10/01/2002 1:41 pm ET
Press Row: Twins, A's motivated
By Robert Falkoff / MLB.com
By now, you've probably heard the popular theory that the A's have grand and glorious plans behind this first-round series while the upstart Twins are just happy to be here.
Does all the motivation for winning really belong to Oakland? Are the Twins just tasting a little gravy after feasting on some weak American League Central opponents?
Dan Barreiro of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune isn't buying the notion that the underdog Twins have nothing to lose.
"The Twins' success during the odd 2002 season, in which they survived a transition of power in the manager's office, the possibility of being disbanded and the prospect of a players' strike, should stand on its own," Barreiro wrote. "Yet there is still the nagging belief that given the lack of any real pennant race, this team needs to win at least one series to be validated."
Validation is just one motivating factor. Barreiro points out that the Twins could also enhance the sentiment for a new stadium if they move on to the American League Championship Series.
"There is also the possibility that without this series, the stadium momentum, such as it is, might be stalled once again," Barreiro wrote. "Conversely, if the team somehow can make another magical run at the World Series, stadium fever might grip St. Paul like never before.
"We all know Minnesota politicians stick a finger in the air to check wind direction as often as any group in the nation. They are perfectly capable of jumping on the stadium bandwagon if those winds suddenly whisper more of a pro-stadium stance from the constituents. Don't forget that this was exactly how the Mariners got a stadium built."
In addition, Barreiro maintains that a series victory over Oakland would go a long way toward ensuring that the Twins aren't just one-year wonders.
"The deeper the Twins can go in the postseason, the easier it will be for General Manager Terry Ryan to convince (owner Carl) Pohlad to accept the financial burden of keeping the core players around for the long haul," Barreiro wrote.
The Twins were hopeful of making a statement right away with right-hander Brad Radke on the mound for Game 1. Star-Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse concluded that manager Ron Gardenhire made the right move in naming Radke as his Game 1 starter.
"Gardenhire's decision to go with Radke can be debated," Reusse wrote. "Rick Reed has better numbers this season (15-7, 3.80) than Radke (9-5, 4.72), who missed a dozen starts because of a groin pull. Plus, Radke has pitched much better in the Metrodome than on the road this season. Outsiders can look at numbers and suggest Reed start Game 1. Those numbers don't take into account that Radke has made 251 starts in eight big-league seasons and that Gardenhire has been 30 to 40 yards away observing every one.
"When Gardenhire anointed Radke has his Game 1 starter, it was not a verdict reached on some late-season impulse. It was based on watching Radke pitch his guts out for six years when surrounded by losing players, by second-division players. Certainly, the Twins are underdogs in this series with the 103-victory A's, but the odds are not nearly as long as those Radke faced almost every time he started from 1995 through 2000."
San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ray Ratto thinks that the key for Oakland avoiding an upset is for closer Billy Koch to pitch well.
"Start with Koch, because everything ends with him," Ratto wrote. "His superficial numbers are certainly good enough: 44 saves, 11 wins, 93 strikeouts in 93 innings. Still, he had one of the strangest good years in closer history. He has only six blown saves, an average number for a full-time closer, and the A's won five of those six games. He had 84 appearances, a team record and more than another reliever in the game, but that could betray weariness as well as strength. He allowed runs in 23 of those 84 appearances, and the only three closers who were less careful played on horrible teams. In other words, he scares a little bit more than, say, Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman or Troy Percival."
Mark Purdy, columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, sees no way the Twins can upset the A's. In fact, Purdy can't even envision this series going the limit.
"The way I see it, there are only two ways the Twins-A's series can go," Purdy wrote. "The A's will win it in three. Or, if that doesn't happen, the A's will win it in four."
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.