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This Twins playoff race different from anything we've ever seen

The Twins are still overwhelming favorites to win the AL Central, but the only people who probably believe that are the ones who compile playoff odds (Fangraphs: 94% Twins win division) and those resilient and confident players who occupy the Twins’ clubhouse.

Fans are now deep in their second worry spiral of the season. The first came as the Twins’ 11.5-game lead was whittled to minus-0.5, and the second is right now as Cleveland has again risen up to make a fight of it over the last two weeks. The lead is down to 3.5, and there are three big games in Cleveland this weekend before the Twins’ schedule softens again.

Those who watch horror movies should know that a particularly stout villain is never really vanquished until the final credits roll (and I promise I came up with that analogy before glancing down just now and realizing that it is, in fact Friday the 13th today).

The math tells us that if the Twins can simply avoid a sweep this weekend, they will still be in pretty good shape. Win one game, take a 2.5-game lead (three in the loss column) into the final 13 games against the lesser AL Central foes while Cleveland has some tougher series ahead? As a bare minimum, that would suffice.

But Cleveland is playing well again (suddenly) and with desperation (as they have been for a while). Twins fans aren’t wrong to be nervous.

And they are probably particularly nervous because I have come to the conclusion that most Twins fans have never really experienced a playoff chase quite like this before — at least not one where the Twins eventually came out of it with a postseason berth. The combination of a large lead vanishing and the Twins trying to fend off a foe of this quality? That hasn’t been part of the playoff playbook.

2017? There was tension in the race for the second wild card, but it was a battle of attrition won almost by default against a mediocre field.

2010? That race was tight for a while, but with two weeks left the Twins had stretched their division lead to double-digits and could coast to the finish.

2009? That was the ultimate drama, but the Twins were giving chase, not being chased all year. They were tied for the division lead on May 14. They didn’t even have a share of the lead again until October, when they finally caught the Tigers (an 86-win team) and won that dramatic Game 163.

2006? Again, the drama was tremendous but the chase was from behind — a 71-33 finish fueling a dramatic division title. From that direction, it feels like there’s a lot less to lose.

2004? The lead in September was never less than 7.5 games.

2003? The Twins finished off a tight race against the White Sox with a 19-7 September, but Chicago (86 wins) was hardly the same quality foe as Cleveland). And the Twins that year were the pursuer for much of the year, trailing the division race by 7.5 games in July.

2002? The division lead never dipped below 10 games from mid-July to the end of the year. It was as easy as could be.

1991? That’s not a bad comparison to this year … but again, the division lead was never less than 6 games in September and the next-closest team (Chicago) finished with just 87 wins.

1987? The Twins won the division with 85 wins. There were no elite teams in pursuit.

I’ll stop there because anything else goes beyond my lifetime. If you remember 1970, when the Twins led the division for most of the year, saw it wax and wane, and then surged at the end … maybe that’s the season that most resembles 2019. That was also a half-century ago.

This year’s tension is as real as it is unfamiliar. It’s strangely probably easier to be a Cleveland fan right now, with less to lose and more to gain. But it’s still better to be 3.5 up than 3.5 down, no matter how it feels or how a team got there.

LeBron can't trademark 'Taco Tuesday' because tacos are for everyone

Welcome to the Thursday edition of The Cooler, where I don’t care if I write any words as long as we win. Let’s get to it:

*Taco Tuesday is a lot of things to a lot of different people: a state of mind, a lifestyle … or maybe just a bit of handy alliteration to remind us that the second day of the traditional work week would be a great time for some taco goodness.

But we also now have a definitive ruling on what Taco Tuesday is not: It is not a phrase that can be trademarked, something LeBron James nevertheless tried to do.

His trademark application was denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office , per ESPN, because it’s a “commonplace term” (even if taco enthusiasts like me know that tacos themselves are hardly ordinary).

Per the story: “The applied-for mark is a commonplace term, message, or expression widely used by a variety of sources that merely conveys an ordinary, familiar, well-recognized concept or sentiment message,” the USPTO wrote.

The USPTO also said, per the story, “Taco Tuesday” is a “widely used message used by various parties to express enthusiasm for tacos by promoting and celebrating them on a dedicated weekday.” This is the sort of government I can get behind.

At this point, you might need to back up a step and ask: Why in the world was an NBA megastar trying to trademark a taco-based phrase in the first place?

Well, LeBron is a lover of tacos and his social media videos of his family eating them on Tuesdays became a hit. He wanted to use “Taco Tuesday” on merchandise.

So this was a selfish, greedy money grab? Well … kind of. But maybe not? See, also per the ESPN.com story, the trademark rejection seems to be exactly what LeBron was after.

Per a spokesman for LeBron, who surely is proud that he got to make a statement about tacos: “Finding ‘Taco Tuesday’ as commonplace achieves precisely what the intended outcome was, which was getting the U.S. government to recognize that someone cannot be sued for its use.”

So LeBron just wanted to prove that tacos on Tuesday are for everyone (and use the phrase on merch)? Maybe he is the hero we deserve.

*Belgian tennis star Kim Clijsters, the former world No. 1 player 16 years ago, is coming out of retirement for the second time at age 36 — after being out of the game for seven years. Her announcement Thursday on Twitter was just about perfect.

*The Jets are Jets-ing hard already this year. Not only did they blow a 16-0 lead to the Bills in a 17-16 Week 1 loss, but also they will be without starting QB Sam Darnold in Week 2 because of … mono? Yes, that’s right. So their Monday Night Football starter against the Browns will be none other than last year’s Vikings backup, Trevor Siemian. Head coach Adam Gase seems thrilled to share the news! “So … that would be that.

*It’s hard to win a basketball game — let alone a playoff game — when your starting backcourt is outscored 48-1. That was the fate for the Lynx on Wednesday, with Danielle Robinson (0) and Odyssey Sims (1) combining for a single point in a season-ending 84-74 loss to Seattle.

Sims was an All-Star this year and led the Lynx in scoring at 14.5 ppg. Robinson was fourth at 10.1 ppg — so their output was nearly 24 points below their combined regular-season averages.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Vikings at Green Bay

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Twins at Cleveland

    12:10 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Real Salt Lake at Loons

    4:30 pm on FSN, 1500-AM

  • Chicago White Sox at Twins

    6:40 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Chicago White Sox at Twins

    6:40 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Dallas at Wild (preseason)

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, NHLN, 100.3-FM

  • Chicago White Sox at Twins

    6:40 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Wild at Winnipeg (preseason)

    7 pm on 100.3-FM

  • Kansas City at Twins

    6:40 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Kansas City at Twins

    7:10 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Toronto Aerios at Gophers women's hockey (exhibition)

    12:07 pm

  • Colorado at Wild (preseason)

    5 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

  • Kansas City at Twins

    6:10 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Oakland at Vikings

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Kansas City at Twins

    1:10 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Minnesota Whitecaps at Gophers women's hockey (exhibition)

    2:07 pm

  • Loons at Portland

    2:55 pm on ESPN, 1500-AM

Today's Scoreboard

  • Boston

    Philadelphia

     

    - F

    6

    3

  • NY Yankees

    Toronto

     

    - F

    4

    6

  • Minnesota

    Cleveland

     

    - F

    5

    7

  • Baltimore

    Detroit

     

    - F

    8

    2

  • Atlanta

    Washington

     

    - F

    0

    7

  • Houston

    Kansas City

     

    - F

    12

    3

  • Milwaukee

    St. Louis

     

    - F

    7

    6

  • Pittsburgh

    Chicago Cubs

     

    - F

    6

    16

  • Oakland

    Texas

     

    - F

    6

    1

  • San Diego

    Colorado

     

    - Bot 7th

    3

    8

  • Miami

    San Francisco

     

    - Top 8th

    1

    1

  • Tampa Bay

    LA Angels

     

    - Bot 7th

    1

    6

  • Cincinnati

    Arizona

     

    - Top 7th

    3

    1

  • Chicago White Sox

    Seattle

     

    - Bot 6th

    8

    5

  • LA Dodgers

    NY Mets

    6:08 PM

    ESPN

  • Minnesota

    Green Bay

     

    - F

    16

    21

  • Jacksonville

    Houston

     

    - F

    12

    13

  • Indianapolis

    Tennessee

     

    - F

    19

    17

  • Arizona

    Baltimore

     

    - F

    17

    23

  • San Francisco

    Cincinnati

     

    - F

    41

    17

  • Los Angeles

    Detroit

     

    - F

    10

    13

  • New England

    Miami

     

    - F

    43

    0

  • Buffalo

    NY Giants

     

    - F

    28

    14

  • Seattle

    Pittsburgh

     

    - F

    28

    26

  • Dallas

    Washington

     

    - F

    31

    21

  • Kansas City

    Oakland

     

    - 3rd, 8:31

    28

    10

  • New Orleans

    Los Angeles

     

    - 3rd, 9:49

    6

    6

  • Chicago

    Denver

     

    - 3rd, 3:07

    6

    3

  • Philadelphia

    Atlanta

    7:20 PM

    NBC

No NBA games today

  • Arizona

    Vegas

     

    - 2nd, 0:10

    2

    4

  • D.C.

    Portland

     

    - F

    1

    0

  • Colorado

    Toronto FC

     

    - End 2nd

    1

    2

  • Real Salt Lake

    Minnesota

     

    - H

    1

    1

  • New York

    Seattle

     

    - H

    0

    1

  • Sporting Kansas City

    Los Angeles

    9:00 PM