Coming in to 2011, the Twins were widely recognized as either favorites to repeat as Central champions, favorites to challenge the White Sox in the division, or - according to a certain subset of Twins fans - favorites to lose 125 or more games unless both Bill Smith and Ron Gardenhire were fired, all players on the 40-man roster were given outright releases, and an entirely new set of players and administrators were put in place.
With that kind of optimism, the season gets off to a blinding start in...
...as the Twins open the year to great fanfare in New York. Confusion sets in as the team realizes it was scheduled to begin the season three days prior, in Toronto, but completely forgot to show up.
Thanks to cold temperatures in mid-April, Target Field experiences its first-ever snowflake delay. Jim Thome is seen cooking bear meat on an open fire in the right-field corner. Miami native Danny Valencia hides in the clubhouse and refuses to come out.
Ron Gardenhire announces that Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s career may be over before it can begin, as a team of scholars Gardy hired at great personal expense is unable to translate the phrase "battle your tail off" into anything that makes sense in Japanese. "The closest we got was ‘Tofu battle,’" report the scholars.
In an attempt to help him assimilate, the Twins suggest that Nishioka watch his teammates and do what they do. After two days of spring training watching Alexi Casilla, Nishioka reports sadly that he may never assimilate, as he’s simply unable to pay that little attention to what’s going on in the game.
Jason Repko collects eleven bloop hits in his first twelve at-bats, thus guaranteeing that for the second consecutive year, one semi-hot stretch will make his numbers look decent for months, even though he could be nearly as effective at the plate with an imaginary bat.
On April 27, a new team record is set as, upon Dusty Hughes entering the game, the one millionth fan turns to his companion and says, "Who the hell is this?" This tops Rich Robertson, who hit the million mark in July 1996, and who lost 17 games that season even though Tom Kelly couldn’t identify him by sight until mid-August.
Joe Mauer hits eighteen doubles and posts a .475 on-base percentage for the month, prompting fans far and wide to ask why he only hit one home run.
All of the dust settles a little bit as the calendar turns to...
...where the Twins finish off a three-game sweep of Kansas City because an injured Royals squad fields a six-man lineup. "We’d bring up some of our prospects," says GM Dayton Moore, "but frankly, we like tormenting our fans with three-years-away hope even more than we like abiding by the rules of baseball."
After Delmon Young is hit on the head by a fly ball three times in one game, the Twins appeal to Major League Baseball and the Red Cross for a courtesy left fielder. Bud Selig denies the request, telling the Twins that they "should have known Delmon was a designated hitter waiting to happen" all along.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka is suspended three days after he ditches his vast collection of sweatbands, elbow pads, and arm guards, and instead goes to the plate wearing a full suit of armor.
Joe Mauer, playing as the DH twice in a four-game series with Boston, hits for the cycle twice and drives in eighteen in the series. Fans debate whether Mauer is hurting the team by not playing every day behind the plate.
Alexi Casilla goes AWOL for three days in Minneapolis, an unplanned vacation later found to be caused by Casilla showing up three days in a row at the Metrodome instead of Target Field. Says a team spokesman, "At least he had the right city this time."
Nick Blackburn, despite an ERA above 5.00, is given a public vote of confidence from Ron Gardenhire. Kevin Slowey, with an ERA under 3.00 in bullpen duty, is sent to the minors after publishing the first steps of his attempt at a P=NP proof.
Michael Cuddyer, going for the greatest illusion of his magic career, makes $10.5 million disappear.
Things are then looking up as the season moves into...
...when Jason Kubel, in his most extensive public remarks to date, pronounces his season so far to be "good."
Matt Tolbert, in an attempt to get more playing time, switches his jersey number to #8. He starts 22 consecutive games in the infield, getting just five hits and drawing a walk in 107 plate appearances. Ron Gardenhire defends Tolbert as someone who "gets after it," an inexplicable smile crossing his face and a faraway look of longing filling his eyes.
With the bases loaded in the ninth of a tie game, Joe Mauer draws a four-pitch walk, scoring the winning run. Fans debate whether a real leader would have swung the bat.
With the Padres in town for interleague play, Ron Gardenhire makes headlines when he attempts to go to the mound to remove Pat Neshek from the game. Padres manager Bud Black, while agreeing that Neshek "throws funny," refuses to let Gardenhire bring in a new pitcher.
A tabloid newspaper attempts to dig up some dirt on Scott Baker. They admit that their following story, "Scott Baker Buys Chocolate Ice Cream When Vanilla Would Do," lacks pizzazz.
Their sidebar,"Matt Capps Buys Chocolate Ice Cream When Breakfast Would Make More Sense, As It’s 7 A.M." does do slightly better, however.
Unfortunately, then comes...
... as Justin Morneau is injured yet again, and looks likely to miss the remainder of the year. In a tearful press conference, Morneau admits that he sold his soul to a Canadian wizard named Gord in 2005, in exchange for four healthy seasons and one good playoff run for the Canucks.
Morneau asks the Canadian public for help finding his tormentor, saying, "He has a beard and wears flannel shirts and he looks a little like Jean Chretien and Rick Moranis had a baby." The Royal Canadian Mounted Police report 2.4 million sightings in the first week.
Joe Mauer throws out three basestealers and slaps three singles in a Twins loss. Fans swamp talk-radio stations, calling out Mauer for being a "banjo hitter" and not driving the ball enough.
Jose Mijares goes on the disabled list late in the month after an appearance in the summer Texas heat causes his left foot to melt. As a precaution, the Twins keep Delmon Young in the refrigerator between half-innings.
After making his 73rd error of the season, Tsuyoshi Nishioka is forced to admit, through his translator, that "we didn’t have defense in Japan."
July is followed, yet again, by...
... as Joe Mauer takes time out on an off day to visit sick kids at Regions Hospital. The team is swamped by irate letters from fans and has to issue a press release titled "Why Joe Mauer Can’t Visit Everybody’s Kids."
Denard Span, frustrated after more than a season where the hits just wouldn’t fall, announces he will stop swinging and focus extra hard on scowling at the ball. He collects five hits in the next game.
Carl Pavano’s goatee and predilection for pitching to contact are explained when the Star Tribune exclusively reveals that "Carl" is short for "Carlos," and that "Pavano" can be translated in the original Portuguese to mean "Silva." Pavano, admitting the allegations, immediately resolves to gain eighty pounds.
Dissension hits the Twins clubhouse when Steve Liddle, after holding three runners at third base, is attacked in the parking lot by an incensed Scott Ullger.
The MLB Players Association, acting on an emergency basis, votes unanimously that "Jim Hoey" is too ludicrous a name to be the name of an actual ballplayer. The union briefly demands that he go by his middle name, until they find out that it is "Urban," and realize that "Urban Hoey" would be even further down the rabbit hole. A committee is formed to study the problem.
The weather cools down, but the pennant race heats up, as the calendar turns to...
...as Ron Gardenhire, having moved through increasing levels of technical competence with his "fire it through the internet" jokes, tells reporters to "post this news to your blog, though you may want to think about implementing Facebook comments rather than regular comments on your blog, because although their technical system is not particularly well-adapted to commenting on news articles, it does enforce an increased level of transparency with the use of real names, thereby leading to fewer problems with anonymous ‘troll’ comments."
Jason Kubel shaves. The decreased wind resistance allows him to be thrown out at home by only thirty-eight feet in the next game.
Justin Morneau announces that he has decided to blame noted Penguins cheap-shot artist Matt Cooke for his 2010 concussion. The NHL announces that although they have no idea what Morneau is talking about, they will suspend Cooke for four games on general principles.
With an NFL lockout delaying the beginning of football season, Vikings fans are forced to turn to Target Field for their entertainment needs. Alcohol sales and arrests both rise over 400% immediately.
Joe Mauer writes a Sunday editorial for the Star Tribune, titled, "I Can’t Be Everything To Everybody - I Can Only Be Myself." Fans, truly taking Mauer’s points to heart, argue about whether Mauer should write more, and whether a true "team leader" would write an editorial or merely lead by example.
And as always, the season winds down in...
... which, as it so often seems to, concludes with another pennant flying high above Target Field.
Or does it?
Much as we know about the upcoming season, even we can’t yet say for sure.