So This is Playoff Baseball

Through four postseason games of the 2023 MLB Playoffs for the Minnesota Twins, this Twinkie die-hard is still struggling to grapple with this new reality for his long-tormented team.

Being the new kid in town is a similar feeling. "Hello baseball fans, I'm a Twins fan, it's nice to be here! Boy, it sure is nice around here, how did we miss out on this for so long?". Think about all your friends who are Cardinals, Royals, or Cubs fans. They've all gotten to experience playoff baseball of the highest order recently, while we've watched from outside the glass for the last two decades.

Living and dying on every pitch for the last week has carried an undertow of uncertainty, of wonder, of hope the likes of which I have never experienced in my Twins fandom, and I wanted to write this column to try to convey those thoughts into words in the hope that it may also summarize the feelings of my brethren in navy blue, scarlet red, Kasota gold, and white (or baby blue, depending on your age).

Everyone has trauma these days, a notion I've always vehemently dismissed as neurosis. After watching these Twins, however, I've changed my tune. Sports trauma, in this particular case, is something I've been dealing with all my life, and it happens to coincide with my lifelong fandom of the sports teams in this town (and being a Cyclone fan). And the trauma is not because my teams are all terrible. With the Vikings specifically, that couldn't be further from the truth. The root of the trauma is the post-season. And the Twins are the poster-child of postseason trauma.

As a kid, I always struggled to name favorite athletes like other kids did. I loved Kirby Puckett, but as an early 90s baby, I barely remembered him. Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and Johan Santana have always been my favorite players. They are the reason I am Twins fan today, much like Royce Lewis and Carlos Correa will be the reason the next generation of kids will be Twins fans tomorrow. But I've always struggled to connect with them, to fully embrace them, to look back and revel in their accomplishments.

For all the batting titles, spectacular defensive plays (Joe Mauer was an elite catcher), All-Star Game fun (Torii robbed Barry freaking Bonds) and Home Run Derbys (sorry Josh Hamilton), MVP awards (people forget Morneau won it), and dramatic wins (Game 163, Jim Thome beating the Sox, Brian Dozier walk-off home runs), there was no real accomplishment to hang your toque on. No signature playoff series. Not even a singular playoff game to point to.

Then, in the span of a week, the 2023 Minnesota Twins win 3 playoff games, including a sweep at home and a road playoff win against the defending champs in a spot in which they rarely lose. All eyes now turn to Target Field, where the Twins have a real chance to make the ALCS for the first time since 2002.

All of a sudden, it feels ok to look back with love on those players who shaped my fandom. On the players like Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Joe Nathan and many others who brought joy to our summers and helped kids my age forge their fandom. They didn't win in the playoffs. But this team has. The clouds have parted, the weight has been lifted, the demons exorcised.

We finally get to enjoy the past and be excited for the future. To live and die on every pitch and with every crack of the bat. And to do so without the inevitable fear that something will go wrong, that the Twins will step in it, that they'll create some new fresh level of hell by finding a previously undiscovered excruciating way to lose.

I'll leave with you with a quote from Aaron Gleeman of The Athletic that resonated with me, and I'm sure will resonate with you: "It's time to experience post-season baseball like normal fans of a normal team, with an open mind and your guard down and a real sense that anything could happen. There may be pain, but it's no longer the inevitable kind".

They say anything can happen in October, and for the Minnesota Twins, something finally did.