Back in February, I asked you which bad team you would watch on purpose. I made the case for the Phillies, Braves, Brewers and Reds and included a poll. I settled on the Phillies. A plurality of you settled on the Phillies. The Phillies have been, absolutely, the most fun of those teams to watch. Good job, us. This baseball stuff is easy.
One team not on the list: The Twins. They were supposed to be okay. They acted like they were planning to contend. They have been awful. They have been beyond awful. They have been drunken karaoke from someone who knows better. They've been so bad, we've decided to double down on them today.
Also, the Twins haven't been good this season.
The original idea for this article was "would you rather follow the Braves or the Twins," focusing on the birds in the hand vs. the birds in the bush. The Twins have some of their exciting young players in the majors, including one of the most exciting young power hitters in baseball, Miguel Sano. The Braves might have Aaron Rowand hitting cleanup, I haven't checked in a while. There's a quality of life, so to speak, that Twins fans can enjoy about their current team, even in a miserable season. The Braves, in theory, might not get that kind of entertainment until September.
The more layers I peeled back from the onion, though, the more I came to an inescapable conclusion: There is no comparison. The Twins are an example of baseball's saddest type of team.
That type of team is the kinda-sorta-maybe contender that turns into something repugnant. The Twins spent the entire offseason thinking they were going to have a chance at the AL Central, and that guarded optimism trickled down to the fans. The Braves? We knew they were going to be awful. The scope of the awfulness was a little surprising, but the good folks at Talking Chop aren't too concerned. They're too busy thinking about prospects and draft picks. The Twins are forced to think "What now?" with an urgency they weren't expecting.
At this point, I should probably warn Twins fans that this article is mostly written with the fans of other AL Central teams in mind, and it's just not going to get better for you. Please click an ad before you leave.
Beyond the surprise misery, there's additional sadness to wade through in this specific Twins season. Here is the raw sadness, scooped together and dumped mournfully under easily digestible headers:
Their bright young stars have been disappointing
Something worth noting up front is that Byron Buxton is doing well in Triple-A. There's still a lot of swing and miss happening, but he's driving the ball and showing off his speed. He's still just 22. He'll be fine.
Except this was supposed to be the season he broke out in the majors. It was one of the reasons the Twins were so excited about the season. This was the year they finally got to see the reward that Buxton offered, and he was going to form an unbeatable duo with Sano.
Which brings us to the other bummer. Sano is turning out to be just as worrisome. His defense has been abominable in the outfield, just completely discouraging. It's been a little better at third, according to the numbers, but he's bringing a Delmon Young bat to complement the Delmon glove. Sano leads the AL in strikeouts, and he isn't hitting for enough power to compensate for his patience.
This category was supposed to be the given, the thing that Twins fans knew was going to be fun to watch. While we're at it, might as well point out that Jose Berrios has an ERA over 10.00 in four starts.
And for additional fun, you can note that the intriguing young players on the second tier of expectations, like Danny Santana and Eddie Rosario, have all been awful, too.
If they wanted to rebuild, their best trade chips have been awful
I'm not saying the Twins should tear it all down and start over. It's certainly an option, though. They have a top-10 farm system, with prospects at almost every position, and they also have a couple players in their arbitration years who are more likely to help the Twins in two years with the prospects they bring back in a trade, not with their eventually overpriced veteran contracts. The story writes itself.
The only problem with that is that Trevor Plouffe has been a nightmare this season, and Brian Dozier has been worse. The former is already 30 and getting more expensive. The latter is 29, but paid the kind of money that would make him a bargain of an All-Star. If he were playing like an All-Star. Which he most certainly is not.
There's some poor luck involved, certainly, with some wretched batting averages on balls in play, but the Twins started the season with a youngish, affordable second baseman with 25-homer power, solid defense and plus speed. That sounds like the kind of player teams should trip over themselves to offer prospects for, a rare unicorn of a player on the trade market. Instead, Dozier's ghastly second half carried over into this season, and no one quite knows what to make of him. He's not bringing back a Dansby Swanson kind of overpay.
Or, to dumb it down, a rebuild for the Twins would mostly involve selling previously excellent players for pennies on the dollar. That's no fun.
They specialize in making you think they'll never have good starting pitching again
Take a brief time out to appreciate Tyler Duffey, beacon of hope. He's missing bats and limiting walks, preventing runs in a completely unremarkable way. This is how young pitchers look occasionally.
The rest of the rotation, though, is currently depressing. Fixable in spots, perhaps, but currently a reminder of everything that can go wrong. Ricky Nolasco reminds you that the front office makes curious decisions. Phil Hughes reminds you that the organization still might be a little too excited about pitching to contact. Ervin Santana reminds you that the front office, oh, we covered that already. Kyle Gibson reminds you that young pitchers will break your heart. Berrios reminds you that Kyle Gibson reminds you that young pitchers will break your heart, which makes you sad all over again.
There are prospects coming up. First-round guys with pedigrees, the future of the franchise, along with Berrios. That's exciting. They will be shepherded into the majors by the Twins. That might work out just fine! The recent evidence isn't encouraging. Except for sweet, sweet Tyler Duffey, who's basically the reason for the season at this point.
The draft is coming up! The Twins pick 15th, which is thoroughly unexciting. All of the other bad teams have a top-10 pick, at least. This all stinks.
The bad news is that this lousy baseball season is only a quarter over. The good news is that it's only a quarter over! Pick yourself off the floor, you weenie, and have some hope. Sano can hit 25 homers in the second half. Buxton can storm back and become the player we've all been expecting. The veterans might play well enough not only to increase their trade value, but to make you think, "Nuts to this, let's try to win next year." There's still time for baseball to pull silver dollars from behind your ear.
Until then, it had to be written. The Twins are the saddest team in baseball right now. I'm not sure if it's especially close.
Here, have some otters.