Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
It’s been three years, but do you remember what it feels like to be in the thick of the playoff race? Reading the newspaper to find out the Twins’ magic number? Paying attention to five or six games every night because of their importance to playoff hopes? Staying up late to catch the entire game? Minnesota Twins fans of almost every age can vividly remember the exhilaration of victory or the gut-wrenching feelings of loss for any odd September game. The fact of the matter is that the emotional rollercoaster effect of the playoff race is downright infectious to be a part of, but not all that fun to be watching from the outside. Once again the Twins are left out, playing relatively meaningless games compared to the division and wildcard leaders of both leagues. It’s easy for Twins fans to check out of baseball entirely but there is still over a month left before a new champion is crowned.
But what’s left to keep the baseball interest levels up for Twins fans, especially now that football season is here? It’s admittedly very hard to become invested in another teams’ success. For example, the Detroit Tigers are a very good team and could win it all but so much of their success comes at the Twins expense that it’s tough to cheer them on. Coupled with the feelings of jumping on the bandwagon and betraying the Twins by rooting for another team, it seems easier to not pick anyone at all to follow through the playoffs. However, for some it isn’t so easy to ditch the MLB until spring training 2014. In that case, one of the best ways to feel attached to the playoff race is to follow the former Twins players who are fighting to stay alive on their new teams.
There are plenty of former Twins players swimming around on other teams but there are only a few that truly feel or felt like they were “ours.” Sure Boston’s David Ortiz (just clinched the AL East) and Baltimore’s J.J. Hardy (2.5 games back in the AL Wildcard) were Twins players but they weren’t around long enough to make a lasting impact. Here are a couple of players that you could still proudly rep their respective old Twins jerseys that you have hanging in your closet.
Torii Hunter – Detroit Tigers (Magic Number for the AL Central – 3)
– Playing RF, Hunter is a central piece to the Tiger’s offensive threat. He’s batting .299/.332/.461 with 88 Runs and 81 RBI.
Joe Nathan – Texas Rangers (0.5 games back in the AL Wildcard Race)
– If not for Mariano Rivera, Nathan would be the best closer of his generation after continuing to put up stellar numbers this season. He is 5-2 with a 1.53 ERA and 39 saves in 42 opportunities this season.
Denard Span – Washington Nationals (5.0 games back in the NL Wildcard Race)
– Although the Nationals are a longshot at this point, Span is hitting .288 over the season but has a .355/.395/.491 line over the last 30 days.
Nick Punto – Los Angeles Dodgers (NL West Champions)
– Mostly lost in the shuffle of the talent-loaded Dodgers, Punto is an underrated defensive utility player that could steal a few playoff games for the team. He’s also batting .258 on the year.
Francisco Liriano – Pittsburgh Pirates (2.0 games back in the NL Central, Tied for the NL Wildcard Lead)
– If you haven’t already heard, Liriano is absolutely raking for the Pirates with a 16-7 record, a sparkling 2.88 ERA and 155 strikeout versus only 62 walks. In his last start against the Reds (the Pirates’ potential one game wildcard playoff opponent), he went 8 innings and let in 2 runs.
Justin Morneau – Pittsburgh Pirates (2.0 games back in the NL Central, Tied for the NL Wildcard Lead)
– Morneau is hitting .283/.358/.333 in his first 19 games for the Pirates and he drove in the winning RBI last Sunday. For anyone who couldn’t believe that he was traded at the end of August, Morneau is a no brainer for someone you absolutely want the best for.
Baseball is too fun to turn a blind shoulder to and if you root for the right people, there is still plenty of excitement left for the rest of the season. It might be hard to cheer for an entire team, but finding a couple of names on a box score is pretty easy. Baseball is all about individual matchups so why shouldn’t you be able to focus only on your favorite former Twins? Imagine this; Joe Nathan trying to closeout Game 7 of the World Series against pinch hitter Justin Morneau with two down and the tying run on Third. Who would you root for?