I am sick. Not “oh he’s a little under the weather, he’ll be good to go tomorrow” sick. I am coughing every 5 seconds, can’t swallow without it feeling like two armies are fighting it out inside my throat sick. Yet, like a crazy person, I stayed up to watch the A’s defeat the White Sox and to see the Twins clinch the AL Central title at roughly midnight. The moral of the story is not that I’m tough, however. Let me explain…
A couple years ago I got my tonsils out. Much like how I’m feeling now all I could do was eat ice cream and sleep. My girlfriend at the time, a perfectly wonderful person, came over one day and gave me some soup and nursed me for awhile. I appreciated her concern, but the whole time I just wanted her to leave. I wanted to be left alone. To sleep. Yet last night I sat in a sweatshirt, sweatpants and wrapped in a blanket, still freezing (I am in Kansas now, and it was roughly 80 degrees last night), and didn’t close my laptop until after Robby Incimikowski had interviewed Ben Revere in the clubhouse. Why? Unlike pretty much everything else in my life, I can’t get enough of the Minnesota Twins. The Twins are special. When you grow up, there is somewhat of a lesson that cheering for pro sports teams obsessively is silly: you’re basically cheering for laundry, and even if you give 10% of your devotion to the team, you won’t get that much back.
But not with the Twins. The Twins are different. Ignore the on field folly about doing the little things, and doing the right things. This is, mostly, irrelevant. I have long said that I would rather have a team who wins than a team of nice guys. But now, I’m not too sure. I may loathe Michael Cuddyer when he is on the field, but his charitable work is virtually unmatched. Denard Span has had a rough year, and Orlando Hudson has been sliding as of late, but they teamed up for a bowling tournament for disabled kids and it seemed like Span and Hudson had the most fun. Far from being obligated to do it, the Twins WANT to do it. It starts with Cuddyer, but it is perhaps most exemplified in Joe Mauer. The man from St. Paul, the man with $180 million, the man with dashing good looks. There are thousands of things Joe Mauer could be doing with his money. He could be running through celebrity girlfriends like no one’s business. Yet he owns a simple log cabin in northern Minnesota.
This year’s team was different than the 2008 or 2009 teams in a tangible way. The 2008 team had ungodly luck with RISP and rode that all the way to a tiebreaker. Last year’s team was left for dead before staging a monumental comeback before engaging in a tiebreaker that was really a microcosm of their entire season: falling behind to the Tigers, coming back, falling behind again, getting through a few mistakes, before finally winning in epic fashion, with two unlikely heroes (Alexi Casilla and Carlos Gomez) providing the highlight. This 2010 team however was the favorite from the start, and they seemed to reflect Bill Smith, who is a little more sabermetrically inclined than Terry Ryan was: the team’s 9.1% walk rate was 4th in the AL, their .345 OBP 2nd. Their .150 ISO was the 2nd best in the league outside the AL East.
Once the little team that could, the Twins rode a new stadium to almost a $100 million payroll. I have long said that I don’t want a World Series the way the Yankees win them. If the Twins had a team full of mercenaries it just wouldn’t be the same. It works for New York because New York is a city full of pretentious fake people, who care solely about results and not process. Midwesterners are different. The chance to cheer on a homegrown team, players we have heard of for several years, to a World Series is one we wouldn’t pass up for anything. Which makes it all the better that the Twins didn’t spend their new found revenue to get Mark Teixeira. They instead re-signed hometown kid Justin Morneau. They gave actual hometown kid Joe Mauer $180 million. They were able to lock up Scott Baker and Denard Span. Their lone free agent signings were supplemental type players: Orlando Hudson wasn’t a linchpin, he filled out an impressive infield. Jim Thome is making less than $2 million. Maybe most importantly, the revenue allowed the Twins to address needs at the deadline. Long criticized for not making moves, Bill Smith was able to bring Matt Capps in at the deadline. In August he was able to bring in Brian Fuentes , making the Twins bullpen a formidable one in October.
If you have read this blog at all, I love baseball stats. I love that you can determine almost exactly how good a player is by his numbers. But to really measure the impact this Twins team has had you need to be on twitter for the games, you need to see nearly every one of my Facebook friends posting a status about the Twins last night, long after midnight. You need to know that a first year law student who is sick as can be stayed up to watch two teams that weren’t even the Twins play to see the Twins celebrate a division title.