Expectations can and do change

October 6, 2008

by Stephen Wiblemo

The best way to describe my feelings as I watched Jim Thome’s center field bomb sail over Carlos Gomez’s head was something along the lines of food poisoning.

Severe stomach cramps, nausea, and blurred vision were my symptoms.

The Twins must have been feeling the same way before game 163 as they seemed to just curl up into the fetal position and succumb to Chicago.

Two hits.

That pretty much sums up the loss. That, along with a hitless performance from the batting champion – Joe Mauer – and an equally poor performance by our so-called Most Valuable Player candidate – Justin Morneau.

I was one of Morneau’s biggest supporters when it came to the MVP race. A couple weeks ago, I said the MVP was his to lose, but I guess I didn’t actually he think he would lose it.

After his performance at the plate in the last 10 games or so of the season, however, I can’t justify him being an MVP.

The most valuable player doesn’t crunch under the pressure of a heated division race.

Maybe playing in all 163 games of the season put a toll on his body, but I still couldn’t vote for him.

I am not a fair-weather fan. I consider my Twins cup half-full most of the time. But there is something bothering me about the way many Twins fans are handling this failure.

The thing I am frustrated with is when I hear people say, “Well, nobody expected them to make it this far, so it was a successful season.”

That just tears me apart. This feeling of satisfaction people get from mediocrity.

Yes, at the beginning of the season the Twins were picked to finish third or lower in the division, and certainly nobody would have predicted this year’s outcome. But, by the All-Star break, the Twins were right on top of the division.

As the season started to wind down, it became clear that pre-season speculations were going to be wrong as Detroit and Cleveland sank to the bottom of the standings.

That is when my expectations for the Twins changed.

The Twins put themselves in a position to make the playoffs, and many Twins fans then expected them to do so.

The bottom line in all of this, though, is that expectations don’t mean squat.

Think about 1987 and 1991, when the Twins won the World Series. Were they expected to win it all?

Were the Tampa Bay Devil Rays expected to win their division this season?

Were the Yankees expected to miss the playoffs this season?

Were the Colorado Rockies expected to make it to the World Series last year?

Think about the last few World Series champions. Were any of them expected to win it all at the beginning of the season?

No, except maybe the Yankees, because George Steinbrener expects to win a World Series every season.

Baseball isn’t about expectations. It’s about taking advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

The regular season is 162 games – that is way too long for any sports commentator to be able to predict the outcomes.

It’s a six-month marathon and when the end is in sight, any team could be in a position to win.

The Twins were in position. They stayed close to Chicago the whole way, despite brutal road trips, and when they got the chance, they took over with a three-game sweep at home.

All the Twins had to do was continue winning for three more games, at home, against one of the worst teams in the majors.

Instead, Kansas City won two out of three games, Chicago beat Detroit in a make-up game, and then ended the Twins’ chances for the playoffs.

It was called the central division that nobody wanted to win, and I guess the Twins wanted to lose it more.

After the 1-0 loss, I quietly went into my study and shredded the American League Division Series tickets I had pre-ordered.

Then, I opened my wallet and pulled out my 2008 pocket schedule and shredded that, too.

As I contemplated what I would do with my life, I considered starting up the Vikings bandwagon. But, then I realized the futility in that effort as they are having a season the exact opposite of the Twins – underachievement.

That is when I saw the 2009 early Twins schedule in my wallet.

I see we start the season with a four-game series at home against Seattle.

I think I might have just gotten a refill on my cup.