People associated with professional sports teams have a tendency to get very upset when they are accused of "backing into" a playoff position through the losses of others.

The 2015 Twins did the opposite. They did not miss the postseason through the efforts of others. They returned to Target Field for the season's final weekend and dived headfirst into missing the playoffs, scoring one run in back-to-back games vs. the Royals, the high-class baseball outfit from Kansas City.

The final was 3-1 Friday, and that left the Twins' elimination number at 1. They handled that with a 5-1 loss Saturday, taking care of any need to wait into the night to find out if Houston was going to win or lose in Arizona.

"We talked about hopefully trying to make another team win rather than going out with a loss," Twins manager Paul Molitor said.

Hope pretty much died with Friday's loss, and Saturday's made it official.

And now that it's over, deep analysis is required to discover the reasons the Twins fell short of attaining the second wild card in baseball's inflated playoffs.

OK, I got it: pitching and hitting.

The starting rotation was a shaky proposition from the last moments of spring training, when Ervin Santana was suspended for half the season because of a positive steroid test.

In the end, it was a such a mess that Molitor had to use the reeling Mike Pelfrey in the second game of a doubleheader at Cleveland on Wednesday.

Santana was strong in September, and so was rookie Tyler Duffey, but Phil Hughes was supposed to be the ace and never came close. Ricky Nolasco disappeared for four months because of an ankle injury, and Pelfrey returned to his easy-to-hit form, and Tommy Milone was game when healthy, but …

The "but" here is that the Twins screwed up when they took Trevor May out of the rotation on July 1 and put him in the bullpen. The odds would have been much better of maintaining the competence of the rotation with May taking his turn.

As for the bullpen, once All-Star Glen Perkins served up home runs to Alex Rodriguez and John Ryan Murphy in a Target Field meltdown on July 25 … well, mere survival hinged on the pickup of Kevin Jepsen a week later to take over as the closer.

As for the hitting, once All-Star Brian Dozier went careening downhill in the final 2½ months … well, mere survival hinged on rookie Miguel Sano being able to deliver thunder for a while.

Pitching. Hitting. Those were the Twins' only issues. The fielding was good.

This was a year when mediocrity ruled the second level of the American League, and that had more to do with the Twins' status as a contender than an indication this was a team waiting to explode into excellence.

The comparison has been made to the 2001 Twins, the team that ended the franchise's eight-season losing streak with an 85-77 record. There was no second wild card at that time, or those Twins would have played the 102-win Oakland A's in the one-game, wild-card shootout.

The 2001 Twins also would have had the choice of starting Brad Radke, Eric Milton or Joe Mays in such a game — options of which Molitor could only dream in the chaotic final weeks of his first season as manager.

Instead, Cleveland won the AL Central and eliminated with 2001 Twins with a 9-1 victory on its home field with a week left in the season.

Saturday, Doug Mientkiewicz, the Twins first baseman then and now their Class AA manager, was asked to recall his quote after watching Cleveland celebrate the division title.

"I said, 'They better enjoy this, because it's the last one they are going to win for a while,' " Mientkiewicz texted. "I was right."

Yes, he was. Cleveland was in a team in decline and the Twins were on the rise.

The new kings of the AL Central are the Royals — World Series entries as a wild-card team last fall, runaway division winners this season.

The Royals are still in their prime. They have power arms, a deep lineup, speed to burn and wonderful fielding.

The Twins will finish with the seventh-best record among 15 AL teams. The candid opinion here is they are closer in talent to the three or four teams behind them than the five making up the AL's playoff field.

For sure, watching the Royals now that they are cranking it up again for the postseason, it's clear the Twins have a large gap to cover to be this division's force.

There is hope for the future for these Twins, but far from the certainty that Dougie Ballgame was able to express late in 2001.