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Old 01-18-2020, 01:43 AM   #1
lordtoffee
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2004: An Alternate History of the Year MLB Changed Forever

Every baseball fan has a season that they remember as being a great year. Fans argue among themselves which season was the best. For me, the best season in my lifetime was 2004. I was a kid, and it seemed like baseball had a lot of great stories. You had the Red Sox and Yankees taking their rivalry to new heights, a criminally underrated NLCS between a dominant Cardinals team and a scrappy Astros team, tight races in both leagues for playoff spots. Steve Finley hit a dramatic home run to win the NL West for the Dodgers, a dramatic AL West race between the Angels and A's. It was also the year in which the Red Sox broke through, with a group of Idiots writing themselves into New England lore. In fact, the 2004 postseason was especially gripping and showed that baseball can produce drama that was gripping and engulfed the nation. But what would happen if I could go back and try and change the fate of one team from 2004, and see what would happen?


This dynasty report is going to be a chronicle of my journey back to 2004 and continuing throughout subsequent seasons. I've chosen to take over the Minnesota Twins. Why the Twins, you may ask? Well, they are the team that I love more than any other baseball team, and in real life that year they made the playoffs before getting swept by the Yankees. In fact, the Twins still can't beat the Yankees if our lives depended on it.

This report is going to focus mainly on the Twins, though I will of course mention things going on in the wider MLB landscape. I thank you for reading the introduction, and let's have some fun seeing what will happen in this alternative version of 2004 and beyond. If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them.
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Old 01-19-2020, 01:37 AM   #2
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The meeting with owner Carl Pohlad went pretty well after I arrived at the Metrodome to discuss what he thought the upcoming goals would be. He stated that this year I would have to make the playoffs and upgrade at second base. Also, he wanted to reach the World Series in 2006. It was going to be a tall order, even though I felt confident in the team. We were coming off consecutive AL Central champions, and were one of the better teams in baseball.

The problem is that we are playing in the Metrodome. Now, I know that there have been lots of great moments in sports that happened under the roof. The thing is, we share it with the Minnesota Vikings, and it was showing it's age. Ownership had been discussing a new stadium with the state government for years, and was trying to get approval from lawmakers on how to pay for it and where the stadium should be located.

(It's here that I offer a slight digression. Target Field was approved in 2006, and it took years of discussion and wrangling between various parties. For those that might not know about Minneapolis-St. Paul, they are actually in different counties, and there is a rivalry between the two cities. That's why all four major sports teams are named Minnesota. At this point in 2004, negotiations were still going on, and I'm not sure about how OOTP handles teams moving into new stadiums. I suppose we shall see if I have to set up a narrative reason for the Dome staying as the home field of the Twins. Enough with talk about stadium deals, back to the narrative)

My goal in Spring Training is to get to grips with the roster, and check out some prospects. The great hope is local hero Joe Mauer. The St. Paul native and former three sport star is one of the best prospects in baseball. He is projected to be the catcher of the future, and who knows. I am also curious about RF Michael Cuddyer. Cuddy has shown a lot of promise,and I am debating about making him the fourth outfielder, or sending him to AAA for some extra at bats. The third prospect that intrigues me is 1B Justin Morneau. The Canadian has shown a lot of power and looks like he could be the first baseman should I choose to move Doug Mientkiewicz during the season. All in all, I like a lot of the prospects and can't wait to come to grips with the team.

In other news, there was a surprising deal that went down between the Angels and the Yankees around the start of Spring Training. The Yankees sent Tony Clark to the Angels in exchange for minor league pitcher Joe Saunders and Chone Figgins. This deal makes me wonder what the Halos were thinking. Figgins is still young at 26, and Saunders is a good pitching prospect. Tony Clark is older at 31, and is in his walk year. I know that Figgins might command more on the open market after this year, but this is why Brian Cashman is a great executive. He is able to make smart moves. This move might be reminiscent of the David Justice deal from 2000.
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Old 01-25-2020, 02:13 AM   #3
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Opening Day Roster Hitters

Catchers:

Matthew LeCroy: He is going to likely back up Mauer, after he returns from an oblique that will keep the phenom out until a couple of weeks into the season. He is a power bat that projects well, and likely is going to DH as well in order to get his bat in the lineup. Is only 28 years old, so should still have some production left assuming I don't find another backup catcher cheaply or trade for one at the deadline.

Henry Blanco: Blanco will make the Opening Day Roster because of Mauer's injury. Blanco is suited more to a backup role at age 32, and is probably going to be trade bait in order to improve the roster at the deadline.

First Basemen:

Doug Mientkiewicz: Dougie is going to be rotated with hot prospect Justin Morneau, and is more of a defensive first basemen, which is a bit of a concern in terms of offense. I prefer to have first basemen that are power hitters, as the position is not viewed as a place where offense can be secondary based on my views of the game. Is a free agent after the season, so could tempt a team as a rental option, and could be attractive as he is 29 years old.

Justin Morneau: Justin is likely to be the first baseman of the future, and will be part of the future core of the Twins with Mauer. I love his power potential, and his defensive seems to have improved during the spring down in Fort Myers. I look at him as a piece to build around, and will give him plenty of reps with the big club, even at the tender age of 22.

Second Basemen:

Luis Rivas: 24 years old, and is an offensive plus player at a position that doesn't need to be. I worry about his defense, and it will bear watching if he is the weak link. I personally subscribe to the theory that the best players on the team should be up the middle, and he will be looked at for replacement depending on how results go.

Nick Punto: The man who is a scrappy player is a good backup option. Has speed and a fine glove, and at 26 projects to be a good player to have on the back end of the roster, and can play multiple positions without much worrying as a backup to give guys a day off. Would like to add a bit more power and try and get on base, but should be fine at the bottom of the lineup.

Shortstop:

Christian Guzman: Guzman is 26, and is in the final year of his contract. The guy is a spray hitter and will cause problems on the basepaths. Is the definition of average in terms of MLB rankings at shortstop, and could be on the market if looking to deal. I don't mind him, but will keep my options open.

Third Basemen:

Corey Koskie: Corey is 30, and I would rank him as slightly above average as a third baseman. Will hit for a solid average, a good defender at the hot corner, and does flash some power. He's not the guy in this lineup, and I will look to keep him around unless something better comes up either via a trade or through the farm system.

Left Fielders:

Shannon Stewart: Stewart is 30, and came over last year at the trade deadline. After the trade, he took to the Twins like a fish to water, and helped us win the AL Central last year. He will hit the ball into the outfield and can take the extra base. He is a key cog in the machine, and should continue to get starts.

Lew Ford: Ford is 27, and can play all three outfield positions. He will hit around .280 every year, and is a bang average defensive outfielder. I like the guy, as he can backup all the outfield positions and make sure that I can cover for injuries. Not looking to replace him, and might have to fend off trade offers at the deadline from contending teams.

Center Fielders:

Torii Hunter: Hunter is one of the shining lights of the Twins, and is well-known to fans outside of Minnesota. The guy is an All-Star caliber player, and is well-known for taking away home runs. Just ask Barry Bonds about the 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee. At 30 years old, he is in his prime and will be entrenched in our outfield for as long as I can keep him here. I also love his power and average numbers.

Right Fielders:

Jacque Jones: Jones is a very nice outfielder, and a great compliment to Hunter. At age 29, he can hit for power, and his defense is solid enough considering that he plays next to arguably the greatest defensive outfielder in baseball. He is going to have to prove it in his last year of the contract, and there is someone else that I am looking to try out in order to replace him.

Michael Cuddyer: Cuddy is the player that I was referencing. He has looked great as a backup, and his defense has improved in the last couple of years. I expect he will push Jones all year, and look for him to continue to provide solid returns in the future, especially as he is 25 and getting ready to take the next step. Has shown some versatility to play in the infield as well.

Michael Restovich: Mike is the final hitter on my Opening Day roster, and the reason is that I want to have some extra depth in the outfield. His main strength is that he is a plus defender, and right field is a good role for him in this regard. Is probably going to be a defensive replacement in the late innings, though we shall see.
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Old 01-27-2020, 05:41 PM   #4
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Opening Day Roster Pitchers

Starters:

Johan Santana: 25 years old, and one of the best pitchers in baseball. He is the unquestioned ace of the staff, and is best known for having a very filthy change as his signature pitch. He is going to be a Twin for a long time around here, and is going to be the rock on which my staff is built.

Brad Radke: He is the number 2 starter, and is 31 years old. Has very good control, though he won't blow you away with awesome stuff compared to Johan. Is another great piece to have in the rotation, and is locked up until 2008 at a comfortable salary. A good compliment to Johan, and a proven veteran that gives me confidence every turn through the rotation.

Kyle Lohse: 25 years old, and the number 3 in the rotation. Won't overpower hitters, but can pitch with intelligence and guile. I honestly like him as a middle of the rotation guy, and think that he can be a guy that could be a stopper type when we need to end a losing streak. Contact is a worry, as he seems to be a pitch to contact type of player.

Carlos Silva: 25 years old, and has similar control prowess as Lohse. I'm honestly debating if he belongs in the bullpen, though we are going to give him a chance in the starting rotation. It wouldn't surprise me if we take a page out of what the Dodgers did with Eric "Game Over" Gagne, seeing if Silva can maybe become a great reliever.

Matt Guerrier: Matt is 25 years old, and I have him starting because I don't think 20 year old phenom Francisco Liriano was ready to step up. Guerrier has average stuff, and in terms of being a starter is your classic back of the rotation guy trying to hang on. He won't blow you away, but I am giving him a chance in order to see what Liriano does at AAA Rochester.

Bullpen:

Rick Helling: Rick is 35 years old, and is a grizzled veteran. He is the long man, and is notable for giving up long balls. He is mostly an innings eater, and an emergency spot starter should someone not get up from the minors in time to replace an injured starter. He's likely to be replaced with someone I call up from AAA.

Terry Mulholland: 41 years old, and a major league lifer. He is another middle reliever that is going to be used to eat innings, and provide rest to the A bullpen. Might also be replaced by a prospect in the minor leagues.

J C Romero: J C is 27, and is someone that can come in to bridge the gap to the setup men and the closer. He can also come in for a critical out if needed. Has some control issues and can get hit hard. An average piece of the bullpen, but is shielded by enough depth around him.


Grant Balfour: Grant is 26, and is one of two setup men in the bullpen. His signature pitch is a change, and compliments it with a fastball that can hit 96. He is someone that I can use to handle the 7th and the 8th, and plays well with the other setup guy and the closer. Grant could become a closer someday.

Juan Rincon: Juan is 25, and has amazing raw stuff. He is the main setup guy because he has a great slider, fastball, and cutter. It's great that he can keep hitters off balance, and has been a key part of the bullpen and has playoff experience. The only reason he is not looked at as a closer is because I love the closer even more.

Joe Nathan: Joe is 30 years old, and one of the centerpieces of the AJ trade this offseason with the Giants. I love his velocity at 97, and that curveball looks like a very great out pitch that every closer needs. He will be the closer, as that is what Terry Ryan said before he left the team this offseason. I think that the Twins have a closer, and someone whom we can build the bullpen around for many years.
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Old 02-15-2020, 02:11 AM   #5
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We are one month into the replay of 2004, and it is time to see how things are going on for the Twins and the wider MLB at May 1.


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As you can see, the AL is certainly interesting so far. We are leading the Wild Card by .5 a game over the Tigers and the Indians, and are a couple of games back in the Central behind the Chi Sox. One thing to keep in mind is that we are in the era of the unbalanced schedule, as Houston is not in the NL, and we are going to play more divisional games than the A's and Angels. Boston has been a house of fire, as in this version of the world Nomar doesn't get hurt and miss a good chunk of the season. The AL Central is the toughest division in baseball right now, as 4 teams are very much in the hunt. In the AL West, the A's and the Big Three have set the pace over the Angels.

The story that intrigues me the most is the Yankees. They are 8 games back of Boston, and are a few games back in the Wild Card. The only player that is on the DL currently is Chien-Ming Wang. With all due respect to Wang, this is a couple of years before he broke out in real life. The biggest problems with the Yankees is that they are not getting much help from some of their major acquisitions. A-Rod is hitting .200, and the Yankees did not want that when they stole him from the Red Sox. Their major pitching acquisions of Cuban defector Jose Contreras, Kevin Brown, and Javier Vasquez have been dreadful. The lowest ERA for a Yankee starter is Mike Mussina at 4.54. Brown is 1-3 in 5 starts with a 4.55 ERA, Vasquez is 0-3 in 6 starts with an ERA of 7.39, and Contreras has been downright awful in 2 starts with an ERA of 11.88. That bullpen is going to be overtaxed. I'm curious to see what the Yankee brass does to address their issues.


Now, we move onto the National League.

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The divisional races in the East and Central have been about what you would have figured. One thing to keep in mind about the Astros is that in real life, Carlos Beltran was traded to the Astros until late June, and Jimy Williams hasn't been fired as of this stage. The big surprise is in the NL West. The Padres are tied in the divisional and Wild Card with the Dodgers, and this is something that differs from real life. In real life, the Giants were fighting the Dodgers all year, but they clearly need to get it in gear to deal with the Padres. For the Padres, Phil Nevin and Ryan Klesko have been RBI producing fools, and Trevor Hoffman has 10 saves and an ERA of under 1.


Here is how the Twins are looking, with a look at a couple of prospects,

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As you can see, the Twins have had a rough start with the starting pitching, and it might mean bringing up Liriano before I am ready to. Jacque Jones also has been struggling, and I will want to revisit if giving Lew Ford a shot will work out. Joe Mauer has struggled, but he obviously has been hurt. All in all, I think that there is room for improvement, and am going to need to look at some things. Next update will be on June 1 of the season.
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