Frank: The Minnesota Twins finished off the surprisingly good 2008 season with a disappointing 1-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox in the American League Central Division tiebreaker last Tuesday night. In spite of the outcome ending our season, the Twins should take pride in defying the experts and look forward to a very bright future.
The Twins surprised a lot of people this year, who expected the team to go through a rebuilding season, not to be a contender. Now we seem to be set up pretty well for the future, with a bevy of talented young players. Carlos Gomez, Delmon Young, Denard Span, Brian Buscher, Brendan Harris, Alexi Casilla, and Matt Tolbert all enjoyed their first full season (almost) with the Twins. Throw in veterans Jason Kubel, Joe Mauer, and Justin Morneau and we can fill a lineup card quite effectively, with a DH and one bench player, not one of them over the age of 28. We scored the third most runs in the league (Also the third highest total in club history) and we had the number three batting average. This could be a very good team for many years to come. Do we need to get anything during the offseason? What about defense? Will we trade Michael Cuddyer?
Bert: First of all, let's hope the Twins do not trade Michael Cuddyer. He is a huge part of the Twins going into next season. It was too bad he was hurt most of the season but if he is healthy in 2009 he can create some of the additional power the team needs in the lineup. I wouldn't be surprised if the Twins ask Michael to play third base next season. Denard Span showed that he can be the leadoff hitter for the Twins going into next season and he played a great right field. On paper the Twins have a good lineup, as you mentioned. I do know that Gardy wants to tighten up the defense. With the young players the Twins had this season came too many errors. They had the third most errors in the American League, and that's not Twins baseball. I'm sure Gardy will be addressing this issue with his players in spring training.
Frank: Keeping with the same theme, the pitching staff is very young. Our five starters who finished off the year by completing the final two months combined for a 52-34 record and a 3.96 ERA in 2008. That is a winning percentage over .600, and the oldest of the five, Scott Baker, just turned 27. After a full year (more or less) in a Major League starting rotation, these men should only get better, right? And now arm fatigue will not be an issue anymore -- as it may have been this year – since all of them threw at least 170 innings between the Minors and the Majors in 2008.
What do you think of the progress they made over the season? Could they improve next year? With all the great players, young and not so young, it should be an exciting 2009, huh? You and I should be ready for it. Now go and get some innings under your belt this winter and come back refreshed.
Bert: Good pitching and good defense usually call for a winning season. These are things the Twins will go into spring training hoping to have in 2009. As you know, I do not believe in pitch counts, and with the young pitchers on this staff getting a full season under their belts, now maybe all five of them can reach 200 innings. I don't think that is asking too much. It is not me that has to get refreshed, it is the five young starters that need to come into spring training in the best shape of their lives and be ready to take to ball into the seventh or eighth inning time after time. You do this by making sure that your legs are in shape for spring. I sure hope all the starters know what they are capable of doing and that's pitching deeper into games. It all starts with your leg strength! Distance running is the best way to built up endurance for a long season, and they need to do a lot of stretching. Light weights are also good for arm strength. The Twins’ strength and conditioning coach, Perry Castellano, is very good at setting up winter programs for each individual player, but it's the player who has to get to know his own body and what he expects out of his body to be successful. With the starters going longer into games, the bullpen will hopefully not be used as much as they had to be used this last season. For the Twins to have another successful season the starters need to protect their relievers by going deeper into games.
Frank: We have had some fun this year in the blog, talking about random stuff each week like your favorite restaurants on the road, holidays during your childhood, and even about rock and roll music. But my favorite has to be your story about dropping that loudmouth in the dunk tank repeatedly. We need one final good story to close out the year and make people want more, which might come in about six months. Since you are already at home in Florida, do you have any good stories about golf?
Did your dad ever take you golfing? I know he meant a lot to you, and his eventual defeat after a battle with Parkinson's Disease is one of the main reasons for this weekly endeavor to raise money. Former Twin Kent Hrbek lost his father to ALS -- the disease that killed baseball legend Lou Gehrig -- while I have a form of Ataxia, the disease that killed Twins legend Bob Allison. Because of our closeness to baseball (you can read about my life in baseball on the right side of this page) and your father’s closeness to you, we have set out to raise money for the Minnesota Medical Foundation, which funds research on all three diseases. So your father is a big part of this blog. Speaking of golf, what was his handicap (besides you)? What is yours (besides having grown up in Southern California)?
Bert: I want to personally thank everyone who had a chance to read this blog over the last season. The Twins had a successful year but did not make the post season. I hope all the Twins players watch the post season and think about the things they can do better in 2009 to make sure they get there as a team. I used to watch all the post season games and I would see if I could figure out anything that I could do to help my team get there the next season. Let's hope the Twins players are watching for the 2009 season.I also want to personally thank those who found it in their hearts to make a donation to Parkinson's, ALS, and Ataxia after reading the blog. Every dollar you donate hopefully will help find a cure for these deadly diseases. My father passed away from Parkinson's on October 15, 2004.
Golf was one thing that we enjoyed doing together. I introduced golf to my dad many years ago. During the winter months we had a 6:19am tee time every Sunday morning at a course in Garden Grove, California. Many mornings it would not be dawn yet at 6:19, so we would tee-off in the dark. Hole #1 was a par four that was straight away, probably about 360 yards. There were always four of us who played, so when one of us were hitting the ball into the dark, the other three would stand behind to try and track the flight of the ball. After we all hit then we would start walking toward the green with one player walking down the left side of the fairway, another walking down the right side of the fairway, and the other two walking slowly down the middle. Sooner than later someone would find a ball and yell out what kind of ball it was so the right person could hit it again in the dark toward the green. Once we all hit our second shot then the march would continue to the green. After we all putted our balls into the hole, I would ask each golfer what they had for a score. Every Sunday my dad always said he had a 5! Even if it took him eight shots to sink his putt he still said, “Give me a 5!” That Christmas I had about 20 scorecards made up from that course we played and on the scorecard I had my dad's name, Joe, engraved on the card and on the first hole I had them engrave a 5! He laughed so hard when he opened that gift and I can still see his smile today. Golf is a great game because it brings friends and family together for a fun day filled with memories. My dad's handicap was probably about an 18, where mine is currently a 5! I guess I got that from my dad!!!!!Have a great winter and thank you all again for reading this blog each week. You are all “Hereby Circled!”
Frank: Well, most baseball is played in the land of golf for the next few months. The Arizona Fall League started this week for the Twins’ top prospects -- and there is an ongoing Florida Instructional League and winter ball in the warm states and countries further south -- so we will see if the team can improve the bullpen and the left side of the infield without making any deals! But for now we are done, and hopefully we’ll see you all back here next season. Thanks for reading and for donating! For Bert Blyleven, this is Frank Genalo wishing you a quiet, peaceful, and blessed winter.