The champagne is on ice and it's almost time for the ball to drop in Times Square. 2015 will move over to make way for 2016 and it will be time for resolutions and the hope of a new year.
The Twins offered plenty of hope to their fan base in 2015. After four straight seasons with at least 92 losses, many major media sources expected the Twins to again finish near the bottom of the AL Central. Thankfully, they were wrong and the Twins surprised many by staying in the playoff hunt until the final week of the season.
Here is a look at five of the top stories that surrounded Minnesota in 2015.
Molitor Takes the Reigns
The Twins don't like change when it comes to their manager. The last two managers in Minnesota, Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire, combined to manage from 1986-2014. Paul Molitor invigorated the Twins clubhouse on the way to an 83-79 record. He did all of this despite the Twins have no one in the top 10 in the American League in batting average, home runs, RBI, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, strikeouts, or ERA. Because of all of this, Molitor finished third in the balloting for the American League Manager of the Year Award.
Twins In Playoff Hunt
When a team has lost over 90 games for four consecutive seasons, it's refreshing to have a club back in the playoff hunt. Minnesota wasn't eliminated from postseason contention until the second-to-last day of the season. The club used a historic May record of 20-7 to finish the month in first place. It was the first time the organization won at least 20 games in a month since 1991. With 83 wins, the club finished with an above .500 record for only the second time in the Target Field era.
Hunter Plays Final Season Back Home
Not all fans were excited about the Twins giving over $10 million to an aging Torii Hunter last offseason but the Twins wanted to add his veteran leadership to what would turn out to be a young clubhouse. By most accounts, Hunter played better than expected and finished the year with 22 home runs and 81 RBI. Shortly after the season ended, Hunter announced that he would be retiring to spend more time with his wife and family. He played 12 of his 19 seasons in a Twins uniform.
Perkins, Dozier Named All-Stars
Even though the Twins were one of the top teams in the AL during the first half of the season, it looked like the club was only going to have one representative at the Midsummer Classic. Glen Perkins didn't blow a save in the first half of the season and he was an easy choice for his third consecutive All-Star Game. Brian Dozier had to fight his way into the game as he was included on the Final Vote candidate. He wouldn't get in through this method but he'd be named as an injury replacement to cap off a week where he finished one of the most dramatic wins in recent Twins history. Both players impact the All-Star Game as Dozier hit a home run and Perkins closed out the win for the AL.
Top Prospects Debut
Big names prospects like Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton earn legendary status before ever seeing a big league pitch. Sano lived up to the hype as he collected 18 home runs, 17 doubles, and 52 RBIs in 80 games on his way to being named the team's MVP. Buxton's debut didn't come with as much flare as Sano but he's still considered one of the top prospects in the game. Eddie Rosario made an impact as he attained double digits in home runs, doubles, triples, stolen bases, and outfield assists. Tyler Duffey made a big impact on the mound winning five games to help keep the team in the hunt. Max Kepler was given a September call-up after being named the Southern League MVP and helping the Lookouts to win the league's championship.
Baseball is a game of hope and the Twins offered their fan base plenty of hope in 2015. It would seem the team is trending in the right direction for 2016 with a more experienced manager, a young core, and a chance to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Raise a glass to toast 2015 and let's keep hope alive for an even better 2016 in Twins Territory.