(NOTE: The baseball season gets long, in August, and this season is longer than most, for Twins fans. By some estimations, the 2012 season is now into its nineteenth month, an uphill slog with the summit nowhere in sight. So this week, we're going to turn to fiction to try to explain the Twins. I've put this post after the jump because it will either explain something or confuse the heck out of you, and this way you have to make a choice if you want to subject yourself to this.)
When I walked in the door at the local watering hole, he was there. He's always there, during Twins games, and he's the first thing you see when you walk in the door because the door opens to the left and there he is, first table on the left, staring up at the screen in the corner, his back to you. Today he had on his third-or-fourth string Twins-game-watching ensemble - the basketball shorts and the powder-blue pullover-style Tom Brunansky jersey, with the scrawl near the number four on the back where Brunansky had signed it, back when my friend had caught up with him at a gas station outside Fort Myers.
I slid onto the seat across the little table from him. He didn't speak. He's not really a talker, anyway, and we both knew that he'd be there and I'd be there, and so there was really no need for pleasantries or good-to-see-you's. We watched in silence as Trevor Plouffe kicked a grounder and the bad guys got a run. The sound was down on the TV, which was fine because Dick Bremer has been known to set him off. Silence is more his speed.
An inning later, he finally spoke. "I think I know what the Twins need to do," he said, an actual sentence, one stripped of his usual epithets, which are usually colored with words of an Anglo-Saxon origin and other terms of endearment.
"You do?" I said.
"The first thing they need to do is fire Ron Gardenhire," he said. "He's getting paid way too much money for a team that stinks out loud." We sat quietly for a moment to consider the paycheck of Gardenhire, a man who looks like he'd be happy to accept bait, gas for his boat, and free games at the local bowling alley in lieu of remuneration. "The manager's job is to manage, right? To motivate his guys. Well, I don't see a lot of motivation out there. Most of these guys look like they wish baseball had some kind of running-clock mercy rule."
I was forced to admit that motivation didn't seem to be among the Twins' strengths at the moment. "So firing Gardy? That's your plan?"
"The second thing I'd do," he continued, apparently oblivious to me, "is fire Terry Ryan. He's the GM. He's responsible for getting players for this team. Frankly, that cupboard is bare, my friend. That well is bone dry. And Ryan's the one who's not restocking that pantry. He's got to go." And, more or less, this seemed truthful enough.
"I think I'd also get rid of that hitting coach, Vavra, and Anderson, the pitching coach. Not seeing a lot of improvement from most of these guys, are we? Most of these players seem like they start bad, and then they're bad forever. Not a lot of coaching in evidence." Again, I was forced to conclude that this was so.
"And I'll tell you who else needs to go," he said, ticking them off on his fingers. "Joe Mauer? Paid way too much money. For that kind of money, the guy should be a leader, but he seems like baseball's a chore that he's never quite done with. I saw him celebrate, once. It was on an old video clip from a Cretin-Derham Hall high school basketball game. Since then, nothing."
"Justin Morneau: sorry, buddy, but you can't hit anymore. Everyone in the middle infield is useless. And the pitching staff... where do I start? In fact, forget it. Everyone of them can go. Seriously. Every one. The Twins have used like 24 pitchers this year, and every one of them stinks."
"The training staff is terrible," he said. He was rolling now. "Every time a guy gets hurt, he's out for two months because they diagnose him as having a sprained knee and he turns out to have a broken finger. The ticket office staff is useless, too - last time I went to a game, they stuck me in the middle of a row even though I asked for an aisle. And I don't like that Dave St. Peter, either - he always talks on Twitter about UND, and there ain't been nothing good that's come out of UND, ever. That's what I'd do."
He seemed more or less spent after that. I tried to parse all of what he'd said. It seemed to make some sense, at least at first glance, but I was having trouble figuring out how it all fit together. Drew Butera was at the plate, now. He took a monumental swing at a curve ball for strike two.
"So that's your plan for fixing the Twins?" I said. "If they do all of that, then they'll be good next year?"
He stared at me for a long time. "Good?" he said. "What's good got to do with it? I just want those guys gone because it'd make me feel better."
There was more silence then. The TV on the wall flickered, soundlessly roaring like a fire, with the pictures of a doomed team in blue that looked for mercy but found none. Those men cried out to the baseball heavens, reaching for a rope to safety that was never there and would never come, drowning men in the sea that wouldn't be there when the lifeboats came too late. I sat staring at the television, lost in my thoughts, and I was like that for some time, until gradually I realized that no one was beside me and I'd heard no voices and all that time it was me, me, me all along.