Doug Wolter: Twins' demands are increasing
The opening day of the major league baseball season is celebrated this year on the day after Easter, and how could anything be more fitting? On Sunday we donned our nice clothes and went to church to celebrate the renewal of hope for mankind, and on Monday we assembled at various locations to see if we can see any hope for our favorite teams.
I went to work on Monday morning to begin this column in advance of the noon start between the Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Tigers. I didn’t want to wait until after the game to write this, knowing that the result of the season opener might change my outlook entirely. It’s absurd to think that one game can sour the taste buds for the 161 to follow, but season openers are typically as over-analyzed as presidential polls.
Here are some other thoughts I have on the upcoming season:
The Chicago Cubs lost their season opener on Sunday night, but analysts still think this could be a breakout year for them. My question is: If the Cubbies suddenly become good, does that mean we can’t call them the Cubbies anymore?
The post-Derek Jeter era began for the New York Yankees on Monday, but television color commentators probably won’t stop venerating his career at least until May.
As for the Twins, they are sick of losing. A few weeks ago, some of them talked about contending for the AL Central Division crown in 2015 and were treated as if four years spent wandering around in the wilderness had affected their sanity. I enjoyed hearing such optimism, however, because the time has indeed arrived to stop talking about “improvement” and about “moral victories,” and start putting that chip back on the shoulder. The Twins have carried such chips in the past when the odds were against them — and won — and sometimes it’s better to be more audacious than realistic.
From 2011 to 2014 the Twins have gone 63-99, 66-96, 66-96 and 70-92, which is an oddly consistent run of futility, and the kind of futility that you often see with hopeless franchises. But the Twins should not be thought of in those terms because their history doesn’t support it. From 2008 to 2010 they produced 88-75, 87-76 and 94-68 seasons. In fact, from the 10 seasons between 2001 and 2010 they had winning records nine times.
In time, we shall see, however, if ESPN analyst Curt Schilling is correct. Over the Easter weekend he purported to know exactly how the 2015 AL Central race will play out, at least as the Twins are concerned. The other four teams in the division will fight it out for first place, he said, but he assured everyone (and hinted that every other prognosticator in America agrees with him) that Minnesota is assured of last place.
The Twins no doubt suffered a big blow on Friday when it was announced that offseason acquisition Ervin Santana will serve an 80-day suspension after testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug Stanozolol. And I fear that the return of aging outfielder Torii Hunter (whose defensive skills have eroded) will prove more meaningful as a symbol than as a building block. But I find it hard to believe that this year’s Twins — along with first-year manager Paul Molitor — will allow mediocrity to be so easily accepted as it has been over the past four campaigns.
Serious testing will come early. They play 28 of their first 35 games against division opponents. If the Twins can remain in the mix for the first 35 games, who knows?