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Are The Twins The Unluckiest Team In Baseball?

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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 11:14 AM

I posed this question in a column on the SweetSpot blog at ESPN.com today. You can read it here.

 

Basically, the premise is that while the Twins have made their share of mistakes, they've been crippled by an endless string of really unfortunate injuries and developments, especially when it comes to their top prospects in the minors. Has any other club dealt with such a daunting series of setbacks? How much can TR, Gardy and company really be blamed when Joe Mauer suddenly transforms from elite catcher to lousy first baseman, big-$ signing Ricky Nolasco gets hit with an inexplicable elbow injury and almost EVERY top prospect has his timeline pushed back by some weird health issue (or, in Rosario's case, boneheaded mistake)?

 

I'm curious to hear the thoughts of the TD community on this topic.


#2 mike wants wins

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 11:31 AM

I don't think so. They might be slowed, but they were not competing this year. I don't consider them unlucky. This is what happens when you have no depth, or refuse to promote guys (May, Meyer) that are good when injuries happen. I don't think this is even close to the unluckiest team around. They are just bad, without much depth.

Lighten up Francis....

#3 TheLeviathan

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 11:37 AM

I think your points about ambivalence are the strongest part of that blog.  I'd argue the Rangers have been the unluckiest team for the last couple years and it's come to a crescendo this year.

 

The Sano/Buxton injuries were enormously unlucky and the most difficult thing about this season to swallow.  The rest?  I'm not so sure I'd pin it on luck, there is a mix of bad luck, bad decisions, and too much hope wrapped in too many question marks.

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#4 drjim

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 11:51 AM

I think your points about ambivalence are the strongest part of that blog.  I'd argue the Rangers have been the unluckiest team for the last couple years and it's come to a crescendo this year.

 

The Sano/Buxton injuries were enormously unlucky and the most difficult thing about this season to swallow.  The rest?  I'm not so sure I'd pin it on luck, there is a mix of bad luck, bad decisions, and too much hope wrapped in too many question marks.

 

I'll agree with this. Texas is much more unlucky.

 

The only thing I'll say about Twins and luck is that after three terrible years they were in a position to break out two top ten elite prospects this year and those plans were derailed. Not sure it would have had much impact on the record this year, but it sure would have been a more enjoyable product and there would have been a much more positive vibe around the team, with something to look forward to going into the offseason. All that is pushed back another year.

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#5 Steve Lein

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 11:52 AM

Agree with Mike in the sense that they're their own problem right now.  What is the point in sending out veteran minor leaguers night after night when you're already bad?  Put the guys who you view as part of the future into the fire and start moving forward.  As far as I'm concerned, they're already two years behind on what should have been a full rebuilding of their roster.

 

They likely would still be bad, but they would also be far more interesting.

Scouting Report: Power: 30, Hitting: 50, Arm: 60, Defense: 40, Speed: 40. "Line drive swing and shows good contact and on-base abilities. Double's power at his peak. Strong arm from 2B or the OF, stiff hands. Not a fast runner, but above average instincts on the bases. Skinny body doesn't look the part, but can sneak up on you. ACL surgery sapped much of his athleticism." (Probably)


#6 JB_Iowa

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 11:53 AM

Unluckiest team in baseball?

 

Not to me ... IMO, the old boys club is reaping what they sowed.

 

There are elements of unlucky (Buxton & Sano) but a lot more predictable (Mauer being injured, Willingham being injured).

 

They've had some disappointments with Nolasco & Pelfrey  ...  but offset generally by pleasant surprises in Hughes and Suzuki.

 

I can't give a pass to any team that has had 3 1/2 horrifically losing seasons and has merely terminated 2 coaches and recycled a GM.

 

Honestly, Nick ...  you struck out on this one.

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#7 mike wants wins

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 12:19 PM

Pelfrey was completely predictable. A mind boggling move. There was no bad luck there. None.

Lighten up Francis....

#8 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 12:20 PM

Honestly, Nick ...  you struck out on this one.


Nick really gave it the Bremer treatment in the Espn article :)

You want unlucky, compare the Twins to Texas and Tampa Bay.

I think the Twins were actually pretty healthy most of the season. Kubel and Colabello filled in fine for Hammer and Arcia, and that was the extent of the bad injuries for most of the year.

We should also start describing injuries to Mauer as "mysteries" and not as unlucky.

#9 nicksaviking

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 12:30 PM

Kubel and Colabello filled in fine for Hammer and Arcia, and that was the extent of the bad injuries for most of the year.

 

 

 

Ha, well I guess Kubel and Colabello offset the loss of Willingham and Arcia, but that's only because Willingham and Arcia are huge disappointments this year.  I wouldn't exactly say Kubel and Colabello were "fine" so much as I'd say the shoes they had to fill were a child's size 5.
 


#10 spycake

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 12:31 PM

How much can TR, Gardy and company really be blamed when Joe Mauer suddenly transforms from elite catcher to lousy first baseman, big-$ signing Ricky Nolasco gets hit with an inexplicable elbow injury and almost EVERY top prospect has his timeline pushed back by some weird health issue (or, in Rosario's case, boneheaded mistake)?

 

There is certainly some bad luck, but I don't know if it's more or less than other clubs.

 

Pitching-wise, I don't see much of any bad luck, outside of some weirdness around our big innings eater investment right now (Nolasco).  Pretty much everyone else has stayed healthy and met or exceeded expectations.  It's not really bad luck that most of the interesting ones are still in the lower minors (or inexplicably stuck in AAA).

 

The hitting side is worse, as Buxton and Sano are tough cases, to a lesser extent Rosario, but I don't know that any of them were expected to play a lot in MLB this year.  So then you're basically down to 1 out of 9 hitters (Mauer) who isn't living up to expectations and recent past season performances.  It just wasn't a very good lineup to begin with.


#11 TheLeviathan

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 12:38 PM

I agree with a lot that spycake said.

 

I think Nolasco was overhyped - he was a tremendously important signing that I applauded - but he was never an ace.  Definitely not in reasonable expectations for coming to the AL.  I'm not sure what's going on with his arm, but people always hoped for a bit too much from him.

 

The bullpen has somehow managed to match last year's success.  That could be counted as luck quite frankly.

 

And the offense?  Well some of us were shouting from the rooftops how bad this group was and how thin.  Not much about luck there.  Hell, they're in the bottom third of the league in OPS and in the top half in runs scored.  I'd call their offense considerably lucky not to have been worse this year.


#12 Nick Nelson

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 12:44 PM

Pelfrey was completely predictable. A mind boggling move. There was no bad luck there. None.

 

Really? You should point me to wherever you predicted he'd miss the season with an elbow injury. I'd like to see it.

 

I think the Twins were actually pretty healthy most of the season. Kubel and Colabello filled in fine for Hammer and Arcia, and that was the extent of the bad injuries for most of the year.

We should also start describing injuries to Mauer as "mysteries" and not as unlucky.

 

They've been fairly healthy on the big-league roster, but that's not really what matters at this point, nor is it what I'm talking about. The key pieces in the rebuild have been repeatedly afflicted by major setbacks -- almost every last one.

 

I keep seeing references to Texas being more unlucky. Texas. The same team that has finished first or second for six straight seasons, with three playoff appearances and two World Series appearances during that time.

 

I thought it went without saying but the article in question is about much more than just this season.


#13 JB_Iowa

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 12:49 PM

 

I thought it went without saying but the article in question is about much more than just this season.

 

But Nick, that's where I have the problem.

 

We've gone 3 1/2 really bad seasons.  Where do you see the significant changes being made in the organization that might change their "luck"?

 

Yes, the farm system has improved but do you really see that the organization has embraced rebuilding?

 

They've begun to implement more sabrmetrics ... but do you feel they've really embraced an analytical approach?

 

I know that we don't see everything as outsiders.  But I just honestly don't see how the Twins have done anything to try and change their "luck".  It seems to me like they've pretty much just been rolling along in the same old rut.


#14 JB_Iowa

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 12:54 PM

I do want to say that if we look at a period of years, the concussions would seem to be a real aspect of bad luck.

 

The funny thing is that players on other teams get concussions, too.  Why does it seem so difficult for Twins players to come back from them?

 

Or maybe it is just that it hit 2 of their best players whereas the concussion bug has mostly hit lesser players on other teams.


#15 TheLeviathan

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 12:56 PM

I keep seeing references to Texas being more unlucky. Texas. The same team that has finished first or second for six straight seasons, with three playoff appearances and two World Series appearances during that time.

 

I thought it went without saying but the article in question is about much more than just this season.

 

Your premise seems to be that only losers can be unlucky.  They lost their uber-stud Profar right after trading the veteran in front of him.  Elvis Andrus has apparently turned pumpkin on them.  Promising guys like Neftali Feliz and Martin Perez have gone down as well to major injuries.  Heartbreaking 2011 WS.  Two play-in losses.  Cruz suspension.  It goes on.

 

Sorry, but I'll take our crappy luck for a crappy team any day over crappy luck for a contending team.  At least then you don't have high hopes. 

Edited by TheLeviathan, 28 July 2014 - 12:57 PM.


#16 Nick Nelson

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 12:58 PM

But Nick, that's where I have the problem.

 

We've gone 3 1/2 really bad seasons.  Where do you see the significant changes being made in the organization that might change their "luck"?

 

Yes, the farm system has improved but do you really see that the organization has embraced rebuilding?

 

They've begun to implement more sabrmetrics ... but do you feel they've really embraced an analytical approach?

 

I know that we don't see everything as outsiders.  But I just honestly don't see how the Twins have done anything to try and change their "luck".  It seems to me like they've pretty much just been rolling along in the same old rut.

 

What evidence is there that they have not embraced rebuilding? Hicks and Arcia were both up at a very young age; just hasn't worked out. Pinto was on the roster out of ST this year; just didn't have the catching skills to stick. You can't convince me that Buxton, Sano, May and Meyer would not all be up by now if not for their various injury setbacks. Top young prospects like Polanco and Berrios have been promoted quite aggressively.

 

As far as analytics, there's plenty of reason to believe they're moving more in that direction, even if it's slower than some would like.

 

I just think that some fans have gotten so frustrated that they're overly eager to affix blame, whether it's to the front office or the coaching staff or the medical team or what have you. I'm frustrated too, but I'm just trying to lend some perspective here. The folks running the team have had their tasks made a great deal more difficult by developments that are really out of their control. That should be recognized before you crucify these guys, IMO.


#17 drjim

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 12:59 PM

There are just so many ways to describe the Twins, and unlucky is very low on the list.

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#18 TheLeviathan

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 01:02 PM

That should be recognized before you crucify these guys, IMO.

 

We can recognize it, but don't you think you went beyond that in this blog?  As drjim very astutely put it....unlucky isn't even close to the top of the list.

 

Not everything is the FO or Gardy's fault, that's absolutely true.  That doesn't make them "the unluckiest team in baseball"  Not by a long shot.

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#19 gil4

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 01:15 PM

 I'd argue the Rangers have been the unluckiest team for the last couple years and it's come to a crescendo this year.

 

 

The Rangers also have had their mix of bad luck and bad decisions.  The Fielder trade has been a disaster, and I have to admit I thought it would be at least 2016 before that contract became an albatross.  Steven Wright had a line "I broke a mirror which means I have seven years of bad luck, but my lawyer thinks he can get me five."  I think Jon Daniels' lawyer told him the same thing on the Fielder trade, but he was wrong.

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#20 TheLeviathan

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 01:18 PM

The Rangers also have had their mix of bad luck and bad decisions.  The Fielder trade has been a disaster, and I have to admit I thought it would be at least 2016 before that contract became an albatross.  Steven Wright had a line "I broke a mirror which means I have seven years of bad luck, but my lawyer thinks he can get me five."  I think Jon Daniels' lawyer told him the same thing on the Fielder trade, but he was wrong.

 

It might have been less of a disaster if their Byron Buxton hadn't gotten hurt.  Part of the thinking with that deal was making room for him.  

 

People seem to forget that they lhad their Alex Meyer and Byron Buxton on their major league roster and hoping for big things and both have had serious injuries.  


#21 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 01:19 PM

Yes, the farm system has improved but do you really see that the organization has embraced rebuilding?

 

It's pretty hard to embrace rebuilding when the following has happened:

 

1. Byron Buxton - out for 2/3rd season

2. Miguel Sano - out for season

3. Alex Meyer - on an innings limit due to injury last season

4. Eddie Rosario - 50 game drug suspension

5. Aaron Hicks - mostly clueless

 

How different would this roster look if just one or two of those things didn't happen? Sure, most of the MLB roster has been healthy and the lower minors look fantastic... but that doesn't help a rebuild in the short-term.

 

Rebuilds happen on the backs of your best prospects which - almost to a man - have suffered a significant setback in the past 12-14 months.

 

Sure, Trevor May should be on the roster right now. I think most of us agree with that... But Trevor May isn't a center piece. He's a complementary guy at best.


#22 spycake

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 01:28 PM

They've been fairly healthy on the big-league roster, but that's not really what matters at this point, nor is it what I'm talking about. The key pieces in the rebuild have been repeatedly afflicted by major setbacks -- almost every last one.

 

Hey, you're the one who brought up Mauer and Nolasco, in your first post of this thread.

 

I don't think every "key piece" in the rebuild has had major setbacks.  The only major pitcher setback (for a guy key to the rebuild) was Gibson's surgery, which he's been back from for almost 2 years now.  (Next would be Meyer missing 2 months last summer, pretty tame as far as setbacks go.)

 

On offense, Buxton and Sano have been set back, but only after rocketing through the minor leagues to the tune of age 20-21 projected MLB debuts.  While they both still have to re-establish themselves somewhat after injury, their current age 22 projected debuts are probably more normal than any kind of major setback.

 

Now, if you open up the term "major setback" to including poor MLB performances to date, you could add Hicks and Arcia, but something feels wrong attributing that to luck.  We're still waiting on most of the pitchers and other position players, but not due to setbacks or any kind.


#23 JB_Iowa

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 01:29 PM

It's pretty hard to embrace rebuilding when the following has happened:

 

1. Byron Buxton - out for 2/3rd season

2. Miguel Sano - out for season

3. Alex Meyer - on an innings limit due to injury last season

4. Eddie Rosario - 50 game drug suspension

5. Aaron Hicks - mostly clueless

 

How different would this roster look if just one or two of those things didn't happen? Sure, most of the MLB roster has been healthy and the lower minors look fantastic... but that doesn't help a rebuild in the short-term.

 

Rebuilds happen on the backs of your best prospects which - almost to a man - have suffered a significant setback in the past 12-14 months.

 

Sure, Trevor May should be on the roster right now. I think most of us agree with that... But Trevor May isn't a center piece. He's a complementary guy at best.

 

Brock, I get that.  But I would also argue that this is the first season at the trade deadline, at least, that I've felt like the Twins have "got it" and understand that they are rebuilding.

 

In each of the previous 3 years, I've felt like they were on the fence and couldn't decide whether they were buyers or sellers.  That didn't indicate "rebuilding" to me.

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#24 Kwak

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 01:32 PM

How much different would the roster have looked?  Hardly any change at all!  Aaron Hicks would have played 3 games out of of 4.  We would never have seen Santana or Polanco (because they need endless service time in the minors).  The Vets were on the Active Roster for a reason--hence all those young guys would be in the minors waiting for the promotion that isn't coming!

 

It's difficult to watch a losing--but there isn't any need to spin their problems.  But, look on the bright side--there will be yet another year where the Twins can boast about having a superior minor league pipeline.  Which isn't all that surprising given that they never seem to get promoted to the Twins and stay there!

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#25 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 01:40 PM

It's difficult to watch a losing--but there isn't any need to spin their problems.  But, look on the bright side--there will be yet another year where the Twins can boast about having a superior minor league pipeline.  Which isn't all that surprising given that they never seem to get promoted to the Twins and stay there!

 

Berrios, Stewart, and Thorpe are either the youngest player or close to the youngest players in their respective leagues. Buxton and Sano were on a fast-track to the Majors.

 

Aaron Hicks was promoted far too early and struggled for it. Arcia was promoted to Minnesota at a young age. Polanco and Santana, well... I'm still struggling to understand why they spent time in Minnesota at all.

 

Sure, May should be in Minnesota right now. Meyer should probably be in Minnesota right now but his innings limit is a bit of a worry to the front office, I'm sure.

 

Outside of May, the Twins haven't been promoting slowly so much as they haven't had good players in the upper minors worth promoting. Let's not confuse those two things.


#26 Thrylos

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 01:45 PM

There is luck and there is luck you make.

 

If Mauer were catching Suzuki would not be around and Colabello/Parmelee would be manning first base.  I think that this is a draw here.

 

Let assume an MVP season for Mauer and a Cy Young season for Nolasco (the other extreme of "luck".) Do you think that this team would have been a contender for the AL Central?  For the AL Title?  For the WS Title?

 

Remember the choices of Barlett and Kubel to start the season and the decision to have only one single Centerfielder on the 40 man roster.

 

Nothing to do with luck...

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#27 Nick Nelson

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 01:58 PM

Hey, you're the one who brought up Mauer and Nolasco, in your first post of this thread.

 

Yes, because Mauer and Nolasco are both key pieces of the rebuild. They are both under contract for 3-4 more years at a combined $160M. And both are complete messes at age 31. I don't know what to attribute either situation to other than bad luck. You can criticize the contracts (I guess) but that seems like a lot of hindsight judgment.

 

We can recognize it, but don't you think you went beyond that in this blog?  As drjim very astutely put it....unlucky isn't even close to the top of the list.

 

I can't agree. I think it's quite close to the top of the list. It's just not as satisfying for people to say so because you can't rant about how bad luck should be fired and replaced.

 

I made sure to mention multiple times that there has been a fair amount of mismanagement during this lengthy drought (especially early on; Bill Smith's horrendous offseason after 2010 basically set this thing into motion). To be clear, I wouldn't be opposed to replacing either the manager or the GM. But no manager and no GM would be able to navigate around some of the circumstances that have befallen this club in the past couple years, IMO.


#28 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 01:59 PM

 

I thought it went without saying but the article in question is about much more than just this season.

 

You are right. I can support the Twins effort to manage expectations of the Meyer-Buxton-Sano group, since I am less convinced than many fans that these guys are certain to perform to their lofty expectations.

 

Our current MLB ready prospects have been a general disappointment so far. (Gibson has been good, Santana shows promise, etc.) However, keeping the same personnel, programs, philosophy in place for the next group, I'll expect the same general result -- maybe one of those three will actually pan out as an All Star in the next several years.


#29 mike wants wins

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 02:12 PM

And, Nick, the issues are not just about luck, that's what some of us are saying.

 

Heck, the projection systems pretty much pegged Mauer to do what he was doing (and people ripped them for doing that). Dozier has been as good as last year, Floriman was an embarrassing plan, Plouffe has been Plouffe (and most thought Sano might be up now, so they lost a couple of months maybe). Frankly, I think they are luck to get what they are out of Josh, given his health history and age. Hicks, terrible plan, they brought that on themselves. Arcia is what he was predicted. They got super lucky in the first month or so with the players that carried the club.

 

Pelfrey was predictably bad. Him missing time isn't bad luck, if you promote Meyer or May to replace him, it is a gift from the baseball gods that the FO refused to take advantage of so far. IMO, of course.

 

The bullpen has managed to be as good as last year.

 

So, the bad luck is that Buxton and Sano and maybe Rosario are delayed by 6 months or so. Yes, that stinks big time. Yes, it is depressing. But mostly, IMO, the team is bad because it is super thin and has no room for bad things to happen at all. None. (other than starting pitching, which they seem to refuse to fix).

Lighten up Francis....

#30 TheLeviathan

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 02:52 PM

I can't agree. I think it's quite close to the top of the list. It's just not as satisfying for people to say so because you can't rant about how bad luck should be fired and replaced.

 

 

 

I would suggest that maybe the problem is reversed.  You're so frustrated you're starting not to care so you try to blame luck so that it can give you hope of better luck to come.  You seem to want to extend the bad luck back half a decade so it's unclear where exactly this starts and stops.  

 

I think everyone can agree to the crappy luck with our top prospects.  It has set us back.  But none of these guys (other than MAYBE Sano) would even be up right now doing anything.  The bad luck really affects next year, the incompetence this year is more due to mismanagement and organizational issues.  

 

In fact, over this awful four season stretch the Twins have been one of the LEAST injury-bitten teams in baseball.  Sorry, just don't see the bad luck past those three guys this year, certainly not enough to call them the "unluckiest".