A touch of honesty, to begin: I didn't expect this. I've been voting in polls and writing here and talking with friends for months now, and every time, I came out as a member of the Twins non-believers. Not with Morneau racked up, I'd say. Not without Crede's glove. Not with this bullpen, or later, not with Jeff-Brian "Armando" Manship-Duesinabino as the fourth, fifth, third, whatever starting pitcher.
They can't make a run, I said. Look at the schedule; out of the first five months, they had one three games above .500, one two games below, and three - incredibly - right at the .500 mark. They barely could run off four in a row, and more would apparently take a super-flu epidemic and some forfeits.
Seven with Detroit? I said, pish. Posh. There's no hope to win all seven; even winning five won't do it, they're just too far back. Last week I thought they couldn't win both series. Then I thought that they couldn't take the two games against Zach Grienke. And anyway, how are they doing this?
All of this is background, because here we are now. Two games back, with four to play in Detroit. I can't deny, nor can anyone else: this is a pennant race. It is late September, spilling into October, and the Twins will be playing pressure-packed meaningful baseball yet again, for the third year in a row.
It doesn't matter how these seven remaining games go. It's everything we could have hoped for.
Twelve American League teams are playing out the string, effectively. Three have the playoffs - and their positions - locked up; the other nine are thinking about the golf course, or just counting the months until it's February again, and time for baseball. Fans in Chicago and Baltimore and Seattle and Dallas have moved on to football. They're checking the score online, maybe glancing at the story buried on page 7 of the sports section, and that's it.
They're not glued to the TV set this week, screaming at umpires and managers and weak-hitting second basemen. They're not wasting hours out of their mornings at work, discussing the game with co-workers. They're not sharing knowing nods with other people in Twins hats on the way to lunch. They don't have buses running that flash "GO TWINS" every third iteration.
Isn't this why we're fans? To watch our team in a pennant race, to share the joys and sorrows with our friends and family and co-workers and co-posters, to become a community that's all pulling for the same outcome?
I rather think so. It's everything we wanted.
It hardly bears repeating, it's so obvious. But even so: Go Twins!