The Twins tried to say goodbye to the Metrodome on Sunday afternoon – almost everybody was there, and they all missed Kirby Puckett terribly – and the dang thing just won't leave them alone.
Kirby's son finished the countdown, pulling away the final placard, which revealed a photo of Jim Leyland. No, it didn't. It was a target, representing Target Field, which will open next season.
On the video screen, Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva raised flags at the new place, waved and invited them all to come see outdoor baseball. They were hardly shivering at all.
The final regular season for one of the worst baseball parks ever built was done, given over to Brett Favre and the Prince reunion tour and whatever else might come through, but not major league baseball.
Well, except there've been all of nine one-game tiebreakers in baseball history, and the Twins are playing their second in two years, because the Twins, like their rinky-dink ballpark, don't seem to ever go away.
As former Twins great Kent Hrbek announced to the screaming, whooping, weeping fans, "We've got to come back here on Tuesday and drink some more beer!"
Yeah, the season they shutter Yankee Stadium the Yankees miss the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. Threaten to run a wrecking ball through Shea Stadium, and the Mets wet themselves in September again.
Old ballparks in Detroit and Pittsburgh and Philly and San Francisco went quietly, almost slinked away, but not the Metrodome, where they'll pull back the curtains, sell another 10,000 seats and squeeze in 55 grand for a game that will decide who'll get to show up at the new Yankee Stadium on (presumably) Wednesday night.
They'll hose the old place down, then, and see if these Twins can finish what they started Sept. 13. That was the morning they woke up two games under .500 and 5½ games behind the Tigers in the American League Central and as dead as their infield grass. It was also the morning slugger Justin Morneau's(notes) season would end, shortened by a stress fracture in his back. The Twins had lost their third game in a row the day before, and then their cleanup hitter, and by then it seemed the only daily excitement would be to keep pulling down those placards.
Since then, the Twins have played 20 games and won 16.
They've made do with a pitching staff that generally strains to get the game to closer Joe Nathan(notes), but the bullpen had a great September. They'll give the ball Tuesday night to Scott Baker(notes), who, by wins alone (15), would have to pass for the Twins' ace. And then they've scored more than six runs a game since mid-September, even without Morneau, because Michael Cuddyer(notes), Jason Kubel(notes), Orlando Cabrera(notes) and Denard Span(notes) all had more productive months than Joe Mauer(notes), the likely MVP who will win his third batting title unless Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello(notes) holds Mauer hitless over … 18 at-bats.
Which brings us to the Tigers, who, until Cabrera showed up at the ballpark looking like he'd been sucked into his ride-on mower, carried two themes into the final days of the regular season: 1. Their blue-collar game, driven by their blue-collar manager Jim Leyland, made the citizens of Detroit feel better. 2. Boy, the Twins sure seem to be gaining fast.
Seems that while the Tigers were standing for everything that was right and resilient about Detroit, they weren't hitting much with runners in scoring position. Fortunately for them, their MVP, Cabrera, kept hitting. On the other hand, he stopped over the weekend, and frustrated Tigers fans perhaps could be led to believe it had something to do with him tying one on with some White Sox buddies Friday night and Saturday morning. Cabrera apparently got home around 6 that morning, which generally doesn't go over well with the wife or the GM, and didn't this time either.
"There was an incident that took place on Saturday and it is a personal matter," Cabrera said in a statement Monday. "I am sorry this has become a distraction, and I apologize to the Tigers, my teammates and all of the fans. I would appreciate it if you would respect my family's privacy as I prepare for our next game."
That statement might do if the Tigers are able to cling to Porcello, their 20-year-old rookie, and beat the Twins at the Metrodome for only the third time in 10 tries this season. If not, well, Cabrera will probably have to come up with more than a few ghost-written sentences to satisfy the folks of Detroit, not to mention his teammates.
In that case, the Twins, and not the Tigers, would go on to face the Yankees.
And that would mean another game at the Metrodome.
At least one. And how cool is that?