Frist there was Francisco Liriano, who took home third place honors in the American League Rookie of the Year race. Most experts believe that if the young left-hander had stayed healthy, he would have been the walkaway winner of the award. However, a nagging elbow problem sidelined him for quite some time at the end of the season, and Detroit's Justin Verlander eventually won the award.
His third place finish is not in vain however, as the young fireballer came from the Twins bullpen to be one of the best pitchers in the American League during the first half of the season. Had he stayed healthy, some believe he would be up for Cy Young contention, as he completely fooled hitters thoughout his first half starts. While the 2007 season is over for Liriano, you have to believe he is going to come back in even better form in 2008.
Then there was General Manager Terry Ryan, who took home The Sporting News Executive of the Year honors. Ryan edged out New York Mets GM Omar Minaya for the honors, as the Mets high payroll definitely was at play in Ryan's win. Ryan has done more than just a good job with the Twins low payroll, combining the right group of veterans to go along with some of the best young players in Major League Baseball. With all the young talent the Twins have in their farm system, Ryan seems to be the right guy to bring them up at the right time.
Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer took home Silver Slugger Awards, as they had two of the better offensive seasons in all of the American League. Mauer took home the American League batting title, while Morneau showed the pop that the Twins had been hoping he has been hiding for the past two seasons. Both players are cornerstones for the Twins future, and with the new ballpark set to open in a few years, they will certainly be the ones who fill the seats.
Slick fielding Torii Hunter took home yet another Gold Glove Award, cementing his place as the best fielding centerfielder in all of the American League. Hunter has been a pitcher's dream in center for the Twins over the past couple of years, and the Twins need him to be manning center, at least until their young outfield prospects are ready to take over. It will be tough to see how much longer he is going to be able to stand up against the tough turf at the Metrodome.
Then there was Manager Ron Gardenhire, who finished second to Detroit's Jim Leyland in the American League Manager of the Year Award. Gardenhire did a tremendous job this season with the Twins, taking them all the way to the American League Central Championship. He seemed to always plug the right guys in at the right time, as shown by him revamping the left side of the infield, with Nick Punto and shortstop Jason Bartlett.
So as we come to the cusp of them announcing the American League Most Valuable Player, three Minnesota Twins are still in play in the race. Mauer, Santana, and Morneau are all up for the award, giving the Twins three of the top five selections in the MVP race. This is more than a testament to the Twins resurgence as an American League powerhouse in 2006.
Aside from Santana taking home the Cy Young Award, closer Joe Nathan also got some run in the voting, as he put together his best season as the Twins closer so far. It seemed like if the Twins could get the ball to him with the lead in the ninth, then the game was as good as over.
After being swept by the Oakland Athletics in the Division Series, some readers emailed me that the season was a lost one, due to their inability to even pick up one win in the playoffs. That statement could not be farther from the truth, as the Twins will most certainly be one of the favorites to win the American League pennant in 2007. Though Liriano is done for the year, when you have guys like Nathan, Santana, Mauer, Morneau, Luis Castillo, Torii Hunter, and Michael Cuddyer on your team, you are definitely going to make a legitimate run in any season.