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Twins thrive on affordable home cooking


Twins thrive on affordable home cooking
The Minnesota Twins have an owner, Carl Pohlad, who's pathologically unwilling to invest in his own product despite having billions in his coffers. Their ballpark calls to mind a giant garage. Their offseasons are notable for the exoduses of popular veterans, and their trade deadlines come and go in resolute silence. As small-market success stories go, the Twins always seem to get short shrift.

In the early part of this decade, it was the Moneyball A's who held us in rapt attention, and these days it's Tampa Bay who gets the column inches. Still and yet, the Twins win and win often. There's a simple reason for that — the Minnesota Twins are the best organization in baseball.

Make the case for another club if you like. Red Sox? Two titles in four years. Angels? Without question, they're in the discussion. Yankees? That playoff streak is still alive. Cardinals? The NL's best in recent seasons. Braves? It hasn't been that long since they ruled the sport. The Rays? They're young and excellent. Diamondbacks? Ditto on the young and excellent thing. White Sox? They're right there, too. The A's? A strong track record and what looks like a successful rebuilding effort.

However, once you consider on-field success through the prism of organizational resources, there's no question that the Twins are tops. And the season in our midst proves it.

In 2007, the Twins finished a mediocre 79-83, and over the winter, they lost All-Star center fielder Torii Hunter and control artist Carlos Silva to free agency. Then they traded uber-ace Johan Santana to the Mets. Take that much production from a team that already had a losing record, and you're seemingly in "playing for a high draft pick" territory. Now throw in the lost first half of Francisco Liriano and the season-ending injury to reliever Pat Neshek, and Minnesota would surely be in for a disastrous 2008, right?

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Well, we're five months into the season and the stripped-down Twins are on pace for 92 wins, and they're but one game out of playoff position. Oh, and they're doing it all despite being saddled with the sixth-lowest payroll in all of baseball (and the lowest in the AL Central — yes, lower even than that of the Kansas City Royals). The crowded field of contenders in the American League means that the Twins might miss out on the playoffs, but regardless of how the stretch drive unfolds, the 2008 season will stand as one of distinction for Minnesota.

What's also noteworthy is how they're getting it done. Take a glance at their roster and you'll find a stunning number of homegrown talents. Each member of the current rotation spent at least the majority of his developmental time within the Twins' minor-league system. Of the nine regulars presently atop the Twins' depth chart, four — Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Denard Span and Jason Kubel — have spent every second of their professional lives as Twins, and that's not counting the disabled Michael Cuddyer. Oh, and since the Twins are the youngest team in the AL this season, there's every reason to believe the winning will continue.

Of course, it's been this way for years. For most of the last decade, the Twins have been winning on the cheap and winning with players cultivated from within. The Twins' current run began in 2001, when manager Tom Kelly, in his final season and coming off 93 losses in the prior year, led them to an improbable 85-77 season. In the coming years, the run continued under Ron Gardenhire. Over that span, the Twins earned four division titles and notched winning campaigns in seven of eight seasons (safely assuming that 2008 yields a winner) and a cumulative winning percentage of .548. That's a stretch that compares favorably with almost any other team in baseball, insofar as winning and winning regularly are concerned. And every time they've done it on a basement-level payroll. That success is a credit to Gardenhire, erstwhile general manager Terry Ryan, current GM Bill Smith and a scouting-and-development system that's as consistent as it is bountiful.

Take those aforementioned teams — the ones also in the running for "best organization" — and they don't quite stack up to what the Twins have done. The Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, White Sox and to a lesser extent, Cardinals, all have financial latitude that the Twins can't fathom. The Braves and A's can't match them in terms of recent glories, and the Rays and Diamondbacks haven't sustained it for as long. Once you account for all the full complement of challenges facing a major-league team, it becomes clear that no one does it as well as the Minnesota Twins.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 28, 2008

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