I can’t let 2009 pass away without a word of thanks to the Minnesota Twins baseball players and managers for another great season. The Twins were competitive all year and there were some of us who never gave up hope that they could come back again this year and capture the division. Not only did they do that but they treated us to a tie-breaker game with Detroit where they claimed the Central Division Championship. The Tigers went home feeling that they had really blown many opportunities to take the Division while the Twins and their fans can look at the season as a steady march that found them claiming the prize at the end.
I was at that magical tie-breaker game with Detroit and still shake my head in amazement at how much fun that game was and the wonder of the journey that led the Twins to that point.
Of course, we all know that the Twins again were unsuccessful in their attempts to beat the Yankees, being eliminated after three straight losses. There were moments in the first two games when the Twins gave us hope but they just couldn’t keep the lead they briefly held in both games. Certainly, I don’t think any of us really expected them to win the first game, playing the Yankees less than 24 hours after wrapping up their well-deserved division title celebration. I believe that Major League Baseball needs to revisit their decision to have the team with the best record get to choose when they want to start their playoff games. Once it was determined that there would be a tie-breaker game, it should have been decided that the American League playoffs would start on Thursday rather than Wednesday. Instead the Yankees were allowed to wait until the end of the Tuesday game to decide when the first playoff game would start. Is anyone surprised that they chose to start on Wednesday knowing that the Twins would be at a distinct disadvantage from the start?
It took the Twins losing the coin toss in 2008 and having to play the tie-breaker against the White Sox in Chicago (even though we had the better record) for baseball to change that rule. Maybe the Twins’ experience this year will cause Commissioner Bud Selig to reconsider what seems to be a crazy way to determine the playoff schedule. He has already announced that he is going to eliminate some of the off days during the playoffs, hoping to end a little earlier. The other thing is to be a little more sensible about start times for the games. Did it really make sense for the Angels to be playing an afternoon game in sunny California and for the Rockies to have a game starting at night in Colorado with the weather hovering around the 30 degree mark at start? Of course this is all driven by the demands of television but at some point respect for the players’ safety and the fans’ comfort has to take precedence.
Anyway, thanks to the players for giving it your all for 163 games and never giving up your enthusiasm for the game. Thanks for playing hard for every minute of every game—playing until that last out was recorded. Thanks for all those wonderful memories. Thanks to Ron Gardenhire for always being positive and keeping the players motivated and in the game. Goodbye to Carlos Gomez—I loved watching your youthful enthusiasm and love of the game, though it sometimes caused you to make mistakes and eventually led to your trade to the Brewers. I look forward to seeing you again next year during inter-league play and wish you well.
The awards are being announced now: Joe Mauer has already won his third batting title (the only catcher to ever win three), his third Silver Slugger Award and his second consecutive Gold Glove. I have to quote from Wikipedia to get all the stats right: “In 2009, he became the first catcher to lead in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage in a single year. Mauer’s .365 average, which is the all-time highest mark among catchers in MLB history, led Major League Baseball.”
Still to come is the coveted MVP Award, which will be announced on November 23. Mauer is expected by many to also take that home.
For me there are really only two seasons in the year: baseball and Christmas. The World Series carried me beyond Halloween, and I start playing Christmas music on November 1. Come January 1 of next year, I will be tuning into baseball talk again and getting ready for Twinsfest at the end of January. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in mid-February…but I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, happy holidays to all—and for the Twins, a well-deserved rest.