Spring Hopes Eternal

The seasonal disorder of being a Twins fan.

The Twins have a much improved pitching staff but this is still a rotation that's going to need better run support than the offense provided last year. People have long been critical of Kelly's pitching coach, Dick Such ("Death, Taxes, and Dick Stanley Such," goes the litany of my Dome cronies), and rightfully so, but it's high time the team's hitting coach, Terry Crowley, came in for some similar scrutiny; in the midst of baseball's offensive explosion the last couple seasons the Twins have experienced one of the most alarming power outages in the history of the franchise. Last year Minnesota didn't have a single player with either 20 home runs or 100 RBIs, and the club's 132 homers were the fewest in the American League, this despite striking out 1,121 times. For a little perspective, the Mariners hit twice as many home runs as the Twins (264) and had only 1,110 strikeouts.

It's going to be fun to watch Mike Morgan, one of the great stories of hard luck and perseverance in recent major-league history. Morgan's now been with 10 teams (and he's not left-handed!), and in 17 seasons he has posted just two winning records. Entering this year he has an astounding record of 117-167, despite which there are a few things to like about him: first and foremost is probably the fact that he couldn't get along with Ray Knight in Cincinnati. He's also pitched at least 200 innings six times, and he's always been snakebit when it comes to run support. Last season, he got just 4.28 runs per game support, and he's averaged only 4.11 runs per game in support over the last five seasons. Brad Radke, by comparison, got 6.12 runs per game from his teammates last year in his 20-win season, Andy Pettitte got 6.52, and Mike Mussina has received 5.78 runs per game over the last five years. If the Twins can generate even a marginal improvement on last year's offense, they should have five starting pitchers who can post double-digit victory totals.

Craig Bares

If this truly is to be the last Twins season in Minnesota, well, then until the moving vans have pulled away from the loading docks at the Dome you'll find me down there hunched over my scorecard in one of those uncomfortable blue plastic seats, watching the whole sad and occasionally thrilling story unfold beneath the pen between my fingers. And if I go home happy even 50 percent of the time I'll consider myself a reasonably happy man. I'm going to deem that a modest and attainable goal for Tom Kelly's ballclub this season.

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