Fort Myers, Fla. – The Vikings have been cursed by unimaginable moments in big games. The Timberwolves have been cursed by bad management and bad luck, even if you don’t believe in the legend of Joey Two-Step, the entertainer who hexed them when fired in the franchise’s early years.
“Nobody fires Joey Two-Step!” he said.
The Wild is too new to claim any historic curses, and the Gophers’ ineffectual efforts in football and basketball over the years speak more to institutional torpor than voodoo.
The one team local team that never needed to worry about curses was the Twins. A gift from the nation’s capitol, the Twins made it to a World Series in 1965, and won it all in 1987 and 1991.
Today, they might be our most cursed team, in more than one sense of that phrase.
You might notice signs around Hammond Stadium, whether in Tony Oliva’s limp, Joe Mauer’s new glove, Justin Morneau’s absence or the parking lot sign honoring Kirby Puckett. If you are an important Twins franchise player, you might want to carry a rabbit’s foot.
Their current franchise player, Mauer, signed a franchise-record contract based on his ability to catch. He missed much of the 2011 season because of a mysterious injury, and has been shifted to first base.
Their previous franchise player, Justin Morneau, was playing at a career peak in the summer of 2010 when he slid into second base in Toronto. A knee to the head destroyed Morneau’s career.
The most talented position player on the early-2000s Twins was shortstop Cristian Guzman. In 2001, Guzman rejoined the team in Milwaukee following the All-Star Game, took a few grounders and couldn’t throw to first. His season was over, the Twins collapsed in the second half, and Guzman became an occasionally good big leaguer instead of a perennial star.
One of the most talented pitchers in franchise history, Francisco Liriano, blew out his elbow in 2006, when the Twins looked like the best team in baseball. He didn’t become dominant again until after he left the Twins.
In 1995, Marty Cordova won the American League Rookie of the Year award. The next season, he drove in 111 runs while playing in 145 games. He injured his heel, then suffered a variety of ailments and never played in more than 131 games or drove in more than 70 runs again.
The most popular player in Twins history, Puckett, was supposed to bat cleanup in 1996 for the first time. The first three batters in the lineup that season, Chuck Knoblauch, Rich Becker and Paul Molitor, hit .341, .291 and .341. Puckett may have driven in 150 runs. Instead, he woke up the day the Twins were scheduled to leave spring training with impaired vision. He never played again.
For eight consecutive seasons Oliva was an All-Star. During those eight seasons, he won a Rookie of the Year award, a Gold Glove and finished in the top 10 in the AL MVP voting five times. In 1972, he tore up his knee. He never hit .300, won a major honor or made an All-Star team again.
Their own owner offered them up for contraction. Their lucky talisman, the Metrodome, has been torn down. They never have lost more games in three seasons than they have in the past three years.
Are the Twins cursed?
“We’ve had a good run of bad luck here,” current closer Glen Perkins said. “This happens to teams all over the place. We in Minnesota maybe don’t realize it if it happens to the Diamondbacks or the Rays. It’s just been a tough stretch. I don’t think it’s unfair. I think it’s just life.
“I do think it’s good having guys in here who weren’t part of the past three seasons. They have a fresh outlook and want to just come in and do their job. They don’t face the pressure of getting us out of the hole we’ve dug for ourselves the last three years. The farther we get from the last three years, the better off we’re going to be.”