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Thome and Kubel depart as Twins swept by Orioles

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Thome waived his no trade clause and accepted a trade to the Cleveland Indians, the team for which he made his name and the one that will adorn his cap in his inevitable entry into the Hall of Fame.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, Thome's gone, and Kubel's been claimed by the White Sox.

That these trades occurred shortly after the Twins were swept by the Baltimore Orioles in four games further reinforced this as perhaps the most dismal season in the last decade. Yesterday's defeat sent this woebegone club tumbling down the Central division steps. The Twins are 5-17 for August.

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The futility is as thick as mosquitoes in a state park campground. In this series, the Twins were outscored 24-4--a margin of twenty fucking points!--and succeeded in improving the psychological well-being of the Baltimore Orioles mediocre pitching staff.

Unfortunately, Thome went 0-11 with six strikeouts in his last home stand in Minnesota, and Kubel was barely any better, going 1-13 with four K.

And, oh, Lord, it's one thing to lose three of four to the New York Yankees, but another thing to lose to the freakin' Baltimore Orioles. They suck. I guess not as bad as we suck, though. Now it's worse.

Tuesday's game, which I attended, saw the O's Alfredo Simon throw eight innings, strike out eight, and give up but one run on three hits. But the Twins gave up only one run and four hits in seven innings! Which is great, except that they play nine in a full game, and Baltimore scored seven runs and nine hits in the other two (the second and third innings.)

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Did I mention that Mr. Simon's totals from that game were career highs?

Pitcher Brian Duensing looked baffled, as if he'd somehow thought he was throwing batting practice, only to discover nearly 40,000 angry people staring down at him from the stands, wondering why he's still standing on the mound and not on a bicycle heading for home. His home, not home plate.

The Twins are not contenders. They're not spoilers. Nor are they an up-and-coming team full of bright-eyed young men eager to find their place in the show and now two of their best hitters have departed to teams that hope they can contend.

And yet, there's still the inherent hope that is this strange and wonderful sport. Last season, as I marveled at the beauty of our new ballpark, I also thought that it would, in my mind, not become a truly great baseball experience until futility colored the experience. That futility has arrived.

Great ballparks are not just pleasure palaces with tens of thousands of hungry fans screaming and shouting in excitement. They're also dead quiet in the late months, the heat billowing down on the faithful who dot the empty stands, sweating onto their scorecards.

Fans were thrilled when rain first came pouring down on their heads in an early game against Boston last year. On Tuesday, a veritable hailstorm of boos, lusty and unending, rained down on Brian Duensing. Which I thought was great. Booing, cheering, happiness, anger, excitement, and boredom--this is the full spectrum of a real ballpark.

September will see more of the same. The Minnesota Twins are failing in every possible way to make this season anything more than a exercise in faith. The seats fill on beautiful nights and then whole sections bleed away by the seventh inning, even in games the Twins win. By the ninth inning of Tuesday's game, there were maybe eight people remaining in my section, all of us penciling in our scorecards, wondering why we were still there.

And yet, even with a team in total collapse, even with a club whose future prospects seem dim, even as the future Hall-of-Famer returns to the team that made him a Hall-of-Famer, this quietude, this utter futility, has its simple joys. Baseball, friends, is not designed to reward you with excessive success. Unlike football, where teams have won 90% of their games in a season (and 100% a couple times), the best baseball team does not win 70% of the time, just as the worst win at least 30%.

There's a certain poetry to that, to watching a kid named Drew Butera fail to reach first a whole game, and then connect once, just once, in a late and meaningless inning in September, a single hit that nudges his ridiculous batting average up a sliver, and makes no difference whatsoever in the final score.

Isn't that the Sisyphean futility we all face every day?

Now that Thome and Kubel have left for mildly greener pastures, I wish I could say the trading's done. But local ESPN radio affiliate, AM1500, spoke with Joe Nathan, who said he might welcome a trade to a contender. Christ, doesn't anyone want Matt Capps?