The Minnesota Twins, after winning their first series in Tampa Bay since 2007, sit above .500 at 11-10, and will be playing the mighty Detroit Tigers for first place in the AL Central this weekend at Target Field. What has sparked this return to competency?
"Being good at some baseball things again has really done the trick for us," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.
Players and coaches agreed with Gardenhire's assessment.
"It's amazing what not being just godawful bad at every phase of the game can do for your team," said third baseman Trevor Plouffe. "Guys are going out there and not sucking. It makes it more like a game than a job, and it's really opened my eyes."
"There's this term 'crooked number' that some of the guys have been using around the clubhouse," said second baseman Brian Dozier, who leads the team with six home runs. "It happens when you score more than one run in an inning, and refers to the shape of the number they put on the scoreboard. Have you ever heard of such a thing? That's wild!"
Sam Fuld, the newest Twin, claimed that this is definitely a different team from the one he used to play against.
"It's like night and day, what with them not being a bunch of sad dudes in pajamas with numbers on them now," said Fuld. "Winning is contagious, and so is adequateness."
The blistering April of journeyman Chris Colabello has been the most talked about piece of the team's offensive reemergence.
"What you see Colabello doing is 'not being shitty at bat-swinging,'" said one coach. "We really keyed on that all off-season and in Fort Myers: don't be shitty at bat-swinging. It really stuck with Chris, and it's rubbing off on a lot of the other guys. It's pretty fun to watch them not be shitty."
"Not being terrible has really had an impact on the field and in the clubhouse," agreed hitting coach Tom Brunansky. "The bullpen was a bright spot last year, and you always worry that there's gonna be some regression, but Perk (Glen Perkins) and the guys have been lights out. Consistently not being a tire fire is a lot harder than it looks."
There are still rough patches for the team, to be sure. The upgraded starting staff, outside of Kyle Gibson, has been borderline awful. The team is hopeful that the new "Don't be bad at your job, be good at your job instead" mindset takes hold with expensive additions like Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes.
"You don't just flip a switch and say, 'Hey, we're not a goddamn clown car anymore,'" said a front office source. "It takes time to get everyone to buy in. The pitchers'll come around. They have to. Andy's out there every day, saying, 'Hey, guys, new plan: don't be bad at throwing balls now.' Gotta drill it into 'em until it becomes second nature. Be good at throwing baseballs."