Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


This, Bud, is for you

Ten months ago, the Minnesota Twins weren’t even sure if they were going to be a baseball team when the 2002 season opened up play in April. Ten days from now, they will compete in their first post-season since 1991.

That’s right: the same team that spent the entire off-season dodging the proverbial contraction bullet fired by both commissioner Bud Selig and owner Carl Pohlad, the Twins managed to capture the American League Central Division crown, leaving the second-place White Sox behind by a ridiculous 12 games.

In a season dominated by talks of luxury taxes and revenue sharing, Minnesota proved to the baseball world that small markets and efficient minor-league systems can in fact yield winning ball clubs, despite the presence of teams like the cheating New York Yankees and other deep-pocket organizations.

Before the baseball season even began last spring, ESPN’s Peter Gammons dubbed the Twins “America’s Team,” a team that embodies what Major League Baseball is supposed to be and the team that ultimately saved the game in the face of a potentially devastating strike.

With a cheap owner, low revenue and one of the stingiest payrolls working against it over the last decade, Minnesota has been forced to build its organization the old-school way: from the bottom to the top.

Lacking to the ability to sign the Jason Giambis and Gary Sheffields of the league, the Twins have earned their success through smart drafting, minor-league development and an enormous amount of patience.

Every Twin in the starting line-up, with the exception of pitcher Rick Reed, is a product of at least some time in their minor league system. Guys like Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, Doug Mientkiewicz, A.J. Pierzynski and Corey Koskie — Minnesota’s nucleus — have played on the same team for the last seven years.

Unlike the cheating New York Yankees, who probably all met each other at the All-Star game while playing for different teams earlier in their career, the Twins became acquainted with one another while riding a charter bus from Des Moines to Quad City, Iowa, as a collection of 20-year-old rookies growing up in the minor leagues.

I had an internship last summer and worked with the Twins; I spent some time in their post-game clubhouse. If it weren’t for my prior knowledge and the abundance of logos throughout the room, I could have sworn I was standing in the locker room of a high school baseball team.

I couldn’t believe the type of chemistry that existed between such big-time athletes. It was like they were all best friends who were getting ready to go out to the bars after another win over the Cleveland Indians. I don’t know where else in baseball, or any professional sport for that matter, someone would find such tight-knit bonds between players.

Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent argue and fight over egos. Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones argue over which one of them gets to be the Twins in EA Sports Triple Play for Playstation 2.

Go ahead and try to find another team that wears rally caps in the dugout when trailing in the ninth inning. Or a player like Doug Mientkiewicz who will sit in his “lucky” spot on the dugout floor amidst a sea of sunflower seeds and tobacco spit until the Twins have completed their late-inning comeback.

Ever see Bernie Williams do anything like that?

Aside from developing their team in the old-school way, the Twins win in that fashion as well. Timely hitting, speed on the base paths and the best defense in the game is their recipe for success.

Two or three different guys steal the show at the plate each night, and there isn’t a Baseball Tonight that goes by without viewers catching a glimpse of Hunter robbing a home run or Corey Koskie making a diving grab at third base.

Even people not from Minnesota can’t help but pull for the Twins when the playoffs commence Oct. 1. They’re fun, they’re exciting, and they’re the only pure aspect of a sport that has lost nearly all its credibility over the last decade.

Selig disgraced not only the Twins but the entire nation when he announced his plans for contraction just two days after one of the most epic World Series in recent history. His plan to eliminate the Twins and focus Midwestern baseball attention on his pathetic Milwaukee Brewers crashed and burned along with his respect from the public.

So while Selig heads back to the drawing board to devise another plan for ruining the game of baseball, the Twins will prepare to continue their epic run into the depths of October.

They’ve been patient, they’ve been resilient, and they’ve been the story of the season: A team with all odds against it, and a team whose entire payroll is almost $100 million less than that of the cheating New York Yankees.

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