Column: What Went Wrong With the Twins in 2007?Published 12:00am Thursday, October 4, 2007
By Jon Laging, Talking Sports
Sports Illustrated ranked our Minnesota Twins 20th among Major League teams before the season started. I and others felt that was far too low and the Twins would challenge for the American League pennant. After all, didn&8217;t they play the best ball in the majors the last third of the season to win the Central Division? What was to stop them from continuing that streak? As it turned out, I dont think the Twins were the 20th best team this year, I think they were worse.
What went wrong? A lot. With the exception of a few players, the team was about 10 to 15 percent less effective in 2007. Perhaps the most striking example of the downturn is shown by four players. Mauer, Morneau, Bartlett and Punto. Adding the four batting averages and comparing them to 2006 shows a drop of 225 points. That&8217;s about 20 percent down from the previous year from your core players. The bullpen dropped from excellent to very good and the starting pitching also fell.
The 2006 team played at a 60 percent winning percentage and 2007 team at 48 percent. A drop of 12 percent. It appears that the statistical play of the team went hand in hand with the team winning percentage. Both went down about the same amount. The players did not meet their 2006 performance and the team&8217;s record reflected that downturn.
It&8217;s not that they played terribly, it&8217;s just that they did not perform as well as the previous year. It doesn&8217;t take much to turn a Division champ into an also-ran. Just ask the Chicago White Sox.
But 2007 is over and as we look forward to Spring Training what needs to happen? First of all, the Twins need to improve on what once were the team&8217;s strengths. They made dumb mistakes both on the basepaths and in the field. Jason Bartlett made 26 errors and that&8217;s with today&8217;s lenient score keeping. Alexi Casilla&8217;s 10 in 52 games and a number of mental errors. He was not alone in the mental errors. They consistently got caught in rundowns.
I searched for an answer as to why the team had such a disappointing year. One thought was that they were complacent. At first that didn&8217;t seem realistic to me. After all they had not won a World Series or even been to one and had bowed out early in the playoffs. But the more I thought about it the more it seemed possible. The team was coming back from a miracle year and everyone forgave them for not advancing further in the playoffs. &8220;What a wonderful year.&8221; Perhaps they were complacent. Key players were young and could have gotten swelled heads. Why not, they were the miracle team of 2006. Just to keep doing what they did last year was good enough. If they started slow, that&8217;s all right, we can always turn it on, for don&8217;t we have the AL batting champ, the MVP and Cy Young winner. We can right this ship any time we want.
As the team struggles continued, the chemistry began to lessen. Torii Hunter started taking media pot shots at other players, particularly Joe Mauer. Torii seems to want to be the Joe DiMaggio of the Twins. That won&8217;t happen as long as Mauer and Morneau are on the team. He has picked on Mauer this year and got into an altercation with Morneau in the past. The team didn&8217;t look happy, nothing went right, the losses mounted up and I think everyone was ready to have the season end.
Gardy has a busy Spring Training coming up emphasizing fundamentals and gathering his team together. One thing though, they wont be complacent.
Jon Laging writes a regional sports column from his home in Preston.