One thing that makes baseball unique is how its action is dictated by a prescribed order. In football, only fatigue and opponent strategy prevent a dominant receiver or back from touching the ball every play. In basketball or hockey, an entire offense can be run through one player (see: LeBron James’ LA Lakers). But on the diamond, a list of predetermined managerial scribblings is the only thing that determines whether the cover-of-the-media-guide superstar digs in—or the utility infielder at the Mendoza Line.
On the flip side, this allows for some unique contributions from players who wouldn’t necessarily be Cooperstown candidates. In 2003, the Minnesota Twins had three such contributors—the first being a miraculous May week from Todd Sears.
When we last left the ‘03 Twins, they were struggling to replicate 2002’s magical success after an up-and-down April. Those early-aughts Gardenhire squads were always in need of a bit more pop, so on April 29 Todd Sears was brought up to The Show.
Acquired in 2000 when the Colorado Rockies were inexplicably interested in taking Butch Huskey & Todd Walker off Tom Kelly’s hands, Sears tore up the minors before earning a September ‘02 cup of coffee in the Bigs. Though Doug Mientkiewicz was firmly entrenched at the first sack and in many ways the team’s emotional leader, the Human Department Store’s bat could no longer be ignored.
After a week to get his feet underneath him, Sears had a five game stretch that his future grandkids will be well-versed in:
May 9, 2003:
- Facing a still-peak Pedro Martinez at the Metrodome, Sears cracked a 1st inning RBI single that scored Jacque Jones. Up again in the bottom of the 2nd, Sears ripped a two-run homer en route to a 5-0 Twins victory.
May 13, 2003:
- Though the phrase “key Twins/Royals series” hasn’t usually held much utility, it certainly was true in early ‘03 when the KC bunch were off to a torrid start and leading the AL Central. So despite being played in front of just 13,898 Dome faithful, this Tuesday tilt was an important one. Nursing a 2-1 lead into the 9th, Royal reliever Mike MacDougal surrendered a leadoff single to Chris Gomez—later plated by Bobby Kielty to tie the game and send it to extra innings. No Manfred ghosts were needed to finish up quickly on this night, as in the bottom of the 10th Dustan Mohr singled and pinch hitter Todd Sears deposited an Albie Lopez delivery over the 408 sign in CF.
As the title of this series indicates, Sears was not long for the Twins organization. His final 2003 tally: 24 G, 74 PA, .246 BA, .694 OPS, 83 OPS+. In September of that year he was traded to the San Diego Padres and out of MLB entirely after 9 games on the west coast. In other words, not the corner-bat thump the team needed (that would come later in ‘03).
But in the span of five days, Sears provided two big-time blasts that helped the ‘03 squad silence a lot of doubts with a 19-9 month of May. The first “candle in the wind” of a memorable season.