The upside of the lockout for Twins fans is that complete inactivity during the off-season isn’t all that different from a typical off-season of extremely limited activity. The Twins typically seek some bargain-bin pitchers, some older players coming off surgery, and other “cheaper” options and we’ve, as fans, become accustomed to it.
“They are who we thought they were” said the late Denny Green. Maya Angelou famously said “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Denny’s statement really only caught on in Minnesota, but Angelou’s has gotten a lot of use in recent years. Both, it seems, make rather indisputable points.
It’s hard to imagine anyone describing the Twins approach to the off-season with any more clarity than either Denny Green or Maya Angelou. The fans should absolutely expect them to be who they’ve always been, and we should not be surprised since they’ve continually shown us who they are.
The Twins management has consistently featured people who seem, admittedly from afar, to be genuinely good folks. Community minded, decent, scandal-free, all things that have earned and deserve our respect. They’ve also shown themselves to be….well…frugal. Bargain hunters, reluctant to sign big-time free agents.
Perhaps the best examples of home-grown talent that were “inevitably” allowed to leave were Torii Hunter and Johan Santana. Granted, Santana was a Rule V player, but his stardom was fully achieved in Minnesota. Both Hunter and Santana were beloved and entirely scandal free. There wasn’t any compelling reason not to re-sign them, except, of course, for the fact that “that’s now who the Twins are.” As I recall, while many fans lamented that situation, all of us accepted that reality…there wasn’t really a need for gnashing of teeth, as we all knew that it’s not who the Twins are. They’ve told us who they are: “small market,” yearly expenditures must not exceed yearly revenue (appreciation not withstanding), the anti-Yankees, the anti-Dodgers, the anti-Red Sox….that’s who they are. They’ve told us, and we should believe them.
Just before the lockout, Twins fans mostly rejoiced over the extension given to Byron Buxton. It seemed somewhat out of character for the Twins franchise. Once the details were learned, rather than accepting that the exception of signing our own star long-term simply proved the rule, it seemed as though the contract extension itself was a bit of a bargain, so the exception was less of an exception that it was actually adherence to the rule after all.
I’m not criticizing, I’m grateful that the two sides worked it out. I’m grateful that Buxton’s agent recognized the need for him to prove himself on the durability front, and that the Twins front office recognized the immense talent. Buxton wanted to stay, the Twins wanted to keep him, it’s the classic win-win (something to which Minnesota sports fans aren’t typically accustomed).
The fact that the Twins were able to sign Buxton, happening just before the lock-out, at a relative bargain price once again reminds us that we should accept and perhaps recite as mantra, the eternal words of Denny Green and Maya Angelou. The Twins remain who we thought they were, even if, for a moment, it may seem like they’ve become something we thought they weren’t.
The extension of Buxton is all positive. Nobody likes the skunk at the party, but I am who I thought I was. While I’m not about to suggest that signing Buxton was anything but good in and of itself, there is the possibility that the signing should be put in the category of the Mauer extension, which was, I believe, meant more to placate the fanbase than it was to actually compete for a championship. Not because Mauer wasn’t worthy. He was. As is Buxton. But I fear that both of those “historic” and out of character signings allowed the “Pohlad pocket protectors” to defend management and even throw in an “I told you so.” But, the reality of a Buxton signing, likely means the end of any pursuit of any other even mid-level value free-agents, as….after all, “the Twins are who we thought they were.”
So, my advice this holiday season is to lower those expectations, and accept the gifts we are given, without expecting more than we reasonably should. It’s unlikely our lives will resemble those folks in the commercials who go outside to find his and hers expensive vehicles. Socks, underwear, perhaps a shirt or two is probably more in line with where our expectations should be. Similarly, our Twins off-season expectations should be socks and underwear…practical, inexpensive, usable, and spectacularly boring. Lock-out or not lock-out, some things are predictable.
The Twins off-season, even if the lock-out were to end soon (and there are no signs of that) will likely be what we think it will be, and it will likely be that, because they’ve spent decades telling us who they are. I, for one, am inclined to believe them. Which means in the coming months I can celebrate the extension of Buxton but there will be no celebration of the pursuit of a few mid-level free agents. It’s highly unlikely that we would see both of those things. It was sign Buxton OR pursue mid or higher level free agents, it’s never been AND. So, in the end, I’m torn, since I like Buxton, and his talent is undoubtedly exceptional, but as the Boston Red Sox showed us for nearly one hundred years….offense is entertaining, but pitching wins championships. Buxton will continue to entertain us, but if pitching isn’t seriously addressed, we shall have to accept entertainment as enough.
I’m not even sure Twins management is all that concerned about winning a championship, honestly, and that’s not because I love the Twins any less than the rest of you, it simply means I’ve come to accept that “they are who we thought they were.”