffs for the third straight time, they should at least be making progress. The 2004 Twins, however, again stalled out in the ALDS. Granted, they should have won game two, which would have put them up 2-0 on the Yankees, and likely would have led to them winning the series, but that did not happen.

Very much because of the disappointing end, 2004 slots in as the 7th best season of the decade.

I’d review rules again, but instead you can just click here, here, or here because I am too lazy to copy and paste. Just remember, yes, I am still aware memorableness isn’t actually word.

On to the ratings…

Successfulness – 7

Obviously, 2004 was at least a fairly successful season for the Twins. Any time a team makes the playoffs it is impossible to say they failed, but 2004 certainly felt like the worst of the playoff years.

Individually, other than Johan Santana and his first Cy Young, nobody on the team had played great. A lot of solid years, but nothing great.

Solid play leads to a solid finish, but the team proved to lack a little something in the playoffs.

Of course, the year probably would have turned out very differently if Joe Mauer hadn’t gotten hurt, as his replacement, Henry Blanco (or Hank White as my friend and I called him – clever, I know), left something to be desired.

In the end, the Twins won the division. And because playoff berths are the measure of success in Minnesota baseball land, I guess we aren’t allowed to complain.

Memorableness – 4

If you would like to argue that 4 is a low memorableness score for a playoff team, well, screw off and start your own blog. I’m giving 2004 a 4.

Everything good that happened in 2004, turned sour very quickly. Observe:

Joe Mauer makes his debut on opening day against the Indians and goes 2 for 5 in a game the Twins win behind an 11th inning walk of home run from Shannon Stewart. (This was one of the best Twins games I have ever attended. It went so late we got home at like 3 in the morning. Not to mention the next day in my English class the substitute teacher informed us he was tired because he had been at the Twins game the night before, to which I responded, “hey, me too,” before going back to sleep. Good times.)

One day later, Mauer blows out his knee.

The Twins make the playoffs and manage to steal game one in New York behind Johan Santana stellar pitching. In game two, the Twins score two runs in the top of the eighth and take the game into extra innings. After scoreless tenth and eleventh innings, Torii Hunter cracks a solo home run in the top of the twelfth, giving the Twins the lead.

A half inning later, Ron Gardenhire leaves Joe Nathan in the game in lieu of Jesse Crain and the Twins lose. (This still pisses me off; which, of course, is ironic because I am mad because Crain DIDN’T pitch. Weird.)

Following the devastating game two loss, the Twins unsurprisingly drop game three. Game four, however, proves to be another close contest (complete with the guy sitting behind me and my friend calling Henry “Hank White” Blanco’s home run in one of the most randomly ridiculous moments I have ever witnessed). Up 5-1 after seven innings, the Twins appear poised to send the game back to New York.

A half inning later, Juan Rincon coughs up the lead, capped off by a three run homer by 90-year-old Ruben Sierra. Twins end up losing the game, and series, in extra innings.
So as you can see, even the Twins good moments in 2004, actually turned out to be shitty.

Likeability – 5

The 2004 Twins were very nondescript. The team was very similar to the 2003 squad, aside from the arrival (and quick departure) of Mauer, and arrival of Joe Nathan.

A lot of excitement surrounded Mauer, obviously, but the team’s likeability score dropped dramatically with his injury. The Morneau for Mientkiewicz swap also helped, but people still seemed to like Mientkiewicz for whatever reason so that slight squirleness from fans makes for a lower score.

Plus, Morneau wouldn’t fulfill his full likeability until 2006. In 2004, he was just kind of there.

The fact is, 2004 Twins belonged to Torii Hunter, but Hunter was taken for granted at that point, thus the team falls right in the middle with a likeability score of 5.

Intangibles – 4

A. Johan Santana wins a Cy Young = good.

B. Joe Mauer blows out knee = bad.

C. Michael Restovich + Terry Tiffee + Michael Ryan = Worst trio in the history of random-young-guys-fans-were-inexplicably-excited-about.

I just remember creating Restovich on whatever baseball game I was playing on PS2 at the time. I gave him Mike Piazza’s batting stance, made him a shitty hitter, and watched him fly out almost every time he batted. Seemed fitting

D. Augie Ojeda randomly hitting .339 in 49 Abs = randomly enjoyable

So to complete the equation, A+B+C+D = 4. There you go.

Overall - 20

Because I really have nothing else to say, I would like to return to the Torii Hunter home run from game two of the ALDS to tell one more story:

I got together with some friends to watch the game. Throughout the evening, whenever something good happened I would yell, “NOW YOU”RE A MAN!” and my friend would respond, “M-A-N MAN!” (If you are wondering, that was the chorus to the theme song to Orgazmo. What can I say, we were in high school, and we were douche bags.)

Random Orgazmo-themed glee was enjoyable enough, but a potentially legendary night only grew from there. Following the eleventh inning, one of our friends had to leave (which is inexcusable, but I digress). As Hunter was batting in the twelfth, my friend calls me to ask how the game is going. Right as I am responding, “It’s still tied” Hunter cracks a home run. Without skipping a beat, I scream, “not anymore!” into the phone and toss it aside as my other friends and I begin jumping up and down in a homoerotic 17-year-old excite-fest.

We were pumped for the obvious reason, but also because the “now you’re a man/it’s still tied…no it’s not!” moments were about to go down in lore for my group of friends.

Of course, the Twins ended up losing the game and the series, and we ended up never speaking of those moments again.

I feel like that story epitomizes the 2004 Twins…

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.

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.

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 – 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.

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.

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.

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.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Minnesota Twins Decade Retrospective: 2000

As I mentioned in a hastily (and poorly) written introduction last week, I am diving into a Twins year-by-year decade retrospective. Instead of doing the seasons in order, however, I have decided to rank each year from best to worst using a scoring system.

I will analyze each season based on these categories:

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.

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.

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.

Make sense? If not, it will soon enough.

So without further ado, onto the tenth best season of the decade…

The 2000 Minnesota Twins sucked. A lot.

If you had to say something nice about the team, it would be that between Jacque Jones, David Ortiz, Torii Hunter, Cristian Guzman, Corey Koskie, Eric Milton, and A.J. Pierzynski the Twins appeared to have some solid young talent. Of course, the potential talent was bridged by Ron Coomer, so naturally fans were skeptical. Plus, everyone was still shell-shocked by Scott Stahoviak and friends from the 1990s.

Very much the anti-Stahoviaks, the 2000 core went on to kick-start the (arguably) most successful decade in Twins history.

Obviously at the time, however, nobody saw a decade of success coming, and 2000 – thankfully -- proved to be the worst season of the decade.

Successfulness – 1

From every imaginable standpoint, the 2000 Twins were the least successful team of the decade. They finished in last place with a 69-93 record, featured one all star and precisely zero players who would even be considered for any postseason award. Well, other than least-talented-fan-favorite, an award that would almost certainly go to Ron Coomer. (I’m not piling on the Coom Dawg. I love the Coom Dawg too. But come on. In hindsight, ugh. Just ugh.)

The only successful thing about the 2000 Twins is that it would be the last year the team completely sucked. Of course, at the time, nobody knew this.

Memorableness - 1

There is only one game I remember from 2000, and that was when Ron Coomer, Jacque Jones, and Matthew LeCroy hit back-to-back-to-back home runs against the Royals.

Conversely, the 2000 Twins featured the only player from the decade I don’t remember: John Barnes.

Who the fuck is John Barnes?

In combing through Baseball Reference, I remember literally everyone (even the random pitchers who threw like three total innings) from the decade. It pisses me off to no end that I don’t remember John Barnes. I should know who John Barnes is. This is going to drive me crazy for a very, very long time.

Of course, I was also 13 at the time, so I was probably busier trying to figure out how to discreetly watch porn than worry about John Barnes. In hindsight, I am pleased with that decision.

Team Likeability: 1

It’s not so much that I disliked the 2000 Twins; they were just very meh. I mean, aside from Midre Cummings and Butch Huskey, they didn’t even have the random veterans I enjoyed in the 90s.

Just a completely meh team.

Intangibles: 3

Remember when Butch Huskey ran into the left field wall? That was fun.

Also, according to Wikipedia, the Twins started their Hall of Fame in 2000. That has to be worth a few points right?

Overall: 6


The obvious choice for worst season of the decade, the 2000 Twins just managed to avoid the dreaded lowest-score-possible.

Honestly, I just felt bad giving them a 4. Jay Canizaro deserves better.