Every major league baseball game has a certain amount of meaning to it. No matter how far out of a pennant race a team is, there is an inherent entertainment value for fans. Players are still playing for pride, a sense of accomplishment and for improvement in the future. But we typically think of meaningful games as those that occur later in the season and have a direct bearing on a team’s chances of making the postseason.
For two Twins recently traded away, playing in those types of games had become distant memories — what memories there were. But after careers spent mostly on losing teams — and having never appeared in a playoff game — Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia suddenly find themselves in the midst of pennant races.
Willingham was dealt Monday to Kansas City, the same day the red-hot Royals took over the AL Central lead by a half-game over slumping Detroit. Correia jumped into an even better situation, joining the Dodgers — owners of the best record in the National League — and helping Los Angeles immediately with a strong outing in a victory Monday.
Just how long had it been since either player was on a team that was even sniffing contention?
Willingham: He came to the Twins in 2012, so the past three seasons (at least until the trade) were spent on losing teams. In 2011, he spent a year with Oakland. But that was the A’s worst year (74-88) since they had the same record in 1998. Before that, he spent two years with the Nationals, who lost 93 games one season and 103 the other. The first five seasons in his career came with the Marlins (2004-08). In the first two of those seasons he had only a handful of at-bats.
The Marlins lost 84 games in 2006 and 91 in 2007. That brings us to the 2008 Marlins, who won 84 games. That was as good as it’s been for Willingham until now.
Correia: Before joining the Twins in 2013, he was on two losing Pirates teams in 2011 and 2012. In 2010, he was on a 90-win Padres team. But Correia had three bad starts toward the end of August and appeared in only two games in September as the Padres fell short of the postseason. He was also on an 87-loss Padres team in 2009.
He was on the Giants from 2003-08. The last four of those seasons, San Francisco had losing records. In 2004, the Giants won 91 games but missed the playoffs. In 2003, they made the postseason but he didn’t pitch.
In other words, this is unfamiliar territory for both ex-Twins.