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  • Nearing The End Of An Era


    Seth Stohs

    On Friday night, news leaked the outfielder Michael Cuddyer had informed the Mets of his intention to retire. A clear leader on some very good Minnesota Twins teams in the second half of last decade, Cuddyer has spent the last four years with the Rockies and the Mets. He is the most recent member of those Twins teams who brought baseball enthusiasm back to Minnesota to speak of retirement.

    Shortly after the end of the 2015 season, outfielder Torii Hunter announced his retirement. Hunter returned to the Twins for the season. He had some ups and downs, but certainly performed as well, or better, than anyone could have hoped for. He turned 40 in July. He may have been able to get through another season, but he left on his own accord.

    Likewise, Cuddyer had a tough 2015 season with the Mets, certainly not up to the caliber he displayed when healthy in Colorado. However, he was able to participate in the World Series and goes out at the age of 36. In fact, he left his 2016 salary of $12.5 million on the table. Sure, he's probably doing just fine financially, but it does speak volumes to the class act that Cuddyer is.

    Image courtesy of Bill Streicher, USA Today

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    LaTroy Hawkins announced during the season that 2015 would his last. He certainly had his ups and (a lot of) downs in his time with the Twins. He had just figured things out in 2002 and 2003, becoming one of the top set-up men in baseball. Who would have known that he would play for another dozen seasons? Even in 2015, he was still throwing a good fastball in the mid-90s. He probably could have played again in 2016, but as he is turning 43 in less than two weeks, he's ready to move on to the next stage of his life.

    Another from that group of players is David Ortiz. We all know the back story, and what he has become, but he was an important piece on the field and in the clubhouse in the early part of last decade. When the Twins non-tendered him, no team wanted him. In fact, it wasn't for about two months after being non-tendered that the Red Sox signed him to a $1.5 million deal and they said he might compete for platoon at-bats. Five hundred career home runs later, he announced that 2016 will be his final season. Ortiz turned 40 following the 2015 season.

    Two other players remain active in baseball from the 2002 roster that won an ALDS series before losing to the eventual World Champions, the Angels. Kyle Lohse is 36 and is currently an unsigned free agent. The other is AJ Pierzynski, who is still catching, re-signed with Atlanta for 2016, his age 39 season. He hit .300 last year. Well, I guess Johan Santana is going to give a comeback one more try, but we'll see.

    That's it!

    If you are old enough to remember being a Twins fan through the highs of 1987 and 1991, you can also appreciate just how bad the baseball was in Minnesota from about 1996 through 2000. And then this group started coming up in 1998. Rookies were surrounded by veterans and over time, they started figuring it out. They started being competitive in 2001. Tom Kelly retired and Ron Gardenhire took over a team that everyone knew should compete. And they did.

    You likely remember Dusty Kielmohr, the nickname of the Twins right field players through most of the season. Dusty Mohr and Bobby Kielty both contributed. In fact Kielty posted a bWAR of 2.7 while Mohr's was at 2.3.

    Everyone will remember the Keystone Combo of Luis Rivas and Cristian Guzman. Na Na Na Na Na..

    Jacque Jones was recently named an assistant hitting coach for Dusty Baker and the Nationals. Matthew Lecroy was the Nationals bullpen coach for a few years. Eddie Guardado became the Twins bullpen coach last year. Doug Mientkiewicz has won two championships in two seasons as a manager in the Twins minor leagues.

    This was the group that brought me back to baseball. When I was in college, we didn't have cable in our dorm rooms the first couple of years, so I couldn't watch. But this group of players got me back into it. I've always been a fan of rookies and prospects, so watching that group come together and build to something special was a lot of fun.

    Seeing another one of them retire kind of makes me sad. It also makes me feel really old.

    As I'm sitting here thinking about the group of prospects that came up between 1998 and 2002, it makes me smile. It makes me think of being six years old, just getting into baseball cards, and just learning the names Kent Hrbek, Tom Brunanski, Gary Gaetti Frank VIola and eventually Kirby Puckett. And it makes me wonder which players from the Twins prospect promotions from 2014 to 2016 (like Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Tyler Duffey and JO Berrios) will be playing still in 2030.

    You don't play in the big leagues for more than a dozen years without being really good. So, congratulations to Torii Hunter, LaTroy Hawkins and now Michael Cuddyer on their fantastic careers. They have all represented themselves and their organizations very well on and off the field.

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    Good memories. Do you feel this group over achieved or under achieved? My heart says over but my brain says under with ony one playoff series victory. The group I grew up with was the 1987 and 1991 teams and I heard the legends of Killebrew, Carew, etc. as history. Hard to believe another round of Twins history is cycling through. The future is bright again with Sano, Buxton, Kepler, etc. That's why I am a fan for life.

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    One of my favorite all-timers.  Man, I'm turning 42 in a few days.  Really feels like an end of an era in many ways for me, seeing not just my favorite Twins, but a few other "peers" hit retirement age.  I'm kind of fully embracing the next chapter in my life as well.

     

    At a time when free-agents are signing for dollars I can't even conceive of, kind of cool to see someone walk away from the money for more important reasons--family, honor, integrity?  (I'm sure there is probably some buyout, but still.)

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    Good memories. Do you feel this group over achieved or under achieved? My heart says over but my brain says under with ony one playoff series victory. The group I grew up with was the 1987 and 1991 teams and I heard the legends of Killebrew, Carew, etc. as history. Hard to believe another round of Twins history is cycling through. The future is bright again with Sano, Buxton, Kepler, etc. That's why I am a fan for life.

    The division titles were very nice, but damn, it would been great to see them make a deep run to the title one of those years, especially with Johan anchoring the rotation. It also wouldn't "sting" as much if they didn't get swept all those times in a row as well, losing a playoff series is sad enough, but when you are never really "in" those series to begin with at any point (i.e. don't win a game) it sort of puts an additional sting to it.

     

    Hopefully the next round of Twins studs are due for some nice luck when they make the playoffs, I will take 12 straight wins to erase the 12 straight losses any day :)

    Edited by DaveW
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    I feel old everyday--that's what happens when you are a grandpa and on medicare I guess.

     

    Kudos to Cuddy for walking away (and leaving money on the table) before he got too old. One of my early baseball memories is seeing Willie Mays in CF for the Mets and a shell of himself--probably played 2 years too long.

     

    Great article Seth and yes, it will be interesting to see which of the current Twins prospects is playing in 2030.

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    Seth, Thanks for a great walk down memory lane. I really appreciate your article as it is a great reminder of the joys and lows of baseball and of following your favorite team. So often the content of Twins blogs feels like one big dreary slog thru unhappy fandom with the endless criticisms of ownership, the front office, managers, coaching staff and players. It is always refreshing to read your inevitably upbeat content which to me exudes how much fun it is to follow baseball and the Twins. Their is nothing wrong with observing the shortcomings of our favorite organization, but it sure is a lot more fun to focus on the positive possibilities and the ever new hope that is the core of being a baseball fan.

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    As I stated in the first thread, one of my all time favorite Twins. Right up there with Puckett and Hrbek. Cuddy was good. He was classy. And he always seemed to put the team above himself.

     

    While there was a but of negativity surrounding his last go round with the team, I'd have to include Kubel in that list of recently retired players that brought hope and winning back to the Twins.

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    I will echo the sentiment here.  I very much enjoyed watching Cuddy, both as a Twin and when he moved on.  The ending to his career was a bummer, but most are.  Kudos to him for stepping down with money on the table.  I would love to see the Twins bring him back.  I'm not sure if he would be interested in moving back to MN, but would love to see him on the broadcasts. 

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    Seth, Thanks for a great walk down memory lane. I really appreciate your article as it is a great reminder of the joys and lows of baseball and of following your favorite team. So often the content of Twins blogs feels like one big dreary slog thru unhappy fandom with the endless criticisms of ownership, the front office, managers, coaching staff and players. It is always refreshing to read your inevitably upbeat content which to me exudes how much fun it is to follow baseball and the Twins. Their is nothing wrong with observing the shortcomings of our favorite organization, but it sure is a lot more fun to focus on the positive possibilities and the ever new hope that is the core of being a baseball fan.

    Welcome to TD and thanks for the great first post!

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    As I stated in the first thread, one of my all time favorite Twins. Right up there with Puckett and Hrbek. Cuddy was good. He was classy. And he always seemed to put the team above himself.

    While there was a but of negativity surrounding his last go round with the team, I'd have to include Kubel in that list of recently retired players that brought hope and winning back to the Twins.

     

    Great points... I guess I lumped Kubel in with Morneau, Liriano and Mauer in a group that came up after that 1998-2002 group... though the next group was probably 2003-2006.

     

    The nice thing is that from 1998 through about 2010, the Twins had one, maybe two, rookie contributors coming up almost every year. Nice because you're not going to win when you are counting on 10-15 rookies, but able to replace guys that leave with competence.

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    Cuddyer gave his all, was a team player, got the most out of his talent, and was well liked.  I enjoyed watching him use that arm in RF.

     

    Drafted as a shortstop. Came up as an outfielder. Move to 3B for a bit, played OK at 2B for awhile, went back to 3B, and then finally took off when they just put him in right. 

     

    Remember when Morneau's season ended in 2008 and Cuddyer went to 1B, and then he and Mauer put up amazing numbers the final 2-3 weeks of the season and got the Twins to the playoff?

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    Nice article, but I am 70 and ushered for the Twins in their first season at Met Stadium, memory lane is a long avenue. 

     

    So you saw the team come to Met Stadium... saw a group of 60s core players come up like Oliva, Hall, Carew and Blyleven. I don't know if there were any great young cores in the '70s, but Bostock probably wasn't the only one... then the 82 team through Puckett and Gagne in 1984. 

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    One of my all-time favorite Twin not named Justin Morneau.  I'll echo the same sentiments that have been said here that Cuddy was a part of the group that brought me back to baseball.  Along with Mauer, Morneau, Santana, Liriano and Nathan.  All will hold fond memories in my minds eye.  And being only 29 years old, I'm a bit too young to really remember the '87 and '91 teams.  So this era will be a favorite of mine.

     

    Favorite memory of Cuddyer was watching him from the stands hit 2 home runs in the same inning in Kansas City in 2009.  That was fun to watch.

     

    I feel a little older today. 

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    Seems like just yesterday that prized prospect Cuddyer got his first call up with the Twins.  I believe it was a pinch runner, but as a fan it w nice to see "the future".  Kind of like this past season with both Sano and Buxton seeing time on the major league roster.

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    When I said I was 70 and usher for the 1961 season I should have shared the starting lineup - just looking at the names brings back great memories. 

     

    Bob Allison
    Earl Battey
    Reno Bertoia
    Billy Gardner
    Lenny Green
    Jim Lemon
    Don Mincher
    Camilo Pascual
    Zoilo Versalles

     

    I was at that game.  Going from my age, you couldn't have been more than 16 years old.

     

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    Michael Cuddyer , what a classy individual, what a community ambassador what a great family guy, and a team jokster/ prankster and Magician!

     

    I will remember most of his magic tricks he'd pull in Spring Training, and really probably all season long....

     

    Also i will remember how he hit like .340 for the Rockies the very first year he left he Twins and got to play in those elements in that Ball Park.

     

    What a great Twins Player and a human Being!  Michael Cuddyer  CUDDY Bear

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    Though Joe Nathan didn't come over until 2004, I clump him in with that group. My kids were at the autograph-seeking age, and we went to a lot of games around the country. I'm sure I was biased, but I thought the Twins (especially the bullpen guys) were particularly gracious signers for my kids, and I thought Nathan set the tone for that. He and Juan Rincon.

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    It would be a bit unorthodox but I've felt for a while that the Twins should just elect the '2001 team' to the Twins Hall of Fame. What that year's team meant to the organization given the whole contraction mess and near decade of futility before that is incalculable. Certain players from that team will make the Twins HOF anyhow, but that team as an entity deserves some sort of recognition by the organization.

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    My grandparents lived in Florida. The Yankees had their spring trainning camp right across the river in Bradenton. My brother and I would walk across the bridge to watch Micky Mantle and that gang. If I remember correctly it cost 25 cents to get in.

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    So you saw the team come to Met Stadium... saw a group of 60s core players come up like Oliva, Hall, Carew and Blyleven. I don't know if there were any great young cores in the '70s, but Bostock probably wasn't the only one... then the 82 team through Puckett and Gagne in 1984.

     

    I don't know if you can call them a great core or not...but you are making my memory take a stroll down the lane. Bostock, Larry Hisel, Ford, Smalley, Wynegar were all some pretty good ones. Unfortunately, they didn't fimish their careers in Minnesota, with the exception of Smalley coming back of course.

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