Thanks to Denny Green for the inspirational words used in the title
Given a few days to recover from the debacle that was the Yankee series, I have had some time to put the season and the finish in some perspective.
For five and a half months I thought of the 2009 Twins as nothing more than a slightly better than mediocre team with a catcher who was having a season for the ages. As the team’s record hovered around .500 for the bulk of the summer, the only thing that kept me going to games and following the team closely was the desire to see every single plate appearance by Joe Mauer. The division and the playoffs, it seemed, would be closer than it should be thanks to a poor division, but would remain just out of reach. When Justin Morneau was shut down for the season, the last little bit of hope I had for a late season run seemed to be squashed.
The Twins, of course, proved that a late season surge was not out of the question, and did just that, catching up to and eventually overtaking the Tigers in a thrilling tiebreaker game. I got swept up in the run as much as anybody, and had high hopes for the team’s first appearance in the postseason since 2006.
Game 1 was a bit of a throwaway game. Nobody expected the Twins to beat the Yankees when, less than 24 hours ago, they had finished an exhausting extra-inning game and had, no doubt, celebrated even later into the night. The team was flat and the Yankees took advantage. That was expected. We’ll get ’em in Game 2, I thought.
It looked as though the Twins might do it in the second game. Even with a base running mistake that erased a Twins run, a two-run lead in the ninth seemed safe, and the Twins looked as though they would make it a best-of-three series with home field advantage until the unfortunate turn of the ninth inning. Two days later, another base running mistake highlighted a game that was close until the final inning, but the Twins and the Metrodome finally succumbed to the highest payroll in baseball.
I tend to not put as much mystique around playoff wins as your typical television announcer might. I’m not sure that a three-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees means that the Twins are chokers, or that they can’t win the big one. What I think it means is that a better team was able to win three straight games. Play the series again and things might be different, with the Twins even winning the series somewhere in the neighborhood of 40% of the time.
The fact is, however, that the Twins didn’t win, and are 1-5 in playoff series since 2002. Even more grating was that the loss came at the hands of the Yankees, and looked on the surface to prove the cliches that the TBS announcers loved to lean on, particularly the one about the Twins having to work extra hard to get a run, while the Yankees just had to swing the bat once. While true in the series, over the course of the season (a much better measure of a team), the Twins weren’t this band of piranhas that had to make productive outs to get runs. They had four players with more than 25 home runs, hit 172 throughout the season, and had a team slugging percentage of .429 (better than league average).
The most ridiculous statement, however, was Caray’s assertion that as Punto goes so go the Twins. I won’t bother the break down the numbers that he presented. He loses all credibility for that statement, if he had any to start with.
What didn’t change about the Twins, however, was the overall performance of the team. Except for a blip in late September, this was an average team. That is how they looked against the Yankees, like a team that made the postseason thanks in large part to a mediocre division. I hope that fact is not lost on the front office as they go about their offseason business.
Still, it was a fun couple of weeks, and the Twins will be able to hang another banner in Target Field when it opens next April.