Why Do We Care About the Twins?

I’ve been pretty critical of the Twins front office lately. I’m not alone in that, of course. Quite a number of fans, including many who are far more informed and better able to communicate than I, feel that the Twins have simply not done enough to improve the team this offseason.

Over this Christmas holiday week, I couldn’t help but reflect on matters so much more important than baseball. Will the ideologues in Washington really lead our country in to a deeper recession simply to try to make those who disagree with them look bad? What can we do to help those whose lives have been devastated by terrible storms? How do we make sure our children and their teachers can go about the educational process without fear of seemingly random acts of unthinkable violence?

Kind of makes the whole debate over whether Terry Ryan is doing enough to fix the Twins’ rotation seem hardly worth thinking about, much less arguing about over and over, doesn’t it?

So why do it? If we’re going to feel so passionate about a problem that we’ll write 1,000 words about it… not once but several times a week… shouldn’t the topic be more substantial than baseball? Of course it should.

But I can’t solve those important problems. Nothing I say or write will help. I’ve led a relatively active political life, yet I’ve never felt less able to influence my government. I give to charities, but it seems like a drop in the bucket of what’s needed for humanity. I pray, yet have never felt less aware of God’s presence in our world.

frustration2So perhaps it’s simply that powerlessness that brings me back here. I can’t do anything about any of the important matters facing the world, so I focus attention… arguably too much attention, at times… on baseball. Granted, I have no more influence with Terry Ryan than I do Congress, but I enjoy writing about baseball more than about politics, so here I am and here I shall remain.

The give and take with other baseball fans and writers… especially other Twins fans… is enjoyable. It would certainly be more enjoyable if the talent being assembled looked to be more competitive on the field come Opening Day, but we can’t really do any more about that, as fans, than discuss it. So that’s what we do.

Is it really all that important whether the Twins are being built to win more games in 2013 or not? Does it matter if we have to wait until 2014… or even 2015 or 2016… for the Twins to be good again? Well, for those of us closer to the end of our projected mortality arc than the beginning of it, it may be more important, but no, it’s not all that critical in the grand scheme of things.

But it is important.

I don’t believe the Pohlads are evil people out to fleece Twins fans out of our money without any concern for the quality of the product on the field. I don’t believe Terry Ryan is stupid about baseball, nor is he so ego-driven that he is determined to prove he can assemble a winning roster without spending any money at all. I also don’t envision his staff of senior baseball people resembling the group of old-school scouts in the movie version of “Moneyball,” whose player evaluations seemed based solely on “gut feel”.

Pohlad and Ryan want to win. I believe they want to win in 2013, while also preparing to contend in years beyond. The players Ryan obtained in return for Denard Span and Ben Revere make it clear that Ryan’s primary focus is at least two years in the future. He knows it would be a very good idea not to have the 2013 Twins lose 95+ games again and he’ll try to avoid that, but he’s clearly not going to waste a lot of energy… or the Pohlads’ money… on any attempt to fix the team’s immediate problems.

I still think that’s bad business, but it’s not my business. The Pohlads have entrusted those decisions to Ryan and, presumably, team president Dave St. Peter, so in a few years we’ll see who was right.

With the new year almost upon us, it’s probably time to move past the, “what should Terry Ryan do?” phase of the offseason discussion, anyway. Maybe there will be a late bargain available to Ryan over the next couple of months, but for the most part, the roster is set. It will be an $80 million payroll short on established Major League talent. It will be a team projected to finish at the bottom of the AL Central again.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun to watch… and to talk about.

That’s one of the things that makes baseball the greatest game in the world, to me. When the players… whatever their respective talent levels… take the field, anything can happen. You never know when you might see something you’ve never seen before. I couldn’t begin to count the number of baseball teams I’ve been involved with over the years, from the time I started playing organized ball at the age of 5, through my years as a player, as a coach, and now as merely a fan who enjoys writing about the game and my chosen favorite teams. But I’ve enjoyed literally every summer of baseball for these past 50+ years and I’m sure I’ll enjoy 2013, as well.

I will also get frustrated in 2013. I will rant here… and elsewhere… about that frustration. I will argue about it. I will cheer what successes may be found in 2013 and I will try to savor the experience of watching a potential Hall of Fame catcher do his thing for the Twins, just as I savored watching Rod Carew’s talent, even during some very difficult years for the Twins and their fans.

I may not spend much of my money on Twins tickets in 2013 (I spent no money at all on them in 2012) because I do believe the only way any of us can genuinely influence Ryan and his bosses to change their business strategy is by speaking with our pocketbooks. I attended 12-15 games a year when I felt the organization was moving in the right direction. I won’t do so when I feel that’s no longer true.

Hammond Stadium, Spring Training home of the Twins
Hammond Stadium, Spring Training home of the Twins

That doesn’t mean I won’t still be a fan. I’ve been a fan through far worse stretches over the past 50 years. For better or worse, being a Twins fan is an important aspect of who I am and I will continue to spend a considerable about of time following them, talking about them, writing about them and, yes, arguing about them. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it probably isn’t good… at least not entirely good. I don’t really care about that.

I care about the Twins. And I care that Spring Training is less than two months away.

– JC