Waiting to Rebuild
by, 03-27-2014 at 10:38 PM (472 Views)
I thought and hoped this would be the year where the Twins would go with youth. I should have known better. The direction for the winter roster construction was made clear when they retained Josh Willingham last August.
Earl Battey was the catcher when I first became a young Twin fan. I recall his western oil 8x10 card hanging my wall among other Twin heroes. Those years were great. I didn't know how lucky I was to follow a team that was competitive or at least entertaining every year. There have been several difficult stretches in the 50+ years since. Most difficult were teams that you knew were not going to compete and offered little hope for the future. The late 70s and the 90s were the most difficult until recently.
Twice the Twins emerged from those stretches of mediocrity by going with young players. I remember the 1981-82 Twins well. After the trade of Carew in 1978, the Twins tried to hang on with a 1979 team that had 9 players in their 30s over the course of the season. They were mediocre and you knew they weren't getting better. They flipped the roster and had only two players in their 30s in 1981 and 1982. Ron Washington was 30 and had 470 plate appearances. The other was 30 year old Fernando Arroyo who pitched all of 13.2 innings. While they were awful, the young players also gave hope for the future. The foundation for the good run from 1987-1992 was set in the early 80s.
The next tough stretch ran from 1993-1998. In 1998 they entered the season with one of their oldest roster in team history. The 11 players in their 30s on the roster that year accounted for 2348 plate appearances and 484 innings. They reversed course in 1999 rostering just 5 players in their 30s accounting for 881 plate appearances and 196 innings. They stayed that same course in 2000 with similar numbers. Those teams set the foundation for the next successful run in the 2000s.
While the 1981-82 and 1999-00 teams had a very poor record, they are among my favorite. They offered the hope of young players getting better. A good game is a glimpse of a future from a Gary Gaetti rather than a memory of a past from a Josh Willingham.
Two years ago I wrote about my concern with the Twins entering a cycle of mediocrity with their roster decisions. In truth they would have to improve to become mediocre. Last year, a similar article about projections of their aging offense. They ended the year with their second oldest roster since 1998 and a significant decline in offense.
This year the Twins start the season with 14 players in their 30s. That must be an opening day record for them.
I continue to wait for the shift in direction. The setting of a new foundation. Perhaps it will come next year. A signal of hope for the future.
If not, this article will be written again next year as it has the previous two.