There is a lot worth remembering about baseball games. We remember games and catches and our kids’ face as a stadium shook and their faith was rewarded. And we remember players, whose time in the sunshine can be far too short for our taste.
With the trade deadline falling on Wednesday, it is likely the next few days will be our last chance to say good-bye to some Twins. And one of the most likely to move is one of Twins Territory’s all-time favorites. So let’s take a look at the best seats in Target Field for saying goodbye to our friends.
Kevin Correia or Mike Pelfrey
It isn’t totally crazy that the Twins, whose rotation has the worst ERA in the majors, could trade away a starting pitcher to a contending team. There are very few “ace” pitchers available, so teams are looking for innings-eaters who can keep them in a ballgame – and for whom they won’t need to give up too much.
Kevin Correia has a 4.56 ERA, which is likely worse than you thought because it was under 3.00 through the beginning of May and under 4.00 as late as June 29th. He’s also on pace for 194 IP this year. There are teams that can find value in that for the right price.
Alternately, Mike Pelfrey looks like he’s becoming stronger and stronger, which should be expected for someone coming back from Tommy John surgery. Here are his ERAs by month: 7.66 down to 5.90 down to 4.66 down to 2.28 in July. His strikeout rate has been climbing too: 2.8 up to 5.9 to 5.6 up to 6.5. It’s not clear if other teams recognize this progress, but that’s why they have scouting departments.
If you would like to wish them well, you can pay top dollar in the infield, sections 3-14 are probably best. But if you prefer a cheaper option, just get a seat anyplace in Target Field and get there early. You can watch them warm up using the standing room counter that looks over the Twins bullpen in center field. I doubt either pitcher will begrudge you your frugality. After all, they were both signed as affordable alternatives.
You’ll have a little time on this one. Willingham is recovering from a knee injury. He’s schedule to return in mid-August, but if he clears waivers, the Twins have until the end of August to trade him. Lower seats in sections 125, 126 and 127 are probably the best spots if you’re looking to shout to him your appreciation.
Of, if you would rather look for a Willingham souvenir, I’d recommend section 128, 129, 130 and 131. It’s in these sections – in the left field bleachers – that Willingham has been most likely to pull his home runs. In fact, of the 45 home runs he’s blasted while with the Twins, exactly zero have been to the opposite field.
It’s also worth noting that if he returns healthy, those home runs could start flying again. He had 35 last year and four more through April 27th, when it was first reported that he hurt his knee. They also tend to come in bunches – he had eight occurrences last year where he went long in back-to-back games.
Section 3. It really has to be section 3. It’s right by first base. It’s what he runs towards when he flips an inning-ending ball into the dugout. He’s number 33. It has to be section 3, right?
Of all the goodbyes that we might need to say, this one is going to hurt the most. The recognition that everyone remembers was his MVP award in 2006. But do you remember his also finished in second place for a another MVP award just two years later in 2008? And neither of those years were even close to the damage he was doing in 2010 in Target Field’s inaugural year. Through 84 games he was hitting .345, had slugged 18 HR, had drove in 56 RBI and had a 1055(!) OPS.
Then he slid into second base to break up a double-play in Toronto. But we’ve talked about that enough the last three years.
Instead let’s talk a little about what he did off the field. Morneau became a part of the community, hosting several casino nights that raised money for Arthritis research and founded the Justin Morneau Foundation to support underprivileged communities. He married a native Minnesotan. He’s got that whole Canadian and hockey thing going for him. And he’s been a leader on the Twins for years, respected enough internally to be the full-time locker room DJ before games.
He passed Kirby Puckett and Bobby Allison on the Twins home run leaderboard this year, moving into fourth place. (He could climb to 3rd and pass Tony Oliva if he can hit nine more this year.) He’s also fourth in RBI all-time for the Twins and fifth all-time in doubles (though teammate Joe Mauer is nipping at his heels for that honor.) And he’s one of only five Twins to have ever won the Most Valuable Player award.
He is certainly one of the top 10 Twins hitters of all time and you want to see those guys retire as Twins. It doesn’t always happen – not for Gary Gaetti or for Rod Carew or even for Harmon Killebrew – but that’s what we all WANT to see.
And I, for one, would like to see him play one more time as a Twin. Even if it’s just to say “goodbye.” And “thank you.”