Minnesota Twins Have No Playoff Expectations: Let’s Party Like It’s 1987
The Minnesota Twins are a 2023 MLB playoff team. They currently have 82 wins on the season, with just 7 games remaining. So it isn’t a summer that will go in the franchise record books, by any means, but at the end of 162 games played, they made the dance.
Let’s party like it’s 1987…
They remind me of the 1987 World Series champion Twins, who hadn’t made the postseason since 1970, prior to that franchise-altering playoff run. Of course, Rocco Baldelli & Co aren’t dealing with a 17-year playoff drought… just an 18-game playoff losing streak.
Coming off of a disappointing 1986 season, the 1987 Twins, which featured a young Kirby Puckett just entering his prime, hovered around .500 for much of that season and finished a rollercoaster summer with an 85-77 record (worst of all playoff teams that year) and actually lost 7 of their last 9 regular season games. Expectations entering the postseason were… tepid.
Ups and downs would be an understatement for the 2023 version of the Minnesota Twins. Carlos Correa was on and off at least two different rosters, before returning to the offices at Target Field with a pen in his hand and his tail between his legs.
They also traded fan and locker room favorite, Luis Arraez, for starting pitcher, Pablo Lopez. Both moves led to all sorts of questions and discussion before the first pitch of the season was even thrown.
Once regular season games began, the offense struggled to hit their weight, most nights, leaving the pitching staff in high leverage situations time and time again. Whenever they’d win a few games, and fans would start thinking about a winning streak, they’d lose two or three in a row.
2023 Minnesota Twins Unsung Heroes
Correa couldn’t hit, Byron Buxton couldn’t hit or play center field and Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and Alex Kirilloff were on and off the injured list. It was a maddening first half to the season, especially given how well the pitchers were performing on a night-in, night-out basis.
Going into the summer, the Twins were leaning heavily on familiar names, including Correa, Buxton, Jose Miranda, Kepler and Polanco, along with new faces Kyle Farmer, Joey Gallo and newly signed catcher, Christian Vazquez.
But early season expectations quickly soured on Correa, Miranda, Gallo, Vazquez and Farmer. Carlos blamed plantar fasciitis, and played through the worst statistical season of his career. Miranda, Gallo, Vazquez and Farmer were replaced in the lineup by young talents like Willi Castro, Royce Lewis, Matt Wallner and Eddie Julien.
And there it is, your regularly scheduled Royce Lewis home run.— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) September 18, 2023
It's his 15th of the season, and it's his 11th in his last 24 games. He is on a tear. pic.twitter.com/cgKqoqLn9L
Lucky for the Twins, (C) Ryan Jeffers rebounded from the worst season of his young career in 2022 to his best in 2023, making up for Vazquez’ lack of production for most of the summer. It took them awhile to figure it out, but all of those changes led to one the Twins’ offense punishing opposing pitchers better than just about any in the league, throughout the second half.
Sometimes it’s best when your up and coming hitters are forced into the fire where they can stack major league at bats. In 2023, the Twins were able to get their youngsters invaluable big league experience, while actually improving their offensive production and still making the postseason, in the end.
#MNTwins scored 380 runs in their first 91 games. In the last 62, they’ve scored 340.— DanHayesMLB (@DanHayesMLB) September 20, 2023
Currently tied for 11th in runs scored in #MLB, up from 24th at the All-Star break.
They’re 36-26 in the second half.
Playoff Losing Streak
The 18 game playoff losing streak is even more ridiculous than it sounds. As fans, you go into each playoff game thinking, ‘the streak can’t go on forever, right?’… but year-in and year-out it lives on and gets more absurd with every loss. The front office changes, the manager changes, the lineups change, but the postseason L’s continue to pile up.
I do believe there is some extra motivation this season and it helps that there aren’t any real expectations for the 2023 AL Central Champions. In 2019, the Bomba Squad was expected to out homer everyone, but their record-setting bats went cold and that team didn’t have the pitching to legitimately compete. Then, during the 2020 Covid playoffs, the Twins bats, yet again, disappeared.
This year, the only expectations, entering the postseason, is that the Twins will be the same old Twins. When this franchise made the playoffs in 1987, they were the best team in a bad division and nobody expected them to win a game, let alone TWO 7-game sets against the best regular season teams in the MLB that season (Tigers and Cardinals), to win a World Series championship.
Of course, the playoff brackets were much much smaller back then, but the point remains. Anything can happen when the bright lights of the postseason come on, no matter what history has told us up to that point.
What To Expect
The Twins should go into October loose, because there’s no pressure on them to do anything. Extending the 18-game losing streak wouldn’t surprise any fans in Twins Territory but making a run would immediately alter the state of sports in the Minnesota market, especially with the Vikings and Gopher football teams struggling to start their seasons.
Minnesota Twins fans have seen 90+ win teams get swept, 100+ win teams get swept, so it would only make sense for the 80+ win team to, not only break the playoff losing streak, but make a run deep into the MLB postseason.
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Brian Heintz | Minnesota Sports Fan