There have been many important days in Twins history. Oct. 25th, 1987 (first World Series victory), Oct. 27th, 1991 (second World Series), and June 5th, 2001 (drafting of Joe Mauer) spring to mind for many fans. But the absolute most important date had nothing to do with winning a world series or drafting a future hall of fame catcher. The day in question is July 3rd, 2000.
The franchise was at a crossroads. The Twins hadn't had a winning season since 1992. In 1995 the hero of the franchise (Kirby Puckett) was forced into retirement after being struck in the jaw by an errant fastball, and subsequent glaucoma the following spring.
They had lost their only remaining true star, Chuck Knoblauch, after a trade to the Yankees following the 1997 season. The 1999 season saw the Twins finish in last place once again.
The Twins were sporting a $17 million dollar payroll, and the attendance barely topped one million for the season. Roughly 12,000 fans a game.
And on top of all this, Carl Pohlad was open to the idea of contraction. This would wipe the Twins franchise off the face of the earth, while putting about 150 million into Pohlad's pocket.
This was all changed on July 3rd, 2000, when the previously stingy Twins extended Brad Radke's contract. Radke signed for a then franchise record of four years and $36 million dollars. It was a vote of confidence for fans all over Twins territory, and signaled the change of culture which led to a decade of excellence.
If you look at where the Twins were to where they are today it is quite remarkable.
2000 Twins 69-93 - 1,000,760 fans - $17.5 Million dollar payroll - Played in Metrodome - Highest payed player at time was Radke making $3.5 Million dollars.
2010 Twins 94-68 - 3,223,640 fans - $97.5 Million dollar payroll - Played in newly opened Target Field - Highest payed player was Justin Morneau who made $15 Million.
This dramatic turn around has many reasons: The great drafts, home grown talent, good management, piranha's, etc. But without the re-signing of Brad Radke a decade ago. Who knows what history may have been written for the Twins. Would there be that shiny new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis? Would there be six division title banners? Would there even be a Twins team? I can't honestly answer that.
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