The hardest part of watching the Twins so far this year hasn’t been suffering through the losses. It’s been learning to love the losses. The transformation from a fair-weather fan to a true lover of a team through thick and thin is a painful one, and I for one am still in the larval stage.
But how do you enjoy watching a terrible baseball team? What I wouldn’t give for a longtime Royals fan to hold my hand through the process. Lacking that, reader, I present to you the following five ways to continue loving the Twins—nay, love them even more—despite the fact that things are indeed as bad as they seem.
Self-effacing humor: The last refuge of scoundrels
Louis CK is the funniest comedian on the planet right now, and the majority of his comedic arsenal comes in the form of self-ridicule. He doesn’t so much tell jokes as make himself the butt of them, and in him we see our worst selves and laugh. It’s like therapy. The Twins, too, are making butts of themselves this year, and it’s not wrong to laugh. They’re like the Louis CKs of the major leagues, and once you embrace this fact, watching them becomes enjoyable again. Try it: Next time Liriano gives up a homerun to a former Twin, or Clete Thomas [Update: So long, Clete] strikes out, or Willingham lets a ball bounce a foot in front of him and then 20 yards past him, or Span gets picked off at first, or Blackburn does what Blackburn does, or Gardy demands Butera be called up, or Yahoo “accidentally” calls Ryan Doumit “Ryan Doormat,” or Dick and Bert refer to Pavano’s flat 84 m.p.h. pitch as a “fastball,” or any Twin at all goes to the DL: don’t get angry. Just laugh. Because it’s funny.
Another bonus: I’ve never worn a Twins jersey, but I’ve always said that if I did, I’d want it to be an Al Newman jersey. The joke is that Newman wasn’t very good, so it’s funny to be the guy wearing his jersey. You can now get the same comedic effect from wearing anything with a Twins logo on it.
We get to spend time learning the names of minor leaguers
Trevor Plouffe’s .121 batting average got you down? Bummed about Danny Valencia’s .622 OPS? Fret no more, and sigh along to the soothing salve of this number: 1.008. That’s the OPS of one Miguel Sano, third-baseman for the Beloit Snappers, the Twins class-A affiliate. Or how about this one: .900. That’s Eddie Rosario’s OPS. What does that mean? It means the Twins have a stud infield in the making. Sure, it also means that it’s about two years away from becoming reality. But that’s two years of checking minor league stats and taking road trips to places like Beloit, Wisc. And you wanted a new hobby anyway, right?
We get to complain.
Nothing better for the soul than unloading invectives and Blylevenian curse words at the television night after night. Do this in moderation, however, lest you turn into a crank who trolls comment threads instead of picking the kids up from soccer practice. The word “Blylevenian,” though, should not be used in moderation. Have at that one.
The team’s failure illuminates the tenuous hold on adequacy we’d always taken for granted.
Every day’s like Mother’s Day now in Twins Territory—that one day every year when Mom got to kick her feet up and make her ungrateful kids fold the laundry and wash the dishes and make the dinner and see just how easy they normally have it. The Twins have had their quirks and false starts these last 10 years, sure, but on the whole they’ve made winning look relatively easy, to the point that Twins fans started to view the postseason as their birthright. Now, so deep down in the shit-cellar that most feasible ways out seem implausible if not impossible, we get the daily gift of perspective. Never again will take for granted a win against any team—even the Royals.
We can blame it on a curse—and then hunt for its cause.
The Twins won 94 games in 2010. They won 30 fewer a season later. What happened in between? A few personnel moves, sure, but clearly there’s a darker sort of juju afoot. When a team goes into as deep a funk as the Twins appear to be in, it can only mean one thing: A curse is brewing. And curses, as baseball historians can tell you, always have a root cause, from the Bambino to the Billy Goat to … whatever it is that makes the Royals the Royals.
So: What happened between October 3, 2010, and April 1, 2011? Let the hunt begin.
- As someone noted on Twitter, Kelly Theiser left her post as the Twins in-house beat reporter. Kelly was good, but Rhett Bollinger, her replacement, is fine too, and this is hardly an outrage worthy of karmic retribution.
- The Twins signed Tsuyoshi Nishioka. This clearly made them a worse team, but curses don’t work that way. The dots aren’t supposed to be so easily connected. Whatever the root of the Twins woes, it doesn’t have anything to do with any actual team maneuvers (unless of course Tsuyoshi brought with him some ancient Japanese amulet, or a box of cuddly Asian mini-bears and fed them after midnight).
Which brings me to my favorite theory:
- The Twins moved to an all-cable television schedule. Prior to the 2011 season, I was able to kick back every Sunday afternoon with the game on the tube, reminding myself how ridiculous Bert Blyleven really is but also how nice televised baseball really is too. Ever since the network bigwigs reached over to we unwashed network masses and announced “Let them watch Fox Sports Net,” I’ve had to listen to Dan F’ing Gladden on AM radio (quick hat-tip here to Cory Provus, who’s done a great job in John Gordon’s chair this year), and the Twins have stunk up the joint every day since. I can’t even pay to watch online through MLB.tv thanks to their Draconian blackout rules.
Coincidence? Probably. But whatever. Let’s call it the Curse of Fox Sports Net, and blame Rupert Murdoch while we’re at it. And then let’s get back to rooting for things to get better, and for a Dominican teenager in rural Wisconsin to do the same, and laughing even if they don’t.