The Twins’ start to the 2019 season has been surprising to say the least, and maybe even shocking when considering just how charmed the first two months have been.
It was reasonable to expect the Twins would improve on their 78-win season of 2018 and possibly contend for a playoff spot. It was not reasonable to predict they would have the best record in baseball on Memorial Day weekend while setting out on a pace to break the MLB record for home runs.
Unpredictably great seasons — like this one, at least so far — tend to be the sweetest of all. Here, then, is a quick look back at five other seasons by Minnesota pro sports teams that fall into that unforeseeable category:
The Twins went just 71-91 in 1986, finishing at or below .500 for the seventh consecutive season. Sure, there was a core of promising players led by Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek, but few would have predicted a jump from those low standards to an 85-win season, a division title and the franchise’s first World Series championship in Minnesota. “We were just trying to get organized and we won the World Series,” former Twins executive Bob Gebhard was quoted as saying.
Four years after their first title, the Twins were on a negative downward trajectory — including a 74-win, last-place finish in 1990. Perhaps because they still had a lot of the same key players as in 1987, and because their run four years before was still fairly fresh, 1991 wasn’t quite as much of a surprise. But winning another World Series?
Sure, the Vikings had made the playoffs in both 1996 and 1997, but both times it was as a mediocre 9-7 wild-card team.
And yes, the addition of Randy Moss as a rookie wide receiver in 1998 gave fans reason for optimism going into the season.
But a jump to 15-1? A record-setting offense? An utterly charmed regular season that gave way to an utterly cursed NFC title game? Few would have envisioned that chain of events, which made it all the better (at least until it wasn’t).
With 68 and 73 points, respectively, in its first two years of existence the Wild finished in last place twice and looked very much like an expansion team. It would have been logical to expect incremental progress in year three.
What happened instead was not reasonable to predict: A 95-point season, a first berth in the postseason and playoff upsets of Colorado and Vancouver on the way to the Western Conference finals — a season that still serves as the high-water mark for the franchise’s postseason accomplishments.
The Lynx posted just two winning seasons and won one playoff game in their first 12 years of existence. So even with the raw ingredients in place — including winning the right to draft Maya Moore — what happened in 2011 was a true shock.
The Lynx went 27-7 on the way to winning their first of four WNBA titles in seven seasons. And now it’s hard to remember a time when the Lynx winning was a surprise.