As far as anniversaries go, Tuesday brought about an odd one — but a notable one if you are a Twins fan of a certain mind.
Reader and longtime RandBall blog commenter Newbie e-mailed an item from nationalpastime.com, and he set up their “this day in history” nugget with the words “today was the beginning of the end.”
On Jan. 28, 2011, the Twins announced their plan to remove the 14 spruce trees from behind the center field wall at Target Field. As the team stumbled to a 17-37 start and eventually a 63-99 season — 31 victories fewer than they had in winning the AL Central during their first, tree-filled 2010 season at Target Field — many fans became convinced that removing the trees had put a curse on the team.
Those superstitious fans certainly have their share of what could be considered circumstantial evidence. Nobody had ever heard of bilateral leg weakness or Tsuyoshi Nishioka before the trees came out. When the setbacks kept mounting in 2012 and 2013, giving the Twins three consecutive seasons with at least 96 losses, the tree theory continued to thrive.
More realistic Twins fans recognize that a dramatic drop-off in pitching, some untimely injuries on offense, some bad free agent decisions and a farm system that dried up for several years are the main reasons for the slide, but believing in a curse — or at least that the curse caused those things to happen — is more entertaining.
The original decision, though, was prompted by safety concerns. Joe Mauer said, “It was one of the worst backdrops that we’ve seen,” while Michael Cuddyer said trying to hit during day games was “literally scary” because shadows made it hard to see.
Rumors floated around in October 2012 that the trees might be making a comeback, but nothing came of it. Fans were curious enough that Twins President Dave St. Peter e-mailed writers to tell them no changes were planned for 2013.
Perhaps the only thing that will remove the curse (or at least talk of it) is a winning season fueled by players like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano — youngsters who never knew Target Field when the trees were in center field.