The Twins' offseason officially begins today after finishing the season Sunday with a win over the Red Sox. The Twins' season was a disappointing one, with plenty of injuries and unexpectedly poor performances by certain players, the majority being on the offensive side. About the only hitters who met my expectations this season (though they were high) were Jason Kubel, who did especially well down the stretch with an OPS close to 1.000 in September, and Torii Hunter. Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Nick Punto, and many others struggled with injuries or simply to get going offensively (to put it nicely). On the pitching side of things, the bullpen was once again strong despite being hit with its fair share of injuries. Jesse Crain was lost early on for the entire season (and probably some of next year as well), Dennys Reyes finished the season on the DL, and Pat Neshek struggled in the second half as a result of a tired arm caused by overusage. As for the starting pitchers, Matt Garza, Scott Baker, and Kevin Slowey all gained valuable experience and improved as the year went along, while Boof Bonser struggled mightily after a great start and found himself in the bullpen by the end of the season. Johan Santana and Carlos Silva, the veterans of the staff, both had solid seasons, while neither of the other veterans (Ramon Ortiz and Sydney Ponson) were still on the roster when the season came to a close, as they combined to post a 6.22 ERA in 17 starts.
But it was not just the players who made this a frustrating season for the Twins. Equally responsible were Ron Gardenhire and the front office, which at some points seemed ready to throw in the towel when neither the players nor us as fans thought it was time for that. Gardenhire didn't handle his relievers very well, trotting Neshek out there far too often, and simply making poor decisions sometimes. A game comes to mind in which he sent Juan Rincon out for the top of the tenth inning, rather than a rested Joe Nathan. Shocking few, Rincon served up a homer and the Twins lost. More annoyingly, though, Gardy continued to throw lineups together that did not make the best use of the Twins' assets. He continually slotted Jason Tyner and Rondell White into the lineup over Jason Kubel, before he finally corrected this problem in September; he put Punto's name in the lineup on almost a daily basis; he failed to give Alexi Casilla and Brian Buscher adequate playing time after the Twins were eliminated; I could go on and on.
But I don't want to gripe about the season anymore. There were positives, too. Torii Hunter had a career year, which unfortunately will make it that much harder for the Twins to retain him. Carlos Silva rebounded nicely from an atrocious year. Many youngsters flashed the potential that will hopefully allow the Twins to compete over the next few years. It was easy to look past these things as the Twins floundered in a year that most expected them to be near or at the top of the division. But now, we can take these things and look toward next year, when Francisco Liriano will likely be back and Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson will not start the year with the club (and let's hope Bill Smith doesn't find similar pitchers to take their place).
To move to actual action on the diamond, how many of you watched that Padres-Rockies one-game playoff? It was the first one-game playoff since 1999, and the sudden death excitement of the game was amazing. I'm not sure if Holliday did actually touch home plate on the winning run, and if I had to decide now I would say he didn't. I would really like to see the play from a different angle, though, in particular looking from first base towards home, in order to make a definite conclusion about the play. But, either way, congratulations to the Rockies on their first trip to the playoffs in twelve years!
As a final note, the blog will obviously have a different schedule for posting during the offseason, probably resulting in 3~4 posts per week. Over the next week, there will be some yearly wrap-up stuff, but after that, most posts will not be Twin-related. We'll continue to follow the playoffs and may post about them, but other than that entries will stray to whatever we're interested in on that day. I anticipate a lot of that being football and college basketball further on. And, of course, if any news comes from Minnesota regarding trades, free agents, arbitration, etc., we will update and give our thoughts on what happened.