Although they were only a bloop and a blast away, Minnesota Twins baseball is officially over for the 2008 season. To wrap things up and start looking towards next year, here are some fans' opinions:
What are your feelings on the way MLB dealt with the tie between the White Sox and Twins? What would you suggest as a possible alternative if you disagree?
Marty Andrade: Whenever possible, lottery systems that decide or give advantage to one team or another should be avoided. The playoffs especially should be about merit. Coin tosses to decide who gets the biggest advantage in a one game playoff are idiotic. Some other method should be found. Personally, I prefer to avoid any regular season extensions and just award the playoff spot to the team who won the season series.
The Twins beat the White Sox over the course of the year, the playoffs should be about merit, so the Twins get the playoff spot. One game playoffs should only happen if two teams have the same record and have an even season series, and those one-game playoffs should happen on neutral ground.
Leslie Monteiro: The Twins deserved their fate. If you couldn't win two out of three at your home place against the Royals, you deserve what was coming. It's as simple as that. Anyone that is whining about this should have his or her head examined.
Nick Nelson: The coin flip for home-field advantage in a tie-breaker seems arbitrary, but I understand its utility since it is necessary for the league to know where the game will be held long ahead of time and sometimes head-to-head match-up records are not decided until the final game of the season.
Josh Johnson: I think that it's a poor way to deal with a tie, however I'm sure I'm slightly biased as if it would have went the Twins' way, I probably wouldn't have had a problem. Either way it's always been handled that way, so I doubt it will ever change. But I personally believe that it should be whoever won the season series.
Andrew Kneeland: To put it simply: Rules are rules, but I disagree with them. If I were commish, the Twins should be in Tampa right now. I disagree with the current tiebreak format, but there is nothing I can do about it.
How would you grade the Twins' season as a whole? What went right and what went wrong? What was expected, unexpected?
MA: I had the Twins winning 75-80 games this year. So the very fact we won 88 games and were playoff hopefuls through game #163 was very unexpected and make me want to give the Twins a high grade. Had the Twins stuck with Adam Everett at Short, Craig Monroe at DH, Mike Lamb at 3rd and Brendan Harrisat second with Livan Hernandez pitching every fifth day, the Twins would have been lucky to win 80 games.
Instead, Denard Span, Alexi Casilla, Brian Buscher, Randy Ruiz, Matt Tolbert and a young starting rotation made the Twins a winning team. Add in Jose Mijares and a successful return to the rotation for Francisco Liriano and you have all that went right for the Twins.
The veterans were the failures on this team.
LM: B. It would be ridiculous to call this season a failure. They played hard. What went wrong? The bullpen and inexperience of the starting pitching. The expected is the hitting. The team hit well. What was unexpected? The demise of the bullpen really more than anything, which is why the Twins did not win the division.
NN: Overall I'd grade the Twins season a B+. There were a lot of positives, even though those are currently clouded by the present negatives.
JJ: I'd grade it as an A-. Coming into the season, nobody really had any high hopes for the Twins besides to just progress and see how the young players improve. And I think it's safe to say that the Twins definitely exceeded everyone's expectations. The offense was better than I had anticipated, even without the home run production from a few guys we had high hopes for. The team finished 2nd to last in home runs with 111, but they finished 4th in runs scored with 829. That's great to see from a team like the Twins.
AK: Much went right for the Twins, while many things fell apart. Obviously, Minnesota outperformed what people thought them capable of, which is always a good thing. However, much of that can be attributed to the other teams' collapse. See: Cleveland's injuries. The Twins had a chance to reach the postseason, which would have been incredible, but failed down the stretch. It's disappointing, but it was still a great season. I'd give it an A.
What are the five best things fans should be excited about for next year? Five things fans should be worried about for next year?
MA: Five things to look forward to: The M&M Boys; The possible stage left exit of Nick Punto; A young and experienced pitching rotation; A plethora of capable outfielders; More young prospects moving up.
Five things to be worried about? The possible return of Nick Punto; Inevitable offseason signings of "veteran additions;" Local Sports Columnists; Kubel getting released; Bill Smith having bright ideas.
LM: Looking to be excited
2) Improvement of Carlos Gomez
3) Who becomes a setup guy? Neshek or Jose Mijaries. You figure Neshek will be for now, but at some point, does Gardy tempt to use a sure thing in Jose Mijaries
4) A full year of Liriano
5) You know the Twins will find a way to develop a player that no one expects to produce (i.e. Denard Span)
2) The disappointment of Game 163 could fluster over to next season. It's not going to be easy to recover.
3) The bullpen
4) Are Nick Blackburn and Glen Perkins going to take the next step? Their finish has to make you wonder if they are capable of being starters
5) Injuries. It's part of life.
1) Starting rotation: The Twins starters definitely stepped it up a notch this season and with them all having a combined age of 129 years old (including birthdays between now and opening day) which is an average of 25.8 years old.
2) Carlos Gomez: He started the season off very hot and then got into a terrible funk. He seemed to look a lot better at the plate later in the season and I think with an entire season under his belt, he'll be much better in 2009.
3) Denard Span: He really came into a zone this season and proved all of his doubters wrong. He should be in line to start in right field come opening day next season and I expect to see him at the top of the Twins lineup. Like Gomez, I think he'll only get better with age.
4) Newcomers: I think the Twins management will make a few moves this off-season. The team knows the weaknesses and I think that the team has money to burn and whether that's locking up current players like Jason Kubel or bringing in a couple new players, I expect to see a few new faces in the Twins clubhouse come 2009.
5) One year closer to the new ballpark.
1) Pat Neshek: Will he come back and be ready for the start of the season? If so, will he be an effective reliever again?
2) Rest of bullpen: They got their work in this season. I am worried if guys like Matt Guerrier, Boof Bonseror Jesse Crain can come in next year and be reliable relievers.
3) Third Base? Who starts? Do the Twins decide to stick it out with Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher for another season or until either Luke Hughes, Danny Valencia or another player steps up and takes sole possession of the position.
4) Shortstop: What does the team decide to do to fill that position? They have Trevor Plouffe in Rochester who is still highly regarded within the organization. So do we re-sign Nick Punto for another year or two and let him have another go-around until Plouffe is (hopefully) ready come 2010.
5) Was this season just a fluke? We saw the Cleveland Indians come out and play very well as a young team in 2007, but then they floundered in 2009. Will this happen to the Twins? It's really hard to predict how a young team will play.
1. Denard Span
2. Scott Baker
3. Francisco Liriano
4. Carlos Gomez
5. Pat Neshek
What offseason moves need to be made this year? What moves will be made?
MA: I don't see any gaping holes in the lineup. If I were Bill Smith, I would do nothing but minor league stuff. Picking up journeyman minor leaguers who can pitch, catch or hit with some level of competence should be Bill Smith's goal this off-season. The "top half" of the 40 man roster is just fine, keeping useful players on the bottom half will be a necessity.
LM: In a perfect world, this team would spend and do whatever it takes to quell last year's disappointment. It does not work out that way in Pohlad's service.
NN: I'd like to see the Twins shore up the left side of the infield. Casey Blake would be a good signing. Edgar Renteria might be worth a look. I doubt the Twins will make any major moves, they're probably pretty comfortable with the core they've put together.
JJ: I think we need to lock up Jason Kubel to a long-term contract. I think he clearly earned it this season and should be the Twins everyday DH going forward. He's not eligible for free agency until 2011, however with another season like he had in '08, his value will definitely increase.
I think the team needs to acquire one more legitimate bat to put in the heart of the order. Preferably a right-handed bat that can play either shortstop or third base and can bat behind Justin Morneau and before Jason Kubel. I think that could push this team over the edge on offense.
I also think the team should add another proven reliever. Jose Mijares really came in and showed that he has big-league stuff and should start the season off with the Twins, but I am not confident in guys like Matt Guerrier or Jesse Crain having drastically better seasons in '09, and they need to.
I think they will lock up Kubel to a five-year $33 million deal or whatever would be a good amount for him. Could be a little extreme, I bet they will just buy out the rest of his arbitration and a year of free agency with a three-year $18 million deal or so, however I think it'd be a good move to knock off a couple years of free agency. I also expect them to add a reliever, but not another bat. I think that if they add a bat, it will be at the expense of Michael Cuddyer which probably won't amount to much at this moment.
AK: The Twins will undoubtedly sign some washed up veteran that isn't needed or wanted on this team, and I also think Minnesota will refrain from a major pickup. They should sign someone to solidify the left infield. I wouldn't be opposed to Casey Blake in a Twins uniform. In fact, that may be the move I want to happen the most this offseason.
Where will the Twins finish in 2009?
MA: In second place with 91 wins.