The little team that could is becoming the little team that should. Last year, the Twins played as if they craved contraction. This summer, they’re good enough to make the playoffs.

Even for a franchise accustomed to worst-to-first transformations, this is a hot-air balloon of a season.

Tuesday night, Jorge Polanco homered from both sides of the plate and the Twins won their fifth straight home game, 6-4 over the White Sox. They played loud music in the clubhouse after the game, but there was no dance party reprise of Torii Hunter’s 2015 exhortations.

Instead, manager Paul Molitor quietly praised his players’ energy and intensity, and winning pitcher Ervin Santana spoke as if unsurprised by the winning, placing him in the minority.

There will be meaningful games in Target Field in September and perhaps October. It is time to celebrate this team and the nature of this unpredictable game; time to celebrate the players who are here rather than yearn for those who could have been.

The NFL receives much credit for parity, while baseball is derided for lacking a salary cap and allowing big-money teams to dominate. That sounds logical unless you resort to looking up facts.

In the late 1990s, the Yankees won four World Series in five years and almost won the next season, too.

That mini-dynasty fooled people into thinking that money was all-powerful in baseball, but the late-’90s franchise that bought a title was the ’97 Marlins. The Yankees were built on young, inexpensive talent — Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada.

American League Wild Card standings

Since the 2000 World Series, baseball has produced 17 champions. Eleven different teams have won titles, and no one has repeated.

The Royals, Cubs, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Angels and Marlins have won as many titles as the Yankees in the past 17 years. That list includes two expansion teams and three that hadn’t won one since the ’80s ... or the oughts.

In that time, the NFL has produced 10 different champions, and one team, the Patriots, has repeated.

The beauty of baseball — young talent and unpredictability, which are often one and the same — is on display at Target Field this summer, as the Twins’ young talent has survived problematic pitching.

So all of us who love baseball should do each other a favor, and stop guessing about theoretical trades and start celebrating a worthwhile reality.

The 2017 Twins are winning because Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Polanco are playing with joy and skill, Joe Mauer is having his best season since 2013, random Hildenbergers and Busenitzes have come out of nowhere or Rochester, and the trades the front office didn’t make.

For the past year, you couldn’t walk by a Twins fan in a restaurant without hearing, “They need to trade …”

First, it was Brian Dozier. When he hit 42 home runs last year, the populist thinking called for him to be traded while he was at peak value. The front office found out that his peak value on the trade market didn’t equal his value to the Twins and rightly didn’t trade him.

Then it was Santana. He pitched so well early this season that the fan base demanded he be traded while at peak value. The front office decided to keep him because he would be the team’s ace next year and perhaps the year after that. Why would you trade Santana for a prospect who may never be as good?

Then the Twins faltered in July and the populist thinking was that the Twins should trade everyone of value ... until they surged and fans complained that the front office had dared trade away the great Jaime Garcia.

His ERA with the Yankees is 5.95. There is a chance that the trade of Garcia to the Yankees might prove to be the reason the Twins catch the Yankees.

Forget the trade rumors. Dozier and Santana are still here, and Buxton, Polanco and Rosario are turning this into a meaningful summer at Target Field.


Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at On Twitter: @SouhanStrib