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Minnesota Twins: Why We Cheer for Thome, Boo Pierzynski and Love Mauer

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Minnesota Twins: Why We Cheer for Thome, Boo Pierzynski and Love Mauer
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Batting third, the designated hitter, Jim Thome.

As Jim Thome walked to the plate on Tuesday, he was applauded. The applause was quieter than when starting pitcher Samuel Deduno threw his second strike, but louder than when he threw his first.

The fifth offering was a wild pitch that brought Nick Markakis home from third (he had advanced from first to third on a Morneau error) and gave the former Twin a full count.

When Deduno walked Thome with the next offering, the stadium fell silent.

***

While he is better remembered as a Cleveland Indian, where he played from 1991-2002, and did don a (dare I say it?) White Sox cap, it was a homecoming of sorts for Thome.

He came the year we opened Target Field and played 108 games for a team in their 50th season that would win their second consecutive division title and go on to be swept by the Yankees.

Things were different then.

Thome was re-signed the following season with the thought that the Twins were only a few pieces away from defeating the Evil Empire. But amidst a 63-99 season, he was dealt back to the Indians—a team that looked like they had postseason promise, but floundered after the Thome trade and ended the year at 80-82.

***

Thome came to the plate a second time with men on first and second.

Applause.

Markakis had led the inning off with a single to right and another former Twin, JJ Hardy (he of no applause), singled to left. It was the third straight inning that Deduno had allowed the first batter to reach base.

But the 29-year-old Deduno struck him out and the crowd clapped loudly with approval.

***

When Johan Santana comes back to town, he’s applauded.

When Torii Hunter comes back to town, he’s applauded.

When AJ Pierzynski comes to town, he’s booed. Lustily.

Minnesota nice goes right out the window.

None of the three players went to the Yankees, but all three players went to big-market teams: Santana to the Mets in a lopsided trade and Hunter to the Angels because he felt we lowballed him.

But the trade that we benefited from most, the Pierzynski for Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser trade with San Francisco worked out pretty well (Remember when we used to swindle people? That was great!).

Elsa/Getty Images

If anything, we should be applauding him. We didn’t need a catcher anymore (Mauer was coming up) and got a pitcher who, in 2006, looked like an ace (that’s in question now) and a franchise closer (until he was traded to Texas).

But that’s not our criteria.

We don’t boo because we lost a trade (otherwise, Santana would never hear the end of it) or because a player joined a team that beat us (the Angels took us out in the ALCS after we beat the Moneyball A’s).

We boo because he joined the archenemy White Sox. We boo because he’s been named baseball’s meanest player. We boo because he makes people so angry they want to punch him in the face.

And, conversely, we cheer for Thome because he’s, well, a homie.

We cheer him because instead of chasing a ring with the Yankees late in his career, his post-Twins stops have been Cleveland (a city devastated by their sports teams), and aging Phillies squad (in front of MLB’s largest crowds) and Baltimore—a team with history (Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr.) that has fallen on hard times (14 losing seasons).

We cheer him because he’s been voted baseball’s nicest player.

***

Fourth inning. Two outs. Doumit is on second.

Carroll drives a ball down the left field line for a double, tying the game.

The crowd goes wild.

***

Fifth inning. One out. Markakis is on second.

The designated hitter, Jim Thome.

A couple claps. It’s individuals now, not a collection.

Thome walks. No applause.

In the next at-bat, Adam Jones takes the first pitch he sees deep to right field.

The only people applauding are Orioles fans.

***

But now Thome is not really one of ours.

Twins fans attending the game wear navy blue shirts with Twins printed across them.

Thome wears an orange uniform with Baltimore written across the chest.

Twins fans wear hats with a lower-case “M” on them or a “TC.”

Thome wears hats with either a bird or an “O” on it.

As he trots around the bases after the Jones home run, he counts as a run for them, not us.

Clapping for Thome means cheering against the Twins.

***

The catcher, Joe Mauer.

Applause.

Mauer singles to right to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning.

Loud.

Willingham: walked.

Loud!

The first baseman, Justin Morneau.

Applause.

Morneau: walked.

Loud!!!

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Pitching change. In comes Luis Ayala.

His situation: Fifth inning. Bases loaded. No outs.

Plouffe’s blooper lands right in front of him. Mauer is out at home.

Boos.

Doumit’s single down right field line scores two runners. 4-3 O’s.

Loud!!!!!

Dozier singles to left field, scoring a runner. It’s tied.

The stadium goes berserk.

Carroll: Strikes out looking.

Boos.

Span: Strikes out looking.

Aww…

***

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

We weren’t supposed to have two straight losing seasons in Target Field.

Mauer was not supposed to be the lone All-Star.

After he re-signed here, instead of joining the Yankees, we were supposed to take down the Evil Empire.

The M&M boys were supposed to help Thome ride off into the sunset a champion.

And a Minnesota Twin.

***

Sixth inning. One out. Wilson Betemit is on first.

Ryan Flaherty pops into foul territory near the Twins dugout.

Mauer makes a diving catch.

Loud!!!!!

 (“I think it’s going to be great for another commercial for Head & Shoulders,” said manager Ron Gardenhire after the game. “He said he was disappointed on the mound that his helmet didn’t come off because he thought it would be better in the commercial.”)

JJ Hardy, former Twin: intentionally walked.

Greg Fiume/Getty Images

(“We walked a guy to get to a Hall of Famer,” said Gardenhire. “The guy who I’ve got his baseball over here might be mad at me. It’s not the greatest moment in the world.”)

The designated hitter, Jim Thome.

No applause.

Robertson throws strike to make the count 2-2.

Loud!

Thome strikes out.

Loud!!!!!

(“That was a fun situation to be in,” said the rookie. “Thome was one of my favorite players growing up.”)

Bottom of the inning:

Revere: grounds out.

Mauer hits a ball.

As it goes up: Loud!

As it descends into left fielder Steve Pearce’s glove: Boos.

Morneau intentionally walked: Boos.

Plouffe flies out to the first baseman in foul territory.

Silence. You can practically hear Plouffe smash his helmet into the ground.

***

Bottom of seventh. Two outs.

Carroll reaches on an infield single off the pitcher.

Louder.

Span reaches on an error by the shortstop.

Loud!!!

Pitching change, Pedro Strop comes in to curb the rally.

Revere singles, Carroll scores.

Berserk.

The catcher, Joe Mauer.

Loud!!!

Mauer singles to left.

Berserk. Actually…beyond berserk.

Bedlam.

(His RBI allows him to pass Chuck Knoblauch on the all-time Twins hit list. Talk about a guy that got booed. “It’s just one of those ‘Oh, well, it’s Joe’ kinda things now,” said the manager of Mauer’s night. “We’ve seen that before.”)

Willingham walks, loading the bases.

Loud!!!!!!

The first baseman, Justin Morneau.

Berserk.

Morneau hits it into the outfield.

Loud!!!

Flaherty throws him out at first.

Aww…

***

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Stillwater native Glen Perkins strikes out the side in the eighth.

Loud!!!!!

***

Bottom of the ninth.

Perkins gives up a single to Markakis.

He’s removed.

Applause.

Jared Burton comes in the game and gets Hardy to ground into a double play.

Loud!!!!!

The designated hitter, Jim Thome.

Applause.

Thome walks.

Aww…

“Take two Thome!!!” yells a fan.

He doesn’t.

Strike one on Jones.

Applause.

Strike two on Jones.

Standing ovation.

Strike three on Jones.

Berserk.

The sign in center field lights up: Twins. Win. Twins. Win. Twins. Win.

Minnie and Paul shake hands.

Everyone goes home happy.

***

Except for Jim Thome, presumably.

It’s unfortunate. He’s such a nice guy.

 

All quotes were obtained first-hand.

Tom Schreier writes a weekly column for TheFanManifesto.com.

Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.

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