Twins All-Decade Team, the '90s (The Hitters)
Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker, USA TodayFirst year of the decade (1990) - Worst team in the American League.
Second year of the decade (1991) - Second World Series championship in five years.
Third year of the decade (1992) - Won more games than that championship team.
After that, well, it wasn't always pretty. However, there were still some great performances. Some of the top players of the 1980s were still playing well into the 1990s. A new star emerged in 1991 and was probably the best player of the decade. Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Terry Steinbach all came home.
Today, we talk about the All-Decade team of hitters. Admittedly, some of the positions were harder to find greatness at than others, but the list is certainly enjoyable. Read through it and share your thoughts below.
1990s Twins All-Decade Hitters
C - Brian Harper (1990-1993)
544 games, .304/.339/.428 (.767) with 121 doubles, 37 homers, 269 RBI.
An argument could have been made that Harper should have been the Twins catcher of the ‘80s for the two years he played, but he continued to hit well for the Twins into the ‘90s and was a key piece of the 1991 Twins World Series championships. Harper went to the plate to hit. In 2097 plate appearances, he had just 67 non-intentional walks. He also struck out just 100 times over these four seasons. He hit at least .294 in each of these seasons (as well as 1988-89).
1B - Kent Hrbek (1990-1994)
591 games, .267/.365/.449 (.814) with 88 doubles, 92 homers, 362 RBI.
Hrbek’s best years came in the 1980s but he was still a very productive player in the first half of the ‘90s as well. Even in the two seasons in which he hit under .250, he still had an on-base percentage over .350. He hit for power and doubles. His best season of the ‘90s was the championship 1991 team. He missed more time as he got older. He quietly retired during the 1994 strike.
2B - Chuck Knoblauch (1991-1997)
1,013 games, .304/.391/.416 (.807) with 88 doubles, 59 homers, 221 RBI.
Knoblauch was easily the Twins top hitter of the 1990s. He was the team’s first-round pick in 1989 out of Texas A&M. He rose quickly and was the team’s opening day second baseman in 1991. He was the easy choice for American League Rookie of the Year and an instigator of the Twins World Series lineup, hitting second most nights. He was an All-Star four times in his seven seasons with the Twins. Despite playing in the same league at the same time as Roberto Alomar, “Knobby” won two Silver Slugger Awards and one Gold Glove Award.He posted OPS over .900 in 1995 and 1996. He was a doubles machine and led the league with 45 doubles in 1995. He led the league in triples in 1996. Knoblauch could hit, hit for extra base power, run, steal bases, play strong defense and other intangibles. He was traded to the Yankees after the 1997 season.
3B - Scott Leius (1990-1995)
476 games, .252/.327/.366 (.694) with 58 doubles, 26 homers, 155 RBI.
Leius was the Twins 13th-round pick in 1986 out of Concordia College in Bronxville, NY. He debuted late in the 1990 season. In 1991, he platooned with Mike Pagliarulo and hit .286/.378/.417 (.795) with 14 extra base hits. He was also on the 1991 championship team. That was easily his best season. He played a career-high 129 games in 1992. He missed most of 1993, and he played a combined 214 games between 1995 and 1996. He later played for Cleveland (1996) and Kansas City (1998-99). This wasn’t a very strong position for the Twins in the 1990s. Other possible candidates include Ron Coomer, Jeff Reboulet, Pagliarulo and one-season stretches for Gary Gaetti and Corey Koskie.
SS - Pat Meares (1993-1998)
742 games, .265/.301/.381 (.682) with 120 doubles, 41 homers, 303 RBI.
Meares took over the Twins shortstop position in 1993 after Greg Gagne left via free agency. While Gagne was clearly the better fielder, Meares was a solid fielder who could hit a little bit more. He was the Twins 12th-round pick in 1990 from Wichita State and debuted less than two years later. In his six seasons with the Twins, he hit double-digit homers twice and had 19 or more homers in four of the seasons. He then played three seasons with the Pirates.
LF - Shane Mack (1990-1994)
633 games, .309/.375/.479 (.854) with 119 doubles, 67 homers, 315 RBI.
Mack remains one of the most underrated players in Twins history. He had been the top pick of the Padres in 1984 from UCLA but he just never got going in San Diego. In December 1989, he was the Twins Rule 5 draft. He spent the next five seasons hitting like crazy for the Twins. He hit between .310 and .333 in four of the five seasons. He got on base. He hit for power, lots of doubles and double-digit homers too. He had really good speed on the base paths and was really good out in the outfield. He was a key contributor to the 1991 championship. In 1994, he was hitting .333/.402/.564 (.966) with 21 doubles and 15 homers in 81 games when the strike hit. After the season, he signed a two-year deal to play in Japan before coming back to the States in 1997.
CF - Kirby Puckett (1990-1995)
859 games, .312/.363/.485 (.848) with 217 doubles, 111 homers, 579 RBI.
While Puckett was one of the top players of the 1980s, he continued to be a top player in the ‘90s. He was an All-Star all six seasons. He led the league in hits once. RBIs in 1994. Three more times he finished in the top 10 in AL MVP voting. He won two more Gold Glove Awards and two more Silver Sluggers. His career came to an abrupt end in spring training 1996. While he was 36 years old, he likely had three to five more seasons remaining. He played mostly center field through the 1993 seasons and then moved to right field the final two seasons.
RF - Matt Lawton (1995-1999)
512 games, .264/.367/.416 (.783) with 94 doubles, 49 homers, 245 RBI.
Lawton was the Twins 13th-round pick in 1991 out of Mississippi Gulf Coast CC. He debuted with 21 games in 1995 and was up for good midway through the 1996 season. He was an All-Star for the Twins, though that was in 2000 so not included here. However, he was a very solid all-around player. He was a quality right fielder with a strong arm. While he didn’t hit for average, except in 2000, he always found his way on base, getting on base via walk about 10% of the time. In 1998, he hit .278, got on base 39% of the time, and he hit 36 doubles, six triples and 21 homers. He also could steal bases. He remained in the Twins organization until the July deadline in 2001.
DH - Paul Molitor (1996-1998)
422 games, .312/.362/.432 (.794) with 102 doubles, 23 homers, 271 RBI.
Coin-flip… Paul Molitor (‘96-98) or Chili Davis (‘91-92)? I went with Molitor. The St. Paul native finished his Hall of Fame career with three seasons in a Twins uniform. In 1996, he hit .341 and drove in a career-high 113 runs despite just nine homers. He did have 41 doubles. At 39, he still stole 18 bases too. He hit .305 with 32 doubles and ten homers. He recorded his 3000th hit in 1997 with a triple.
What do you think?
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Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona)
Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers)
Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers)
Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with Howard Sinker)