Minnesota Twins: April Fools, There's No Reason to Panic

Tim ArcandCorrespondent IApril 16, 2011

After starting the season 0-3 does Francisco Liriano have any value left?
After starting the season 0-3 does Francisco Liriano have any value left?Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

So far for Minnesota Twins fans, the 2011 season seems to be a cross between April Fools Day and Groundhog's Day—I'm referring to the Bill Murray movie where he relives the same day over and over.

Going into the 2011 season the only area that figured to be a concern was the bullpen. After all the Twins were returning pretty much the same team as last year. They were able to re-sign Carl Pavano to a two-year deal, former MVP Justin Morneau was set to return and they had their $23 million man—Joe Mauer, arguably the best hitter in the game. 

The strengths of this team have been the ability to hit for average, decent pitching and above-average defense.

In 2011 all three have yet to show up. Through the first 13 games, the Twins are hitting only .234 with only three home runs, the starting pitching has gone 2-8 with a 5.09 ERA, and the defense has committed nine errors already this season for a .981 fielding percentage.

The pranks just keep coming.

First, there was the loss of the Twins marquee acquisition, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, when he broke his leg after being taken out on a double play by New York's Nick Swisher on a good, hard clean play.

Second, Francisco Liriano, who was the American League Pitcher of the Month last April after going 3-0 with an 0.93 ERA in four starts, has opened the 2011 season losing his three starts with a 9.42 ERA.  

Then on Friday the Twins placed catcher Joe Mauer on the 15-day disabled list for bilateral leg weakness.

Finally, in yet another cruel joke, the Twin Cities awoke to a two-inch blanket of snow on Saturday.

All things considered, this is looking much more like March than April for the Minnesota Twins.

Yet, there is still reason to hope. As sure as the weather will turn warmer and the flowers will eventually bloom once the snow banks have receded for good, the Twins will rise from the cold harsh days of this April and find a way to compete for their third consecutive division title.

During his tenure as the Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire has a regular season record of 807-665, a .548 winning percentage with six division titles.

Since 2002 the Twins have won six AL Central division titles, yet they have only led the division at the end of April twice—in 2004 and 2010 on their way to the AL Central title. 

In four of the other seven seasons, the Twins would be looking up at the division leader as the calendar turned to May, but by the end of the season they would be looking down at the rest of the Central Division. 

In the six seasons the Twins have won the AL Central division title they have averaged two games behind the leader at the end of April.

Currently the Twins find themselves five games behind both Cleveland and Kansas City—two teams no one has picked to win the division.

In 2006 the Twins would open the season with a 9-15 record in April and find themselves eight games out of first place. They would fall as far back as 12.5 games behind the division-leading Detroit Tigers, only to eventually take the division title on the last day of the season.

That season the Twins were in first place for all of four days as they won the AL Central for the third consecutive year—a feat Gardenhire is trying to repeat in 2011.

In 2009 the Twins had to win their last four games of the season to force a tie with Detroit forcing the extension of the regular season to game 163 for the second consecutive year before securing the division title.  

Since 2002 the Twins have averaged 89.2 wins per season, the best in the American League Central.

Chicago is second averaging 85.2 wins, Cleveland is third with 78.2, Detroit has 73.9 and Kansas City brings up the rear only averaging 67.1 wins per season. 

The AL Central is considered one of the weakest divisions in baseball. Since the Twins last won the World Series in 1991, only one team currently in the AL Central has won a championship—the 2005 Chicago White Sox.

Almost no matter how far back the Twins fall in the division there is always a chance they will be in the mix come September.

It has been an extremely difficult stretch for Minnesota sports fans over the past eight months. 

The Twins were swept out of the ALDS by the Evil Empire known as the New York Yankees.

The second coming of Brett Favre (or was it the third?) was a complete disaster as the Minnesota Vikings fell from NFC North division champion in 2009 with a 12-4 record to last place in 2010 at 6-10.

The Minnesota Wild failed to make the NHL playoffs for the third straight season, finishing third in the Northwest Division and firing head coach Todd Richards after only two seasons.

The Minnesota Timberwolves finished with a 17-65 record, the worst in the NBA and extending their streak of missing the playoffs to seven seasons.

The University of Minnesota football team would finish the season 3-9, ushering the end of the Tim Brewster era. 

The University of Minnesota men's basketball team would finish 17-14 with no postseason appearance. It would break a 17-year streak of 20-win seasons for head coach Tubby Smith.

If there is a higher power there is no way the Twins can falter. What a cruel joke it would be to take away the last bright spot on the sports horizon of the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

There has to be more than warm temperatures and sunshine to keep Twins fans coming to Target Field in 2011.