As the Minnesota Twins celebrated their 1987 title this weekend, the current inhabitants of Target Field lost two of three to a bad Tigers team. That only strengthens the comparison between the two Twins teams on the premises.
Remember, before winning the ALCS and World Series, the ’87 Twins won just 85 regular-season games, took advantage of a weak division and survived their lack of quality pitching depth.
Both teams featured a powerhouse third baseman, a first baseman and manager born in Minnesota, a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder and a catcher who specialized in defense.
As you peruse trade rumors this week, here’s what you might have forgotten about the ’87 Twins:
They made a series of moves before the trading deadline.
Those deals did them little good during the regular season.
The ’91 Twins who won it all? They didn’t even make a trade that summer.
The ’87 Twins acquired four players in June and July: Joe Niekro, Dan Schatzeder, Steve Carlton and Don Baylor.
As Twins during that regular season, Niekro posted an ERA of 6.26, Schatzeder of 6.39 and Carlton of 6.70. Don Baylor provided one extra-base hit — a double — in 58 plate appearances.
Remember that as you beg the current Twins to trade a quality prospect for temporary help this summer. If the player acquired is a Twin for only two months, one slump — or for a pitcher, a couple of bad outings — can turn the trade into a waste of time. Or, worse, a waste of a prospect.
To be fair, the ’87 Twins would not have won the Series without Baylor. He went 7-for-18 in the postseason, and his home run in Game 6 of the Series might have been the most important swing of the postseason.
Players, as well as fans, should be cautious about begging for help.
When Justin Morneau was young, he would tell me how upset he would be if the Twins didn’t make a trade deadline deal.
Later in his career, he changed his mind, saying that asking for a trade is an insult to current teammates, and shifts the onus of performance from players in the clubhouse to players who have not yet been acquired.
Even if the Twins managed a magical trade that brought back help in exchange for a player who turns out to of low value, the onus will remain on the core players on this team.
The ’17 Twins need more from Miguel Sano on his bad days, more from Max Kepler almost every day, more from Jorge Polanco or his replacement, more from center field.
They need more innings from their current starters — Adalberto Mejia tipping his cap after 4 ⅓ innings Sunday was not optimal — and more quality innings from relievers such as Ryan Pressly, who has the stuff to be a positive factor down the stretch.
If there is a lesson to be learned from the boys of ’87, it is that they didn’t wait around for help. Their best players carried them.
Most likely, the 2017 Twins will wind up being your average average team, one that hangs around .500, stays in contention because of the presence of two wild-card berths, and teases into September.
If this team is something more than that, it will succeed because its stars carry most of the water, and someone already on the roster fills a current void.
Sunday, the Twins traded Nick Tepesch for “cash considerations’’ and designated Craig Breslow for assignment. Neither move will soothe those who crave a bold move.
There probably won’t be any big moves that make sense. The best player this team could add in July would be a resolute Ryan Pressly, or Brian Dozier from last August, or Kyle Gibson from Saturday, or Byron Buxton from last September.
“There’s a lot of heat on the phone lines right now,’’ Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
Most of it is sizzle without steak. The story of the season is most likely to be written by players who are already here.