The Last Windrow: Don't let up Twins; take us all the way
"Hey! How 'bout those Twins?"
That phrase is echoing throughout the cafes and meeting places across Twins-land these days. The subject of the Twins' winning ways is taking over from depressing political talk, family issues and the cost of a cup of coffee.
It is "feel good time" in the "Land of Lutefisk and Lefse."
There are cynics out there who wrote off the Twins before any batter had strode to home plate this spring. They had suffered through any number of losing seasons when pitchers couldn't get the ball over the plate, infielders couldn't field a pop up and outfielders ran in the opposite direction of a fly ball.
These same cynics witnessed many bases-loaded, no-out innings when not a runner scored. The non-believers had every reason to write off this season also if they had not yet checked this year's roster.
Things have changed at Target Field.
Each year I produce a Minnesota Twins win/loss forecast for the coming season. Even my most optimistic projections over the past five years were dire. It was tough for me to put down numbers that featured more losses than wins. I had to bite my lower lip until it bled just thinking of another depressing season where beer and hot dog sales plummeted.
Even with a new stadium, seats remained mostly unoccupied. I do not have money invested in the Twins and during those losing years I'm sure those who did were looking for loses on their income statements.
But, the sun has now risen and we can see clear skies ahead for this year's team. In my earlier forecast I stated that I felt Twin players would be knocking the hide off baseballs and would be able to play defense. The only unknown was the pitching staff.
Twin hurlers have since dispelled that issue. Starting pitching has improved to the point where pitchers are able to reach six or seven innings without being overcome by batters. Even the middle relievers are showing some promise, and closers are actually being able to close.
Hopefully the coaches will keep the pedal to the metal and continue to manage for wins.
I learned a hard lesson in my Little League baseball career about letting up. I was large for my age when my coach decided to put me in to pitch one night. My granddad showed me how to pitch a fast ball, a let up and a slight curve ball, all of which I was using against an opposing team.
Batters were striking out on a regular basis and I was pitching a no-hitter. Then my coach called time out. He shuffled out to the mound and I thought he was going to congratulate me for my apparent success.
Instead he whispered to me, "John, let up a little on your pitching. Some parents in the crowd are complaining that you are too big to be pitching to their kids."
So, I let up and tossed a few soft balls that the other team immediately blasted into the outfield. After they scored enough runs to tie the game my coach came shuffling back out to the mound.
"Now you can bear down. We want to win the game," he said.
I never threw another strike and he jerked me after we were three runs behind. That lesson stuck with me: Don't let up if you're ahead. I remember that coach to this day.
My early forecast had the Twins with 89 wins and 73 losses. The team already has almost half of those wins before the All-Star game. As this column is written they are leading the majors in almost every category. Homer balls are flying out of all stadiums on a regular basis. Fly balls are being caught on a frequent basis. Batters are being struck out in almost every inning.
Things are looking good and I'm amending my forecast on June 1 and now predicting they win their division and I'm almost ready to say they might even see another World Series. I can always eat crow later if I'm wrong.
That is, if they don't let up. I'm glad my Little League coach is not in that dugout.
See you next time. Okay?