Despite what the mainstream media will tell you, the Twins actually achieved a sort-of baseball rapture this weekend, dropping three in a row to a truly resurgent Arizona Diamondbacks club, and perhaps watching the world come to an end as they fell fifteen games below .500.
The good news? They scored five runs per game. Delmon Young cranked his first homer, Trevor Plouffe continues to hit well (.256/.365/.512 with four homers), and Francisco Liriano not only pitched well Sunday (2 earned runs, with four K's and four walks), he also managed to get a base hit and an RBI (even if the ribbie came on a ground-out.) He and Scott Baker lead the team with gaudy .500 batting averages.[jump]
Everyone from ESPN to the local papers were calling the Twins "resurgent", which seemed odd considering last week's successes had extended to no more than three games--a feat they'd accomplished twice earlier. Both of those streaks were followed with an even longer stretch of grotesque defeats, of six and nine games each.
I mentioned the good news. Here's the bad (which seems to come by the bucketful when you're covering this team): Glen Perkins, middle reliever, one-time starter (and, at least in my mind, potential Pavano/Liriano replacement), the man who sits on a 1.59 ERA with 22K in 22.2 innings pitched is, well, you guessed it, injured. Fucking injured, man. He strained an oblique muscle and is sitting out for at least 15 days.
And: Matt Capps. Remember how shitty Joe Nathan performed when he returned from a year-long DL? Well, Capps, his replacement this season and last, is doing his level best to make us forget exactly how bad. Capps, who sits on a 5.06 ERA, served up a grand salami to the Diamondbacks' Kelly Johnson (and his .189 batting average) en route to throwing away the Twins 6-5 lead in the 8th inning last Saturday (though they were up 6-3 at the start of the frame.) They went on to lose 9-6.
The Twins led or were tied going into the seventh inning of each of these last three games. So they're scoring; the starters are stepping up; now it's the relief staff that's collapsing. Physically and mentally.
Look: this is getting rougher and rougher as the season progresses, and despite the best wishes of sportswriters and bloggers, this ain't 2006. The Twins are playing much worse than they were that magical year (15-30 this season; 20-25 at the same point in '06), they had Johan Santana at the top of their rotation and a crazy freak in pre-surgery Liriano. Today, we've got the worst run differential in both leagues, by far (-86; the next worst is Houston's -51.) And five years ago everyone was healthy, for the most part.
The 2011 Twins are, at the 45th game of the season, with 117 left to play, fifteen games under .500 and 14.5 games out of first. Look at this historically, as Baseball Prospectus did in 2007, and you'll see: no one has ever come back from this sort of a deficit.
According to people who do much more work than I and for much less pay, the only team that comes close is the 1914 "Miracle" Braves, who were later shown in a court of law to have sold their collective souls to the devil. And even they had a one game advantage over the Twins, with a few more games to play.
Plus, like I said, they sold their souls. You don't really want the Twins to face eternal damnation just to lose to the Yankees in the playoffs, do you?
With those hard facts at hand, and a brain in my head that can deduct this without such numbers, I simply can't see this club turning this season's pig ear into the proverbial silk purse. Bring back Mauer, Perkins, Thome--and let's be honest, that guy's an injury aware from permanent retirement--and you still have a team that has to climb fifteen games to reach .500 starting in June. And no one takes anything with a .500 record.
So maybe our goal is to enjoy this year becomes more, well, relaxing. The zen-like thrill of watching a rebuilding team. Of sitting outdoors, keeping score, paying attention to the minor leagues, and seeing some young guys start to thrive (Plouffe.) You can stretch your feet out on the seat in front of you (no one's sitting there anyway) and place bets with the other die-hards on who's heading out the door (my money's on Cuddyer, Kubel, or Young, though God, I hope it's not Delmon), and to what door they're heading. And who'll be coming back in the other way.
Then again, maybe the Twins' beliefs are to blame. Maybe they were expecting Saturday's rapture to come barreling down on the world, and didn't think we'd even see the end of the season.