How high should we set the bar for the 2012 Twins? What do they have to accomplish this season for us to sit back and say “that was a good season?”
There are many baseball fans who feel that no season is a success for a team unless that team wins the World Series. I understand this view, since the World Series is the ultimate goal for all teams, but I disagree with it. There are 30 teams in MLB, and every year 29 of them fail to win the World Series. If none of those 29 teams could be considered successful, I doubt that there would be tens of millions of fans lining up to buy their tickets and merchandise. If success meant a World Series win, the Twins franchise would have only three successful seasons in its 110 year history.
How about the playoffs? Getting to the postseason seems like a tangible mark of a successful season. It means your team won more games than it lost, and it also vanquished its division rivals to claim its spot as one of baseball’s eight best teams (actually, 10 best teams, since there will be two extra playoff teams this year). I am generally happy with using the playoffs as a measure of success. Unfortunately, even that milestone might be a little too much to expect from the 2012 Twins.
I’m all for optimism, and I certainly hope this team can prove its doubters wrong, but I am not going to get my hopes up for a playoff run this year. Instead, I’ll be happy if the Twins succeed in a number of less lofty goals:
- Twins Get Healthy. Are you tired of hearing about the Twins’ plague of injuries and injury-related question marks? Me too. Unfortunately, we’ll keep hearing about them until the team plays a full season with reasonably good health. Joe Mauer and Denard Span need to play 140 games. Otherwise, they’ll continue to wear the “Injury-Prone” label. Mauer and Span are not the only Twins who were injured last year, of course, but they’re two of the most prominent, and the entire list would be too long to write about here.
- M&M Boys Return. Mauer needs to do more than just play. He needs to have a typical Mauer-esque season to silence all the critics who came after him last year. If he puts up his usual .325/.400/.470 slash line, his eight year contract will look a lot better. Justin Morneau is a far bigger question mark, given his concussion issues. Nobody is expecting him to win another MVP award. But if he could somehow return to his 2007 or 2008 form, that would be a resounding success. 2013 may well be Morneau’s last year with the team, so it would be nice if he could head into that season on a positive note.
- New bullpen arms emerge. Glen Perkins was pretty much the only positive surprise for the Twins in 2011. Can he prove that his performance wasn’t a fluke? If so, that will be a sign of success in 2012. But Perkins will need a lot of help. Ideally, two or three more pitchers will step up and show that they can get batters out. Alex Burnett and Lester Oliveros are young and they throw hard enough to be talented relievers some day. If one of them could emerge as a reliable setup man, the bullpen would be far less scary.
- The Kids are all right. The Twins aren’t tearing down everything and starting from scratch like the White Sox are, but there is a rebuild in progress. In order to make that rebuild successful, a group of young players needs to start contributing. In 2008 Nick Blackburn, Denard Span, Alexi Casilla, Carlos Gomez, and Delmon Young all showed flashes of talent. Can Joe Benson, Chris Parmelee, Liam Hendriks, Trevor Plouffe, and Brian Dozier do the same this year? Further down the farm system, Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario need to maintain their success at Class A, and top prospects like Alex Wimmers and Aaron Hicks need to start putting up eye-catching numbers.
- Win a few games. Don’t be surprised if the Twins fail to win 95 games. On the other hand, another 63 win season would be a big disappointment. A .500 finish (81 wins) seems a very reasonable goal for this team. It’s a nice round number that would represent a significant improvement over 2011.
All of these goals have one thing in common: they would give up hope that the Twins can win in 2013. A Twins team that finishes .500, with strong, healthy years by the veterans, a core of promising young players, and an improved bullpen would be well-positioned to play the free agent market and get back to the playoffs the next year.
Sure, a division title or (dare I dream) a World Series run would be great. But I’ll be content to see the Twins accomplish the five goals above so we can all think bigger next year.
Do you agree or disagree? Did I miss anything that you consider a major goal for the Twins this year? Please use the comments section below to let me know!