As a Minnesotan, you get excited about spring. Then it arrives and you feel terrible for months.
That’s right — the Twins are an allergen. They are sports pollen, entertainment ragweed.
I have an intimate relationship with bad baseball in this town. I covered the Twins beat from 1993 to ’97, and contributed to the Star Tribune’s Twins coverage from 1998 to 2000.
Those eight straight losing seasons taught me a lot about the causes and effects of bad baseball. As the Twins head toward a fifth 90-loss season in six years, and perhaps toward a franchise record for losses, here’s an instructional guide on surviving a lost baseball summer.
• Don’t kick your TV.
The Twins will not reimburse you for damages. This is a proven fact.
• Don’t blame the manager for everything.
Tom Kelly won two World Series in five seasons, managed an excellent team in 1992, then managed eight straight losing teams. He did not become a bad manager during the winter of 1992. His general manager and farm system failed to supply good players.
Ron Gardenhire posted a winning record in eight of his first nine seasons, then lost 90 games in four straight years. He did not become a bad manager during the winter of 2010. His general manager and farm system failed to supply good players.
Paul Molitor won 83 games with a young team last season. He could lose 100 games with the same players this season. He did not become a bad manager last winter.
A good manager can steal a few victories for his team over the course of 162 games. A good manager can’t make a bad team good. This isn’t football, where game plans, strategies and force of will can transform a team. Place your blame outside the manager’s office.
• Don’t blame the hitting and pitching coach for everything.
Players have used the same pitching or hitting motion for most of their lives before arriving in the big leagues. Big-league coaches can’t remake a player, and players often have their own personal coaches upon whom they rely. Big-league coaches can offer subtle advice and moral support. Few are miracle workers. Few make much of a difference at all.
• Latch on to one successful player.
As bad as the Twins were for much of the ’90s, there were fascinating players and story lines almost every season.
In 1996, Paul Molitor hit .341 at the age of 40. In 1995, the Twins traded for Ron Coomer, one of the most likable Twins of all time. In 2000, the Twins’ best young players started figuring out the big league game. This year, Byung Ho Park could be the Twins’ All-Star representative. He’s a nice man who can hit the ball 500 feet. He’s a guy you can root for.
• Blame the GM.
He makes all the decisions that matter.
• Watch opposing players.
Jose Fernandez, David Ortiz, Alex Gordon, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Chris Sale, Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano — there will be good players at Target Field. In one of the dugouts.
• Enjoy the park.
Unlike in the ’90s, the Twins play in a beautiful place. You aren’t required to obsess over the outcome of the game.
• Wait ’til next year, or decade.
Remember that Twins fans do not rank among the most unfortunate in baseball history. You did not lose your team to another city. You did not have your team contracted when that was a possibility.
You did not go through a stretch of 19 years with only one winning season, as did the Royals.
You are no longer subjected to playing in a ratty old dome, like Tampa Bay.
Someday the Twins will be good again. There’s too much talent in the system for them to continue to play this badly.
In recent years the Cubs, Astros, Rays and Royals have rebounded from bad decades to make the playoffs. So take your Claritin, enjoy the sunshine and take solace in the cyclical nature of baseball failure, and success.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib email@example.com