Stages of Baseball Grief
Jason Kubel is the newest ex-Minnesota Twin. Kubel joins Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan, Kevin Slowey, Jose Mijares, Matt Tolbert* and Jim Hoey as members of the 2011 Twins that will not be back for 2012. Jim Hoey was never a fan favorite, especially because the JJ Hardy trade that brought him to Minnesota worked out so poorly for the Twins. Matt Tolbert, despite being Ron Gardenhire’s golden boy, was never the beloved utility infielder that Nick Punto was before him. The rest of the gang, Kubel, Cuddyer, Nathan, Slowey and Mijares, however, enjoyed particularly fan friendly careers in Minnesota.
*Tolbert has yet to sign elsewhere, but with the Twins’ utility spot likely occupied by Tsuyoshi Nishioka or Luke Hughes, Tolbert’s time in Minnesota is over.
They say that everyone experiences Five Stages of Grief; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. The Five Stages of Grief even have a great sabermetric acronym, DABDA, so they’re particularly well suited for baseball. In this case, Twins fans are definitely feeling loss as the roster turns and evolves.
The Five Stages of Baseball Grief are the very same stages, just expressed differently.
Denial – This is the part of grieving where you pretend something is not happening. You think to yourself, “Joe Nathan will never leave, the Twins made him the closer he is today, and they suffered along with him through Tommy John surgery.” Even when it does eventually happen, (2 years/$14.5 million), you just can’t believe it. How could Joe Nathan leave after ALL the Twins have done for him? How could the Twins let their all time saves leader just walk away? It just doesn’t make sense.
Anger – If you’re feeling angry, that’s because the Twins traded away JJ Hardy one year ago and all they have left to show for it is a Minor Leaguer, Brett Jacobson, struggling with control in Double-A, allowing 5.2 Walks per 9 innings of work. Jim Hoey, while he was never great in a Twins uniform, was at least performing at the Major League Level (poorly), and gave fans something tangible to hold on to while their middle infield E4’d and E6’d their way to 99 losses. Fans are right to be angry, even after Bill Smith was demoted from his role as GM, but only time can heal this wound.
Bargaining- I would do anything for just one more year with Kevin Slowey and his references to obscure figures in Greek Mythology. Sisyphus, anyone? Couldn’t the Twins just have thrown Anthony Swarzak away instead? What does Daniel Turpen have that is so exciting? And just like that, another Twin is gone.
Depression – How could this happen? THE SKY IS LITERALLY FALLING! Woe is me. Many of you perhaps felt that way when news reports started surfacing that the Twins had signed Josh Willingham, all but ending any opportunity for the Twins to resign Mr. Twin, Michael Cuddyer. Sure, the Twins tried to save face and even told people that they hadn’t ruled out resigning Cuddyer, but they were probably just hoping to keep one or two of you from burning your Cuddyer jerseys and eating two or three tubs full of cookie dough. Michael Cuddyer had played his entire career for the Minnesota Twins. He had been with the organization since 1997. Losing not only his talents on the field, but also his leadership in the clubhouse and in the community was definitely enough to send any Twins fan into a deep depression.
Acceptance – When Jason Kubel signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks for two years and $15 million dollars, as a Twins fan, you just had to accept that the Twins were committed to a $100 million dollar pay roll, and that finding another starting pitcher and another arm for the bullpen were more important that adding another corner outfielder/DH type player, even if he did have one of the greatest beards in Twins history.
The Twins are who they are, they’re moving towards 2012 with a team that will hopefully play better defense up the middle, with an All-Star catcher and first baseman that can hopefully stay off of the disabled list, and a handful of new faces to replace the loss of so many of your favorite Twins from the past four or five years.
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