Our Love Don't Cost a Thing

The long baseball season is finally over, and this year it felt especially long. The Twins stunk...clearly and badly...like moldy limburger, like fermented clouds of Axe Bodyspray, like Scott Boras' soul....they stank, stunk, stinked.

And yet we watched as much as we could. We cheered when they did well, and shook our heads disappointedly after loss 99 just like we did after loss number 1. We found reasons to cheer: a few solid whacks by Mauer and Thome, slick fielding by Denard and Ben Revere, amazing pitching from Liriano and Nathan and of course the innumerable contributions of Plouffe, Hughes, Perkins, Tosoni, Oliveros, Rivera and a bunch of other names we never thought we'd say when the season began.

So, no matter what else happens, we love the Twins, loved cheering them this season and will love them on and on. So when we've heard other people saying that the organization "owes" them, we can't help but cock our head to the side and ask: "Really?"

I tried to do the math, figure out how much one might really spend on being a baseball fan, and then how much of that ends up in the pockets of the biggest scapegoats for this year. If you spend $500 on being a Twins fan, you contribute about $0.10 to Joe Mauer, want him to give it back? You want the penny you contribute to Gardy and Bill Smith...really? Can't you just chalk it up to the incidental costs of loving a team, loving a game and getting 162 days of entertainment a year?

My better half (Stinky) raised a better point. If you buy a ticket to a Twins game, you have to acknowledge that you're taking a risk. Being a fan is like being a stock holder--you buy the stock and you hope it goes up...but you acknowledge it might go down. Buy a ticket to the game and you hope the Twins win, but you acknowledge that they might lose. They could win 162, they could lose 162. If you agree to go, or watch or support the team you have to accept the good and the bad as a risky (but entertaining) investment.

Sure there were times when we wondered if we should just turn the tv off and leave it off the rest of the year, there were times we didn't want to turn on the radio or open a newspaper, or surf to the team site for fear of hearing or seeing another loss in black and white. But tonight, as we drove back from church choir, and heard Cuddy get stranded at third we sighed and groaned, when we heard John Gordon call the "Parmalee flips to Dinkle-Hughes" we laughed and decided that "Dinkleface" is bound to be a nickname for our future utility man. And when Plouffe delivered the walk off hit we cheered, and we'll cheer this winter, and we'll root, root root for the home team.

No questions asked.


Ominous...and yet...

I feel like I'm beginning a lot of posts this way lately but: "Apologies for the delay in posting...we peanuts have been awfully busy". Work, school, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Yup...pretty dark...
So why break radio silence as the Twins are about to fall even farther behind the Royals for fourth place (yes, fourth place) in the AL Central? Because, for as ominous as the end of this year is becoming there's something else, out there in the distance that we haven't thought about yet.

See, in baseball it's easy to get transfixed by the little things, the moments, the day to day minutiae of the game. They say it again and again for players--"he's overthinking", "he needs to put his bad at-bats behind him", "they've just got to take it one day at a time." Some players just can't help but worry about every single at bat that turned into an easy ground ball, every fielding chance they fumbled, every pitch they failed to execute.

See! No signs of hits or throws!
One bad play begets another, which begets another, which begets another and so and so forth. If you don't believe me ask Trevor Plouffe and his mid-June spurt of throws that missed the broad side of every barn between here and Brainerd. Or ask Tsuyoshi Nishioka who so plainly wants to succeed and seems so utterly shamed every time he walks back to the dugout after failing to beat the throw to first. Or ask Brian Duensing as he sits on the bench, chewing his nails, mentally replaying pitch sequences that turned an inning with two quick outs into a sudden three-run, chase-him-from-the-game, question-his-spot-in-the-rotation-and-career-path nightmare.

One player struggles, then another, and another and the panic grips the team. Even the indomitable Pav-stache and robotic Joe Mauer seem to be waiting for the inevitable defeat at this point. Sure they'll try, but they just accept that when it's a borderline pitch, the call is going to go against them. They haven't given up--but the looming doom is right there over the Twins collective shoulders.

While that makes watching the games (and rehashing them in blog form) a little rough at times, there's something we have to remember.

There. Is. Hope.

Start with the fact that a lousy record now means a solid draft pick next year (and at a fairer price if MLB and the Union agree on a better draft system). Sure the Twins farm system isn't great now...but bear in mind that we've been drafting at the ends of rounds for the last decade--our best players were picked up during our decade of slump-tacular mid-90's horror. A true top-flight prospect who can contribute in a year or two rather than 5 will be much appreciated.

If only it were this easy
Also remember that the Twins did not flip a switch and go from a good ball club to a lousy one. They didn't forget to pack the talent with them as they left Fort Meyers, they simply could never dig themselves out of a considerable hole made in April and May (and dug again through injuries and poor pitching in August). Make good moves for 10 years and you're a model organization--make bad moves for 1 year and you aren't utterly hopeless...you've just run up against a law of averages.

Finally, never forget that through it all Twins fans keep plopping down cash to go to Target Field, keep buying jerseys and bobbleheads and all kinds of gear. That's money we could use to get another good pitcher, or infielder, or whatever. (It's also likely those prices won't rise next year, given the shoddy product on the field this year.)

Ahh, there it is!
I see this all the time when I teach. Kids look up and see the gloomy cloud of an impending test, or project, or class. They struggle once, they expect to struggle again and again, and nothing will ever be good or fun and life is horrible.

But once they see a little gleam of hope: a word they know from their notes, a thumbs up from a truculent teacher, a smile from their crush, then the world is marvelous and beautiful and completely peachy keen!

The Twins (and their fans) have seen the dark clouds all year long. Don't forget--there's always a silver lining.


Missing Something

It's been a long week.

Losing two games to the White Sox made things a little grim in Twins Territory--so grim we couldn't bear to watch the pain (something about those pale hosers always brings out the doom and gloom in us). And even though the Twins have won back-to-back games we weren't able to catch them given that one took place during the workday and the other happened on the West Coast last night...ending well after our Peanut bedtimes.

Missing four games this week made feel funny. Not "ha-ha" funny, but odd, awkward, and out of sync. Even though the Twins are way out of the race, and the team hasn't played well, and the face of the franchise (a three-time batting champ) seems to be backing up a guy who's hitting .165, I can't help but feel like something's missing if I don't get a daily Twins fix.

Maybe that's weird, maybe it's strange that I'm still wanting to watch relatively meaningless games for three hours a day, maybe it's irrational that I want to know about call ups and Lester Oliveros' strike zone control and Luke Hughes' new batting stance and Tsuyoshi Nishioka's (very very gradual) improvement. But that's the thing about baseball, if you connect with a team and stay with them for more than half a year they're a part of your life and it's not the same without them. I don't want to watch to complain, or bellyache or whine about the front office--I want to watch because it's what I love.

The games don't have to be great. The team doesn't have to play well. It just needs to be there. The Twins have been part of my life for years, and will be tomorrow, so they better be today. Call me strange, call me stubborn, but be sure to call me when the game is on.

After all I don't want to miss something.