I’m a “history guy” at heart. If given the choice between examining current events and studying the history books, I’m almost always going to choose the latter. As such, before each Twins season I like to comb through the franchise annals to see if any previous historical context can be given to this year’s squad.
For the 2019 Twins, that means taking a little trip back to the 1980s...
The year is 1986. Ferris Bueller is having a pretty cool day off, Alex P. Keaton is everyone’s favorite young yuppie, and Bon Jovi are livin’ on a prayer. Yours truly is not yet two years old, but still trying his best to support the home team...
The Minnesota Twins are gearing up for their fifth season in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, under the tutelage of manager Ray Miller. Let’s take a look at some of the storylines that would define the ‘86 season for the Twins:
- Just two years earlier—in 1984—the Twins had made a surprise charge up the standings. Despite an epitome-of-average 81-81 record, the team was tied for 1st place in the AL West (not a typo) as late as September 23. They would ultimately finish three games back of the Kansas City Royals, and then regress to 77-85 in 1985.
- Offensively, the ‘86 Twins were built around a core of players thought to be entering their prime years together. Guys like Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Greg Gagne, & Tom Brunansky all received 500+ ABs and put up pretty solid numbers across the board.
- The starting pitchers were, well, let’s just say “top-heavy”. There was Bert Blyleven, Frank Viola, and then pray for the Teflon roof to deflate, I guess (something that did indeed happen earlier that season). Players you probably won’t remember like Mike Smithson, Neal Heaton, Mark Portugal, Allan Anderson, & John Butcher all got cracks at the starting five too, but the results were not pretty.
- Even worse was the bullpen, what with the team still firmly entrenched in the Ron Davis Dark Ages. Only Keith Atherton and Roy Lee Jackson (a name I literally have never heard until this very moment) had what could even be considered decent seasons. The rest was pretty much a dumpster fire.
- In September, Miller was removed from the dugout and replaced by a young, inexperienced skipper named Tom Kelly. He guided the team to a 12-11 finish when not throwing batting practice in Zubaz.
So, let’s see here—a team led (at least in part) by a new, young manger, coming off a disappointing campaign, that is pretty solid offensively but features only a few established starters and the bullpen elicits gulps. To quote another 80s movie character...
There’s both a good and bad ending to this little history lesson.
The final record of the ‘86 Twins? 71-91, good for a nearly last-place finish in the West. An 8-13 April beginning could not be recovered from.
Will the ‘19 Twins regress even further like that ‘86 squad, or arrive a year ahead of schedule and make some noise in the American League this year?
Either way, I’m ready to find out.