Nothing can stop the Minnesota Twins. Three years ago their owner put his team up for contraction, yet they survived the threat and went on to win their division. And then once again. And for the year 2004, they won it again, which was probably the hardest title to win.
“No matter what you throw at us, we’re going to try and bob and weave,” outfielder Torii Hunter said. “We might get hit every once in a while, but we’re going to try and bob and weave, try to make do and try to stay alive. I think that’s what’s keeping us going and proving a lot of people wrong.”
During the off season the Twins had to let go of Eddie Guardado, AJ Pierzynski, and LaTroy Hawkins. Two of the three were considered aces of the bullpen and the catcher was a very strong half of the battery. The Twinkies also lost Eric Milton as a cost cutting move in the off-season and moved excellent defensive first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz at the trading deadline.
Perhaps the Twins center fielder summarizes it correctly, “Losing Eddie, LaTroy, AJ, guys that we’ve won with for the last two, three years, it was tough. I didn’t know what to expect.”
Clinching the division title should not have been an option. The Chicago White Sox are the better team on paper and the Cleveland Indians couldn’t be taken lightly before the season started. Yet on Monday the 20th the Minnesota Twins finished the task of winning the 2004 division title.
There have been two major components to this year’s team. The Twins, when trading away their All Star catcher, received San Francisco Giants reliever Joe Nathan (along with promising arm Boof Bonser). Nathan was immediately placed into the closer’s role after a career of one career save. Well, he has added 43 more to that total and is third in the American league saves total and has a 1.70 ERA for a span of 69 innings pitched. The other major component of this year’s team is staff ace Johan Santana. Last year he was a little known Venezuelan pitcher, but this year he has reached fame with a 20 win year. If he doesn’t win the AL Cy Young award, then I will lose a small amount of faith in the selection committee.
I’ve lied. There are two more major things the Twins have relied on for this year: heart and the team’s minor league system.
Again, the fielding gifted centerfielder: “As it turned out, we’ve still got the heart. We still went out there and played hard, took every pitch, every inning and played it to the fullest.”
That was a major reason for the Twins’ success, but not the biggest. The most important reason was the farm system that hasn’t stopped producing major talents. In Spring Training the Twins invite a lot of their coaches and players to the major league camp so that everyone will see everything on the same page. That way, when the players get 'The Call' they will already be ready to play.
“It has to be the whole system,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It can’t just be one level, it has to be everywhere. And we’ve got a pretty good system going here where everybody talks about the same thing.”
Congratulations to Johan Santana on a Cy Young caliber season, Joe Nathan for a Rolaids Relief Award caliber season, the front office for their assembly of the minor league system, and to every single person in a Twins uniform for having the heart to overcome the impossible.
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