It was a glorious 65 degree day with warm Midwestern sunshine engulfing Target field. Unfortunately for the 41,000 who turned out for the Minnesota Twins home opener against the Kansas City Royals, the weather was about all they had to enjoy.
The final score didn’t even indicate the one-sidedness of the contest. The real victim of the game was Trevor May, who threw strikes and did not seem phased by a big occasion and sellout crowd. The box score didn’t capture a might have been force play at second which got under Dozier’s glove, a should have been double play between Dozier and Santana with a slightly too slow relay, or Oswaldo Arcia’s awkward route, sprint and stab at a fly ball that fell agonizingly fair. It did not capture the excellence of the Royals outfield whose sole purpose seemed to be to rob every Twins hard hit ball (and there weren’t many) of a landing in the outfield grass, as well as exacerbate the gulf in defensive skill and efficiency between the two units.
Never was there such a difference more perfectly highlighted between two teams as the Twins and the Royals on Monday afternoon. After the win, the Royals sat at an MLB best 7-0, with the Twins sharing the league’s worst record with the surprisingly slow starting Miami Marlins. But that is not where the parallels ended.
Through their first 7 games, the Twins and Royals are at opposite ends of almost every significant MLB measurable. The Royals own the league’s most potent offense, with a .329/.401/.532 slash line, comparing to the Twins .201/.255/.275 (no, that’s correct). The Royals rank first in team defense while the Twins come in at 27th. KC is sixth in team pitching with a 2.57 ERA and .202 BAA, next to the Twins 6.52 and .311 mark (.311!). Finally and most obviously on Monday, the Royals own the MLB’s best bullpen, not giving up a run through its first 19 innings pitched with 21 strikeouts, compared to the Twins paltry 5.91 ERA with just 10 strikeouts in its first 21 innings pitched. The statistics merely serve to underline the dichotomy of class and quality evidenced by the Royals and Twins on Monday, just a small microcosm of two teams with vastly discrepant openings to their respective seasons.
Before everyone jumps all over me with the ‘it’s a long season’ dialogue, it is, I know. The Twins however, did not do their faithful justice on opening day. They deserved the lusty chorus of boos from hecklers whose confidence grew with every punted play. The Twins fans have put up with a poor product in recent seasons and patiently so. The Twins front office delivered and championed a message of optimism in the off-season; upgrading a poor rotation and bringing back fan favorite Tori Hunter for veteran leadership and an age defying middle of the order bat. Yet Hunter himself personified the Twins early season struggles Monday, looking a little overmatched at the plate (despite a walk and an RBI) and launching a throw from the outfield to no-one in particular, allowing another Royals run to score. The video montages and memories make for great moments on the big-screen but similarly to KG’s return to the Timberwolves, Hunter has thus far been notable only for the absence of a significant contribution.
I know the Twins will improve. They will hit, they will make defensive plays and they will pitch better (wont they?) I even think they will finish with a better record than their 2014 iteration. But for this one game, this opening day game which I flew from Dallas to Minneapolis to attend, I was irate. Twins fans booed their team and I joined in with them.