Twins, Rays Primed to Disappoint in 2011

by M.C. Antil on January 27, 2011

Joe Maddon and the Rays: Bad moon rising?

Every spring, when I start looking around for teams likely to have disappointing seasons, I look at one thing; the club’s bullpen.

Because just as no NFL team can win without a quality offensive line, and no NBA team can win without a solid point guard, I truly believe no baseball team — regardless of how deep and talented it may be elsewhere — can rise above a leaky, patchwork mess of a bullpen.

That said, given the extent to which they’ve been desperately trying to rebuild their pens on the fly (and the cheap) this off-season, I can’t help but feel that the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays, in spite of all their talent and recent success, are both primed to be major disappointments in 2011.

And that likelihood has been only increased by the extent to which teams like the Red Sox, Jays, Tigers and White Sox have been able to improve themselves since the final out of last season.

Pat Neshek: A wing and a prayer

Given that, my sense is the difference-making Twins in 2011 will not have names like Joe Mauer and Delmon Young, but Anthony Slama and Pat Neshek

Similarly, the most critical comeback in Minnesota will not be that of Justin Morneau, but that of Joe Nathan.

Meanwhile in Tampa, the most important players to the Rays’ post-season hopes will likely not be name-above-the-title, ten-figure talents like Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton, or even rookie sensation Desmond Jennings, but hold-your-breath, roll-of-the-dice X-factors like J.P. Howell, Jake McGee and (gulp) Kyle Farnsworth.

Sure, the Rays will miss Carl Crawford, but not to the extent that they’ll miss the collective impact of Rafael Soriano, Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler.

Remember, you heard it here first.

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