Do the 2012 Twins lack heart?
It does compared to the 2002 squad says MinnPost.com's Pat Borzi.
In efforts to remind fans of the recent glory days, the Twins organization had brought several members of the '02 squad - aka "The Get To Know 'Em Boys" - into the home opener to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. In reminiscing about that era, Borzi accuses the current Twins of lacking the same hustle, grit, intensity, etc, etc, as the previous model.
Borzi does give an in-game example of what he means by lacking hustle on the Twins part:
The slow-footed Albert Pujols, rarely known for hustling as a Cardinal, lumbered from first to third in the first inning because center fielder Denard Span normally one of the most aggressive Twins chased a Kendrick Morales single to his left as if it had a lit fuse. Two runs followed.
Based on that play, Mientkiewicz made this comment:
We would first-and-third you to death, said Mientkiewicz, the old first baseman and a rookie hitting coach in the Dodgers system. I hear that in my sleep sometimes.
The '02 club hustled like no other. At least that is what we hear all the time. They took third base constantly and at every opportunity - much better than "the heavily left-handed slugging team, perfect for the Metrodome but ill-suited to the unfriendly winds of Target Field." Those lumbering lugs couldn't get to third base from first even if the batter hit a triple. Or, wait...
According to Baseball-Reference.com's base-running database, the 2011 team - the Twins who wore concrete shoes when running the bases - actually excelled at take third base on singles better than the '02 club did. In 2002, the Twins had a runner on first base 310 times when a single was hit and 92 times that runner scampered to third (29.6%). Meanwhile, last year's team had a runner on first 305 times when a single was hit and advanced to third 100 times, the most in the AL (32.7%). What's more is that the 2011 team was also superior at taking the extra base in general, moving up a bag 44% of the time (the 2nd highest in AL) versus 39% of the time in '02 (fifth from the bottom). The '11 team also stole more bases than that club as well.
Obviously, there are other ways to try to quantify hustle -- such as playing defense, which the 2011 club certainly didn't do.
With all the descriptives that have applied to the 2002 team (scrappy, gritty, piranha), it's easy to think that they were far better at "hustling", like going first-to-third, than the more late model teams. But, of course, it would help to check to see if that was true.
Without running an EKG, it's hard to determine if what Borzi is saying is true - you need access of that action because there are no stats that measures heart. Perhaps this is his interpretation based on some occasional on-field lapses combined with clubhouse observations - that the '02 clubhouse was more "loosey-goosey" and played more practical jokes and had more tickle fights than the environment of the modern-day Twins. And because the current locker room is not nearly as "fun-loving" as the days of Hunter and company, this '12 team lacks heart.
What do you think? Does the 2012 squad lack "heart"?