The More The Twins Change, The More They Stay The Same
This postseason was supposed to be different for the Minnesota Twins.
Certainly, this year was different. The Twins discovered the home run –set the record for home runs in a season, in fact. This year, they had attitude.
Many things changed. The Twins were the best road team in baseball. They were no longer in a malaise under the previous lack of emotional leadership and fire from retired catcher/first baseman Joe Mauer. They were led by a new manager, the always positive and nurturing Rocco Baldelli. Twins fans spent the season falling in love with him too.
We the jury also came back with a decision on the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine front office duo that said maybe these guys know what they’re doing after all. We embraced a style of baseball that had been foreign to us. The Twins didn’t need to manufacture runs anymore. They could sit around and wait for the big hit from the Bomba Squad, which almost always showed up.
Except in October, against the Yankees.
Instead, the AA team we had seen show up against the Yankees in Octobers past arrived… again… and were barely seen during another three-game showcase of the Yankees dominance.
I don’t know that anyone outside of Minnesota is too surprised that the Twins failed to win the series. We were definitely the third-best team in the American League, so winning the best of five was going to be difficult. It didn’t help that the Bomba Squad failed miserably, away and at home.
In three games, a whole season of change disappeared and what was left was the feeling that nothing was different compared to before.
Maybe Byron Buxton could have been a difference, but the difference? Doubtful. Miguel Sano sure made a difference. Here’s a guy many considered to have had a breakout season. But when he came up to bat with two outs, it meant one thing. A commercial break was on the way, and soon… an inning-ender like no other.
It wasn’t just them, however. This series loss, like the past ones, was a team effort. No one played like they had the previous 6 months, and the Yankees played like there was no way the Twins were going to continue New York’s 10-year championship drought. Unacceptable!
So, now what for the Twins? What sort of reception do they deserve early next year? Do they deserve a pass, considering the huge improvements they made in one season? Has the team been built for sustained success? Was it, indeed, their style of baseball that cost them? None of these questions can be answered yet, obviously.
One thing that has not changed is their inconsistent and somewhat suspect pitching (4.77 ERA in August.) Falvey and Levine need to address that in a big way in the off-season. This is both to improve the team and to improve the perception that this is the same old Twins. They spent six months trying to prove they were different, then just three days proving that they weren’t.
Baldelli is correct when he says that no one in that clubhouse was around for most of the past playoff failures. Well, you’re there now, Rocco, and when your bosses and you were hired, you inherited those pathetic numbers that have plagued Twins postseason baseball this century. They have won exactly 2 games against 19 losses in the postseason since their last winning series, 3-2 over the Oakland Athletics in the AL Division Series. We expected those numbers to fade away this year. My guess is most will support the club to start the season. But because of the postseason failure, others will be less inclined to believe. This season’s success has caused a large clock to start ticking… loudly… as fans become more impatient… whether it is deserved or not.
Twins nation will be watching –and hoping that this season, even with its postseason collapse, is the start of something great. But we’re watching with a lot of understandable skepticism.
For all the great times this team gave us, the ending was exactly the same. It was supposed to be different. But it was really just the same damned thing.