September 09, 2010
Yes, they'll still have to get through a three-game series in Chicago next week but the Twins lead is at 5.5 games after sweeping the Royals on Wednesday night (as the Sox stumbled twice in Detroit). Baseball Prospectus puts their odds of winning the division at 93.5 percent.
Normally, this would cause a shrug from me as the Twins have become the team that hasn't had any problem leaving the party early. They're usually just happy they earned an invitation.
In fact, I'll go as far to borrow a page from Lyle Lanley and suggest that the Minnesota Twins with a playoff spot are a lot like the mule with a spinning wheel. No one usually knows how Ron Gardenhire got it and danged if his team knows how to use it.*
*Heh, heh "mule"
Minnesota fans can't argue this as their team has reached the ALCS only once in five playoff appearances over the past decade. It's been swept out of the ALDS on the last two occasions, including in 2009 by the New York Yankees.
Based on past outcomes, it would stand to reason that the Twins are set to continue their tradition of being one of the first teams to be killed off in the postseason.
Now, before I go any further, let my serious and analytical side state that any accomplishments the Twins take down will be completely achieved on their own merits. Gardenhire and general manager Bill Smith have somehow done it again, turning a season of injuries and rotation problems into a campaign that might end with the Twins owning the AL's second seed and homefield advantage for the first round.
Walking away with the division might allow Francisco Liriano(notes) to be the playoff-type pace-setting pitcher the Twins lacked last season — Brian Duensing(notes) had to start Game 1 because of Game 163 — and Carl Pavano(notes) has turned into an unlikely wingman. The all-important playoff bullpen has been bolstered through trades after losing Joe Nathan(notes) in spring training.
When it comes to the lineup, Jim Thome(notes) and Delmon Young(notes) have taken away the sting of losing Justin Morneau(notes) for the second straight playoff push. Danny Valencia(notes) has become a surprise difference-maker in the lineup. While our preseason thoughts were that the Twins would be the tallest midget in a weak division, there's no doubt that the Twins have turned into a really good team when compared to all the teams in baseball.
But they've been good teams in the past, so here's the all-important final push that I've been teasing this whole post: The one aspect that's entirely different this season from the other five appearances is the Twins' home field. They moved outdoors to Target Field this season and will no longer play in the weather protective confines of the Metrodome.
So am I suggesting that the Twins will have a big advantage in playing in the cold late-October Minnesota weather? Absolutely not. It's been freezing in New York and Philadelphia the past two seasons and it didn't faze the Phillies or Yankees while winning their titles. The Twins won't be playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at any point.
The reason that Target Field will come into play is that I have an unshakable belief that Bud Selig has become sport's biggest victim of circumstance.
And with the postseason again stretching into November and the Twins again shaping into serious contenders in their first season outside since the early '80s? Well, the situation seems ripe for a freak early Twin Cities blizzard that would delay the Fall Classic and earn Bud and the sport some more bad headlines before the season goes back to ending a week earlier in 2011.
Will it be Selig's fault that the Twins built their new stadium without a retractable roof?
Will he be personally responsible for the weather front that will sweep through Minneapolis?
Of course not.
But if I've learned anything from the past few World Series, it's that anything and everything is the commissioner's fault from the media's point of view and that he has about the worst luck ever. If my prediction ends up happening — and I don't think there's a chance it won't — we might have to go ahead and ask Murphy his permission to change that old adage into Selig's Law.