Twins make an early exit
October 12, 2006
After a pathetic showing in the first round of the playoffs, the Twins’ amazing season is over. And yes, it was amazing, no matter what happened in the postseason.
I’ve followed the Twins since I was a little kid, and I can’t remember a team that overcame more and was more enjoyable to watch than the 2006 Twins.
But now that it’s over, it’s time to start looking toward 2007 and what kind of changes will be made.
The biggest issue this off-season was whether the $12 million option would be picked up for centerfielder Torii Hunter.
The Twins decided to pick it up on Tuesday. I’ve always had mixed feelings about Hunter. He’s been one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball, but a broken ankle in 2005 caused him to lose some range, and his bat is usually average at best. I cringe every time he comes up in a clutch situation because of how prone he is to flailing strikeouts and double plays, but he also has the ability to get hot for a short time and carry the team on his back like he did the last month or so of this year.
Ever since Corey Koskie left after the 2004 season, third base became a black hole for the Twins.
In 2005 they tried Michael Cuddyer, Terry Tiffee and Luis Rodriguez, among others, and this year there was the failed experiment with Tony Batista. After Batista was released, Nick Punto took the position over and exceeded all expectations. He slumped near the end of the year though, batting only .262 in August and September, with a .303 on base percentage. His final average of .290 is skewed somewhat from his hot June and July when he batted .333 with a .414 on base percentage.
In reality I think Punto is more suited to a super-utility role, like a much better version of Denny Hocking.
The other concern is starting pitching. Santana is great in the No. 1 spot, and Boof Bonser has proven he can be a solid two or three man, but with Francisco Liriano becoming an injury risk and Brad Radke retiring Santana and Bonser will need some help.
Glen Perkins and Matt Garza made their debuts this year and should become above average starters, but Twins General Manager Terry Ryan needs to go out and get a veteran who can solidify the middle of the rotation.
Some free agents who could help the Twins are Ranger Adam Eaton, Blue Jay Ted Lilly or National Tony Armas Jr.
There are some upper-tier pitchers available too, like Jason Schmidt, Mike Mussina and Barry Zito, but they’re likely out of the Twins’ price range.
The Twins have a great core of young players, but Terry Ryan needs to make additions to some of these areas that are lacking.
Otherwise they will continue to see early exits from the postseason, or not make it at all in an increasingly competitive American League Central.
Ben Brewster is an alumnus of UW-River Falls. He was editor of the Student Voice during spring semester 2009.