Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Minny's ballpark pleases, Joe Mauer teases

Very impressed with Target Field. Less impressed with Joe Millionaire.

Almost 16 years after I wrapped up my career as Minnesota's AP sports guy, I made my first visit to the Twins' new ballpark. My impression - and this is the ultimate compliment - it looks and feels like a ballpark. (It's not Target Field's fault that the fans do the wave.)

It isn't as busy and/or kitchy as the ballparks in Cincinnati, Texas, San Francisco, Houston, Arizona and Detroit are. It doesn't have stacks of luxury suites, as Cleveland's does. It is far more intimate than both New York ballparks, as well as those in St. Louis, Philly, Washington, Milwaukee, Seattle, Colorado and Toronto. It has a beautiful view of downtown, unlike the poorly aligned park on the South Side.

Target Field is on the short list of best newer big-league ballparks, right there with San Diego's and a tick behind the modern miracles in Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

Now if only Carl Pohlad had put a retractable dome on the place for those frigid days to come instead of insisting upon being buried with his billions.

As for Joe Mauer ...

Obviously, the man is talented. Handsome, trustworthy, loyal and a great dancer, too.

But shouldn't a $184 million ballplayer have more than warning-track power? I mean, did the Twins know they had the catcher version of Mark Grace when they gave him that deal?

Yes, Mauer is batting .300. It's a soft, soft, squeezably soft .300. It's the Charmin of .300 averages.

He came up in the first inning Monday with runners on the corners and nobody out and hit a sacrifice fly. Hey, that's OK. An RBI is an RBI.

Nearly midway through the season, it was RBI No. 34 for Joe Millionaire.

He also has 3 homers. And a .430 slugging percentage.

Toronto catcher John Buck: 13 HR, 40 RBI, .530 SLUG. All in nearly 50 fewer at-bats.

So step it up, Joe. Or Pohlad will reach out of his grave and yank back $182 million of that moolah.

And even rarer than a new ballpark opening ...

I got to see Jim Thome hit a triple. First one in six years for the Pride of Peoria. He also homered - No. 571 on his career - and drove in a pair.

The man can still hit and still has value, so why retire? The Hall will have to wait.

The Quote

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has been looking back at memorable moments in Twins history, and Monday's featured the 1984 late-season meltdown in Cleveland. The young Twinkies, surprising contenders in the AL West, led the Indians 10-0 but went on to lose 11-10 and were eliminated from the race. On one key play, third baseman Gary Gaetti fielded a grounder but misfired to first base.

Asked afterward about the play, Gaetti delivered one of the 5 greatest quotes in sports history:

"It's hard to throw when you have both hands around your neck."

1 comment:

  1. Mike,

    Glad you got to enjoy the new ballpark. I agree with your assessment of the park, but I haven't been to some of the other ones you mentioned. My only complaint is the "old-timer" sign in right-center field (can't remember their names). The limestone for the park came from quarries in the state. I got to attend when the Indians were in town (April I think).

    Regarding Joe, I also wonder about the fall-off of power from last year to this year. Is this just another example of a player performing better the year before a big contract negotiation? Once the contract is signed, then some of the motivation or "edge" is lost, or is he trying too hard? Where did all of those home runs go from last year? I admit I'm a fan of his and really want him to do well. I was glad that he was able to earn big money and be able to continue to play in the state and city he grew up in. He seems like a really classy, nice guy, and the local people here wanted the Twins to keep him. Seemed like a "win-win" at the time. Hope it works out for all.

    Sean - from Peoria, moved to Mpls.