That’s right, the 2020 Twins are the best team to never win a championship. Even if there is some kind of 2020 season, it will always carry an asterisk.
Not an Astros-terisk, but an asterisk nonetheless. The 2020 pennant winners will be league champions, fair square. No cheating involved, but it will be a shortened season, played under untraditional circumstances, perhaps with major rule changes, and certainly against a different slate of opponents.
All of this means that no matter when, if, or how the 2020 Twins play, it won’t be the 2020 season we should have had, and it won’t be the drought-erasing season we’ve been waiting for since 1992. Every team is in that boat though—the difference is this is the best Twins team ever, and was supposed to be our chance to celebrate.
The 2019 Twins team set a record for home runs. Now, that might have been partially aided by the juiceball—but 29 other teams got to hit the juiceball. No one else hit 307 dingers, did they? Not even the damn Yankees, with their short porch and high-dollar line-up, hit that many. The Twins offense should have been even better this season.
Miguel Sano was healthy in spring training, although that doesn’t guarantee a full season. Byron Buxton finally showed his potential doubles power last season, and was approaching full health. There is also the fact they added one of the best hitters in the league, Josh Donaldson, to the roster, effectively replacing CJ Cron. A full season of Luis Arraez and his Rod Carew-like on base ability replaces Jonathan Schoop, who Arraez had effectively supplanted by the end of last season. And the offense isn’t where the biggest upgrades came.
The Twins bullpen had already undergone a renaissance in August of 2019. After the all-star break, both Tyler Duffey and Trevor May had been damn near unhittable. Sergio Romo was a trade-deadline rental, but quickly agreed to return to Minnesota this winter (thank you, Chili-toting neighbors.) Former Spider and Yankee Tyler Clippard also joins the 2020 squad, as another reliever with a history of playing on winners. Added to highly-underrated Taylor Rogers, this creates a group of five solid guys in the bullpen. Cody Stashak and Zach Littell also earned their place with performance in the dog days of last summer. This might not be the 2018 bullpen, but its more-than-sufficient to shut down anyone in baseball once the starters hand the game over.
And the starters got better too. Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi still lead the pen—and both provide reasons to think they can outperform their 2019. Kenta Maeda effectively replaces and upgrades Kyle Gibson. Not a hard upgrade, as painful as it is to say, given Gibson’s health woes in 2019. Homer Bailey’s career resurrection last season continuing would make him a perfectly cromulent fourth starter for a playoff-destined team in the first half, and the fifth starter spot offered a plethora of intriguing options. More importantly, the Twins also lined up a couple of solid mid-season upgrades. Michael Pineda was the Twins best starter in the second half of 2019 before getting popped for banned substances. Adding him to the mix by mid-June and veteran Rich Hill by the end of July would have set up a potent rotation, with the ability to still trade for reinforcements as needed. That, again, might not be the best rotation in history, but its pretty solid.
The 2020 Twins don’t really have a weakness. If you had to pick one, you certainly could, but from top-to-bottom, there is probably a MLB team that would love to add any piece of the 2020 roster.
The mid-to-late sixties Twins were great teams, and could be a good answer to the “best team to never win a championship” question themselves, as they made one World Series appearance and lost to the ‘65 Dodgers. The 1987 squad won a World Series, but weren’t actually that good. They only won 85 games in the regular season—they just got hot and/or lucky at the right time. The 1991 team was better, but can you really make a case they’re a better roster than 2020? Maybe in center field, and the top of the rotation, but that’s about it. The 2000’s teams in general, and 2006 in particular, had a great core, and few good pitchers—especially in 2006 with Johan and pre-TJ Liriano. Still, none of those teams had the top-to-bottom depth of the 2019 or 2020 squad.
The best Twins team to never win a championship didn’t miss the mark due to a superior opponent, a weakness in the roster, or a bad bounce on the field. Instead, the disease shutting down much of the world has taken away their shot. Baseball is a small thing in the grand scheme—people are dying and tens of millions are out of work worldwide. And yet, I can’t help but feel that we are losing the opportunity to see the greatest assemblage of sports talent to ever grace a Minnesota playing field.
Baseball, as so much else in life, is existing in a state of uncertainty. Will there be a 2020 season, and how many games will be played, if any at all? Where will those games be played? Florida? Minnesota? Both? Will the rules be the same, will games be shortened? With all of these questions, there is one thing I can say for certain—the best Twins team ever will not be able to compete for, let alone win a World Series that won’t always carry an asterisk.