Yes, the Wolves and Twins have essentially switched places on the local sports landscape. The latest evidence came this weekend, when All-Star Kevin Love won the three-point contest and helped his West squad to a victory in the real fake game, while the Twins suffered yet another on-field (and off-field) hit when reliever Joel Zumaya, an injury risk but nonetheless one the Twins were somehow counting on to stabilize a woebegone bullpen, was lost for the season before we could even get to March.
The challenge we took up this morning was to figure out exactly when the spirit switch took place. After all, there were so many key moments in 2011 -- the Twins getting off to a 17-37 start and dealing with all sorts of injuries and the Wolves landing Ricky Rubio and drafting Derrick Williams just to name a few.
But if we are looking for a little more symmetry and something that really tied everything together, then Sept. 14, 2011, is our verdict for when things really shifted. True, the NBA was still in the midst of full-blown labor woes at the time. But it was on that date that Joe Mauer played his final game of 2011 -- missing the rest with mild pneumonia, a perfectly fitting end to an awful season for both he and the Twins. Minnesota lost that game, their fifth consecutive loss in the midst of an 11-game losing streak and a 99-loss season. The Wolves, meanwhile, added the final -- and arguably most important -- puzzle piece just a day earlier when it was confirmed they had hired Rick Adelman as head coach.
The Twins had a little bounceback when Terry Ryan re-took the helm as GM, but we would hardly use "optimistic" to describe how fans feel about the 2012 squad. Meanwhile, the Wolves head into the second half of their season at .500 and with a ceiling that seems quite a bit higher than that. They are the most entertaining sports product in this market, and they are the closest thing we have to a model franchise right now. We never would have guessed that a year ago; then again, we didn't know that less than six months ago, the spirits of Target Field and Target Center would trade places.