On Wednesday night, I reveled in the Twins’ popping-bottles celebration as much as anyone. Seeing Rocco Baldelli enjoy the fruits of his first year of management labor was especially satisfying. Being the nostalgic person I am, however, my mind naturally drifted back to 2010—the last time a Twins team celebrated in similar fashion.
I know, I know…technically the Twins sprayed bubbly in 2017 after clinching a Wild Card berth:
But something seems different about a division-clinching celebration (as opposed to the wild card). Division crowns are a concrete, solid achievement: “we were the best against our direct competition”. Sure, wild cards are a legitimate path to a championship, but teams generally don’t get a stadium banner for them.
Until Wednesday, it had been nine years since a Twins clubhouse was covered in clear tarps. I happened to be at the ballpark that night…
September 21, 2010. Seated in the top-most row of the upper deck behind home plate, I was one of the 39,580 that witnessed the Cleveland Indians take a quick first inning lead on a Travis Hafner double. Fortunately, Scott Baker (5 IP, 1 ER) settled down and Jim Thome hit his 25th bomb (they weren’t yet bombas in those primitive times) to put the home team back on top.
But then Jose Mijares happened (as he often would) and the Indians jumped out in front again. The game stabilized as Jon Rauch and Glen Perkins threw goose eggs out of the ‘pen, and in the bottom of the 8th the good guys rallied behind RBIs from Delmon Young, Jose Morales, Denard Span, and Orlando Hudson to take a 6-4 lead.
In the final frame, new addition Matt Capps got Michael Brantley to look at a called third strike and end both the 1-2-3 inning & the contest. The Twins’ 91st win was secured and the magic number down to 1.
Minnesota needed a Chicago defeat that night to make things official, and the ChiSox were losing as the Twins high-fived. While many fans stuck around for the inevitable party, I had to hop on the Northstar train to get back home. It turned out nearly perfect, however, as just about the time I walked in the door I was able to flip on the TV (a tubed device) and watch the revelry.
Despite being part of this decade by point of fact, 2010 seems so much longer ago. Back then, it was expected that the Twins would contend for or outright win the division every season, Ron Gardenhire was a revered and incredibly successful manager, and a new ballpark seemingly promised years of highly competitive and entertaining baseball to come. Heck, Joe Mauer had yet to be majorly concussed and was still battling for hitting championships while squatting behind home plate.
What happened instead, of course, was that the 2010 Central Division Champion Twins proved to be the end of an era rather than the beginning of one. I’m truly hoping, and it looks for all the world to be very possible, that this division title represents the inverse—a beginning rather than an end.
Unless that end is to a World Series drought, of course :)