Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A new season--the Minnesota Twins

Even though we’re buried in snow in the Metro, spring will be coming. Today is the first day official workouts for my favorite sports team, the Minnesota Twins. Opening Day is only 36 days away—and that’s no joke. Target Field will entertain the Twins a week later. The first game of my season-ticket package is Friday, April 22 against the Indians.

Last year was my favorite season of rooting of the Twins. I enjoyed seven games at Target Field, they won six of them, and the Twins far surpassed expectations in the regular season. Who would have thought that the Twins would win 94 games without Nathan and only a half season from Morneau?

But the season left us with a bitter taste in my mouth. I still remember the joy I felt going into the top of the 6th of the Twins playoff game against the Yankees. I was watching the game in Kansas City, but hundreds of miles away I could feel the buzz in the crowd. It seemed that this was going to be the year that the Twins were going to shake our Yankee/playoff hex. The Twins had a three-run lead, Liriano was humming, the Yankees looked deflated, the crowd was happy, and then all of a sudden—wham! I don’t think I’ll ever forgive Jessie Crain for the meatball he threw to Curtis Granderson. I cringed as I watched that pitch hang towards the plate—and I was watching the game in Kansas City! Even when we lost that game, I still believed the Twins would win the series. The season was so wonderful that it didn’t seem right for the Twins to lose.

The Twins have spoiled us—six division titles in ten years, but only one playoff series victory.

It’s not fair for fans to expect the Twins to win a playoff series this year, but fans aren’t fair. I see no reason that the Twins can’t win 90 games again this year. I expect Morneau and Nathan to have solid years. The starting pitching isn’t dominant, but it is deep. I trust that Rick Anderson will develop the bull pen over time. I’m not convinced that Casilla is the answer at shortstop, and I wonder if Valencia will have a sophomore slump.

But the Twins have earned my trust. They’ve proven since 2002 that they will make changes if their players don’t perform. If these players don’t perform, the Twins now have the resources to do something different.

The prospect of going to Target Field on a summer night warms my heart. With a foot of snow still on the ground, that vision makes me smile on a cold, February day.

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