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.
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.