MINNEAPOLIS -- So, all those years when they played together in the minors at Fort Myers, New Britain and Salt Lake City, what did the Minnesota Twins' farmhands do to kill time?
They were busy changing their names, right?
You can't fool us. This whole thing is just a prank concocted on a bus somewhere outside Pawtucket. A.J. Pierzynski probably said, "Before we get to the big leagues, everybody has to get a new name or misspell their old one." How else could Doug Mientkiewicz (pronounced "Man-ka-vich") get a last name in which two-thirds of the letters are silent? Come on, this is straight out of "Bull Durham."
How else do you explain Twin stars with first names like Torii, Jacque and Cristian. Guys, those just aren't right. Dustan Mohr probably began his career as "Dusty Moore." How can you have a battery of LaTroy (Hawkins) pitching to (Matt) LeCroy? Hey, Kyle Lohse, lose the "h." Did Michael Cuddyer add an extra "d" or just toss in a "y?" And what was Tom Prince formerly named?
Dome Sweet Dome
Tuesday, Oct. 8
Anaheim (Appier 14-12) at Minnesota (Mays 4-8), 7:19 p.m. (Fox)
Wednesday, Oct. 9
Anaheim (Ortiz 15-9) at Minnesota (Reed 15-7), 7:19 p.m. (Fox or Fox Sports Net)
Has there ever been a team on which players like Corey Koskie, J.C. Romero, Eddie Guardado and Johan Santana had the more prosaic names? Rick Reed, the team's top winner, must wake up every day with an identity crisis. "What am I doing here? Even Brad spells it 'Radke.' " If the Twins beat the Angels and reach the World Series, Reed will probably pitch the opener as Rycharde Reid.
If this is a gag, then it's a hoot, just like the Twins. Not only can't you contract these guys, you can't even abbreviate them. No, there's never been anything like these '02 Twins, the team that rents out its uniforms in the winter for DMV eye charts.
Eleven months ago, Commissioner Bud Selig announced he wanted to kill them. Your team, your jobs? Sorry, boys, they're gone -- in the "best interests of baseball," of course. In a few weeks, Selig might have to present them with the Commissioner's Trophy. What a champagne shower that would be. Some of the Twins truly dislike Selig.
Months ago, one Twin, Denny Hocking, openly questioned Selig's motives for wanting to eliminate the Twins. Never fear, the Twins feel just as warmly toward their owner, Carl Pohlad (don't worry, the "h" is silent). He still wishes his team had been exterminated so he could have grabbed that fat buyout. Is this a "B" Hollywood flick?
As the Twins celebrated their Game 5 win Sunday over Oakland, Pohlad was asked if he felt guilty. "I don't feel guilty about anything. Why should I?" he snorted. "If you had to pay the bills ..."
Oh, go soak your head.
At least Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who has tried to sell the Angels all year, backtracked and said his company might not sell the team or perhaps would stay on as a partner. Do you think Eisner has any bonuses tied to Angels performance?
If the Twins can somehow reach the Series, despite ranking 27th among 30 teams in payroll, it's going to be one of the game's legends. After all Minnesota has no one who hit over .300 or had 30 homers or 100 RBI. No pitcher won more than 15 games or struck out even 140 batters.
Meantime, the Angels are a legitimately powerful team. They not only won 99 games, five more than the Twins, but also outscored their opponents by 206 runs -- the largest margin in baseball. The Twins had only a 56-run advantage, the margin usually associated with an 87-win team that barely contends.
In a sense, the Twins don't even care. They've made their statement of self-worth and had a celebration to remember forever after Hocking caught Sunday's final popup. After Hocking stuffed that ball in his pocket, he dove into the joyful mayhem on the mound. And was spiked on the hand by Jacque Jones. An omen?
"It's bleak," said Hocking of the outlook for playing any more this season. "I've had the sweat, I've had the tears, so now comes the blood."
The Twins, and all who watch them, should remember that the baseball season has reached the point where sweet reason leaves the scene and pure emotion frequently rules. Once favorites are removed -- like the defending champion D'backs and the 103-win Yankees and A's -- everybody who is left is equal. They all have their doubts, their flaws, their demons.
We're back now in the same realm of magic where the '85 Royals, '88 Dodgers and '90 Reds somehow won world titles despite seeming ridiculously overmatched. And don't forget the '87 Twins, who went from worst to first, thanks in part to a thunderous Metrodome home field advantage in the Series.
Right now, the Twins have the home field edge -- on the most influential/unfair home field in the game's history -- right through the Series. How's that for dumb luck? The Angels had more wins. But they're a wild card. As for the NL champ having more wins than the Twins, it doesn't matter. It's the AL's turn to host Games 1, 2 and perhaps 6 and 7.
Don't say the Contraction Kids can't do it. Just start mastering those bizarre names. Pretty soon, we may even know their manager is Ron Gardenhire, not Rod. Unless, of course, he changes it.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.