As a guy who spent four years studying journalism in college, I appreciate good reporting. I think we Twins fans are pretty lucky to have a wide range of talented reporters covering our favorite team. I may have my quibbles with the lack of scrutiny applied at times, but in general I do believe that the local media do a great job of cultivating this region's interest in major-league baseball, for which the Twins should be grateful.
Of all the folks covering this team, there might not be anyone who does it better than Phil Mackey. Despite being a full-time radio host for ESPN-1500 who's not yet 30 years old, Mackey dominates the Twins beat, feeding hungry fans a wealth of inside information and flavoring his analysis with equal parts stat-savvy and digestibility.
He's gained a lot of credibility within the fan base – a fan base that has been starved for positives after an absolutely miserable first third of the season. So when Mackey boldly predicted a division title 10 days ago with two words, "It's happening," a meme was born.
Fans readily clung to the hopeful message. As the team kept winning – six straight after his initial tweet – P-Mac cultivated his catchphrase, dropping the #ItsHappening hash tag after nearly every break that went the Twins' way and maintaining his shtick with Patrick Reusse on their mid-day talk show.
Now, I'm hearing from fans everywhere that "It's Happening." The radio station has created a website dedicated to the phrase, where they've already got t-shirts printed up for sale. Fellow media types and even players on the team have latched onto the newly hatched slogan.
I suspect Mackey, a whiz with numbers, is fully cognizant that after a catastrophic first two months the Twins' odds of making the playoffs remain jarringly slim; that they'd have to overcome significant flaws and win at a higher rate than any club in baseball has up to this point in order to take the division (barring complete meltdowns from every other AL Central contender).
But he saw an opportunity to create a storyline that fans could embrace, and they have done just that. Mackey's lifelong affinity for pro wrestling sometimes shows through; I suspect that's why he makes for such a compelling radio host.
Even if it's often put forth with a twinge of sarcasm by P-Mac and others, the catchphrase – or, more accurately, the attitude behind it – is taking over Twins Territory, despite losses the past two days. We've seen this club erase some pretty major deficits over the years, and they gradually seem to be moving back toward full health. After moving eight games closer to first place in just a few weeks, anything seems possible. People are ready to believe.
Myself? I certainly want to believe. I've enjoyed the heck out of this month's run, but I'm also not blinded by it. The rotation won't keep chugging along like this forever, and while Michael Cuddyer is on a ridiculous tear there are a lot of problems with this offense.
Having said that, there's no denying that the Twins have put themselves back in the picture and retaken control of their fate. They trail three teams in the division, but they've got a lot of games left against those teams. If they're up to the challenge, the path is laid out for one of the most dramatic comebacks in baseball history. Several things need to happen in order for that challenge to be met, and next week I'll write about some of those things.
All in all, I'm digging the optimism and hope that have reinvigorated the fan base. Twins baseball is fun again. Nevertheless, I could do without the hackneyed "It's Happening" slogan for a while -- at least until Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau shows a pulse.