Section 219: 19 days until pitchers and catchers report

  • Blog Post by: Howard Sinker
  • January 31, 2012 - 9:10 AM

The events of the weekend are making it easier to think about baseball: TwinsFest, the Save the Met benefit banquet for Dunning Field, the Diamond Awards, the Twins players you could see around downtown at night over the weekend if you went looking for them or were hanging out in the right places. (You could find a fair number of Twins bloggers in Roseville on Saturday night, but that's not nearly as exciting.) Joe C. was working for two over the weekend at TwinsFest while our colleague, La Velle, was receiving the Sam Lacy Award during the Negro League Baseball Museum's annual banquet in Kansas City.

A few thoughts from a weekend of thinking about and talking baseball:

*The Twins noted that TwinsFest attendance was up from 25,000 to about 30,000 this season. That was an expected bump considering that the Dome roof collapse forced fans to go to Blaine last year. More noteworthy is the fact that attendance was down from 2010 (34,637) and '09 (31,004). A quick web search showed attendance of 35,285 in 2007 and 30,483 in '08. So if this was the smallest Metrodome TwinsFest attendance in five years, it's consistent with the cooler fan interest that would come with a 99-loss team. Considering that season-ticket holders could get free tickets -- and the Target Field season-ticket base trumps what the Twins had at the Metrodome -- I'm sure notice has been taken at 1 Twins Way. Target Field is a fine place, but the novelty has passed.

*Among the other things that came up at the Save the Met Banquet was whether the Twins would consider moving one of their minor-league teams to St. Paul if a proposed downtown ballpark is built for the Saints. It was the subject of a recent RandBall post. I asked Twins vice president Dave St. Peter and Saints owner Mike Veeck about the idea, and as intrigued as they may be, adding the Twins to a Legislative funding proposal right now would be toxic to the deal. If the Twins liked the idea that much, they would be offering to put up the $27 million that the Saints and St. Paul are seeking from the state. So it's a down-the-road-a-few years issue and you won't hear the word "Twins" mentioned -- not by the Saints, anyway -- when the debate takes place at the Legislature. Of course, if Joe Mauer donated a year's salary ...

*General manager Terry Ryan doesn't consider 2012 a "rebuilding year," which is consistent with my hope that 2011 was an outlier -- a disaster of man-made and unforeseen events. St. Peter said that the Twins hopes are based on getting Mauer and Justin Morneau in the lineup for 140 games apiece. I'll add that they need to put up a star's production in addition to just being a regular presence. Right now, going by talk alone, I'm confident Mauer can return to being a daily and substantial presence.There's also an assumption that Denard Span and Scott Baker will be 100 percent and Francisco Liriano will be more of a blessing than a curse. (There are a few other "ands," but let's save those for other days.)

*Morneau concerns me to the point that I wish the Twins would consider bringing in a veteran with some first-base skills into camp -- or a veteran outfielder so that some combination of Ryan Doumit, Luke Hughes and Trevor Plouffe could be considered for first base if Morneau doesn't work out in a 140-game way. First basemen Casey Kotchman and Derrek Lee are unsigned, although Lee is apparently playing the Jermaine Dye "I want a good deal or I'll retire" card in a bad environment for aging players. Outfielder Magglio Ordonez and Koske Fukudome are available too. There's an open DH spot even if Mauer and Morneau both live up to St. Peter's expectations.

*So what will the Opening Day roster look like? A good question to ask after my plea for another experienced bat/first baseman. I'm expecting another bullpen arm to be added to the mix, and I'm not going to speculate on the 12 pitchers who will make the team because -- aside from the known arms -- several spots are still up for a good guess. The rest of the roster: Mauer and Doumit are the catchers. Morneau, Alexi Casilla, Jamey Carroll, Danny Valencia, Hughes and Sean Burroughs are the infielders. Span, Josh Willingham, Ben Revere and Plouffe are the outfielders. (Consider Doumit the fifth outfielder right now.) Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Drew Butera are in Rochester (or elsewhere); Chris Parmelee and Joe Benson have smokin' seasons at Class AAA and are part of the solution for 2013 and beyond.

That's 24 -- with No. 25  yet to be signed.


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