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In Praise of the Twins

By around 11 o'clock tonight, when this game ends, the playoff field will be set. I figure the White Sox have the advantage in this one, being at home (the Twins are not nearly as formidable on the road as they are at home) and carrying the momentum of two straight do-or-die wins.

But if the Twins do, in fact, bow out tonight, they deserve a just-fell-short tribute before they haul their golf clubs out of the basement (assuming, that is, they don't live in Minnesota year-round). They deserve their own blog post.

I believe I picked the Twins fourth in the AL Central this year, behind the White Sox, yes, but also behind the Tigers and Indians -- whom, I am ashamed to admit, I picked to finish 1-2 in the divivion. (I take solace in the fact I was hardly alone in that.) The Twins, remember, had just lost both the best pitcher in the game (Johan Santana) and an all-star center fielder who was also the face of the franchise (Torii Hunter). (Well, they also lost Carlos Silva, but given his stats this year, one supposes that actually made them better.)

This year, the Twins ranked last in the AL in homers (with 111, even fewer than the team that is the primary subject of this blog). They have exactly one player who drove in at least 100 runs and not a single pitcher who won more than 12 games or struck out as many as 150 batters. They gave 23 starts to this guy and 236 at-bats to this guy, both of whom ranked as among the absolute worst in the game at their given jobs at the time the Twins finally pulled the plug. Their bullpen, which was supposed to have been a strength, was (with the exception of closer Joe Nathan) a weakness.

How have they made it this far? The easy answer would be "smoke and mirrors." But here at BI we won't rely on that old cliche. There were two things this season the Twins did exceptionally well -- they hit well in the clutch, and they threw strikes. The numbers: a .306 batting average with runners in scoring position, which ranks as the seventh-best in the majors since 1974. And the fewest walks issued (403) of any pitching staff in the majors this season.

They also have, for my money, one of the top two or three managers in the game, in Ron Gardenhire.

If the Twins win tonight and advance to the Division Series to face the Tampa Bay Rays, watch out -- they are just dangerous enough and just resourceful enough (particularly at home) to put a scare into anyone.

If they lose and fall a game short, tip a glass of your favorite beverage to them and remind yourself, as I have many times the past couple of months, never underestimate the Twins.

By Dave Sheinin  |  September 30, 2008; 9:03 AM ET
Categories:  Twins  
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Next: My 1st-Round Picks: Rays, Angels, Phils, Cubs


Living near a Twins minor league team, I knew before (most) any of you how to spell names like Mientkiewicz, Cuddyer, Liriano, Pierzynski and Torii. The Twins just know how to run a farm system.

As an Expos fan, it does look familiar, however, and not in a good way. My gut tells me that when spring training begins, I'll be reminded of a Dan Shaughnessy line:

"There isn't the usual air about the Expos this year. Too many years, too many players."

Posted by: ThresherK | September 30, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I'm more into the LA-CHC series that starts tomorrow, but isn't somewhat unfair to the Twins that they beat the ChiSox in their season series but have to travel to Chicago for the one game playoff?

Posted by: Va Dodger | September 30, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Here's to you, Twins.

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 30, 2008 10:10 PM | Report abuse

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