The Twins had a great year in 2006, coming back to win the AL Central. It's the fourth time in the last five years we've won the division. For that streak to continue, we just need everybody to continue to focus on playing team ball.
Everyone talks about a few of our guys having such great individual years last season. They did. But we never really worried about those individual marks in our clubhouse. We just worried about the common goals of getting out of the cellar and winning ballgames.
Once we had that same mentality, that's when it seems like everybody started having great individual years. We just want to keep that mentality going this year.
I don't think we overachieved last year, or in any of our successful seasons before that. Our organization knows how to play baseball. We may not have the guys who hit 40 home runs every year or drive in 150 runs every year, but we've got guys who know how to play the game. If you know how to play the game, you're going to have success. That's a tribute to our development system, our Minor League coaches and our coaches in the big leagues. As long as we continue to know how to play baseball, we're going to continue to have success.
We definitely have guys who pulled in a lot of hardware last year. Looking around our clubhouse, we have an MVP (Justin Morneau), a batting champion (Joe Mauer), a Cy Young winner (Johan Santana) and a Gold Glove center fielder (Torii Hunter). We've got pretty much everything in here. But we don't play for the hardware, we play for the championships.
We thrive on the relative anonymity of playing in Minnesota. No one thought Justin would actually win the MVP last year because his closest competitor, Derek Jeter, plays in New York. It just goes to show how great a year Justin had. He carried us most of the year and kind of resurrected us.
People ask me if anyone outside of Minnesota knows that I had 109 RBIs and 102 runs last year, and I doubt it was on the top of anyone's mind. But that's just playing in Minnesota. How many people knew we had the MVP in Morneau and that Mauer won the batting title? It is what it is.
Still, I was pleased with my season last year. Going in, I didn't really know what my role was going to be. I wasn't starting and the whole month of April, I had 39 at-bats. To be able to turn the season around was great. That success gives me a different outlook this year. I don't want to say it's easier, but there's less pressure in the sense that I can stay within myself and know we'll be fine.
We got off to a poor start last year, but we had totally different personnel. We had different guys in different positions. Nobody really bought into the team concept until around June. Once we bought into that concept, we never looked back. At Spring Training this year, we still had that mentality, and that's why I think we'll continue our good start to this season.
Michael Cuddyer, 28, had a breakout year in 2006, hitting .284 with 24 homers to go with triple-digit totals in runs and RBIs. Cuddyer, who was drafted ninth overall in 1997 and played parts of six years in the Minors, hit .263 with 12 homers in each of his two previous seasons with Minnesota. He picked up 158 hits in 150 games last season despite not playing regularly until May. He earned the Most Improved Twin Award after picking up 19 or more RBIs in each of the last five months.
MLBPLAYERS.com is the official Web site of the Major League Baseball Players Association. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.