“Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation,” wrote Wernher von Braun, a NASA rocket scientist, on the continuation of spiritual existence after death. His reasoning is simple: things do not die, for nature is built to transform itself, and therefore everything must continue on in some form after its demise. In the offseason this year, it appeared the Minnesota Twins baseball club died a little by losing the club’s two biggest superstars in Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, and now on March 31st, 2008, here we are to see the Twins transformed into a completely new ball club, full of new names.
The success of the newly transformed Twins will only be seen as the season wears on, and many sportswriters are predicting the Twins to finish in third or fourth place in the AL Central Division. As I see it, however, this year doesn’t matter, because with such a transitional, young ballclub, it’s difficult to believe that that the Twins could win the Central, or even be very competitive in comparison to the Indians and Tigers this year. The danger that I see is that the Twins could spin again into another dark age, similar to the epic string of losing seasons the club suffered in the late 1990’s.
Starting in 1993, the Twins posted eight dismal losing seasons. Between 1997 and 2000, the team never posted more than 70 victories, mainly because the team fell apart as the former stars of the previous World Series Teams fell apart themselves. Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett retired; Chuck Knoblauch left for the Yankees and forgot to bring his right arm. The departure of these core players, and the inability of a small market baseball team to quickly replace them with veterans to supplement their young talent, left the team unable to compete.
If we look to the current year, the Twins still have young star players that can hopefully hold together a decently competitive baseball team. However, the danger is always still there; what if Delmon Young or Carlos Gomez doesn’t pan out? Or the many young pitchers the Twins will rely on beginning this year? Or mismanagement by a new GM costs the team already on a tight budget? The club is better managed now than in the late nineties, but a combination of these events could be devastating for the team.
As of opening day 2008, however, falling into another dark age for the Twins seems an unlikely event. However, watching this newly transformed team with Torii Hunter standing in center field for the opposing team reminds us that this is not the Twins team we once knew, and instead is a much more fragile version of the perennial powerhouse of 2002-2006. This team has the potential to succeed greatly, and surpass those former champions. However, much like the Twins teams after the 1991 World Series, this team has the same potential for failure. Transformation is a delicate process in nature and in baseball, and in the case of the small market Twins, history has shown that it can sometimes take a decade.
-Patrick Eidsmo is a new contributor to Minnesota Sports Daily