Another Inside Look on the Twins

old logo for Minnesota Twins baseballWe really, really have to sweep this slump out of the Mets. Perhaps if we focus on the opposing team, some kind of positive karma will push our princes from Flushing toward inspiring baseball.

That said, let’s hear more about the Minnesota Twins, courtesy of Seth Stohs of Seth Speaks. After learning more about our opponents — who sound like a bunch of great guys — we may have a fitting alternative team to root for when the Mets’ physical presence follows their spirit into thin air.

Make sure you read on to find out which “unknown” Twins are most likely to get key hits in this series …

1. Minnesota and New York baseball are diametrically opposite when it comes to financial spending, expectations, and patience. Do you think we’re nuts here in New York to want a winner right now, and willing to foresake the future? How do you feel when home-grown, impending free-agents such as Torii Hunter are about to leave for “greener pastures”?

I personally enjoy following a team where winning a championship means something, that is isn’t just an expectation. I like fiscal responsibility. I like building from within and having players come up through the system together. It’s fun to watch a minor league sytem where there really is a good chance that many of them will play for the major league club. That said, if you look at it, the Twins have done a good job of keeping free agents that they wanted. Torii Hunter stayed, and who knows, may stay again. The Twins signed Johan Santana to a four year deal. They signed Brad Radke for four years and then two more years. They have inked Joe Mauer, and I expect that Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer will stick around for several years. Aside from not offering David Ortiz arbitration a few years ago, it’s hard to find a player that they lost that they miss. (and in reality, Boston took a gamble on a guy who never showed this kind of power and could not stay healthy, and it worked out very well for them!)

2. Your opinion of Ron Gardenhire as manager of the Twins, and in comparison to Tom Kelly — and do you think Gardenhire will equal Kelly’s 16-year tenure?

Like any manager, Gardy is not without his faults. I don’t like a lot of his lineups. I think that like Tom Kelly, he is pretty tough on young players until they’ve proven themselves, then he will back them to a fault. But it is also hard to argue with his and the Twins’ success, and because of that, I don’t see him ever being fired. Like Tom Kelly, I think he’ll be around as long as he wants to.

3. Who is your favorite Twin and why?

I have a lot of favorite Twins. I like Pat Neshek and Kevin Slowey because each of them have been very active on with Q&As and such, and Slowey has participated in my NFL “Expert” pick panels the last couple of years. Joe Mauer is hard not to like. I would have to say that my current favorite is probably Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer is about as good a guy to cheer for as anyone!

4. What are the Twins’ chances to leapfrog into first place in the AL Central? To make the wildcard? Who / what are the keys for them to make the postseason this year?

Is it possible that the Twins could make up the 5 1/2 game lead in the AL Central and win it? Sure. Last year, they were down by 10 games in mid-August and came back to beat the Tigers to win the division. That said, I think it will be much more difficult in 2007. The Tigers are better, and Cleveland is really playing well and I would expect them to compete all year. To do it though, they will need to get much more consistent starting pitching. Johan Santana has been very good this year, but he hasn’t pitched like Johan Santana yet. Carlos Silva has to try to not be so hittable. Boof Bonser has been good, but he needs to get into the 7th inning more. And Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker and eventually Matt Garza will need to provide some consistent innings. The team also will need to start getting some offense from the 6-9 slots because their 1-5 (Luis Castillo, Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter) can compete with anyone.

5. Who do the Mets’ pitchers most need to fear at the plate in this series?

I would say Michael Cuddyer. In the batting order, he hits between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, both of whom get a lot of recognition. Hunter loves the spotlight, so you know he will eat up New York. Castillo will be mentioned as his name is continually mentioned as a possible 2B for the Mets this year or next. Cuddyer only drove in and scored over 100 runs last year. He doesn’t have the name or get the headlines, but he is a very dangerous hitter. He also has a rocket for an arm out of right field.

6. Who can be the unlikely / unknown hero in this series at Shea, and why?

I was touting Jason Kubel as a future all star bat for two years before he blew out his knee in the Arizona Fall League in 2004. I believe that he has a great plate approach and uses the whole field and has serious power potential. Don’t be surprised if he comes up with a couple of big hits in this series.

7. How has the Twins’ middle and setup relief been doing? Who are we likely to see in the 6th-7th-8th, bridging the game to Joe Nathan?

The season-ending injury to Jesse Crain really hurts the Twins. Also Dennys Reyes (who was amazing in 2006 and is returning to normal in 2007) and Glen Perkins have missed time, and yet the bullpen remains the Twins strong suit. Matt Guerrier has been getting the 7th inning this year. He has done a nice job as a long man/innings eater the last two years and he has really shone in his increased role this year. Juan Rincon still is a good 7th or 8th inning guy. Pat Neshek has become one of the best, most dominant relievers in baseball since his recall to the Twins almost a year ago. The sidewinding righty has struck out 91 hitters in 69.2 career innings. He had struggled against lefties, but he added a changeup and now he is getting them out as well.

8. With the DH position a problem for the Twins this year, will the lack of one in Shea be a positive or a negative?

I don’t know that the lack of DH really hurts the Twins as much as you’d think. First, Johan Santana can put some pretty good swings on the ball! I do think that Ron Gardenhire has, at times, overmanaged to the National League game. I think he can sometimes use too many double-switches and almost make the game more difficult than it needs to.

Thanks again to Seth for more inside info on the Twins. Be sure to check out Seth Speaks for excellent Twins analysis.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
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