Giving the season a Dylan rundown:
The team as a whole, Together Through Life: It’s not bad, but we had come to expect so much more out of the artist (and the team, for that matter) at this point. Dylan had experienced a career renaissance later in life, releasing a trio of albums in Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, and Modern Times that rivaled any of his early stuff. Had this record been released right after Under the Red Sky, for example, it would have gotten a more favorable reception from fans and critics. The Twins assembled their finest roster in nearly twenty years, spent more money on payroll than at any time in franchise history, and still got swept out of the ALDS. Winning 94 games and generally terrorizing the AL Central is fun and all, but to be honest, anything short of a World Series appearance is a disappointment for a 48 rWAR team. Had this team been assembled in 2001, when the franchise was coming off of four consecutive 90+ loss seasons, this season would be considered a great success. (Continued, after the jump)
Francisco Liriano, Blood on the Tracks: Liriano suffered his career version of a motorcycle accident and a divorce when his elbow blew up in 2006. He also faced the baseball equivalent of being labeled the spokesman-of-a-generation when he was expected to magically regain his pre-surgery form and replace Johan Santana as the ace of the starting rotation without skipping a beat. Dylan emerged from a mini-slump with something to prove to an ex; Liriano had to prove he belonged in the starting rotation. If there is a musical equivalent of a 2.93 tERA, Blood on the Tracks is it.
Carl Pavano, Nashville Skyline: Pavano also had a baseball equivalent of a motorcycle accident and a divorce, perhaps more so than Liriano, but his comeback wasn’t quite as strong as Blood on the Tracks. This was Dylan’s first real attempt at shrugging off his spokesman-of-a-generation label, dropping a country music album while the US was in the midst of great cultural and political turmoil. Pavano’s time in Minnesota is his attempt at reinventing his career, shrugging off the American Idle label for good.
Nick Blackburn, Under the Red Sky: Dylan hasn’t put out many clunkers, but this was definitely one of them (though in his defense, the album was probably written for his then-4-year-old daughter). I can’t really think of a more perfect metaphor for Blackburn’s 5.05 tERA season than “Wiggle, Wiggle”.
Joe Mauer, World Gone Wrong: Bob Dylan has recorded at least five masterpieces in his career. Joe Mauer has at least four seasons of 5.0 WAR or better. This season might be kind of a letdown, since he hit just 7 home runs, but that’s only because everybody expects him to be so awesome all the time. He makes hitting look so easy that people tend think he should get on base all the time, and it’s so disappointing when he fails to do so. Most people would be thrilled to get a 137 OPS+ out of their catcher, but that’s because they don’t see a 137-OPS+ catcher every day. World Gone Wrong was certainly no masterpiece by Dylan’s standards, but few artists will ever release anything this good.
Justin Morneau, Blonde on Blonde: Sprawling, surreal, and perhaps one of the greatest albums ever recorded, this was also the last album Dylan released before his motorcycle accident. For Morneau, this was the best season of his career, with an OPS+ of 189 before the All-Star break, then he suffered a devastating, season-ending injury. For Dylan, some of his greatest work was yet to come. For Morneau, well, we shall see.
Jim Thome, Time Out of Mind: A couple of old farts who had been left for dead by critics and, in Thome’s case, their former team, both responded by putting forth some of their best work in years. Despite a string of disappointing albums in the late ’80s, Dylan was far from being finished as an artist. He wrote one of the finest albums of his then-35-year-career, though his voice can’t carry anything resembling a tune anymore. Despite being past the average retirement age for a ballplayer, and coming off of a disappointing 2009 , the 39 year-old Thome was far from being washed up. He put up some of the best numbers of his 20-year career, though his bat can no longer catch up to a good fastball. Whether 2011 will be Thome’s Love and Theft or his Together Through Life remains to be seen.
Delmon Young, Bringing it All Back Home: This is where the young Dylan finally starts to come into his own as an artist. His first two albums were very much a product of the times and of his early musical influences, namely Woody Guthrie. Delmon’s first few seasons may not exactly compare to the likes of Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, and The Times They Are a-Changin’, but, with an OPS+ of 121, it does seem as though he is finally starting to figure it out.
Jason Kubel, Slow Train Coming: Dylan’s first Christian album is better than people tend to think, but it was such a departure from his earlier work that his fans were probably bound to hate it. Much like Kubel’s 2010 season, in which he posted a pretty average .249/.323/.427/.750 line. That isn’t great, but it seems particularly pitiful compared to his .300/.369/.539/.907 2009 line. Dylan didn’t deserve the savaging he got from critics for this album, and Kubel doesn’t deserve all the crap he gets from fans, either.
Michael Cuddyer, Shot of Love: “You’re releasing another Christian album, really?” is the musical equivalent of whiffing at a slider two feet off the plate.
Danny Valencia, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan: Who is this kid, seriously? Danny Valencia burst onto the scene and batted .311/.351/.448/.799, while showing some range at third base. His minor league record wasn’t quite as impressive, much like Dylan’s self-titled debut album. I doubt Valencia will have the same impact on the Twins as Dylan had on music, but this is a very good start.