Being in support of something does not necessarily mean you will be happy if it happens.
A whole lot of people -- columnists, analysts, bloggers, pundits, fans -- thought the honorable thing to do, with the Twins out of contention, would be to move Jim Thome and give him a final chance at winning a title. I can't speak for anyone else, but the news that he's leaving the Twins is just about the saddest thing I could have heard, despite knowing it was coming, and even despite knowing it was the right thing to do.
It's the final nail in the lid on a dreadful Twins season -- arguably the most disappointing of all 51 seasons. With 32 games left to play, the joy of watching a great hitter and future Hall-of-Famer has been excised. I can only imagine how it will feel to be in that clubhouse today.
Opening Day, 2011
We're left wondering and pondering what might have been if the Twins had been able to field their major league team this year. That's the scenario where Thome hits number 600 at Target Field during a hot streak in May, and the team rides the adrenaline bump all the way to October.
But I'm also left remembering what it was like to watch Thome come to town as an Indian and thinking how great it would be to have this guy in our line-up. When he first became a free agent in 2002, we even had a moment of imagining him in a Twins uniform. We never seriously thought it would happen (he signed with the Phillies for $12M per year), but we dreamed a little.
Now we've had the guy in town for the better part of two years, and what we imagined about him all turned out to be true. Even as a declining player, he proved his worth, and more.
Slugger. Clubhouse guy. Humble. Professional. Hard-working. Smart. Serious. Funny. Leader. Fine example. Great human.
In 2002, the Twins were still four years away from their ballpark deal, and it was no sure thing. So I've also been wondering how things might have been different if that original 1997 proposal had passed. You remember that one: Retro ballpark on the river with retractable roof. If the deal had gotten done, it would have opened in 2001 or 2002 and the Twins would have been flush with cash at just the moment the perfect potential Twin came on the free agent market.
The Oh's were a great decade for the franchise, but it's easy to imagine how the addition of someone like Thome might have pushed the Twins over that post-season hump.
Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.
We're left to be thankful for the time he's been a Twin. During his tenure, he's taken 5% of the total ABs, but hit 17% of the homers. Without him, the Twins power numbers would be almost non-existant. He led the team in SLG last year, and only Cuddyer is better this year (by .009). (UPDATE: Aaron Gleeman fills in some more of Thome's amazing numbers.)
His effect on a crumbling clubhouse can't really be measured, but steady veteran leadership has been known to lift flailing teams in the past. Admittedly, he's been absent from the team for big chunks of time this year, but the knowledge that he was a weapon due to return has to have had some positive effect.
In the end, it's a minor miracle of circumstance that Thome became a Twin at all. We can be thankful for that. And I'm happy that I already have tickets for the Cleveland series to get a chance to make some noise when he comes to the plate (and hits a homer off one of our September call-ups).
And I can't think of anybody better in all of baseball to have traipsed up to the most distant seat in Target Field just to hold up a Killebrew jersey.
I'll leave you with a hopeful thought: It's still possible to find joy in each individual contest. Doing so involves forgetting about the standings and the out-of-town scoreboard. And what happened yesterday. And who is pitching, or available out of the bullpen. And who is hitting or what their batting averages are. And who is catching, or where Joe Mauer is standing.
Essentially, we fans now have to do pretty much exactly what the players have to do every day of every season.
OK, that's not a very hopeful thought after all. It's a big step down from what we've become accustomed to. But it puts a few things in perspective.
It's still true that any nine-inning game in which 20 or more of the finest players in the world participate is a beautiful thing. (Feel free to insert a snide comment here about some of the lesser-known names which are sure to grace our starting line-ups.)
Of course, this is a defense mechanism only, designed to make using already-purchased tickets more palatable. (I have three more games on my schedule, including 3-year-old Truman's first time to TF tomorrow.)
This approach does not constitute a proposed new marketing strategy. "2012 Twins: Enjoy Today's Game Because It Don't Mean Squat" will probably not work to sell tickets. We're going to need some real hope, and something exciting to watch.
We used to have that, remember?
P.S. Gee, I wonder if there will be any players like that on the free agent market after the season ends...
"You talk about the magic, the aura, but what really makes a stadium is the fans. Concrete doesn't talk back to you. Chairs don't talk back to you. It's the people who are there, day in, day out, that makes the place magic."
– Bernie Williams
Explore the Site
Here are 50 images chosen randomly from the 3037 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
It's pretty easy to see right into the Twins dugout!
B ramp glimpse
This is the LRT bridge under construction as viewed from the east looking west. The ballpark facade would be at the left in this photo.
A whole bunch of guys working on something.
This is a good overview of the spot where the Northstar (bottom) and LRT (top) will intersect.
Note the speakers hanging beneath that deck
The connection from the corner of Seventh Street and Second Avenue. You can now see where the little grassy area and franchise history board will be (the triangular area in the foreground).
Hubert's remains the only sports bar within site of the Dome after 28 years of its existence. It's a cautionary tale.
Click to see the whole page from this 1971 program.
Hardware in the window! (But why are there three trophies? 1924?)
This would be easy to miss, but I found it on a cart located directly behind the Batter's Eye seating on the upper concourse in center field.
Two signs visible from beyond the confines of the ballpark.
Seventh Street windows
This is the view from where the plaza will connect to the walkway on the west side of Target Center. This presumably aids traffic flow back to the A ramp, and perhaps to the skyway connection (though the doors to the skyway right there are typically exit only).
One more exterior view shows that, while the original look was attractive in a way, it seems to be a variation on the look of the Washington ballpark (albeit with a much more coherent collection of elements). What's remarkable is that the design team has refined the concept amazingly well, improving it immeasurably. What we're actually getting is clearly descended from this, but it's in a whole different league:
After the rain. (We were in the wrong spot to see the rainbow...)
Ballpark magic: Infield materializes (click to enlarge)
Home Plate Terrace -- really great seats; maybe my personal, budget-based favorite
You write the caption...
Here's a detail from the above image, showing the LED strips up close.
Looking down Sixth Avenue toward the plaza
Checking out the bike racks on the promenade.
Lots of pix waiting to be seen from Bert's memorable night.
Click to see the whole, beautiful image. (Photo by Tyler Wycoff)
(Click to enlarge.)
Since pictures of the ballpark are forbidden, perhaps you'll enjoy this shot of the lovely apple tree in my front yard.
Staging for the next section (Home Plate Box)
This is the left field pavilion in the original concept model. The restaurant pictured to its right has been moved, and the seating area has been extended at least one full section toward center.