Tuesday, April 23, 2013

April 23- Minnesota Twins

I probably should have written about this a few days ago, but I was just too darn happy to be with Angie Kinderman (@sconnieangie) to put the proper thoughts together and focus on something so detailed. If you’ve been a regular follower of my blog then you’ve probably noticed on more than one occasion that Angie is a die-hard Minnesota Twins fan. If you’re new to my blog then you should know that my girlfriend is a die-hard Twins fans. I, on the other hand, am an Oakland Athletics fan and for some reason have developed a bit of angst against the Twins since we lost to them in the American League Division Series back in 2002. For those who are unaware that was the “Moneyball” season. Anyway, in the seven months that we’ve been together we’ve only physically been together for a little less than a month’s worth of time due to the fact that we live 3000 miles away from one another; she lives in Florida and I live in Oregon. Being the hopeless romantic that I am I decided to “take one for the team,” so to speak, and wear a Twins hat whenever we meet at the airport. On December 31st I wore the “M” logo hat from my blog post on January 21st when I flew into Ft. Lauderdale to see her and I wore the navy blue “TC” logo cap from my post on February 15 when she came to visit me. This last Friday when I flew in to see her again I decided to roll with this cap.

This cap is only the fourth one the team has won on the field in their 53 years of existence. The navy blue panel with red bill “TC” logo was first introduced at the start of the 2010 season and has served as the team’s road cap ever since. It especially seemed like the perfect cap to wear as I traveled to see Angie due to the fact that I was literally going on the road to see her; however, I would love more than anything to make it more of a permanent stop sometime in the near future because I love being with her so damn much. Like with a lot of other teams, the introduction of new caps can have detrimental consequences on a team’s success, and no one found this out the hard way much like the 2010 Twins.

I purchased this cap in late April along with six other hats from the New Era Flagship store across the street from the MLB Fan Cave as well as two from the Lids store about three blocks away. I was in a bit of a spending mood that day on account of the fact that a few of the afternoon games had been rained out after we wrapped up our filming for the day. Fellow Cave Dweller and Twins fan Lindsay Guentzel (@LindsayGuentzel) had a few friends from Minnesota visiting town that week which turned out to be a huge coincidence that I had perfectly timed the purchase. They were all collectively happy about it.

For some odd reason my relationship with Lindsay was rather hit-or-miss at times and I have yet to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why that is. Some days we joked back and forth to one another while others we became highly competitive based on the environment and circumstances we were dealing with. To be honest, I’m pretty sure more of that had to do with my overall attitude. She never wronged me, and sometimes I was a total jerk, something I apologized to her about at great length over the phone while I was on my country-wide baseball road trip a few months after I had been kicked out of the Fan Cave. I think the one moment that really solidified things between the two of us came on the final challenge I had participated in when our assignment was to create an All-Star campaign video for one of the players on the team were representing. I talked about this in my post from April 1st. I chose to do mine on Reddick at which the final product turned out incredibly well. I had gotten help from the New York chapter of the Oakland Athletics Fan Club which happened to feature a former Miss Oakland named Sophia Andrade. I was also fortunate enough to get former Athletics Eric Byrnes and current Cincinnati Red Jay Bruce to endorse Reddick as well. It also didn’t hurt in the end that Reddick himself endorsed it as well as former WWE talent scout and play-by-play commentator Jim Ross backing at well. Unfortunately for me, the last two parts I had forgotten to relay when we then had to give a one minute presentation and pitch for our player. Lindsay’s video was kind of plain, but still a good idea. Since the team has planter boxes with flowers in the outfield, Lindsay decided to revolve her video around a Twins garden gnome that she had who would then be kidnapped and not returned unless people voted for Josh Willingham. The only catch for her video was that she needed someone with a British accent to do the voice. Cue me. One of the many talents I have is that I can do voice impersonations, a skill I rarely ever discuss with people, but work on regularly throughout my days as I once wanted to do voiceover work for cartoons. So, not being one to turn down requests, I happily helped Lindsay out with the voiceover work… and nailed it in one take. After we had completed our pitches and played our videos it finally came down to the judges’ decision for who the winner would be. At the time I hadn’t won a single challenge we had; however, Lindsay had won two and everyone else except Philadelphia Phillies fan Gordon Mack had all won at least one. I honestly thought I had it in the bag… until they announced Lindsay’s name. I was vapor locked. I did everything I could to keep from reacting emotionally until production wrapped. When that came to pass I walked downstairs and cried. Ricardo Marquez followed me down and did his best to console me. I wasn’t mad at Lindsay because she had won, I was mad at myself for helping her win. And with only a week to go before the first elimination I thought I was done. Which, as it turned out, I was.

On the last day that I was officially a Cave Dweller the A’s and Twins had started a three-game series in Minnesota on May 28th. Things had started off well on my end; Travis Blackley was pitching a great game as the starter and Reddick had crushed a first inning solo home run off of Twins pitcher Scott Diamond, at which I yelled out, “Diamondcutter!!!” and made the diamond symbol like Diamond Dallas Page of World Championship Wrestling fame. However, my joy, little by little came to an end as the Twins came back to win the game 5-4 in the bottom of the eighth inning. During the comeback Lindsay shouted with as the final runs crossed the plate. She even apologized to me afterward; something that I thought was a bit weird considering that I never had a problem with anyone cheering for their team as they played mine. But alas, that would turn out to be the final A’s game I would watch in the Fan Cave as I was eliminated the next afternoon following the conclusion of the Chicago Cubs versus San Diego Padres game. Of all games. Yeesh!

The Twins would go on to sweep the A’s and my bitterness boiled over as I spent my nights at Foley’s Pub in downtown Manhattan, drinking and watching the last two games of the series with the A’s Fan Club. When I returned to the apartment complex on the night of the third game I arrived just as the other seven remaining Cave Dwellers were getting back. Lindsay, Ricardo and Ricky Mast all shared an apartment so I went upstairs with them for an additional bit of drinking. Lindsay decided to call it a night early, leaving the three of us to our own devices. Not too long after her lights went out I scanned the living room, looking for the garden gnome she used in her video, but I couldn’t find it. Next to the sink in the kitchen sat three Twins bobbleheads she had brought to New York from Minnesota. When Ricky and Ricardo weren’t paying attention I snatched the Dan Gladden bobblehead and bid them a good night. As I reflect back on that night I feel incredibly stupid for what I did; however, I had all the intention in the world to return it at the end of the season. What I didn’t know at the time was that little Dan Gladden would be taking my countrywide baseball tour with me.

I’m not going to go into too much detail on this part of the story as I have a much more detailed post that I’ll be writing in the future; however, what I will tell you is that Gladden made the journey with me to the 27 stadiums I was able to visit (including Canada), to Disneyland, to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and a slew of other baseball related events including a few Minor League stadiums. When I talked to Lindsay on the phone to apologize for the way I may have treated her I had debated on informing her that I had the bobblehead, but the words didn’t quite come out of my mouth. I had only knocked out about half of the stadiums ad wanted to finish my quest before I gave her the slightest hint that I was the one who had abducted it. Unfortunately for everyone, including little Dan Gladden, he has since fallen apart quite a bit. Here is a before and after on the punishment he has taken.

I assure you, it wasn’t my intention for it to end up in as rough of shape as it is. Back in January I hit up Ebay to try and find her a brand new one to send to her so I can finish up my tour with him. Once again; however, fate stepped in the way. Three weeks after I paid for a new one I got an email from the dealer informing me that he had returned my money as the shipping company he had used completely shattered the new on I had purchased. Talk about irony! So with that, I figured a Twins road cap post would be the perfect time to come clean as little Dan Gladden did fall apart on the road. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, yes, I do fully intend to get Lindsay a new one, but I’ll wait to give it to her when I get to Target Field, the final stadium on my checklist after Turner and Coors Field. Seems like a perfect time and place to wrap things up.

Since this cap has only been used for so many years I couldn’t think of two better guys to mark it up with and pay tribute to.

#7- Joe Mauer was taken with the first overall pick by the Twins in the 2001 amateur draft out of Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, Minnesota.  He made his debut on April 5, 2004 as the predecessor to A.J. Pierzynski who had been traded to the San Francisco Giants at the end of the 2003 season. Maurer only played in 35 games that season due to swelling in his knees which sidelined him in July through the end of the season. In 2005 he played his first full season, batting an impressive .294 with nine home runs and 55 RBI. From 2006-2010, Mauer was the man, winning three batting titles in 2006, 2008 and 2009 on top of making four All-Star Game Appearances, winning three Gold Gloves (2008-2010), four Silver Slugger awards and the American league MVP in 2009. In 2006 he finished in sixth for the MVP, in 2008 he finished in fourth and in 2010 he finished in eighth. While Mauer has continued to hit well throughout his entire career (.324 lifetime average), it was during the 2011 season that problems began to arise. He signed a $184 million deal in March of 2010 which wouldn’t kick in until the 2011 season; however, he only ended up playing in 82 games that season and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in the offseason. In 2010 the Twins finished the season in first place in the American League Central Division and lost in the first round of the American League Division Series to the New York Yankees. In 2011 they finished in dead last, and have been there ever since. I kind of want to blame the hat, but I suppose I need more conclusive evidence other than this one guy to prove that theory. Soooooooo…

#33- Justin Morneau was a third round draft pick by the Twins in 1999 out of New Westminister High School in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. He made his MLB debut on June 10, 2003 when he played in 40 games that season and 74 in 2004 where he clubbed 19 home runs along with 58 RBI and a .271 batting average. In 2005 he played his first full season as the Twins first baseman, fairing well at the plate with another 22 home runs and 79 RBI.

In 2006 Morneau dominated the AL. Despite not making the All-Star team that year (ridiculous) he managed to win his first, and only thus far, AL MVP award after going .321 on the season with 34 home runs and 130 RBI. Over the next four seasons he batting average went down and then back up again, but his power numbers stayed consistent. From 2007-2010 Morneau made four straight All-Star Game appearances and even finished in second place to Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia for the AL MVP again in 2008 after hitting .300 with 29 home runs and 129 RBI. When the 2010 season came Morneau started off hot. So much to the point where I flipped him the bird during a game in Oakland after he crushed a home run off of Dallas Braden on June 4th, the third home run I had seen Morneau yak in the two Twins victories I had seen in the Coliseum. However, only a month later on July 7th Morneau would be taken out of a game in Toronto after sustaining a concussion which took him out for the remainder of the season. At the time he was batting .345 with 18 home runs and 56 RBI, well-enough on pace to lock up the AL MVP that season. Without Morneau in the lineup the Twins continued to do well with out him, but unfortunately for himself, he was never the same player in the seasons to follow. In 2012 he got a bit of his power back, hitting 19 home runs and knocking in 77 runs, but his average hovered around .267.

What’s most interesting about this hat is that both players were wearing it when their injuries had first occurred; however, they were also wearing it when they had their largest fortunes of success in the first year it was worn. Mauer hit eight of his nine home runs on the road in 2010 and his batting average was 25 points higher on the road (.339) than at home (.314). For Morneau 14 of his 18 home runs that season came on the road, not to mention his .375 batting average outside of Target field along with his 1.205 OPS. If there were ever two guys who had the Midas touch and a drink from the poorly chosen Holy Grail from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” while wearing this cap, it was certainly there two.

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