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Twins will party like it’s 1999

Posted By: Jason Iacovino

Ron Coomer was the lone All-Star representative for the Minnesota Twins in 1999.  Coomer finished the year with a .263 avg., 16 homers, and 65 RBI.  Marty Cordova led the team that year in batting among players who qualified for a batting title (.285) and he led the team in RBI with 70.

The 1999 season was the seventh in a mercifully painful 8-year era of Twins baseball between 1993-2000 that saw the club go 528-699 (.430).  The per game attendance average at the Metrodome in 1999 was 14,942.  The average ticket price was $11.00.

The only consolation from that 1999 season, when the Twins batted .264 and had a team ERA of 5.00, was they were 2 years away from a long string of contending teams, beginning with manager Tom Kelly’s final season in 2001. 

Fast forward to 2014.  The Twins are about to begin the latest in a mercifully painful 4-year stretch of baseball, where they have lost 95-plus games in each of the last three seasons.  The Twins are coming off a year in which they hit .242 as a team and had a team ERA of 4.55.  The average ticket price for the 2014 season at Target Field is $30.68.

What assurances do we have that 2014 will be anything but a continuation of the nonsense witnessed in 2011-2013?  Well, on Tuesday the team announced that Jason Kubel has been added to the Opening Day roster.  Don’t get too depressed over Kubel’s .216 avg. / 5 HR / 32 RBI season of a year ago, because he will likely–I stress likely–be a bench player. 

Here are your projected starters (Complete with inspiring 2013 stats):

Brian Dozier, 2B (.244 avg / 18 HR / 66 RBI)

Joe Mauer, 1B (.324 avg / 11 HR / 47 RBI)

Josh Willingham, LF (.208 avg / 4 HR / 48 RBI)

Oswaldo Arcia, RF (.251 avg / 14 HR / 43 RBI)

Trevor Plouffe, 3B (.254 avg / 14 HR / 52 RBI)

Josmiel Pinto, DH (.342 avg / 4 HR / 12 RBI in 78 at-bats)

Kurt Suzuki, C (.232 avg / 5 HR / 32 RBI)

Aaron Hicks, CF (.192 avg. / 8 HR / 27 RBI)

Pedro Florimon, SS (.221 avg / 9 HR / 44 RBI)

If manager Ron Gardenhire is not given the third catcher on the roster to allow him to start Pinto at DH, then you can either pencil in Kubel or Chris Colabello (.194 avg / 7 HR / 17 RBI in 160 at-bats) in that spot. 

The point is it very much reminds you of the likes of Coomer, Cordova, Todd Walker, Chad Allen, Matt Lawton, and Doug Mientkiewicz–the group that T.K. had at his disposal in 1999.  Heck, Denny Hocking racked up 386 at-bats and hit .267 that year! 

The 2014 Twins will be yearning for Hocking-like production.  It is, frankly, enough to make you feel sorry for Ron Gardenhire if, in fact, he ends up taking the fall in favor of bench coach Paul Molitor should the Twins endure a dreadful first few months of the season. 

I get that the whole idea with this team is patience–we have to wait until the likes of Florimon, Arcia, Hicks, Miguel Sano, and Byron Buxton fully develop before we can fairly evaluate the lineup.  Still, would it kill the Pohlads to throw Hennepin County taxpayers a bone by signing a legitimate .280 / 20 HR guy in the offseason? 

I mean…Kurt Suzuki and Jason Kubel? Seriously? 

Last year at this time I wrote a blog post highlighting the potential bright spots of the 2013 Twins season and most if it had to do with the pitching overhaul and Aaron Hicks’ great spring training.  Well, those starting pitchers did a belly flop and Hicks was dreadfully overmatched in April and May in the Big Leagues.  The rest is history.

I can’t write that same tale of sunshine with rosey red glasses this year.  That lineup of guys I cited above–aside from Colabello, they have done no better in spring this year than they did in the regular season last year.  Literally, the only positive thing you can reasonably say about the outlook for this season as compared to last year is the Twins will probably lower that 4.55 team ERA and it’s almost mathematically impossible to hit any lower than .242 as a team again. 

Beyond that? Molitor’s baserunning expertise? Hey, I hope they win a couple more 2-1 or 3-2 games and don’t find themselves down 6 runs in the first four innings like they did so many times a year ago, but short of that, they have done nothing to continue justifying an average ticket price of $30.68.

I almost, almost would rather pay $11.00 and sit in the Metrodome.  I’m guessing I would for sure on April 7.

Jason Iacovino can be heard Tuesdays and Fridays on KRFO-AM 1390 at 3:50 p.m.  Email him at jjiacovino@stthomas.edu.  Follow him on Twitter @JasonIacovino

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