Column: Happy days for the Twins are here once again

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 21, 2006

Jon Laging, Talking Sports

You&8217;ve got to be kidding. Right? Our Minnesota Twins look as though they are in the playoffs and our Vikings have a positive record. My, how times change. Not too long ago the Twins were eight games under .500 and the Vikings were heading into the season with a young coach and an old quarterback.

The Twins made a miraculous comeback with credit going to many and those with Las Vegas wagers are holding their breath and wishing Francisco Liriano and his franchise arm was available for the playoffs. However, it still looks good, if not perfect, good. Is it time to celebrate our team?

Yes, it is time to celebrate the Twins. Not necessarily what might happen, but what has happened. The day brighteners that have occurred almost on a daily basis and the naysayers have been proven wrong time and time again. Fans should feel good and celebrate not only the team, but the members of the team.

Who would have thought that failed major leaguer, light hitting Jason Tyner would be hitting .323 after almost 200 at bats. At most, in the Twins scheme of things, Tyner was looked at as a replacement outfielder if two of the regulars went down. He is not a &8220;spring chicken&8221; in the baseball sense of the word and the most he could have anticipated in years to come was a hang-on slot with one of the lesser teams. Instead he is an integral part of a possible World Series team. Not only that, he is a nationally known piranha.

He seems to be a good guy. I saw him poking fun at himself as he was due to come to plate to try to complete baseball&8217;s hitting cycle of a single, double, triple and home run in one game. He had them all except the home run. Very unlikely he would hit a homer as he had not done so in his major league career of over 1,000 at bats. He knew it, the team knew it and all the fans knew it. Yet he pretended to muscle up as he waited to bat.

No matter what happens to Jason Tyner in the future, whether he becomes a regular, a fourth outfielder, or goes back to the minors, he has this magical season to remember. And I&8217;d bet this season will continue to aid his baseball future in the years ahead.

Another member of the piranhas is third baseman Nick Punto. Nobody realized the potential of Punto. Sure, he was a scrapper and good utility infielder, but there were concerns about his hitting on a consistent basis and his being injury prone.

During the Twins major reshuffling in June, Punto was given third base in what was viewed as a stop-gap move and it was expected he would share the position with Terry Tiffee. Once Punto got the position he did not give it up or share with anybody. As the season wore on Punto is not only hitting .296 he is a senior member of the piranhas and with them is setting the table for the middle of the lineup. He plays a fine third base, and although it&8217;s hard to believe, continues to improve defensively. Unlike Tyner, Punto seems to have his position solidified for next year.

The above describes only two of the 25 members of our Twins. Actually, you should include Gardenhire and the coaches. Particularly Gardy, pitching coach Rick Anderson and the Twins new hitting coach, Joe Vavra. I don&8217;t think Gardy is given the credit he deserves. There may be an underlying purpose to how Gardy manages the team. More about that next week if the Twins playoff chances don&8217;t demand attention.

(Jon Laging writes about regional sports topics from his home in Preston.)