Matt Cullen came home this week, reeking of champagne. Glen Perkins came home from convalescence, smelling of liniment. Wild fans have to hope the former doesn’t imitate the latter. Minnesotans should worry that he might.
Both are Minnesota natives who chose to re-sign with their home-state team to finish their careers. That motivation often sounds quainter the day players sign than on the day they depart.
Bringing ’em back home or keeping them has been a frequent tactic in modern Minnesota sports, and it has worked spectacularly well on occasion. The risk is that the player wanted to return home more because of comfort than ambition.
‘‘At age 40, it’s time to let the kids plant some roots and settle down at home because, as you go through a long career, the kids give up a lot in order to allow you to play,’’ Cullen said. ‘‘At a certain point here, it becomes more important to be fair to them, too.’’
That sentiment makes him a responsible father, but the Wild isn’t looking for a Lady Byng winner. The team is desperately if not always logically pushing to win a Cup. Cullen should help, if this isn’t the year age turns him into a skating nostalgia act.
The Twins have historically valued homegrown players, and one of them delivered with stunning efficiency and pragmatism.
Jack Morris signed for one year, pitched the Twins to a title, then immediately left, mixing cheers and tears as effectively as an Irish wake.
In 1993, the Twins went to the ‘‘We Like it Here’’ card again. They allowed the shortstop from their two title teams, Greg Gagne, to leave, and signed St. Paul native and future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield.
That might not be the move that led to the Twins’ eight straight losing seasons, but it contributed. As for the notion that hometown heroes draw fans, when Winfield got his 3,000th hit in the Metrodome in 1994, the attendance was 14,654.
The Twins brought back St. Paul native Paul Molitor in 1996 and he hit .341 and reached 3,000 hits but didn’t play on a winner. They brought back Terry Steinbach in ’97 and he didn’t hit .341 or play for a winner.
The Twins signed St. Paul native Joe Mauer to an eight-year, $184 million contract after he won the AL MVP award in 2009. Had he grown up in Cleveland they might not have met his price.
After signing a reasonable deal with the Twins so he could stay in Minnesota and retire a Twin, Perkins showed up out of shape in 2016, pitched two innings in April, then didn’t pitch again in the big leagues until Thursday. His contract was no longer ‘‘team-friendly’’ once he went on the disabled list.
Zach Parise wanted to play at home, signed a 13-year deal that was bound to become a problem, and then began regressing four years into it. Cretin-Derham Hall alum Michael Floyd signed what might have been a last-chance contract with the Vikings, then was suspended for four games before taking a snap.
For most pro sports teams, bringing a player home is a matter of letting familiarity act as a tiebreaker. No one signs an athlete because of ZIP codes, but locality may grease the wheels for a deal. Signing a 40-year-old player anticipating retirement is a hard sell, unless his name is Matt Cullen and he loves Minnesota.
The Lynx might have been guilty of a classic management mistake. They traded for Lindsay Whalen in part because she could draw fans, a gambit that has failed the Twins a few times. The Lynx were lucky that she helped transform the franchise from perennial afterthought to perennial champion.
Signing a hometown hero can lead to buyer’s remorse or statewide celebrations. The lesson taught by Mauer, Parise and Perkins is that if you’re going to sign a local athlete, keep the contract as short as possible.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org