November 2, 2012 11:24 AM
Saying goodbye to the baseball season is always hard, but some years are harder than others. This is not one of those years. Goodbye, 2012! Adios! Aloha! Shalom! I'll think about you again...someday...maybe...
When I do think about it again in a couple of years, what I'll remember about 2012 is that the Twins were out of things pretty quickly -- both on the small scale (games) and the large scale (standings) -- and weren't a whole lot of fun to watch most of the time.
Nats win! (August 17, 2012)
I didn't fully realize this until I went to Washington, DC in August.
Nationals Park, in its bones, is pretty much a clone of Target Field -- or is it the other way around? There are lots of differences in details, of course, but walking around the upper concourse in Washington was a lot like walking around the upper concourse here. Same for the main concourse and club areas.
There were some unique spaces, but after a while, all the "unique spaces" begin to look alike. Sitting in one upper deck is pretty much the same experience as the other -- with one noticeable exception: The play on the field in Washington was a whole lot more fun to watch.
There was a snap to everything the Nationals did. Every pitch seemingly had purpose. Every swing of the bat seemed well-advised. Taking pitches seemed like more than just the absence of a swing. There was a deliberateness in both offense and defense, and definitely in pitching. Somehow scoring runs always seemed imminent, and keeping the other team (the Mets) off the board always seemed possible. A runner on first with one out? You didn't even consider the possibility of a double-play (and it didn't happen).
That night, like the Twins many times this year, the Nats gave up a couple of quick runs in the first. Unlike the Twins, that didn't seem to change them in the least. By their manner of play, they simply refused to give the momentum to their opponent. They played with great confidence -- swagger, if you will -- as if they already had the lead, and once they scored (four runs in the fourth), the Nationals laid claim to the field and held the now-real momentum through the rest of the game.
At every moment, they played like a team that had decided they were going to win the game. And to no one's surprise, they did. It was a blast to watch.
I experienced some of the same thing in watching the playoffs. The first rounds were genuinely exciting, a reminder of why we love baseball in the first place. (Unfortunately, all of that early excitement made the 2012 World Series seem like sort of a yawner. Unless you are a fan of the winning club, sweeps are always a drag.)
John Bonnes has an excellent (and very substantial) interview with Terry Ryan in the TwinsCentric Offseason Handbook (a must-have at $9.95). Ryan, having just surrendered the "interim" from his title, sounds like someone who really does understand what needs to be done to bring the Twins back to contention -- at least in theory.
And while Ryan is wise enough to know that he can't engineer chemistry or swagger or excitement, I do wonder if the organization as a whole recognizes that these are essential elements of any overhaul. Put simply, adding a few decent pitchers and maybe "some competition for Trevor Plouffe at third" is not going to get this team from workmanlike to exciting. In fact, no amount of just shuffling players or coaches around (I fear that's what they've done) will take this team to the next level.
This is where over-reliance on the numbers -- any numbers -- is a big mistake. As hard as this is to say, in terms of pure excitement, Joe Mauer is no Buster Posey (or Pick-Your-Favorite-Molina). Justin Morneau is no Prince Fielder. Denard Span is no Bryce Harper. Glen Perkins is no Sergio Romo (maybe if he dyed his beard...). And you can search high and low in the Twins clubhouse and you won't find a Brett Gardner anywhere.
These are the types of players who make a team exciting to watch, primarily because they lift everyone else around them. Where would the Twins be if they had Brian Wilson or Hunter Pence in their dugout? Scoff if you will, but that's why guys like Torii Hunter and Mike Redmond and Nick Punto are still missed (unfortunately for the Red Sox, not even Punto's endless enthusiasm could overcome Bobby Valentine; fortunately for the Marlins, Redmond will be back on a big stage next year).
Two of my favorite Twins
The Twins have shown long stretches of confident and exciting baseball in the past decade or so, most notably in 2001 when the team's snappy style of play saved the franchise and almost single-handedly paved the road to Target Field. And there is at least some excitement already in the Twins clubhouse. Ben Revere, my new favorite Twin, is one such player, and there would be some wisdom in building the New Twins around what he brings -- but hurry! After a couple of seasons of the currently-banal Twins Way, even the most exciting players begin to lose it.
Ryan does not need to make deals, he needs to make splashes (signing Greinke would do). He doesn't just need to find pitchers and hitters and fielders, he needs to find leaders and spark plugs and swagger. And he mustn't let anybody talk him out of players who are exciting to watch but "don't fit" for some weird reason (on which team would Brian Wilson not be a freak?). That has happened way too often to this franchise.
When this team next takes the field on April 1, my hope is that they can actually believe they will still be standing late in October. If that isn't the case, none of the offseason moves will matter. No amount of spin or explaining or coaching or natural improvement or off-season conditioning can be the ingredient which will lift this team beyond its dismal past two years.
Speaking of "dismal", only one of us managed to pick the World Series winner in advance, so congratulations to FD on winning the Playoff Challenge for the second year in a row! He and runners-up DeePee and Stevie B will all be receiving prizes.
Did anyone else notice that this year's World Series featured two teams which were founding members of their respective leagues, but had never met in the World Series before?
You may remember that there were eight teams in each league when the first actual World Series was played in 1903. That means there were 64 possible combinations until 1961, when the expansion era started. (Can you name the first expansion team in each league to play in the Series? Answers at the end.)
Of those combinations, 21 have still never happened. Tigers and Dodgers? Tigers and Braves? A's and Pirates? They all sound like plausible match-ups since each team has had periods of dominance -- just like Tigers-Giants sounded -- but none have happened. (Can you name the most frequent match-up in WS history? Answer below.)
I'm sure it won't surprise you to learn that the Yankees have already played all of the original NL teams (plus four of the eight NL expansion teams) in the Series at some point. But it may surprise you to learn that the Red Sox have been in the World Series enough times to also have played all but one of those original teams. (Can you name the missing one? See below.) The Cardinals, who until very recently were second only to the Yankees in WS appearances (after this year they're third behind the Giants), have never met either the Indians or White Sox there. The Giants now have only one original AL team left to meet, and it could have also happened this year: the Orioles.
If you don't want to scroll down for the answers, you can explore the history of World Series match-ups with this handy PDF grid.
Congratulations to the 2012 "World Series Champions" (you're going to need to modify that sign -- and not just to add a year)
One final observation from the actual series. Have you noticed the very subtle language change in describing the winner? At no time were the Giants referred to as "world champions." To the contrary, they were always referred to as the "World Series champions."
The difference is not merely linguistic or academic, and I'm sure it's not coincidental. The phrase "world champions" implies "best team in the world" or maybe "most successful team in the world". But the phrase "World Series champions" implies no such thing. In fact, all it means is, "winner of the World Series."
No one can deny that the MLB post-season is no longer about determining which team is the best. It's about determining which team is the hottest (and, perhaps, luckiest) at the current moment. There is certainly a required level of excellence to get into the playoffs, and the level of play is not in question, but the notion of using the playoffs to determine the best overall team disappeared a long time ago (probably 1969; sorry, Miracle Mets -- oops, I just gave away one of the answers).
Given the ascendance (and somewhat baffling recurrence) of the World Baseball Classic, combined with the expansion of the playoffs to second- and now third-place teams, there's no way the language change could be coincidence. Someone somewhere within MLB realized that they needed to stop claiming "world champ" status for the WS winner, and Buck and McCarver were given their marching orders. They were flawless. (If you think you heard otherwise, I would not be able to dispute your claim. I did not watch every inning of every game. But the phrase caught my ear early, and I started paying attention. In the time I was listening, they never wavered. Not once. And the change was also retroactive to the 2011 Cardinals whenever they were mentioned.)
I have more winners to announce next time from games you entered very early in the season. Ah, we were so foolish in our youth...
A couple of nights ago, while getting in the car after dinner out, I had a fleeting thought: "It's just about game time. I wonder who the boys are playing tonight."
The sun was still coloring the sky from just below the horizon, and I flashed on several great sunsets I watched during games out at the Railyard this summer. The Twins may not have been great, but the ballpark still is, and just watching the Great Game being played in the waning sunlight is certainly one of life's pleasures.
Hey, I said I won't miss the 2012 season. Of course, I will miss the game.
Answers: First expansion NL team: Mets in 1969. First expansion AL team: Royals in 1980. The Yankees have met the Dodgers in the WS an astounding 11 times, and the Giants 7 times. If you include the 2000 series with the Mets, there have been 14 all-New York Series, including two when the Series never left the Polo Grounds. Additional all-city series were Cubs-White Sox in 1906, and Cardinals-Browns in 1944, which was played entirely at Sportsman's Park. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have never played their former cross-town rival Braves in the World Series. In an odd twist, the Braves played their 1914 WS games at brand new Fenway Park. But in the two years immediately following, the Red Sox played their WS games at brand new Braves Field. Ah, Boston.
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This page was last modified on November 2, 2012.
"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 3045 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
I love this view of the Basilica.
Shh. Don't tell those people working behind the ticket windows about these automated ticketing machines (underneath the plaza stairs)
I'll admit that this makes me nervous. It's pretty easy to step into the path of a train (which is true at various points along the line, but still...)
This view is from the roof of a warehouse which stood where the A ramp is today. The HERC is now located where the tracks turned north (toward the top).
Click to enlarge.
The green in question (click for very large version)
This is the revised version of the center field pavilion (without the restaurant). It looks like there are no seats, just some ledges for people to sit on. It reminds me of the seating on the "bridge" which sticks out of the new Guthrie Theater. Anything which lands in the trees will presumably be a home run, so the "411" sign is apparently just for fun.
These outfield stands will likely remain visible to passersby.
In addition to the Pro Shop facade, you can see more gravel being laid before the final plaza surface is poured.
That is the gun-metal gray wall of The Stadium just beyond the elevated tracks.
Look beyond the gigantic hand (a hounds tooth jacket? really?) and you'll get a glimpse of the main grandstand configuration. The two (or is it three?) levels of suites are visible, as is the design of the so-called "split upper deck," and the extensive use of limestone for decorative accents. Let's hope these little touches don't get cut as costs increase, because they make a nice tie-in from the outside of the park to the inside. Of most interest to me is the way that the very best seats are physically separated from all the rest of the seats by that limestone. There will be virtually no way to sneak into these seats. On one level, that's a somewhat sad design feature...
The reverse angle shows that the signage will only partially obscure views from the top of the ramp. The wall is pretty high up there, so you'll need something to stand on, but it appears that this is one of the so-called "knotholes".
June 29,1936 - May 17, 2011
A close-up of the rooftop party deck.
Click to enlarge greatly
Two plazas in Spain. (Brad and I were pretending to steal coins from the fountain. We were all just so darn funny back in high school, eh?)
The brick has been tinted where the circulation ramp meets the admin building.
The louvres on Fifth have been completely filled in
A spot that's always full!
Click to see the whole, beautiful image. (Photo by Tyler Wycoff)
(Click to enlarge greatly)
From the ground beneath the troubled skyway.
One of the sweetest sights of the day -- the Dome, and only through passing bus windows.
Above the Carew gate
The Puckett Atrium
This was actually taken from the top floor of the International Market Square.
Viewed from up Sixth Street, the tip of the canopy looks like the claw of some gigantic crustacean!
The tracks on the right will be moved to the newly-cleared area on the left. The edge of the ballpark will be about where the rocks and dirt meet.
This is one complicated streetscape.
I love views like this. They show just how much Target Field shimmers. (Photo by Jeff Ewer)
Here's the view from the main concourse out through Gate 3 "Killebrew".
BPM - Ballpark Magic
BRT - Bus Rapid Transit
DSP - Dave St. Peter
FSE - Full Season Equivalent
FYS - Fake Yankee Stadium (see also: NYS)
HERC - Hennepin Energy Resource Company (aka the Garbage Burner)
HPB - Home Plate Box
HRP - Home Run Porch
LC - Legends Club
LRT - Light Rail Transit
MBA - Minnesota Ballpark Authority (will own Target Field)
MOA - Mall of America
MSFC - Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission (owns the Metrodome)
NYS - New Yankee Stadium
SRO - Standing Room Only
STH - Season Ticket Holder
TCFBS - TCF Bank Stadium
TF - Target Field
Selected Bibliography - Analysis
First Edition (1992)
Second Edition (2006)
Selected Bibliography - Surveys
Second Edition (1987)
Not a "Third Edition" exactly,
but it replaced the above title
(2000, large coffee table)
Original edition (2000, round)
Revised edition (2006, round)
(2001, medium coffee table)
(2002, small coffee table)
(2003, medium coffee table)
(2004, very large coffee table)
(2006, very large coffee table)
Combines the previous two titles
(2007, medium coffee table)
Selected Bibliography - Nostalgia
Book and six ballpark miniatures