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One Year Later in Chicago

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Just over a year ago, I watched the Minnesota Twins season unofficially sink before my eyes at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.

Twelve months and two weeks later, I returned to the same spot and witnessed not a funeral, but a coronation – one that illustrated how far the Twins have come since the bleak death march that was September 2022. 

Image courtesy of Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

By the time I made it to out to the ballpark to catch my first game in the series, the Twins had already taken firm control with back-to-back 10-2 victories on Thursday and Friday night. 

On Saturday, the brutal first inning from Pablo López barely even fazed me. The late comeback that fell short would've merely been icing on the cake.

On Sunday, I returned to Guaranteed Rate Field and watched the Twins more properly exert their will on the lowly White Sox, clinching a series victory and lowering their magic number to six. 

It was a breezy, carefree experience – and suffice to say, a polar opposite of my emotional state as a fan in the same ballpark a year before.

There were already a lot of negative trends and ominous signs in play for the team when I visited Chicago on Labor Day weekend of 2022. But the Twins were still, technically, very much in the AL Central race at the time, trailing Cleveland by just a game for the division lead.

Already it was growing hard to believe in this hobbled Minnesota squad. On this particular night, September 3rd, they fielded a lineup with Jake Cave, Gary Sanchez and Gilberto Celestino comprising the bottom third of the order. 

Alas, I was in attendance, hoping to see some miracle signs from this beleaguered lineup and starting pitcher Tyler Mahle, who'd been acquired at the deadline with a sizable price tag.

That's not what happened.

Mahle gave up four runs in the first inning and came out after the second, his velocity once again dropping to alarming levels. It'd be his last appearance of the season for the Twins. 

This moment essentially made it clear to me that whatever faint glimmers of hope still existed had been snuffed out. I tweeted as much from the stands.

The White Sox proceeded to stack 13 runs on the Twins that night – including six on Nick Gordon, who entered in the eighth – as their starter Dylan Cease carried a no-hitter into the ninth. I can't say I was still in the building when Luis Arraez singled with one out to go, but I was pleased to inform a few smug Sox fans on the train once I saw the notification on my phone.

The bottom line and biggest takeaway from this past weekend is that it's damn nice to be on the other side. Setting aside the embittered rivalry, I do feel empathy for White Sox fans, who've been done dirty by the organization's rudderless management. Their short and fruitless contention window appears to have snapped shut, and unlike the Twins, it's tough to see an immediate path back. 

Mix in the ugly performance put forth by Justin Fields and the Bears on Sunday, and let's just say the collective vibe of Chicagoan sports fans was not great. It's a bummer. Attending these games and experiencing other ballparks and fanbases is much more fun when the games matter, the stands are full, and the local product is less depressing. 


One thing I always try to center in my writing – and if you've read my work, hopefully it's something that comes through – is a sense of perspective. No matter how you feel about the Twins, their leadership, the quality of their season, or their future ... it's simply undeniable that things are way better than they were a year ago, and better than they are for the rest of the teams in this division.

My own sense of perspective got a jumpstart during my trip to Chicago, and I return home with a renewed appreciation and enthusiasm for what lies ahead. The season is winding down but the excitement is just beginning.

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The Sox are kind of screwed. Aging roster that isn’t cheap and some decisions to make (which they haven’t been good at). Tim Anderson is a free agent but is 31 and not reliable. Sox almost have to sign him given the fee agent class next year. Does make you feel good about the state of the Twins. 

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The Twins had some disappointing finishes earlier in the 00's, but 2011 and 2022 are two of my most frustrating seasons. They seemed built to win in '11 coming off a really good 2010. And while they had some pitching issues in '22, and might have done little in the post season, they had a pretty good team and lead almost all season until early August where they were just so under manned from injury there was no hope.

It's been nice to rebound here in 2023. I just wish the more balanced team we've been the second half of this year was the same version we had in the first. The Twins would end up with more than 90 wins, and might have gotten a 1st round bye. 

But ultimately, what matters is not how you start, but how you finish.

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I don't share this same nostalgia for September 2022. 

The team had banked a good percentage of wins by mid-May, and after that they were a stubbornly sub-.500 team for the large majority of the year.  By early August the trend seemed pretty well established, and I felt like the Earnest Young Ensign in some space-faring movie, where the good ship is spiraling into the atmosphere and he whispers to his superior beside him at the helm, "we're not gonna make it, are we?"  September was just a slightly further accelerated nosedive straight into the planet's surface, but they were never going to pull out; gravity got 'em.

This article makes several nods in this direction, but nevertheless holds to the romance that they were still in first place or close to it, and merely needed to hold on but couldn't due to a spate injuries.  For me the die was cast much earlier, and yes injuries were key all season.  Constructing a roster that was injury-prone in the first place and then accentuating that tendency with moves such as the trades for Paddack and Mahle was the story.

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This article really should give us as fans a little bit of good perspective.  I live in (near) Chicago and I can tell you that the Sox would gladly trade places with the Twins both historically and especially currently.  They really don't have anything to look forward to in the next couple of years.  The culture on that team has hardly ever been really good, even sometimes when the team was pretty good.  For now, they just have to hope that they can find some good contributors and claw back to respectability.  The Cubs, on the other hand, are probably convinced that they will win the World Series and that several of their players should be Hall of Famers.  It's like that here.  All the time.  Yikes.

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Reinsdorf just doesn’t get it. After 2016 Jim Pohlad recognized that the Twins needed not just new management but a complete reboot of the entire organization. It appears to me that the White Sox desperately need the same thing to take place and that will never happen under Reinsdorf.

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Twins FO is a little more willing to move on from previous stars to new kids. The Sano/Buxton window has closed. Now, it's time to move on to the next group of stars, possibly before Correa moves on. 

Notice they've already moved on from last season's hired guns, like Mahle. This new group looks more reliable, putting pressure on opponents most of the time. When you've got Gray and Lopez to start the playoffs, then Ryan, you're looking pretty good. With Maeda and Ober backing them up with spot starts and long relief, that's a pretty strong playoff rotation. 

At that point, you've got some pretty good bats in the lineup, led by Lewis, who is having a phenomenal second half. Any of Correa, Polanco or Kirilloff could get hot at any time. Castro is clutch, Wallner has serious pop, and Kepler can emerge anytime.

This is a squad that can win more than a few playoff games. 

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Good reminder that while we can always pick at little things to complain about in concern with the Twins, there are always teams and fanbases that have it much worse. That being said, I don't think I could pick a better team than the White Sox to have a bleak situation. 

Go Twins!

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