The Twins and then the Chicago Cubs came into AT&T Park in San Francisco for a six-game homestand that ended on Wednesday afternoon. The Giants swept the Twins and won two of three against the Cubs.
This improved the Giants’ major league-best record to 34-19 and also sent their consecutive sellout streak to 274. Obviously, in modern sports, all attendance is based on tickets sold (or distributed) and not on actual bodies in the stadium or arena.
The Giants have had plenty of empty seats both early and late in the schedules during this streak, but that wasn’t the case vs. the Twins and the Cubs. I was there for five games and the ballpark by the bay was bursting with customers of all ages and ethnic backgrounds in their Giants garb.
The Bay Area long has been a true melting pot, and to see that carry over to the ballpark is a wonderful surprise for a person raised on Minnesota’s big-league sports crowds.
More than anything, this was a reminder as to what enjoyment baseball can bring when the sporting public has a strong affection for the product offered by the home team.
An unlikely collection of Giants brought the first World Series title to San Francisco in 2010, and then repeated with a similar roster: outstanding pitching supported by a lineup with a couple of stars and otherwise pieced together with effective parts.
The 2014 Giants have used that formula through the first one-third schedule to get a small cushion over the mega-buck Dodgers in the National League West. Across the bay, the Oakland A’s have used the same elements – pitching and patchwork – to great effect for three seasons.
It was interesting to leave the outstanding baseball vibe in the Bay Area and return to the Twin Cities at daybreak on Wednesday. A few hours earlier, the Twins had rallied for two runs in the ninth to beat Texas, 4-3, and end a four-game losing streak.
Normally, this brings at least a hint of happiness to a team’s followers, but all I could find in the public forums were complaints:
Unhappiness with the squibber and Texas misplay that scored the winning run, unhappiness with the exuberance of the Twins’ winning celebration, unhappiness with Aaron Hicks’ attempt to become solely a right-handed hitter on the fly in the big leagues and, of course, unhappiness with Joe Mauer.
We’ve been unhappy with Joe since the historic day in St. Petersburg, Fla. in April 2011 when manager Ron Gardenhire offered the Twins’ diagnosis for Mauer’s absence from the lineup – something about the condition of his legs – and that’s not going to change until he assists in a significant improvement in the team’s position in the standings.
Yet, it was instructive to be back in Minnesota to take in the venom toward the Twins after a WIN. You probably have to go back to October 1969, when Calvin Griffith fired Billy Martin, to find a time when such a large share of the local sporting public was fully down on the Twins.
And the difference then was the Twins had one more tremendous ballclub – in 1970 – before settling into the franchise’s first long decline. Apathy became the main response in those final seasons at Met Stadium, and again during the eight losing seasons in the Metrodome from 1993 through 2000.
Again, the Twins are facing a large serving of apathy after the worst three-season stretch in Minnesota, but there’s also flat-out anger.
Maybe it’s always been this way in bad times and people now have forums to express their outrage. Maybe some of it is economic, as people living check-to-check can’t understand why a guy making $23 million can be stuck at 15 RBI entering his team’s 50th game of the season.
Whatever the actuality, I’ve been an ardent follower of the Twins since Day One and I’ve never been aware of a situation to equal this level of disdain for stealing one in the bottom of the ninth.
I’ve been ripping Hicks for his passive approach to hitting. I’ve contended that his left-handed swing was not going to work in the big leagues. At the same time, I think the team’s followers could have spent more time celebrating his over-the-fence catch to save three runs, and Oswaldo Arcia’s slugging, and getting those two runs in the ninth, rather than bitterness over victory.