The team that would become the Twins – the Washington Senators set the pace that the Twins would follow, with lots of mediocrity and last place teams with occasional flourishes of quality. “First in War, Last in the American League.” Since it is a new year, I thought it would be fun to look back at our legacy and see what happened in 1919 and each decade after:
1919 The team was 56 – 84 and seventh place out of eight teams. Walter Johnson had a 10.8 WAR for this collection and a record of 20 – 14. Clark Griffith was the manager. They had three outstanding players on their roster – Bucky Harris (his rookie year, only a few appearances), Sam Rice (10th in batting average – 321) and Joe Judge (288/386/406). It was not enough. They were last in Batting and last in Pitching, but still managed to finish ahead of the Philadelphia As.
1929 The year that the Great Depression hit the nation the team was 71 -81 and up to fifth place! Firpo Marberry (19 – 12 and 9 saves) had 7.1 WAR and Walter Johnson was the manager. They were 34 games behind and there were no playoffs or other options to hope for in those years. Marberry was one of the first really great relief pitchers with four years of double figure saves when that was not a stat nor did anyone care much about it. Yet he was by far the most valuable player on the team. Sam Rice was now 39 but had a line that read 323/382/424. Goose Goslin was .288/366/.461, Joe Judge was .315/.397/.442, Buddy Myers at 2B was .300/.373/.403 and Joe Cronin was .281/.388/.421 which proves again that pitching is what wins games!
1939 World War II begins, but not much changes for the Senators. There record is 65 – 87 and they are in 6th place 41 ½ games out. Bucky Harris is now the manager and will be for 8 seasons. Buddy Lewis is their WAR leader with 5.7. A third baseman and outfielder his line was 319/.402/.478. The attendance for the year was just over 329,000. Amazingly Dutch Leonard was 20 – 8 – winning 31% of the team total! Their only other star was right fielder Taffy Wright .309/.359/.435. Of note was September call up Early Wynn who was 0 – 2 in his debut but would go on to win 300 games.
In 1949 when I was 3 ½ the Senators really stunk. 50 – 104 and 47 games out of contention. Of course they were in 8th place. J Kuhel was in second and last year as manager and Eddie Robinson lead the team with 2.5 WAR as a first baseman with .294/.381/.459. and the attendance for the year was up to 774,000! A familiar name for Twins history was on this roster – Sam Mele 242/.288/.337. He started out the year in RF for the Red Sox and then came to the Senators in the season and played RF/CF/1B. Another familiar name is Eddie Yost who became famous for fouling off pitches, his line was .253/.383/.391. Member of the Twins front office Sherry Robertson was on the team and played 2B/3B/RF/LF.
1959. Two years from coming to Minnesota the team was 63 – 91 and in 8th place again. Cookie Lavagetto was manager and would be for the Twins in 1961 before giving way to Sam Mele. Camilo Pascual had 8.6 WAR. Always my favorite pitcher in the early Twins years Pascual was 17 – 10 that year giving him 27% of the team wins. In September Jim Kaat came to the team – 21 years old, 0 – 2 record! Jack Kralick and Pedro Ramos were also in the rotation and would becomes Twins staples! Both underrated in Twins history. At 23 Harmon Killebrew was finally given a full time position after rotting on the bench due to the bonus baby rule (another stupid rule from baseball’s hierarchy). With 42 HRs the Killer had a line of 242/.354/.516. Familiar names on the roster included Bob Allison, Jim Lemon, Lenny Green, Zoilo Versalles, Roy Seivers, and Reno Bertoia. Bad team with some great players.
1969 In the playoff era, one of our greatest teams finished first – 97 – 65 and then lost 3 – 0 in the ALCS. What a shame. Jim Perry with 6.5 was tops in WAR and 20 – 6! He was amazing that year. Dave Boswell was 20 – 12, Jim Kaat was 14 – 13, Tom Hall (who physically resembles Jose Berrios) was 8 – 7 and Dean Chance was 5 – 4. What a rotation! Ron Perranoski and Al Worthington were the top relief tandem. Then there were the bats – 36 year old John Roseboro at Catcher, Reese at 1B, Carew 2B - .332/.386/.467, Cardenas SS, Killebrew (49 HRs) at 3B, Allison (24 HR), Uhlander, and Oliva (.309/.355/.496) in the OF. The manager was a story in himself – Billy Martin!
1979 82 – 80 and fourth in the West. Gene Mauch was the manager (Roy Smalley’s uncle) and Jerry Koosman led in WAR (7.2). The Twins drew just over one million fans. In 1974 when Blyleven led the way they drew only 660,000. Koosman was 20 – 13, Dave Goltz was 14 – 13, and Geoff Zahn, Roger Erickson and Paul Hartzell rounded out a ½ good rotation. Mike Marshall was the pen – 90 appearances, 32 saves, 142 innings pitched. The Batting order did not match the sixties. Roy Smalley was probably the best, Kenny Landreaux was good and Butch Wynegar was Calvin Griffith favorite. We also had the great name – Bombo Rivera!
1989 80 – 82. Two years from our world series in – we only won five more regular season games that year and the year before we were 91 – 71 and better than any of the other teams in this time frame, but we finished second. This year had a similar record to ten years earlier, but we were below 500 and finished 5th. Kirby Puckett led in WAR (4.9) 339/.379/.465 and it was Tom Kelly’s third season as manager. We drew 2,200,000 fans! The rotation was led by Allen Anderson 17 – 10, Frank Viola 8 – 12, and Roy Smith 10 – 6 and Jeff Reardon was in the pen with Juan Berenguer. The big bats were Puckett, Harper, Hrbek, Gagne, Gaetti, and Gladden. It was also the year of Wally Backman at second base and that was some mistake.
1999 63 – 97 and in fifth place out of 5. Kelly was still the manager and Brad Radtke led in WAR – 6.5 and was 12 – 14. Terry Steinbeck was the catcher – nice to have the Minnesotan come home. He had a line of .242/.310/.410. A guy by the name of David Ortiz played 1B .277/.371/.446, but of course we did not like the way he swung the bat! Ron Coomer and Matt Lawton were regulars and a guy named Molitor was DH .281/.335/.382 – we liked that, we didn’t like Ortiz. In the rotation Radtke was joined by LaTroy Hawkins 7 – 14, Eric Milton 8 – 14 and Bob Tewksbury 7 – 13. Rick Aguilera and Eddie Guardado held the pen.
2009 – Current history. 87 – 67 and first place in the Central, then a 3 – 0 loss in the LDS. Joe Mauer led in WAR with 7.8 (28 HRs, .365/.444/.587 and Ron Gardenhire managed. Blackburn and Baker each won 12, Slowey and Perkins each won 11, and Livan Hernandez won 10. Joe Nathan was joined by Boof Bonser – another of the best names in Twins history – Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, and Dennys Reyes. Mauer, Morneau, Span and Kubel led the lineup with Carlos Gomez in CF and Nick Punto all over the field. 3B Buscher, 2b Casilla, and the famous Delmon Young in LF!
That’s the decade review. When we were senators we finished 7/5/6/8/8 – very consistent. The Twins in the years that ended with 9 were 1/4/5/5/1 – somewhat erratic but some fun teams. What can we expect this year? There are so many questions – Happy New Year.