I Like It Better This Way
I went back to Minnesota this weekend for a family wedding (perceptive readers of this column may have picked up on the fact that I was born and raised there). At one point talk turned, as it is wont to do, to the Twins. They'd lost the night before, their sixth loss in eight games.
My dad had heard about the game, but he hadn't seen it. "Who even wants to watch them anymore?" my grandpa asked, disgusted.
And it struck me how spoiled we Twins fans have become in such a short time. If in (to pick a year) 1997 the Twins had been leading the Wild Card standings in the American League at the All-Star break, we would have been peeing ourselves. We would have been hanging on every pitch of every game. If the team had gone out and acquired a former All-Star second baseman to boost their lineup, we'd have been blown away by the fact that we were actually rooting for real, live contenders.
Now, instead, after three consecutive American League Central Division titles, we can't be bothered to watch the Twins battle the Yankees, Orioles, Indians and most of the rest of the league for the Wild Card lead, and the acquisition of Bret Boone is greeted with a hearty "meh."
Want to know a secret?
I like it better this way. I like watching a team that's expected to win, a team that sports experts nationwide actually acknowledge has a chance to maybe, possibly win it all. I like not having to wonder (or try to remember) what it would be like to see your team talked about on Baseball Tonight or written about in Sports Illustrated.
I can recall getting the 2000 SI baseball preview in the mail and opening right up to the Twins page, as I always do. They were picked to finish last in the Central, which wasn't a shock; the team hadn't sniffed .500 in eight seasons. Still, they tend to try to be as optimistic and judicious as possible in the preview issue.
Not this year. Above the photo of a sliding Ron Coomer, the utility man with the .274 career average who had been the team's lone mandatory All-Star the year before, was a caption stating very plainly that "the Twins have no shot."
Needless to say, it was not a good time to be a Twins fan.
Then, somehow, the team that in 2000 had "no shot" went on to lead the Central for a good portion of 2001, ultimately finishing six games out with a record of 85-77 (which, it bears mentioning, was the record of the 1987 team that went on to win the World Series).
Since then, we've almost taken the playoffs for granted, like we're cheering for the Yankees or the Braves. Now that the Twins are having a relatively rough year, it's easy to be a little spoiled and to get a little disgusted. I'm both. I'm certainly not ready to give up on the season, but, it looks like the they might miss the playoffs, and that would be too damn bad.
Still, I like this a lot better. When the Twins lose, I'd much rather be disgusted than completely unsurprised.