Besides the obvious—leaky ‘pen, injuries, underperformance, etc.—one of the greatest disappointments of 2021 thus far has, at least to me, been the mostly mediocre performance of the AL Central as a whole. Besides potentially the White Sox—more on them in a moment—the Twins reside in such a “winnable” division that to be noncompetitive seems almost criminal.
My quick thoughts at the moment on each divisional denizen...
- Tigers: Clearly still deep into a rebuild (maybe showing the very first signs of life)
- Royals: Have a bit of pep to them both batting/pitching-wise, but nothing yet resembling a solid, truly competitive squad.
- Cleveland: Can’t hit a lick, rely solely on pitching, and have a new hurler injury nearly every week. Not exactly a winning combination.
- That, of course, brings us to the White Sox. Without a doubt, the South Siders are loaded with raw talent (easily the most in the division). Yet, they are skippered by a near-octogenarian who—rather predictably—doesn’t seem to be gelling well with players that could be his grandchildren. I can’t shake the notion that once the Sox run into even the slightest bit of opponent adversity (even if it takes until the postseason for that to happen), they’ll fold without having a strong leader to rally around or pull them out of it.
None of this is by accident, of course. I’m sure at least part of the reason the Twins’ front office has invested so heavily in the team the last 2-3 years is exactly because the AL Central is get-able. Unfortunately, that just makes 31-42 even more disappointing.
Not long ago, I wrote about how the Twins were a bad baseball team. The recent relatively modest 5-game winning streak doesn’t really change my opinion all that much. But of course, “hope springs eternal” and all that jazz (i.e. fans are desperate for any spark right now). Interestingly enough, the Twins are about to embark on an almost month-long stretch of exclusively intra-division play. From June 24-July 21, the schedule reads as follows:
- vs. CLE (4), @ CHI (4), @ KCR (3), vs. CHI (3), vs. DET (4), @ DET (4), @ CHI (3)
At one point in that stretch, the Twins & Tigers will do battle 8 consecutive times (with only the All-Star Break separating them)! Thus far on the 2021 season, the Twins are 12-15 against Central foes. Not exactly the stuff of legends, to be sure, but certainly better than their overall winning percentage.
More than likely, the Twins finish this stretch of Central foes at—or maybe even a little below—the .500 mark. Buxton’s latest injury and a mess of a pitching staff logically dictate such an outcome.
But—but—if this team ever had a run of .600 baseball in it to try and creep back closer to contention, Thursday night’s home tilt against Cleveland would be the ideal time and place to start.