The Minnesota Twins have not won a postseason series since 2002. That offseason, they released a future star. Coincidence?
Let’s head back to the 2002 season. The Minnesota Twins had lost the American League Championship Series in five games, but were seemingly set up for a run. They had a strong farm system, an emerging star in Torii Hunter, and a pair of young arms in Johan Santana and Kyle Lohse. The future seemed bright for the Twins.
The Twins also had a young slugger in David Ortiz. His 20 homers and 75 RBI were third on the Twins, his 120 OPS+ fourth. That production seemed to indicate that he could be a possible building block, but the Twins disagreed, feeling he did not offer enough for a player without a position. Ortiz was released on December 16.
Just over a month later, Ortiz signed with the Red Sox and his legend was born. It took some time, as he initially split time at first with Jeremy Giambi, but Ortiz became one of the greatest clutch hitters the game had seen. His penchant for the dramatic, and the ice water in his veins, led to the saying that the game wasn’t over until Papi had swung.
During his stint in Boston, Ortiz was a part of three World Series winning teams. He was the MVP of the 2004 ALCS, belting three homers and driving in 11 runs as the Red Sox infamously came back from being down 3-0 in the series and facing the immortal Mariano Rivera on the mound. His place in Red Sox lore will never be overlooked. Ortiz was also the MVP of the 2013 World Series, posting an incredible .688/.760/1.188 batting line with two homers, two doubles, and eight walks in 25 plate appearances.
While the Red Sox came to dominate the postseason, the same could not be said for the Twins. Since Ortiz was let go, they have won a total of two playoff games, none of which came since 2004. Minnesota could have used a player like that to help power the lineup – a difference maker who thrived with the game on the line.
Over the years, teams have had different ‘curses’ upon them. The Red Sox were plagued by the Curse of the Bambino, as they failed to win a World Series for 86 years after selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees (and launched the Yankees first dynasty). The Cubs were done in by the Curse of the Billy Goat, unable to even get to the World Series since 1945. Cleveland has had to endure the Curse of Rocky Colavito, which has not only ruined their ability to win the World Series, but has effected their player development as well.
And now, we have a new curse on our hands. The Twins have lost an American postseason record 18 consecutive games, and have a 2-24 record in the playoffs since letting Ortiz go. The Yankees, in particular, have been a thorn in the Twins’ side, handing the franchise 13 of those losses. Ortiz, meanwhile, had a lifetime .303/.394/.567 batting line with 53 homers and 75 doubles, driving in 171 runs, in 1055 plate appearances against New York. He could have made a difference.
Instead, Ortiz’s departure has to leave Twins’ fans wondering what could have been. He could have made a difference in their ongoing struggles against the Yankees. He could have made a difference in any of those 18 consecutive losses. But instead, it is possible to point to his departure as the moment that the Twins’ postseason fortunes took a turn for the worse.
The Minnesota Twins now have their own playoff curse – The Curse of David Ortiz. It does not show any signs of going away in the near future.