As I sit at the keyboard this morning, the last morning of this century’s first decade, I came up with the decade’s top story. It’s not too difficult to do based on the fact I live in Minnesota, the ground covered in its white blanket until April, the poor little birds at my feeding stations outside my windows, and my backyard temperature at a mild minus 5 degrees. Therefore, I dream of better times. What could be better than baseball, Minnesota Twins baseball?
The Minnesota Twins were the winningest team in the American League in the 1960’s. Always played good ball. They had better than average pitching and always were a great hitting team. In the mid to late ’60’s, the Twins, under Calvin Griffith, had the highest payroll in the majors! With that being said, Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva didn’t get their first 100K contracts until 1969!
Jump forward to the present decade. The Twins this whole decade have been in the bottom quarter of total team payroll. Yet, they have managed to win the division several times this decade. They missed the division championship by one game in 2008 when they lost a tie-breaker game to the White Sox, 1 to 0. The game was in Chicago because of a coin toss. Had present rules been in place, the Twins would have hosted the game based on tie-breaker criteria. The Twins this decade, in spite of being handcuffed by salary limitations, had a couple Cy Young Award winners, a couple MVP winners, three batting champions, and numerous Gold Glove winners. This is testimony to the teams excellent scouting and player development programs. They have become the model for the other Major League franchises to follow. Being a small city franchise has other major draw backs. Lack of the “east coast media” spotlight hurts the team’s ability to place players on the All-Star team. It’s killed Ron Gardenhire’s chance to win top manager awards, even though most baseball insiders agree that he is probably the best manager in baseball. The team’s previous general manager, Terry Ryan, did win the top GM award in the early decade once. The present GM, Bill Smith, not so good. But, the trade he pulled off in October, Carlos Gomez for JJ Harty, I think, will prove to be huge. That, of course, is assuming Harty returns to his old form! The other amazing aspect to this team of the decade is the attempt by Bud Selig, MLB commissioner, and owner Carl Pohlad to contract the team out of existence! This followed many failed attempts to sell and/or move the team to North Carolina, New Orleans, or Las Vegas. The next season, the Twins went on to win the division going away. A tribute to the resiliency and grit of this team and manager Gardenhire.
The Twins lost some key members of the family this decade. Owner Carl Pohlad and his wife, Eloise, beloved superstar Kirby Puckett, radio voice of the Twins since 1961, Herb Carneal, and the best stadium announcer in the history of stadium sports, Bob Casey!
The Twins start the new decade in a new stadium, Target Field. It’s a state of the art outdoor stadium. However, after a long protracted fight with the cheapest tax payers in the world, Minnesotans, they got it done with out a retractable roof. Can you imagine watching baseball outdoors in Minnesota in April and September and October? This is clearly insane, but we Minnesotans know best! Every other major league sports city seems to get new facilities with far less trouble, and to specs that are correct, i.e, a cover for stadiums in bad climates. But in Minnesota, we know what’s best! Morons! Some will say that prior to the team moving into the Metrodome, they played outdoors at the old Metropolitan Stadium. Well the season is longer now, into the fall, and because of television, the vast majority of games are played under the lights, thus many nights of sub-freezing temperatures. There were several times at the old Met when games were snowed out in April. The Twins have the largest geographical draw area of any team in the majors. It includes Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, Western Wisconsin, and the provinces in Canada of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. People want to be assured a game will be played when traveling such great distances to enjoy Minnesota Twins baseball. From 1982 through last season, the Minnesota Twins have had the best home field advantage of any team in any major league sport! Now, we’ll be starting over. The Twins rosters have always been built around the Metrodome, speed, pitching , and defense. They will continue to preach and teach excellent fielding and pitching, they are usually near the top in the majors in defense and era and fewest walks in pitching stats. They will need to add more power. I think they will adapt.
Here’s to the Minnesota Twins, the top story of the decade, and to a promising future in their new home! Thank you.