The 2017 Minnesota Twins are good for baseball. Full stop.
The entire point of a professional sports league is to attract and engage fans. That is how the leagues make money. Clearly, making money is the point of any business venture. How does that relate to the 2017 Twins?
Well, the Twins are garnering a lot of attention for their unlikely playoff run. From a historic 103-loss 2016, and a 5% playoff chance at the All-Star break to being able to clinch at any time; they have made a huge improvement.
Obviously, an improvement like this will galvanize the fans of your team. It feels great to be a Twins fan right now. Even if they flame out in the Wild Card, and they probably will, your dominant emotion has to be one of hope for the future. The 2017 Twins have probably sold a lot of 2018 season tickets, and MLB Extra Innings subscriptions.
But here is where they are good for the rest of baseball: it gives hope. Grant Brisbee said it well:
If you’re a fan of a lousy team, they’re the best reason for optimism going. Your team could go from 100 losses to October baseball in just one year, too.
They just have to hit better and pitch better. Bless the Minnesota Twins for reminding us of this better than any other team this year.
And that’s the point. I checked out of baseball before the Vikings showed up in Mankato last year. It seemed hopeless. If you’re a fan of the Giants, or the White Sox, or the Phillies, it probably hasn’t been a fun season. Seeing what the Twins have done provides a glimpse of what their team could do. Is it likely? No, that’s why the Twins are so notable. But it proves it can be done. It gives you a reason to watch your team next year.
Does it make the regular season cheaper if an unlikely team makes the World Series? Well, maybe. But that isn’t the Twins fault. Playing 162 games mean that most of them don’t have much meaning. Compared to the NFL, one loss in the MLB has about 1/10 of the impact. The best teams in the MLB win around 2⁄3 of their games. That means they still lose a third of them. Should all of those losses have meanings? The whole point of the regular season is to get into the playoffs. Why should we care how you do it? Being the tenth best team or first best team still gets you there. An unbeatable juggernaut is not a lot of fun for the fans of the other 29 teams. A down-to-the-wire playoff chase is a lot more fun, and will attract a lot more interest. Its good for baseball, overall, to have mediocre teams with a shot at the playoffs. If you’re an Angels fan, or a Mariners fan, or a Rangers fan, the second wild card gave you a reason to keep paying attention. Even for Twins fans — without that second wildcard, the games would have been meaningless two weeks ago.
If we go further down that rabbit hole — how is 162 fair? If it was 100 games, the Dodgers would have had an insane winning percentage. If it was 200, what could the Indians have done? The entire regular season is arbitrary.
Mark my words, the second wild card is great for baseball. An unlikely team taking that wild card on a Cinderella run would be even better. The league and the teams make money off of fan interest. Things that build that interest are only good for the teams, for the league, and for the future of baseball. At a time when baseball interest is at an all time low, we should be advocating for the great stories, not gate keeping for the elite teams. The Wildcard could certainly be revamped, I’m not saying its perfect, and I was against it when it was proposed. I cannot, however, say that it hasn’t been good for baseball.
Go Twins go!