Monday, April 28, 2008

Defection

I'm a bad Twins fan. My longtime readers will notice a distinct lack of baseball postings this season. I think you are all aware that my usual Spring Training activities were slightly hindered by my dissertation, though I did make it to a couple games. We also usually order the baseball package on digital cable, but just couldn't bring ourselves to cough up the money when we are currently unsure where we will be living in a couple months time and whether or not the package is transferable to our new home.

Turns out we aren't missing much. The Twins are currently sitting at an underwhelming 11-14 for the season. As for the couple of games I have been able to catch, it is clear they are suffering from the exact same anemic offense as last year, only most of the faces are different. In one game against the Rays (televised down here of course) I watched no less that 4 lead-off base runners be erased by double plays. The Twins earned their reputation as a small-ball team that manufactured runs. They are not known for home runs, but this year (as in the last couple of years) manufacturing runs is a struggle.

To compound the problem, they lost 3 starting pitchers this year, including, of course, Santana. I was surprisingly indifferent about the Johan trade (unlike my poor mother who was inconsolable for days afterwards). I wanted to have one more year with him, especially with Liriano getting back in the rotation this year. But I think most Twins fans would agree with me that after the 2006 season, which produced the AL Cy Young winner (Santana), Batting Title winner (Mauer), MVP (Morneau) and a Golden Glove winner (perennial recipient Hunter), they were doomed to be a team that couldn't quite seal the deal. And it was clear that with Santana, we were sitting on a gold-mine. It made sense to gain prospects from a trade before losing him forever to free-agency, where the Twins would quickly be out of the running. With the Santana trade and the near team-swapping that occurred with Tampa Bay, the entire Twins team was transformed.

It was clear that the Twins wanted to rebuild the team around Mauer and Morneau, and as long as the little kids could still wear their #7 jersey tees and there was a stadium being built, the fans would stay loyal. But unfortunately, the problems from last year seem to be plaguing the Twins once again, and they don't have strong enough pitching to turn only a couple of runs into a win.

So, unrecognizable Twins club that can't gain offensive traction + poor starting pitching + no baseball package = downgrade from Twins fanatic to casual fan who can barely go out of her way to check the online stats. I will baulk at the term "fair weather fan" simply because I can assure you all with confidence that I would definitely be fixed to the television watching the 2008 train wreck if we had the baseball package, just how I watched the 2007 train wreck from ground zero.

HOWEVER. This year, as predicted by my own personal baseball god Peter Gammons along with many other commentators and speculators, it has been really fun to watch the Rays. Their young team (Carl Crawford, at 25 years old and cute as a button, is the veteran) is enthusiastic and the chemistry is undeniable. For once, Rays fans are starting to out number the visitors' fans at the Trop. They added Matt Garza (one of the starters the Twins lost) as well as Eric Hinske and recently brought up phenom Evan Longoria. They are currently in a 3-way tie for the top of the East after sweeping the Jays and the Bosox back to back. The weekend series against Boston was huge and we found ourselves glued to all three games. Saturday's dramatic finish where Akinori Iwamura hit a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 8th ("I make myself happy" he reported in his post-game interview) and James Shields' complete game shutout against Josh Beckett yesterday was a loud and clear indicator that the Rays are finally ready for prime time, just as we are about to pick up and move. But perhaps just as I wore my Twins gear with pride when I moved to Florida, I will now wear my new Carl Crawford jersey tee to our next destination.

12 comments:

anne said...

I had always been a Marlins fan and I had never even really watched AL baseball. But after this weekend I told Tom I was defecting also. I know, I know, very fair weather. But seriously they were good and we can go to the games.

Minnesotablue said...

MB: So sad. I have been suffering the same let down as you have. I was devastated when we lost Santana. We have absolutely no pitching to speak of and after yesterdays 10 to 0 performance I wanted to hide my head under the pillow. I too have noticed the Devil Rays upswing. I love to watch new players and their love of the game. Unfortunately, when they start making more money, some of that same eagerness leaves. I know that unless the Twins improve the new ballpark won't be getting the crowds they expect.

dr sardonicus said...

You knew it was going to be a rebuilding year. Nobody is going to run away with the AL Central, so if the Twins can hang around .500, they may still have a shot.

I can't explain the Cardinals' inexplicably strong start, except it appears that a lot of young guys are playing over their heads right now.

Beth said...

I've never really cared for baseball, but due to my geography, usually cheer for the Yankees (grew up and live in NY). This doesn't hold true for football where I am a die hard Colts fan.

I was just thinking about baseball this morning. Certainly the weather for it!

fermicat said...

The Braves got Glavine back, and it turns out he's an Old Guy. It just makes me so sad, because I remember the whole "worst to first" era, and how exciting the Braves were back in the late 80s and early 90s. Thinking about all this makes me feel old, too.

spants said...

Poor Twins. I like them. But, I'm always happy to hear that the Rays won a game or 5 or 6 in a row. So, go Rays!

Yeah, the Cardinals are a streaky bunch this year. Except for Albert who has been on base every single game this year, and Wainwright who has been absolutely nails. The rest of the guys have been good, but I'm not holding my breath for another WS appearance. Still... they're a feisty bunch. We'll see.

magnetbabe said...

anne~
We tried to follow the Marlins when we first landed. We even went to the last playoff game against the Giants in 2003. It was incredible. Now there are crickets in Dolphin Stadium. So sad. Glad you are a Rays fan, they are still accepting new fans I hear, without labeling them "fair weather" :)

mb~
For a couple of years they will get crowds. Then the novelty will wear off and the realty of a state that gets blizzards at the end of April will set it! I still think they should have held out for a retractable roof. Hopefully they can turn a corner in a couple of years when some of their young pitchers mature.

dr. s~
No one is going to run away with it, but if the phenomenal team we had in 2006 got swept by the Athletics, I don't have any hope of making it out of the first round with these guys. But let me clarify something, yes I knew it was going to be rebuilding year and was expecting some blow outs because we pretty much lost our starting rotation (except Scott Baker, who like last year is showing brief flashes of brilliance and Boof Bonser who is a total head case). But I was expecting a more solid offense after adding Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez. Like the Rays in previous years, I was expecting to lose close games while showing hope of being on the right track. They've replaced 2 of 3 outfielders and 3 or 4 infielders, yet the offense seems exactly the same. As my stepdad pointed out (and it doesn't happen often) I think their batting coach may need firing.

beth~
Boo Yankees! Hiss! Not a huge Colts fan, but as I think I've mentioned on Scott's blog, definitely wouldn't kick Peyton out of bed for eating crackers!

fermi ~
Glavine? Old? You're kidding! The Braves training camp was one of the places we traveled to for a couple of days this spring. I didn't go at all to practices (I was in the hotel working) but Dean said Glavine was THE nicest guy and signed autographs for everyone that wanted one. I know, niceness doesn't win games, but I always like hearing about it. :)

spants~
I still remember your 2006 prediction that the Cards would make "an ugly first round exit" during the playoffs. You may be wrong again. You'll probably hate me for saying this, but I do like the Cubs this year. It's their 100th anniversary and they are looking good. They have karma on their side.

Scott said...

I don't think I've ever heard of anyone else being hot for Peyton Manning, but I have to say that he was on SNL once a year or so ago and he was hilarious. The whole show was the cast making jokes about "pulling a Peyton Manning" as a euphemism fo choking.

I had to mention to that Evan Longoria brought to mind Eva Longoria and I suddenly liked him too. Wierd.

LL said...

So Glavine's 37 now fermi? :ewink:

You can't give up on a team just because they suck... it's all part of the experience!

dr sardonicus said...

The Twins are in first now. Quit complaining.

magnetbabe said...

scott-
I saw that SNL and thought it was pretty funny. He's not someone who's obviously sexy, but ask some of the women you know, I bet they agree with my assessment.

ll -
I was a Twins fan in the mid-90's when attendance would be a couple thousand max. Believe me, I didn't give up on them then. I'm not giving up on them now, it's just easier to follow the local team and not quite as depressing.

dr. s-
I know, and the Rays got swept by the Sox. Admonishing the Twins so that they'd surge was all part of my plan. And it worked!

dr sardonicus said...

Well, I don't think it was your rant so much as it was the blow-up dolls...