Thursday, September 29, 2016

102 losses

The 2016 Twins reached a negative milestone Wednesday night. It was their 102nd loss of the season, tying the 1982 Twins for the most losses in Minnesota history.

I have a bunch of co-workers who hadn't been born yet, so I probably have a lot of readers who didn't see that season. I'm old, though. I remember it well.

The '82 Twins are remembered today as laying the foundation for the World Series titles that came in 1987 and 1991. Kent Hrbek, Frank Viola, Gary Gaetti, Tim Laudner, Randy Bush -- they were all products of the farm system, all rookies in 1982. Then-owner Calvin Griffith traded whatever veterans of value he had (Roy Smalley, Butch Wynegar, Rob Wilfong and Doug Corbett) in three different April and May trades to acquire, among others, Tom Brunansky (who was also a rookie) and Greg Gagne (who was some time away from solving the shortstop problem.)

It's tempting to try to wedge this season into that template. But the Terry Ryan-Rob Antony front office expected better of this team and did a lot more roster shuffling than old Calvin did. The 1982 Twins used 39 players; this year's model has gone through 49 with four games to go (and is unlikely to add to that total) and shuffled those 49 far more aggressively. The '82 Twins traded their veterans early; the '16 Twins waited until July to trade Ricky Nolasco, Fernando Abad and Eduardo Nunez.

When Viola came up after eight Triple A starts in 1982, he put up a 5.21 ERA -- and didn't come out of the rotation, much less return to the minors. None of the core rookies got shipped back to the minors. They played. When Griffith decided rookie DH Randy Johnson wasn't going to get it done, he got demoted, Randy Bush was called up, and Johnson was never heard from again. (For what it's worth, the two had basically equivalent production in 1982, but Bush got the job and didn't relinquish it for a decade.)  This year, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Tyler Duffey, Jose Berrios, Jorge Polanco -- they were all up and down.

Old Calvin embraced the suck. But he could do that; he wasn't going to fire himself.

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