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The History of the Minnesota Twins Bomba Belt

Twins Daily Contributor

Since relocating from Washington to Minnesota 59 years ago, 12 different Minnesota Twins players have taken turns as the acting best player on the team. In this exercise, they will be awarded the “Minnesota Twins Bomba Belt”. Who has worn the belt over the years, and who possesses it now?Bill 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.
1961-1971 (11 seasons) — Harmon Killebrew

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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I think if you had stuck with the apparent approach taken for the historical years, 2019 would have been either "?" or would have remained Berrios (who, depending upon the WAR number you use, was 'about' as good as Cruz in 2019). Maybe Cruz is going to be a one-hit wonder like Zoilo Versalles...or maybe he ends up being a Paul Molitor to Jorge Polanco's Chuck Knoblauch (as an example).


I like the approach. But it is tough on players that played in the era of the long-term dominant guys....guys like Bob Allison, Jim Kaat, Gaetti, Viola, Morneau....all were very, very good for extended periods, and, at least arguably, had a year or two where they were better than the reigning king. Bert Blyleven has the 4th or 5th most Twins WAR all-time, but doesn't make the list. Oliva, in similar situation. Pretty easy to argue Oliva was better then Killebrew (definitely WAR-wise) for multiple years during Killebrew's reign...even multiple consecutive years within that time period. There's a reason why Oliva has a statue at Target field...while more than half the names on this list will never reach that status.



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Twins Daily Contributor


I think if you had stuck with the apparent approach taken for the historical years, 2019 would have been either "?" or would have remained Berrios (who, depending upon whose WAR number you use, was just about as 'valuable' as Cruz).


So, depending upon what Berios does going forward, 2019 may, or may not, have been a transition year. Either way, the single year of 2019 probably doesn't tell us enough. Maybe Cruz is going to be a one-hit wonder like Zoilo Versalles...or maybe he ends up being a Paul Molitor to Jorge Polanco's Chuck Knoblauch (as an example).


The approach is toughest on players that played in the era of the long-term dominant guys....guys like Bob Allison, Blyleven, Gaetti, Viola, Morneau...yes, Hrbek.


Probably, the best example would be Oliva. Pretty easy to argue Oliva was better then Killebrew (definitely WAR-wise) for multiple years during Killebrew's reign...even multiple consecutive years within that time period. It's why Oliva has a statue at Target field, and most of these other guys don't.


It's really a great point and something I considered. It's hard to award the belt in real time, and I think this exercise bears that out. Keeping Berrios with the belt is more than reasonable.


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I would agree the flaw in this is the short sample size of recent players.  To me, this seems more like the fan fav award over that time.  As pointed out, absent the defense aspect Hrbek was right on par with offense as Puckett, but Puckett played premium defense and was more of a fan fav.  


Similar to Radke there was most likely single seasons of good play by other players that were better, but during that stretch Radke was the fav of the fans and he put up good enough numbers.  


Overall I like the concept, but I would agree if Berrios has a few seasons of decent pitching he may not have lost the title to Cruz, but when looking back Cruz just had a decent season compared to Berrios single season. 

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Understanding the principles here, I would have come up with a different name for the belt as "bomba", to me, indicates offensive performance.


I also agree the more recent seasons make it hard to quantify recent winners or projected winners. And even under this context, did Mauer really hold the belt for 6yrs when he was playing with Morneau?


Probably agree with Cruz for 2019 but would have penciled in Kepler or Sano for early entry in to 2020.


Did Koskie get dissed in all of this? Again, I guess it's because we are really talking best player/pitcher and not just offensive "bomba" player in that regard.

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I love this idea.


I would suggest one change in approach, and one reexamination:


Approach: maybe, like the hall of fame, we have a three-year waiting period. The recent years are too tempting to examine in a too granular fashion. We can't see the forest, just the trees. I mean, if we had done this in 1982, we might have had Kenny Landreux get the belt in 1980 just because of his hitting streak. (Though, TBH, even then we knew that was a mediocre player having a fluke year). But I think a three year holding period would allow some perspective.


Rexamination: It is damn hard not to give the belt to a guy who literally had a run of MVP-type season in the late 60s, but the Oliva/Killebrew battle for this belt in the  60s is real. I wonder if we shouldn't consider a Killebrew/Oliva/back to Killebrew sequence. I can see Oliva having it 64-66 - even though he literally lost the MVP vote to a teammate (Zoilo Versalles) one of those years, and was a rookie another one of those years. 


I would love a breakdown of this, in case anyone is up to it. 

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