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Is this the worst season in Minnesota Twins history?

Sep 12, 2011, 12:48 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers Getty Images

If the Twins’ season was a fight the corner would’ve thrown in the towel several rounds ago, as they’ve now lost 12 of the past 13 series, including seven in a row.

Since climbing to 50-56 on July 29 to convince the front office not to become sellers at the trading deadline the Twins have gone 9-31, which is the second-worst 40-game stretch in team history ahead of only the miserable 1982 season.

That year the Twins lost 100 games for the first and only time, going 60-102 while trading both Roy Smalley and Butch Wynegar to the Yankees and breaking in rookies Kent Hrbek, Frank Viola, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, Randy Bush, and Tim Laudner. In retrospect that mess was the start of a rebuilding process that led to a championship five years later and a second title four years after that, but it’s hard to imagine 2011 in similar context.

There are 16 games remaining and the Twins must go just 4-12 to avoid the second 100-loss season in team history, which sounds fairly simple except for the fact that they’re 4-12 in their last 16 games and also went 4-12 in the 16 games before that. They’ve already lost five more games than any other team in the Ron Gardenhire era and are a near-lock to finish with the fewest wins since the 1999 team went 63-97 under Tom Kelly.

I was born in 1983, so there’s a good chance this will be the worst Twins team of my lifetime. They’re now in last place, two games behind the Royals, and in a virtual tie with the Orioles for the AL’s worst record. They won’t be able to catch the Astros for baseball’s worst record, but the Twins’ run differential of -160 is within range of Houston at -163. Toss in the $115 million payroll with contender expectations and this might be the worst season in Twins history.

  1. trevorb06 - Sep 12, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    Gleeman, we need to flee MN. Vikings showed us no hope last night. The Timberwolves haven’t been a serious team since KG. The Wild, what happened to them?

    Sad era for sports in MN…

    • ThatGuy - Sep 12, 2011 at 1:51 PM

      I’m assuming your just aren’t a hockey fan, but leave the Wild out of the MN mess. They actually have a competent GM that is in the middle of rebuilding a team after the previous incompetant GM destroyed it and left it with nothing. They will be border line playoff team this year and actually contend in 2 or 3 years. In the last two years went from having a bottom five farm system to a top 5. They also improved the NHL talent level at the same time, tough to do.

  2. dailyrev - Sep 12, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    Minny and Pitty: two parallel seasons. A spate of early season injuries in key positions, a few thrills (the no-hitter), a summer surge that got plenty of attention, and the inevitable August collapse. Both teams have excellent managers, a decent front office, and sound organizations behind them.

    But now let’s get real: this is America. Money and Corporations win in the end. I like the Pirates and Twins, find myself rooting for them regularly. But they don’t have $200M to spend every year. So they will likely remain what they were this year: an opponent that the Phillies, Yankees, and Red Sox approach with extreme caution. That is, they are winners of respect, but little else beside. And I continue to hope that by this time next year, one or both of them have proven me wrong.

    • somekat - Sep 12, 2011 at 1:39 PM

      When the Phils won the WS, they were well under 100 million in salary (and that was still paying a chunk of Jim Thome’s contract). The Marlins did it with a next to nothing payroll twice. It can be done, but it can’t be done every year like the Twins/Pirates/A’s tend to try to do. You can win that way, but if you don’t lock up those players, fans see it for what it is, a firesale. The reason the Phils now sell out every home game is because the fans know that management is going to do what it has to to put them in a position to win. It’s not like the Phils have a billion dollars sitting around, they have at best an ok TV deal, and they don’t own the stadium. Their main income is from merchandise and ticket sales.
      I don’t see Minny or Pitt having any excuses here, they both have newer, beautiful stadiums, they both operate in sports hungry regions, with little to no competition for local fans. I think it’s time to stop acting like these organizations have these genius front offices, doing everything they can to field a winner, and start thinking of them as they are, cheap teams.

      • dluxxx - Sep 12, 2011 at 2:50 PM

        The Twins are certainly not a cheap team. As it stands now, they have the 9th highest payroll in baseball, and the highest payroll in the division. One could argue that they haven’t been a cheap team since they stopped playing the game “the Twins way” (read small ball, good defense, etc.).

        I’m a huge Twins fan, and thus have been pretty quiet on the website due to our terrible season. But here is what I see. I see a team that has been devestated with injurys. Michael Cuddyer and Danny Valencia are the only Opening Day starters who haven’t been on the disabled list, and Cuddyer probably should have gone on it about a month ago and has been “toughing it out” while hitting like crap and being more of a liability than an asset.

        But I also see this, an organization that is being poorly run. They’ve already shaken up their minor leagues with some firings, and it sounds like there is more to come. Unfortunatly the guy at the helm, Bill Smith, is completely and utterly in over his head. He has been horrible in making personel decisions with the exception of a few key moves. And apparently, there is some major issues with their scouting as well (Nishioka).

        The Twins use almost no advanced statistical analysis, and that coupled with their poor scouting, poor personel decisions, poor player development, and poor direction have indeed made this the worst Twins season ever. This is 2008 Seattle Mariners bad.

      • Old Gator - Sep 13, 2011 at 12:33 AM

        The Feesh did it with a “next to nothing” payroll once, in 2003. The 1997 team featured fat contracts for Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, Rob Nen, Alex Fernandez (who blew out his rotator cuff en route to the playoffs), Al Leiter, Kevin Brown, Charles Johnson. Wayne “Pineapple Face” Huizinga unloaded all of his veterans that orfseason.

  3. threeputtguy - Sep 12, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    I would say yes! With the expectations entering the season, along with the injuries and no signs of hope from the minors, it is very hard to have an optimistic outlook for the forseeable future.

    • kopy - Sep 12, 2011 at 1:15 PM

      Exactly. The expectations and payroll make the record intolerable, even if it’s a few games better than 1982. The kicker for me is, as Aaron showed, a miserable 1982 was used to break in a class of rookies that would eventually bring home a World Series or two. The future isn’t as bright for these rookies pictured, although shotgun effect helps the odds: http://twitpic.com/6jmzd2

  4. kirkmack - Sep 12, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    I moved to MN in 1982, in the midst of that horrid season. It was pretty ugly. Puts the dry late 90’s teams to shame how bad they were.

    Yet- I feel like this team is worse. Not due to talent- this team has greater talent than that team on paper. But this team is worse because the expectations were much higher than the 1982 team. The 1982 team did trade away some talent (which, I might add, really didn’t do much after leaving), but team had come on the heals of a .500 team at best for about 10 years. This team has been a .500 team at WORST for the last 10. I’d rather go into a season knowing this is going to be a mediocre season than one that we should be competing for a playoff spot at least…

    • nolanwiffle - Sep 12, 2011 at 1:32 PM

      The Washington Nationals (today’s Twins) beat you to Minnesota by 31 years. While still in our nation’s capital that franchise lost 110 games in 1909 and 104 ganes in 1949.

      • dluxxx - Sep 12, 2011 at 2:55 PM

        You mean Senators, right? But still, that’s pretty bad too.

      • nolanwiffle - Sep 12, 2011 at 3:08 PM

        While the Nationals were often referred to as the Senators, that name wasn’t officially adopted until 1956. By either name they played mostly bad baseball…

      • dluxxx - Sep 12, 2011 at 3:20 PM

        Nice, one more bit of team history I didn’t know.

  5. Glanzer - Sep 12, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    For sure the worst Twins team I’ve ever witnessed. Even though the team’s record is historically bad, you’d like to be able to focus on some individual achievements, but there isn’t a Twin on the leaderboard in virtually any category imaginable. I still tune in for the beginning of each game, but almost always have turned it off by the third inning. I will say it’s easier on my blood pressure and overall health and well-being seeing the Twins be historically bad rather than being swept in the playoffs.

  6. Panda Claus - Sep 12, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    It may be factually accurate to call this the worst Twins team in your lifetime (assuming their current pace).

    To assume it will finish as the worst Twins team you’ll ever know is to assume they’ll never historically suck again or that your life would end tragically soon.

    We all hope the latter statement doesn’t happen. The first case could happen again (that they historically stink again) because teams that lose 100 games in one year sometimes do again shortly thereafter (ask the Nats’ fans about the 2008-09 seasons).

  7. mplsjoe - Sep 12, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    Twins management dropped hints in a bunch of places this weekend, including to Sid, that they were going to cut $20 million from the payroll for next year. Not a good sign for the future.

    • dluxxx - Sep 12, 2011 at 3:08 PM

      Buying out Nathan will save the Twins $10 million off the top. If they don’t re-sign Cuddyer that’ll drop another $12 million. So assuming that Kubel gets a $1.5-2 million pay bump or stays around the same on a multi-year deal, then they’ve cut about $20 million right there.

  8. Old Gator - Sep 13, 2011 at 12:36 AM

    The Twins and Feesh tanked simultaneously, it seemed – physicists call this “spooky action at a distance.” I think it would be even better if Slobbering Ozzie went to the Twins next season – I’d love to see how bad Espanglish plays in Minneapolis. Might be mistaken for Chippewa.

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