A Season of "What If" For the St. Paul SaintsST. PAUL, MN September 21, 2012
A Season of "What If" For the St. Paul Saints
September 21, 2012 at 6:29 PM
The 2012 season provided more than enough riveting moments to keep fans warm during the long off-season months. Whether it was a thrilling walk-off finish, milestone victories, record breaking home runs, lively promotions or one huge announcement the 20th season of Saints baseball definitely packed a punch. For the die-hard fans, however, those always on the edge of their seat and tune into every ballgame when the team is on the road, 2012 left them asking “What If?”
Four teams make the playoffs and the other nine are left asking themselves “What If?” For the Saints those questions could be “What if they didn’t lose six games when leading after seven innings,” “What if they didn’t go 7-5 in extra inning games, all of them at home,” “What if they didn’t have the third lowest batting average in the league,” “What if pitcher Danny Gutierrez never got hurt and pitchers Wes Roemer and Dan Sattler never had their contracts purchased,” “What if the Saints didn’t go 2-8 in their final 10 games after tying the Winnipeg Goldeyes for the Wild Card” and on and on and on.
The last time the Saints came off an American Association Championship appearance in 2007, the following season they tied for the second worst winning percentage in franchise history. After the Saints returned from their annual high school tournament roadtrip at .500, they managed to win their final five games of the homestand. Following that homestand the road once again proved difficult as they were swept by Sioux Falls. From that point forward it was win won, lose a couple. The low point definitely came on June 27 in Wichita when the Saints took a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but watched the Wingnuts score six runs in the ninth, losing 6-5.
The Saints entered the halfway point of the season four games below .500, and on the next night, lost their second straight game to the Goldeyes to fall a season low five games below .500. That’s when everything turned around. The Saints went on a seven game win streak and reeled off 15 wins in 17 games to climb eight games above .500 at 38-30. Towards the end of that run they reeled off three extra inning wins in four games against two of the best teams in Quebec les Capitales and the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.
With three weeks left in the season the Saints entered a series in Winnipeg against the Goldeyes five games behind them for the Wild Card. A huge sweep of the Goldeyes propelled the Saints to their third seven game win streak of the season including an incredible win on August 24. The Goldeyes and Saints battled into extra innings and were scoreless heading into the bottom of the 12th. Ronnie Bourquin ended the game with a sacrifice fly to deep right and the Saints won 1-0 putting them into a tie for the Wild Card with the Goldeyes. Unfortunately, the remaining three games against the Goldeyes in the series went to the visitors and the Saints went into a 2-8 tailspin to finish the season and out of the playoffs.
Individually, it was a big season for a few Saints players/coaches. First, Ole Sheldon broke his first Saints franchise record when he drove in his 213th run in his Saints career on July 15 at Winnipeg, surpassing Brent Krause’s (2007-11) franchise record of 212. Then, manager George Tsamis won his 500th game at the helm of the Saints with a 7-3 win against the Sioux City Explorers on July 20 in Sioux City. The very next night Sheldon drilled a home run to left, the 55th in his Saints career surpassing David Kennedey’s (1994, 97-99) franchise record of 54 and it was the 100th career homer in Sheldon’s career. Sheldon would go on to hit 20 long balls, the second time he’s hit at least 20 homers in his Saints career making him the only player to accomplish that feat. Finally, Adam Frost surpassed Brent Krause’s franchise record for steals with his 54th on August 28 at Gary SouthShore.
On the pitching side Robert Coe may have had one of the best all-time seasons for any pitcher in Saints history. He threw more innings than any other Saints hurler in a single season, with 139.1, and started more games (21) than any Saints pitcher. His 12 wins tied a single-season mark and the 2.91 ERA he finished up with was the 10th lowest of any pitcher who threw at least 66.0 innings in the clubs history. He also tossed 20.1 consecutive scoreless innings, third best in franchise history. All that added up to a Pitcher of the Week honor, the July Pitcher of the Month and the American Association Rookie of the Year Award. Two other rookies were welcomed additions with Dustin Klabunde leading the team in saves, with 10, and Luke Anderson having the ninth lowest single-season batting average against at .230. Kyle Ruwe, who was added in late July was nothing short of spectacular and finished with the fifth lowest single-season ERA in team history, at 2.69.
No Saints season would be complete without promotions. It all got started prior to the season with the announcement of Bounty Night. The Saints had a little fun with everything going on in the NFL and decided they would pay out their own bounties for big hits on the September 1 game and donate the money to concussion research. When the evening came around the bats were alive and the Saints raised $1,900.
Also during the pre-season the Saints announced the 2012 pigs. For the first time in the 20 year history the Saints unveiled two pigs during the World’s Largest Game of Catch: Kim Lardashian and Kris Hamphries. The two pigs were married on June 22 and, unfortunately, their nuptials ended on September 2, 72 days after their wedding date.
With many in Minnesota heading to the cabin during the winter, summer, holiday’s, extended weekend, just to get away, when they are bored or just to relax the Saints decided to turn Midway Stadium into “The Cabin” for the Fourth of July Weekend. For three days the Saints made s’mores, worked on their farmers tan and sang songs around the fire.
The most talked about promotion of the year, however, occurred on August 10 with A Night of Unbelievable Fun presented by the Minnesota Atheists and American Atheists. The team changed its name to the Mr. Paul Aints, wore special jerseys and celebrated those things people believed in, but many people found “unbelievable” like Big Foot, UFO’s and the Loch Ness Monster. The promotion was picked up by newspapers from coast-to-coast, news stations such as FOX and Friends and internet blog sites like Deadspin.com. The night was seen by many media members as a religious (or non-religious) statement. The night, however, never mentioned religion and proved to be a huge disappointment for all those who were up in arms about allowing an Atheist group to sponsor a night at the ballpark.
The 20th season of Saints baseball became the most memorable of all because of what happened after the season ended. On Thursday, September 13, a day no Saints fan will soon forget, the Governor of Minnesota announced a $25 million DEED grant awarded for a new Lowertown Regional Ballpark. Combined with matching funds from the City of Saint Paul and the Saints the club will have a new home when they open their 23rd season in 2015. The baseball season may have had a lot “What If?” questions, but the Saints and their fans came out as winners when all was said and done. Thanks for another great baseball season. Opening Day 2013 is not as far off as you might think.