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Monday, January 21
Minnesota Mudcats

2001 record:
106-56 (.698); 1st place in AL East
Won AL Divisional Series over Plaza in 6 games
Won AL Championship Series over Cook Country in 6 games
Lost BRASSball World Series Championship to Ocala in 6 games

Major additions:
RHP Trevor Hoffman, RHP Pedro Astacio, LHP Kirk Rueter, OF Paul O'Neill, OF John Vander Wal, 3B Chris Stynes

Major loses:
OF Brian Giles, C Jorge Posada, RHP Kevin Tapani, RHP Darryl Kile, RHP Jason Bere, RHP Esteban Loazia, 3B David Bell, 2B Quilvio Veras

2001 Review:
For the second consecutive season the Minnesota Mudcats topped the 100-win mark, this time with a franchise-best 106 wins in 2001. Minnesota also enjoyed its greatest post-season ever, advancing past league rivals Plaza and Cook County to reach the BRASSball World Series.

Although the team's season ended there (falling in six games to the Ocala Ocelots), Minnesota's continued success has established it as one of BRASSball's elite organizations. To wit, the 2001 Minnesota Mudcats featured:

  • an amazing six players who hit 30 or more homers
  • four pitchers who won at least 17 games, included two who topped the 20-win mark
  • an amazing defense that committed only 64 errors, lowest in all of BRASSball.

Key offensive contributors for the Mudcats in 2001 were SS Alex Rodriguez (.305, 32 HR, 123 RBI), 1B Jason Giambi (.306, 53 HR, 123 RBI), OF Brian Giles (.282, 32 HR, 150 RBI) and Gold Glove OF Andruw Jones (.294, 37 HR, 121 RBI). The team's best pitchers were RHP Kevin Tapani (20-6, 3.78 ERA) and LHP Mike Hampton (19-7, 3.81 ERA).

2002 Outlook:
Conventional wisdom says that it is hard to achieve success, but even harder to maintain. The Minnesota Mudcats front office would certainly agree with that statement.

Free agency hit Minnesota hard during the offseason, especially in its pitching staff. Lost to higher bidders were OF Brian Giles, C Jorge Posada (.277, 32 HR, 114 RBI) and three-fifths of its starting rotation in RHP Kevin Tapani, RHP Esteban Loazia (20-9, 5.74 ERA) and RHP Jason Bere (13-8, 5.09 ERA). In addition, the Mudcats lost yet another starting pitcher when it traded RHP Darryl Kile (17-12, 4.36 ERA) for draft picks.

This loss of talent has only fueled the controversy surrounding the team's desire for a new, state-of-the-art stadium in Minnesota. The Mudcats organization claims the revenue generated from such a facility is the only way to “make enough money,” as witnessed by its decision to not resign the players mentioned above due to their prohibitive salary demands.

Opponents of the issue, though, feel that providing tax-payer funding to the already rich and profitable franchise is a waste of public resources. Furthermore, these same opponents have demanded that Mudcats management publicly release its financial statements and admit to the team's already healthy bottom-line. Thus far, however, the team's ownership has refused to do so.

Regardless of this scandal, though, the 2002 season must go on and expectations still run high for the Mudcats. With much of its vaunted 2001 lineup returning, Minnesota's offense should remain one of the league's best. Joining the lineup are OF Paul O'Neill (.255, 19 HR, 79 RBI) and 3B Chris Stynes (.291, 9 HR, 30 RBI), both of whom should provide the Mudcats with veteran leadership and unmatched intangibles.

Joining Hampton in the starting rotation are new faces in crafty LHP Kirk Rueter (15-12, 4.85 ERA) and RHP Pedro Astacio (7-12, 5.91 ERA). RHP Matt Morris (46 IP, 5.87 ERA, 28 SV), the team's primary relief pitcher last season, is also expected to start in 2002. Battling for the final spot in the rotation will be LHP Sterling Hitchcock (1-10, 9.87 ERA) and prospect RHP Wascar Serrano among others.

The team's only visible weakness from last season -- a shaky bullpen -- should not plague them again this year. Now pitching the late innings will be RHP Trevor Hoffman (75 IP, 3.01 ERA, 35 SV), a bullpen ace recently acquired from Toledo via trade.

While another 106-win campaign seems unlikely, it is impossible to count out a team with as much talent as the Mudcats. If Minnesota's veteran team can maintain its focus amid the mounting off-field distractions, another playoff appearance is within reach.

Projected lineup
2B Fernando Vina
CF Andruw Jones
DH Jason Giambi
SS Alex Rodriguez
LF Geoff Jenkins
1B Sean Casey
3B Chris Stynes
RF Paul O'Neill
C Henry Blanco

Mike Hampton
Kirk Rueter
Pedro Astacio
Matt Morris
Sterling Hitchcock

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