The Twins had an impressive series in Baltimore last week, sweeping the Orioles with three different types of victories: a 14-7 comeback, a 2-0 masterpiece from Ervin Santana and a 4-3 contest of will.
The Twins returned to Target Field and, after splitting the first two games of a series with Tampa Bay, they were 26-19 and leading the American League Central over Cleveland by three games.
This was a club coming off the worst season in franchise history at 59-103 in 2016. It was obvious in March that the Twins’ fan base had crossed over from disgust to disinterest.
There was so much apathy that articles posted at startribune.com could sit for days without so much as a single Joe Mauer cheap shot among a piddling number of comments.
This was supposed to be the spring of the Wild, and then Bruce Boudreau’s lads determinedly kept hitting St. Louis goalie Jake Allen with the puck and lasted only five games — from April 12 to April 22.
This left a little air surrounding the sporting public for the Twins to breathe, and the respectable play of the early weeks of the season caused at least mild curiosity. Then came the sweep in Baltimore, and the baseball naive came storming to the fore.
Were the Twins maneuvering into position to be “buyers” rather than “sellers” on the trade market? Would it be advisable to include No. 1 prospect and shortstop Nick Gordon with the young talent needed to acquire starter Gerrit Cole from Pittsburgh?
Talk about premature nonsense.
The Twins were 26-21 after the back-to-back abominations: blowing a lead and losing the longest home game (by time) in Twins history Sunday and giving up the largest number of bullpen runs (14) in Twins history Monday.
The Twins lost again Tuesday night, 7-2 to Houston, in game No. 48. That is 30 percent of a baseball schedule. It is a mere hint as to how a season will turn out, especially with a team that has played above the level of its talent.
The Twins were five games over and the Cubs were an even .500 after Memorial Day games. You think there’s any long-term reality in that scenario?
What the Cubs have indicated is that it might not be as easy as last season, but they remain likely to win 90 games. What the Twins have shown is they are unlikely to lose 90 or more, which occurred in five of the previous six seasons.
Gordon and more to acquire Cole, so you might be able to finish eight games behind Cleveland in the Central rather than 15? That would be genius.
Let’s remember last fall:
The Twins didn’t flat out say it, but they told us when firing Terry Ryan and bringing in a 30-years-younger boss in Derek Falvey that this was a start over from 59-103 — an excavation project, not a remodeling.
Thirty percent of the schedule doesn’t change that. First place on Memorial Day doesn’t change that, not with the Indians about to start winning.
Jason Kipnis back, Michael Brantley back, Edwin Encarnacion’s power bat ready to join the party … and you don’t think Cleveland is going to win 90?
Maybe not. Maybe bad things will happen to Cleveland. For sure, the Twins have to wait to the middle of July to make any bold moves to improve the long odds for 2017 while risking damage to their long-term prospects.
Yes, but the Twins “owe the fans” something after this horrible stretch of seasons. That’s the cliché we hear from the baseball naive.
They are correct. The something the Twins owe the sporting public is a commitment to the full rebuild that was the motive in hiring Falvey, then 33, last fall.
“We stink, Derek. Build this thing from bottom to top. Bring us back. And we’ll keep taking our lumps in ticket sales, corporate sales, TV ratings for the few more years that we understand it’s going to take.”
That was an unspoken message, but it’s what owner Jim Pohlad signed up for when he made the biggest upheaval in this franchise since the fall of 1985. That’s when his father, Carl, turned the baseball operation over to 32-year-old Andy MacPhail.
The Twins won the World Series two years later.
The difference is Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Greg Gagne, Jeff Reardon, Frank Viola and Bert Blyleven aren’t walking through the door for Falvey.
Actually, Bert is, but as a TV announcer with a relaxed schedule.
Two months in and it’s looking like the 2017 Twins won’t lose 90, meaning the rebuild for Falvey is right on its long schedule.