Conversations involving the Twins these days tend to include a disclaimer, so let’s get that out of the way up front.
Yes, it’s early.
Nothing can be said or written definitively when a baseball season has yet to reach June.
Now that that’s duly noted, here’s another fact: The Twins are finally a fun team to watch again.
Target Field has become a destination to view competent baseball, not just a place to drink and socialize and soak up our beautiful summers.
Go ahead and enjoy this, Twins fans. It’s OK to feel excited and optimistic about this team after enduring the other side, the dark side. Four summers of misery exposed fans to more than their fair share of unwatchable baseball.
The Twins are one of the hottest teams in baseball, a streak of unexpected excellence that continued Monday with a 7-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox that pushed them eight games above .500 for the first time since 2010.
Is this really the same team that started the season 1-6 and looked hopelessly lost?
“Surprised? Absolutely not,” Brian Dozier said. “We know what kind of team we have.”
Who knows? Maybe they are playing above their heads right now. Or maybe they will prove to be a lot better than anyone originally thought over the long haul. The rest of summer will define how good this team is and whether this pace can be sustained.
The point is, the Twins are relevant again and displaying competency in all areas. They play entertaining baseball. They have given us reason to take notice and enjoy coming to the ballpark again.
“I’m excited about this team,” Torii Hunter said.
Their success has been a collaborative effort.
They don’t have an everyday player hitting .300. They don’t necessarily have a staff ace. They don’t have a regular designated hitter.
Their formula requires contributions from all parties, which has been the most interesting development so far.
It might be Blaine Boyer holding a lead, or Aaron Hicks making a diving catch, or Eddie Rosario coming up with a clutch hit or Trevor May establishing himself in the rotation.
“You’ve got to have good pitching, good defense and everybody one through nine contributes,” Dozier said.
That’s been their blueprint during this hot streak. The starting pitching is giving them a chance to win, easily the most important part of the equation. The defense, particularly in the outfield, has been vastly improved. And the lineup is balanced so that all the pressure doesn’t fall on one or two hitters.
Manager Paul Molitor describes it as a “mixed bag.”
“You have a lot of guys doing a lot of things,” he said.
That has helped foster a different vibe and attitude around the team. Winning, of course, has that effect. Confidence starts to build and spread, especially when so many guys have had big moments.
General Manager Terry Ryan believes the biggest change is the team’s ability to win games that are “on the edge,” the ones that can go either way. The bullpen deserves a lot credit for that, but winning plays happen at different junctures in every game. The Twins just seem to take advantage of those moments right now.
They also shrug off bad performances, the kind of stinkers that would snowball into losing streaks in previous years. Now, players view it as nothing more than a bad day at the office.
Since that 1-6 start, the Twins have gone 10-2 in games after losses. The importance of that statistic can’t be oversold.
“When we lost a game last year, no music, no talking, no nothing,” Dozier said. “Just go eat, go home kind of thing. This year it’s been a lot different. Everybody is chit-chatting. Still see smiles on their face. Obviously you’re mad you lost a game, but you know you come back tomorrow and have a chance to win.”
Fans in this market are conditioned to fear the worst. Many are probably waiting for the Twins to turn into pumpkins, and maybe that will happen eventually.
Or maybe they will continue to surprise by playing competitive, relevant, entertaining baseball into the summer months.
It’s just nice to go to the ballpark expecting to see a decent product again.
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org