Thursday night at Target Field, the Twins provided the kind of drama that characterized the previous two seasons, scoring four runs against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning to win 7-5.
Jorge Polanco led off with a single. Josh Donaldson hit a long home run to left. Willians Astudillo pinch hit and singled. Nelson Cruz smashed a line drive over the center field fence.
The Twins outfield featured rookie Trevor Larnach in left, rookie infield prospect Nick Gordon in center and rookie center field prospect Gilberto Celestino in right.
That team beat the Yankees to avert a sweep, but improved the season record to only 25-37.
Given the record, is this the most disappointing Twins team in the past 30 years? To answer correctly, there's plenty of competition for that title. Here's one writer's ranking:
5. 2005. The Twins contended in 2001 and won the division in 2002, '03 and '04. The 2005 team featured many of the same stars who won those divisions, and who would contribute to the 2006 team's four-month run to another title.
Johan Santana and Brad Radke headlined the rotation, Joe Nathan was the closer. Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau filled the middle of the lineup. Offensive failures at second, short, third, left field and DH doomed the Twins to 83 wins and a third-place finish.
4. 2007. The last four months of the 2006 regular season featured perhaps the best performance by a Twins team since the 1991 World Series, but it wouldn't carry over to 2007. Santana had one of the worst seasons of his prime (3.33 ERA), and Mauer managed only 406 at-bats and a .426 slugging percentage. The Twins went 79-83 for their first losing season since 2000.
3. 2011. Despite the failures of 2005 and 2007, the Twins could view the 2000s as one of the most successful in franchise history, at least in terms of regular-season performance.
In 2011, Mauer caused manager Ron Gardenhire to coin the phrase "bilateral leg weakness" — a phrase not found in any medical textbook — and Morneau proved that the concussion he suffered in 2010 was going to be a problem.
The 2010 team finished 94-68. The 2011 team proved that you need star players healthy and playing their best to achieve excellence, or even mediocrity. The 2011 team finished 63-99, signaling that the Twins had run out of pitching and were in big trouble. Fans who had not experienced the woes of the late 1990s did not know how to react to bad baseball in a new ballpark.
2. 2021. Over the course of the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the Twins built the best regular-season record in the American League, meaning the primary question facing the team during the spring of 2021 was how the Twins would begin winning in the postseason.
That isn't likely to be a concern. The 2021 Twins have failed in every way a professional sports team can fail. They spent money on the wrong free agents, overestimated their incumbent talent, performed sloppily and suffered so many injuries that Target Field might be labeled a hazardous worksite.
They have played poorly enough that management has to be concerned this is more like 2011 (the signaling of a severe downturn) than 2005 (a blip between division titles).
1. 1992. The '92 Twins finished 90-72. They had won two of the five previous World Series. They were widely considered the best organization in baseball, a team that made every play, that outsmarted and outworked its opponents.
On July 26, the Twins were 60-38 — the best in baseball.
On July 27, the Twins started a three-game series at the Dome against Oakland. Three days later, Eric Fox hit a decisive three-run home run off Twins closer Rick Aguilera to sweep the series. The A's would win the division by six games. The Twins wouldn't return to the playoffs until 2002.
The 1992 Twins went that quickly from World Series favorites to future contraction candidates. The 2021 Twins simply aren't good enough to match that midseason collapse.
Jim Souhan's podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org