Detroit Tigers' Torii Hunter, who gave the Tigers the winning edge with an RBI single in the first inning, applauds as he leaves the field after the Tigers won the American League Central Division title following their 1-0 win over the Minnesota Twins in a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
The Twins are not playoff-bound. In fact, their magic number might be 2016 (the next time they could reasonably be expected to contend). ¶ But that doesn’t have to stop you — as a Twins fan and as a baseball fan — from picking a team to root for in the postseason. And if you are going to base it on local loyalty, here is a guide:
Frontrunner: The Pirates have three ex-Twins on their roster (Justin Morneau, Francisco Liriano and Garrett Jones). They are a feel-good story after returning to the playoffs after 20 losing seasons and they are a National League team, so you don’t even have to feel to guilty about it. The downside is it could be painful to watch Liriano — who could be in line to start the one-game playoff in the new wild-card round — regardless of whether he succeeds or fails.
Contenders: The Tigers have just one ex-Twin on their roster, but it’s Torii Hunter and he’s an all-time fan favorite who keeps showing his longtime team love. Detroit also has a good chance to make a deep run with all its pitching, and rooting for a winner (for a change) might be nice.
The A’s have Grant Balfour and Pat Neshek — the latter of whom is not just an ex-Twin but grew up here and has overcome a lot of adversity in his professional and personal life.
It’s complicated: If the Rangers make it, they have three ex-Twins (Matt Garza, A.J. Pierzynski and Joe Nathan). But Garza and Pierzynski are not always near and dear in the hearts of Twins fans. Nick Punto will make the Dodgers’ postseason roster, and aside from Joe Mauer there is not a single more polarizing player in recent Twins history.
Oh yeah, them: David Ortiz of the Red Sox hasn’t played in Minnesota for more than a decade, so there shouldn’t be much sentimentality there. Jason Kubel and Matt Carson (who played briefly here last year) are on Cleveland now, but neither figures to be a postseason factor. Jesse Crain is on the Rays, but that’s not a viable reason to root for Tampa Bay.
Zero, zilch, nada: The Cardinals, Reds and Braves have no ex-Twins.
Best-case scenario: Pirates vs. Tigers or A’s in the World Series and good vibes here.
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