Minnesota Twins: 5 Early Season Myths Debunked
Now that the Minnesota Twins are a little past the quarter mark of the 2012 season, trends have formed not only on the field, but also in the minds of Twins fans.
At 15-29 and 11 games behind division leading Cleveland, most of these trends are negative and rightfully so.
However, many of the trends that have been noted are, in fact, myths.
For most observers, myself included, the season had been an abject failure up until about two weeks ago when roster changes, most notably in the starting pitching, provided the Twins a boost into mediocrity.
I started the season by writing that the Twins could make the playoffs, followed by comparing them to the 2006 squad that started slow and then won the division.
This quickly deteriorated into wanting to fire Ron Gardenhire and blaming Jim Pohlad for being too cheap to field a competent Major League Baseball team.
Through all of these highs and lows, the truth about the 2012 Minnesota Twins has become as elusive as the Loch Ness Monster.
If the truth about the Twins is as elusive as the Loch Ness Monster, then the myths surrounding the team are as well known in Minnesota as the common loon.
I, personally, do not know the truth about this year's Twins just yet.
However, I can tell you that there are five myths about the Minnesota Twins waiting to be exposed.
Myth #1: Everyone Should Be Available for Trade
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There is a delicate balance between changing a team's roster and rebuilding the whole thing and general manager Terry Ryan's job is to find that point.
When the white flag is raised on a baseball team, the next step is always looking towards the future.
Fans and experts salivate over seeing that team's top prospects at the major league level and pin their hopes of future championships on these prized rookies.
The Twins are clearly in this mode right now with the promotions and success of players such as Brian Dozier and Scott Diamond.
Lost in the shuffle and excitement of all of this is the veteran players on the team.
Fans view these players as trade chips in order to gain more of these top prospects whose hype often times heavily outweighs their potential.
While there are many struggling veteran players on the Twins roster at this time, they all cannot be shipped out of town at the same time.
Some players such as Alexi Casilla and Francisco Liriano may be traded, but the Twins will receive nothing close to their potential value in return.
Veterans like Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham do have value, but their hefty contracts will lessen the potential windfall from a trade.
Mainstays like Denard Span and Matt Capps will certainly bring back valuable young players to the organization, but they also would be useful and cost-effective pieces of the Twins as they hopefully turn things around in years to come.
There certainly will be moves made as baseball's trade deadline gets closer with every passing day.
Obviously, the current Twins roster is nowhere near championship caliber and hopefully the players who are traded bring in return prospects who will provide a new era of winning in Twins Territory.
However, these moves should be made to provide only for the Twins future and not just to make fans forget past mistakes.
Myth #2: Brian Dozier Is the Shortstop of the Future
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At 25 years old, Brian Dozier has certainly made a great first impression on Twins fans and management alike.
Since his call up, the shortstop has started 17 games, collecting 19 hits, three doubles, two home runs, 10 RBI and a .260 batting average.
In the field, Dozier has committed three errors in 86 total chances for a .965 fielding percentage.
He has done an outstanding job with his situational hitting and shown a knack for getting the job done no matter where he has batted in the order.
So why is he not the shortstop of the future?
In short, because it is too small of a sample size to truly see his value at the major league level.
Dozier could just as easily fall of the face of the Earth as the summer wears on as he could continue to play at the level he is at now.
I know it is a weak argument, but there are too many examples of players in the past who have started their careers the way Dozier has, only to never be heard from again a few years down the line.
This isn't to take away from what Dozier has accomplished in his debut season with the Twins.
He has certainly earned the right to be able to play himself out of a job or play himself into the team's future plans during the rest of the year.
Myth #3: We Have Seen the Last of Danny Valencia
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Speaking of players who started their careers hot and then fell off the face of the Earth, oh yeah, Danny Valencia.
The last time we saw Danny, he was screwing himself into the ground at home plate just about every day.
Now, Valencia is starting to turn things around at Triple-A Rochester and should be in line for a call-up when one of the Twins infielders gets hurt or traded away.
The Danny Valencia we last saw was a far cry from the hot-hitting 25-year-old rookie who hit .311 in 2010.
However, if the theme is building towards the future, then Valencia is one of the more important trade pieces the Twins hold.
Most everyone agrees that Miguel Sano is the Twins third baseman of the future, yet, that future is more than likely at least a year and probably two years away.
Valencia was supposed to fill that void, but since has been replaced by Jamey Carroll and Trevor Plouffe.
Since Carroll is definitely not in the Twins long-term plans and Plouffe seems better suited as an outfielder, Valencia is the most likely player to keep the hot corner warm for Sano.
Even better, if Valencia can find some of what made him so successful in his rookie season again, the Twins will be able to trade from a position of strength when Sano is ready to make the jump to the bigs.
Twins fans may find Danny Valencia to be cocky and somewhat out of place in the vanilla clubhouse at Target Field, but I seem to remember the same situation about eight years ago.
The last time the Twins had a prospect as highly regarded as Miguel Sano in the minor leagues, it was Joe Mauer.
In order to make room for Mauer, the Twins traded a cocky young catcher named A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants for Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser and Francisco Liriano.
I am not saying that history will repeat itself, but getting Danny Valencia back to the Majors and back to what he was before would be nothing but good for the Twins.
Myth #4: Joe Mauer Should Be Moved from Hitting 3rd
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I get it, Joe Mauer's power numbers aren't good enough.
He hits into too many double plays.
He doesn't drive in enough runs.
He makes too much money for his production.
All of these things are true, but Joe is still the best hitter on the Twins.
As baseball logic goes, your best hitter should hit third in the order; therefore Joe Mauer should hit third in the Twins lineup.
Yes, he is not likely to hit 28 home runs like he did in 2009, but he is more likely to hit 40 doubles than any other player on the Twins.
Sure, he does lead the league in hitting into double plays, but the Twins have been very unwilling to try to steal bases or hit and run when players are on base for him.
Maybe he doesn't drive in enough runs, but many times he is drawing a walk or hitting with no one on base.
I honestly don't think we would be discussing any of this if the Twins were in first place at this point.
The discussion would be about how Mauer is going to turn it on during the summer months and win another batting title, but these are the times we live in and Joe will continue to be picked at until he starts hitting balls into the seats as well as in the gaps.
Myth #5: Josh Willingham Is the Twins MVP
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Josh Willingham is having a good season so far.
If it continues, it will be his best season as a professional.
He was the early leader and current best contender to be the Twins representative in the All-Star game.
Josh Willingham, however, is not the Twins most valuable player so far this season.
Willingham has been coasting off of a tremendous April where he hit .347 with five home runs and 15 RBI.
In May, Willingham is hitting .200 with three home runs and 12 RBI, bringing his season totals to .275 AVG with eight home runs and 27 RBI.
If I had to vote, which counts for exactly nothing, I would choose Justin Morneau, but there really is no clear choice at this time.
By definition, the most valuable player is the person who brings the most to their team with their presence or whose absence is most detrimental to their team.
Even though Willingham has been good, he probably has only meant one or two wins to the Twins this season (his WAR is 1.1 for those who care).
The worst part is that no one on the Twins this season is irreplaceable, so if you want to call Willingham the Twins MVP I guess you can.
Maybe Josh Willingham being the Twins MVP wasn't so much of a myth, rather a sad truth about the first quarter of the season.