Recent Slump Could Portend a Collapse of the First Place Twins
Minnesota Fans Are Hoping Bert Blyleven Will Be Announcing Games In October And November
A Team Without Well-Known Stars Seldom Wins A Championship
If you are a fan of the Minnesota Twins, you have thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the 2019 season. After all, your team has been in first place since early April, as well as owning the best record in Major League Baseball for much of that time.
Adding to the joy is the fact that the Twins have an eleven game lead in the American League Central division, where the defending champion Cleveland Indians are looking up at their long time rivals. True, the Twins have finished runner up to the Indians for the last two seasons, but they have never been within double digits in the games back column.
Amidst all this joy, however, is a feeling gnawing at you from the back of your mind or perhaps at the core of your heart. It is constantly reminding you that nearly three decades have passed since the Twins last won the pennant, and it also informs you that this current configuration of the team cannot possibly keep up a winning pace equal to that of the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, or the Houston Astros.
As much as you want to dismiss your doubts about your Target Field team, the facts are right there confronting you. Minnesota is hitting home runs at a record pace, in spite of having not one single star in the lineup, which is unlikely to continue. Even though Jose Barrios is an above average starting pitcher, the Twins lack a proven ace such as Cory Kubler or Chris Sale or Justin Verlander.
To boot, they are being led by a rookie manager, Rocko Baldelli, who will likely be challenged during the heat of a pennant race. The brutal truth is that the team behind him has a skipper, Terry Francona, who has won multiple pennants as well as several World Series championships.
Given the details just mentioned, it is difficult to appear too overjoyed at Minnesota's remarkable season. While it is certainly nice to have a double digit cushion in the standings, a look back to as recently as last year proves that type of lead is far from insurmountable.
The Oakland Athletics trailed the Houston Astros by eleven games on June 20 last season, but they caught them on August 11. Although the Astros did manage to regain first place and keep it, they had a litany of assets the Twins currently lack.
First if all Houston had the swagger and confidence of a team that had just won the previous World Series, an experience that has to be a valuable tool for a pennant race. Also working in the favor of the Astros was a stellar starting rotation, including two Cy Young Award winners in Verlander and Dallas Kuechel.
Another thing working in Houston's favor was the fact that their immediate competitor was Oakland which, although a solid club, had neither the contending experience nor the talent of the Cleveland Indians. You have to consider the fear that, if the Indians do indeed catch the Twins, they will be a more difficult team to overtake than the 2018 Oakland club.
Minnesota has that same 11 game lead now on the Indians, and they have recently shown signs of a collapse. They have lost four of their last five, half of which came at the hands of last place Kansas City. In fact, in the one win the Twins mustered, they needed seventeen innings to do it.
We Twins fans would not trade the first half of 2019 for anything, but history has taught us to worry about the second half. We can only hope that the magic persists another three months and, or, that the Indians will concede early by dealing one of their starters at the trade deadline.