Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s do a quick check in with the former Twins that I highlighted in a post before the playoffs started. Joe Nathan’s Rangers lost to the Tampa Bay Rays in game 163 to miss the playoffs and Denard Span’s Nationals missed the playoffs entirely. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in five games in the NLDS after the Pirates won the Wildcard game, eliminating Justin Morneau and Fransisco Liriano from the 2013 playoffs too. Morneau, playing first base, had a respectable .292/.320/.333 batting line (Avg./OBP/SLG) in 24 at bats and scored 4 runs, but didn’t drive in any runs. Liriano did everything that he could to help his team advance with a 2.08 ERA over 13 innings pitched, allowing only 7 hits and striking out 10. He got the win against the Cincinati Reds and a no decision in a win against the Cardinals but the Pirates went down 3-2 during the series. With that being said, which past Minnesota favorites are still left to root for?
Torii Hunter – Detroit Tigers
The Tigers dispatched the Oakland Athletics in the fifth game of the ALDS and now have a one game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. After a really good season, Hunter hasn’t found his stride yet in the playoffs with a .167/.231/.208 batting line in 24 at bats. He’s scored three runs but has yet to knock in any, though he still has time to turn it around if the Tigers keep winning.
Nick Punto – Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers beat the Atlanta Braves in four games in the NLDS but now stand down 0-2 against the Cardinals in the NLCS. Of the six games that the Dodgers have played, Punto has started one of them, pinch hit once in another, and then entered the game as a defensive substitution in the last one. In his four at bats, he has one hit and three strikeouts.
Without counting David Ortiz or other short-term Twins players, there are only two players left in the playoffs that could make Minnesota proud because of the team they grew up on. However, the odds are stacked against having Twins fans root for Torii Hunter because a.) he plays for the Tigers which presents a conflict of interests in the AL Central and b.) he didn’t leave the team in the best of circumstances. Hunter turned down a 3 year/$45 million deal from the Twins in the middle of the 2007 season and then chased more money signing a 5 year/$90 million deal from the Los Angeles Angels during the offseason. How much more successful would the Twins’ 2008-2010 seasons have turned out if Hunter was still manning centerfield? We’ll never know. Nick Punto could get a few more at bats during the Dodgers playoff run and he will always be fun to keep track of, even though he already has a World Series ring with the Cardinals. Morneau deserved to have the deepest run in the playoffs and Liriano pitched like an ace for his team so hopefully the Pirates will be back in the same position next year. But hey you never know. Maybe we’ll get lucky and we can just root for the actual Minnesota Twins in October next year!