Twins radio broadcaster Cory Provus was the emcee for the Diamond Awards dinner that took place at Target Field on Thursday night. The yearly awards from the Twin Cities chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America were presented, and other honors were announced.
For the most part, the audience consists of ardent fans, and it’s an evening of nostalgia and optimism for the Twins.
This meant that Provus’ primary duty was to ask a couple of softball questions of the honorees after they had received the plaques.
If there was a job description for emcee, it would be: Put a couple of questions on the tee for the winners, let them whack it down the middle with their answers, and move on to the next presentation.
Three of the winners were not present: Max Kepler, the minor league player of the year, was sick; Aaron Hicks, the most improved player in 2015, had been traded and offered a video message; and Pittsburgh Tony Watson, an Iowan and lefthanded reliever for Pittsburgh, was the Upper Midwest Player of 2015 and also sent a video.
So, Provus had done his duty – teeing up the questions and keeping things moving – and it was shortly after 9 o’clock when it came to the final presentation: Tom Kelly, for the Herb Carneal Lifetime Achievement Award.
The introduction was made (I had that privilege), Kelly accepted his plaque, offered his thanks and then it was time for Provus to tee up the final questions of the night.
The last of those concerned 2001 – important in Twins history for two reasons:
One, the Twins finished 85-77, to finally put an end to an eight-season losing streak and set the stage for an outstanding decade that would include six AL Central titles; and two, Kelly resigned as manager after 15-plus seasons, and was replaced by Ron Gardenhire, who would have the job for the next 13 seasons.
Provus offered this reasonable theory to Kelly:
The 2015 Twins put an end to a horrendous four-year stretch of losing 90-plus games with an 83-79 record in Paul Molitor’s first season as manager. Perhaps, similarities could be seen between the winning 2001 season and the good things it led to for the Twins, and the winning 2015 season and the good things it might lead to for the Twins?
That’s easy, right.
You hit that one 280 yards down the middle – “I see a lot of same things with Paul’s club last season that we had in 2001, and I’m expecting big things for the Twins’’ – and accept the applause as a wrap-up to an evening.
That’s what you do if you’re 99 percent of the people connected to a sports organization, but you don’t do that, not automatically, if you’re Tom Kelly.
He’s the One Percenter, the unrepentant straight shooter.
So, T.K. went into roughly an eight-minute analysis of the current Twins, and what a good club World Series-winning Kansas City has in this division, and how there are pieces here with the Twins and there’s always a chance that things will come together, but his bottom line was:
The pitching has to get a heck of a lot better.
On a night of blind optimism, Tom Kelly closed the show with candor.
And what would you expect from T.K.? The man can’t help himself. He’s a truth-teller.
Always has been, always will be.