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1 MINNESOTA Twins

April 04, 2005
April 04, 2005

Table of Contents
April 4, 2005

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1 MINNESOTA Twins

A rare spending spree has a model organization well-armed for years to come

Last October, as Twins manager Ron Gardenhire ducked out of the third base dugout at Yankee Stadium before Game 1 of the American League Division Series, a New York fan yelled, "Hey, Ron! Enjoy Santana for the next year or two! After that, he's ours!" The fan, of course, was speaking of Johan Santana, a 20-game winner who five weeks later would win the AL Cy Young Award and who appeared headed for free agency after the 2006 season. Once Santana was on the market, the 26-year-old lefthander, who was 13-0 with a 1.21 ERA after July 16, figured to command an ungodly sum that only New York could pay. "Son of a gun," Gardenhire recalls thinking at the time, "the guy's probably right."

This is an article from the April 4, 2005 issue Original Layout

Then a funny thing happened over the winter: Santana agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract that will keep him in Minnesota through 2008. And that wasn't all general manager Terry Ryan did to preserve a pitching staff that had the league's best ERA, 4.03. Reliable Brad Radke (24 quality starts in 34 outings) re-upped for two years and $18 million, and Ryan locked up the two most valuable members of a potent bullpen with two-year extensions: closer Joe Nathan (44 saves in 47 opportunities) and setup man Juan Rincon (11 wins, 106 strikeouts in 82 innings). Those long-term commitments had a positive impact throughout the Minnesota clubhouse.

"I grew up with the Twins in an era when we'd lose guys like that all the time, and it was depressing,"' says outfielder Torii Hunter, who has been with the organization since 1993. "We'd wonder, Do they really want to win here? But an off-season like this shows how much we do. Now we don't get our butts kicked. We do the butt-kicking."

While passing through AL Central training camps this spring, you heard three names in the Minnesota organization singled out for praise: Ryan, for keeping the core of a division winner intact on a $55 million payroll; Radke, for his consistency (more than 212 innings pitched in eight of 10 seasons with the Twins and 11-plus wins nine times); and Santana, who is easily the most respected player in the division. The latter's desire to stay with the Twins, in particular, grabbed the public's attention. Already in line for a raise from $1.6 million to as much as $6.8 million, Santana, who had a league-leading 265 strikeouts in 228 innings, could've broken the bank as a free agent after two more impressive seasons. So why didn't he give it a shot?

Understand that Santana grew up in Tovar, a small mountain town in Venezuela, came to the U.S. at 17 and still has a small-town attitude, a big-time work ethic and a genuine appreciation for the game. "Merry Christmas!" is his greeting to teammates as he strides into the clubhouse some mornings. During spring training, when players were expected to report by 9 a.m., he was a regular at 7:15, stretching, riding the stationary bike, lifting weights. He is quiet, well-spoken and is admired in a reserved clubhouse.

"I like the way everything is [in Minneapolis]," he said, as he sat at his locker with two Styrofoam bowls of cereal after one of those March workouts. "I like the people, the city. I know I haven't had much experience in New York or Boston, so maybe I don't know how it would be there. I had to decide if the contract made sense. Am I going to get what I'm worth? I thought it was a smart contract for both sides, and I hope we will both be happy."

In New York City to receive the Cy Young in January, Santana was so protective of the trophy that he went directly to his hotel room after the banquet, double-locked the door, closed the blinds and stashed the award where he thought no burglar would ever look for it. "I wanted to make sure it was safe," he said. "I put it under the pillow in the other bed, with the sheet over it."

When Santana reported to camp in February, he thanked Ryan for the contract. Ryan thanked him for signing it. There aren't many perfect marriages in baseball, but this, much to the chagrin of the rest of division, is one of them. --Peter King

In Fact

Last season the Twins led the AL in ERA (4.03) for the first time since moving to Minnesota in 1961. The franchise had last led the league in 1945, when it was in Washington.

Enemy Lines

An opposing team's scout sizes up the Twins

THIS TEAM could play deep into October.... Joe Mauer is healthy again [after tearing cartilage in his left knee]. In 2001 he was the Number 1 pick over Mark Prior for a reason.... Shortstop is the big concern. Rookie Jason Bartlett is a good offensive player, and they brought in Juan Castro in November to push him defensively, but Bartlett still has been erratic in the field.... They've been trying to find a place for Michael Cuddyer, and it looks like he has settled into third. He's not Corey Koskie defensively, but he can be the offensive player Koskie was.... Shannon Stewart is one of the top leadoff guys in the league.... Carlos Silva had a breakout year with that hard sinker, and Kyle Lohse has as good stuff as anyone on the staff despite an inconsistent performance in '04.... They've got some good young power arms coming up--Travis Bowyer, Jesse Crain, J.D. Durbin. The only question is their command of the strike zone.... If they have to get someone, it'll probably be a guy who can play the left side of the infield. The Twins have so much pitching to trade, they could make a deal.

The Lineup

projected roster with 2004 statistics

2004 RECORD
92-70
1st in AL Central

MANAGER
Ron Gardenhire
fourth season with Minnesota

Batting Order

LF Stewart

C Mauer

CF Hunter

1B Morneau

DH Ford

RF Jones

3B Cuddyer

SS Bartlett

2B Rivas

TORII HUNTER
B-T R
PVR 86
BA .271
HR 23
RBI 81
SB 21

SHANNON STEWART
B-T R
PVR 138
BA .304
HR 11
RBI 47
SB 6

JACQUE JONES

B-T L
PVR 123
BA .254
HR 24
RBI 80
SB 13

JASON BARTLETT (R)*
B-T R
PVR 250
BA .331
HR 3
RBI 29
SB 7

LUIS RIVAS
B-T R
PVR 218
BA .256
HR 10
RBI 34
SB 15

MICHAEL CUDDYER
B-T R
PVR 149
BA .263
HR 12
RBI 45
SB 5

JUSTIN MORNEAU
B-T L-R
PVR 57
BA .271
HR 19
RBI 58
SB 0

JOE MAUER
B-T L-R
PVR 158
BA .308
HR 6
RBI 17
SB 1

DESIGNATED HITTER
LEW FORD
B-T R
PVR 109
BA .299
HR 15
RBI 72
SB 20

BENCH

MATTHEW LECROY
B-T R
PVR 233
BA .269
HR 9
RBI 39
SB 0

JUAN CASTRO [New acquisition]
B-T R
PVR 390
BA .244
HR 5
RBI 26
SB 1

ROTATION

View this article in the original magazine

PITCHER

PVR

W

L

S

WHIP

ERA

RH

Joe Nathan

13

1

2

44

0.98

1.62

RH

Juan Rincon

107

11

6

2

1.02

2.63

LH

J.C. Romero

258

7

4

1

1.33

3.51

 

New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
*Triple A stats
†2003 stats
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 69)

COLOR PHOTOAL TIELEMANSSTAYING POWER Santana threw the baseball world a changeup with his decision to stay in Minnesota through '08.COLOR PHOTOGARY ROTHSTEIN/ICON SMIMauerCOLOR PHOTO