Monday, January 11, 2016

State of the Union: Minnesota Twins

President Barack Obama will be giving his final State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. He is entering the last year as the Commander and Chief and most Presidents like to paint a picture of hope for the future before their term is over. The Twins gave fans hope last year as they were relevant in the final weeks of the season for the first time in half a decade. 

Let's imagine we are all sitting down to hear a message directly for Twins Territory. What is the State of the Union for the Minnesota Twins? 
Mr. Ryan, Mr. Molitor, Members of Twins Territory, My Fellow Americans:

We are over a decade and a half into this new century. Sixteen years ago the Twins were wallowing after years of futility in the AL Central. Things looked bleak and it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. At that time, a young core of players was on the horizon and a new manager took over for the most famous manager in team history. There was hope and hope would result in multiple division championships as the team moved to Target Field.

From there things would turn dark. Players moved on, young talent didn't produce, and the club found themselves back at the bottom of the American League. It was hard to stay positive in these dark times. However, the night is always darkest before the dawn.

But this season, we turned the page. This season, after a breakthrough year for the Twins, our team found themselves relevant when other's assumed they would continue to dwell in the cellar. Our prospects have arrived and some were even better than expected. Our pitcher's earned run average is now lower than before the losing season crisis. And we are as free from the Yankee dynasty as we've been in almost 20 years.

This season, for the first time since 2010, our team was in playoff contention in the second half of the season. Six years ago, the team was composed of veteran players like Morneau, Cuddyer, Hudson, Thome, and Pavano. Today, the team includes Sano, Buxton, Rosario, Gibson, and Dozier. We salute the sacrifice made by the previous generation. We are grateful for your service because you paved the way for the current generation of players.

Twins Territory, for all that we have endured; for all the losses and meaningless second half games required to improve; for all the improvements that are still on the path, know this: The shadow of the of the losing crisis has passed, and the State of the Twins is strong.

In this hour -- with a blooming farm system, disappearing losses, a new direction -- we have risen from the losing crisis with a brighter future than in any time in our generation. It's up to the organization to decide on the path for the team to follow over the next decade and for decades to come.

Will we accept the years of futility that have plagued our past? Or will we commit to a new order that generates a winning attitude that palpitates throughout the baseball universe?

Will we approach the coming seasons with the thoughts of dread and fear that rang through Twins Territory in previous years? Or will we recapture the winning spirit of 1987 and 1991 that united the Twin Cities and Twins Territory with a common goal and purpose?

In under four weeks, the pitchers and catchers of our organization will report to Florida with a new sense of purpose. And in the weeks ahead, the position players will join them. There will be decisions to be made and checklists to follow as the roster is whittled down to the final grouping.

It begins with our minor leagues. Six years ago, Miguel Sano was waiting to sign a contract. His prospect status was high. There were questions about his age. For a young Dominican player, this should be the greatest time in his life. The hope of getting his family out of poverty was within his grasp.

As questions about his age arose, Miguel's contract offers had all but disappeared. As Major League Baseball investigated his actual age, it looked like he'd have to take what every offers were left over. The Twins looked past all of this and gave the young slugger an opportunity. There was promise in his bat and his future looked bright.

"I'm very thankful to get this chance to sign with the Twins," Sano said at the time. "I'm going to work very hard to try and get to the majors in two years."

His estimation was not quite correct but these types of lofty goals were what would help put the team back on the right track. This is the type of attitude that has now become an expectation in the organization. Hard work will result in positive changes and eventually new winning ways.

Twins Territory, a culture of winning has begun. Over the last three seasons, there have been multiple championships won in the Twins system. The Elizabethton Twins won the Appalachian League in 2012. The Fort Myers Miracle won the Florida State League in 2014. The Chattanooga Lookouts won the Southern League title in 2015. Winning is happening and it is happening now.

Names like Dalton Hicks, Niko Goodrum, Adam Brett Walker, Max Kepler, DJ Baxendale, and Brett Lee have been part of all three of these championship teams. Top prospects Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Jose Berrios were part of those rosters at different times. Winning is contagious and changing a losing culture starts with a fresh crop of players.

My first son was born this winter and he has yet to know a baseball season. I want him to grow up in world where the Twins are consistently relevant. Where a fan base can cheer their club to multiple division championship on their way to long playoff runs. That we can overcome the losses of our past and that he can grow up in a united Twins Territory.

My fellow baseball fans, we, are a strong and passionate force. We have made it through the hard times. The dust has settled and a new sun is rising on the horizon of winning ways. This club will get better and this organization is ready to burst from the cellar. Let's start the winning together-- and let's start the winning in 2016.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless this game we love. Thank you.

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