Twins inspire faith in playoff formula

By Gus Bode

There are a lot of reasons to hate big-market teams.

The copious amount of money teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs spend to sign top performers is a little disheartening (or misspend in the case of the Cubs). When the New York Yankees win the World Series, questions such as: ‘Did they buy it?’ always pop up.

There is one team without a big budget that is in contention on a yearly basis. The Minnesota Twins give people a team to root for when their team has been knocked out of contention.


When Billy Beane took over the Oakland Athletics in 1998, that team got a lot of attention as a small-market team, which went out and competed every year. Beane’s approach was highlighted in the book ‘Moneyball.’

Teams now use Beane’s methods to evaluate players. Underappreciated stats like OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging) and WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched) are no longer underappreciated and a new way needs to be discovered.

Perhaps the Twins have found something useful. Since 2001, the Twins have only had one losing season – 2007 – and with Tuesday’s victory over the Detroit Tigers, the Twins have made five straight postseasons.

That’s once more than the A’s, which just finished its third-straight losing season, had in the same time span.

The Tigers have a payroll of $115 million, the fifth highest in baseball. The Twins clock in with a payroll of $65 million, which is the seventh lowest in baseball. Clearly the Twins are doing something right.

Every year, even when players such as Johan Santana are traded away or lost to free agencies such as Torii Hunter, the Twins are competing. How can a team lose its best players and still be in the thick of things every year?

Can you imagine what would happen if the Cubs lost Aramis Ramirez? Given that its organization is the only one dumb enough to hire a 12-year-old kid to close games, (though to be fair, the Twins were owned by a 12-year-old at one point) the loss of Ramirez would create pure chaos. Yet, the Twins put up with situations like this every year.


Here we are in October, yet again, and the Twins are there. The Twins, who were trailing the Tigers for most of the regular season, found a way to make it yet again.

Now obviously detractors of Minnesota will point out that of the five playoff appearances they have made this decade, they have only won one series. The same case was made against Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s.

The thing is, getting to the playoffs is what matters. It does not matter what a team’s record is, it does not matter what a team’s stats sheet says – it just matters if they make it in.

Anything can happen in a short series. For goodness sakes, David Eckstein won World Series MVP once! When a sample size is only a couple of games, statistics can be thrown out the door.

Simply getting yourself in position to play in the World Series every year is enough. If the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals can win it all, so can a Twins team any given year. All it requires is getting hot.

If your team has been eliminated from World Series contention, the team to root for should be Minnesota. They represent something baseball fans from Chicago to Pittsburgh to Kansas City can appreciate: hope. If a team with a budget like that can win on a yearly basis, so can your team.