Win: to finish first in a race, competition, or the like.
Winner: a person or thing that wins (see, win)
The words win and winner, by definition have been vacant this season for the Minnesota Twins. They have lost more games than they have won and by a significant margin. Despite the team’s efforts to keep themselves relevant in the American League Central race, a few (hundred) bounces or calls have not gone their way and all of their opponents seem to be banning them to the basement of the Central Division as punishment. I can only think of one conclusion as to why the Twins are bottom-feeders in the AL Central once again this season, and the answer is the antonym to the words win and winner: loser.
The Twins seemingly have grown used to defeat after starting the season with back-to-back losing months, winning only 6 of 22 games in April and 12 wins versus 16 losses throughout their 28 games played in May. Two months like those will put a bad taste in any team’s mouth to begin the season.
Despite the rough start, the Twins bounced back in June by achieving their first and, barring a series sweep of the Detroit Tigers this weekend, only winning month. Obtaining only one winning month in an entire season not only tells a fan their team is not as good as they had hoped, but also shows that a professional team has grown accustomed to losing, only striving for mediocrity. I am no where near saying the Twins had given up on the season, nor did they not play every game with all of their hearts. However, when was the last time you heard a Twins player get intense in a post-game interview at the performance of the team? Where is the fire? That fire is nonexistent for the lowly Twins who are in a heated race to be the second worst team in the AL Central with the Cleveland Indians. The Indians are a team who recently fired their manager Manny Acta as a result of a once promising season that took a downward spiral just after the trade deadline. This is the team the Twins are trying to “beat out” for the title of “Not Worst” in the AL Central. Acta was axed, and some people throughout the last few years have pondered whether or not it is Twins manager Ron Gardenhire’s turn.
Gardenhire has been the Twins manager since 2002, compiling a winning percentage of .524 (931-846) throughout his tenure and winning the Manager of the Year award in 2010. The award in 2010 was his first, but it was not the first time he had been considered for the award; he was runner-up in 2009, 2008, 2006, 2004, and 2003, then voted second runner-up in 2002. (List of MOY award winners) His résumé is quite impressive and one could place him among the top managers in the American League. However, despite his extensive managerial stat-line, he has won zero World Series championships and only made it out of the Divisional playoffs once since his inaugural season. There have been rumblings of letting go of Gardy, as the fans so affectionately call him, in previous seasons. Back-to-back atrocious seasons have never sat well with upper management for ball clubs, especially since the owners and general managers (Terry Ryan and Bill Smith most recently) have felt they had brought in the required pieces of the World Series puzzle.
So who is to blame? I honestly do not believe it is Gardenhire’s fault for the last the last two failed seasons. Injuries have riddled the Twins roster the past couple years and sometimes there is not enough Major League ready talent in a team’s minor league system. Sadly, Minnesota sports fans habitually forgive their favorite teams for not succeeding in the regular season and failing to bring championships to a very home-town biased fan base. Aside from the Minnesota Lynx WNBA team, no other franchise in the four major sports: baseball, basketball, hockey, and football, have brought a championship to the land of 10,000 lakes since the Twins did so in 1991. That is a long time for one metropolitan to not have a championship when they provide enough income and fan support to carry a team in every one of the major sports. Thus, are the fans to blame for the Twins losing season this year by not standing firm enough in wanting the high ticket, game-changing free agents or trading block players? Who knows for sure, but I know at the beginning of the season I will be backing my favorite baseball team and hoping for the best, as usual.