Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.

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Shhh! Twins seem to prefer quiet in this clubhouse

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: March 11, 2014 - 10:43 PM

FORT MYERS, FLA. – The 2006 Twins went 96-66, the most regular season wins since 1970 and the fourth highest total in the franchise’s 53 years in Minnesota. This was not the end of the Twins’ decade of excellence. They lost a Game 163 to finish at 88-75 in 2008, they won a Game 163 to finish at 87-76 in 2009 and they were a sterling 94-68 in 2010, in that first, fantastic summer in Target Field.

Yet, the way I see it, the ’06 outfit was the last to carry the banner for a “Twins way’’ of competing. The starting pitching ranged from adequate to tremendous, the bullpen was exceptional, the fielding was stellar and the hitters could use a walk, a boot, a Dome chop and a double to put together a rally that left the opposition befuddled.

The White Sox were in Minneapolis in mid-August and Ozzie Guillen, the manager of the defending World Series champs, said of the Twins:

“They have three kids they don’t talk about. Nobody talks about Tyner, ‘Ty Cobb’ Punto and their shortstop, and they’re kicking everybody’s tail. We talk about Torii Hunter? The guys that are kicking our tails are the three guys with no names.’’

And that’s when Ozzie gave the name to Jason Tyner, Nick Punto and Jason Bartlett, and the Twins in general. That’s when Ozzie looked at his left arm and said:

“They look like little piranhas. All of sudden, you ain’t got no meat. All those little piranhas … a blooper here, a blooper there, beat out a ground ball, then the first baseman [Justin Morneau] hits a home run.

“They’re up by four. How are they up by four? Then you’re down four with that pitching staff, that bullpen? Sit down and look at the lineup … those little piranhas.’’

That was a Twins’ team that started the season by losing 33 of its first 58 games, and then lost 33 of its last 104. It was a team that changed the left side of the infield to Punto at third and Bartlett at short in mid-June, and wound up with Tyner and rookie Jason Kubel as important outfielders, after Shannon Stewart was hurt and Lew Ford didn’t hit.

The pitching staff overcame the loss of rookie phenom Francisco Liriano after 18 starts, and an injury that limited Brad Radke, but Johan Santana was a true MVP on a team that had the American League’s actual MVP in Morneau.

The bullpen was immaculate, with Joe Nathan at the end, and a collection in front of him that included Denny Reyes, the Big Sweat, with his ERA of 0.89 as the primary lefty.

What a team. What a spirit those players – stars and fill-ins -- carried from mid-June to an AL Central title on the last day of the season.

And what a sad finish, when Johan lost to Oakland in a playoff opener that started 40 hours after the Twins concluded a raucous champagne celebration, and the A’s swept ‘em away in three games.

I still love that team. The Piranhas.

I’m not big on leadership in the sense of guys who call players-only meetings or give rah-rah speeches. I’ve always said that leadership in baseball is a bases-loaded double or seven shutout innings, and Morneau and Johan would deliver nearly on command once the Twins started streaking in 2006.

But a ballclub does need some big personalities … not simply good guys, but players that the other players want to be around, want to hang with, want to win with not only for the paychecks, but for the laughs.

Torii. Big personality. Johan. Big personality when he was sure reporters weren’t watching. Mike Redmond. Big personality, even as a backup catcher.

Early Tuesday morning, I was waiting in the clubhouse for a couple of interviews. I made small talk with first one sportswriter, then another. We had to keep our voices low, since even a normal conversational tone could be construed as a ruckus in this large clubhouse.

Man, it seems a quiet place these days, without the insults flying, without the laughs rolling in from different corners. Nice guys, as I said, but you do miss the chaos … with Tori and Johan, with Koskie and Ortiz, and way back to Kirby and Herbie, in this same room.

Big personalities probably wouldn’t change much considering the low-octane lineup manager Ron Gardenhire will be forced to present on Opening Day, but I’ll say this on the 40th anniversary of my first Twins’ spring training:

I’ve never seen a successful team in those four decades that started with a quiet clubhouse in March.

Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
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New Orleans 28 FINAL
Carolina 10
Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
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San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 105 FINAL
Orlando 98
Detroit 91 FINAL
Minnesota 97
New York 95 FINAL
Cleveland 90
Utah 102 FINAL
Dallas 120
Oklahoma City 90 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Buffalo 2
Winnipeg 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Chicago 5 FINAL(SO)
Ottawa 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Arizona 1 FINAL
Florida 2
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 4
Anaheim 0 FINAL
St. Louis 2
NY Islanders 0 FINAL
Colorado 5
Montreal 2 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
(2) Florida State 42 FINAL
Louisville 31
Troy 10 FINAL
Ga Southern 42
Cincinnati 7:00 PM
Tulsa 7:02 PM
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
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Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 2
Hamilton 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
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