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Minnesota Twins and the Trading Deadline

July 27, 2014

It was 2004. July 31st, a Sunday, and the Twins were on their way to their third straight AL Central division title. I remember it was a Sunday because I was at home, lying on the couch and reading a book while keeping an ear on the radio so I could hear any last-minute trades the team might have made the second they were announced. Even though my team was doing well, I was able to find something to be unhappy about and the focus of my dislike was our first baseman, Doug Mientkiewicz (I know, it’s tough, say it with me: mint-kay-vich) who, while being a good fielder, and allegedly a good locker room guy, was a lousy hitter and from where I sat (or laid) his weak, powerless, hitting was not just a liability to a team that was on the road to the playoffs, but he was keeping a slugger I had been watching for a couple of years in AAA ball stuck at that level: Justin Morneau.

I didn’t care where Mientkiewicz went or who we got in return. Or what we got for that matter because I would have been happy if the Twins had pulled another John C. Odom trade and dealt Mientiewicz for a bag of ten baseball bats. Hell, Cleveland got Cy Young for a suit of clothes so there was precedent. I didn’t care, I just wanted Doug Mientkiewicz gone and I wanted Justin Morneau up with the big league club.

I got my wish. The Twins worked themselves into the mix of some monster trade with Boston, Montreal and the Cubs and while I don’t remember the names of everyone involved, I remember that Mientkiewicz went to the Red Sox and the Cubs sent us some minor league pitching prospect named Justin Jones. Justin Who? Yeah, exactly. Justin Jones never made it out of the AA level for the Twins. The Twins dumped him and be bounced around with different teams at the minor league level for a few years, never making it past the AA level. I have no idea where he is now and for all I know he’s out of the game and is happily making lots of money selling life insurance and signing autographs at sports memorabilia shows around Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

So what’s the point, who cares? In truth, there isn’t one and no one. It’s just a Sunday in July and we’re at the trading deadline again and I’m sitting at home listening to the radio and waiting for any announcement about Twins trades the second they may be announced. The difference between then and now is I have a little less hair on the top of my head in 2014 than I did in 2004 and the Twins aren’t going into any trades this season to make room for a guy who I looked to as being the next Harmon Killebrew. They’re going to make trades to unload payroll and stock up on a few more Justin Jones’ who can bounce around the minor leagues for a few years throwing balls at batters and who, if they’re lucky (the Twins, not the pitchers), might prove to be another low-salaried major league inning-eating option in a few years who ultimately provides the team with six years of low-salaried service before either A) being traded in another trading deadline pitching prospect fishing expedition, or B) becoming a free agent and goes on to win a World Series with another team. Also different this time around is the baseball mood in the Twin Cities. There’s absolutely no excitement or optimism surrounding the Minnesota Twins in 2014 like there was in 2004. All there is around here is fan frustration with the team and a bloated sense of performance apathy that extends all the way from the desk of team owner Jim Pohlad to the player’s bench and my couch.

So let this be my begrudging farewell to Josh Willingham (thanks for the periodic glimpses of what a power hitter at Target Field can look like (despite having a terrible walk-up song)) and to Kurt Suzuki (thanks for giving us an all star caliber player in this, another near-100-loss season).

For the record, as weirdly ironic things are wont to happen, Doug Mientkiewicz went on to create a place for himself in my baseball heart. Mientkiewicz helped the Red Sox break the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004 when he helped them win the World Series and the events that followed the end of the fourth game of that series are baseball legend. Since I’ve disliked the Red Sox a lot more and for a lot longer, I’ll end with this story of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’: Bottom of the 9th, two out, the batter hits a grounder to the Red Sox pitcher who flips an underhanded toss to Doug Mientkiewicz who was playing first base to end the game and seal the victory. Mientkiewicz kept the ball and during the off-season when the team asked that he return the ball to them, Mientkiewicz refused. Lawyers got involved and about a year and a half later, it was finally decided that Mientkiewicz and the Red Sox had reached an agreement and the infamous ball would go into the Hall of Fame. Way to go Doug!

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