A big, wet kiss for the "C" word ...

No, not "cancer," though there were those who thought it was that serious at the time ....

With the vote this weekend, the Legislature took the next step toward putting "Contraction" behind the Twins (hopefully forever).

As much as it may offend, those who value the Twins presence in Minnesota owe a silent "thank you" to those in MLB who first uttered the word way back in late 2000 / early 2001.

Oh, I remember the anger I felt when I heard the team I'd rooted for from the moment I knew baseball existed might disappear.  "Why pick on the Twins?", I thought, "There are plenty of other franchises which were bigger basket cases financially  . . .  like the Rays, the Marlins & the Expos (just to name three)."

But in my heart of hearts, I knew the Twins belonged on the candidate list.  Despite winning a World Series in 1991, the Twins quickly returned to futility; attendance was at the "why bother?" level (per Aaron Gleeman, the Twins were often out drawn by the St. Paul Saints); ownership wasn't willing to bring in free agents if it meant pouring money down the toilet; there was ZERO interest in building a new ballpark - - unless Pohlad wanted to pay for 100% of it (and even then, you had to feel some do-gooder would've suggested confiscating any money Pohlad might spend on such a venture for more deserving causes, etc., etc.).

Faced with all this, there was simply no reason to believe baseball could be SUCCESSFUL in the Twin Cities again (like it was for most of the 60's).

And if there was no chance for success  . . .

What was missing - it's all very obvious now - was any sense of the consequences of things remaining as they were.  

The political structure & a large group of the "anti-stadiums" were convinced the Twins would never leave (especially in light of various ownership efforts to bring things to a head  . . .  calling them "ham-handed" is an insult to "Ham-Hands"), making it easy to posture as the protector of the "little people" against the "evil rich owner."

The threat of contraction introduced consequences to the equation.  With the help of a friendly judge getting a result I liked (even if it was not deserved by the facts) and the Major League Players Union insisting that contraction be taken off the table (think about that for a minute!), the Twins got a reprieve.

And then the 2001 Twins - I know it's the Tigers saying, but "Bless You, Boys!!!!" - reminded the Twins somnolent fan base that, "You know, this `baseball' stuff is fun to watch  . . .  maybe we want to keep it around."

Now fast forward to the present day.

Hard to believe this wasn't settled by now, isn't it?  

At the time, didn't you think the stadium issue would be resolved by 2002 or 2003 at the latest?

Weren't you expecting the Twins to move into their new ballpark by 2007 or 2008 at the latest?

And now that it's finally here, why?  Why did it finally get done THIS year and THIS time?

You know the answer:  

2007 - the end of the contraction moratorium - was approaching & enough people believed MLB was serious, believed if they didn't act now, the Twins would be history in just a couple of years.

Faced with the consequences - being remembered for driving baseball out of town by constituents who just might care - enough Legislators decided there was value in keeping the Twins in town.  But for the threat of the Twins going away, it wouldn't have happened.

Now, no one likes being told to "eat the broccoli," but sometimes that's what has to happen.

In this instance, the Twins were saved, at least in part, by MLB's threat to make them go away.  

As painful as it was at the time, those of us who value their existence ought to be thankful today that the threat was made.

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