I must be paying attention to and hearing from the wrong people. I had no idea there was a groundswell from opinion makers with blogs and Twins devotees in the sporting public that this team had a chance to continue beyond the scheduled finale with Detroit on Oct. 1.
There’s a controversy that the Twins turned over starter Jaime Garcia after one start and also traded closer Brandon Kintzler with minutes to spare before the 3 p.m. deadline on July 31?
“Imagine my surprise …,’’ to quote Jim Brockmire.
OK, I loved the easy jokes available for us on Twitter comparing Garcia’s tenure with the Twins to that of Anthony Scaramucci at the White House.
The only shocking part in the Garcia situation was the Twins picked up the $4 million remaining on his salary in the original trade, and then retained that financial commitment to get an alleged better prospect in Class AA starter Zack Littell from the Yankees.
As for Kintzler, you could discern this early-on with the Derek Falvey baseball operation: The Falveyians are big on track records melded with new-age analyses of players.
This was discovered at the end of spring training, when the new bosses declined to be impressed with what seemed to be sizable improvement at the plate from Byungho Park in the Florida exhibitions.
Park came from the Korea Baseball Organization in 2016 and was handed a designated hitter job that he failed to hold. The Falveyians looked at their numbers – swing speed, whatever – and removed Park from the 40-player roster before the start of spring training.
Park tore it up in the Grapefruit League, and the assumption was he would return to the big-league roster and open the season as the DH. It is a 100 percent certainty that Park’s spring would have led to that decision for a club run by Terry Ryan.
That’s not what happened in the Twins’ new baseball world of 2017. Nothing Park had done in March changed the Falveyian view on Park’s marginal promise for success as a major league hitter.
Byungho has been with Class AAA Rochester all season and is batting .266 with nine home runs and 41 RBI. The DH bouncing back and forth between the Red Wings and the Twins has been Kennys Vargas, not Park.
A year ago, Glen Perkins’ shoulder injury and Kevin Jepsen’s futility opened the closer’s role for Kintzler in early June. There weren’t many save opportunities with that futile ballclub, but Kintzler showed enough to get the first shot at the job for 2017.
He was excellent for the Twins – so much so, that he was an addition to the American League All-Star roster. He is also a journeyman with an amazing travelogue that includes three seasons with the Winnipeg Goldeyes and St. Paul Saints.
Kintzler is a tremendous story, and an intriguing character, but also a free agent after this season. This winter will be his one chance to make a sizable hit financially: maybe double his current $2.95 million annually for a couple of years, with a buyout in the third.
He turned 33 on Tuesday. I don’t see him as a guy the new Twins would invest $13 million or so. Once Cleveland and Kansas City got hot in the week before the deadline, and the Twins’ flaws became increasingly visible, it wasn't a surprise that Kintzler was moved – even for a modest return.
The nine-game winning streaks of Cleveland and Kansas City were mentioned to general manager Thad Levine in a radio interview this week. “If they were going to get hot, we’re fortunate that it happened before the deadline rather than after it,’’ he said.
It was always a mirage that the 2017 Twins were a playoff contender. The Falveyians decided to stick a toe in the pond of the imaginary oasis by trading for Garcia.
A week later, all they saw was sand, and made a couple of trades that could change one thing: finishing fourth behind Detroit in the AL Central, rather than finishing third ahead of Detroit.
Even in the inflated era of advancing 33 percent of the teams to the postseason, there was only this factor to keep the Twins in the picture: a continuation of full-blown mediocrity from Cleveland and Kansas City.
Once that changed, the reality was the extremely flawed Twins were done. And honoring reality is the tie-breaker with the Falveyians.
Ask Byungho Park.