The Twins open camp to pitchers and catchers later this week after an offseason that looked, from an outside perspective, like the way many of us prepared for college exams.
A lot of procrastination followed by an all-night cram session the day before the test.
Contrary to some opinions voiced on social media, I do not believe the Twins brain trust slept through the first part of the hot stove calendar. Patience usually doesn't score brownie points with those who obsess over the speed at which organizations conduct business in the offseason. Hey, I'm guilty in this case, too.
Tracking the Twins' winter shopping followed distinct stages, as if staring at a pot of water coming to a boil.
Nov. 15: Hello, is anyone home?
Dec. 15: Well, we're waiting. [Judge Smails voice.]
Jan. 15: For the love of all things sacred, please do SOMETHING!
Feb. 5: Hey, nice moves. This team looks pretty good. Play ball!
How good? That's where the conversation seems to move on parallel tracks.
An argument can be made that this current Twins version — on paper — is as strong as the two previous Twins teams that won the AL Central.
The defense will be significantly better with the arrival of shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Veteran J.A. Happ gives the starting rotation depth. The lineup still looks powerful. The bullpen is a wild card with so many new faces.
If the roster stays relatively healthy — a gigantic if considering the injury history of a few marquee players (no identification necessary) — the Twins should be in contention to three-peat the division title.
The Chicago White Sox have become the fashionable pick to dethrone the Twins after breaking through to the postseason last season and then making an early splash in free agency to improve their ascending club.
"We do have a ton of respect for the teams in our division, and we're monitoring each and every move," Twins general manager Thad Levine said. "We don't feel like we have to artificially react to any of those in any given amount of time."
Flip a coin, White Sox or Twins. Both are good enough to win the division. That race could go down to the wire.
That's one conversation. The other: Are the Twins constructed in a way that makes them a legitimate World Series contender and not just a playoff team? On paper, not quite.
And, of course, there is also that pesky postseason losing streak that rests on the organization's shoulders like a two-ton anchor.
Any mention of the Twins' playoff odds must include that disclaimer, a truly mind-blowing feat of 18 consecutive losses that now stands as a record among North American pro sports. Occupants of the current clubhouse can try to distance themselves from that history as much as they want, but they will drag around that monstrosity until it is put out of its misery.
Their offseason can be classified as productive, but let's give it a B grade for now because they still need more pitching, preferably another proven, quality starter.
The Falvine regime has elevated the organization's pitching in terms of personnel and metrics. The Twins finished fourth in MLB in team earned-run average last season and eighth the previous season. Adding Kenta Maeda last season turned out to be another winner.
Is there more coming, something before or during the season? That's the hope, at least. Their division is improving, not regressing.
"The heavy lifting is done," Derek Falvey, president of baseball operations, said this past week in a summation that probably went over like a tax audit with fans.
Any discussion about the Twins' payroll and offseason activity is akin to Pavlov's bell ringing. It stirs intense reaction within a fan base conditioned to assume the worst.
"Until you really get to Opening Day, your team isn't really complete or finished," Falvey said.
The question at hand is not whether the front office improved a ballclub that made the playoffs two years in a row, but whether they improved it enough to be relevant in the postseason.
Yes, the Twins look like a solid ballclub, perhaps a playoff team again. Have you heard about their losing streak?