A nearly 11-year relationship was ended yesterday morning when the Diamondbacks agreed to sign Jason Kubel to a two-year deal that will pay the former Twins 12th round selection $15M to be their left fielder. The man I've given countless nicknames to over the past few years, highlighted by my personal favorite, Kub-El-Nino, will be leaving the Midwest for the Southwest and the hitter friendly confines of Chase Field.
The Twins will collect a supplemental round draft pick for their loss, and fans will be left with the memories of Kubel's flair for the dramatic. The echoes of "Kuuuuuuuuuuuuubes" that resonated through the Metrodome and Target Field will be no more, but I for one will look back at Kubel's time in Minnesota with fondness. Parting is sweet sorrow, and Kubel has long been a personal favorite of mine, so here's my five fondest memories of #16 and his time with the Twinks.
5. October 4, 2009
In 2009, the Twins stormed back from a seemingly impossible deficit to move into a Game 163 tiebreaker with the Tigers. More on that later, but first thing's first. The Twins needed every last win to get there, and Kubel iced one of those wins by belting a pair of three-run homers in the same game, including a first inning shot that helped relax the Twins, and a nail in the coffin that put them up 7-0, helping to ensure that they wouldn't be eliminated on that day.
4. May 16, 2010
Playing in the annual slaughter that is the Twins' trip to Yankee Stadium, a rare opportunity presented itself. Mariano Rivera was brought in to close out a bases loaded threat with Jim Thome at the plate. Kubel loomed in the on-deck circle, hoping that the future Hall of Fame slugger would do something against the future Hall of Fame closer to give him a chance. Rivera's control eluded him, and Thome reached on a free pass, driving in a run in the process. That walk set up a clutch grand slam to right field off the bat of the pride of Belle Fourche, South Dakota. It may have been an early-season game, but for a brief time, Kubel made his fans and teammates forget about the pain they'd experienced at the hands of the Yankees.
3. October 6, 2009
Thanks in part to a torrid stretch from Kubel in which he hit six home runs in the season's final 20 games (homering at a 49-per-season pace), the Twins found themselves in the midst of what would eventually be known as one of the greatest games in MLB history. Finding themselves down 3-1 early on, Kubel hit what would be one of the longest home runs in Metrodome history to bring the Twins within one. That titanic, 455 foot solo shot off Rick Porcello would prove critical, as we all know -- the Twins eeked out a one-run victory to kick start yet another playoff appearance.
2. June 13, 2006
Kubel had started exactly 31 Major League games when he came to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th inning in a tie game versus Julian Tavarez. The game had been hyped to be a major pitchers' duel between Johan Santana and Curt Schiling, and the two aces delivered. It was Kubel, however, who stole the show -- tucking a deep fly ball just inside the baggy for a walk-off grand slam.
1. April 17, 2009
In a game that was tied 3-3 entering the seventh inning, the Twins watched Nick Blackburn and Jesse Crain combine to relinquish five runs in the top half of that inning, putting them down five runs with just nine outs to go. A comeback seemed a tall task, but Kubel was feeling downright Herculean that day. He struck out with a man on third in the seventh, but came to the plate with the bases loaded and a shot at redemption in the eighth inning -- already with a double, single, and (rare) triple to his credit. The Halos' five-run lead would last all of five outs, as Mike Scioscia elected to intentionally walk Justin Morneau to fill the bases for Kubel. The grand slam he hit found its way deep into the upper deck in right-center field and put the Twins up 11-9, capping off an incredible comeback and completing the cycle in one the most improbable manners imaginable.
Kubel hit 104 home runs (seven grand slams) over parts of seven seasons with the Twins, and provided a wealth of memories to fans. He recovered from a devastating minor league knee injury to establish himself as a productive Major League hitter. He had a quiet, reserved demeanor; he wasn't flashy. Kubel let his bat do the talking though, and in doing so endeared himself to a fan base who will miss the opportunity to howl "KUUUUUUUUUUUUBES" every time the Beastie Boys blare through Target Field's speakers. But Jason Kubel carved out a place in Twins history, and the memories we have from him are some of my favorites. Share your favorite Kubel memories below, and join me in saying: Best of luck in Arizona, Jason.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com, MLB.com Fantasy Baseball, and has contributed at 612Sports.net. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve