The Twins' latest doomed postseason venture ended on Sept. 30 in a two-game wild card sweep at the hands of the mediocre Astros.
But the season was lost, for all practical purposes, the day before that.
The Twins carried a 1-0 Game 1 lead into the seventh inning of that game, needing just nine more outs from a good bullpen to finally snap a record-breaking postseason losing streak that dates back to 2004.
But in that inning, third baseman Marwin Gonzalez couldn't handle a two-out bouncer from Martin Maldonado. It was ruled a hit — a tough but makeable play — and the bobble pushed the tying run to second base. That run scored when the next man up, George Springer, singled to center.
That score remained 1-1 into the ninth. Again with two outs and two on, Springer was up. This time he hit a grounder to Jorge Polanco at shortstop, who fielded it cleanly ... but then threw wide to Luis Arraez at second base. Arraez couldn't keep his foot on the bag, everyone was safe, and we all knew what would happen next: the Astros made the Twins pay by scoring three runs, and soon a 4-1 win was theirs.
Middle infield defense was a question going into 2020, though perhaps it was forgotten somewhat as 1) coronavirus and the shortened 60-game season overshadowed a lot of more granular story lines and 2) Polanco rebounded from a shaky 2019 season in the field and made just two regular-season errors.
That brings us to Tuesday's news that the Twins agreed to sign Andrelton Simmons, a four-time Gold Glove winning shortstop, to a one-year, $10.5 million contract.
Whether this is a response to a specific moment or a general issue — perhaps both? — is an unanswered question. But it is an interesting signing as we consider the Twins' deficiencies.
There's a danger in a sort of whack-a-mole approach to problems because — as is the object of the game from which that expression is derived — as soon as you knock out one issue another one immediately arises.
Now that the Twins have added elite fielding talent at one of the most important positions, they might make the plays that have eluded them — like Polanco's miscue in the ninth inning of Game 1 last season.
But will Simmons, an OK hitter but a lesser option than plenty of other middle infielders, come up to the plate in a key situation in October and fail to come through? Is his signing enough to overcome pitching that — as of now — looks to be one dominant arm short in both the rotation and bullpen of being truly dangerous?
Maybe those are polite ways of saying: Good signing, but the Twins need to do more.
But: If Simmons represents an overcorrection of sorts — placing a huge value on defense and less so on offense in reaction to a persistent problem that manifested itself in a season-defining single example — it is at least an overcorrection in the right direction.
Simmons essentially replaces Gonzalez, a capable fielder with limited range whose best position is probably third base (occupied by Josh Donaldson, at least when healthy). Offensively, Simmons and Gonzalez are pretty comparable. If we take out Gonzalez's outlier season in 2017, when he was with the Astros during their cheating days, Simmons might even be an upgrade.
Gonzalez's super-utility role goes to Arraez, a subpar fielder whose deficiencies can perhaps be mitigated more easily by spreading him around to different positions while keeping his batting champion capabilities in the lineup.
Polanco can move to second base, where his throwing woes — 13 of his 22 errors in 2019 were of the throwing variety — should be mitigated. Perhaps his offensive game can flourish while playing a less-demanding position.
The Twins are a better team now than they were 24 hours ago. Whether they are good enough to finally break their postseason losing streak remains to be seen.