If you think home-field advantage doesn’t matter for the Twins this year because they don’t have fans at the games, think again. The Twins are 21-5 at Target Field this season, easily the best home mark in baseball.
In fact, the Twins’ .808 winning percentage at home is currently the highest in baseball history, just beating out the 1932 Yankees with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, who went 62-15 at home for an .805 percentage.
The highest home winning percentage the Twins have ever posted is .704 in 1969, when they went 57-24 at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington.
The Twins finish their season with five home games, two against Detroit and three against Cincinnati, and could easily stay ahead of the ’32 Yankees’ pace, as both the Tigers and Reds are currently under .500.
Yes, even without fans the Twins have used the comfort of playing in their home ballpark to help them make a push for the best record in the American League.
And now the news out of MLB is that the playoffs will feature the first round at home stadiums of the top clubs in each league — and the Twins could host that first round at Target Field — but the remaining games will all be at neutral sites.
The NBA playoffs have been played at neutral sites, and it has proved to be no advantage for home teams in those games, and there won’t be for the Twins in playoff games at a neutral site, either.
Twins President Dave St. Peter told me throughout the early part of this shortened season that the organization was always holding out hope that they would be able to get fans into Target Field, especially if they were able to make the playoffs, which is a no-brainer at this point as they will clinch a playoff spot in the next week.
Maybe the biggest reason for that hope was that places such as Canterbury Park in Shakopee and CHS Field in St. Paul — where the Twins’ minor league players are working and the St. Paul Saints play — had been allowing fans into their venues this summer. The Saints ticketed upward of 30,000 fans in 21 home games.
With some NFL clubs allowing fans, including the Colts this weekend in Indianapolis when the Vikings come to town, there was some momentum that if Gov. Tim Walz and health officials approved, the Twins could host some fans for a potential World Series run.
But that won’t happen now, and it has to be a big blow for the Twins.
Before the team headed to Chicago this week for series with the White Sox and Cubs, President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey tried to explain the club’s success at home.
“I think our guys are just really comfortable in this environment,” he said. “We’ve set up our clubhouse really well, the way our guys distribute food and where they can go and how they can get set up for the game. Everyone right now, in this season, when no one’s overly comfortable at any moment in time, the most comfortable you can be is when you’re in your familiar environment. On the road, every team has handled it really well in trying to set up our situation.
“But being in a hotel for a chunk of a day and not having the comforts of your own home to some degree, probably do play some role. I guess if I’m thinking about one reason why, it could be that. But our guys are really comfortable here. They love playing at this field, and it’s set up really well for most of our team. Hopefully we get to play at least a home [playoff] series here.”
The fact is that even if the Twins get a home playoff series in the first round, it will be unlike other playoff series in baseball history.
A three-game series leaves no room for error, but one big plus is that because the Twins end their regular season at home, they could go straight from those games to the playoffs and not have to travel.
“A three-game series, it’s going to be really quick. You’re going to be going right from the day after the end of the regular season,” Falvey said. “It’s always good to play at home. Our guys love playing here at Target Field. That’s borne out this year. But our team can go compete anyway, we feel that way. And if we’re moving on from the wild-card round, hopefully we are no longer playing at home. So we recognize that’s going to be part of the equation, regardless.
“What we’re trying to do is just stay as healthy as possible to put our team in the best position to win. The matchups may not get set until truly the last day of the season. It’s highly likely, actually, that we won’t know the seeding until the last day or two of the year. We’re trying not to pay too much attention to that now. Give ourselves the best chance to go try and win the division, see what shakes out from there, and then deal with the matchup we get after that.”
• You have to feel for former Gophers linebacker Blake Cashman, who was placed on injured reserve by the Jets on Tuesday. Cashman was named a starter in Week 1 and then suffered a groin injury. That was after he had worked his was back from a shoulder injury that cut his rookie year short in 2019.
• The Cleveland Plain Dealer listed Gophers 2022 football recruit Trey Bixby of St. Edward High School in Ohio as one of their players to watch this season: “One of the biggest and most physically imposing edge rushers in the area, if not the state, Bixby’s college recruiting picked up in the offseason. He held Big Ten offers from Michigan State, which added end Jeff Pietrowski and receiver Montorie Foster from last year’s St. Edward team, plus Minnesota and Penn State before picking the Golden Gophers in August. Bixby had 75 total tackles with 3.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and 13 quarterback hurries in 2019.”
• Zumbrota, Minn. native Gus Bradley is in his fourth season as the defensive coordinator for the L.A. Chargers, who beat the Cincinnati Bengals 16-13 to open their season last week. The Chargers defense has been one of the NFL’s top defenses the past two years. They were No. 6 last season and No. 9 in 2018. Before joining the Chargers’ staff, Bradley was the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars for four seasons (2013-2016). Bradley began his NFL coaching career in 2006.
• Steve Heiden, the Rushford, Minn. native who played college football at South Dakota State, is in his second season as the tight ends coach for the Arizona Cardinals. This is Heiden’s eighth season on the Cardinals’ staff. He spent 11 seasons as a tight end in the NFL.