The present for the Twins, in admittedly a very small sample size of just two games, does not look good. The future, whenever Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and co. arrive, could be better.
But the past offers a sure thing.
Fifty years ago Sunday, the 1965 Twins opened their season with a 5-4, 11-inning walkoff victory over the Yankees. A Cesar Tovar single scored Bob Allison with the winning run. Starting pitcher Jim Kaat, who had been stranded miles from the ballpark because of severe ice and snow, arrived for the game by helicopter.
It launched the Twins on the trajectory of a magical season that ended with a 102-60 record — still the most wins in franchise history — and a trip to the World Series. The hope is to circle back on the 1965 season periodically in this space throughout the year. For now, here are a few other notes and highlights:
• The Twins’ offensive output might not look like much, but their .254 team batting average for the season actually led the American League. It’s exactly the same average the 2014 Twins had, when they were seventh in the AL in batting. Zoilo Versalles, who led the league in runs scored and total bases, won the AL MVP award.
• Twins starting pitchers posted a 3.24 ERA and threw 1,003⅔ innings. Twins starters last year threw nearly 100 fewer innings and had a 5.06 ERA by comparison. Mudcat Grant (21-7) and Jim Kaat (18-11) led the way in 1965, each tossing more than 260 innings.
• Teams that we think of as thorns in the Twins’ sides recently — namely the Yankees and Red Sox — were the ones Minnesota feasted on in 1965. They went 13-5 against the Yankees, who finished 25 games behind the Twins in the AL race (remember, there were no divisions back then. Only one team, the AL champ, made the postseason, and then went straight to the World Series).
The Yankees were downright ferocious compared to the Red Sox. The Twins finished 40 games ahead of the 62-100 Red Sox, going 17-1 for the season against Boston.
• Season attendance was a little more than 1.46 million — the best in the American League.
• The World Series against the Dodgers followed a familiar script to 1987 and 1991, with the home team winning ever game … right up until Game 7, where 1965 deviated and the Dodgers won 2-0 in Minnesota behind a three-hit shutout by Sandy Koufax. Every World Series game finished in 2 hours, 34 minutes or less.