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Friday, May 20, 2011

Why the Twins are Better than the Yankees

Today, Harmon Killebrew was laid to rest in Arizona. By a strange confluence of events, the Twins were also in Arizona. They face the Diamondbacks tonight to mark the beginning of the 15th season of interleague play. They have not played Arizona since 2008, and that was at the Metrodome, so a Twins trip to Arizona is anything but commonplace.

We often hear about baseball teams being family-like in nature. To be sure, they spend more time in a year with their teammates and coaches than they do with their own wives and kids. I was hoping that the current crop of Twins would show up en masse today for Harmon's funeral, and apparently they did not disappoint. Rhett Bollinger reported that the team held a meeting yesterday to go over details with respect to the funeral, and that two buses had been arranged to take any members of the team to the service that wished to go. Nick Blackburn indicated his understanding that "we're all going to be" in attendance. That, to me, is the Twins' way. And that's why they're better than the Yankees.

If you recall, over the All-Star break in July, 2010, legendary, longtime New York Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard passed away. If you also recall, not one current Yankee player attended Sheppard's funeral. Yankee captain Derek Jeter, by all accounts a consummate professional, "didn't even know" when Sheppard's funeral was. In fact, the only prominent Yankee representative was Brian Cashman (yuck), who delivered a eulogy.

I'm not trying to equate Bob Sheppard with Harmon Killebrew. Clearly, one was a player, and the other an announcer. But it is probably fair to state that Sheppard was "the Harmon Killebrew" of Yankee announcers: he announced for the Yankees from 1951-2007; he has a plaque in Monument Park, where greats like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig are immortalized; Derek Jeter famously had Sheppard record his at-bat introductions, ensuring that Sheppard will be the only announcer ever to introduce Jeter; and Carl Yastrzemski once famously stated, "you're not in the big leagues until Bob Sheppard announces your name." Bottom line: Sheppard was a class act, and a Yankee great. Bottom line: Even during the All-Star break, not one Yankee player made it to Sheppard's funeral, which was in New York, and the organization failed completely to arrange any kind of transportation, or even to communicate to its players and staff the funeral arrangements.

That is why the Twins are better than the Yankees, and that is why I will always root for the Twins, even when they have 5 AAA players on their roster. Sometimes there are clear rights and wrongs. Today, thanks to the good fortune of MLB scheduling, the misfortune of losing Killebrew, and the veteran Twins leaders, the Twins did the right thing.

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