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Sports Tonight: Minnesota Twins show there's hope for miracle turnarounds

John Smallwood, STAFF COLUMNIST

Updated: Tuesday, October 3, 2017, 3:29 PM

The Minnesota Twins celebrate making the playoff's after a game against the Indians on Thursday.

For much of the past two seasons, the Houston Astros have been pointed to as the model to follow in rebuilding the Phillies.

Oklahoma City Thunder's Paul George (13), Russell Westbrook (0) and Carmelo Anthony (7) pose for photos during an NBA basketball media day in Oklahoma City, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) Sue Ogrocki / AP
Philadelphia Flyers' Wayne Simmonds, left, congratulates Jakub Voracek after he scored a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Saturday, April 8, 2017, in Philadelphia. Simmonds was credited with an assist on the goal.(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek) . TOM MIHALEK / AP
Lauren Hart raises her arm after signing the national anthem before the Flyers played the New York Rangers on Friday, November 25, 2016 in Philadelphia. The Flyers lost to the Rangers 3-2. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer Yong Kim / Staff Photographer
Photo Gallery: Sports Tonight: Minnesota Twins show there's hope for miracle turnarounds

And when they go from 70 wins in 2014 to 101 in 2017 with two playoff appearances, who would argue the Astros’ way?

Still tonight, when the Minnesota Twins play at the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card game at 8 on ESPN, Phillies fans can get another look at a team that made a drastic jump.

In 2016, the Twins lost 103 games and finished with the worst record in baseball. Now, Minnesota is the first franchise in history to make the playoffs the season after losing 100 games. Hey, the Phillies lost only 96 games.

Of course, the Twins don’t offer a “quick-fix” plan to follow for how they got here. Their roster includes 14 players who were drafted or were international signings, but there are no break-through rookies who changed the dynamic of the 100-loss team. Minnesota also did not make a big trade or dip heavily in the free-agent market.

“I don’t think anybody expected to advance to postseason play,” Twins president Dave St. Peter said. “We did have high hopes that we could be markedly better than a year ago, but let’s be honest, that’s not really saying much.”

Phillies fans just gotta believe.

Oklahoma City Thunder's Paul George (13), Russell Westbrook (0) and Carmelo Anthony (7) pose for photos during an NBA basketball media day in Oklahoma City, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

It’s just a preseason game, but when the Houston Rockets play at the Oklahoma City Thunder at 8 on NBA TV, it will be a first look at the two most intriguing teams for the 2017-18 season.

No team has made bigger “all-in” wagers to run down the Golden State Warriors than the Thunder and Rockets. Boston made big moves, too, but trading for Kyrie Irving and signing Gordon Heyward were also long-term decisions.

The Rockets traded half their roster and a first-round pick to the Los Angeles Clippers for an aging Chris Paul. If Paul and $228 million man James Harden don’t mesh, the franchise is headed to purgatory.

The Thunder took a safer gamble in acquiring All-Star Paul George from Indiana, even though he can opt out after the season. Eating the $54 million owed to Carmelo Anthony, however, will be hard to digest if OKC, which also has MVP Russell Westbrook, can’t challenge Golden State.

Philadelphia Flyers' Wayne Simmonds, left, congratulates Jakub Voracek after he scored a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Saturday, April 8, 2017, in Philadelphia. Simmonds was credited with an assist on the goal.(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek) .

Veteran players are expected to lead, with the Flyers opening the 2017-18 season Wednesday with several young players expected to make strong contributions. Staff writer Sam Donnellon talks to captain Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek about their responsibilities in helping make sure that happens.

Clearly, the Phillies aren’t counting on increasing season-ticket sales for 2018. Two days after the season ended, Phillies president of baseball operations Lee McPhail says the plan is for a “relatively low payroll” next season.

The Eagles made some key veteran additions during the off-season. Staff writer Zach Berman says that many have played a large role in the Birds’ 3-1 start.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is taking a beating. Bob McManaman of azcentral sports writes that Palmer is on pace to join some of the most sacked quarterbacks ever.

Yardbarker has put together the 20 most intriguing players in baseball for 2018. Guess which Phillie makes the slide show?

Zach Lowe of NBA League Pass has some unique criteria for his “Must Watch Teams’ for 2017-18, but the Sixers apparently score high on a lot of them.

Lonzo Ball survived his meddling father, LaVar, to make it to UCLA for one season and then be selected No.2 overall in the 2017 NBA draft. His younger brother LaMelo won’t be as lucky. Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times talks to LaVar about the decision to home-school LaMelo, a high school junior.

Lauren Hart raises her arm after signing the national anthem before the Flyers played the New York Rangers on Friday, November 25, 2016 in Philadelphia. The Flyers lost to the Rangers 3-2. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer

For more than two decades, I’ve understood the backlash you can get when writing about social issues — especially when bringing them into the realm of sports.

I accept that because I have to be true to my convictions. To me, it’s a fair consequence of my desire to say what I feel needs to be said.

I hope Lauren Hart thought about what she jumped into. The long-time singer of the national anthem for the Flyers made a well-reasoned statement about the current debate over the national anthem, athletes’ kneeling, and the misunderstandings the protest have generated.

I could be wrong, but personal experience tells me Hart will get more than a few negative reactions; some will be personal and nasty.

It won’t matter to some that Hart actually came out 100 percent in support of the anthem. She had the audacity to ask people to consider why a grown man feels he must kneel silently to be heard.

Hart wrote a reasoned commentary on a subject in which many don’t want to allow reason to become part of the conversation.

Tonight’s schedule TV/Radio

AL Wild Card
Twins at Yankees, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Preseason Basketball
Rockets vs. Thunder, 8 p.m. (NBA TV)
Suns at Blazers, 10 p.m. (NBA TV)
Raptors vs. Clippers, 1 a.m. Wednesday (NBA TV)

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John Smallwood, STAFF COLUMNIST

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