The news that the best pitcher in Twins history had been traded to the Mets surprised me last week. That's because I was under the impression that the Twins already had traded Johan Santana to Boston months earlier as the player to be named in the Kevin Garnett trade. Or was Santana the player who completed the Randy Moss deal? No, wait. That was Torii Hunter, right? Oh, well. It doesn't really matter now, does it? The point is, the Twins had to trade Santana to someone because, well, those are the rules in Minnesota.
Coming soon to an alternate home jersey near you.
Minnesota fans might be disappointed by the prospects they are getting, but they are not surprised Santana is gone. Losing a beloved star, even of such magnitude, is nothing new in Minnesota. They have lost entire teams (the Lakers and the North Stars). They have had their teams threatened with contraction. The Twins have been owned by Calvin Griffith and the Pohlads. Fans are used to the way things work. It's been happening a long time.
The talent drain started when the Hamm's bear left to sign a big five-year deal with a brewery in New Jersey. Fans felt betrayed at first, but eventually decided if the lazy, overweight lush preferred the polluted gray skies of the big market to the refreshing land of sky-blue waters, good riddance to him. You haven't heard much from the guy lately, have you?
Granted, the losses have piled up fairly heavily in the past year or so. In addition to Santana, Hunter, Garnett and Moss, Betty Crocker lost her job in a hostile takeover by Rachel Ray, while the Pillsbury Doughboy was arrested for soliciting another passenger in the men's room at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. With so many departures, the next thing you know, Wheaties might soon be downgraded from the "Breakfast of Champions" to the "Cold Cereal of Small-Market Teams."
Personally, I would have held onto Santana to see what happened. Detroit and Cleveland look awfully tough to beat right now, but you never know how things will go when the season starts. Maybe Santana and a healthy Francisco Liriano would have pitched the Twins into first place. If not, well, the Twins could have traded Santana at the deadline and probably gotten prospects just as promising as the ones they got last week.
AP Photo/Mike Carlson
Johan Santana is just the latest superstar to pass through the revolving door in Minnesota.
But Twins fans aren't going to bitch and moan about this. They are practical, hard-working Midwesterners who have been through this before, and they will deal with it. They also know similar trades worked out for the best. Frank Viola left, and fans cheered Rick Aguilera and Kevin Tapani as they helped the Twins to the World Series. Chuck Knoblauch demanded a trade out of town, and fans cheered Eric Milton and Cristian Guzman as they helped the Twins back to the postseason (the fans also pelted Knoblauch with hot dogs).
So Minnesotans will go on with their normal 15-hour days, inventing new types of post-it notes at 3M, developing cancer treatments at the Mayo Clinic, shoveling driveways and ordering seeds for the next planting season. And come April, they will cheer on the players they got from the Mets (whoever they are) and wait until they develop into stars in their own right who will help the Twins to another championship.
And then they will wave good-bye to those players, because if they really are any good, they eventually will leave Minnesota in a trade or free agency.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached here. His Web site is jimcaple.net, with more installments of "24 College Avenue." His book with Steve Buckley, "The Best Boston Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard Boston Fans," is on sale now.