June isn’t really “crunch time” but given that the first-place Twins play the second-place Guardians 8 times in 11 games, it may be as close as we can come to watching “critical games” with three months of the season remaining. Obviously, the next 10 days will go some distance toward determining the fate of the AL Central this year. “Some” distance, not “all” distance, given that it’s very possible the Twins and Guardians could split the eight games, and it’s probably likely that one team will win no more than 5 of 8. During this time, the White Sox have four games against the Orioles and three against the Angels. It’s certainly possible that things in the Central could see some serious change in the next few weeks.
Even though many of us have largely been ignoring the White Sox, perhaps thinking (and hoping) that their struggles will be long-term, they are a mere three games behind the Twins in the loss column. It appears that the Central will be a three-team race perhaps until the end, despite our urges to bury the dreaded White Sox well before they are dead. Perhaps it was because we all expected the White Sox to be better that we have largely ignored that, even though they’ve been underachieving, they are a good week and a half from possibly being in the lead of the AL Central.
Our Twins have perhaps exceeded most fan expectations this season. We remain filled with optimism and hope, but then again, at least for me, a certain level of foreboding is always just beneath the surface. I mean, I’m a Minnesota sports fan, through and through, so over-confidence is not really my thing. Reality checks like losing two of three on the road this past weekend against the lowly Diamondbacks, while far from catastrophic, nevertheless should have all of us pumping the brakes a bit before we anoint the Twins Central Division champs.
It’s highly unlikely that the Twins (or the Guardians or White Sox, for that matter) are truly good enough to entirely separate themselves from the pack. For entertainment purposes, it’s great that it genuinely seems like the division will be undecided come September. For Twins fans, who certainly should have learned by now not to take anything for granted, it may be important to ground ourselves again in the here and now. The White Sox aren’t dead. After last night’s loss, the Guardians are tied with the Twins for first place.
It’s a long season. I’m not worried. I’m also not complacent. As I’ve written before, my betting history is not one to brag about. Still, I keep on trying. If I were to bet on the Twins record against the Guardians in these eight games, I’d say 4-4. My next choice would be 5-3. If that 5-3 goes the Twins way, the Twins will expand their lead over the Guardians to a not so robust 3 games. If that 5-3 goes the Guardians way, the Guardians will be in first place. If that happens I won’t worry, it’s a long season. But, if the Guardians win 6 of 8, I reserve the right to worry, to write about the beginning of the end, and to generally fall back into full Minnesota sports fan mold.
If the Angels travails can show us anything about baseball, it’s that a “contending” team ten games over .500 can lose 14 games in a row and 18 of 20. They can fire their manager, they can flail around a bit more, and suddenly they aren’t considered a contender. Change is constant. Change can be scary. I’m not predicting a Twins losing streak, or a fall from grace that parallels the Angels. Still, I’m suggesting that there is a long way to go, and it almost seems like many of us have almost come to expect that our first-place Twins will hang on to that position all year, and finally purge some post-season demons. That all may be true, but at this point in late June, I think I’ll channel my inner athlete cliché and worry simply about one game at a time. It’s one game, so I’ll try not to panic if the Twins lose, nor will I get ahead of myself should they win.