I’m blaming it on years of small-market kvetching. Or maybe it’s those four damn Super Bowls. But Minnesotans have an insecurity that manifests itself in strange ways when it comes to our favorite sports players.
Last week I had a die-hard Twins fan trying to convince me that the Twins either need to sign Johan Santana to a contract extension immediately or trade him at the trade deadline this year. Note that the Twins have a contract with Santana through 2008. His logic was that if the Twins can’t afford to keep Santana (and, by the way, they can’t) then they should get something really good for him, because no team can lose a player like that and not regress.
I stood there, blinking. Get something really good? Like, for instance, a two-time Cy Young Award winner? Just what, exactly, can any team give up that’s good enough to replace Santana through two pennant races and postseason appearances? A ‘bye’ to the World Series? Or have we reached the point where we are so afraid of losing these players that we need to break up with them first? Exactly when did we become crazy ex-girlfriends? And just how many questions can I type in a row?
We saw it again in the recent news that long-term contract negotiations between the Twins and Morneau have ended after Morneau turned down an offer for a four-year deal. The common refrain as this news was reported (“hopefully, they’ll eventually agree to something”) missed the point that the Twins already have a four-year deal with Morneau. They can offer him arbitration for the next three years just like they did this year, and both sides have a pretty good idea how much that will cost them. The only differences are:
1. it is probably more expensive than the guaranteed contract the Twins offered Morneau and
2. with arbitration, the Twins essentially have an opt-out clause each year if Morneau gets hurt or regresses.
And let’s not forget that Morneau’s season turned around last June when manager Ron Gardenhire delivered the message that Morneau needed to dedicate himself on and off the field to reach his potential. Do we really want to guarantee that guy $33 million over the next four years, whether he continues to dedicate himself or not?
For years, Twins fans have trained themselves to look ahead while turning a blind eye towards the present situation. That’s called ‘hope’ but that skill has turned into a bad habit. We may be right in the middle of the longest string of success this franchise has ever had, going back to the Senators and 1900. We need to quit obsessing about the future and start appreciating what we have in front of us. For the Twins, the future is now. Twins fans need to realize the same thing.