What will 2010 bring for the Twins?
The Minnesota Twins had a disappointing -- but perhaps predictable -- end to their 2009 season. After all, how many people really thought they could whip a team that won 103 games during the season?
Target Field is going to be ready when the Twins start the 2010 season and outdoor baseball is going to return to Minnesota for the first time in 29 years. According to the experts, this is going to coincide with the Twins winning their first World Series title since 1991.
You can say Joe Nathan is a choker, Nick Punto and Carlos Gomez are base-running idiots, Ron Gardenhire is a lousy manager and Jason Kubel is a pathetic hitter after the all-too-short playoff series with New York. I know I was saying it. The truth is, the Yankees were just a little better. The Twins may have played more exciting baseball, but the Yankees played better teams.
It can be argued that baseball greatness in the 21st Century is measured by how much you pay your players. The Florida Marlins proved that money can win a championship in 2003 when the floundering, young team stocked up on some high-priced talent, won a world championship, then unloaded it all before the 2004 season.
The Yankees, of course, invented the "Cash for Clouters" formula. This year's New York team went into the post-season with 244 homers and 915 runs, both No. 1 marks in the American League. Need more proof? The Yankees are playing Los Angeles for the American League title. The Angels are also well-known for spending the green stuff freely.
Minny is not so crazy with the cash, so if winning a World Series is strictly about the greenbacks, maybe they should split the majors into the Ultra Extravagant and the Keep One Foot on the Floor Leagues. The Twins, after all, are a small-market bunch that believes in using the farm system to develop talent.
The question now is, how are the Twins going to approach 2010 knowing there are teams like the Yankees out there? Will they re-sign Orlando Cabrera? He was the right medicine at short and all that yakking was good for the Twins.
Will they go rotate four guys in the outfield again? Of the four, Denard Span probably has the most trade value. Michael Cuddyer emerged as a leader in September and Delmon Young came up with another strong finish at the plate. Gomez continues to be a "can live with him, can't live without him" kind of player.
Relief pitching was the spot the Twins needed the most help when the 2009 season began. They still do. To move up, they have to zero in on this problem during the winter and solve it. Many of the arms they brought up from the minors could be good starting arms. Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Brian Duensing, Kevin Slowey and perhaps Carl Pavano could be our starters next season, but what about Bobby Keppel and Jeff Manship? You can almost smell a deal in the off-season involving some Minnesota pitchers.
Perhaps the biggest item on the "To Do" list is to keep this team relatively intact. These guys gave us a lot of thrills in September and October. That means shelling out some money and keeping some key players happy that they are in Minnesota.
Joe Mauer is going start having a ton of money waved in his face. Will he grab the biggest offer and leave? Doubtful, but possible. What about the other half of the M and M Boys? The Twins have to keep Justin Morneau happy and productive for an entire season. They also need a relatively healthy Morneau back in the spring.
Thanks to their late heroics, the Twins can look back on 2009 and call it a good season. Now we have to see what 2010 is all about.