Hopelessness is an omnipresent threat to the Minnesota sports fan. On the rare occasions when it’s not standing astride the path ahead in its minatory glory, it still seems to be just down the next alley or around the corner. Its shadow moves like a Disney villain’s. For two decades, the Twins were the best emblem for that feeling. Their sisyphean curse, to roll the stone 162 heavy paces up the hill each year and then be reset at the bottom of it in the blink of an eye, hung over the fanbase so heavily that it sometimes seemed to disband it altogether.
Every now and then, though, a miracle happens, and that hopelessness gets zapped—not permanently banished, maybe, but bundled off in a way that feels real and meaningful. When Pablo López not only won the team its first playoff game since John Kerry was a presidential candidate, but did so after proudly wearing the number of the pitcher who brought that previous win to the ballpark, and when (in one of those indelible moments that every October should give us) Johan Santana showed up to a later game at Target Field and revealed a López jersey beneath his bomber jacket, the cycle of absurdity and struggle was broken. The AL Central has never had a genuine hegemon, and even when a team cobbles together something almost resembling a dynasty (the Twins of the 2000s, the Tigers of the early 2010s, Cleveland in both the second half of the 1990s and the second half of the 2010s), it always feels flimsy. With so much reason to doubt the future prospects of the other teams in the division and with a bevy of impressive young players and stars dotting the Minnesota playoff roster, though, it felt like that might be about to change.
As they say in these parts: Ope. Never mind. Within days of the end of the season, Dan Hayes of The Athletic reported that the Twins would be cutting their payroll back in a significant way in 2024, after spending a team-record $154 million in 2023. The team’s contract with the now-bankrupt parent company for Bally Sports North expired at season’s end, and because they don’t expect to be able to replace the $54 million they made annually on that deal when they figure out the future of their broadcast rights, they’re planning a reduction in payroll to reflect the lost revenue.