I get it, the headline is a bit deceiving. How can a team that is 22-28 and recently endured a ten game losing streak really be making a comeback? Well, if you are the Minnesota Twins and you are coming off 99 and 96 loss seasons respectively, you would say you are making some progress. Beginning in 2002, the team made six playoff appearances in a nine-year span. Yes, they made it out of the first round only once but they were held up as a model for small market franchises everywhere. In 2010, they won 94 games, their second highest win total over the past 20 years….and then came a spectacular fall to a 99 loss season in 2011. It seemed as though a combination of losing star players like Johan Santana and Torri Hunter to free agency and injuries that felled Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau were going to send the Twins through a long losing period. While it could still turn out the Twins are another two years away from contending, steps are being taken to correct the backslide.
The first move came when the organization removed the interim tag from Terry Ryan and again made him the general manager in October 2012. Ryan was instrumental in making the Twins perennial contenders and while he left the GM’s position in 2007, he stayed with the club as an adviser. He decided to keep Ron Gardenhire as manager, sticking with the man who won all of those division titles as skipper but who some felt has stayed with the Twins too long. Ryan was active this Winter trading outfielders Denard Span and Ben Revere for three pitchers including Vance Worley, the only one with Major League experience. Worley has underachieved, to say the least with one win and a 7.25 ERA but the other two prospects, Alex Meyer and Trevor May are very-well regarded (May is in the Twins’ bullpen) and will be in Minnesota’s rotation very soon. Span’s and Revere’s departures have opened the door for Aaron Hicks, who has a very low batting average but has some pop (six home runs in 158 at-bats) and great defense you can see here. He just turned 24 and will be in the Twins’ outfield for a long time.
Mauer’s monster contract still has eight years left but at the time, it was necessary to show fans that the team was serious about competing for the long-term. It also demonstrated a willingness to spend money to attract free agents. Hitting .330, Mauer is showing no signs of slowing down. Morneau’s contract runs out after this year and it is debatable whether or not Minnesota will be keeping him beyond 2013. He seems to be fully healed from his prior injuries as his 34 RBI’s, tied for 12th would indicate as much. Josh Willingham is out to prove 2012 is not a fluke but he needs to hike his 2.13 average. 9 home runs and 24 RBI’s are good power numbers for Target Field.
Minnesota will probably not be heading to the playoffs in 2013. However, there should be some excitement surrounding the team. After all, there is no more danger of postponing any more games due to snow and they still reside in the American League Central where a seven game winning streak can put them in the fight for a division title. Throw in the fact that Terry Ryan is back running things and you can imagine the Twins making the postseason sooner rather than later.