Around this time last year, I wrote a piece complaining about fan voting in the professional leagues’ all-star games. The crux of my complaints centered on the fact that the athletes were more often selected for their popularity than their actual merit in a given season, and less popular teams like the Twins would always be shorted in that regard.
Well now that problem is back again and this time, it is even more egregious.
Last year’s piece stemmed from the Twins getting just one of its athletes selected to the all-star game, but even I had to admit that the Twins stunk and, as a result, were often overlooked.
There is no excuse this year, as the Twins have the third-best record in the league and nine players with at least 10 home runs, along with a six-game division lead. How many all-stars do the Twins have this year? Two.
That’s right, two.
Those two are shortstop Jorge Polanco and pitcher Jake Odorizzi.
Our biggest competition for best record in the American League are the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros. Those three teams are all within two games of each for the league lead. The Yankees managed to have four athletes on the all-star team. The Astros have six - as in two-thirds of the players that can be on the field at once.
It is worth noting that Odorizzi is now injured and fellow Twins pitcher Jose Berrios took his roster spot. If you want to count that has having three Twins in the big game, go for it. The way I see it, two were selected and Berrios - whom I think is absolutely deserving of a roster spot - was an afterthought.
But either way, the top two pitchers Minnesota has are being recognized. Apart from Polanco, who just may be an MVP candidate, what about the rest of the offense?
There are currently two Twins on the roster - Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario - who are on pace for 40 or more home runs this year. In the nearly 60 years the team has been in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, as best as I can tell, one player not named Harmon Killebrew has hit 40 home runs in a season (Brian Dozier, 2016). Kepler is tied for fifth in the American League in homers, and Rosario is fifth in runs batted in.
How are those two spending the All-Star Break? No, I’m actually asking because they aren’t spending it in Cleveland.
C.J. Cron and Nelson Cruz are not too far off that pace. It’s also worth noting Cruz is 39 years old and is batting .286. Those two, however, are at home right now too.
Byron Buxton seems to be coming into his own at the plate and is arguably the best defensive outfielder in the league, but he doesn’t get the nod either.
Another fun note is that more than one-third of Miguel Sano’s hits have been home runs this season, but he is also averaging about 1.5 strikeouts per game so his omission from the roster is more justified than the rest.
All of this complaining on my part, I suppose, is my way of saying the team is criminally overlooked, and has been for a long time. Watching them succeed this season - where they are 20-plus games over .500 at the midway point - has been a lot of fun, but they probably need three or four seasons like this before outside of the fan base really acknowledge them in a meaningful way.
A great example of this is the Astros. They were ignored for a decade, then they made the playoffs three of four years, won a World Series and have won 100 games in each of the last two seasons. Now they have six all-stars.
Maybe the Twins will get to that point, but for now, I guess they are the perennial underdogs.