It’s still April, so the season is more than “half-full.” Then again, the way the Twins have looked lately, it seems very much “half-empty.” Whether the comments are coming from articles on Twinkie Town or on Twitter, or from friends, neighbors, and countrymen, the polarization in opinion is stark. Approximately half of the people believe that the sky is not falling, and that in the immortal words of Aaron Rodgers, we should all take a deep breath, and RELAX. The other half are thinking that the sky has indeed fallen or at least the Twins have fallen, and it would appear unlikely that they can get up.
I’m not sure where I stand on this, it’s day-to-day, but at least the concern of “peaking too early” has dissipated. Now, the concern is whether the team will peak at all, and some of these games, have me covering my eyes, afraid to...well...peek.
So, as Matt eloquently summed up Sunday’s loss to the Pirates, it is difficult to say much about where the Twins are right now. Their offense is anemic. Their defense has let them down. Their pitching (particularly the bullpen) has been far short of stellar.
Many of us entered the season concerned, at least a bit, about the bullpen, but we didn’t think the offense would be so bad, so unable to carry their fair share of the load. Perhaps the ultimate insult came last Wednesday, when the one breakout offensive performance in the last several weeks nevertheless resulted in another loss. Managing to lose while scoring 12 runs, was reminiscent of some of the bad old days when the Twins fielded some pretty uncompetitive teams, and the unreal became all too real, and the seemingly impossible, became possible, but rarely in a good way.
This team is better than that. Aren’t they? Twins fans entered the season with our usual optimism, and given the regular season success of the last couple of years, we thought that optimism was well-founded, but as we enter the last week of April, the team seems lost.
Some blame management at the highest levels. Others blame the manager. Still more blame the players themselves, who, with the exception of Buxton and Arraez, have pretty much universally underperformed. Even Arraez, who I thought I’d avoid saying a negative word about, crushed our hopes with the throw from third on the infamous Wednesday in Oakland. Still, it’s hard to blame him, as he has been playing a variety of positions and has been a ray of offensive sunshine in a line-up of mostly black holes.
Buxton has been fantastic when he’s played (stop, if you’ve heard that before). But beyond Buxton and Arraez, and a bit from Cruz, and those rare games played by Donaldson…there’s been…well….collective dreck. Garver, Jeffers, Polanco, Cave, Sano (now, perhaps mercifully on the IL), and Kiriloff, well….it’s April. It’s been cold, but that doesn’t really explain Anaheim and Oakland. We’ve seen snow, we’ve seen rain, we’ve seen Covid, we’ve seen far too much really poorly played baseball and really poor at-bats.
There’s really no sugar-coating it, the Twins haven’t played well. We all hate the notion of “fly-over” country, but it would be nice if Twins fans could be living in “do-over” country. For many of us, it’s as if the last year didn’t even happen. No visitors, no visiting, no travel, virtual workplaces, it’s been a lost year. It’s kind of like we’ve been waiting for the world to re-open, and for the long 12-month winter to give way to a new re-birth of our society. Our hope, after last year’s playoff debacle, was for a new beginning, and baseball season coincided with real progress forward.
And then, there came forth April of 2021. Surely, we deserved better. We expected better, but baseball-wise, we didn’t get it. First game, first inning, Donaldson is injured rounding first base. It surely would have to bet better than that, and then….it really didn’t.
Let’s hope April misery brings forth May renewal. It’s difficult to see it now, as it seems pretty grim, but baseball is like life, and life is subject to change without notice. One bad day doesn’t necessarily beget another, just as a good day doesn’t ensure success moving forward.
As Twins fans, we are truly living day-to-day. We are as fragile as Josh Donaldson’s hamstring or calf or whatever body part we fear will fall off as he runs to first. We all hold our breath as Buxton dives for a line drive, but we’ve been doing those things for a while now….we’ve come to expect it. What we didn’t expect was the collective wincing we’ve been doing with the vast majority of plate appearances by our regulars. Surely it will get better. It has to get better.
We won’t give up, it’s always for better and for worse, for richer, for poorer as a sports fan, and particularly as a Minnesota sports fan. We’re long-haulers, but our loyalty and dedication is being tested early this year. I hate that April isn’t even over and I’m already starting to feel sorry for us, that doesn’t usually happen until the playoffs.
Perhaps this year we are getting our stretch of dreadful play out of the way early. We certainly cannot be accused of peaking too early, it’s as if we’re playing like we’re in the playoffs, instead of like it’s April. Perhaps if the ship is righted, and the playoffs become a reality, April will be a distant memory and little else. Let’s hope we can forget about the baseball we’ve played the past few weeks, and move on to better days.