Is this the year that David finally slays Goliath?
When you hear the phrase "Minnesota Twins," odds are you're not particularly frightened. A state that literally has its own brand of nice. A nickname that conjures images of adorable children, holding hands in matching outfits as they run down the street. The logo that hangs in neon over Target Field, the image that draws your eye the minute you enter the ballpark, is just two goofy brothers shakin' hands and hangin' out.
Which, for a generation now, has more or less checked out. Minnesota's made seven postseason appearances in the 21st century; in five of them, they got swatted away by the big, bad Yankees. The Twins haven't won a postseason series since 2002. They haven't won a postseason game since 2004. They are baseball's perennial underdog: fun, scrappy, punching above their small payroll, and at the end of the day, fundamentally nonthreatening, like a kid brother trying to tag along and play with the big kids.
Except, well, it appears little brother's been working out.
The Twins are back atop the AL Central, but these are not the Twins of old. No, they're these horrifying, nightmare-inducing twins, just now they've got baseball bats and stirrup socks.
These Twins are destructive. These Twins look at the best pitchers in the game and say, "Not today." These Twins are leading the league with 287 home runs entering Tuesday, smashing the single-season record weeks ago.
These Twins have Nelson Cruz, who appears to have made smashing dingers his retirement plan.
Pick a member of the lineup, and chances are they can take you deep. And the Twins don't ask permission: They may be doing the unexpected, but they are not the lovable Rudy, just happy to be here. They call themselves the Bomba Squad, part nickname, part rallying cry -- because, as Eddie Rosario (31 dingers, of course) explained after a win in May, “Everybody’s happy when you’re hitting a lot of bombas.”
October is just around the corner. The postseason, that annual house of horrors, awaits. And here's Minnesota, smiling, dancing, laughing, dabbing up every time the ball flies over the fence -- even in the biggest series of the year, taking three of four in a dominating showing against the rival Indians this weekend. They are the dancing scene in "Remember the Titans," all day every day.
The only question: Will it be enough? If the postseason started today, the Twins would have to face the Astros ... who just so happen to be one of the best baseball teams ever, with a roster seemingly lab-grown to decimate every team they encounter. Pass that test, and the Yankees likely await in the ALCS. Minnesota is still David, and the odds will always be stacked against them.
But if the Twins and their squad of happy homer-hitting bomba squad members keep running up the score, then anything is possible.
Michael Clair writes for MLB.com. He spends a lot of time thinking about walk-up music and believes stirrup socks are an integral part of every formal outfit.