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...
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This page was last modified on August 26, 2011.
"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 3004 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
A closer look at the louvers
This view looks through the opening in the fence where the crosswalk will be.
Seventh Street windows
Walkway entrance from ramp
The outline of an infield has appeared on the asphalt in advance of the ground-breaking on Thursday night.
Another deck to come...
The season was perfectly bookended by Mick Sterling on the plaza
You'll be able to park here for a quick stop at the Pro Shop or ticket window.
Somebody asked how long it would be before the tarp had a sponsor. Well, not very long.
Items promoting the Twins 2014 All-Star Game bid. I got to bring one of these buckets home, and Noah got his first-ever taste of Cracker Jacks.
The back row of seats in straight-away center. Note that, beyond those seats, you can see the planters (for flowers) on the front of the Left Field Bleachers.(Batters Eye)
Steel going up fast.
Note that, even though the scoreboard appears strategically placed, it's the outfield stands which block any potential view of the field from this roof.
You have to wonder just what happened here. Will it remain forever embedded in cement?
Click to enlarge greatly.
Click to enlarge. (Photo by Jared Wieseler)
Look closely and you'll see limestone on the front of the press box!
Dugout Box and Champion's Club sections are sequestered by separate moats
This would have been the HERC side, though it's unclear just how far over the plant the retracted roof would have gone. My fear was always that they would have to shorten the track and more of the roof would have stayed over the ballpark. The only good retractable roof is one which disappears when not in use. I don't think they could have realistically created such a thing.
Photo by Jared Wieseler
Sue Nelson, and her organ, in one of the Twins Pubs
Ullger warms up.
Also from the B ramp entrance off of Third, a look up at the tiny crack between ballpark and parking ramp
Just up the foul line, it looks like the base of the wall in foul territory on the right side.
We bumped into Jerry Bell (at right)!
Looking out from under Gate 34
(Click to enlarge.)
Click to enlarge.
Photo by Jeff Ewer
July 7, 1966 (Click to see the entire scorecard with ads)