One More Win

ChewCud.jpgAt the end of each Minnesota Twins baseball season, it leaves a bit of a hole in my life, as I have spent so much time devoted to the cause.  All those nights (or afternoons) spent cheering on the hometown boys, and now I know that the next time I will see them winter will be over, hopefully I will have survived it (no easy feat here in MN!), and spring will be dawning anew.

This season, however, leaves an especially strange emptiness in my sports conscience, however, as it is the first time since the Twins returned to competitiveness (roughly 2001) that they have been eliminated so late in the season without making the playoffs.  A quick look:

2001- Got out to a big leader, but eventually were caught and passed (on the run) by Cleveland in early September.

2002- Eliminated in ALCS.

2003- Eliminated in ALDS.

2004- Eliminated in ALDS

2005- Weren’t eliminated from playoff contention until mid-September, but never really made a hard charge either (always 4-5-6 games back).

2006- Eliminated in ALDS.

2007- Eliminated from playoff contention in very early September.

The reason I bring this up, is because it really affects the way I view the rest of the MLB playoffs.  To me, a successful season involves making the playoffs…once you are their, it is truly a crap-shoot.  So, if the Twins make the playoffs and get eliminated, I never get too down (or, at least not stay down for too long).  However, I go through a little bit of a “retraction” period each time the Twins don’t make the playoffs.  For about a week or so after they were eliminated from playoff contention (’01, ’05, and ’07), I didn’t follow them nearly as close as I once did (as it didn’t seem to matter as much).  Eventually, of course, I would come to my senses and cheer them on to whatever finish intended for them, and by that time I would be pumped for the playoffs to see meaningful baseball again.  This year’s experience, then, is so different: there really was no time between the Twins getting eliminated and the playoffs beginning.  Thus, I am finding it a bit difficult to get excited about the playoffs when the sting of the loss to the ChiSox is still so fresh.  This feeling will probably pass come AL/NL CS time, but for now I will probably be following the playoffs at an arm’s length.

Of course, what hurts more than the one-game playoff loss is the realization that we blew it for ourselves.  During that horrendous road trip, just think of how many times the Twins should have won a game during the late innings, only to see the starting pitcher or bullpen (most likely) blow it.  Then, once the pitching great straightened out, the offense went completely silent the final week of the season against Kansas City, when just a few more runs would have the team sleeping in Tampa Bay tonight.

For the next month (or however long it takes), then, I am going to examine the 2008 Minnesota Twins on a position-by-position basis, touching on things like what went right (and how to carry that over to 2009), what went wrong (and how to fix them before 2009), and how we might stack up with the pertinent competition come April ’09.

To conclude, I would just like to say that I DO NOT believe this season was a “lost cause” by any means.  We came into the season with questions on both sides of the ball, and most of them were answered in a big way (especially the starting pitching and young hitters)…a positive way.  Although I said above that I consider a playoff experience to define a successful season, the Twins really weren’t that far away…one more win, actually.

Playoff Notes:

-Boy, my predictions sure are turning out well so far.  Unless the Angels pull off a big comeback against Boston in the late inning(s), each team that I predicted to lose their respective series so far (Boston, Philly, and the Dodgers) will have won Game One.  You can almost expect a White Sox victory tomorrow…!

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