clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

MLB Opening Day: Five (plus one) questions about the Twins, answered by Twinkie Town

New, 11 comments

What do Twins fans think about their team heading into the 2021 season?

Boston Red Sox v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

As part of the Opening Day festivities, we answered a few questions from our friends over at Twinkie Town as part of their series preview. You can check out my answers to their questions here, and TJ Gorsegner from Twinkie Town was kind enough to answer a few questions we had in return.

Here’s a look at the Minnesota perspective heading into opening weekend. If nothing else, we can bond over a shared distaste for the new manager of the Chicago White Sox.

1. For awhile, it felt like the Twins and the Brewers were sort of connected at the hip as midwest teams that tried to get by on development and not spending money in free agency, but that seems to have changed for the Twins in recent years. Does it still feel odd to see the Twins connected with some big names?

The Brewers, too, seem to be spenders now. The big thing the new Twins front office has done since 2018 is to add a few supplemental veterans to a good young core. They locked up Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, and now Randy Dobnak past their arbitration years to create cost certainty, and then added some smart contracts. Josh Donaldson is the biggest, and also riskiest deal they signed, and when that happened it was utterly groundbreaking for us. The biggest thing though is that it feels like this team has a plan for both short- and long-term sustainable success. That, overall, is a great feeling. Odd, but great. We spent a lot of years watching the team develop players, but not retain them or add the extra pieces to get over the hump.

2. The Twins are coming off back-to-back division titles, but it feels like everyone only wants to talk about the White Sox. Do you think the Twins will continue to fly under the radar? Should they still win the Central?

Yeah, this is something that is driving me a little crazy. The White Sox did make a few splashy moves, but before losing Eloy Jimenez, most projection systems still put them slightly behind the Twins. Losing Eloy also cost them about 4 projected wins, so its not even that close any more. I also totally don’t believe in Tony La Russa as a modern baseball manager, and think that coaching will be a major difference maker this season. Every positive that Sox fans point to for their team, I can point out that the Twins have similar or better. I think its partly Chicago being a higher profile market, partly the Twins simply being a sneaky-good team, and partly that Sox fans are big talkers. The Twins should pretty easily win the Central this year.

3. Okay, sorry, but I have to ask about the playoff thing. Is it just a psychological block at this point? What’s it going to take for the Twins to win a playoff game for the first time since 2004?

Its alright, I’ve learned to laugh about it. Here is the thing though—for fans, its been almost two decades, but everyone else has turned over. Its an entirely different front office, coaching staff, and group of players. Another way to look at it is that the Twins have been very, very successful in the regular season over that time period—is it better to lose in the playoffs every year, or to miss the playoffs entirely. That being said, this team has to get over the hump. The last few seasons, especially last year, the biggest issue in the playoffs have been poorly timed injuries. The Twins lost both Byron Buxton from the outfield, and Donaldson from the infield, as well as several pitchers before the playoffs last season. In 2017, Ervin Santana wasn’t right, and ended up having finger surgery. In 2019, the bats just fell silent against a hard-hitting Yankees team. But the excuses do have to end, and I do believe this team will be able to end them.

4. Which younger or under-the-radar players do you expect to make an impact for the Twins this year?

Luis Arraez is a good name to watch. Even though he moves from second base to a utility role, the Twins expect to use him nearly every day, and often at the top of the order. He’s a high average hitter that has drawn comparisons to Rod Carew. The other youngsters I’d watch would be pitchers. Randy Dobnak has a great, well-known Cinderella story, and is just a great dude. He has a new slider that is said to be nasty. One other is Jorge Alcala in the bullpen, who can throw absolute fire.

5. Is there an area of the team that concerns you?

Depth, more than anything. With a starting lineup composed of Josh Donaldson, Andrelton Simmons, Jorge Polanco, and Miguel Sano, its unlikely our Opening Day lineup goes long without someone getting hurt. The outfield has more depth, but Byron Buxton is also historically fragile. Our top three starters are pretty solid, although its been years since Michael Pineda threw a full workload. JA Happ isn’t a terrible fifth option, but fourth starter Matt Shoemaker might literally be made of tissue paper. The Twins have a couple good starters in the wings, but there is plenty of opportunity for a few freaky injuries to utterly derail the entire season.

6. Can you please do your best to embarrass Tony LaRussa?

Yes, this would be my preferred outcome. He should never have been hired, and then he should have been fired months ago. It would be nice to embarass him to the point the Sox have to fire him, but more likely they will still win 80+ games in spite of TLR.