Big League Stew - MLB

Michael Rand of the Star Tribune's always-excellent "RandBall" took time Tuesday morning to lament that Monday night should have been all about Jim Thome(notes) and the two titanic taters he launched at Target Field after returning from the disabled list.

Writes Rand:

It should have been a pure celebration focused squarely on the fact that a 40-year-old man can step off the disabled list and turn a three-run deficit into a party with two mighty swings of the bat — one producing a 465-foot blast to right, the other proving that a Twins left-handed hitter can, indeed, hit a home run to left.

Alas, the rest of the Twins were either unwilling or unable to go along with that storyline as they blew a late three-run lead to lose 8-7 in 10 innings to the Seattle Mariners. The defeat changed the frame and focus of the postgame biopsy.

"Ultimately, it's all about winning," Thome later told the reporters who asked about his big day at the plate.

I hate to break it to both Rand and baseball's leading lumberjack, but the rest of the Twins season really looks like it can only be "all about Thome." Monday's homers were the 592nd and 593rd of his career and a healthy Thome is again poised to make a run at becoming only the eighth player in baseball history to reach 600 homers.

And when you look at Minnesota's current situation, what else could frame this season in a positive light? The return of Joe Mauer(notes) and Tsuyoshi Nishioka(notes) from the disabled list? The Kevin Slowey trade marketKent Hrbek-Ron Gant bobblehead day?

It almost certainly won't be the Twins' seventh division championship in the last 10 seasons. Minnesota sports a worst-in-baseball record of 15-31 and Rand notes that the Twins would need to go 10-2 over their next 12 games to even reach the low water mark of 25-33 that they hit during their run to the 2006 AL Central title.

Perhaps Twins fans can take small consolation in the fact that the 2005 Houston Astros were 15-30 at one point during their run to the World Series. But on the huge chance they can't, there is no doubt that the 2011 team highlight video is going to be led by Francisco Liriano's(notes) no-hitter (if he's still on the team) and the moment when Thome shoots his 600th baseball into the stratosphere.

Twins fans might not be used to substituting individual achievement for a nourishing team title banner — at least not recently — but the truth is that fans of bad baseball teams do it all the time. Why, it was just 2007 when the horrid Chicago White Sox used Thome's 500th home run to try and wash the stink off of a horrid 72-90 season.

No, it might not have worked, but at least baseball gives its fans the chance of seeing history, even if their team is in the tank. For supporters of the Twins, it looks like they'll have to take solace in this season's most-watched stats chase west of the Mississippi.

(In other words, the one that doesn't involve Derek Jeter(notes)).

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