If the world remains anything like it seemed when I was a boy, a lot of 10-year-olds were crying into their Count Chocula Wednesday morning.

Two days after TwinsFest plucked the heartstrings of every Little Leaguer who dreams of wearing a "TC" on his cap, the Minnesota Twins threw a high hard one at their heads.

The Twins' best pitcher -- and one of the best in baseball -- was traded to the New York Mets for four stiffs no fifth-grader heard of before. The loss of Johan Santana, coming so soon after the loss of star center fielder Torii Hunter, is the kind of thing that breaks kids' hearts and gets them ready for all the callous, cruel and venal decisions life will bring them later.

It shouldn't happen so young.

But when you're a kid, your town's team manipulates your immature emotions in order to get you to tug on daddy's sleeve and beg him to buy a pair of $50 tickets and a souvenir jersey so Dad can go to his grave knowing that his boy will remember him through misty eyes and support the next billion-dollar stadium proposal when the stadium opening in 2010 needs to be replaced a few years later.

Maybe it's time to outlaw sports marketing to kids, like we protect them from porn merchants. Or maybe we should throw cold water on the little snivelers and tell them to stop crying and grow up.

And forget the $50 tickets.

Baseball is a con. The Twins just showed your kid that he and his doofus Dad have been played like cheap fiddles.

"Hey, Pops, is there any outrage about the Santana trade in the sports section?"

"I don't know, Son. I can't tell if I'm reading the sports section or the business section."

From what I've been reading, it seems our crafty Twins are just doing what's good for business. Anyone who thinks differently is a kid or a dork.

So. A team owned by a triple-billionaire who is getting a new stadium from John Q. Public (Johnny Jr. will pay taxes for this thing for 30 years) refuses to pay its biggest star the going rate for a top left-hander. And we are supposed to shrug and pass the tax collection plate.

Wait a minute. Whatever happened to "our" Twins?

They were "our" Twins all the while the team was begging for a public handout. But now that the new ballpark is underway, suddenly, they are not "our" Twins anymore.

They are back to being Carl's Twins. And we are supposed to applaud because he recently agreed to cover a $20 million overrun for the new park.

Oh, really? Hey, take away most of the zeros and I will offer the same deal to anyone in town: Give me $500, and I will give you $20. Without selling your kid's favorite ballplayer.

If they are "our" Twins, then "we" were robbed. Because "we" will miss No. 57, big time.

But all I've been hearing is that Pohlad is a saint on Earth, just waiting for his wings. It's only when you get away from Twinsville that he begins to look less like Mother Teresa.

Pohlad "could pay Santana $150 million out of petty cash," wrote Michael Ozanian (in his blog), the national editor of Forbes, which says Pohlad is the richest owner in baseball.

"Instead of showing appreciation for the new stadium by keeping Santana and making the Twins a contender ... Pohlad is giving the taxpayers the finger."

It's a racket, people.

Last summer, the Timberwolves traded their star, Kevin Garnett. The Wolves have eight victories since. The Vikings do not appear to be selling the two players the average person can name, but they want a billion from the taxpayers for their no-name crew. And the Wild seem to be ready to lose their only all-star, Marian Gaborik, to a higher-paying, big-city team.

"Our" hockey team, by the way, was sold to a guy who married into the Johnson Wax company, whose products sum up the attitude of most sports czars toward the chumps who buy the tickets: Raid, Vanish and Drano.

Raid the public's goodwill and tax coffers. Vanish the big stars. Then, it's down the Drano. Goodbye, playoffs.

OK, maybe losing Johan Santana isn't the end of the world. Maybe we should tell the kids to shut up and eat their chocolatey sugar cereal.

The kids will be all right, eventually. And they will be tough. But be easy with them now. The Twins broke their hearts, because the Twins don't have any. It's OK to be mad about it. And to be sad.

Hey, say it ain't so, Jo.

Nick Coleman • ncoleman@startribune.com