There is enough change every year now to feel like a decade has passed, which means 2010 sometimes seems like a century ago.
Really it was just nine years ago — I promise — and was also the last time the Twins seriously contended for (and won) the American League Central. It was their sixth division title in nine years.
On Aug. 11, 2010, Minnesota was tied for the division lead with the White Sox at 64-50. Maybe it was because it was so long ago … maybe it was because Twins fans were so used to winning back then … maybe it was because the Twins had a veteran-heavy team that seemed like it was on cruise control for the early part of the summer … but I don’t remember the palpable game-to-game angst in 2010 being nearly what it is in 2019.
Perhaps, though, there is a different explanation — or least an addition to those other factors.
A lot has changed in the century of this decade, but one of the most palpable shifts has come via the rise of social media — and Twitter, in particular.
Back in the summer of 2010, there were about 50 million registered Twitter users. That might sound like a lot, but it was far from the 300 million-plus users that exist now (and have existed for a few years).
Most of us who were using the platform at that time were fumbling around with a lot of tweets that ranged from boring to harmless. It was a way to express thoughts, sure, but it wasn’t yet where the second-by-second drama and conversations were unfolding (at least not on a large scale).
It would evolve there quickly, but as Twitter grew the Twins disappeared into the shrubs like that Simpsons gif you’ve likely seen a thousand times by now.
There were four straight 90-loss seasons from 2011-14, and while there was surely angst expressed there was definitely not a feeling of living and dying with every pitch. The 2015 and 2017 seasons were compelling in their own ways, but those weren’t really pennant races. Those were pleasant surprises while chasing the second wild card. Even in 2017 — when the Twins used a hot final two months go make the one-game playoff — the sense of urgency, angst and euphoria of fans on a minute-to-minute basis was not nearly as acute as it is now except for that one fateful October game in New York.
Every game now feels like a Vikings game, which as I noted (or scolded, depending on your view) a month ago is exhausting. We’ve had plenty of chances to experience the Vikings during peak Twitter from the Blair Walsh miss to the 2016 collapse to the 2017 run to the NFC title game to the arrival of Kirk Cousins.
But there are only 16 NFL games in a season. There are slightly more than 10 times as many baseball games. And here we are in 2019, with the Twins in the middle of a ridiculous division race in a surprisingly good season while playing compelling games on a very regular basis in front of an increasingly interested fan base.
Arm those fans with readily available information that makes them smarter (really) and more opinionated (definitely) about strategy … combine that with a culture that is increasingly seeking distraction and escape from the grips of everyday reality … and unleash them on a social platform that unfolds in real time.
This first Twins pennant race of the real Twitter era is a wild ride, to be sure. And it’s probably the new normal, even if the pace of change means we usually don’t figure out what is normal until a different normal has already replaced it.