So far this year, Zach’s History Corner (TM) has been exorbitantly focused on the 2013 squad—odd, considering their bottom-feeder status. But now, at long last, the curtain is pulled back on ‘03.
When your mind wanders back two decades, I’m guessing its baseball memories are happy ones. This was the height of the Gardy Gang (Doug, Corey, Torii, Jacque, Guzy, A.J., etc.)—a franchise that had not only defied contraction but also made the playoffs for the first time in a decade the year previous. Ultimately, 2003 turned out okay for the Minnesota Twins—but it certainly didn’t start out that way.
Well, actually it kind of did. Opening the season in the Motor City, the Twins swept the Tigers behind strong starts from Brad Radke, Joe Mays, and Kyle Lohse (8 IP, 2 H, 0 ER!). The pitching-and-defense backed by clutch hitting model seemed cemented in place again.
But in their Dome-opening series, they were swept by the Toronto Blue Jays when Vernon Wells, Carlos Delgado, & Shannon Stewart (a name that may just be revisited down the line) battered around Rick Reed, Kenny Rogers, & Radke. Then, a three-game jaunt to the Bronx produced a similar—and altogether expected—result.
Remarkably, a 6-game winning streak seemed to right the ship entirely—until the #@$% Yankees came to the Twin Cities....
- Twins lose 11-4 when they run into Roger Clemens on the mound and every Yankee batsman cranks at least one hit.
- Twins lose 4-2 when Bernie Williams & Raul Mondesi produce big flys off Mays and Andy Pettitte exerts his usual dominance.
- Twins lose 8-2 when Mike Mussina goes 7 IP, 2 ER and this time Jason Giambi joins Williams in going yard.
- Twins lose 15-1 when Williams (yes—again), Nick Johnson, and Alfonso Soriano send balls to every OF seating section of the Metrodome and David Wells tosses a CG, 1 ER masterpiece.
Much like the current 2023 season, the ‘03 Twins “got New York out of the way early”. But very much unlike ‘23, this particular instance was disastrous. Adding insult to injury, two more losses against the Kansas City Royals immediately followed suit.
When April came to a close a few days later, the Twins sat at 12-14. Not disastrous by any means—comparatively, the Tigers were 3-21—but a somewhat-worrisome 6 GB a KC club that had surged to a 17-7 mark. While plenty of time remained to get back on course, one thing was clear: the magical 2002 season was in the rearview mirror. A second straight division championship would have to be earned.