Posted at 3:02 PM on March 28, 2006
by David Zingler
They’ve added a legitimate All Star (Luis Castillo), a solid veteran (Rondell White), a semi washed-up hacker (Tony Bastista) and have a top prospect returning from a devastating injury (Jason Kubel), but none of that will matter if Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau don’t step up and carry the Twins offense in 2006. This season is a pivotal particularly for Morneau, who became a piñata for both the fans and media as the team floundered down the stretch in 2005.
We know Castillo will get on base and White won’t give away outs, but who knows what to think about Batista, who is already giving me flashbacks of Butch Huskey. Of the two “M&M boys” (sorry Maris and Mantle), Mauer is much more of a sure thing. In just over one big league season he’s shown more command of the strike zone than Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones have in their careers – combined! He’s also demonstrated a calm, mature demeanor and has an image so wholesome it leaves even the most hardcore member of the Christian Coalition envious. Morneau meanwhile, picked up a little baggage in ’05 including the “immature” and “cocky” labels while drawing the ire of Hunter. It’s basically 30+ homeruns or else for the big Canadian this year.
Where the Twins finish in 2006 is anyone’s guess – the White Sox will tough, the Indians dangerous and the Tigers intriguing – but one thing is for sure, the fate of their offense lies square on the young shoulders of Mauer and Morneau. Oh yeah, and don’t expect that to change in the years to come.