Zulgad: You're joking: Twins' success, or failure, in 48-game season would mean little

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins
Sep 6, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Adam Plutko (45) delivers a pitch to Minnesota Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario (20) in the first inning at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

The excitement that surrounded the Minnesota Twins during spring training was unmistakable. The team was coming off a season in which it established the MLB single-season record for home runs and won its first AL Central title since 2010. That was followed by the offseason free agent signing of slugger Josh Donaldson.

The expectation was that not only were the Twins primed to repeat as division champions, but this time they might have a chance to break their MLB postseason record losing streak of 16 games and maybe, just maybe, be in a position to actually beat (or at least exchange punches with) the big-bad Yankees.

Those were the hopes on March 11 when the Twins played the Atlanta Braves in Fort Myers, Fla. A day later, MLB, and the rest of the sports world, was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly three months later, MLB still doesn’t have a plan to return for the 2020 season as owners and players fight over finances and who is willing to lose what, if and when games return.

Considering what is currently happening in this country, it is a terrible look for MLB and commissioner Rob Manfred.

If you’re a Twins fan, a season that once held so much excitement is now one that is looking more and more like it will be a lost cause no matter what happens. Here’s why: The Timberwolves’ season officially came to an end this week, when they weren’t one of 22 teams invited to Disney World to take part in the league’s conclusion of the regular season and playoff tournament. That might not be ideal but, at 19-45, even the Wolves didn’t complain. The Wild will be involved in the NHL’s plan to conclude the 2019-20 season, if and when that happens, but it’s safe to say that excitement surrounding the team isn’t exactly high.

The Twins, meanwhile, face the prospect of having their season canceled or, more likely, playing a 48-game regular season in which owners will be willing to pay players a prorated share of their salaries. The MLB Players’ Association reportedly is willing to play an 82-game season at a full prorated share of players’ salaries.

Considering the circumstances, the 82-game season makes sense and one could argue would result in what you would consider a legitimate champion. A 48-game season? Sorry, if we were talking about a shortened NHL or NBA season that number (48) would work, but going from a normal 162-game baseball season to 48 would be a joke. You couldn’t put an asterisk big enough by the champion to make it clear there was nothing legitimate about 2020.

There is a reason the MLB season consists of so many games and anyone who cares about the sport knows this. The Washington Nationals are Exhibit A. Last season, the Nationals lost their third consecutive game in their 48th game of the season to drop to 19-29. Manager Dave Martinez’s job was thought to be in jeopardy and nobody was talking about Washington being in the playoffs. Five months later, the Nationals were World Series champions.

As good as the Twins appear to be on paper, one rough stretch in a 48-game season could spell their demise. Worse yet, a hot stretch by the woeful Royals or Tigers could catapult them into a playoff position and no one wants to see that. It isn’t how baseball works.

It would be one thing if MLB was forced to play a 48- or 50-game regular season, but this appears to be a plan of its own doing. One that will help the billionaire owners retain as much wealth as possible — the cash is in playoff and World Series games, not regular-season games — while attempting to placate what they think must be a oblivious fan base. These are the fans who are starved for sports, and in Minnesota, were looking forward to seeing the Twins continue their transformation from mediocrity (or worse) to being one of the top teams in the big leagues.

The chance for a normal 2020 season went out the window because of a pandemic. That’s understandable. But the chance for a season that can be taken seriously is in jeopardy because of greed. Twins fans should be at the top of the list of those who find that to be unforgiveable.