With Joe Mauer locked up the Twins can be fully focused on opening their new ballpark with many pieces in the puzzle solidly in place. The Joe Nathan injury hurts in the sense that the Twins potentially had smooth sailing in the Central Division this year and we could all live our lives merrily without stress. We all need to accept the fact that injuries happen and players will miss time.
With that said I like to think that the American league this year is fairly certain. I think in the grand scheme of things it’s a big poker match. The Yankees and Red Sox have big chip stacks and the Twins, White Sox, Rays, Angels, Rangers and Mariners are all at the final table as well.
The Twins, with their new ballpark, have gotten to a place where they need to compete for a World Series title. With Mauer, Justin Morneau, Denard Span, Scott Baker and co. the Twins are all-in. To cement the analogy I think they’re not only all-in but they definitely have a good hand (the roster) and a good flop (other teams not going to be in it, i.e. the Royals/Indians.) The regular season (the turn) and possibly the postseason (the river) that have to be played out.
Can the Twins win the World Series with a hand like K-J? Sure. You know the other teams that are in it could have a good hand, maybe an ace up their sleeve (mid-season trade?) but this team needs to gamble.
This is why it was so refreshing this off-season to see the Twins go out and acquire J.J. Hardy early, be proactive with the arbitration eligible guys, play some hardball with Orlando Hudson’s agent and grab him on a great deal, sign Nick Blackburn and Span to friendly extensions.
It’s borderline unprecedented not just in Twins history, but also in Minnesota sports history.
The only time I can remember a local team going out and acquiring talent for a big postseason run was before the 2003-4 NBA season when the Wolves acquired Latrell Spreewell, Sam Cassell and Michael Olowokandi to start. Not to mention Fred Hoiberg, Troy Hudson, Ervin Johnson and Trenton Hassel who were either invaluable off the bench or had career years. That team lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. More because of point guards Sam Cassell and Troy Hudson being injured than being in over there heads.
It's true, the Twins may have a good run in them. I think good things happen to a proactive franchise. They may have to trade a prospect or two this summer to acquire a valued closer, but the time is now. With Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel possibly hitting free agency after 2011 then Morneau possibly the next season, I would be going for broke the next two years.
The window could close quickly.
To quote the jam-band classic, I like to think someday we’ll be saying “Man that was a crazy game of Poker.”