This offseason the Minnesota Twins were not only beleaguered with the task of making several key roster moves in hopes of finding the right fit for the 2010 season, but with another critical move for their franchise as well—to outdoor baseball. In Minnesota, and even around the MLB community, the exhilaration and restlessness for opening day is like never before.
But have the Twins stepped up to the task and made the right key moves to ensure that their opening season won't be washed into the Mississippi Rivers?
This offseason presents the wonderfully challenging situation where the Twins and the surrounding Minneapolis area they call home, face months of anticipation and excitement like never before.
Well, at least since the early 1980's and the excitement and anticipation was brimming over at the ideals of playing baseball and football in a giant dome - but I digress.
No, for this article isn't about that.
And in 2010, Minnesota Twins baseball will step into a new area of history and a new chapter on the legendary legacy that has formed that franchise.
Gone are the Homer Dome and the visions of Kirby Puckett bouncing off the plexi-glass with a game-saving catch, or a Kent Hrbek walk-off blast over the baggy, into the short perch in the right field upper deck.
How about the miracle seasons of 1987 and 1991—all of which took place inside that giant bubble?
I will greatly miss (for anyone who has ever taken in a game there) when you exit the stadium and the open the doors releasing all that compressed air, and getting blown around like in the midst of a tornado. Where am I supposed to stash those faded memories now?
Again, but I digress.
But the most exciting thing for me as the average fan has been the possibilities present for the 2010 season for the Twins to make some key roster moves. I mean, you would think they would want to do whatever it takes to produce a winner this season, right?
With a new, outdoor stadium, the Twins are almost assuredly guaranteed for a sold-out outcome pretty much every game. Along with that come revenues from stadium vendors, as well as overall revenue from the naming rights of the stadium alone.
At this point, I feel I should point out that I do understand the revenue sharing agreement currently in place in MLB (well at least as much as the common man, with no real knowledge of what really exists within the actual signed agreement) and this is not to say that the Twins haven't had revenue coming in from various streams of sources, which ultimately should have improved their quality of play.
What I am saying is that the Twins will have another source of income above and beyond their normal take from MLB and their own stadium rights like never before. The potential for an even larger "take" and success for years to come is going to be largely based on the product they put on the field and the overall success of that team.
This offseason, the Twins have made a few intriguing moves that should ultimately help their team significantly this season.
A very recent move that could be very exciting and redeeming for both sides was the Twins low-market acquisition of Jacque Jones. This would be an excellent opportunity for Jacque to redeem himself and hopefully extend his MLB career, long since removed from his glory days in the league.
But since his departure from the Twins, Jacque has had some issues connecting with a team and his performance has severely deteriorated in terms of statistically.
I am assuming he would need to have a pretty big spring training in order for this to come to complete fruition, but hopefully he has figured out some of the kinks in his game and is back to his old form. Because at times, in his old form, he was awesome to watch play and was one of my favorite Twins for years.
Obviously two other moves were far more substantial, at least in terms of perceived potential, and the Twins could have a found the end of the rainbow with their acquisitions of Jim Thome and Orlando Hudson.
These two could be excellent cogs for this clubhouse and lineup, but both are far past their true "heydays" in this league, so to speak. However, oddly enough, both were Twin-killers in their careers, especially at the old Metrodome.
It will be interesting to see how this all turn out within the outdoor confines of the new grass stadium. Hopefully, it wasn't a year too late on these two stars.
Thome presents a lot of possibilities and has proven in recent years that he is still a force in the batter's box. Just last season, he clubbed 23 HR alone (and that was with a large portion of the season in PT role) and in 2007-2008, he had 35 and 34 HR, respectively.
In 2006, he was still over the 40-HR mark with 42 dingers for the White Sox. It would appear the man still has some pop left in his bat and should be a legitimate source of power in the Twins lineup this season.
Although, it is an interesting signing consider the Twins already have two very legitimate power threats from the left-side of the batter's box. Obviously Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer have established themselves as not only perennial All-Star and MVP quality type players, but also as pure power hitters as well.
You would think they would want to add a strong RH power hitter to counteract the lefty on lefty matchups that have killed the Twins in the past, especially come playoff time.
But I must admit, the possibilities abound - especially with the visions of batting Hudson in the two hole, Mauer third, Morneau fourth and then sticking Thome in the 6th hole behind Cuddyer - and as of now, the end result does look very bright for the Twins in regards to this season.
Furthermore, the addition of Orlando Hudson was another positive for the Twins in this offseason. He adds a credible threat in that two hole and, if he can stay healthy, still plays as well as any 2B in the league today.
Unfortunately with Hudson, his health has always been a big "if". However, when healthy he is a decent .275 type hitter and can put up extra bases in big spurts. And on the flip side, his defense has always been a very strong selling point for him in regards to his overall game.
If Hudson can stay healthy and appear in at least 140 games for the Twins this season, this would obviously be an excellent addition for Minnesota. The best part is, it is entirely possible......
Hudson and JJ Hardy should be an interesting pair in the middle infield, but if both are healthy and revert to previous form, the Twins will have a very formidable middle infield that would also pose even further potential damage in the lineup.
Hardy is another very big question mark as of right now, but if he manages to put together a season close to the numbers he had in 2007-2008 in which he averaged a .280 average with 25 HR and 77 RBI. During those two seasons, he also held a .9775 average on the defensive side with an average of 14 errors each season.
The Minnesota Twins appear to heading into their new stadium with the same eager anticipation that the fans are for the stadium and season of baseball themselves.
Management has put together an intriguing mix of free agents and trade acquisitions, but as it stands right now, it appears they have absolutely made the right moves towards solidifying their lineup—and hopefully for years to come.
If they do fully address the Mauer contract situation and lock him up to a very long term deal, the benefits for this team will absolutely reap even more in the near future.
Everyone agrees that in the NFL—defense wins championships. In the MLB world—it would probably be pitching and defense wins championships. But didn't the Yankees of 2009 finally prove that big money hitters are the real key to the championship.
I mean, seriously, how bad is your pitching if you can score seven runs a game and not win your division?
No offense Mr. GM, but if you weren't prepared to bring in a big time pitcher to begin with, then you weren't going to win giving up seven runs a game anyway.......but again, I digress for the last time.
But it does appear promising that the Twins are at least making moves as they head into the inaugural season of Target Stadium.
I just hope though, that in 2010—when the Twins are battling for a playoff spot and the stadium is filled to capacity and everyone is snatching up homer hanky's and concessions and whatnot—the Twins management responds to the call and makes a real transaction that will help them in the playoffs.
I pray they will have the financial cajones to pull the trigger on a real, big league deal. Because the Carl Pavano's and Orlando Cabrera's just aren't enough—and they really don't do it for anyone.
Even though I am a fan of Cabrera's, both of those players are temporary band-aids for a team. But more for a team full of superstars, where they just blend into the backdrop. They can't carry a team through the stretch drive and beyond.
They're not a real solution. They don't sell tickets or bring in revenue for the future of the franchise. But there are players out there that will. Of course, not like a new, shiny stadium would.
But they help.