At this point, there can be little doubt that the 2011 Twins are cursed. Sure, various mis-plays and underachieving players have plenty to do with a season that has come unglued. But simple bad baseball cannot fully explain all that has transpired this season -- one in which the Twins now have the worst record in the American League, are hurtling toward 100 losses and are 26-67 in months not named June or July. It's time to pinpoint this curse so that it might be eradicated or at least understood. Here are the leading contenders, as we see it:
*Curse of the Spruce Trees: This is a popular explanation. We all remember the spruce trees that were in center field last year, then were subsequently removed because some Twins hitters didn't like the background they provided for batting. A safety issue, they said. The Twins this season, without the dreaded trees, have scored 253 runs in 72 home games so far -- an average of 3.51 per game. Last year, with the trees, the Twins scored 399 runs in 81 home games -- an average of 4.93 per game. You tell us: Does the spirit of those trees haunt Target Field and the related wood of the Twins' bats?
HOW EASILY CAN IT BE REVERSED: Well, we suppose the Twins could re-plant spruce trees. It would be a nice tip of the cap to wiping the slate clean from 2011. It would also be somewhat of an admission that the trees were responsible for the Twins' offense, an image we are not sure the club wants to put out there.
*Curse of Wally the Beer Man: The popular vendor was nabbed for allegedly selling beer to a minor late last September. The Twins were subsequently swept in the playoffs by the Yankees, and even though Wally was acquitted this year, he has not been back to work at Target Field. The whole story has several parallels to the tale of Waldorf the Alejack, if you care to have a deeper look back at history.
HOW EASILY CAN IT BE REVERSED: Quite easily. If the Twins would have him and Wally would accept, he could be a very easy symbol of a return to glory in 2012. Plus he has beer.
*Curse of Nick Punto: LNP, the scrappiest of the scrappy Twins players, was here from 2004-10. Sometimes he made far too much money. Often he did not hit very well. But he played very strong defense at a lot of different positions. And he battled his tail off. Always. Those last two qualities have been in short supply with the 2011 Twins, and maybe it was Punto's departure to St. Louis that set those wheels in motion.
HOW EASILY CAN IT BE REVERSED: Punto only signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals (at $750K/year). You know the often red-faced Ron Gardenhire would love to have his security blanket back, if nothing else so he doesn't have to spin around every game in disgust. You know Bill Smith must be eager to break out the team credit card to overpay for the kind of hustle and scrap you just can't put a price on.
*Curse of the Mauer Extension: True, Hometown Joe signed the deal before last season. But the 8-year, $184 million contract (that's $23 million a year, kids) went into effect this year. It has accelerated the extreme Mauer rage felt by a lot of fans as the occasional catcher has stumbled through a physical and public relations nightmare of a season.
HOW EASILY CAN IT BE REVERSED: Have you a DeLorean? Does this machine feature a flux capacitor, the system that makes time travel possible? Can you combine these elements while achieving a speed of 88 mph? If not, we unfortunately cannot go back in time. The only hope is that the next 7 years of the deal look a lot better than the first.
*Curse of the RandBall: The Twins are something like 2-8 in games we've attended in our season seats this year, and 3-0 in the games we've given away.
HOW EASILY CAN IT BE REVERSED: Well, we are about to renew our season tickets. If things go poorly again in 2012, though, we might get to test out the theory that we were the problem.
Your thoughts on the most likely curse and any additional entries in the comments, please.