Friday, November 27, 2015

The Twins 2015: Diamond Treasure

I've been a Minnesotan for the entirety of my 25 year life. While having spent only the most recent years in the heart of Twins Territory, growing up in southern Minnesota, the Minneapolis journalism scene has only recently become my go to. In reading Patrick Reusse's Turkey of the Year for 2015 however, it dawned on me that the Twins could use a similar designation.

Unlike Reusse's Turkey of the Year, the Diamond Treasure as I'll dub it, is not designed to point a finger in jest. On the contrary actually, the purpose of the Diamond Treasure is to shed light on someone or something within the Twins organization that provides excitement for the future, while displaying deep roots in the past. Not meant to be an MVP award of sorts, the Diamond Treasure should carry more weight in encompassing much more than statistical output between the lines.

For the year that was, there's plenty of candidates to kick off the first annual Diamond Treasure. Starting at the top, the 2015 version of the Twins can't be spoken of without discussing Paul Molitor. The first year skipper stepped into some big shoes, and succeeded beyond all expectations.

Molitor, though familiar with the organization, had gone from a relative bystander to the man in charge. Instead of being simply involved at spring training, he was now running the show. Given a cast of characters that had done nothing but lose in recent memory, it was the former Twins great that turned the tide. By bringing in some fresh ideas, and expecting a higher level of performance, Molitor brought meaningful baseball back to Target Field. Although the club fell short of the playoffs, it was because of Molitor's efforts that the club appears to be poised for a strong future. For all he did though, Molitor isn't this year's Diamond Treasure.

If we're looking for someone who exemplifies leadership both on the field and in the clubhouse, it's hard to stray far from Torii Hunter. Brought back on a one-year deal that seemed to throw baseball sense to the wind, it worked. It didn't work because Hunter made the contract make sense on the field (ultimately, he was more liability there than he wasn't). It worked because Hunter was the leader the Twins needed, even though they might not have known it. The limited offensive production was a bonus at times, but pushing the youth for more, and forcing the clubhouse to let loose no doubt led to a September filled with disco balls and smoke machines. Torii, as he always does, provided more memories. All said and done though, Hunter isn't this year's Diamond Treasure.

Stepping even further away from the field of play, there's Terry Ryan. Often chastised for questionable front office decisions, it was his role in building the 2015 squad that ultimately gave the Twins hope. A key 2014 trade for Tommy Milone helped to provide depth. Dealing for Kevin Jepsen during the 2015 deadline proved substantial for an ugly bullpen. It was Ryan who looked his doubters in the eye and gave this team hope. The Twins competed before they were supposed to, and thanks to Ryan's efforts, should do so well into the future. It's a great thing, but it isn't quite Diamond Treasure worthy.

There's only one man worth of the Diamond Treasure distinction in 2015, and it's a young man with the personality to completely embody the distinction. Having been known to Twins Territorians since the age of 16, the realization of his talents and persona were finally shared with us in the year that was. Miguel Sano had arrived.

After living up to every bit of the hype throughout his minor league tenure, Twins fans were forced to wait a season ago. Coming off of Tommy John surgery, the young Sano would need to battle back, and battle he did. Sano turned early season success under Doug Mientkiewicz at Double-A Chattanooga, into big league reality for Molitor and the Twins. He provided moonshots and lasers, he hit homers and long balls, in summary, Target Field became his playground. For all Sano did with the bat though, he did more with the smile.

Throughout the 2015 season, it became apparent that Miguel Sano in fact loves this game. Constantly producing with the big grin on his face, Sano's mannerisms were the complete embodiment of what Twins fans everywhere expected him to be. No longer the lanky teenager, this was a filled out young man that loved coming to the park every day, and he happened to be better than most at it. Sano is every bit as integral to the Twins going forward, as he was expected the day he signed from the Dominican Republic.

For what he is on the field, who he is on the field, the belief of what he can be to the Twins franchise, and the significance of it all off of it, Miguel Sano is your 2015 Diamond Treasure.