Mitch Linsley, Dump & Change. May 29th, 2017.
Although the Twinkies have been all but irrelevant in recent memory, they’re still the only franchise of the four major sports to bring a championship to the Twin Cities (1987, 1991). Besides some success in the early 2000s against teams that aren’t the Yankees, the product on the field has been mediocre, while owner Jim Pohlad has taken harsh criticism for not spending the money (in a cap-free system, I might add) necessary in order to win in Major League Baseball. I’m gonna review the seasons played thus far at Target Field as anything before that isn’t really relevant at this point.
2010- The inaugural season at Target Field, the Twins showed promise by defending their AL Central title. They even improved their record from the previous year by finishing 94-68. Not bad at all. In addition, annual attendance was 3,223,640, breaking the 1988 record set following their first World Series title. New stadium, solid team, the overall attitude towards the Twins around town was generally optimistic. Ron Gardenhire even won Manager of the year. However, history came back to haunt them as they were swept by the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs.
2011- The team falters heavily, finishing 63-99, 32.0 games behind the first place Detroit Tigers, last in the AL Central. Attendance was 3,168,107, largely due to the new ball park, but money was still being made.
2012- The trend continues, they finished 66-96, 22 games out of first place, worst record in the American League. Joe Mauer is the team’s only all star as a reserve catcher, and they got not-hit for the first time in franchise history, by Jered Weaver. Attendance was 2,776, 354.
2013- For the second straight season, they finished 66-96. However this time they beat the White Sox in record so they weren’t at the bottom of the division at season’s end. At this point, Gardenhire is on the hot seat and fans become increasingly frustrated with Joe Mauer’s ridiculous contract; he is among top 30 athletes worldwide in annual contract earnings. Attendance was 2,477,644.
2014- Their record improves slightly. The team finishes 70-92, last in AL Central, 2nd to last in AL, 20 games behind first place Detroit. Attendance drops again, this time to 2,250,606. The Twins hosted the ASG and sent Perkins and Dozier. Following the season, long time manager and fan favorite Ron Gardenhire is fired and replaced by Twins legend and St. Paul native, Paul Molitor. Attendance drops again, this time to 2,250,606.
2015- The beginning of the Paul Molitor Era. The team signs former Twins great Torii Hunter to a one-year deal to add leadership and solid play at outfield. They ended up finishing 83-79, their first winning season in 5 years. This ended them up in 2nd place in the AL Central, 12 games out of first place and 3 games out of the final wildcard spot. Top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano make their major league debuts, ushering in what the Twins hope is a new era and identity in Twins baseball. It seemed things were turning around for this club with Moli in charge. Attendance was 2,220,054.
2016- Yikes. 59-103. They lost over 100 games in a single season. The worst record posted in franchise history. I remember all last summer the Common Man was calling it the “run for 121” on KFAN, in reference to the loss record set by the 1962 Mets. This season was bad in all facets, I don’t even know how to cover it. Pitching was just awful, Buxton and Sano were striking out left and right, Byung-Ho park comes over from Korea to hit home runs and he strikes out a shit ton as well. Attendance was 1,963,192, their lowest since 2005. Man the lifeboats, this ship is sinking fast.
Well well well, what do we have here? Who would’ve seen this coming? In bizarre fashion, your Minnesota Twins currently hold a record 26-20, 2 games ahead of the defending AL Champ Cleveland Indians. I say bizarre because they own a home record of 12-15 and a road record of 14-5. I’m gonna start calling Molitor the road warrior. Seriously if this team can go just .500 at home I think they’ll make the playoffs, but I guess it’s hard to play in an empty stadium.
Miguel Sano’s game is finally coming into fruition. He’s dominating the team’s batting stats, posting a .293 BA with 11 homers and 37 RBIs on 46 hits. The young 3rd basemen is getting on base 40.6% of the time. Outfielder Byron Buxton has been remarkable defensively but his struggles at the plate continue (.191 BA, 2 HR, 7 RBI). He’s still striking out a shit ton (51 times so far) even though he tears it up every time he gets sent to triple A in Rochester. I think it’s the mental aspect; every time he steps up to the plate he thinks he’s gonna get sent down if he strikes out. Just let the kid play and hope his game gets where it needs to be. Triple A can’t do anything for him anymore. Hometown hero and former batting champion Joe Mauer is batting .283, has 3 homers and 18 RBIs. His cap hit this year? $23,000,000. Holy shit. That’s 21.27% of the entire team’s payroll. Joe Mauer is making more money this year (by contract) than Tom Brady, Steph Curry, Sidney Crosby and Cam Newton. Let that sink in. Maybe if he took a pay cut because he’s trash, this team could go after some free agents (can we please pursue Chris Archer?) because lord knows Pohlad isn’t gonna spend the money to win. You wanna throw me some of that money Joe? I’m blogging out of my parents basement right now.
A liability in recent seasons, pitching quality has picked up. Ervin Santana leads the team in wins (7), ERA, (1.8), and strikeouts (51). In 10 starts, our ace has posted a 7-2 record, allowed just 31 hits and 14 earned runs in 70 innings pitched. If he doesn’t get caught juicing again we’re in business. Young pitcher Jose Berrios has showed promise after a mediocre rookie season last year. He holds a 3-0 record, a 1.66 ERA and has struck out 22 batters. In 21.3 innings pitches, he’s allowed just 8 hits and 4 runs. Berrios has walked 4 batters and conceded just 3 home runs. I think there’s a lot of upside to this guy. Hector Santiago continues to be average; he’s got a 4-4 record, 4.31 ERA, 40 strikeouts and has allowed 54 hits, 27 runs and 10 homers in 56.1 innings pitched. I could go down the line here but that would take all day. I’ll take applications to cover the twins for me; too many games and players. The bullpen has been serviceable and our closers haven’t blown a ton of games like last year.
The downward trend shown earlier is seemingly turning around. At this rate, attendance, wins and overall relevance in the league should begin to climb back to where it once was. This team has definitely showed some long overdue promise in the young season and for once, baseball fans in Minnesota have a reason to be optimistic. The future course of the season is hard to predict because this is essentially the same squad that lost 103 games last year but almost made the playoffs the year before.
My guess is that they finish somewhere around 82-80 and end up conceding the division to Cleveland.