CHICAGO – One underappreciated toll that 103 losses takes on a manager: It’s hard on the neck.
“Basically, [we lost] two out of three,” Paul Molitor said. “That’s a lot of shaking your head, looking for answers.”
The Twins didn’t find any answers Friday night, meekly absorbing a 7-3 loss at the hands of the White Sox. And upon the final out, it became official: The 2016 Twins are the least successful team that Minnesota has ever witnessed in 56 seasons of Major League Baseball. At 57-103 with two games remaining, these Twins will finish with more losses than even the 1982 version that limped to 60-102.
“I know a lot of people are saying it’s embarrassing, and rightly so,’’ second baseman Brian Dozier said. ‘‘It is. It’s hard to come in here after so many games and think about why you lost. But in the grand scheme of things, we’re here to try to make the playoffs, and we didn’t. All the rest of it, I wish it hadn’t happened, but if we’re not in the playoffs, the record doesn’t matter.”
Well, it matters a little, at least to Molitor, whose first season in charge was a modest 83-win success that saw the Twins contend for the playoffs going into the season’s final games and raised expectations for 2016. Now he has a historical distinction he never dreamed was possible.
“I don’t think you want to be connected to the worst season in Twins history,” Molitor said. “I’m not going to dwell on it. I’m going to try to turn the page, once I make sure I’ve had a chance to read that page very clearly and try to take what I can from the story that’s been written, however unpleasant that story has been. And then I’m going to try to move ahead.”
That won’t be easy, of course, because that much failure inevitably stains every uniform, at least until success can deodorize the memory.
Tyler Duffey, for instance, was only a minor culprit in the free fall, but said afterward he feels the weight just as heavily as any of his glum teammates in a silent visitor’s clubhouse. Friday night, he gave up five runs while recording only six outs.
“At least 10 are my fault. So that’s tough to swallow,” Duffey said. “But it’s part of learning, part of getting better.”
The Twins were reminded yet again just how far they have to go. White Sox lefthander Carlos Rodon struck out the first seven batters he faced, tying an American League record and pushing the Twins over 1,400 strikeouts for the second time in franchise history. Rodon racked up 10 strikeouts and held the Twins to one hit over his first five innings, before fading with three runs in the sixth.
Of course, by then his Chicago teammates had provided him a seven-run cushion. This happens a lot to the Twins — they have surrendered seven or more runs 56 times, only one fewer than their record-setting 2000 Twins brethren.
Duffey (9-12) missed his chance to become the Twins’ only 10-game winner, but he was the victim of some unfortunate defense by the normally reliable Byron Buxton, too. The center fielder ran a long way to reach Tim Anderson’s first-inning fly to the warning track, but the ball glanced off his glove as Buxton reached the fence, and Anderson reached third base on what was ruled a triple.
“That’s a play I’m sure Buck would tell you he should make,” Molitor said.
Melky Cabrera followed with a run-scoring double, and eventually scored himself on a wild pitch by Duffey. In the third inning, Anderson launched his ninth home run of the season, and enjoyed it more than the Twins appreciated.
“He backpedaled out of the box, stood there and enjoyed it,” fumed Duffey, whose night, and season, ended two batters later. “That’s baseball, though. Don’t give them up if you don’t like it.”
Exactly. The Twins have liked few things about this season but know where the blame lies.
“You kind of get what you deserve,” Molitor said.