The British mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell, in his Reflections on Ethics 19, put together a series of secular commandments analogous to the Christian Ten Commandments. The first of those is particularly applicable to Twins fans:
1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
Sure, the Twins are up six over the Sox with only a handful of games left to play, but the recent history of the Central should demonstrate that such a lead is hardly the lead-pipe cinch folks like Rob Neyer ("White Sox now 6 back with 22 to play. Turn out the lights, the party's over...", from his Twitter feed) seem to imagine.
Recent history after the jump.
All standings data culled from the awesomatic baseballrace.com
Standings on 09/09/2009 -
Detroit 75 63 --
Twins 70 69 5.5
Twins win division after game 163
Standings on 09/09/2006 -
Detroit 86 57 --
Twins 82 59 3.0
Twins win division on last day of season
Standings on 09/09/2003
Chicago 78 66 --
Twins 76 68 2.0
Twins win division by 4 games
I'm not saying that defending a 6-game lead is impossible -- the Indians did just that in 2007, and in 2008 the White Sox led by just a game and held on through game 163 to win the division.
The Tigers were in theory helped in 2006 by being done with the Twins after September 10, still holding a two-game lead. It didn't change the outcome. The six-game swing in 2003 was aided immeasurably by the Twins winning all five games they had with the Sox after September 9, though, and I'm sure the memory of our head-to-head games with Detroit in 2009 is still fresh in everyone's minds. (If not, let me recap by saying that we went 4-3 after September 9 in our head-to-head matchups with the Tigers, which may not sound impressive, but still allowed us to gain ground.)
I still won't be absolutely certain of a Twins division title until it happens, but a four-game edge heading into next weekend's homestand will go a long way toward calming my anxieties. (In other words, at least one win next week in Chicago, plus no stumbles on the road this weekend in Cleveland.)