What a shocker folks -- the Twins drop three straight against the Yankees, and go down with hardly a whimper against the Evil Empire. If you're keeping track at home (which I am), that's nine straight postseason losses for the Twins under the Ron Gardenhire regime, and that's only a part of eight straight losses at home in the playoffs. The last Twin to win a playoff game at the Metrodome was none other than Joe Mays, whose gem in the first game of the 2002 ALCS against the Angels stands as the last home victory for the Twins in the Metrodome. This run of postseason futility that the Twins are experiencing is just a perfect example of what the priorities are here in the Twin Cities. Playoffs are gravy to Ron Gardenhire, and he apparently just doesn't care if they win or lose in the playoffs. They're just happy to be there. And this philosophy has translated to an abysmal, embarrassing 6-18 mark in the playoffs under Gardenhire. Considering this, what's the point of even winning the division? If you're just going to play like bird droppings in the playoffs, why tease your fans to think that you actually might win something of actual significance? But no. Winning the perennially weakest division in baseball is hotdish for Ron Gardenhire. It makes me sick to my stomach. This is why I was pessimistic about the Twins hot stretch -- because it gives the illusion that this season was a success. Dude -- you've won the division five times in eight years. Why not try a more challenging goal? I think that winning the division was a bad thing for the Twins, as they'll use the division title as proof that they don't need to improve their ballclub for 2010. In reality, this team should be shaken up, but we know any real change (i.e. canning Ron Gardenhire) will never happen.
The Twins seem to be embodied (at least to those observing the team from a national level) by Nick Punto -- that scrappy, "hard-nosed," talent-deficient excuse for a ballplayer -- and that's really hard for me to accept. Punto may have had some of the best offensive numbers for the Twins in the three-game sweep, as he went 4 for 9 at the plate, but he was there in the eighth inning to put the nail in the coffin that was the Twins season. His baserunning blunder cost the Twins the season, and is yet another example of why this man has no business being a Single-A player, much less a starting player on a playoff team. For some reason he thought that Denard Span's chopper over the mound went into the outfield, and of course he wasn't looking at his third-base coach to see if he should score -- barreling around third was Punto, and Derek Jeter smartly threw home to force Punto to return to third, but he returned too late, and instead of having runners at first and third and nobody out (the Twins were down 2-1 at the time), Punto ran his team out of their season. What I said to myself after that predictable boner was "Nick Punto is the stupidest player in franchise history. Nick Punto is the stupidest player in franchise history." As far as mantras go, that one caught on pretty quick. Seriously though -- the fact that this guy has any words of praise go his way is gut-wrenchingly pathetic. I'm shaking my head in shame right now, having to be a fan of a team that plays Nick Punto on a regular basis. I was thinking about this hard-to-accept fact, too: Nick Punto's played here for six years. SIX YEARS. And he'll be here for probably another six. At the end of his career, he's going to be one of the longest-tenured Twins in franchise history. Why? As Tracy Chapman once sang, Give me one reason, Ron Gardenhire, why Nick Punto is on a major-league roster.
I'm done with this team, finally, for this season. Let me tell you -- it was a maddening adventure to document this sad-sack bunch of characters for nearly six months. I know I'm in the minority when it comes to ragging on guys like Ron Gardenhire, but I've found that the Re-Education Center has been amazingly therapeutic for me. In the past (and especially in 2008) I was unable to contain my rage when I watched the Twins. Often I'd bang a fist on my coffee table in frustration and shout obscenities at the TV screen. But once I started this website, I found it much easier to accept the Twins' patheticness. Now when I watch the games, I find their errors and futility comedic and humorous, and I look at Ron Gardenhire as if he were one of the Keystone Kops of the early silent movies. The guy is such an Andy Kaufman joke -- not at all funny, a little creepy, definitely pathetic, and tragic at the same time. I will go to my grave saying that Ron Gardenhire is the worst manager I've ever seen in my life, and I will continue to say that on this site. By putting faith in guys like Carlos Gomez and Nick Punto, Ron Gardenhire lost this series before it even started. It reminds me of a Modest Mouse album title of a few years back: We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. If there's anything that sums up the 2009 Twins, it's that right there.
It was a blast to do this, and I thank everyone who put in their two cents. Whether you agreed with me or not, I appreciate those who took the time to support this site. I'll keep it updated every once in a while in the offseason (I do plan on doing a 2009 Season Wrap-Up and Postseason Awards sometime within the next week) and I'm considering doing this again next season. I really enjoyed what my neighbor Hank Rickenbacher did when he had the reins, and I'd like to hear more from him next season. If you have any suggestions on how to make the MTRC better, I'd love to hear from you. And I'd like to do another segment of Reader's Mail, so feel free to get questions and comments in to my e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again everyone!
Photos: (1) AP/Jim Mone; (2) AP/Kathy Willens; (3) AP/Charlie Neibergall; (4) www.cinemablend.com