Monday, October 12, 2009

The End



Surprisingly, I wasn’t all that disappointed when the Yankees made the final out tonight, bringing an end to the Twins season. I was at the game, and for the most part enjoyed myself. The mistakes were painful, no doubt, but tonight doesn’t seem like the time to reflect on those. The Yankees were clearly the superior team. The Twins would have needed to be perfect to beat them in a five game series, and obviously they were far from that. Regardless, this was a season to remember. Sure, the Twins were mediocre for most of the season, waiting until the last possible second to get hot and steal the division from the Tigers. That said, I will always remember Game 163 as the first truly great Twins game I watched. There’s been other great games, and while the ’91 World Series games were exceptional, I wasn’t even three years old so I don’t remember those games.

The emotions that ran through my body during Game 163 have only happened two times to me while watching sports. The first time was when the Timberwolves were in the Western Conference Semi-Finals, playing the Sacramento Kings, in game 7 at the Target Center. That game was exceptional, and really the only game I honestly remember Kevin Garnett putting the team on his back and saying “Boys, I got this.” That is a game I’ll never forget, and if I ever see it on ESPN Classic or NBA TV I will automatically drop whatever I am doing to watch it. It was that great. Since I’m a far bigger baseball fan than basketball fan, Game 163 to me was the greatest sporting event I’ve ever watched. Yes, I understand it’s not, on a grander scale. The fact that the Twins lost their next 3 games and the season ended made that game slightly less epic, as the end result for the Twins and Tigers was ultimately the same, with the Twins having the joy of an extra home playoff game.

Joe Mauer had the greatest all-around season by a catcher, is going to win his first AL MVP trophy and won his third batting title in four seasons. He also let it be known that he wasn’t concerned with being the highest paid player in the game, and that winning was what was most important. Joe Nathan, despite the struggles against New York, was his usual dominating self at closer, Michael Cuddyer enjoyed a huge comeback season, and Jason Kubel continued to improve with the bat. Even the bullpen, a weakness for most of the season, should be a strength next season with Rauch, Mijares, Crain and hopefully the returns of Boof Bonser and Pat Neshek. The Twins undoubtedly are going to need to make improvements if they want to be seen as true contenders, but the good news is the core of the team appears to be more than set.

Over the next week, I’m going to take an in-depth look at some of the key decisions that face Bill Smith and Co. this off-season, and will suggest what I think the best path would be. The Twins season ended tonight, which means the quest for 2010 begins tomorrow. The Twins will hold their heads tonight, but they don’t need to. They had a season to remember, and hopefully in 2010 they can add a post-season to remember to that.