As quickly as the playoffs started they were again over for the Minnesota Twins. We didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye.
Three losses against the Yankees and it was over. The Twins gained home field advantage for the first series because of their record for the season. We had two games at Target Field to start. The Twins had the best home record in the American League and the Yankees had lost the last three playoffs where they went in as a wild card. What could be better?
Obviously none of this matters when the Twins play the Yankees. Here are a few statistics that tell the story:
- The Twins have lost 12 straight playoff games, which is just one game short of a Major League record. The record is currently held by the Red Sox at 13 games, and they were fighting the Curse of the Bambino.
- The Twins are 2-15 in their last five playoff series.
- The Twins were the first to clinch a playoff spot and the first to lose in the first round of playoffs. First in and first out.
- The Twins are 17-52 against the Yankees during the 9 years that Gardenhire has managed the team.
There is a lot of discussion going on now about how this can happen year after year. Both the Twins and the Yankees struggled in the final two weeks of the season. The Twins had clinched, so there was some feeling that this was a natural let-down. On the other hand, the Yankees were still fighting for the Eastern Division championship, which was not decided until the last game of the season. Many fans and media commenters took this as a positive note.
But come October, the Yankees turn into a baseball machine. Winning 27 World Series and leading almost all playoff records gives that team the confidence to know that they can win in October. The Twins still seem to come into playoffs feeling like the poor relation—just happy to be there and not quite certain they fit in.
Both the media and fans are saying that the Twins just do not have the hunger it takes to make that next step. There is obviously a difference in winning games against the mediocre Central Division teams and winning the powerful Eastern Division. I think the weighted schedule that gives a team almost half of their games against teams in their own division does not serve the Twins well overall, but it certainly helps us win the division more often.
I have also heard comments that Minnesota fans were just not into the game as much; that they were too quiet and are not really “savvy” fans. The example was given that the Yankee fans were taunting Denard Span in Game 3 by calling out “Torii Hunter.” The Twins fans instead decided to do the wave! I think the fans at the playoffs were mostly fans who were there all season. It is not our responsibility to cheer loud enough for the Twins to throw the strike or get the hit to win the game. The players need to have the desire to do that on their own. The fans are called spectators for a reason. It is up to the players to provide a game worth watching and cheering about.
The Twins had a wonderful inaugural season at Target Field, playing before more than three million fans at home. The weather was glorious and fans were in awe of playing outside in a beautiful stadium. The fairy tale ended and reality set in when the playoffs began. I never thought the Twins would lose both games at home. It just didn’t seem possible after the season we had.
Ron Gardenhire was expected by many to win Manager of the Year this year. I am not sure if that is still the case after our playoff performance. In the nine years that Gardenhire has managed, the Twins have won six division championships and lost a seventh one in Game 163. There has been only one season where the Twins played under .500 baseball.
I have been asking myself which I would rather have. Would I trade eight out of nine seasons of meaningful baseball for eight seasons of mediocrity and one World Series ring? I have to honestly say that I would not. I know that I would rather have 162 games with a chance to take the division every year than all those years with a team that was not contending. I think everyone would have to admit that watching the Twins in a winning season is fun—and particularly this year, at Target Field, it has been a blast. It has been a party at every game—over 40,000 fans excited to be there and having fun. Would it have been the same if the Twins hadn’t been in the hunt for October baseball? I don’t think so.
“Life is a journey.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
We are told to enjoy the journey, and I think the Twins and their fans did that this year. Did we reach the destination and kind of as an afterthought realize that there was more baseball to play? I was at Game 2 of the playoffs, and even though it was a lousy game it was a beautiful night to be at a Twins game at Target Field. Maybe that is just enough.
Photo: A fan at Target Field as the Twins lost to the Yankees on October 6. Photo by Drew Geraets (Creative Commons).