The Twins’ first road trip

Published 8:50 am Thursday, April 15, 2010

Our Minnesota Twins are back from their first road trip of this highly anticipated season. It was a trip to build a season on. They played seven games and won five. That’s an excellent winning percentage against contending teams especially when you consider the Twins were 38-43 on the road last year.

They did it with hitting, but more importantly with fine pitching. They allowed only an average of three runs a game. That is going to win you a lot of games.

There is a truth espoused by a number of smart baseball men, that pitching can separate the good from the very good teams. No matter how much attention the media pays to position players, pitchers are more important to a team especially at playoff time. No matter how much ink is devoted to Joe Mauer, he is not going to win the pennant by himself.

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The media doesn’t make the truth, no matter how much Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck fulminate, the elections, particularly, the presidential election, are not going to be won by them and the media. They’ll be won by our economy and how many of us are able to live the American dream. If we’re happy, we’ll elect the incumbent no matter if Republican or Democrat. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton saw that.

So while the media paid a great deal of attention to Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees were also rans until they signed CC Sabathia, A .J. Burnett and re-signed Andy Pettitte. The result? A World Series win.

From the outset as Bill Smith went about shoring up the lineup and batting order with J.J. Hardy, Orlando Hudson and Jim Thome there was still this thought lurking in the back of many of our minds. There was still that nagging concern about the starting pitching with Carl Pavano, Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn.

Most of you remember Brad Radke, the ace of the Twins’ staff for half a decade. In fact, the first sign of hope in the dismal ‘90s was the signing of Radke to a long-term contract. The four starting Minnesota pitchers I mentioned can aspire to be Brad Radke, and while that is certainly a worthwhile objective It’s just not the same as being Johan Santana, Sabathia or Roy Halladay. They can be good, but they won’t be dominating pitchers. And that is why you can get high odds against the Twins winning the World Series. For the Series you need a Curt Schilling.

However, one can’t help but be encouraged by the road trip pitching performances. With our lineup and good to very good pitching the team may fare well if they reach the postseason. Even more encouraging was the start of Francisco Liriano. Liriano had the fifth spot in rotation pretty well sewed up if he pitched moderately well in spring training. Brian Duensing had earned it going 5-2 with an ERA under 4.00, but he didn’t have a chance if Liriano did what he was capable of. Why? Plain and simple, Liriano has dominating stuff. He has the potential of being the Santana or Sabathia of the staff. And if he does, and we are a far cry from that happening, the Twins may well ride him into the World Series.