September 11, 2008

Who da thunk it?

Back in March, if someone mentioned 80 wins and the Twins in the same sentence you probably would've been laughed at. Although I predicted them to place 3rd in the division, many had them 4th if not 5th. That would mean somewhere around 60 wins. But last night, the Twins won their 80th game of the season by beating the Royals 7-1.

In doing so, the Twins stayed within a game of the White Sox who face the Blue Jays for a 4th time on Thursday. The Twins will in turn face the Royals in hope to sweep their first opponent since the Mariners in mid-August.

This team certainly has exceeded everyone's expectations, even their own, I'm sure. After the losses of Torii Hunter, Carlos Silva and Johan Santana in the off-season and Pat Neshek in the beginning of the season, it seemed as if the Twins were destined to finish in the middle or the back of the pack in the AL Central. And I think that anytime you take away a clubhouse leader like Hunter or a Cy Young caliber pitcher like Santana, that is expected.

Carlos Gomez couldn't keep up his early production, however I don't see this season as a disappointment. He was certainly rushed through the Mets system and at just 22-years-old he put up o.k. numbers for a player with such raw talent. I have to say the only thing that has disappointed me about Gomez at all is his lack of base stealing. He got off to such a great start, leading the league for a while and then just pretty much quite, cold turky. He even promised more steals after the second half, and that in fact hasn't happened. There are still a few weeks left, however I don't see him getting to where he (or anyone else) expected him to be.

in left, I wanted to touch a little on him because he was one of the biggest question marks entering this season. I think the Twins would've liked to see him start the season in Triple-A, however they didn't know what they had in Denard Span. Span's minor league track record wasn't spectacular and after he went back to Rochester, he had a mission and I think he proved to the Twins that he is certainly capable of starting in the major leagues. I bring this up because the Twins have quite a few outfielders right now that are all vying for playing time. Delmon YoungMichael Cuddyer (will be) in right, Jason Kubel likely at designated hitter, Jason Pridie who can backup any of those positions along with Span and Gomez.

Is it ever too soon to begin thinking about the next season? Perhaps, however I think always thinking about the next step is always on the mind of a General Manager. Bill Smith knows that he has to find a way to find all of these players playing time, which could pose a problem. This is how I would handle the situation (and take this with a grain of salt being as we're not even finished with the 2008 season, it's just a little something to chew on):
Left Field: Delmon Young
Center Field: Denard Span
Right Field: Michael Cuddyer
Designated Hitter: Jason Kubel
Bench: Jason Pridie

AAA Center Field: Carlos Gomez
Sure this may not be ideal, however now that the Twins know what they have in Span, they surely could make this a viable option.

Of course, looking ahead to the 2009 season also makes you think about shortstop, thirdbase and the bullpen. With the surplus of starting pitchers the Twins have in the major and minor leagues as well as the one-too-many outfielders, the Twins could certainly package one or two players from their surplus to fill one of their other voids. Shortstop, Thirdbase and Relievers should be high on the Twins priorty list and they really have no reason not to fill those positions. They certainly are the positions that are holding us back right now (maybe not thirdbase so much), but if we can fill those positions there is no reason for the Twins not to be right back at the top of the AL Central.

Just think, back in March many wouldn't think the Twins could even make the playoffs this year. And I think that at this point it'd be a huge disappointment not to make the playoffs. But still, I'm already looking at what can make us even better in 2009.

That's baseball for ya... always unpredictable which is really the reason why I think many of us like it.

(Forgive me for my ramblings, I am all over the place right now and I just can't help but already gear myself up for the always disappointing rumors that will come this off-season).

Game Ball (9/10)
Kevin Slowey - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7 innings, 4 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 2 K, win
Twins beat the Royals, 7-1.