Why do we feel like we’re taking crazy pills? How many division titles do the Twins need to win before the talking heads around the division put us in the pennant race again the next year. We don’t think the Twins should necessarily be favored, but how many times do we have to contend for or win the division before those that make the predictions have the Twins back in the hunt again the next year? It’s been a decade now. Isn’t that enough?
It doesn’t look like. Again. Most predictions have the Twins finishing third in the division, behind the Tigers and the White Sox. After having one of the best records in the major leagues in 2010, the Twins brought their core back for 2011. Sure, we lost some important pieces in the bullpen, but we also will have Joe Nathan back, allowing Matt Capps to shine as a dominant setup man. Not to mentioned the hopeful return of Justin Morneau, who was having an MVP-caliber season in 2010 before the concussion.
Yet the Twins are predicted to struggle in 2011. Our off-season moves are viewed as average and paltry. At some point the Twins have to be seen for what they are–an organization that gets it done year in and year out. At some point people should realize that we have the best catcher in baseball, one of the best first baseman, one of the top three outfielders in the AL Central, and, in the minds of some, two of the best three starting pitchers in the division. We’re used to being in this position, though. We’ll just prove ourselves all over again in 2011.
Sure, there are plenty of questions heading into spring training. Joe Nathan’s recovery is ahead of schedule, but will he be back to his old self? And will Justin Morneau be even close to his early 2010 form? Will he have his power of old?
How will Tsuyoshi Nishioka adjust to Minnesota and the U.S. in general? Will he be able to seamlessly handle the cultural and language barriers he will face? Will he enjoy the organization and the local media? How will he do filling in as the Twins new second baseman? Or shortstop? Or wherever he ends up…
Is Liriano going to be in a Twins uniform for the 2011 season? Will he be able to perform well like last year? Incredible like 2006? Or will he just be average? Should the Twins be considering locking up Liriano for well beyond 2011?
Will Pavano be the stabilizing force in the rotation that he was last year? Should the Twins pursue Michael Young? Can Alexi Casilla be reliable in the middle infield? Who will step up in the bullpen? Can Delmon Young duplicate his efforts from 2010? Will this be the year Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel put it all together into a complete season? Can Joe Mauer stay healthy? Can Mauer be a Yankee Killer? (Despite the ridiculous claims by Sony MLB 11 The Show that he already is.)
And most importantly, is this FBI-wanted Kansas City bank robber really a Twins fan?
There are plenty of questions to be answered. This is no different than any other team heading into spring training. TC Huddle will take those questions and predict another division title from our hometown squad. We’ve won six out of the last nine division titles. Maybe after going 7 for 10 people will pick us to win it in 2012.