It’s been another very disappointing season for the Minnesota Twins and their fans.
They managed to do better than last year, but that’s not saying much. Depending on how you look at it, 2011 was the third (or second or fifth) worst season in franchise history (which began in 1961). The equivocation comes from whether you look at the win percentage, games lost or games won.
This season is the sixth (or fourth or seventh) worst season in the 52-year history of the Minnesota Twins. It’s also only the second time they’ve such a bad win percentage two years running (and many don’t expect next year to be stellar, either).
I’ll explain about this and more, but regardless of how you look at it, it was an awful year!
You might be wondering why I’m writing about baseball. I have mentioned that I love baseball, and I’ve also mentioned how I like to explore new things. Some of them pass into memory as fun explorations, others stick and become a permanent part of my landscape.
As nearly all American boys do, I played baseball on vacant lots as a kid and even did two years on Cub Scout teams. Baseball has always been there as one of those defining characteristics of America (“as American as baseball, hot dogs, mom, apple pie and the Fourth of July”).
Back in 2010, various life stresses (work and politics, mostly) were severe enough that I needed something simple, something pure, something new that was different from everything else I knew.
So I started watching baseball, and the more I watched, the more I discovered a love for it! It helped that the 2010 season was the seventh best in Twins history even if those Damned Yankees did knock us out of the playoffs 1-2-3.
Back in 2011 I began writing a blog in the MLB blog space. Originally that blog was meant as an outlet for the hugely disappointing 2011 season, but by the time I started the blog, the Twins were having their “June Zoom” and doing well (albeit briefly). As someone fairly new to serious baseball, that didn’t leave me much to write about. (If I have sometimes found other bloggers intimidating, other baseball bloggers made me feel like just shutting up and watching the games.)
So my baseball blog was a huge, rousing unsuccess. I think my only reader was my mom, an occasional friend, and people who accidentally dropped by following a search link. In the entire two years, I got five comments and zero likes (let alone any followers)! Given how rarely I posted, that’s neither surprising nor terribly disappointing.
The baseball blogging did make me realize I enjoyed blogging and wanted one where I could natter on about anything I wanted. In the MLB space I felt compelled to write about baseball. Which, in reality, I’m not very qualified to do in that context. (There is also that, as of this year, two additional ad spaces were added, and I hate web ads even more than TV ads.)
Anyway, bottom line, I’m pickin’ up and movin’ any baseball writing I want to do to this blog. Those of you who don’t know much about baseball should be thrilled about this opportunity to learn more about America’s Sport!
And now that I’ve used up about a third of my usual word count setting the scene, we’d better get to it! (As I write more articles, I’ll fill in the back story, share photos of visits to Target Field, and present some other baseball fun. I’ll also explain why I have come to love baseball so much as well as why, despite seeming somewhat sedate, it’s actually edge-of-your-seat exciting.)
Let’s first clear up the matter of this having been the “sixth (or fourth or seventh) worst season” in Twins history. To understand this, there are a few things you need to know. (I’m going to assume most of my readers are not familiar with the details of baseball at the risk of boring those who are.)
Firstly, a baseball season consists of 162 games in a six-month period. (This is why baseball players are ever so much more manly and studly than those wimpy football players who only play 10-game seasons. :razz:)
However, sometimes that number changes. Due to the strike in 1981, the Twins played only 109 games, and due to the 1994-95 strike they played only 113 and 144 games, respectively. The 162 can also vary slightly if Division ties need to be broken, or if weather or other circumstances result in canceled games that are never made up.
Secondly, a team’s win record is tracked two ways. The obvious way lists the number of games won and lost. For example, the Twins win-lose record for the last three years is: 94-68, 63-99 & 66-96.
One thing that immediately stands out is whether there are more wins than losses. In 2010, the Twins won 26 more games than they lost, but in the next two years that was reversed (losing 36 and 30 more than won, respectively).
One way to encapsulate this is to consider the difference as a percentage. If you win every game, that’s 100%, and if you lose every game, that 0%. If you win exactly as many as you lose (81-81), that’s 50%.
In baseball, percentages are usually represented in their decimal form as a three-digit number with the exception that 100% is 1.000 (“one-thousand”). So if you won 50% of your games, that’s .500 (“five-hundred”). Represented that way, the last three years are: .580, .389 and .407 (“five-eighty”, “three-eighty-nine” and “”four-oh-seven”).
Generally speaking, a team needs to play .500 or better to win. (I’ll explain what I mean by “win” in a moment.)
Now I can explain the different season rankings. As a win-loss percentage, the 2011 season, with its dismal .389 record, is the third worst in Twins history. If you look at games won (63), it’s fifth worst, and if you look at games lost (99), its second worst. However, looking at just games won or lost is deceptive due to the strike seasons (all three of which alter the win and lost rankings).
As it turns out, the Twins did poorly in two of the three strike seasons. Their 2011 .389 record is tied with the same record in 1995. And in the 1981 strike season, they played .376—their second worst season ever (percentage-wise).
Their worst season was the year following. In 1982 (a full 162-game season), they played .370 (losing 102 games and only winning 60). Ironically, just five years later, in 1987, they’d go on to win the World Series for the first time in team history.
Which brings us to the irony of winning. In 1987, they played .525 (85-77), which ranks 19th in their 52-year history (ties sorted by year). But that was enough to win the Division and get us to the playoffs. In fact, of the four teams that made the playoffs in 1987, the Twins had the worst record!
The Twins played the Detroit Tigers (who had a .605 (98-64) record) for the American League championship and beat them four games to one. (The Tigers failed to make the playoffs for 19 years after that!) Those upstart Twins then went on to beat the St. Louis Cardinals (who had a .586 (95-67) record) in the World Series.
What allows something like that to happen (besides baseball just being funny that way) is that (currently) there are two Leagues (American and National), and each League has three Divisions (East, Central and West). This creates six “silos,” one per Division. Over the season, the goal is to win the most games in your Division (the Twins finished last in the American League Central Division in 2011 and 2010).
If you win your Division, the first round of playoffs, the Division Series, results in two winners per League. Then comes the Championship Series where the two winners play each other to produce a winner in each League. And finally comes the “October Classic,” the World Series where those two teams play each other.
Astute readers may wonder how three Division winners manage to play each other to result in two champions. This gets us into the “wildcard” teams, but that’s a topic for next time (especially since this year they added a second wildcard team in each League).
For now, I’ll leave you with the current situation.
We’re in the Division Series games, the first round of playoff games. On the American League side, the Baltimore Orioles are taking on the New York Yankees [obligatory spit], and the Oakland A’s (who stole the Division title from the Texas Rangers) are playing the Detroit Tigers (who took our Division title away from the Chicago White Sox, and the only thing Twins fans hate more than the Damn Yankees is the White Sox, so yay!!!).
Now, naturally I want the Yankees to lose (anyone not an actual Yankees fan does), but former Twin home run slugger Jim Thome now plays for the Orioles, so even more reason to root for them. I was surprised by Oakland—really thought Texas had it locked—but Moneyball is a great movie (and book), and I can’t hold it against the A’s. I also don’t dislike the Tigers, so I have no dog in that hunt. (Just please, God, not the Damn Yankees.)
I really wanted the Rangers to win the World Series in 2010 and in 2011. I like Texas and have friends there. The Rangers have never won the World Series, and now they’ve been twice and lost twice (and got robbed this year by the A’s, then had a shot as a wildcard, but lost to the Orioles).
Point is, the Cards took it from them last year, so I want those red birds to lose (they’ve already won 11 times). If they make it to the World Series, I’m going to be unhappy! As for the Giants/Reds, again I have no dog in the hunt. I like both teams (I’m guessing the Reds will win).
My nightmare is that the World Series will be Yankees/Cardinals. If that happens I’m going to be rooting for a giant meteor strike to take out both teams.