And Now, the End Is Near 22 Sep 11

Story and photos by Gordy Jones, September 22, 2011

This is the first Twins season I can remember when I can hardly wait for it to end. Covering the games near the end has been brutal…kind of like watching a family member getting beat up, and not being able to do anything about it.

Baseball, like most sports, is a forgiving game. Come April 2012 every team will be tied for first. But what will this team look like? There is so much uncertainty, how can you even begin to rebuild?

On a positive note, I firmly believe that Mauer will be back and will be strong. I think he will take this time to heal and get cured from his variety of ailments, and immediately after healing, he will begin an intense workout regimen conducive to baseball. I think his time management for this routine will be watched closely, and he will come out of this even stronger than before.

There are rumors flying around that there is something seriously wrong with Joe’s health – I don’t buy it! He’s beat up, still messed up from last year’s surgery, and has pneumonia. That’s it! There’s no conspiracy.

I am very close to Joe’s friends and family, and I have never heard anything different from them; but then again, I would never jeopardize my friendship with them by asking foolish, personal questions. I know that they love and support Joe, and they aren’t acting as if there’s a crisis as they conduct everyday business.

If the Mauers had confided in me, you wouldn’t be reading this. You see, I’m “old school.” I am not some hot-shot kid trying to expose or embarrass someone to write a story. I rely on my friendship and trust with the guys and with baseball to get a story. I choose to write about the countless good things surrounding baseball and the men who play it, rather than to look for someone making a mistake on their worst day and exposing it. The players have taken me in because of my style, and I have been able to bring you a lot more fun stuff about them and their families by doing it my way.

I am concerned about Justin Morneau’s health, though. I was around him once when he felt concussion symptoms, and it’s no joke. He is by no means a wimp, as a few fair-weather fans and reporters have blogged; this just shows how powerful and undiscriminating a concussion can be. And it also shows that no matter how fit and strong we are vulnerable as human beings. I think the entire Twins’ roster proved that in 2011.

I really think we need to bring back Cuddyer, Kubel, and Nathan. It seems like only yesterday they were just rookies, but they are already veterans and leaders. Michael Cuddyer has been nominated once again for the Roberto Clemente Award. He has done as much, or more, for our community as any Twin ever has. He not only discreetly helps fund many organizations, but he gives them his time.

I was visiting with general manager Bill Smith the other day, and he’s just as baffled by this season as the fans are. He has no idea how the off-season will play out yet, there are too many uncertain factors involved.

I talked to Jim Rantz, director of the Minor Leagues for the Twins. He was telling me how the injuries this season have complicated his life. But no matter what is happening – good or bad—Jim’s always on the go. As we talked, he was preparing to go to Florida for the Instructional League, where young prospects get a taste of pro ball and some mentoring. Then he was going to conduct the Minor League meetings. I asked him if there was a chance that Jake Mauer might be promoted this year, and he said, “I don’t know yet. There’s always that possibility…he does a great job for us. We’ll make those decisions at our meetings at the end of the month.”

We don’t even know who our radio play-by-play man will be next year. I asked Jim if he might have a clue. “I know we have a stack of resume’s’ and that people are still auditioning and being interviewed. But that’s all I know…that’s not my department.” I suggested they make Dan Gladden play-by-play guy, and Jack Morris his color man. You’d have two former Twins, and I have really enjoyed listening to their insightful views when they’ve worked together in the past. Danny began as a color man, but has gelled into a great radio voice who knows how to explain the game.

Speaking of announcers, the Twins recently held a celebration for John Gordon that began with a ceremony on the field where they announced that beginning in 2012, there will be an annual John Gordon Award given to the Twins radio affiliate of the year. It was followed by a party on the stadium’s fourth floor, where friends and family visited and reminisced with Gordo.

It seems like yesterday the Twins were on top; they were friends in the clubhouse, and battled on the field in their own style. As Ozzie Guillen was foiled in the Dome, he nicknamed them the Piranhas. Tee shirts were made, and everyone had fun until we lost in the playoffs. Then fans got mad. Now, the Piranhas are gone. This year the Twins were flopping around like a goldfish on the floor, and the fans (and Gardy) were losing their patience. Next year I hope the team will play smarter and better, like the Twins we’ve known and loved.