As the old saying goes, being a sports fan essentially means rooting for laundry. Or as I saw someone put it the other day, cheering for paid professionals employed by the corporate conglomerate located in the closest physical proximity to your childhood home. It's essentially a silly activity to get wrapped up in.
Being a small market fan comes with a whole separate host of silly issues. I wrote about this way back when KG left the T'Wolves for greener pastures in Boston -- when you're a small-market fan, you feel much closer to the players, because they're celebrities only in your area. You feel like they're an awesome secret most of the sports world doesn't know about. But you also generally get stuck with an ownership group that's cheap as all get out, meaning when you luck into a superstar like that, they're usually surrounded with shitty players and have to carry the team themselves. That's why there were such mixed feelings when KG ditched Minny; on the one hand, you're losing your best player. On the other hand, he had given us everything and the best support he ever got was Latrell Sprewell (note to non sports fan: this means he had no support). So you had grown to love him and it was hard to begrudge him the chance to actually win a championship, which was clearly never going to happen in Minnesota.
But sometimes players don't leave because they're going somewhere better, sometimes you have to jettison players you love because they're old, expensive, and not performing as well (it's a business, after all and other such cliches). This is generally just as sad, but for very different reasons.
Take the case of Justin Morneau, the Twins' formerly-amazing first baseman. As this excellent write up in Grantland points out (as have many other people, but this one is succinct and on-point), Justin is too expensive for the Twins for his level of production, and besides, they're going to be terrible for a few years waiting for all the amazing players in their farm system to get to the majors (and they have some fucking incredibly guys down on the farm right now). So from a business standpoint, it makes total sense to get Justin out the door as soon as we can.
But from a fan perspective, it's hard to see him go. He's been with the Twins since he was drafted, coming up in 2003 and helping us win 6 division titles. He won an MVP and the season he got the concussion right before All Star break, he was having one of the best seasons ever. In the first half of that season, he had hit .345 and had an OPS over 1.050 (again, for non sports fans, those are amazing numbers. Like shoe-in for your second MVP-type numbers). And then a dude on the Blue Jays accidentally kneed him in the head, and he forgot how to play baseball.
That's what makes it even sadder and raises so many more conflicted feelings -- it's not that he's suffered the decline every ball player goes through as they age. It's that he had the prime of what was shaping up to be a Hall of Fame career ruined by a concussion he really never recovered from. It would be one thing if we were shopping him now because he's an over-the-hill slugger who gave us a good long career but now we need to move on. No, any Morneau trade would be because he got injured and was no longer able to perform at a high level, due basically only to that one injury. Basically, we're jettisoning one of the greatest players in the history of the team because he got a concussion.
Final analysis, the Twins really need to get rid of him to get any value in return, even if it's just dumping the $14 million or so they owe him for next year. But even though I can understand why that needs to happen, it's still going to be a pretty sad day when it does.
Update: Looks like Morneau will come out and join me in Pittsburgh, meeting up with former Twin Francisco Liriano and taking over first base for former Twins prospect Garett Jones.