Life isn’t exactly a fairytale. If it was I’d be writing this from a beach in the middle of the tropics, but instead I sit in the middle of the snow-filled farm country of Minnesota. There’s real rich soil, but it doesn’t quite have the same warmth as sand between your toes.
Sports have their own fairytale scenarios, usually referencing Cinderella. The MLB’s biggest Cinderella story might be the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs beat out the ugly stepsister New York Yankees and won their date with the Commissioner’s Trophy.
The 2013 Twins have the odds working against them to get to the big dance, but they might have a run in them. Not as flashy as a World Series run, but a peak at the division isn’t outside the realm of possibility for the Minnesota Twins.
A big part of the Twins' major downfall in 2012 was their horrid starting pitching. By the end of the season it was a whole new starting five rather than the guys who started out in the rotation on Opening Day. Many of the guys the Twins were pitching weren’t ready for Major League action.
This offseason Terry Ryan has revamped the staff, maybe not with big names, but it can’t get worse than last year. Vance Worley is the big highlight of the pitching additions, but Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey will also making starting appearances. The Twins just signed Rich Harden to a minor league deal, so watch out for his possible appearance in 2013 as well.
One of the major ingredients to Cinderella is her youth, especially in comparison to her stepsisters. The Twins are very young with only three main cogs over the age of 30: Justin Morneau (31), Ryan Doumit (31) and Josh Willingham (33).
This amount of youth sets up nice for a little Cinderella run for the Twins in 2013 and for an even more prominent run of success in 2014 and beyond.
Every good story has a star or two that the viewing audience can fall in love with. The Twins have two former American League MVPs on their roster in Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. Now, Morneau may not be exactly what he once was, but his partner in crime is still pretty good.
Mauer played well in 2012, hitting .319 with 85 RBIs and 10 home runs. Mauer is one of the most crucial parts to this possible Cinderella run, although he may end up being more like the prince than the princess.
There is one team expected to win in the AL Central right now: the Detroit Tigers. Exhibit A would be the Chicago White Sox not even attempting to re-sign All-Star catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who is coming off of a career year.
With few players in the division, that could lead to more wins for the Twins. More easy wins could lead to a little momentum, and a little momentum could lead to a Cinderella run.
Not many managers are sitting ducks, but Ron Gardenhire is. After two seasons with more than 90 losses, the Twins did not extend their longtime manager and he is currently without a deal after 2013 concludes.
Many things work into a ballplayer’s psyche, and one is probably how much they like or dislike their manager. If they like their manager, they might just play a little bit harder; if they dislike their manager they might not dive for a ball.
From a distance Gardenhire seems like a nice guy, a very likable guy. Gardenhire not having a contract may result in an added team effort and maybe a couple more wins.
Expectations are a double-edged sword. If you meet or even exceed them, you are revered, but if you don’t, you are made the subject of many jokes. The good news for the Twins is that they have no expectations whatsoever.
Without expectations, you can play loose and free. That’s why in basketball some remarkable buzzer-beaters go in. If the clock is about to expire, the player knows just to throw it up and get the ball in the hoop; nothing else is running through their mind.
If the expectations of a winning season aren’t flying through the minds of Twins players, they might play better without that added pressure. That mindset may just let the Twins get to the ball.