Somewhat improbably, I became a Twins fan in the mid-1990s. Despite that period being the absolute doldrums of Minnesota Twins baseball, I fell in love with the sport—in large part thanks to the efforts of my aunt, father, and grandfather.
I’ll never forget the feeling of watching my first playoff series in 2002. The agony of that rough first half-inning—followed by the ecstasy of pulling out a victory that same game! The tension of falling behind the Oakland A’s 2-1—then storming back to take the final two contests! The subsequent ALCS was monkey business, but the newfound enthusiasm seemed to inspire the fanbase for further success.
As we all know, that did not happen. In reality, it took until last week to equal such October elation. It’s not as if the postseason wasn’t achieved in the subsequent 21 years—far from it. But 2023 was the first year where it felt like something truly special might be brewing.
The 2000s: Outgunned and Outflanked
In 2003, 2004, & 2009, the Twins were serious underdogs to New York Yankees clubs. As exciting as Game 1 victories in the ‘03 & ‘04 ALDS were, it was pretty clear that the Bronx Bombers were the superior club from stem to stern.
In 2006, Oakland seemed an “easier draw”—but then Francisco Liriano’s arm blew out & Brad Radke’s arm gave out—both dooming the Twins to another early October exit.
The 2010s (+ 2020): More talent—but same old, same old
In 2010, the Jim Thome-led squad had a legitimate puncher’s chance against the Yankees—but the Pinstripes instead landed the knockout blow.
There definitely seemed to be some magic in the air in 2017—but it lasted all of one-half inning in Yankee Stadium before the balloon deflated.
2019 looked to finally be the year to break through until another first-game loss led to Randy Dobnak on the mound for the second and, well, that was that.
The mad scramble of 2020 was interesting, to say the least, but the Bomba Squad had left the building by that October and two runs in two games wasn’t going to get it done.
All of this is to say that from 2003-2022, there hadn’t been much reason to believe when fall baseball presented itself in these parts. The ability to truly visualize the Twins playing in a World Series game. That’s what leads Target Field to—in the words of Rocco Baldelli—”feel like it was going to split open and melt”. It’s what leads crazies like me to take time off of work in the middle of the day to pace back and forth in front of the TV waving a hanky.
The Twins did not, of course, get to the World Series—or even the round preceding it, for that matter. But by winning a single playoff game—then a playoff series—and having Pablo Lopez beat the Astros in Houston on a glorious Sunday night, the Twins gave fans something that had severely been lacking: belief. The slogan on the ‘23 Homer Hanky wasn’t just pithy hashtagging this go-round.
Truth be told, even I myself had forgotten how much fun playoff baseball is. Freed from the weight of mounting losses, I was able to enjoy the ride in a manner not achieved since that junior year of high school back in ‘02.
I—and presumably many others residing in Twins Territory—am now (as the infamous tune decrees)...
My message to everyone in the Twins organization: let’s not wait another two decades to inject the fanbase with that kind of enthusiasm, okay?!