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Kevin Schnepf, Published May 02 2012

Schnepf: Is there any reason for hope with Twins?

Fargo - Before Wednesday night’s late game in Anaheim, the Minnesota Twins were 6-17 – not only the worst record in Major League Baseball, but the worst start since our beloved Twinkies started playing in Minneapolis back in 1961.

If the Twins maintain this horrid pace, they will end up with 117 losses – tying the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics with the fourth-most losses in major league history. (In case you are wondering, the 1899 Cleveland Spiders hold the top honor with 134 losses followed by the 1962 Mets with 120 and the 2003 Tigers with 119).

Now granted, there is a lot of baseball yet to be played. After all, the 1988 and 2006 Twins started their seasons with 9-16 records and rebounded to win more than 90 games.

But are there any signs – even glimmers of hope – that the Twins can improve like that this season? Not on the mound. Not on defense. Maybe, just maybe, with the bats.

Tigers and Spiders and Mets, oh my.

These are not the Twins of the 21st century that we have become accustomed to. They posted nine winning seasons from 2001 to 2010 with six playoff appearances. These are not the Twins we waved hankies for during their World Series heroics in 1987 and 1991.

And finishing one loss shy of that infamous 100 mark last year, it was hard to imagine that this year’s Twins could do any worse. But they are. At least, they are on course to be worse.

Prior to Wednesday night’s game, the Twins were indeed the worst of 30 big league teams at or near the bottom in three pitching categories. They rank last in ERA (5.59) and strikeouts (112). They rank 29th in batting average allowed (.287).

Normally one the majors’ best fielding teams, the Twins rank in the middle of the pack this season.

At the plate, they rank 20th in runs (87) and RBIs (85). The only signs of hope are Denard Span (.340 batting average), Josh Willingham (.333 with 5 HR) and Joe Mauer (.313).

The one encouraging sign of this season is that the Twins rank 11th in attendance, averaging 33,429 fans. It’s safe to assume fans are showing up at Target Field to gawk at the new statue of Kent Hrbek, and not to watch Francisco Liriano gawk at home run balls.

It was Hrbek, the burly first baseman from suburban Minneapolis, who was a member of the Twins’ worst team in 1982. Playing in the Metrodome for the first time, Calvin Griffith’s Twins finished with a 60-102 record – the only time a Twins’ team surpassed the 100-loss mark.

Even the novelty of the Metrodome was unable to lure the fans inside. Only 921,186 fans attended Twins games that season – the lowest total in the American League.

About the only thing to cheer about was Hrbek’s All-Star season (92 RBIs and a .301 batting average).

Little did fans know that Hrbek and three of his 1982 teammates would lead the Twins to a World Series championship five years later. Pitcher Frank Viola, outfielder Tom Brunansky, utility man Randy Bush and a top draft pick by the name of Kirby Puckett – who joined the team a couple of years after 1982 – helped the Twins go from last that season to first in 1987.

Do the Twins have those kinds of players on this year’s team? Do they have those kinds of players in the farm system? Can they draft another guy like Puckett?

Twins fans certainly hope so. If not, they may have to endure what they did from 1993 to 2000 – eight straight losing seasons.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

or at kschnepf@forumcomm.com

Since arriving in Minneapolis in 1961, the Minnesota Twins have had 24 losing seasons, 24 winning seasons and three .500 seasons. From 1993 to 2000, the Twins had eight straight losing seasons before rebounding from 2001 to 2010, when they record nine winning seasons in 10 years. Here are the Twins three worst seasons, based on number of losses:

1982 season

60 wins, 102 losses

Started season with 9-17 record

First season in Metrodome

Had lowest attendance in the American League with 921,186 fans

Team leaders: Gary Ward (28 HR), Kent Hrbek (92 RBI, .301 batting avg.), Bobby Castillo (13 wins, 3.66 ERA).

Finished in last place in the AL West, 33 games behind first-place California Angels

1999 season

63 wins, 97 losses

Started season with 9-14 record

Finished in last place in the AL Central, 33 games behind first-place Cleveland Indians

Team leaders: Ron Coomer (16 HR), Marty Cordova (70 RBI), Todd Walker (.279 avg.), Brad Radke (12 wins, 3.75 ERA).

With the first pick in the entry draft, Twins picked Joe Mauer the following year

2011 season

63 wins, 99 losses

Started season with 9-18 record

The Twins fell from first place the year before to last place in the AL Central, finishing 32 games behind first-place Detroit Tigers

During the season, the Twins had one 11-game losing streak, one nine-game losing streak, one seven-game losing streak and three 6-game losing streaks

Team leaders: Scott Baker (8 wins, 3.14 ERA), Joe Mauer (.287 batting avg.), Danny Valencia (72 RBI), Michael Cuddyer (20 HR).

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