Finally, the 2007 baseball season is upon us! Now that we've finally hit what qualifies as the real beginning of spring, I thought it might be nice to take a look at some of the things that are likely to happen this year, in what will no doubt be the first Minnesota Twins Season Review of 2007.
It's a look back at the 2007 season, written just a couple of months early, and it begins, as the baseball season so often does, in....
... when the Twins introduce a new tradition for the rest of the 2007 season: following every home Johan Santana start, the team gathers 35 area pastors, reverends, and rabbis, all of whom fervently pray for four immediate days of rain to miraculously take place inside the Metrodome.
In other pitching-staff news, starting pitcher Boof Bonser shocks the local sports scene by announcing that, despite the fact that he is a grown man, he is not going to change his name back to John. However, phenom Matt Garza, desperate for any edge that might get him called up to the big leagues, announces that he is changing his name to "Gump Worsley."
Later in the month, Twins all-star catcher Joe Mauer misses two games with soreness in his lower leg, prompting renewed calls for Mauer to be moved to DH or to any other safe position, possibly something nice and calm in the front office. All four major Twin Cities TV stations provide hourly updates on Mauer's progress. ("Early reports from St. Paul say that Mauer is still sleeping. Team officials would neither confirm nor deny these reports, instead choosing to hang up the phone very rudely because it was, quote, 'three in the morning.'")
The Twins send catcher Chris Heintz to the minors, after discovering that Heintz had not played in any of the first 9 games of the season, and had in fact been accidentally left behind on a road trip.
Hennepin County officials send out a press release announcing that they had just been down to the new ballpark site, and that it "smelled kind of, I don't know, off. Like milk that hasn't quite gone bad yet, but might soon." The County negotiators say that, as a result, they are lowering their offer for the land to $3.75 and a coupon for a free Chipotle burrito. In response, Land Partners II announces that several precious metals have been discovered in large quantities on the land, including gold, platinum, copper, and at least two new metallic elements that until recently were thought to exist only on the moon.
Pitcher Sidney Ponson announces that he was going to begin drinking "only after noon, which doesn't count as alcoholism."
With news like that, Twins fans could only look forward to turning a page on the whole sorry business, in this case a page on the calendar, one that brings us us all into....
.. which starts with a story Minnesota fans have heard before, as Timberwolves general manager Kevin McHale announces at a press conference that he has traded Michael Cuddyer and a first-round draft pick to the Bobcats, before being informed that he is not allowed to do this, then dragged away from the podium by security guards.
The Twins forfeit a game for the first time in team history, as manager Ron Gardenhire starts Mike Redmond at DH and Joe Mauer at catcher in a Saturday game against Boston. Mauer leaves the game in the sixth inning with soreness in his knee, prompting Gardenhire to throw up his hands and forfeit, despite several astonished pinch-hitters being left on the bench. "There was literally nothing I could do," says Gardenhire. "I was going to put on Mauer's uniform and pretend for three innings, but the umps said I couldn't do that, so we had to forfeit. We'll try to get them tomorrow." The Pioneer Press reports the public mood the next day as "shocked," with fully 97% of respondents to a Star Tribune poll describing themselves as "worried" about Gardenhire.
Pitching prospect Matt Garza surprises team officials by submitting a birth certificate that shows the right-hander to be 37 years old, and thus a veteran. General manager Terry Ryan, however, refuses to accept this change, inasmuch as the birth certificate is crudely drawn with a purple crayon on the back of a Long John Silver's menu.
Sidney Ponson begins a few rumors, one of which states that rum has been approved as a legitimate nonalcoholic beverage by Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Star Tribune reports that Joe Mauer has contracted the stomach flu, prompting a statewide outpouring of support. Approximately two hundred gallons of Kaopectate are delivered to the Twins' clubhouse by concerned fans, along with several cases of Pepto-Bismol, and at least two doses of insulin from fans that had confused the flu with diabetes. The Twins, unable to effectively manage this wave, eventually donate all goods to those in need, in this case, two local Taco Bell franchises.
A month like May makes us all long for a month with a few days of summer in it and maybe the summer solstice, a month like....
... which starts with some trade news, as the Cincinnati Reds announce the acquisition of Carlos Silva, Ramon Ortiz, and a rusted-out '76 Dodge Dart, in exchange for three prospects. "We really felt we got the best end of the deal here," says Reds GM Wayne Krivsky. "Silva and Ortiz are proven starters in the league, and Terry Ryan has assured us that the Dart doesn't look like much, but runs like a dream." Krivsky later describes himself as "disappointed" upon discovering that the car had only two wheels, no windshield, and an unidentified body in the trunk. All three new Twins prospects are immediately named to every list of the top 25 minor-league prospects in baseball.
In a related story, the Twins are able to use one of the vacated roster spots to call up pitcher Matt Garza, who had been throwing nothing but a terrible sinker at Triple-A Rochester, with the idea that this appeared to be what the team wanted. The Twins also place starting left fielder Rondell White on waivers in order to bring up both third catcher Chris Heintz and gout sufferer Matthew LeCroy, who was elevated to the majors, in the words of manager Ron Gardenhire, "to be the fourth catcher." LeCroy is ordered to report to an undisclosed location, giving Gardenhire another safe option behind the plate.
The Minnesota state legislature, in a hurried special session, passes a statewide ban on sales of alcohol, in response to catcher Joe Mauer sporting the apparent effects of a hangover during a noon game against Toronto. Pitcher Sidney Ponson immediately demands to be traded.
Rumors from heaven suggest that God has stopped attending Pearly Gates League games, instead preferring to listen to Herb Carneal on the radio.
Backup catcher Mike Redmond gets himself into hot water in the middle of the month, with an attempt to pump up his son's baseball team that goes horribly, horribly awry.
June is followed, as it so often is, by....
...which starts with Sidney Ponson's inevitable arrest for a driving under the influence. In response, the team sends Matt Garza to the minors.
Justin Morneau announces that he will not play on Canada Day unless the day's game is moved from Detroit to Windsor, ON. The Twins pay off the Tigers to make this happen, and Morneau has the game of his dreams, hitting two home runs and making 35 saves en route to a 5-3 overtime victory over the Red Wings.
Twins officials are forced to issue a missing person bulletin for Chris Heintz, after they realize that nobody has seen him for at least fifteen days. However, Matthew LeCroy's undisclosed location is revealed to be an International House of Pancakes in Burnsville.
Jason Tyner comes closer to hitting a major league home run than ever before. According to regular center fielder Torii Hunter, "It was a pretty high fly to right. It would have been out of there in a couple of American Legion parks, if the wind had been blowing out, and if somebody would have picked it up and thrown it the last fifty feet."
Joe Mauer coughs while waiting in the on-deck circle during a game against the Angels. Governor Tim Pawlenty orders SuperValu to divert all orange juice shipments to the Metrodome.
Luis Castillo is removed from the lineup for not running out a ground ball, then reinserted when it becomes apparent that the only other option at second base is Luis Rodriguez, who is currently hitting .034 and has injured two fans by accidentally throwing the bat into the crowd.
Luckily for those fans - and for all of us, July comes to a close, bringing on the dog days of....
... which begins inauspiciously, as a new World of Warcraft expansion pack is released. Lew Ford goes missing for three days.
After Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki fouls off eighteen consecutive sidearm pitches, Twins reliever Pat Neshek attempts to come overhand with a fastball. The pitch bounces off the facing of the upper deck.
Johan Santana announces that he will pitch the remainder of the season right-handed, in order to raise his level of difficulty. "This is just getting boring," says Johan. Fantasy owners throughout the nation riot in protest.
In a stretch that harkens back to the 2006 season, the Twins win seventeen consecutive games, despite getting a total of eleven hits and sending the entire pitching staff on vacation for three weeks.
Joe Mauer stays healthy, but shaves his sideburns, prompting an disturbance in the streets of Minneapolis-St. Paul that recalls the chaos of the Altamont Free Concert.
Jason Kubel, on track to have his first injury-free season, runs into a bit of bad luck when he is mauled by a bear. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire responds by bringing former Twin Tim Laudner out of retirement, to fill the all-important fifth catcher role.
Laudner's return - at the age of 49 - reminds us all of another pennant race, some twenty years ago, which coincidentally also took place in....
.. when the Twins, mathematically eliminated from contention in early July, suddenly reappear in the standings only three games behind division-leading Detroit. "We must have got our numbers wrong," say leading mathematicians. "Also, it appears that Minnesota was awarded 37 wins in the standings for an 11-4 victory over Cleveland on Labor Day."
Joe Mauer removes his glove in the bullpen before a game, apparently to study a paper cut on his hand. Candlelight vigils are held around the state, as people from all faiths join together to pray for the catcher's health.
Nick Punto sets a major-league record by sliding headfirst into first base for the 473rd time on the season, breaking a mark set by the entire 1933 Philadelphia Athletics. Critics point out that none of the slides resulted in Punto being safe at first, and that Punto had artificially inflated his numbers by sliding after strikeouts, during pitching changes, and on one occasion, on an off day.
In other record news, Michael Cuddyer sets a new major-league mark by thanking his lucky stars that he's batting between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau for the 2,285th time.
Johan Santana wins his twentieth game of the season, this time by pitching underhanded. Several members of the Rangers acknowledge that they were "just not trying any more" when Santana pitches. "It doesn't matter anyway," says first baseman Mark Teixeira. "His changeup is even good underhanded."
Closer Joe Nathan blows a save for the first time in 2007, just to "get it out of [his] system." After accidentally striking out the first two batters of the inning, Nathan is forced to resort to desperate tactics, at one point throwing the ball directly into the dugout on several consecutive pitches.
And so, as the season winds to a close, only one question remains: Can the Twins keep playing into...
... and deep into the playoffs?
And, well, for the answer to that, I guess you'll have to talk to someone with even more foresight than me.
Got a crystal ball of your own? I hope it's better than mine... let me know what you forsee, in the comments.