Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
Guest poster Andrew Walter is a native Minnesotan and a lifelong Twins fan. Although he currently resides in Connecticut, just between the Boston and New York baseball empires, he is looking forward to the day when he can see a game at Target Field.
Things have changed in Minnesota: No longer is the Twins payroll in the lower third of baseball; no longer does the team play in an outdated football facility; and no longer are fans supposed to feign excitement at names in the starting lineup such as Brian Buscher, Junior Ortiz, Jeff Reboulet and Nick Punto. (Well, maybe not everything has changed.)
When the Twins have been competitive and advanced to the playoffs, as in five of the past eight seasons, national media outlets such as Fox, ESPN and TBS thrived on labeling the team as an underdog. Statistically this might have been true, of course. And the Twins were relatively unknown to the national baseball audience, thanks in large part to what felt like a paucity of nationally televised games during the regular season.
This has lead, in the playoffs, to the mispronunciation of player names, inaccurate statements regarding player strengths and weaknesses, and an overall tone that the Twins "should just be happy to be there."
Those days are gone.
The first 6 batters in the Twins' "A" lineup would start on most any major league team. Mauer and Morneau are nationally known, of course, but even Cuddyer and even Kubel are becoming recognizable names. Off the bench, there's Jim Thome, one of the most feared power hitters of all-time and a future Hall-of-Famer.
And the Twins are proving very solid defensively. The end result is that gone are the days where the Twins — and their fans — should be happy to just make the playoffs. Gone are the statements from Joe Buck, Joe Morgan, Chip Carey and Ron Darling that the Twins have accomplished a lot with a little.
This no longer is a small market team, and Minnesota itself is no small market. Representative of these changes, FOX is scheduled to air as many nationally televised Saturday Twins games as they are Yankees games. I will believe it when I see it.
I hope the newfound revenue and increased notoriety give this organization more wins, more confidence and a World Series. I live in Connecticut, between baseball meccas New York and Boston, and my cable package gives me the Yankees and Red Sox games and the pre-and-postgame coverage that seems the consume the entire night.
Although successful, these organizations represent, to me, the worst of baseball. Unlike those organizations, I hope the "Twins way" stays the same. No infighting that we hear of, no comments to the media when one is demoted or benched, no threats from the general manager when the team loses 4 games in a row, affordable entertainment for families (parking at Fenway costs more than a great seat at Target Field), and approachable players at events such as Twinsfest (think the Yankees do anything like that at such a low price?).
Even though the Twins may have upgraded their revenue streams and stadium, the organization and its fan involvement should always be "small market."
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