Reports of the Twins’ demise were premature

The Minnesota Twins threw in the towel on their playoff hopes nearly two weeks ago, trading a starting pitcher it had acquired for a playoff push days earlier, and sending away its All-Star closer.

That earned the scorn of local scribes who ridiculed the team for believing it had a chance at the playoffs in the first place.

Here’s Tom Powers writing in the Pioneer Press a week ago:

The front office guys have been watching their new team play ball for a full four months. You mean to tell me that they were not able to figure out that these Twins aren’t serious contenders? That a fade, which already is in progress, was inevitable? They didn’t know that teams with talented rosters, such as Cleveland, would eventually start to play better baseball and pull away?

Are they dense?

Here’s Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse on Aug. 4:

It was always a mirage that the 2017 Twins were a playoff contender. The Falveyians decided to stick a toe in the pond of the imaginary oasis by trading for Garcia.

A week later, all they saw was sand, and made a couple of trades that could change one thing: finishing fourth behind Detroit in the AL Central, rather than finishing third ahead of Detroit.

Even in the inflated era of advancing 33 percent of the teams to the postseason, there was only this factor to keep the Twins in the picture: a continuation of full-blown mediocrity from Cleveland and Kansas City.

Once that changed, the reality was the extremely flawed Twins were done. And honoring reality is the tie-breaker with the Falveyians.

A funny thing has happened since. The Twins are close to making the playoffs.

How do you like them now?

Let’s check the standings:

The Twins’ front office is made up of people who know baseball and while the writers are still looking at the Cleveland Indians on paper, the front office may have recognized that from opening day, the team that was supposed to run away with the division has not been very good on the field. The Indians have opened the door to the Twins. Why not kick it in?

Cleveland is on track to win only 86 games this season; that’s not very good. Only one team in the American League in the last 20 years has gone to a World Series while winning so few games — the 1997 Cleveland Indians.

The Twins, meanwhile, are the hottest team in the American League Central Division, leapfrogging over the suddenly moribund Kansas City Royals into second place in the division, just a half game out of the final playoff spot.

They are four games behind Cleveland with six games left against the Indians, three of them next week at Target Field.

Are they good enough to go to a World Series? Probably not. They might not even survive the one-game play-in game. They might not even make the playoffs.

But a funny thing happened while the “whiz kids” — as Powers derisively referred to the Twins executives — were getting fooled into believing the Twins were good enough to be in a pennant race.

They were good enough to be in a pennant race. That’s reality.

The writers are missing a good story.

  • Rob

    So, the Twins can make the playoffs by playing just a tad over .500 ball? Color me unimpressed.

    • I get that nobody is impressed with the team. The rooting for them to fail is the weird thing. You’d never see St. Louis fans — probably the most knowledgeable fans in all of baseball — act this way.

      • Rob

        I wish the Twins all the best.

      • P Gustaf

        This! For god’s sake, they lost 103 games last year! Are people expecting a World Series run? I’m pleased that they haven’t stunk to high heaven. Go Twins!

        • Hush your mouth! The 1986 Twins went 71-91, worse than their less-than-stellar 1985 season.

      • QuietBlue

        It’s St. Louis; who else are they going to watch? They don’t care about the Blues, despite their being really good lately.

        Edit: Okay, upon further review, the Blues actually have pretty good attendance. Still, with no NBA team and no NFL team anymore, it limits things a bit.

    • Gary F

      I’ll take it over the last couple years.

      I’m almost liking Matt Belisle again. I do switch the channel after Taylor Rogers takes the mound. Not sure when I’ll go back.

      • Erik Petersen

        You’re doing it wrong. Taylor Rogers is good, Matt Belisle is bad.

        • Gary F

          This week, Matt Belisle good, last week Taylor Rogers bad.

          Who knows what next week will bring.

  • MikeB

    If only the Twins can squeeze in more games against the Brewers yet this year

  • Bob Ingrassia

    The 1987 Twins won the World Series after winning only 85 regular season games.

    • That sentence was supposed to include the phrase “in the last 20 years.” That’s been fixed.

      Of course, the ’71 Mets only won 83 games while winning a World Series, too.

      • Erik Petersen

        73 Mets, and they lost to Oakland in the WS

        • Postal Customer

          And it was 82 games that they won that year.

  • Gary F

    Dozier and Kepler are hot. You get Mauer to up his game and bring his average close to 300 and get Sano to find the groove again, this could be a nice lineup. The bottom half of the lineup seems to take charge often enough.

    If the Taylor and Tyler team don’t let us down, and we get some decent starts, we could win the division or a wild card. Which is nice after the last few years of being miserable.

    It would take a perfect storm to beat Houston and Boston right now, but who knows? That’s the fun of talking baseball.

    • it sure beats being 20 games out

      • Gary F

        They got the pieces on offense, its a matter of getting them all working in sync and getting something as simple as a single or sacrifice fly with a guy on third.

        The whole Colon thing is throwing me for a loop. How can a 44 year old fat guy throwing fastballs in the high 80’s do better than some young buck throwing 95 with a good slider and change up. I don’t get it.

        That’s the fun of talking baseball.

        • Jeff

          They remembered how to play defense again too. I’m amazed at what Sano can do at 3rd. I’m not an expert though and maybe we grade him on a curve.

          • Jack Ungerleider

            If you look at past successful third baseman for the Twins (Gaetti, Koske, Plouffe) you see a similar progression, they often start out as mostly bat and not much glove but as they spend more time at the position they get better defensively. (I wasn’t here when Gaetti came up so I might have that one wrong.)

          • Nettles.

          • Jeff

            Back when the Indians were the farm team for the Yankees. Seems like they got Chambliss cheap too.

          • Yeah. Gabe Paul was the GM of the Indians. Swung big deals with the Yankees. Then went to work as the GM of the Yankees. Funny how that worked.

          • Jeff

            I’m not sure if our expectations are low or he’s excelling. Sort of like Joe Shlabotnik. To paraphrase Charlie Brown: ..he made a spectacular catch of a routine fly ball and threw out a runner who fell down between first and second.

        • Jack Ungerleider

          I think Greg Maddux made a hall of fame career with a fastball in the high 80’s didn’t he?

  • Jeff

    Having Buxton back helps and who would have guessed Big Sexy appears to have revitalized his career? (So far) That being said I’m back on board until the wheels fall off again. The series against the Tribe will be an indicator.

    • Gary F

      Buxton hitting a ball to the opposite field against the shift. OMG, he might be becoming a hitter.

  • Jerry

    It’s been a while since they had a chance to get swept in the first round of the playoffs

    • “All the negativity in this town sucks.”
      — Rick Pitino

      • Jerry

        This coming from a fan of Cleveland?

  • AmiSchwab

    i’ve never liked anything powers writes. go twins. and i love that outfield.

  • Bob Sinclair

    Meanwhile, those of us on the Upper Left Coast are watching with bated breath the fate of the Mariners. (oh how i love/hate rollercoasters)

    • Rob

      At least you can get fried crickets at Mariners home games.

  • ec99

    Have followed the Twins since their arrival from DC. Was clear early on and throughout, that neither Griffith nor Pohlad gave a damn about a championship team. Watched as a parade of stars (Bostock, Hisle, Carew, et al) were shuttled off for “a player to be named later.” To believe that this group will not be going home at the end of the regular season is dreaming chateaux en Espagne.

    • I’m not aware of anyone who thinks they’ll win a World Series. At the same time, it feels almost as if Twins fans feel like they’re forced to watch the team at gunpoint. On paper, the team never had a chance to even win 70 games this year. Why did they bother getting interested at all?

      I can’t ever recall any other city’s fans and sportswriters treating overachievement as a character defect and personal insult.

      • ec99

        The insult has habitually been perpetrated by the owners, who have expected fan loyalty while the word never existed for them.

  • AmiSchwab

    6 in a row