Any time you wonder how the Cubs could have been swept out of the playoffs two years in a row, or say, "The Cubs need to build a World Series winner," think about what's happened to the Minnesota Twins.
Over the last ten seasons, the Twins' regular-season record is 888-733 -- that's an average of almost 89 wins a season for an entire decade. They've had only one losing season since 2001, and that wasn't too far below .500 at 79-83 (in 2007). They have qualified for the playoffs six times... and pretty much stunk it out. Since winning their division series against the Athletics in 2002, they have lost six consecutive postseason series and now 12 straight postseason games; their overall postseason record in those same ten seasons is 6-21.
And yet, the Twins are universally praised around baseball for "doing it the right way", teaching their players the same system at all levels of their organization, producing outstanding players from their farm system (Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Jason Kubel, and that's just in the last few years), and having one of the best-regarded managers in the game in Ron Gardenhire. This year, they used a 45-18 run from July 11 to September 20 to blow away their competition in the AL Central.
So what's the problem? Why can't they win playoff games or series? The Twins had leads in each of the first two games of their just-completed series, but really, after the Yankees took the lead in the sixth inning of the first game, the Twins looked like they weren't even there.
Part of the answer, of course, is that the Yankees are really, really good, and they may just have the Twins spooked a little -- having now won nine straight playoff games against them. The other answer is, as I have written many times, is that the playoffs are a crapshoot. What if the Twins hang on to win Game One, where they took a 3-0 lead into the sixth inning, or even come back from the 4-4 tie in the seventh? It's a whole different series psychologically then. But now, the Twins have lost 12 straight playoff games -- one short of the record held by the Red Sox -- and since a lot of the same players have been involved in most of these games, I'd think it does get into their heads.
WHEN the Cubs return to the postseason, the team that gets there will have very few (if any) players left from the 2007-2008 debacles and a different manager. Just win ONE game -- preferably the first -- and I believe that will make a huge difference.
Enjoy the games today. Once again, I'm only going to post one discussion thread, but if it gets slow later and you need an overflow, post it in the FanShot section. And go Bears.
Discuss amongst yourselves.