Monday, November 1, 2010


The 2010 Twins were measurably better than the 2009 version, virtually across the board. They had a stronger rotation, a more even lineup, and a deeper bullpen. Those improvements showed up in 8 more regular season wins, and home field advantage in the ALDS against their nemesis, the Yankees.

It all meant nothing. If anything, the 2010 Twins gave a worse effort against a weaker opponent than the 2009 World Series champs were. They managed to play even for the first 6 innings of Games 1 & 2, but showed little life once they fell behind in the 7th. They hardly showed up for Game 3. New faces, new places, but still the same result. The Twins were swept again, running their postseason series losing streak to 6, home losing streak to 10, and overall losing streak to 12.

They should have been able to do what the Rangers did. After dropping Game 1 of the ALCS in similar fashion, Texas came back to win the next 3. Perhaps the Twins' pitchers couldn't have been expected to shut down the Yankee hitters as effectively as the Rangers' starters did. But the offense should have been able to do just as much damage to the lesser members of the NY rotation. Instead, they were utterly shut down by Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes. Michael Cuddyer fired all his bullets in Game 1. Jim Thome and Jason Kubel did essentially nothing.

So what's the lesson here? Did the Twins lose because their pitchers don't miss enough bats? Should they be trying to trade for Zach Greinke or Jonathan Sanchez or some other strikeout machine? I don't think so. Anybody could have lost with the offense producing like that. That series was about the Twins failing to hit with RISP. Bad luck? Mental block? Just one of those slumps you can get into over any given 3-game stretch?

Whatever it was, it's nothing to panic about. A 94-win team that won its division conclusively does not need to be retooled. Especially when it was competitive against the 5 other playoff teams it encountered during the regular season:

vs. Yankees: 2-4
vs. Rays: 3-5
vs. Rangers: 7-3
vs. Braves: 1-2
vs. Phillies: 2-1
Total: 15-15

Had the Twins drawn the Rays in the 1st round, it might have been a different story. Who knows? I'm not one to give more weight to 3 games against one particular team in October than I do to 162 games against a diverse schedule over 6 months. I'm proud of the 2010 Twins. They accomplished a lot, and with 2 of their elite, All-Star players unavailable for all but half a season.

Many players won't be coming back for 2011, but the core will. I would be very deliberate about breaking that group up with any trades. The payroll will be a challenge, but it's surmountable with patience and creativity. I hope to have more time to post my specific ideas about how to do that in the coming days. In the meantime, my advice to the front office is simply this:

Hold your cards.

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