I have been a Minnesota Twins fan for my entire life. In little league I loved Kirby Puckett (but as a catcher I REALLY wanted to be Mike Piazza) and Greg Gagne. I thought that the Minnesota Twins were about the neatest thing in the whole world. But I would not say that I was a fan of baseball. I was a fan of a team, and maybe fan is not even the correct word, the Twins were my favorite but maybe I didn’t know enough, or I did not follow the game close enough, or follow enough games to really know if I was a fan, or just a kid who liked baseball because everyone else liked baseball. When there was talk of MLB contraction I did not get riled up, when the Twins were linked to those talks I was really only distressed because that would mean I would not be able to go get those neat ice cream sundaes in the mini-Twins helmets and I would not be spending a Saturday afternoon at the ball park with my father.
About that time I went away to college at Southern Illinois and it was suddenly a whole lot more difficult to keep track of the Twins. Wondering if they won last night’s game turned into wondering if they won last week’s series, turned into wondering if the Minnesota Twins were doing anything, ANYTHING at all. For a while the lack of information about the Twinkies turned into general apathy. I would check the standings at the beginning of September, and if the Twins were doing well I would make an effort to stay informed, if for no other reason than to have bragging rights over many of my friends who were White Sox fans.
Eventually that apathy turned into genuine interest, and because the Twins have pretty much been running out winning baseball teams for the last decade, and I gradually became not just a fan of the Minnesota Twins, but a fan of baseball. I was checking the box scores during spring training, I was keeping tabs on the Rochester Red Wings, the GCL Twins, and every minor league affiliate in between. Then I started watching other teams. What were the White Sox doing? How did the Tigers do last night, and what does that mean for the Twins in their next series? Is Kansas City ever going to be a threat to the Twins again? Pretty soon I was digesting as much baseball as I could and the Twins kept on winning. Despite their struggles against the New York Yankees, the Twins have provided an era of baseball in which fans can routinely expect to turn into playoff baseball in October and find their home town team.
Welcome to 2011. The Twins were not just bad when the season started, they were historically bad. 1/3 of the way through the season they were on pace to lose over 100 games, be outscored by nearly 300 runs, and finish as the worst team in the MLB. The Twins were atrocious to watch. They were hardly scoring any runs, they were often down early in ball games, and it seemed like once they were down they lost all confidence and just sort of went through the motions for the last four or five innings.
Since that time the Twins are starting to play better, but their early season struggles still surface from time to time and as we prepare for tonight’s Home Run Derby, the Twins are still 7 games under .500 and in 4th place in the AL Central. In fact, only Kansas City, Baltimore and Oakland are worse than the Twins in the American League.
So I ask you Twins fans, with 73 games left on the schedule after the All-Star Game, how do you deal with losing baseball? What keeps you hooked after the Twins have conceded any chance at playoff baseball? What do you watch for? How do you draw meaning from games that seem meaningless?
Don’t forget to check out Puckett’s Pond on Facebook