Greatest. Promotional Idea. Ever.

Now that pitchers and catchers have officially reported to Ft. Meyers we can turn off the hot stove and turn on our baseball brains.

My baseball brain would like to offer the Twins the following promotional opportunity. The team recently announced that, for the first time in a decade, there would be no bobblehead give-away day this season. Since the bobbleheads were once a big lure for a team struggling to draw fans, boost attendance and generate revenue to put back into payroll, we need some kind of new event.

SO! We propose that, for one day this year, we turn Target Field into: Twinton Abbey!
This is made possible by the Pohlad Charitable Trust and Fans like You
Thrill at the drama as Lord Gardenhire tries to navigate the tumultuous world of the American League; Swoon as heir to all Twins Territory, Joe Mauer, mulls whether or not he can accept these responsibilities and the love of a good woman; Laugh at the lastest zinger from the Dowager Count Terry Ryan! ("Don't be a defeatist dear; it's so middle class, we might as well live in Oakland!")

We could have fans play the servants and mow the grass/fill the gatorade jug before the game. Dick and Bert could call the whole thing in a British accent. And after the game, season-ticket holders can have a formal dinner with the players at which something shocking is announced (war; engagement; end-of-war; trade of Matt Capps; end-of-engagement; Spanish-flu outbreak, etc).

Given the wild popularity of the show, baseball's inherent fondness for "turn-back-the-clock" type promotions, and the fact that PBS has been guilting people into giving them money for decades this is a no-brainer! Easy money for the Twins and pure hilarity for the fans.

Twins officials: I await your phone call!


Closing Arguments

In case you haven't noticed; there is a poll available at the right side of this screen that invites you to vote for the next members of the Peanuts from Heaven Hall of Fame.

This is not a Hall of Fame for the greatest Twins players in history--just as this is not the greatest blog in Twins history--instead this Hall of Fame aspires to be what we aspire to be: a place for the fun, the quirky and the things that make you laugh and smile while watching a game. Our first inductee was the master of farts Bert Blyleven, then hyperactive center-fielder/puppy personified Carlos Gomez, then the dictionary definition of scrappiness Nick Punto.

Today we have nine nominees vying for election...it takes 75% to get elected (or at least the top vote getter) and 10% to stay on the ballot for next year. And since the most entertaining thing that has been on this winter (other than Downton Abbey, obviously)  has been the spirited exchange of ideas/interminable car wreck of political aspirations known as the Republican Presidential Debates--we thought we'd give each candidate a chance to make their final case for enshrinement. Consider their claims and cast your ballot at the right--only 4 days left to vote! Make them count!

Jesse Crain 
(the only returning candidate from last year)
I believe that the reasons I would make a good Hall of Famer can be best summarized through a detailed analysis of the inter-related ideas of existentialist philosophers like Viktor Frankl and Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek, you see following the inhuman betrayal of our shared human values...[5 minutes later]...leaving the only possible explanation for both the meaning of life and the reason for a limited government: my excellent slider! Thank you.

Jim Thome
I never tried to make lofty, absurd promises to Twins Territory, I just spoke softly and carried a big stick that hit big homeruns. The citizens of Twins Territory don't need promises, they need a calm, steady, potato-ish presence in the line up, I did that proudly for two years. I even walked around with a big blue ox, because hey, I figured y'all would like it. If elected to the Peanuts from Heaven Hall of Fame, I will be polite, dignified and hit home runs...you're welcome.

Delmon Young
You people never thought I'd do the things I did, but I always surprised you! Just when it looked like a ball would fly over my head for a devastating double, I'd randomly decide to leap and find the thing! Just when it looked like I'd catch the ball for an inning ending out, I'd lose it in the sun or the roof, or a cloud! Admit it, you could never predict what I'd do next! I'd always leave you guessing! What's more exciting than having that: EVERY SINGLE BALLGAME!! Elect me to the Peanuts Hall of Fame and who knows what I'll do? Ground into a double play? Try to leg out a triple? Establish a colony on the moon? WHO KNOWS?!? ELECT ME AND FIND OUT!!!

Joe Nathan
This may be our last chance to refer to Dread Pirate Joe Nathan
We had to take it
Kevin Slowey
I know a little something about entertainment, and I know a little something about job creation. I provided you fans with countless games of entertainment, when I found a good pitching groove and suddenly turned in 7 or 8 innings of near total domination--that was entertaining. When I didn't, and I left after 3 or 5 innings in total confusion and disarray--well, I was just making sure that our bullpen guys had opportunities to prove themselves. Otherwise they'd be without big league contracts, and salaries, and their kids would suffer and the backbone of our society (middle relievers) would collapse! You wouldn't want that to happen would you? Of course not...so, that's why you should vote for me...I'm entertaining, and I'm doing my part to make pitching staffs strong again for ourselves, and our children.

Jose Mijares
I did three things that make me worth of being a Peanuts from Heaven Hall of Famer. I threw the ball really hard. I didn't sue when these bloggers photoshopped my head on a Princess drawing. And, uhh...uhh....oops.

Jason Kubel
Sure, I could tell you why I deserve election, but look at these other candidates! Kevin Slowey talks about putting relievers to work, but he single handedly put Boof Bonser out of a job! (What about Boof?!?) And Delmon Young? He's a serial flip-flopper: "I'll catch the ball. I won't catch the ball. I'll hit the ball. I won't ever hit the ball." How do we know the real Delmon Young is here? And I think that Joe Nathan is a secret african pirate who tried to turn Twins Territory into a socialist society where fluttering your lips replaced English as the national language!* I'm Jason Kubel, and I play baseball...vote for me!
*This message paid for by Smirking For America

Jim Hoey
Umm...I'm just gonna leave...

Michael Cuddyer
Sure, I could tell you about the all-star appearance, the charity work, the strong arm in right field, the steady professional hitting, the magic tricks, the ability to play any position Gardy asked me. But I think you're all sick of campaigning, and besides, isn't this enough? [Smiles, a soft *ping* is heard, everyone is happy]

So there you go, the choice is yours Twins fans; cast your votes in the poll (for as many as you like) and we'll photoshop the winning plaques by opening day!


The Grim Goodbye

Nice sandwich, buddy
I've written before that one of the things I like best about baseball is the sense of family that surrounds a franchise and a team and a community. You can draw a direct line through the annual rosters: from my mother watching Tony Oliva in the bleachers at Met stadium as a kid, to my grandfather enjoying box seats with Rod Carew and Roy Smalley in the infield. From my brothers and I getting our first taste of big league ball with Kirby and Kent Hrbek under the dome (and still loving an annual game when the "stars" were Chuck Knoblauch and Matt Lawton), to the perpetual October excitement on my college campus as Torii led the rejuvenation and then passed the baton to Morneau and Mauer.

It feels like the Twins are a part of my family and when you see Tony O. smiling next to his sandwiches and Hrbek pouring beers and Torii gushing about the best pancakes in town, it's easy to forget that not every relationship with beloved stars ends like this. Growing up in the mountain west it was easy to cheer for Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz...now they may not even want to be mentioned in the same sentence. Peyton Manning seemed likely to be buried in a blue and white Colts jersey and now the media is ablaze with rumors about where he will land next. Oh, and speaking of ablaze...

Thing is, you don't really see that at Target Field. We've said goodbye to our share of stars, but next season you'll see plenty of "Hunter 48"s and "Santana 57"s and "Cuddyer 5"s dotting the stands. And in ten years--when we sit back and reminisce about our run of division championships in the aughts--it's easy to imagine each alumnus throwing out a first pitch, sitting next to Dick Bremer for an inning, being polite and proudly cheered whenever they turn up.

So is that we don't care enough? That our players are so aware of our mild-mannered Minnesota-Niceness that they don't feel a need to get hot and bothered either? That the media is so ambivalent about our "small-market" that Joe Mauer could launch into an obscenity laced tirade against umpires, Bud Selig and TC Bear, without prompting so much as a three-second drop in on Sportscenter?

Actually, I think it's just that we haven't been forced into the situation that the Jazz and the Colts have faced. In each case there was a superstar athlete, a career-long member of the family who, for one reason or another, felt that management didn't want them around any more; and who, for one reason or another, management pretty much...didn't want around any more. It is as close to a sports divorce as you can find.
Strange but true

After all those years of adulation and affection to suddenly hear that your services are no longer required is a rough business. And it's not surprising that premier athletes, who have had every reason to be confident in their greatness from the age of 17 on, believe they can go another season and another and another. But when that belief contradicts management's assessment the battle for custody of the fan's affection begins. If the fans side with the player, there is a good chance of bronze statues and special ceremonies for your twilight years; if fans side with management...well...you get Hank Aaron the Brewer and Greg Maddux the Dodger. The Twins haven't had any of these bad breakups, we allow players in their prime venture out in search of wealth and fame and fortune; sad to see them go but grateful for the time we had together.

Of course, that may all change soon. After all, we love Justin Morneau, the big walloping Canuck who can hold down first base like a goalie. Heck, Stinky used to plot ways of getting him to her place (this of course was prior to our marriage). But Morneau's about to turn 31, he's missed large parts of the last three seasons with back and concussion issues and at a certain point you wonder if the Twins will say: "sorry big guy, you're done here." Already the drumbeat has started, people hope for the best and then mention, Chris Parmalee as an insurance policy, and hey, Derek Lee's still out there, could we maybe...? We can't help but think about the future and admit (however grudgingly) that this can't last. (I won't even mention the mutterings about the other half of the M&M boys)

Other bloggers can break down the factors that feed into the Twins decision making process; what in house options we have, what other franchises might be willing to take on the salary risk now or in the near future. But I'm not as concerned with that as I am with the franchise's family and with postponing a grim goodbye as long as possible. I want Justin to succeed because he's part of the lineage now and I'd rather keep him for the consistency of the clubhouse rather than wash our hands of him because of recent issues.  What's more, I know that there will be a day when Morneau can be appreciated as a happy memory to be recalled with fondness rather than as a potential lynchpin of our lineup that causes worry and consternation. And when Stinky and I have a child or grandchild sitting beside us in the nosebleeds telling them about the good ol' days and drawing the line from our favorites to the current stars, I hope that, like Tony and Kent, and Torii that Morneau will want to come back, to throw out a ceremonial pitch to the new young guns, to reminisce in sepia tones about the good ol' days.

After all he's part of the family, and who really likes to say goodbye to family?


If Baseball Were More Like Football

While millions of people around the globe are coming together tonight in order to worship the dueling gods of pigskins, cheesy dips for starchy snacks and advertisements featuring scantily clad females, I am spending it as I have spent many of the last few Super Sundays: waiting for pitchers and catchers to report.

However, my devotion to baseball and disdain for football is not terribly common among modern day sports fans, and I've often heard people whine that "if baseball were more like football I'd watch it more often..." So I thought it might be interesting to explore just what it would be like if baseball was indeed more like football.

If baseball was more like football...
Batting 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th...
  • your offense would just hand off the bat to the same dominating hitter again and again and again, but with the best hitters averaging success 3 out of 10 times--scores would drop dramatically.

  • your defense would be more concerned with finding ways to blindside the batter before he got out of the box than with catching the ball. 

  • every single play would end with an absurd amount of capering about the field: slashing throats for successful bunts; thumping chests after catching a routine pop-up; skipping, hopping, and waving arms to the multitudes after an intentional walk.

  • managers would feel obliged to come up with mass substitutions of absurdly specialized position players (i.e. a third-and-long-pulling guard turns into a two-out-right-handed-shift-second-baseman).

  • an entire nation of pundits would foam at the mouth for four months about one player's unconventional style of throwing the ball, and legions of otherwise rational people would blow a gasket with unwavering certainty that an unusual player sucks.
  • the greatest players of all time would be just as likely to retire to pursue acting careers and avoid life altering injuries as they would be to become legends.

  • the seventh-inning stretch would extend to a seventh-inning nap as bands march across the outfield, cheerleaders shimmy around the foul territory and fading pop stars croon a set from the pitcher's mound.

  • your manager would spend more time scowling at the voices coming through his headset and less time having gloriously goofy temper tantrums at home plate. 
Option A: Fat man looks sad                                   Option B: Fat man looks crazy

Easy choice...
  • teams would have to huddle to pick plays before each pitch ("okay, hit the ball on two, hit the ball on two...ready?...Break!")

  • --worst of all--the championship of a six month long season full ups and downs, twists and turns, would be reduced to "that-thing-that's-on-in-the-background-while-everybody-talks-about-a Budwieser-commercial."
What do you think? Am I missing out on a glorious alterante reality, or did I forget something that would drive you similarly crazy (leave a comment below! And don't forget to vote on the next members of the Heavenly Peanuts Hall of Fame (ballot at right)