As the regular season winds down, many teams are already facing an offseason filled with golf rounds and hot-stove strategy.
But we're not going to let them get off that easy. No sir. No way. In an attempt to bring some closure between franchise and follower, we're giving a blogger from each team the opportunity to give a concession speech for this year's squad. Up next in our series is our old pal Lindsay Guentzel, who spent part of her year living in the MLB Fan Cave and the other part telling us about the 10 great things about being a Minnesota Twins fan.
To my fellow fans and faithful from across Twins Territory:
I've thought long and hard about what I would say to you here and unfortunately, I find myself at a crossroads. Our fate was sealed months ago. We know that. But I stand in front of you a changed baseball fan — four months in the MLB Fan Cave will do that to a person — and while I commiserate with you on the disappointment of this season, I also have to ask you this: Did we really think the outcome would be any different?
If there is one thing we as Minnesota Twins fans have learned in the past few years, it is this: Starting pitchers win baseball games.
This isn't a good revelation for a team that kept Nick Blackburn in the starting rotation for five straight seasons — bless his heart. But this year, it seemed everything was working against us. It all started with Joel Zumaya, a high-reward high-risk addition that cost the team $30,769 per live batting practice pitch. Then shortly after, Scott Baker met his match (Tommy John) and the Twins were ready to start the season with Carl Pavano once again at the helm of the pitching staff.
We made amends with a four-man rotation of Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Anthony Swarzak and Blackburn as Jason Marquis dealt with family issues, then held our breath as the Twins worked him back into the rotation.
But again, the outcome with Marquis was mind-boggling. Seven games, 34 innings pitched — his last game in a Minnesota Twins uniform a blowout against the Milwaukee Brewers that had Drew Butera coming in to close out the game.
And while there is nothing more entertaining than watching a position player pitch (Michael Cuddyer, circa 2011), the baseball gods weren't done with us yet.
You know what makes a weak pitching staff look even more incompetent? Perfect games from former pitchers. No hitters where you're the victim. Nights for the record books from a pitcher we all once cheered.
Phil Humber got the ball rolling with his perfect game against the Mariners on April 21 and just 11 days later, Jered Weaver added insult to injury as he threw a no-hitter against the Twins at Angel Stadium. Then, on June 1, Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets' franchise history. (Naturally, ex-Twin R.A. Dickey followed up that performance with a complete game shutout the next night, then threw back-to-back one-hit shutouts a few weeks later.)
I could go on. We could talk about trading Francisco Liriano to a division rival or the fact that not one of the team's starting pitchers from April is currently in the active rotation. But I'm not here to scare you. I'm here to bring hope.
Things can only go up from here. Right?
It wasn't a wash of a season. We all knew it was highly unlikely we would see the Twins make a run for the playoffs. After last year, the Hunt of 100 Losses seemed like a more appropriate destination.
But there were things we did right. There are things to celebrate.
There is hope. A little hope, at least.
We know we have the ability to deal with adversity. Take a look at our bullpen. Glen Perkins has emerged as both a leader on and off the field and is #PMKI in save opportunities. Brian Duensing finally found his stride as a relief pitcher, only to be bounced back into the starting rotation. But he has dealt with it, never complaining or backlashing at the media for the inconsistency (i.e., Kevin Slowey), simply doing what needs to be done to give the team the best chance of succeeding.
And then there is Scott Diamond. He has been a bright spot in a dismal starting rotation and while he has had plenty of misfires this year, he has shown that he has the talent to be dependable on the mound. He's something for the team to build around and that's immeasurable with four spots to fill next year.
But let's move away from pitching for a second.
How about Joe Mauer? The former MVP is batting .322, has an OPS of .870 and has already played in 139 games this season, a ridiculously optimistic number when you compare it to his 82 starts in 2011.
Did any of us foresee this happening?
No, we didn't.
Hope. That's right there is hope.
But Mauer isn't the only player in the lineup to give fans something to smile about this season and it would be unfair to end the year without acknowledging them.
Trevor Plouffe and Josh Willingham entertained fans as they went homer-for-homer in the month of June, The Hammer continuing his dominance with 35 home runs and 110 RBI on the season. Ben Revere proved he has the range to take over the real estate in center while simultaneously rocking a ridiculous swag at the plate and Ryan Doumit gave men with facial hair complexes something to aspire to.
Look, I watched a lot of Twins games this season, I could go on. Because there is more. We each have our moments that we'll take into the offseason, to hold on to as the winter months drone on and spring training slowly approaches.
Things can only go up from here. Call me an optimist, call me a rube. Call me whatever you want but at the end of the day, it's not that bad. Yes, it seems like everything is crumbling down around us but we need to stand strong and face the facts. It just wasn't our year.
New faces will emerge, and the Twins will figure out a way to put together a winning team. We've done it before. We'll do it again. Maybe not next year or the year after that. But sometime before Mauer's contract expires or he retires from baseball, the Twins will get this figured out.
Have hope. And remember, we are hosting the All-Star game in 2014. So there's always that.