Now for the playoffsPublished 9:15am Thursday, October 7, 2010
Jon Laging, Talking Sports
It has been a wonderful summer for the Twins and their fans no matter what happens in the playoffs. It’s hard to believe that spring training and the following 162 games are over. The Twins looked like a team with a mission way back in March.
The team was a hard working bunch in spring training and that attitude continued on during the summer. I think they embodied that American spirit that welcomes hard work and continually strives to be the best. That work ethic has been the hallmark of U.S. citizens down through the years. That spirit is our heritage and belongs to the people no matter what political party or movement tries to claim it.
We have had stumbles in our history, the Klu Klux Klan for example, but we overcame it. In fact, we have gone from treating black Americans as second class citizens to electing an African American president.
I think our Twins overcame a number of obstacles. Not to compare a sports team to our country, but there were times when negative thinking could have damaged the Twins. What a hard blow to the team when they lost two of their three best players in Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau. Joe had season-ending surgery, and Justin suffered a concussion which limited him to half a season. There was not a hue and cry, they didn’t cry in their beer. The team just played a little harder.
The 2009 team was a gritty bunch coming back from a large deficit in September, tying the Detroit Tigers to win the Central Division in a playoff. A marvelous year. But this year’s team even from spring training, seemed to feel that a Central Division title was not enough. They wanted more. The 2009 team won 87 games and needed a playoff to clinch the title. This year the team won 94 games and the title was theirs two weeks before the season ended. How did they do it? One wonders for Nathan was gone, Morneau out for half a season and Mauer hit forty points below 2009 with much less power. Jason Kubel’s batting average was fifty points below his previous year. Delmon Young and Jim Thome helped, but still the team had fewer RBI and home runs.
If a person wanted a roller coaster ride, the Twins pitching staff provided it this summer. The only pitcher that was consistent all season was Carl Pavano. When the rest of the staff was in shambles, Pavano stood tall. Most of the rest of the original starting staff were wildly inconsistent what with Nick Blackburn’s demotion to the minors and Baker and Slowey’s repeated injuries. Surprisingly the staff’s ERA was 3.97 compared to 2009′s 4.5. The credit should go mostly to the relief corps with Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano and late season addition Brian Duensing, alone among the starters in having ERAs of less that 4.00. And although the team’s runs were fewer, they gave up a half a run a game less than 2009. Bert Blyleven’s oft repeated statement that pitching is what it’s all about, appears to be right. Pitching, even though the starters were up and down, was a huge factor in the team’s success.
However I think another factor that was very important in their success and that was when one player went down or slumped another player stood up. They all pulled together and there was no Torii Hunter wondering to the press if Joe Mauer was a slacker. They all pulled together as a team. I think that is what teamwork is all about.
Would that our politicians take a leaf from the Twins’ book and work together!