No Country for Old Men

Not a great day for former Twins.

Bit by little bit those few, those happy few, that band of scrappy brothers known as the Twins Revival Team have fallen by the wayside. Sure there's the odd hanger on (though David Ortiz may not have much left, and JC Romero's got steroid problems and even AJ's job is threatened by another punk kid) and even a few still thriving (see: Hunter, Torii/Santana, Johan), but these guys remind us that it's a very short life at the top. You get a couple years to do some great things, then a life time to reminisce.

These were the guys who made the Twins the hot ticket in Minnesota again. And while there was a short span there where all three Twin Cities teams had a shot...the Twins survived, and thrived, and while you can credit shrewd management, a brilliant farm system and a manager with potentially magical powers, some credit must go to these guys. To Douggy M., to Goozy and AJ and the Soul Patrol (not to mention the Pole Patrol) we raise our glasses.

One for us. And One for our Homies.


The Good, the Bad, and the Opportunity Costs


One of my favorite pastimes is taking credit for things I have little or nothing to do with, so I'm pretty sure that Joe Mauer's contract extension is a direct result of me wearing my "Long Live Chairman Mauer" t-shirt all day on Sunday.

I've also noticed there are a lot of haters out there. Said haters seem to fall into two camps:
1) Those who are jealous that Mauer will never play for their team.
2) Those who think we spent too much and therefore disagree that the Twins signing Mauer is a positive sign not only for the Twins but for small market teams in general.

To (1) I would say - meh. Too bad for you.

To (2) I would say - yes. It's an expensive contract, there's no denying that $184 million over 8 years is a whole lot of money. As my esteemed colleague pointed out, this is a Yankee-level contract. While I agree that it's hard to argue that Mauer took a Hometown Discount, it's also hard to argue that the Yankees (or the Red Sox, etc.) wouldn't have offered him more.

It is also true that the Twins currently have the advantage of a new stadium and the revenue streams that come along with it, and are therefore in a better position than other small-market teams to afford to keep their star player. Still, $23 million is a lot for any small market team to spend on one player, and it shows that the Twins are willing to make some sacrifices to keep a player they really care about.

I won't lie - I'd become a little disillusioned with Major League Baseball. Small markets with excellent management and great players (MN, St. Louis, etc.) were starting to seem like glorified farm systems for...certain teams whose names start with Y and rhyme with Stanky. We watched it happen with Torii, and with Johann, and it felt like the powers that be didn't care at all about having a winning team or, perhaps more importantly, about goodwill with their fans. Signing Mauer, even though they likely have to make some sacrifices in order to do so, indicates otherwise.

Imagine the fan reaction if the Twins had let Joe go. I would have even had a tough time making it to Target Field this year, and that's saying something. Signing Joe was expensive, but the opportunity cost of making legions of fans feel betrayed could have been much worse, and the goodwill gained by signing him is invaluable.


I'm starting to feel like we're the victims of some bizzare Tommy John curse. Maybe Bill Smith has been using the numbers for their draft picks? Either way, we're three for three in 2008, 2009 and now 2010, losing a key member of our pitching staff every year to Tommy John surgery. Something, as the melancholy dane would say, is rotten in the state of Lutefisk.


And finally - as much as I hate to say it - the other opportunity cost. I'm worried that signing Joe, as great as it is, does not bode well for our ability to hang on to a certain shapely-buttoxed Canadian. If we're spending this much on Joe, our chances of being able to afford Justin when the time comes are not that great.

OK happy note.

YAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!! Joe Mauer saves baseball!!!! Yaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!


Identity Crisis!

By now, you've seen all those other sites (you know, the ones with that "news and analysis" stuff) talking about the big time Twins news from the weekend, but just in case you haven't:
1) Joe Mauer signed an 8 year contract for $184 million dollars, the Naniboujou Lodge and as many cows as we can all steal from Wisconsin.
1a) Joe Nathan's elbow managed to resist our cuteness/magic barrage and remain injured, meaning that our beloved dread pirate will be stranded on an island with rum and sunshine for the rest of the season.

These stories were all over the interwebs: ESPN.com, CNNSi, even the New York times covered it. All this, for little ol' us. And it begs the question--if the Twins are the subject of media scrutiny, if the Twins shell out the 3rd largest contract in Major League history, if the Twins are a topic of conversation across the nation...are we really a scrappy little bunch of underdogs any more?

Yes. Yes we are. But we're a special kind of underdog--and to prove my point, look no further than the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament--better known as Smarch Smadness*

*Note: If I remove the "S"s I have to pay CBS royalties...that ain't gonna happen

The only thing that can distract us from the lazy bliss of spring training is the frenetic glee of buzzer-beating college basketball, especially when those buzzer-beaters lift up nerdy kids like us over the athletically gifted individuals like...everybody else. And while college basketball, with its unpaid athletes, and high scores and orange ball is not EXACTLY like baseball, this recent trend of opportunity seems familiar.

The increased parity makes the tournament exciting--just like the fact that the Yankees have only 1 World Series in the last 10 years. The scrappy underdogs inspire pride in even casual fans--just like the Rays did two years ago, and the Rockies did three years ago. And what's more sometimes--just sometimes--a team gets so big for its britches that it almost becomes A CONTENDER!

Like the Twins the Gonzaga Bulldogs should not be able to compete on a level with the big name programs--they have neither the prestige, nor the name recognition, nor the hazy moral compass necessary to compete in the big time. (Seriously, if there were recruiting violations at Gonzaga a nun would come by and whack the coach on the knuckles, just like Ron Gardenhire's mom would shake her finger at the Twins should they start cheating.) They even have an adorable mascot which tries to look menacing and just can't do it--like our own Cuddly little piranhas.

Yet both teams compete. Year after year after year, Gonzaga rankd as one of the best teams in the country, they keep up against all odds and make the postseason as often as the prestige squads. (Also like the Twins, they don't usually win many games in the postseason.) And yet, for all that success the Bulldogs and others like them (the Butler Bulldogs, the St. Mary's Gaels, the Xavier Musketeers, etc.) don't get the same respect that the not very good teams with great name recognition receive (looking in your direction Indiana Hoosiers/Chicago Cubs).

So for anyone who wonders whether or not we are now a "Marquis Franchise" just because we're all over the news and are officially spending enough to buy more than 100 Diamond Fruitcakes (pictured Left, retail price 1.65 Million--and no, I still wouldn't eat it), just remember the Gonzaga Bulldogs, we might look like a big team, and get talked about like a big team, but just wait 'till June, the media coverage will be gone, the fuss over the dollars will be dissipated and all that will be left is our scrappy squad of players and Gnome-esque manager. We might not be a "Marquis Franchise" yet, but we're also not the baseball equivalent of Northeast Louisiana School of Farming Equipment and Hair Design (The Fighting Perms!). We're a mid-major, we're baseball's Gonzaga, and we'll take that.


Dread Pirate in Peril!

OK - I trying not to panic too much. But come on...seriously...when you hear the words "Joe Nathan trying to avoid season-ending surgery," one's first instinct is pretty much to give up hope on the world and retreat into a land of listening to emotionally-riddled Celine Dion songs and eating pint after pint of ice cream.

But I don't want to do that. Primarily because it isn't quite ice cream weather yet.

So I did the logical thing, and made a list of best-and worst-case scenarios.

- Joe Nathan's elbow is magically repaired by Harry Potter and/or Gandalf.
- Joe Mauer, realizing that the Twins have access to magical healing powers, immediately signs a gazillion year contract.
- The Twins win the world series for at least 6 years in a row.
- After 6 years of winning they start to feel a bit like World-Series Monopolists, and magnanimously decide to let the Pirates win one.
- World Peace immediately follows.

- Nathan needs surgery.
- In his absence, we reverse our Milwaukee trade to bring Carlos back, and put him in as our closer, because why not?
- Carlos's pitches become a massive funnel cloud which engulfs Target Field and most of downtown Minneapolis.
- The Yankees take over the world.
- Everything sucks.

Needless to say, I'm really hoping for the scenario that does not involve surgery or evil vampires taking over the world. I also really like wizards.

I'm also pretty sure DP Nathan enjoys adorable puppies, so here's hoping he sees this and his elbow is mended by cuteness:


Delmon Young and the case of the foolishly high hopes

I like Spring Training, even though there are no games and therefore very little to watch or scream about (unless you live in Florida/Arizona in which case, thanks for rubbing it in). I think the main reason I like spring training is that news paper guys have nothing bad to say about anyone.

During spring training everybody's primed for a career year, every team is confident that their rotation will come together, everybody think they have the hot prospect who's going to revolutionize the game, everyone truly believes that maybe, JUST MAYBE, with a little luck and a couple surprises they could win the whole thing and prove that their manager is a genius. And all the columns reflect this optimism.

Come opening day all the expectations run out on to the field and slowly, surely reality sets in. Cincinnati is Cincinnati is Cincinnati and no amount of optimism is going to change that (prove me wrong, AROLDIS CHAPMAN!!). As the games go by and the season builds up, all the optimism and positive thinking fades away and we get new stories about crumbums with no talent in the rotation, overpaid bonus babies whose bubble bursts under the bright lights of the big time, and hot seats from sea to shining sea as one by one squads fall out of the race.

I was thinking about this because I've been reading about a player who is quite confusing to us here at the Peanuts from Heaven blog. A man by the name of Delmon Damarcus Young.

Now Delmondo (as we sometimes like to call him) is something of a special case. Since he joined the team, there has been a large amount of complaining, whining and full-on fulmination regarding his ability (or lack thereof). And while many of our fellow Twins fans believe that he is a--well--it rhymes with "Duck-Wad"-- we here at Peanuts from Heaven disagree.

Stinky believes that he's a fine human being who simply can't quite play baseball as well as some other guys (he does play it better than 99% of the populace though, so she will shake her head and sigh but never EVER boo/curse him). I, Scruffy, have a different opinion. I believe, TRULY believe that somehow, someway Delmon Young can still become a GREAT player.

I own a Delmon Young jersey and wear it with pride. I try to give Delmon special character traits on the blog that make him seem like less of a "Guck-wad" and more of an amusing young fella. And so I'm very very very very excited by reports that Delmon seems to have put his past (and his cheeseburgers) behind him, and may at last be smiling and "where he should have been 5 years ago". He's even cracking jokes--FUNNY ONES!

And yet, the cynical can read this, yawn and say: "heard it before!" They are done with Delmon, they see him as the Lucy to our Charlie Brown, perpetually offering the possibility of glory only to pull it away at the last second. In their minds every promise of maturity, every claim of turning the corner ever chance that this time MAYBE it will work out is fundamentally flawed. They call this feeling: "Realism". My mom calls it: "Poopy-pantsitude".

Me? I'm fully of blind hope and optimism, full of eager anticipation, full of the dream, impossible though it may seem that this is the year that Delmon reaches his potential, that this team reaches its potential, that everything comes to fruition and all is right with the world. Call it silly, call it childish, call it nothing more than spring fever which will fade (along with Delmon) when summer comes. Call it what you will, I'm much happier with my hopes than I'd ever be with your "realism".