The Minnesota Twins have a long history of pulling all the right strings in order to give their team the best chance to win the AL Central given minimum resources. However, someone in the organization who is soon to be fired, if they have not been fired already, lobbied for and won the decision to have Target Field, the new $390 million dollar home for the Twins, as an outdoor facility (no retractable roof, nada). In case you aren’t familiar with general geography – Minneapolis, Minnesota, is about as far from an ideal local for an outdoor ballpark given the Major League schedule as Seattle, Washington, is a great place for Gizmo (from the movie Gremlins, you’ll have to Google it if you were born in the 90s).
The average high temperature in Minneapolis won’t get into the 60 degree range until April 20th, 8 days after the Twins hope to open the season on the 12th. The Twins always seem to press the right buttons and make the most out of minimal resources, but will the Metrodome magic be gone in Target Field? Are the Twins going to be the same kind of force in the AL Central without the home field advantage of the baggy in right field? I for one, say, not even close.
The Twins have arguably the best player in the AL Central in Joe Mauer, and Justin Morneau isn’t far behind. They have one of the best, if not the best, bullpens in all of Major League Baseball with near-automatic closer Joe Nathan shutting the door for young, talented arms like LHP Jose Mijares and RHP Matt Guerrier, who all had 70+ appearances with sub 2.50 ERAs in 2009. Their defense is excellent, and will only get better with the addition of Orlando Hudson, which helps support their somewhat-average pitching staff that continually finds ways to put together quality starts.
However, the dependable pitching staff with 30+ starts and 70+ appearances had the climate control of the Metrodome to help keep their arm loose and ready to go – what is going to happen when Ron Gardenhire calls his left-handed specialist for the 3rd game in a row at 9:45pm at night when the temperature is dipping in the low 40s? How will defense and speed-minded games of Denard Span and Orlando Hudson function when their hamstrings are tight from the cold night Minnesota air?
The Twins had a huge home field advantage at the Metrodome and it will take a couple of years for the team to transition into the type of players that can play in the cold weather of Target Field. In the meantime, look for the Tigers to take control of the division in 2010 and the White Sox to be in the mix. But if you think you can count out GM Bill Smith and the Midas touch of manager Ron Gardenhire, think again. It might be a rocky start in Target Field, but soon this is going to be the Lambeau Field of the big leagues and when that happens, good luck beating them in a 7PM game in late October where game-time temperature could be in the teens.