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Updated: March 8th, 2013 5:36am
Reusse's Reality from Florida: Angry Twins followers

Reusse's Reality from Florida: Angry Twins followers

by Patrick Reusse
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FORT MYERS, FLA. - I was at the first game the Twins played at Met Stadium in 1961. I started writing what newspapers termed "sidebars'' from the clubhouses in 1970. I was the Twins' beat reporter for the St. Paul newspapers from 1974-78, and I have covered the team as a sports columnist since 1979.

I've been around this operation: through the low times in the early '70s, through the season of Carew, Hisle and Bostock in '77, through the move to the Metrodome in '82 when this team was miserable, through the glory of '87 and '91, and more misery that followed, and then the revival that lasted from 2001 through the opening of Target Field in 2010.

The angry fans always have been out there. There were always a few in the '60s who occupied good seats at the Met and were relentless in booing Harmon Killebrew because he "struck out too much.''

There was a night in 1970 when I was talking with reliever Ron Perranoski as he was opening mail at his locker. Perranoski opened an envelope, took out what looked like a handbill, smiled and handed it to me, saying, "Check this one.''

It was a drawing of a pistol with the barrel twisted back toward the shooter. The words "Polish gun'' were printed above the drawing, and there was a note to Perranoski scrawled that read: "Use this on yourself.''

So, yes, they always have been out there, the angry Twins fans, but the only way to hear from them was through a letter, or a phone call to weekly sports shows on the radio.

That has changed wildly, of course, with first e-mail, and then Internet postings, and now social media _ which for me is basically the wonderful world of Twitter. I don't do the rest of it.

There are also the comments posted on newspaper articles. When newspapers started promoting these seven, eight years ago, it was in the belief that allowing the comments would lead to compelling discussions among readers with both interesting views and a degree of knowledge on a subject.

It hasn't worked out that way. For the most part, the comments bring out the angriest of the angry.

This has become our feedback - e-mails, Twitter messages of 140 characters or fewer, and comments to articles.

The anonymity available is more seductive to critics than to boosters, which means a talk show host and/or a sportswriter is probably getting a distorted view of fan sentiment for local sports teams.

All of which is a way of saying that, even though the angry fans always have been out there, I'm astounded at the degree of vitriol that the Twins are facing among respondents in the ether world after two lousy seasons.

There is even a hard-line segment of critics hopeful that nothing works out for the Twins, so that their negative opinions toward ownership, management, the manager and even the team's star are validated.

The civilians providing most of the feedback to me are convinced of the following:

*One, the Pohlads promised an unlimited payroll and annual competitiveness to go with the hunk of public funding for Target Field.

*Two, that means rebuilding is a not an option, and therefore Terry Ryan violated the fans' trust by not getting in the bidding for the most-expensive of starting pitchers (i.e., Zack Greinke) on the free-agent market.

*Three, Ron Gardenhire's strategic moves contributed greatly to the 195 losses of the past two seasons. The manager should have been able "to adjust'' to the pervasive run of injuries in 2011, and the mish-mash of starting pitching in 2012. Plus, the Twins were as good as the Yankees in a couple of those first-round series, and Gardy just didn't know how to beat 'em.

*Four, Joe Mauer got his money and took any excuse not to play in 2011, and who cares if he had more plate appearances than at any time in his career in 2012 ... he still doesn't hit home runs.

The desire to have the Twins continue to stink to validate these opinions was dramatized on Thursday, when center fielder Aaron Hicks hit three home runs in an exhibition game vs. the Phillies in Clearwater.

Hicks is the perfect spring training story: first round pick (14th overall) in 2008, all projection then by Twins' scouts as a scrawny kid from Long Beach, Calif. He had to go back to low-A Beloit for a second year in 2010. He didn't get invited to spring training in 2012, because the Twins were not happy with his .242 at high-A Fort Myers the previous season.

And now, the two guys ahead of him - Denard Span and Ben Revere - have been traded, and there's a job to be had, and so far this spring, Hicks has produced in a big way.

Since the Twins started in 1961, fans always had been on the lookout for a spring training "phenom,'' because it's fun to talk about.

And yet when I mentioned that yesterday, that Hicks could be the Twins' first spring training phenom "since when?'' I mostly heard from the critics.

Dang, if you can't get into the possibility that a 23-year-old out of Class AA has a chance to fill the biggest hole in the home team's lineup, you're dedicated to staying angry.

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Patrick | @1500ESPN_reusse | The Ride with Reusse