I distinctly remember when the Star Tribune’s own Phil Miller, on the day Ervin Santana was suspended 80 games for steroid use, tweeted that the suspension also meant he was ineligible for postseason play.
Many of us had a good laugh at what seemed like gallows humor. A team that had lost 92 games each of the past four seasons would never have to worry about that anyway, right? A sample tweet back at Miller, which is reflective of the many sent, read like this:
@MillerStrib Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Postseason play. Good one, Phil.
— J.S. Smith (@edgehatfield) April 3, 2015
Now: We are a long way from the finish line of this season. But after 45 games and a 27-18 Twins record, can we at least say that the notion of a postseason ban for Santana — signed in the offseason to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher and someone who almost certainly would be in a playoff rotation if pitching well — is no longer a joke?
The Twins are on pace for 97 wins this year, which would almost certainly be good enough to make the postsason. Even if the Twins cool off their current pace — and since it is built largely on clutch performances, they are likely to regress at least a little at some point — they’ve banked 27 wins in 45 games.
Last year’s Wild Card winners in the majors — remember, there are four of them total, two in each league — won 88, 88, 88 and 89 games respectively last year.
Let’s say 88 wins was good enough to get into the playoffs this season. That means the Twins would need to go 61-56 in their final 117 games to make the postseason. Again, that’s a much better pace than they’ve been on any of the past four seasons … but it also means that some regression from their current pace would still put them on track to make the playoffs.
And at that point, one of their presumed top pitchers would be ineligible. You might say, “Who needs Santana?” at this point because the rotation has been so much better than in recent years (particularly lately). But much can happen in the next 35 games before Santana’s 80 games are up. He could be a sight for sore eyes in early July … only to return to obscurity if indeed the Twins can keep playing in October.
That would fall under the category of “good problem to have” since it meant the Twins made the playoffs, period, after so many awful seasons. But it would potentially be a blow to their chances of going any further.