Twins – Overcoming Injuries
We’re a month and a half into the season and I know a lot of Twins fans are shaking their heads about all the injuries. Imagine how Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire are feeling. Rondell White, Luis Castillo, Michael Cuddyer, Joe Mauer have all missed significant time already this season. Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau have had scary incidents that could have really crippled this team.
It’s no coincidence that the best Twins teams have been the healthiest Twins teams. With the exception of Harmon Killebrew’s elbow injury in 1965, the Twins have kept their best players healthy in their championship years. In 1987, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky and Kirby Puckett(Mt. Crushmore) all played more than 140 games. In 1991, Chili Davis, Dan Gladden, Brian Harper, Kent Hrbek, Chuck Knoblauch, Shane Mack and Kirby Puckett all had more than 440 at bats. Through both World Championship years the pitching staffs were remarkably healthy.
While injuries are a part of the game, avoiding them or recovering from them are critical to a team’s long-term success. Last year, the most impressive thing to me about the division title is that the Twins somehow found a way to recover from two potentially devastating injuries to two cornerstone members of the starting rotation. When Francisco Liriano and Brad Radke had their seasons/careers forever altered with arm trouble, the team somehow persevered and won 96 games. That the team didn’t advance past the first round was due largely to the fact that the pitching depth wasn’t there. In retrospect, it would have been highly unlikely that the Twins would have had the depth in their starting rotation to survive three rounds of post-season play.
This year, the Twins have had an incredible number of injuries early in the season. As of now, the Twins are within striking distance of first place despite that. Twins fans should be encouraged that as Mauer and White return to the lineup, no other players will be taken out of it because of injury. Provided that happens, there’s no reason the Twins can’t get back into first place and make it to post-season play.