Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Span ready for leadership role

This offseason could see the Twins lose two of their top voices in the clubhouse. There is a chance that Michael Cuddyer and Joe Nathan could both be exiting the team. These two men have entrenched themselves as leaders inside the locker room and out in the community of the Twin Cities. This could leave a huge hole to fill on a team that scuffled to a 99-loss season in 2011.

There are other candidates on the Twins that should be near the top of the leadership pyramid in the clubhouse. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are getting paid a huge chunk of the team's payroll. With those large contracts, there should be a commitment to being a voice for the team. As soft-spoken men, it has been hard to see these two players take on that leadership role. With each player having won an AL MVP, there is plenty of lessons to be learned from these men that should be in the heart of the Twins line-up.

The M&M boys have each missed large parts of the past year and it can be difficult to be a leader when you are not with the team. Toward the end of the 2011 season, Ron Gardenhire was asked about the leaders on the team and he expressed concern over the absence of Mauer and Morneau. He felt it was difficult for these two superstars to be leaders when they were spending time rehabbing and were unable to travel with the team.

If Mauer and Morneau continue to have struggles in 2012, the team may need to find a new voice for the clubhouse. One player that could be ready to take on this challenge is Denard Span. He was on pace for one of the best seasons of his career before a concussion took him out of the line-up for a large portion of the season. As with Mauer and Morneau, health will play a large role in whether Span will be able to take on new responsibilities with the team. In an ideal world for Twins fans, all three of these players would be back to 100% for next year.

Span will only be entering his five season of play with the Twins in 2012. This means there are other players on the roster who have accumulated more time at the big league level. Most of the starting pitchers have been with the team longer and Mauer and Morneau have been up with the club since the early 2000's. The Twins did see plenty of young faces on the field in '11 and there is a good chance that some of them will be making contributions again. These players will be looking up to the veterans on the team and Span is starting to enter the territory of being a veteran

As the center fielder and lead-off hitter for the Twins, Span plays a huge role in setting the tone for the team's offensive and defensive performance on the field.  A lot of the team's success can be predicated on Span's ability to be a consistent hitter out of the first spot in the order and his ability to track down balls in the outfield. He has the athletic ability to create the mood for the Twins on the field and in the clubhouse with his play.

The contract Span signed before last season will keep him in a Twins uniform until 2014 and the team has a $9 million option for 2015. A lot could change in the next three seasons as Span continues to work at becoming a leader for the Twins.

Who knows?

By the end of his contract the Twins could be looking at Span the same way the team currently looks up to Cuddyer.

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