2006 Minnesota Twins Preview

Thursday, March 23 2006 @ 09:00 AM EST

Contributed by: Rob

Jordan said it best last year:

Go to aarongleeman.com. Thatís it. Thatís my preview.
No, seriously. Weíre all done here. Go home.

He's right. Since Aaron is all over the Twins like a duck on a june bug, there really isn't much to say here that he won't say, and say much better...

...so I'll turn to another Minnesotan to see what he can tell us about the Twins this year:

(Note: If you actually want to learn about the 2006 Twins, check out Aaron's site for about a week. You'll know more than enough about Tony Batista and Johan Santana after that. I'm not going to compete with Aaron Gleeman.)

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.

After winning the division three years in a row by 13.5, 4, and 9 games respectively, Minnesota figures to have an even tougher go this year after finishing in third place behind two very good teams in 2005.

Chicago might have overachieved, but they are still the World Champions. Cleveland's getting better, Detroit could surprise, and the Royals...well, I guess you could die from the heat in KC in August.

If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Okay, maybe the times aren't changing, since we went through this dance in 2002 with Minnesota. Of course, that was back when the Expos still existed and they were an easy target for MLB. Who would take their place now if the owners contracted two teams, one being the Twins? Florida, I suppose.

But back to the Twins. July 1 ("next April" to MLB) is the infamous date for letting teams know if they should bother drawing up a 2007 schedule. And for all the ruckus made over contracting the Twins a few years ago...well, they were dead last in attendance from 1998 to 2000. They were ninth out of 14 in 2005, the year after their third consecutive division title -- contrast this with the Blue Jays, who drew only 238 fewer per game despite going 67-94 in 2004.

It seems silly to preview this, since as unpredictable as players are, it's not easy for politicians and businessman either. (Or maybe it is, but that's another story.) But the CBA, which was renewed in 2002 and hailed by Bud Selig as "historic" -- pardon me while I chuckle -- expires this year. And it wasn't fun to deal with that the first time around.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.

The links to the columnists above, by the way, are indicative of the (surprisingly) many columnists and writers in the Twin Cities that are...well, not very good. So, if you're looking for the best Twins writing, it's online -- Gleeman is the first name that comes to mind, but take a look at the sites linked at the very top for more insightful coverage.

For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Okay, so maybe Jordan Tata isn't the next Jack Morris. But the Tigers have some serious talent coming in Verlander, Maybin and especially Joel Zumaya. It's anyone's guess how they will turn out, and Liriano, Baker, Kubel, Moses, etc. are nothing to sneeze at. But acknowledging the Twins' farm system (which, to be honest, is quite good) sort of goes against the general theme of this preview. In other words, out with Kevin Slowey, in with Mark Zamojc.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

The ballpark situation still isn't resolved. The latest news, as far as I can tell, is...nothing.

Torii Hunter is on the record as saying "If the Twins don't get a favorable stadium vote, I won't be here. They aren't going to have a big payroll if a stadium isn't set for the future."

Not they have a big payroll now, of course. But Hunter's point is valid, and though I've never been to the Metrodome, I can't see why anyone would want to go there to watch a baseball game.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

This team, while having some very good young players in Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and about a dozen pitchers, still has a few players on the wrong side of 30. Old friend Shannon Stewart hurt his left shoulder after crashing into the wall in L.A. last August, and has not played in a regular season game since. He also hit only .274 last year -- and before you say batting average isn't everything, remember, this is Shannon Stewart, the prototypical .300 hitter. More importantly, his OBP and SLG were at their lowest for his career, and he hasn't been stealing bases well in a while.

It's rather simplistic to look at one bad year and declare Stewart on the downslope of his career, but it seems possible to me. He's 32, hasn't missed less than 20 games since 2002, and has a history of various injuries.

Speaking of various injuries, the Twins' new DH not only has the history, he has the nickname. "Ron-DL" White, while still a decent hitter, will not play 65+ games in the outfield for the Twins as he's done throughout his career -- either because he can't handle it, or they'll try to keep him in the lineup as the DH. He figures to bat fourth, and probably won't be too bad.

However, we now arrive at the matter of Tony Batista. If this was the 2000 Blue Jays, the Twins would have themselves two above-average hitters. Of course, it's not, and they don't. Leocadio Batista, the owner of .272 and .270 OBP's in 2003 and 2004, followed this trend and hit .263/.294/.463 in Japan, which is amazingly similar to his MLB career line of .251/.298/.458.

In any event, if Batista hits higher than seventh and plays in a substantial number of games, I can't see the point in this signing. Somewhere, the league average Mike Cuddyer is weeping...

Also new is Luis Castillo, who, like everyone, is a former Marlin. A singles hitter if there ever was one, he can be counted on for a high average, a good BB/K ratio, and he hits lefties much better than most players on the Twins. He battled hip and quad problems, missing more games than he has since 1998. His quadriceps was bothering him early last week, but it does not appear to be serious.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.

So, for the Twins, let's call it 86-76 and third place, just ahead of Detroit -- if Detroit does better, it wouldn't surprise me. Overall, Cleveland takes the AL Central pennant home, the White Sox finish close behind, and the Tigers manage to be un-Royal-like and, you know, actually win 85 games once in a while.

And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'