(This is the last of frequent commenter JimCrikket's spring training dispatches from Florida. Many, many thanks to him for the words and photos.)
An Open Letter to Bill Smith:
I'm waiting. I'm sure you've noticed that, since my arrival in Fort Myers last week, the Twins are a perfect 6-0. Not only that, but I spent the off-day on Monday up in Clearwater at the Phillies camp rooting against the Yankees. That 10th inning walk off HR that sank the Yankees made my record 7-0.
I know you were a bit preoccupied with spending a couple gazillion dollars on your catcher, but certainly it couldn't have escaped your attention that your ballclub was 5-8 when I showed up at Hammond Stadium for my first game this spring last Thursday and is now 11-8. You think that kind of turnaround just "happens"? It's hard work generating the kind of mojo it takes to cheer for the winning team EVERY game!
So, since you and your organization have this new "spend what it takes to win" approach to the game, I'm assuming my season tickets to Target Field will be waiting in my mailbox when I get there. I wish I could also offer to follow the Twins on the road around the country, but I would hope that if I can deliver 81 wins during the home dates, that the guys can come up with at least enough additional wins on the road to seal the deal.
Then we'll discuss playoff tickets.
Yeah, I know, they're not going to be giving away tickets to that new ballpark any time soon, but I figured that I would try.
By the time any of you read this, I'll be long gone from the sunny state of Florida. In fact, if the Twins have any more bajillion dollar contract extensions to announce and hold press conferences for, I could be retired and back down in Florida living there before you read this. Now I know how actors feel when the TV shows they are in get preempted by little things like national disasters, etc. Sheesh.
At this point, I've got a 4:00 am wake up call and a two hour drive to catch a flight out of Tampa Thursday morning, so you're going to get the Readers' Digest version of the last few days of this year's Spring Training Adventure.
Sunday and Wednesday were pretty much the same day. Afternoon home games mean spending the morning checking out the minor leaguers and then watching the Twins beat up whoever shows up at Hammond Stadium to provide that day's fodder. Sunday it was the Rays and Wednesday the Marlins. Baker dominated the Rays and Slowey did the same to the Marlins. Meanwhile, it seems like no matter who the Twins sent up to the plate, they sent runners around the bases pretty regularly.
Meanwhile, over on the minor league diamonds, I not only watched coaches (and a certain former GM, who lectured one young Twin prospect on the topic of keeping his jersey tucked in, like a professional) instill the "Twins Way" on the future Twins. I tend to say that I enjoy watching the coaches give individual instruction to the "kids", even though some of them are as old as (or older than) many of the players on the current Twins roster. But this trip, I actually got a look at a couple of legitimate "kids", Miguel Angel Sano and Max Kepler. Anyone who goes to spring training and doesn't spend some time over on the minor league complex is really missing half the point of being there.
So what did I learn this week?
- use sunblock on the first day. It's a real pain (literally) to try to do damage control for 6 days if you mess up day 1.
- Jacque Jones is trying his best to make the decision to have him start the season in Rochester a VERY difficult decision for Gardy.
- ditto for Ben Revere. I know he's young and he's probably not really "ready" for the "Show" yet... but I believe he thinks he is (and he may be right).
- Matt Tolbert and Alexi Casilla are the anti-Jones/Revere. I like both guys, but neither of them made me feel like the team "needs" them.
- "Sideshow" Pat Neshek is back, ladies and gentlemen. Yeah, I know the official word is he still has work to do, but if he's not in the pen when the Twins go north, someone needs to initiate an investigation.
- The starting rotation is just... wow. I didn't see Blackburn pitch since they skipped his turn in the rotation and had him throw a few innings in a minor league game, but Baker, Pavano, Slowey and Liriano are locked and loaded.
- The Twins are going to score runs. Lots of runs. I saw what could arguably be the "A-team" line up twice. But every single line up had speed and power.
That's a wrap, folks. I'm off to points west for a few days of work before I head back to Iowa, but as always, this trip has me pumped up to get the season started! I hope to see some of you at Target Field this summer! Look for TC Bear brandishing a SuperSoaker, coming soon to a stadium near you!
(Note from Howard: Thanks to JimCrikket for his Florida posts. And if you're looking for tickets to the second game of the Boston series in April, there were some for sale on the Twins website this morning -- without paying after-market prices.)