Twins manager Ron Gardenhire rubbed the champagne out of his eyes as he reflected on the wild ride of the past five months that had concluded with the franchise's third world championship following another epic seven-game World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
"I've never had as much fun managing a team as I have these past five months," Gardenhire said. "But I've never been as miserable managing a team as I was the first two months."
So, what keyed the turnaround?
"No. 1 was getting healthy," Gardenhire said. "It was ridiculous there for awhile. They should have just called us the Red Wings. I'd never seen anything like it. Once we got our horses back, we started to play like we expected to. Then we started to get our bullpen straightened out as well as healthy. Chuck James was just a godsend. He gave us three strong lefties along with Glen Perkins and Jose Mijares. Then we could match up Slama with righties, who have a real tough time with his motion. Of course, just getting Joe Nathan healthy enough to resume his closer role was big so Cappy could go back to setting up.
"But what I think really helped us turn it up to a high level was getting back to Twins-brand baseball."
Was there any point in the season to point to that began the turnaround?
"That series in Kansas City in the beginning of June," Gardenhire said. "We had almost the entire starting lineup on the DL or on the bench with injuries, so we had almost no power at all in the lineup, so we talked to the guys about just being more aggressive with the small ball. Taking extra bases, hitting-and-running, bunting, that sort of thing.
"Lexi (Casilla) and Benny (Revere) really took to it. It was fun to watch."
That series was during Casilla's resurgence. Casilla had nearly played himself off the roster with his terrible hitting and inconsistent defense the first six weeks of the season, but Casilla turned it around and became a key member of the Twins and formed an exciting double-play combo with Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Revere, of course, took advantage of the injuries and played so well he eventually displaced Delmon Young as the starting left fielder.
With Revere and then Nishioka added to the lineup along with Casilla and Denard Span, Piranhas II: The Comeback was born.