The History of the Minnesota Twins Bomba Belt
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsBill Simmons of The Ringer made this idea famous from a 2014 column that he titled “The Action Hero Championship Belt”, where he went back in history and awarded the championship belt to the reigning king of action movies. That actor would don the belt until the next movie star would perform well enough to snatch the belt away from him. For our purposes, we are going to do the same thing but with Minnesota Twins players throughout history. Here are our rules:
- We’re starting from 1961, when the Washington Senators became the Minnesota Twins.
- The bomba belt can only get traded when the reigning belt wearer changes teams or another player snatches the belt away by incredible, sustained performance.
Average season: .265/.390/.540, 39 HR, 106 RBI, 154 OPS+
Arguably the greatest Minnesota Twins player of all time, Killebrew held the Minnesota Twins bomba belt for 11 seasons, longer than any other Minnesota Twins player has held onto the belt. During his 11 seasons with the belt, Killebrew was an all-star in each season, finished top-5 in MVP voting six times, and won the MVP 1969. Killebrew lost his championship belt in 1972 at the age of 36 when his batting average dipped down to .231.
1972-1978 (7 seasons) — Rod Carew
Average season: .350/.414/.468, 201 H, 32 SB, 149 OPS+
Carew nabbed the bomba belt from Killebrew in 1972 and held onto it for 7 seasons where he finished in the top-10 in MVP voting five times and won the MVP award in 1977 after posting a .388 batting average and an OPS+ of 178. Carew lost the belt in 1979 after he was traded to the California Angels.
1979-1981 (3 seasons) — Roy Smalley
Average season: .272/.358/.786, 110 OPS+
The Minnesota Twins were in pretty rough shape in the beginning of the 1980s, and our belt holder, Roy Smalley, reflects the rough shape that the Twins were in. Arguably the weakest belt holder in Twins history, Smalley was awarded the belt due to having little competition. In 1979, Smalley was named the starting shortstop for the American League all-star team. Smalley lost the belt once he got traded to the New York Yankees midway through the 1982 season.
1982-1985 (4 seasons) — Kent Hrbek
Average season: .296/.366/.484, 22 HR, 94 RBI, 129 OPS+
The Twins continued to struggle throughout the beginning of the 1980s, however a new star began to emerge for them in Hrbek who burst onto the scene in 1982 to grab the bomba belt that Smalley left behind. Hrbek was an all-star in 1982 and was runner-up in the MVP voting in 1984 after posting an OPS+ of 145 and knocking in 107 runs. Hrbek lost the belt in 1986 when a certain Twins legend played well enough to snatch it away from him.
1986-1995 (10 seasons) — Kirby Puckett
Average season: .324/.366/.499, 20 HR, 98 RBI, 132 OPS+
Kirby Puckett needs no introduction. The hall-of-famer snatched the bomba belt from Hrbek in 1986 and held onto it for 10 years, the second-longest of any Twins player. Puckett held the belt through 10 all-star seasons, 7 top-10 MVP seasons, and 2 World Series championships. Puckett only gave up his belt when his glaucoma forced him to abruptly retire.
1996-1997 (2 seasons) — Chuck Knoblauch
Average season: .315/.418/.463, 188 H, 54 SB, 127 OPS+
After Puckett’s retirement, Knoblauch took the bomba belt and wore it admirably for two seasons. In those 2 seasons, Knoblauch was an all-star each year, posted a top-20 MVP season, and won a gold glove and silver slugger in 1997. After getting traded to the Yankees (at his request), Koblauch surrendered his bomba belt.
1998-2002 (5 seasons) — Brad Radke
Average season: 12-12, 4.18 ERA, 116 ERA+
In another rough stretch of Minnesota Twins baseball, Radke was the highlight for the Twins, earning an all-star game appearance and leading the Twins in bWAR over the course of those 5 seasons. Radke didn’t have the strongest of belt-wearer resumes, but was an underrated pitcher who capped off his belt-wearing campaign by posting winning performances in games 1 and 5 of the 2002 ALDS.
2003-2007 (5 seasons) — Johan Santana
Average season: 17-6, 2.81 ERA, 162 ERA+
No pitcher in Twins history has had a stronger 5 year run than Santana from 2003-2007. During this run, Santana earned five top-10 Cy Young Award finishes and nabbed the award twice. Santana only gave up the belt when he was traded to the New York Mets prior to the 2008 season.
2008-2013 (6 seasons) — Joe Mauer
Average season: .328/.411/.474, 156 H, 141 OPS+
From the end of the Metrodome era to the opening seasons at Target Field, no player was better for the Minnesota Twins than Joe Mauer. Over his 6 years with the bomba belt, Mauer was a 5-time all-star, 4-time silver slugger, 3-time gold glover, and an MVP in 2009. Mauer gave up his belt in 2014 when he slugged a career low .371.
2014-2017 (4 seasons) — Brian Dozier
Average season: .254/.338/.476, 32 HR, 120 OPS+
The Twins were far from competitive during these years, and Brian Dozier was the lone bright spot for what were otherwise forgettable teams. Dozier eclipsed 20 home runs in each of his four seasons with the belt, and posted his best season in 2016 when he hit 42 home runs, the most by any Twins player not named Harmon Killebrew. Dozier surrendered his belt in 2018 after being traded to the Dodgers at the trade deadline.
2018 (1 season) — José Berríos
Season: 12-11, 3.84 ERA, 111 ERA+
2018 was largely a transition year for the Minnesota Twins as they traded away many of their best players from the previous era and the stars of the current era had yet to break out. The one player who did was José Berríos, who earned his first opening day start and his first all star appearance. While Berríos didn’t hang onto the belt for long, at only 26 years of age he has more than enough potential to grab it again.
2019 - ? — Nelson Cruz
Season: .311/.392/.639, 41 HR, 166 OPS+
In a season where the Minnesota Twins won their second most games in team history, Nelson Cruz was the man who grabbed the bomba belt with the best performance of the year. Cruz led the Minnesota Twins in home runs, slugging %, and OPS. Cruz was the driving force behind the 102-win season and currently holds the Minnesota Twins bomba belt. Will he hang onto it past 2019? Or will a new challenger step up in 2020 and snatch it away from him?
What do you think about the history of the Twins bomba Belt? Who do you think will hold it in 2020 and moving forward? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!
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