Reason Number Five: Ron Gardenhire
As of late last week, the Minnesota Twins were in third place in the AL Central—with a record good enough to hold at least a share of the lead in three of the other five divisions around the Majors. At 52-40, and fresh off a 19-1 run leading up to the All-Star Break, the Twins were 6 wins behind the Chicago White Sox and 9.5 games back of the Detroit Tigers...down but not out in what promises to be a tight race for the pennant. Even if the Twins are able to claw their way into the postseason, though, their fans still have to wonder about this little doozy: what do they have to keep them alive in the playoffs? Here, without further ado, are the Top five reasons the Twins are better than you think.
Since being promoted from 3rd base coach to manager in 2002, Gardenhire has done very well for himself: 3 division titles, 3 90+ win seasons, and, best of all, 26 career ejections—6 this season alone. His antics may seem annoying to some and stupid to others, but the Twins appreciate the method at the root of his madness. At this year's Kent Hrbek Invitational Fishing Opener, Gardenhire explained his philosophy in simple terms—you have to stand behind your players. Gardie doesn't blow up to be an ass or draw attention to himself; he blows up becauses he believes in and cares about his team. You can call him all the names in the world, but the fact is is that Gardenhire has the respect of his players. He'll do anything it takes to defend them, and they'll do everything they can to win for him.
Reason Number Four: Justin Morneau
You've probably only heard of Morneau if you watch SportsCenter religiously or keep up with the league leaders on a daily basis (Morneau is tied for fifth in the AL with 25 home runs and is third in the league with 78 RBIs). As the Twins' first baseman, his fielding is every bit as consistent as his .311 BA, and the St. Paul Pioneer Press has estimated that he could command a $30+ million dollar extension over the next 5 years. Not bad for a guy making $440,000 this season.
Reason(s) Number Three: Joe Mauer...and Mike Redmond
Wait, Mike who? Redmond is a bit of a geezer at age 35, but his 12 years in the league (10 with Florida, 2 with the Twins) make him valuable as a backup backstop and mentor to Mauer, who probably needs no introduction. At 6'4" and 220 pounds, the young catcher has no apparent physical weaknesses...except perhaps for those sideburns, but when you're leading the big leagues with a .376 BA you could probably pull off a mullet without anyone snickering behind your back. What makes the young stud special? How does he do it day after day after day? Simple: he plays like he's been playing his entire life, because he has. His teammates say he acts the same way after an 0-4 day as he does after going 4-4. Baseball is a game; he knows it, he loves it, and, now that he's finally healthy, it's loving him right back. Bottom line? With Mauer and Redmond on the roster, the Twins are nothing short of golden behind the plate.
Reason Number Two: Francisco Liriano
11-2, 115 strikeouts in 102 innings, a 1.94 ERA, and, oh yeah, he's only 22 years old—some folks might see potential in this kid. The Twins, for their part, see him as salvation after hurting for starting pitching for, well—awhile. Johan Santana needed help, so the Twinkies picked up his younger clone; somewhere, you've got to figure that a Minnesota executive is thanking God for answering his prayers. For all his inexperience, it's hard to imagine a more promising figure than Liriano on the mound. Give him time—maybe even just until the end of the season—and you'll see a Cy Young award in this young man's trophy case.
Reason Number One: Johan Santana
Let's start with the worst thing about him: his 10-5 record. His ERA, at 2.93, is better, but it's still not his strongest number—not next to his 143 K's, anyway, which have come in 138 innings. Yeah, Liriano has better stats, but Santana has proven himself time and time again. He's an All Star and a Cy Young winner, a strikeout artist with the control of Greg Maddux and the power of Roger Clemens. Think about it like this: if the Twins have one game to win, who do they put on the hill? Any more questions? Didn't think so.