Though most NFL fans—especially in these parts—remember longtime head coach Dennis Green as a Minnesota Viking, his last three seasons wearing the headset came at the helm of the Arizona Cardinals. In 2006 on Monday Night Football, the desert denizens squandered a 20+-point lead in the span of the fourth quarter en route to a crushing defeat. This prompted an all-time rant during the postgame presser…
At the All-Star break, the Minnesota Twins find themselves 50-44. In other words, to quote the late Coach Green, “they are who we thought they were”.
In 2021, the Twins plunged off a 73-89 cliff (this after two consecutive AL Central banners). Though reasons abounded for a bounce-back, it wasn't as if a calvary of reinforcements came riding in. Essentially, the organization was hoping for the young pitching prospects to progress, addition-by-subtraction with Josh Donaldson, and fill-in pieces like Gio Urshela & Gary Sanchez to make an above-average impact.
Back in early April, a Twinkie Town poll predicted “80-89 wins” as the most likely outcome for the ’22 season. Taking the median—85—of that range would produce a .527 winning percentage. Currently, the Twins sit at .532. Again—they are who we thought they were.
So, why aren’t we back-slapping each other and offering congratulations about perfectly pegging the progress? Two reasons, really:
First—the power of expectations. On May 24, the Twins were 27-16. Joe Ryan was pitching at A-1 ace level and all the other arms—rotation and bullpen alike—were over-achieving.
Second—I’m not sure anyone expected a 50-44 record to be leading the AL Central by two games—and three clear of the presumptive favorites (White Sox). In the predicted world, the Twins would be fighting for a Wild Card berth. But contrary to popular wisdom, we do not live on a calculable hunk of rock. As such, the Twins find themselves in the middle of a dogfight for baseball’s least-competitive division.
Whenever the Green rant is shown, the iconic opening line—”the Bears are who we thought they were”—is most quoted. But the ending is what intrigues me most for our purposes: “…and we let ‘em off the hook!”. Had da Bears blown the doors off the Cards in the fourth quarter, Denny’s podium would have likely remained in the upright and fastened position. What really steamed him was AZ’s two fumbles (both returned for a TD) and a punt-return score. His team beat itself.
If the ChiSox and/or Guardians clearly outplay Minnesota during the dog days of baseball’s schedule, I’ll tip my hat to either. But if the Twins are obviously the better squad yet still squander an eminently-winnable division crown? Watch out, podiums.