Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What if...

I couldn't help but read some of the comments on the STRIB's story reporting Carl Pohlad's death. The moderators deleted any derogatory posts. The remaining posts agreed that Pohlad brought to championships to the Twin Cities and saved baseball in Minnesota. Both sentiments are true to a point, but Minnesota baseball fans ought to rethink their feelings of indebtedness and quit groveling.

Suppose Pohlad had never purchased the Twins from Calvin Griffith and the Twins had left town. The implication is that baseball in Minnesota would be reduced to the Eastern Minny league. In reality, that's probably not the case. Contrary to the propaganda, the Twin Cities market is just too big to be without baseball in some capacity for an extended period of time. Within a matter of years, a AAA team would likely move to town. Remember, a minor-league team would have been bumped by the Twins arrival in their new town. Furthermore, Major League Baseball added 4 new franchises in the 1990's. Certainly Minneapolis-Saint Paul would have been a prime candidate for a new franchise. And in this scenario, the "Twins" would probably be playing in Denver, Phoenix, Tampa, or Miami. The expansion franchise is not a guarantee, but there would definitely be either a AAA or MLB team in the metropolitan area.

In either case, baseball fans in Minnesota would have spent the 1990's watching hot prospects like Dave McCarty struggling fulfill the hype. Matt Lawton and Marty Cordova would have stabilized the revolving door of outfielders which had included Rich Becker, Alex Cole, Brent Brede, and Roberto Kelly. We'd have seen over-the-hill veterans like Otis Nixon give it one more chance. A crafty aging pitcher like Bob Tewksbury might have tried throwing a 45 mph change-up. Minnesota would be one of many stops for mediocre journeymen corner-infielders like Dave Hollins and Greg Colbrunn. It wouldn't be a season without trading Midre Cummings. A pitcher like Mike Trombley would blow the few leads we had. Frankie Rodriguez would pitch over 200 innings in one season. The highlight would have been when Chip Hale set the record for most pinch hits in a season. In short, baseball in Minnesota would have been unbearable in the 90's without the Twins.

But the Twins did win two World Series after Pohlad bought them. The World Championships are treasured memories for any of us with any recollection of them whatsoever. But unless Nick Punto and company get to work this season, come October, some kid who wasn't even born the last time the Twins won a World Series is going to walk into a gas station (present his real drivers' license), and buy a pack of Camel Lights. Do we really want to keep living in the past? Do we want to become as annoying as Cubs fans? Since the Twins won their last championship, the Marlins have won two, the Diamondbacks one, and even the Rockies and Rays made it to the World Series. Even with an expansion team, we may have still enjoyed a championship. As an added bonus, we'd have paid for the stadium by now. Although I'm not sure we ever could have replaced the brilliance of Brad Radke.

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