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  1. A New Generation Bert Blyleven had a busy childhood before his family settled in for good in California when he was five. He was born in the Netherlands, moved to California, then Canada, and then back to California, where he became a baseball fan. He and his father watched Sandy Koufax and listened to legends Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett announce Dodgers games. He loved baseball so much that his dad built him a mound in the backyard where he would throw and throw until he developed his curveball. Blyleven attended Santiago High School, where he played baseball and ran track. He also played on local American Legion teams in the summers. He had a natural arm and worked hard to improve where needed. His arm and attitude were drawing the attention of professional scouts by the end of his junior year of high school. In his senior year, he knew playing in the majors was just a matter of which team would take him in the draft. The Big Move The Twins didn't waste time picking up Blyleven right out of high school. He was drafted 55th overall in round three of the 1969 draft. As a non-roster invite to spring training in 1970, team skipper Bill Rigney immediately saw something special in the teenager, and it didn't take long before Blyleven came to the majors. Early that season, Twins right-hander Luis Tiant was sidelined with a hand fracture. Management decided it was time for Bert Blyleven, at the age of 19 and with a mere 21 starts in the minors, to come up the majors. He never left On June 5, 1970, Blyleven debuted against the Washington Senators at RFK Stadium. In his MLB debut, he had a stellar game. He started out a little rocky when his first batter faced, Lee Maye, drilled a homer into the right-field seats. That run was all Blyleven allowed. He held the Senators to one run and five hits and earned his first win. In his rookie season, Blyleven broke many records. He was the first player in major-league history to be born in The Netherlands. Blyleven was the youngest player in the majors (19) to finish with a 10-9 record. Blyleven was the 25th pitcher to reach double digits in victories as a teenager and posted a 3.18 ERA in 164 innings. Young Ace Bert Blyleven had an excellent start to his 1972 season before hitting a slight slump. The rest of the team did as well. He started working with the team's new pitching coach, Al Worthington, to improve his mechanics, helping him find his stride for the last few weeks of the season. In 1973, Blyleven struggled again early with his mechanics. However, he won the subsequent ten decisions after making a minor adjustment to his timing. He had arguably one of the best seasons of any Twins pitcher, tossing nine shutouts, the most of any pitcher in the AL. Blyleven had an even more outstanding season in 1974. He continued to get better and better. In 36 games, he went 17-17, but had an ERA of 2.66 and over 281 innings. He had 249 strikeouts. Blyleven knew his value, and late in the season, he demanded a salary showing his worth. He continued to negotiate his contract terms with the management, but between his demands and insistence upon being paid more, he was completely frustrated by the end of the season. The tension between the ownership and the pitcher was at an all-time high. Blyleven got a raise, but he felt it wasn't enough. The relationship with the front office withered, and with the health with his back and shoulder issues, his 1975 season was derailed early. Blyleven came back strong. He went 15-10 with a 3.00 ERA. He had 20 complete games, and struck out 233 batters. 1975 was his last season (for then). It ended with the Twins trading him to the Rangers. Coming Home Blyleven spent the next nine seasons bouncing around the league with the Rangers, Pirates, and Indians before coming back to the Minnesota Twins halfway through the 1985 season. Coming home to the Twins proved to be a smooth transition. Blyleven posted an 8-5 record and completed nine of his 14 starts with the Twins. Blyleven had a 17-16 record and 3.16 ERA overall. He led the AL in starts (37), shutouts (5), and strikeouts (206) while pacing the majors in complete games (24) and innings (293 2/3). 1987 was another excellent season for Bert Blyleven and the Twins. Along with a core of sluggers (Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Dan Gladden), he helped the Twins to an ALCS win and the World Series. Along with previous Twinsmas pitcher Frank Viola, they carried each other and the team to the title. The 1987 World Series was one of the best times Bert Blyleven had as a pitcher. "When you put fifty-five thousand screaming people in here (Metrodome), it's something," said Blyleven, soaking in the moment. Beloved Announcer Bert Blyleven ended his career as a pitcher in California with the Angels. He 'officially' retired from baseball as the Twins announcer in 2020. He was affectionately known for the "Circle Me Bert" trend in which fans would bring a sign to the Twins game with a fun saying on it to catch the attention of the former All-Star. They would "hereby be circled" from the booth. In 2002, Bert Blyleven was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame. Then in 2011, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, receiving 79.7% of the vote. Thank you for reading, and Go, Twins! Read Previous "12 Days of TwinsMas" articles here: #12 - Torii Hunter #11 - Chuck Knoblauch #10 - Jim Kaat #9 - Frank Viola #8 - Kent Hrbek #7 - Tony Oliva #6 - Johan Santana #5 - Bert Blyleven #4 - Coming Soon!
  2. When it comes to the rankings below, there are many factors to consider. Should the rankings be based on the team’s best players of all time? Should the rankings be associated with players found later in the draft that provided tremendous value? In the end, it’s likely a combination of multiple ranking methods. 5. Kent Hrbek, 1B Twins WAR: 38.6 There were 431 players taken ahead of Hrbek in the 1978 MLB Draft, but he made a life-long impact on the Twins franchise. His hometown team drafted him in the 17th round, and he went on to be a fixture on the team’s 1987 and 1991 World Series titles. His 293 home runs rank second in team history behind only Harmon Killebrew. At 34-years old, he retired earlier than some, so his career numbers may have looked even better if he continued playing. 4. Brad Radke, RHP Twins WAR: 45.3 Fans might not realize how good Radke was during his 12-year career because he was part of some terrible Twins teams. Only one pitcher in team history has accumulated a higher WAR (see below). The Twins selected Radke with their 8th round pick (206th overall) in 1991. He averaged over 200 innings pitched during his career with a 1.26 WHIP and a 113 ERA+. Some of his other numbers aren’t as impressive because he was one of the team’s original pitch-to-contact arms. He provided durability and consistency for the Twins rotation as the team came back to prominence in the early 2000s. 3. Bert Blyleven, RHP Twins WAR: 48.9 Blyleven was MLB.com’s pick for the best draft pick in team history, and he has an argument for the top spot. Both of the players listed below were taken in the first round of their drafts, which can come with high expectations. Blyleven was a third-round pick, and 54 other players were taken ahead of him in 1969. His 22-year career saw him play for five franchises, but he accumulated more WAR during his Twins tenure than any other pitcher in team history. He was a great pitcher and a steal in the third round, but the players below should be ranked higher than him. 2. Joe Mauer, C Twins WAR: 55.2 It’s hard to fathom the amount of pressure Joe Mauer had to feel when he was taken with the first overall pick by his hometown team. Not only did he live up to the hype, but he also went on to have a career that has him in the Hall of Fame conversation. According to Baseball-Reference, only two players in Twins history have accumulated more WAR in a Twins uniform, Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew. Both of these players are in Cooperstown, and Mauer hopes to join them in the years ahead. 1. Kirby Puckett, CF Twins WAR: 51.2 Puckett’s path to the Twins was a unique one as the team drafted him third overall in the 1982 MLB January Draft. This now-defunct draft is different from the regular draft used to select all the other players on this list. That being said, it’s hard to ignore what Puckett did in a Twins uniform. Minnesota’s assistant farm director Jim Rantz stumbled across Puckett while watching his son play, and the rest is history. Puckett was a critical piece to both of the franchise’s World Series titles, and he was a first-ballot Hall of Fame player. How would you rank these players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. This discrepancy is beautifully highlighted in Moneyball when Brad Pitt is talking with his scouts. “There are rich teams and there are poor teams. Then there’s 50 feet of crap, and then there’s us. It’s an unfair game,” said Pitt. When the Twins last won the World Series in 1991, the Total MLB Payroll was just over $630 million. In 2021, the Total MLB Payroll was just south of $4 billion. This is an increase of over 500%. In 1991, the highest paid player in the league was Darryl Strawberry with a salary of $3.8 million (based on the ESPN film Doc & Darryl, he needed every penny). In 2021, the highest paid player was Mike Trout with a salary of over $37 million, an increase of over 870% from the highest paid player in 1991. So what if we found how salaries from Twins teams since 1961 translated to salaries today? More interestingly, what if we found the translated salaries and built a 26-man roster of the greatest players in Twins history but kept the translated budget under $130 million? I know WAR is a very basic advanced stat, but in my opinion is the best way to view a player’s total production between all phases of the game. Top executives in Major League Baseball agree, recently proposing arbitration salaries to be based off of players’ FanGraphs WAR calculation. With this being said, I looked at the Twins top 100 seasons for position players in terms of WAR, and I did the same thing with pitchers. I wanted to create an optimal roster while staying under the $130 million budget. My next step was to find each of these players’ salaries relative to the 2021 value. I did this by creating a “salary multiplier” for each season. I did this by using the formula below. Salary Multiplier = (2021 MLB Payroll) / (MLB Payroll of n Year) For example, if we wanted to find the multiplier for the 1991 season, we would take 2021’s payroll of $3.97 billion and divide it by the 1991 payroll of $630 million. We would get a multiplier of about 6.3, meaning we would multiply any salary in the year 1991 by 6.3. To find the payrolls of each season, I used information from The Baseball Cube, average salary data from Edmund Edmonds's research, player information from Baseball Reference, and for years I could not find, I estimated the payrolls by using Census Data on the average American salary after figuring out that the average MLB salary is usually right around 2.5 times as large as the average American salary. To find the player salaries, I used Baseball Reference’s information under each player’s salaries tab. If you look at Kirby Puckett’s 1991 salary, you would think $3.17 million is a bargain to be paid for a World Series hero. But using the multiplier, you would find that his salary in 1991 would be equal to about $20 million in 2021. To find a player’s 2021 translated salary, you simply use the formula below. 2021 Translated Salary = (Multiplier) x (Player’s Nominal Salary) Now we have to see how the player performed under the contract. To find this value, I used this fancy formula: Contract Efficiency = (WAR) / (2021 Translated Salary in Millions) To find Puckett’s contract performance in 1991, you would take his WAR of 4.3 and divide it by 19.9 to get a WAR/$M of 0.216, which is good but not even close to the value produced under some of these contracts. Taking the 77 top pitchers I could find salary data for, I constructed the figure below. It shows the relationship between equivalent 2021 salary and WAR. When creating our team, we want players with their data points on the bottom right part of this graph. This means that they will have a high WAR for a relatively low salary. The players’ names lie to the right of their data points. The five names I highlighted will be the starting rotation for this team, and below the figure I will be highlighting each of those players and telling you why they are a great fit for this championship team. SP1: 1973 Bert Blyleven - $4.37M translated salary, 9.8 WAR Most people think of him as a Twins broadcaster, but Bert Blyleven was a truly special pitcher with an elite curveball. After all, he is a Hall-of-Famer. Blyleven was surgical in 1973. Among all starting pitcher seasons with more than three WAR in Twins history, he had the best FIP (2.32), the fifth best ERA+ (156), the most innings (325!!!), and the second most strikeouts (258). He also posted an insane 9.8 WAR. In 1973, Blyleven’s age 22 season, he had a salary of $33,000. This translates to just under $4.4 million in 2021, meaning he was worth 2.24 WAR per million dollars. In 2021, the standard number to pay per WAR is $8 million, or 0.125 WAR per million dollars. Blyleven vastly outperformed his contract and recorded the best season by any pitcher in Twins history. SP2: 2004 Johan Santana - $3.06M translated salary, 8.7 WAR With one of the best changeups in baseball history, Johan Santana was nearly unhittable in the mid-2000’s and he should be in the Hall of Fame. In his first Cy Young season, 2004, Johan was phenomenal. He had an ERA+ of 182, a 30% strikeout rate, held opponents to a .565 OPS, and posted a FIP of 2.92. He also recorded 8.7 WAR In 2004, Santana’s age 25 season, he had a salary of $1.6 million. This translates to a salary just north of $3 million in 2021, giving him a WAR/$M of 2.84. Santana clearly outperformed his contract. In following years, Santana would continue to prove why he was one of the best pitchers in the league at a young age. He received a large salary boost soon after, making $13 million ($20.8M translated) in 2007. The Twins haven’t had a dominant starting pitcher since Johan and it will be hard to find a pitcher that successful. And come on, this changeup steals souls. SP3: 1987 Frank Viola - $10.8M translated salary, 8.1 WAR A devastating changeup is becoming the norm for this rotation. With a fastball in the mid to upper 80s (a power pitch in the 80’s…), Frank Viola needed a dominant off-speed pitch to truly perform to the best of his abilities. Reliever Jeff Reardon marveled at the changeup. “Frank will throw nine in a row, and they still won’t touch it,” said Reardon. Viola truly unlocked the changeup in 1987. In 1987, he posted an ERA+ of 159, a FIP of 3.66, only 2.36 BB/9, 8.1 WAR, and won the first World Series MVP award in Twins history. In that historic season, Viola earned a salary of $830,000. In 2021, this salary would be equivalent to about $10.8 million. He was worth 0.75 WAR/$M, significantly less than Blyleven and Santana, but still exceeded expectations and was a postseason hero. Additionally, he would significantly increase the team drip with his mustache. SP4: 1979 Jerry Koosman - $6.38M translated salary, 7.2 WAR Another World Series champ joins the team! Jerry Koosman was a fierce competitor on the mound who was beloved by his teammates. Koosman won the 1969 World Series with the Miracle Mets. The Minnesota-Morris legend featured a 90+ MPH fastball and a good slider to complement it. In 1979, Koosman won 20 games, had a 130 ERA+, a 3.46 FIP, and posted 7.2 WAR. These numbers are not remarkable but they are still very good, especially for our #4 starter. In his age-36 season, Koosman earned a salary of $150,000. In 2021, this salary would be worth $6.38 million. He had 1.13 WAR for every million dollars he would have made in 2021. This is great value for just 5% of our $130 million budget. Koosman is a good veteran addition to a staff with youngsters Blyleven and Santana. Plus, it helps to have a pitcher who recorded the final out of a World Series. SP5: 1991 Kevin Tapani - $1.24M translated salary, 6.8 WAR World Series champions seems to be the theme so far, and Kevin Tapani adds one to the total. The 1991 Game 2 winning pitcher was an efficient finesse pitcher, often working deep into games and refusing to issue free passes to opposing teams. In his third season, Tapani had one of the best seasons in franchise history. He posted a miniscule walk rate of only 4.1%, had a 143 ERA+, a 1.09 WHIP, and threw 244 innings on the way to a 16-9 record. In 1991, Tapani earned a salary of $197,500 which is equivalent to about $1.24 million in 2021. For every million dollars he would’ve made, he earned 5.47 WAR. This is the most efficient contract on the starting rotation. Tapani would be an outstanding fifth starter who can go deep into games and give the bullpen some much needed rest. Also, he was a big part of the infamous Kent Hrbek and Ron Gant play. Conclusion This dream team has some great starting pitching with many proven winners. For these five star pitchers, the Twins would only be paying $25.8 million total. However, although extremely important, starting pitching isn’t the only aspect of a team. Over the next week or so, I will be introducing the position players and relief pitchers of this dream team. Stay tuned to find out who else made the cut. Thank you for reading, and Go Twins!
  4. Longtime Twins color commentator Bert Blyleven signed off after 25 years in the booth with Dick Bremer on Wednesday night, but not before revealing a startling secret about one of his favorite pitching aphorisms. “The downward plane isn’t real,” said the Hall of Fame pitcher. “I made it up just to see if (Twins play-by-play voice Dick) Bremer would repeat it. Totally worked. Totally worth it.” Longtime viewers will no doubt recall Blyleven’s constant exhortations for pitchers to “maintain a downward plane” as they offered up a fastball. It appears that it was another ruse in the prank enthusiast’s arsenal. “’Maintain’ and ‘plane’ sound good together, but beyond that it’s nonsense,” said Blyleven. “I came up with it the same day I…left a present in Dick’s suitcase in Kansas City.” [unconfirmed reports say the present in question was a human poop.] Bremer could not be reached for comment on the revelation, although sources close to the veteran broadcaster said he has been staring into the middle distance for hours as a single tear slowly rolled down his cheek, an unlit cigarette dangling from the left corner of his mouth. “25 years (of Blyleven) takes a toll on anyone,” said one person close to Bremer. “On (Justin) Morneau’s first night in the booth, Dick asked him when he was going to give him a hotfoot, or if he planned to ‘press ham’ on the driver’s side window of his Honda Civic in the employee parking lot. Justin was perplexed. Dick just assumes anyone who is in the booth with him is going to engage in an unrelenting, multi-front prank spree. It’s why he’s in therapy.” For his part, Blyleven says he’s grateful that his addition to the baseball lexicon became so pervasive. “If just one kid learns that he can torture a co-worker with goofs and fart noises spanning decades, man, that’s the dream,” said Blyleven. “Lots of people come up to me and say they grew up watching me on TV. And you can just tell that they’re going to put their partner’s hand in a glass of lukewarm tap water while they sleep. I just hope they remember to put peanut butter in their shorts. Never let up.” Image license here.
  5. I don’t think it’s burying the lede here to note that Harmon Killebrew’s signature is going to be number one on this list. He’s got some of the greatest penmanship we’ve seen in any era, and it was a craft he took great pride in. You’ll often hear stories from more recent players where they’ll quip about the times Harmon noted they needed to clean up their signature. Given the recent explosion of the trading card collecting hobby it seemed only fitting to explore the guys that have followed his advice best. Surprisingly, there’s more than a few modern candidates on this list. Without further ado, let’s get into it: 5. Paul Molitor After playing 15 years in Milwaukee for the Brewers, Molitor ended his Hall of Fame career with the hometown team. The St. Paul native was well past his prime when he joined the Twins, but Molitor still put up an .858 OPS at age-39. There was no shortage of autograph requests given the local fanfare, and those continued when he became manager, and eventually Manager of the Year, following his playing days. The signature is a compressed one, and the letters are all tight together, but getting every character is something rarely seen today. 4. Bert Blyleven This is a weird case in which the signature is awesome, but it’s one that typically comes with caveats. Blyleven is also a Hall of Famer and played 11 of his 22 big league seasons in Minnesota. He is still connected to the team as a broadcaster, and while his capacity is slowly being phased out, it will never not be true that he was among the best to put on the uniform. Much like Harmon’s style, Blyleven makes sure to get out his full name fully and visibly when signing. For collectors he’ll generally ink his name in undesirable places or attempt to devalue whatever he is signing for the fear of secondary market flipping. At any rate, the signature itself is a gorgeous one. 3. Torii Hunter As the first modern day inclusion on this list Torii Hunter represents a guy bound by principles. He has often talked about things gleaned from his time listening to Harmon, and he too represents that type of retired veteran constantly passing information down. Hunter played the role of mentor and leader on multiple teams, and it’s not hard to see why doing things the right way would be of importance to him. Hunter’s autograph is loopier and more cartoonish than the previous two entries, but it’s plenty obvious who the inscription belongs to when reading it. Often accompanied by his number, Torii takes any piece of memorabilia up a notch by putting his name on it. 2. Michael Cuddyer One of my favorite autographs in all of baseball, Cuddyer combines principles from the three players before him. He was a Twins for 11 of his 15 Major League seasons and there was never a time in which he wasn’t fighting to cement his place as a regular. Often seen as the utility player that could contribute everywhere, Cuddyer went about all of his processes the right way. Without sounding too sappy Cuddyer’s signature has an elegance to it. As a fan of photography, often taking pictures at away ballparks, maybe there was even an artistic tie to the swoops of his pen. Each time his name came out though, it looked as good as the last. 1. Harmon Killebrew As I said when starting this off, it’s pretty impossible to look at any group of people under this subject and not determine Harmon as the gold standard. Playing 21 of his 22 illustrious seasons with the Minnesota franchise (after relocating from Washington seven seasons in) the Killer racked up accolades like no one’s business. An inner circle Hall of Famer doesn’t need to bother themselves with signature requests, but Killebrew took it upon himself to treat each as if it were his last. There will never be a time that the importance Killebrew placed on a well-respected signature isn’t a story that’s shared fondly among Twins fans. Although it doesn’t resonate with every future player, it’s great to see the trickle-down effect and know that his presence remains even though he has left us. Who's missing that you would add to this list? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  6. Some of the Twins teams in the early '80s were really bad. However, it was a time for some development, and one of the players developed turned into one of the bettter pitchers in team history. There is no question that Frank Viola was the team's top pitcher of the 1980s, and he helped lead the 1987 Twins to a World Series title before the end of the decade. However, there is a big drop-off after Viola, and after reading today's article, you probably won't be surprised that the Twins had questions regarding a third starter even on a World Series team. Question marks in the pitching staff may have been an understatement in the early '80s. So, read my all-decade pitchers below and then discuss the pitchers. Did I leave someone out? What surprised you? Don't forget that on Thursday night, I'll be posting another podcast in which I talk about the Twins decade with a beat reporter who covered the team during the decade. It's a ton of fun and I really think you'll enjoy it... In fact, the writer actually convinced me to make one change in the bullpen below, the first time that has happened during this series. SP - Frank Viola (1982-1989) 260 games, 259 starts, 112-93 with 3.86 ERA in 1,772 2/3 innings. 1,214 K. 521 BB. Viola was the Twins second -round pick in 1981 out of St. Johns. Just over a year later, he made his debut for the Twins. In the early years, he was working innings for a struggling team, but as he got better, the Twins got better. He won 18 games in both 1984 and 1985. He won 17 games and posted a 2.90 ERA in 1987. That season ended with him named the MVP of the World Series. In 1988, he went 24-7 with a 2.64 ERA and won the AL Cy Young Award. 1988 was his lone All-Star appearance with the Twins. He was traded to the Mets during the 1989 season. He pitched more than twice as many innings as any other pitcher for the Twins during the decade. SP - Bert Blyleven (1985-1988) 120 games, 120 starts, 50-48 with 4.22 ERA in 860 innings. 633 K. 236 BB. Blyleven was easily the Twins top pitcher during the decade of the 1970s. He was traded to Texas, won a World Series with the 1979 Pirates, and pitched for Cleveland. He was traded back to the Twins in the middle of the 1985 season. While he was no longer the same pitcher as in his first stint with the Twins, he still provided solid pitching and innings for the Twins. He posted a 4.01 ERA in both 1986 and 1987. He was the second reliable starter on the 1987 World Series team as well. SP - Allan Anderson (1986-1989) 88 games, 75 starts, 37-35 with 3.72 ERA in 495 2/3 innings. 206 K. 130 BB. Anderson was the Twins second-round pick in 1982 out of high school in Ohio. He moved up the ladder and debuted in June of 1986. He pitched in 21 games that summer and then another four games in 1987. In 1988, he made 30 starts and went 16-9 with a league-leading 2.45 ERA. The following season, he made 33 starts and went 17-10 with a 3.80 ERA. During those seasons, he struck out just 3.7 and 3.2 batters, respectively, per nine innings. However, he also had elite control and command which made him good for a couple of seasons. SP - Albert Williams (1980-1984) 120 games, 97 starts, 35-38 with 4.24 ERA in 642 2/3 innings. 262 K. 227 BB. The back story of Albert Williams, whether it is true or embellished, is fascinating, but the right-hander from Nicaragua had a couple of mediocre seasons for the Twins during the decade. That qualifies him as a Top 5 starter of the decade. He spent parts of five seasons with the Twins, mostly as a starter. In the three seasons in which he threw 150 or more innings, he had ERA+ of 97, 101 and 103. In those seasons, his strikeout rate dropped from 4.6 to 3.6 to 3.2. In 1984, it was just 2.9, and he was let go. SP - Mike Smithson (1984-1987) 128 games, 126 starts, 47-48 with 4.46 ERA in 816 innings. 438 K. 227 BB. Smithson came to the Twins with John Butcher from the Rangers after the 1983 season for Gary Ward. He made a good first impression when he won 15 games and posted a 3.68 ERA in 252 innings over 36 starts in 1984. He won 15 games again in 1985, though his ERA rose to 4.34 (exactly league average) in 257 innings. He went 13-14 with a 4.77 ERA in 1986, and he was 4-7 with a 5.94 ERA in 1987 before losing his job and being left off of the Twins postseason roster. Oh, and his 438 strikeouts for the Twins was third-highest among Twins starters in the decade. RP - Doug Corbett (1980-1982) 137 games, 0 starts, 10-14 with 43 saves and a 2.49 ERA in 246 innings. 164 K. 86 BB. Corbett made his MLB debut at the beginning of the 1980 season as a 27-year-old for the Twins. He posted a 1.98 ERA over 136 1/3 innings in 73 games. He went 8-6 with 23 saves. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. The following year, he went 2-6 with 17 saves and a 2.57 ERA in a league-leading 54 games and 87 2/3 innings. No truth to any rumors that his right arm sent a thank you note to those involved in the strike. After just ten games in 1982, the Twins traded him to the Angels in a deal that brought Tom Brunansky. RP - Juan Berenguer (1987-1989) 160 games, 7 starts, 25-8 with 9 saves and a 3.79 ERA in 318 innings. 302 K. 155 BB. When Berenguer came to the Twins as a free agent in 1987, he had already pitched in parts of nine MLB seasons. While he hadn’t been a great starter, Tom Kelly used him a lot in his four seasons with the Twins. In 1987, he went 8-1 with four saves in 47 games and 112 innings. He worked over 100 innings all four years. Unlike most pitchers of the decade, Berenguer actually had a fastball that reached up to 93 or even 94 mph. He averaged just shy of a strikeout per inning during his time with the Twins. That is now just below league average, but at that time, it was very strong. Berenguer became a popular Twins player thanks to the Berenguer Boogie, along with very strong pitching. RP - Jeff Reardon (1987-1989) 191 games, 0 starts, 15-16 with 104 saves and a 3.70 ERA in 226 1/3 innings. 185 K. 55 BB. Reardon came to the Twins before the 1987 season. He had been an All-Star in 1985 and 1986. His biggest attribute to Twins fans was that he was not Ron Davis. However, he got off to a slow start early in his Twins career. After that, however, he became quite reliable. Despite an 8-8 record and 31 saves, his 1987 ERA was just 4.48. However, he received both MVP and Cy Young Award votes. His 104 saves was second in the organization during the decade. In 1988 ,he posted a 2.47 ERA in 74 innings and was an All-Star. RP - Ron Davis (1982-1986) 286 games, 0 starts, 19-40 with 108 saves and a 4.51 ERA in 381 1/3 innings. 349 K. 185 BB. After a couple of great years in the Yankees bullpen, Davis came to the Twins before the 1982 season with Greg Gagne for Roy Smalley. Goose Gossage was the Yankees closer, so Davis would get an opportunity in that role with the Twns that he did not get with the Yankees. While Davis has unfortunately become almost a punch line for Twins fans, and at times he really did struggle mightily, most of the time he did get the job done. He finished the games he came into 87% of the time. It isn’t impressive relative to today’s closers, but when he was going two or more innings most times, it was good. That said, when he was dealt to the Cubs in 1986, it was understandably welcomed. RP - Keith Atherton (1986-1988) 155 games, 0 starts, 19-18 with 15 saves and a 3.91 ERA in 235 innings. 153 K. 87 BB. After three-plus seasons in Oakland, Atherton came to the Twins in a May 1986 trade and became a generally reliable relief option for the Twins for the next three seasons. He was the #3 most used reliever in 1987 behind Berenguer and Reardon. As we saw at the back end of the starting group, Atherton was simply solid for three seasons with the Twins and that put him in my top five. What do you think? Previous Installments Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers) Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers) Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers) Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with TBD)
  7. The Twins had some solid-to-mediocre seasons in the 1970s, generally within a few games of .500 in either direction. However, there were several really great players, members of the Twins Hall of Fame and even members of baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. In addition, they had several players that had some really great seasons. You all know Patrick Reusse. His writing career began in the Twin Cities in 1968, covering the Twins starting in 1970, and he was a Twins beat reporter from 1974 to 1978. He became a columnist and has continued to cover the Twins ever since. He continues to be a columnist for the Star Tribune. He also is a key contributor at SKOR North where he has a weekly (Monday's) Reusse on Baseball podcast and also Reusse Unchained. http://traffic.libsyn.com/sethstohs/GTKE_Podcast_Ep16_Patrick_Reusse.mp3 Whether writing or talking, Reusse tells some great stories and fortunately, he was willing to spend an hour talking about those 1970s Minnesota Twins stories. Within the podcast, we hear his stories about Rod Carew, Gene Mauch, Lyman Bostock and many others from the decade. You won't want to miss his story on Bobby Darwin. For my money, there isn't a person around who is more knowledgeable on the Twins history (though you can probably make a strong case for Clyde Doepner, I'm sure). I enjoyed the conversation and all the stories, and I think you will as well. Please listen and let me know what you think. (Note - there are several places where the audio isn't real great. It's the beauty of recording with cell phones) http://traffic.libsyn.com/sethstohs/GTKE_Podcast_Ep16_Patrick_Reusse.mp3 You can subscribe to the Get to Know 'Em podcast on iTunes. or follow Libsyn for new episodes here as well. Please leave ratings or feedback. And did you know that you can listen to the Get To Know 'Em podcast by asking Alexa to "Listen to the Get To Know 'Em Podcast." PAST EPISODES Episode 1: Get to know Niko Guardado (Actor and son of Eddie Guardado) Episode 2: Get to know Pat Dean, Brent Rooker Episode 3: Get to know Royce Lewis, AJ Achter Episode 4: Get to know Devin Smeltzer Episode 5: Get to know Jaylin Davis, Tyler Wells Episode 6: Get to know: Travis Blankenhorn, LaMonte Wade Episode 7: Get to know: Matt Wallner (and Ten Minutes with Tyler Wells) Episode 8: Get to know: Caleb Hamilton, Austin Schulfer, Nick Anderson Episode 9: Get to know: Andy Young, Billy Boyer (and Ten Minutes with Tyler) Episode 10: Get to know: Wesley Wright (Twins Pro Scout) Episode 11: Get to know: John Manuel (Twins Pro Scout) Episode 12: Get to know: Marshall Kelner (Mighty Mussels broadcaster) Episode 13: Get to know: Dick Bremer (Twins broadcaster, author) Episode 14: Get to know: Anthony Slama (former Twins pitcher, entrepreneur) Episode 15: Get to Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona) Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook.
  8. Rod Carew was clearly the hitter of the 1970s for the Twins. On the pitching side, there is no doubt that the top arm was Bert Blyleven. The Hall of Famer debuted in 1970 at 19 and performed well through the first half of the decade. He returned a decade later and had a big impact. But Blyleven wasn't the only quality pitcher of the decade. As with the hitters, there were a couple of hold overs from the 1960s that had some decent years early in the decade. Another interesting trend was some of the innings pitched by relievers under the eye of Gene Mauch in the second half of the decade. Three Minnesotans make the list of 10 Twins Pitchers of the 1970s. Find out more below, and then discuss. Who should have made the list, and at the expense of which other pitcher? http://traffic.libsyn.com/sethstohs/GTKE_Podcast_Ep16_Patrick_Reusse.mp3 SP - Bert Blyleven (1970-1976) 228 games, 225 starts, 99-90 with 2.80 ERA in 1,706 ⅔ innings. 1,402 K, 438 BB. Blyleven was the Twins third-round pick in 1969 out of high school in California. His debut came about two months after his 19th birthday in 1970. His first stint with the Twins lasted until June of 1976. His highest ERA in those seven years with the Twins was the 3.18 ERA he had in his rookie season. He won 20 games in 1973 when he made 40 starts, completed 25 of them and led the league with nine shutouts. That season, he was an All-Star and received Cy Young and MVP votes. SP - Dave Goltz (1972-1979) 247 games, 215 starts, 96-79 with 3.48 ERA in 1,638 innings. 887 K. 493 BB. Goltz was the Twins fifth-round pick in 1967 out of Rothsay (MN) High School. He debuted in July 1972 and quietly had a really nice career with his home-state team. In 1977, he won 20 games in a league-leading 39 starts and received Cy Young votes. He threw 303 innings. From 1974 through 1978, he didn’t have an ERA over 3.67. SP - Geoff Zahn (1977-1979) 95 games, 91 starts, 39-35 with 3.71 ERA in 619 ⅓ innings. 252 K. 188 BB. Zahn signed with the Twins before the 1977 season. He became a fixture in the Twins rotation for the next four years. His best year was in 1978 when he went 14-14 with a 3.03 ERA in 252 1/3 innings. In 1970, he went 13-7 with a 3.57 ERA in 169 innings. SP - Jim Perry (1970-1972) 115 games, 114 starts, 54-45 with 3.55 ERA in 766 ⅓ innings. 379 K. 219 BB. Perry spent most of the 1960s with the Twins as a solid starter who also saw plenty of time in the bullpen. In 1969 he won 20 games. However, 1970 was his best season. He won the American League Cy Young Award when he went 24-12 with a 3.04 ERA. He made 40 starts and threw 278 2/3 innings. He was also an All-Star in 1971 and won 17 games. He was traded to Detroit before the 1973 season. SP - Jim Kaat (1970-1973) 128 games, 114 starts, 48-38 with 3.46 ERA in 785 ⅔ innings. 414 K. 164 BB. Kaat was the Twins top pitcher in the 1960s. He continued to make starts for the Twins until he was waived in mid-1973. In 1972, he was 10-2 with a 2.06 ERA in 15 starts before experiencing elbow pains. He returned in 1973, but the Twins thought he was done. He pitched another 10 seasons. And, he won Gold Glove Awards each year. RP - Bill Campbell (1973-1976) 216 games, 9 starts, 32-21 with 51 saves and a 3.13 ERA in 460 ⅔ innings. 322 K. 183 BB. Campbell signed with the Twins late in 1970. He debuted in 1973 and became a reliable arm out of the Twins bullpen. But, he was a mid-70s reliever. In 1974, he tossed 120 1/3 innings in 63 games. In 1975, he threw 121 innings in just 47 games. He then went 17-5 with a 3.01 ERA in 1976, and he pitched in 78 games. He made zero starts and tossed 167 2/3 innings. He left after the season via free agency and pitched another 11 seasons. RP - Mike Marshall (1978-1979) 144 games, 1 start, 20-27 with 53 saves and a 2.57 ERA in 241 ⅔ innings. 137 K. 85 BB. Marshall debuted in 1967 with the Tigers. He pitched for six more teams before joining the Twins after the 1977 season. He received Cy Young votes in both 1978 and 1979 with the Twins. He worked 99 innings, and then he worked 142 2/3 innings and posted a sub-3.00 ERA both years. In 1970, he pitched in 90 games and finished 84 of them. He led the league with 32 saves. RP - Tom Hall (1970-1971) 100 games, 22 starts, 15-13 with 13 saves and a 2.72 ERA in 285 innings. 321 K. 124 BB. Hall was the Twins third-round pick in January 1966. “The Blade” debuted in 1968. In 1970, he went 11-6 with a 2.55 ERA in 155 1/3 innings. He struck out 184 batters (10.7 K/9) in an era where striking out was still considered a negative for a hitter. In 1971, he struck out 137 batters in 129 2/3 innings. He was traded to the Reds after the 1971 season. RP - Tom Burgmeier (1974-1977) 214 games, 0 starts, 24-16 with 23 saves and a 3.77 ERA in 380 innings. 155 K. 111 BB. Born in St. Paul, he played at St. Cloud Cathedral High School. He signed late in 1961 and debuted with the Angels in 1968. He then pitched for the Royals from 1969 through 1973. He was traded to the Twins after the 1973 season and pitched four seasons for his home-state team. The lefty pitched in at least 46 games each of those seasons. In 1976, he went 8-1 with a 2.50 ERA in 57 games and 115 1/3 innings. After leaving the Twins, he pitched for Boston and Oakland. RP - Tom Johnson (1974-1978) 129 games, 1 start, 23-14 with 22 saves and a 3.39 ERA in 273 ⅓ innings. 166 K. 93 BB. John is a native of St. Paul and pitched for the Gophers. He debuted in 1974 and spent the next four seasons with the Twins. He really had just one full season with the Twins. In 1977, he went 16-7 with a 3.13 ERA in 71 games and 146 2/3 innings. In fact, he received MVP votes that season. It was the only season he pitched in more than 18 games, the number in which he pitched in 1975, 1976 and 1978. In those years, the only one game he started was in 1976. (8:20 mark) Let the discussion begin... Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers) Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters)
  9. 1972 Record: 77-77 (3rd in the AL West) The first player strike in baseball history took out the first two weeks of the 1972 season. Players wanted an increase in their pension fund payments and salary arbitration added to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. A total of 86 games were lost over 13-days with most teams losing six to eight games. With teams playing a different number of games, the Detroit Tigers won the AL East by half a game because they played one more game than the Boston Red Sox. Rod Carew and Bert Blyleven were the Twins team leaders in WAR. Carew hit .318/.369/.379 (.749) with 27 extra-base hits in 142 games. Blyleven pitched nearly 290 innings and posted a 2.73 ERA with 228 strikeouts and 69 walks. Harmon Killebrew led the team with 26 home runs, but Bobby Darwin was close behind with 22. Dick Woodson nearly matched Blyleven with 251 2/3 innings and a 2.72 ERA. 1981 Record: 41-68 (7th in the AL West) Every team played roughly 107 games in 1981 after the players walked out on June 11 and didn’t return until August 10. Owners were pushing for draft pick compensation when losing a free agent player and they also wanted to be able to take a player off the roster of the team where the free agent signed. Because the stoppage was in the middle of the year, MLB had division winners from the season’s first and second halves face off in a division series before moving on to a championship series. Unfortunately for baseball, the teams with the top two records (Cincinnati and St. Louis) missed the playoffs because of this format. Minnesota’s final season in Metropolitan Stadium was certainly one to forget as the team struggled out of the gate in the first half and finished with a 17-39 record. The second half went a little better as the team ended up fourth in the AL West with a 24-29 record. There were few notable names among the team’s top WAR contributors. Doug Corbett, Albert Williams, John Castino and Pete Redfern are not exactly a top-tier list of former Twins greats. 1995 Record: 56-88 (5th in the AL Central) In what might be baseball’s most famous work stoppage, the 1994 season had ended early and baseball’s strike wouldn’t end until the beginning of April 1995. Players were given three weeks to get themselves in playing shape at a shortened spring training before heading into a 144-game season. It would be the first year where the playoffs would use a three-division format with a wild card team. For Twins fans, a moment occurred in 1995 that no one saw coming, Kirby Puckett’s final game. On September 28, Puckett stepped in against Dennis Martinez and took a pitch to the head. He would play during spring 1996 before waking up with blurred vision in his right eye. Beside Puckett, Chuck Knoblauch and Marty Cordova were the team’s WAR leaders. Cordova beat out the likes of Garret Anderson and Andy Pettitte to win the AL Rookie of the Year. https://twitter.com/TwinsAlmanac/status/1045667945462910976?s=20 Baseball messed up the playoffs in 1972 and 1981, so it will be interesting to see how the season will unfold when and if the teams return to action. Minnesota hasn’t fared well in any of baseball’s previously shortened seasons, but on paper, the 2020 version of the Twins are certainly set up to do well. How will this season’s delay compare to the previously shortened seasons? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  10. April 1, 2002 Twins Hit 5 HRs on Opening Day The Twins tie an American League Opening Day record with five home runs in Kansas City. Jacque Jones hit a solo and three-run home run, while David Ortiz, Brian Buchanan, and Torii Hunter each hit solo shots in a 8-6 Twins win. The Twins are the most recent of five AL teams to hit five homers on Opening Day. The Mets set the major league Opening Day record with six home runs against the Expos in 1988. The major league record for home runs in any game is 10, by the Blue Jays against the Orioles in 1987 (full list on Baseball Almanac). April 1, 2007 Carneal Passes Away Legendary Twins radio broadcaster Herb Carneal passes away at age 83. Carneal spent 44 years calling Twins games, joining Ray Scott and Halsey Hall in 1962, the Twins’ second season in Minnesota. He received the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award in 1996. He and Jim Kaat comprised the sophomore class of the Twins Hall of Fame, inducted on July 7, 2001. On a personal note, when I was in elementary school I won a drawing at Hardee’s (true story) and got to spend an inning in the booth with Herb Carneal and John Gordon. April 2 Happy 67th Birthday, Tom Johnson It’s the birthday of former Twins reliever Tom Johnson, born in St. Paul in 1951. Johnson graduated from St. Paul’s Murray High School (now a middle school) in 1969, the same year that Dave Winfield graduated from St. Paul Central. Both players accepted scholarships to play for coaches Dick Siebert and Jerry Kindall at the University of Minnesota, but Johnson backed out at the last minute and signed a professional contract with the Twins. Johnson made his major league debut at Met Stadium on September 10, 1974 (age 23), starting the top of the 14th in relief of 1961 St. Cloud Cathedral graduate Tom Burgmeier. The Twins had a 4-1 lead entering the ninth when White Sox catcher Brian Downing hit a three-run homer off Bill Campbell to tie it up (Campbell had a historic ’76 season with the Twins, which he parlayed into a big pay day with the Red Sox following the season). Each team scored in the 11th and 13th innings for a 6-6 tie. Johnson struck out the first batter he faced, Eddie Leon. He gave up a single to the second batter, Jorge Orta. During the next at-bat, Johnson had Orta picked off first but made a throwing error, allowing Orta to advance to second. Orta later came around to score, with the run being unearned, despite the error being on Johnson himself. Trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the inning, Eric Soderholm reached on a two-out single, and scored on a Tony Oliva double. Johnson came back out to pitch a 1-2-3 top of the 15th. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Goose Gossage walked Rod Carew, who stole second, and scored on a Larry Hisle walk-off single, giving Johnson the win over future Hall of Famer Gossage. Johnson also earned the win in his second appearance three days later (September 13), again with Carew scoring the walk-off run, this time with a home run leading off the 10th. He pitched in both halves of a doubleheader on September 14, earning a save in Game 1. He pitched seven innings total in four appearances in 1974, giving up just four hits and no walks (0.571 WHIP). After making 18 appearances in both 1975 and ’76, Johnson had the best season of his career in 1977, going 16-7 with 15 saves, 3.13 ERA, and 1.357 WHIP in 71 games (146.2 innings pitched). He struggled during 18 appearances in 1978, his final major league season. Read Jim McKernon‘s SABR BioProject essay on Johnson (click here). April 2, 1962 Twins Trade Ramos for Power and Stigman It what is commonly considered the first major trade in team history, the Twins trade Pedro Ramos to Cleveland for four-time All-Star Vic Power and 1954 Sebeka High School graduate and 1960 All-Star Dick Stigman. Ramos started the first regular season game in Twins history, pitching a three-hit shutout at Yankee Stadium on April 11, 1961. He was involved in an interesting piece of Twins history on May 12, 1961, as he and Angels pitcher Eli Grba traded homers off each other. Grba homered off Ramos in the top of the fifth to give the Angels a 3-2 lead. Ramos returned the favor in the bottom of the inning to tie the game. He added a two-run single in the sixth, and the Twins held on to win 5-4, with the pitcher driving in the final three runs. Dick Stigman went 12-5 in 40 appearances (15 starts) in 1962. 1963 was his best season. He pitched a three-hit shutout in his second start of the season on April 18, and went on to post a 15-15 record in 33 starts. That’s just three no-decisions! He posted career-bests with a 3.25 ERA, 1.207 WHIP, 15 complete games, and 193 strikeouts, finishing third in the American League in the latter two categories (Camilo Pascual led the league in both). Pedro Ramos, incidentally, was second in the AL with a 1.067 WHIP, and 8.237 strikeouts per nine innings in 1963. April 2, 2010 First MLB Game at Target Field The Twins and Cardinals play an exhibition game at Target Field, the first major league game at the new ballpark. Center fielder Denard Span had himself a day, collecting the stadium’s first hit (a triple, of course), first home run, and first run scored. Jacque Jones, attempting a comeback with the club, pinch-hit and received a memorable standing ovation. I sure wish the Twins would make this kind of footage available. If they want to monetize it, fine, but don’t just keep it in the damn vault! April 3, 1982 First MLB Game in the Dumb Dome The Twins and Phillies play an exhibition game at the Metrodome, the first major league game at the new ballpark. After Pete Rose collected the Dome’s first base hit, 1978 Bloomington Kennedy graduate Kent Hrbek hit the first AND second home runs in Metrodome history, powering the Twins to a 5-0 win. April 3, 1997 Old Man Grand Slam 40-year-old Twins DH Paul Molitor hits a grand slam off Detroit’s Willie Blair at home in the Dome, driving in Todd Walker, Chuck Knoblauch, and Rich Becker. It is the third and final grand slam of the 1974 Cretin High School graduate’s career. The second came off Minnesota’s Dave Stevens on July 5, 1994. The first came way back on April 22, 1981. 41-year-old Dave Winfield hit a grand slam at the Metrodome on April 4, 1993. I believe he is the oldest Twin to do so. Atlanta’s Julio Franco became the oldest player in major league history to hit a grand slam on June 27, 2005 at age 46. Playing for the Mets, he became the oldest player to hit a home run off the Diamondbacks’s Randy Johnson on May 4, 2007 at age 48. April 4, 1990 Twins Trade Pomeranz for Ortiz The Twins trade future-KARE11 anchor Mike Pomeranz to the Pirates for Junior Oritz and minor league pitcher Orlando Lind. Oritz, who wore number 0, hit .335 (57-for-170) in 71 games (47 starts) in 1990. He is best remembered at Scott Erickson‘s personal catcher during the Twins’ 1991 World Championship season. He hit .209 in 61 regular season games (41 starts), and went 1-for-8 in six postseason games. Mike Pomeranz never made it to the majors. These days he works in San Diego, doing, among other things, Padres pre- and post-game broadcasts. April 5, 2004 Wuertz Makes MLB Debut 1997 Austin High School graduate Michael Wuertz strikes out the first two batters he faces in his major league debut, pitching a 1-2-3 sixth in a 7-4 Cubs win in Cincinnati. Wuertz made 426 relief appearances over eight seasons with the Cubs and Athletics. April 5, 2014 Gardenhire Wins 1,000th Brian Dozier homers on the second pitch of the game, leading the Twins to a 7-3 victory in Cleveland for Ron Gardenhire’s 1,000th managerial win. The milestone victory didn’t come without a new gray hair, however, as 2001 Stillwater grad Glen Perkins gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth before securing the Kyle Gibson win. April 6 Happy 67th Birthday, Bert Blyleven It’s the birthday of Rik Aalbert “Bert” Blyleven, born in Zeist, Holland in 1951. He grew up in Garden Grove, CA, and was drafted by the Twins out of high school in the third round in 1969. After only 21 minor league starts, Blyleven made his major league debut on June 2, 1970 (age 19) at RFK Stadium versus the Ted Williams-managed Senators. After Tony Oliva drove in César Tovar in the top of the first, staking the youngster to a 1-0 lead, Blyleven gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, Lee Maye. He recovered, striking out the second batter for the first of 3,701 career K’s, and pitched seven strong innings, allowing just the one run on five hits and a walk while striking out seven. Tovar put the Twins back on top 2-1 in the fifth, driving in Frank Quilici. Ron Perranoski pitched the final two innings, saving the first of Blyleven’s 287 major league wins (currently 27th all-time). Blyleven earned a 7-1 complete game victory over the Brewers on July 12, 1972 for the 1,000th win in Twins history. Remarkably, he also earned the 2,000th win in Twins history on September 25, 1985. Only July 31, 1972, Blyleven gave up two inside-the-park home runs at Met Stadium to Chicago’s Dick Allen, who went on to win the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award that season. The next player to hit two inside-the-park home runs in the same game was Greg Gagne at the Metrodome on October 4, 1986, doing so in his first two at-bats. He tripled in his third at-bat. Remarkably, Blyleven was on the mound for that game, too. More on Blyleven’s ’86 season later. On May 23, 1973, Blyleven pitched a one-hit shutout versus the Royals at Met Stadium. He would pitch two more one-hitters on September 26, 1973, and July 4, 1974, but the first was the only shutout of the three. Jim Kaat also pitched a one-hitter in 1973. 1973 was Blyleven’s best season, posting his only 20-win season (with 17 losses), with a career-best 2.52 ERA, major league-leading 2.32 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), and a major league-leading nine shutouts in a staggering 325 innings pitched (Wilbur Wood led the majors with 359.1 innings pitched). He pitched back-to-back shutouts twice in 1973 (and once in 1971). His 25 complete games, nine shutouts, and 325 innings pitched are still Twins records. He finished the season with 258 strikeouts, a team record that would stand for 31 years until Johan Santana K’ed 265 in 2004 (Nolan Ryan led the majors with 383 K’s in 1973, 125 more than Blyleven’s team record!). Blyleven made his first of two career All-Star teams in ’73. Blyleven earned an 11-inning 1-0 win in Milwaukee on August 27, 1975. Craig Kusick tied a major league record with three hit-by-pitches in the game. Blyleven earned a remarkable 15 1-0 complete game wins in his career. Blyleven was involved in contentious contract negotiations with Calvin Griffith early in the 1976 season. With trade rumors swirling, Blyleven walked off the mound after the top of the ninth on May 31 trailing the Angels 3-1. Some of the 8,379 fans in attendance, frustrated by Blyleven’s refusal to sign Griffith’s latest contract offer, gave the pitcher grief, singing “bye, bye, Bertie.” Before he got to the dugout, Blyleven, visibly angry, looked to the stands and gave someone—possibly hecklers, but likely Griffith himself—the ol’ one-finger salute. The next day, June 1, Blyleven was traded along with Danny Thompson to the Rangers for four players, including Roy Smalley and Mike Cubbage, and $250,000 cash. Blyleven wasn’t the only player involved in the trade that had bad blood with Griffith. Contract negotiations between Danny Thompson and the owner were also at a standstill. Griffith refused to give the infielder, who had been diagnosed with leukemia prior to the 1973 season, a fair price, insisting that no other team would offer someone with cancer a contract at all. Thompson struggled in Texas, and passed away that December. Blyleven pitched a two-hit shutout at Met Stadium in his first game against the Twins on July 26, 1976. He pitched a no-hitter in his final start as a Ranger on September 22, 1976. The Rangers sent him to the Pirates as part of a four-team, 11-player trade on December 8. Not until the Phillies traded Cole Hamels to the Rangers during the 2015 season would another pitcher be traded after pitching a no-hitter in his final game with a team. Blyleven made his second postseason with the Pirates in 1979 (he had pitched two innings of relief in the ALCS as a rookie in 1970). He earned a complete-game 1-0 win over the Reds in the third and decisive game of the NLCS in Pittsburgh. Johnny Bench homered for the Reds’ only run. Blyleven started Game 3 of the World Series in Baltimore, leaving after six in a 2-2 tie. The Pirates went on to win 3-2 on a Manny Sanguillen RBI single in the ninth. Down three games to one and trailing 1-0 in Game 5 in Pittsburgh, Blyleven entered in relief in the sixth and held the Orioles scoreless on just three hits over the final four innings of the game. The Pirates rallied for a 7-1 win, sending the Series back to Baltimore where they won both games. Blyleven was traded with Manny Sanguillen to Cleveland following the 1980 season. He won 19 games with Cleveland in 1984, finishing third in AL Cy Young balloting. He finished third again in 1985, when, playing for both Cleveland and Minnesota, he led the AL with 24 complete games, five shutouts, 206 strikeouts, and 293.2 innings pitched. After making his second All-Star team that summer, the Twins reacquired Blyleven on August 1 in exchange for four players, including former first-round draft pick and future All-Star Jay Bell, who would become the 11th player to homer on his first major league pitch on September 29, 1986. The Twins’ Andre David had also homered on his first MLB pitch on June 29, 1984, as did Eddie Rosario on May 6, 2015. The Twins put on one heckuva show at the Metrodome on August 1, 1986, as Blyleven two-hit the A’s, striking out a team record 15 (broken by Johan Santana with 17 strikeouts in just eight innings on August 19, 2007), becoming just the tenth player in major league history with 3,000 strikeouts. One of Oakland’s two hits, not surprisingly, was an Alfredo Griffin homer in the eighth. Kirby Puckett, meanwhile, hit for the seventh of ten cycles in team history, and the first at the Dome. Twins won 10-1. On September 13, 1986, Blyleven set a team record by giving up five home runs in a 14-1 loss to the Rangers at the Metrodome. Carlos Silva tied that record with five home runs allowed on August 22, 2006. On September 29, 1986, Blyleven gave up his 46th home run of the season, breaking Hall of Famer Robin Roberts’ 30-year-old single-season record. He would give up 50 altogether, while notching 17 wins and pitching an American League-leading 271.2 innings. Blyleven was solid again in 1987, going 15-12 in 37 starts, pitching 267 innings. He did, however, again lead the majors with 46 home runs allowed. He beat Jack Morris in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, and earned the win the fifth and decisive game in Detroit. He held the Cardinals to two runs over seven innings as the Twins won Game 2 of the World Series 8-4. He took his only postseason loss in his final postseason appearance, giving up three runs over six innings as the Cardinals won Game 5 4-2 to take a 3-2 Series lead. The Twins, of course, won Games 6 and 7 back in Minnesota. Altogether, Blyleven went 5-1 in eight career postseason games (six starts), with a 2.47 ERA and 1.077 WHIP. Blyleven tied a major league record by hitting four Cleveland batters on April 22, 1988, giving up seven runs in just 4.2 innings. That wasn’t the worst thing that happened that day, though. After the game, the Twins traded Tom Brunansky to the Cardinals for clubhouse cancer Tommy frickin’ Herr. Blyleven notched his 250th major league win on June 19, 1988. Of his eventual 287 wins, 149 came in a Twins uniform, second only to Jim Kaat‘s 190 (including one as a Senator). Blyleven holds Twins records with 141 complete games and 29 shutouts. For comparison, Brad Radke pitched 37 complete games. 1988 was a rough season overall, though, as Blyleven led the majors with 17 losses. After the season he was sent to the Angels as part of a five-player trade that brought Paul Sorrento to Minnesota. Blyleven came roaring back in 1989, going 17-5 with a league-leading five shutouts. He finished fourth in Cy Young balloting and was named AL Comeback Player of the Year. 1992 was his final major league season. He was 41 years old. He retired with 3,701 strikeouts, fifth-most in major league history behind Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and 1987 teammate Steve Carlton. Blyleven was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011, his fourteenth year on the ballot. The Twins retired his number 28 on July 16, 2011. April 6, 1973 Oliva Hits First HR by DH With Rod Carew aboard in the top of the first on Opening Day, Tony Oliva hits the first regular season home run by a designated hitter in major league history off Oakland’s Catfish Hunter. Interestingly, it was Oakland owner Charlie Finley who spearheaded the movement for the AL to adopt the DH. Bert Blyleven pitched the first of his 25 complete games of the season as the Twins won 8-3. April 6, 1982 First Regular Season Game at Dome The Twins opened the 1982 season versus Seattle at home in the dumb new Dome. 1977 St. Cloud Tech graduate Jim Eisenreich, making his major league debut, had the honor of being the first Twins batter to the plate. He grounded out to short. Two batters later right fielder Dave Engle homered for the first regular season hit in Metrodome history. Gary Gaetti was thrown at at home trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run in his first at-bat. He put the ball over the fence in his next two at-bats, going 4-for-4 with four RBI and two runs scored in an 11-7 Twins loss. April 6, 1993 Winfield Homers in Twins Debut 1969 St. Paul Central graduate Dave Winfield (age 41) homers in his Twins debut, a 10-5 loss to the White Sox at the Metrodome. Kirby Puckett also homered in the game. Winfield signed with the Twins after winning a World Series in his only season with the Blue Jays. He had been sensational in 1992, hitting .290 with 26 home runs, 33 doubles, 92 runs, and 108 RBI, finishing fifth in American League MVP voting (Dennis Eckersley won the award, with Kirby Puckett coming in runner-up). It was certainly exciting to have him in Minnesota, but his production was pretty pedestrian, hitting .270 with 21 home runs, 27 doubles, 72 runs, and 76 RBI in 143 games for a 0.2 WAR (wins above replacement). He hit another 10 of his 465 major league home runs in 77 games with the Twins in 1994. He wrapped up his 22-year Hall of Fame career with Cleveland in 1995. April 7, 1970 Alyea Has Record-Setting Opening Day In his first game as a Twin, outfielder Brant Alyea drives in a team record seven runs, helping Jim Perry to a 12-0 shutout on Opening Day in Chicago. Alyea went on to drive in 21 runs in the Twins’ first 12 games. Remarkably, 19 of those 21 RBI came in Jim Perry’s first four starts. Perry would go on to win the AL Cy Young Award that season. Pretty hot start to his Twins career. His Senators career got off to a hot start, too, homering on his first major league pitch on September 11, 1965. Alyea matched his team RBI record on September 7, 1970, going 3-for-4 with two home runs and driving in all seven Twins runs in a 7-6 win over the Brewers at Met Stadium. Glenn Adams broke Alyea’s record with eight RBI on June 26, 1977. Rod Carew also made Twins history that day, going 4-for-5 with a walk and a team record (since tied) five runs scored, raising his season average to .403. Randy Bush tied Adams’ team record with eight RBI on May 20, 1989. April 7, 1984 Morris Pitches No-Hitter Playing for the Tigers, 1973 Highland Park (St. Paul) graduate Jack Morris pitches a no-hitter in Chicago. April 7, 1987 Hrbek Hits Walk-Off in Opener After tying the game with his second RBI groundout in the eighth, Kent Hrbek hits a walk-off single in the tenth to give the Twins a 5-4 Opening Day win over Oakland at the Metrodome. Kirby Puckett homered and doubled in the game. Keep in touch with @TwinsAlmanac on Facebook and Twitter. If you have any notes to contribute, please leave a comment or e-mail me at Matt@TwinsAlmanac.com.
  11. December 31 Happy 56th Birthday, Rick Aguilera It’s the birthday of longtime Twins closer Rick Aguilera, born in San Gabriel, CA in 1961. Aggie saved 254 games for the Twins between 1989 and ’99, second only to Joe Nathan‘s 260. He saved 42 regular season games for the 1991 World Series Champion Twins. Aggie, who hit three home runs with the Mets, pinch-hit in the 12th inning of Game 3 of the World Series, becoming the first pitcher to do so since Don Drysdale pinch-hit for Sandy Koufax vs. Jim Kaat in Game 2 of the '65 Series. The Twins acquired Aguilera on July 31, 1989 in what was perhaps the greatest trade in team history. The Twins sent ’87 World Series MVP and ’88 Cy Young winner Frank Viola to the Mets for David West, Aggie, Kevin Tapani, Tim Drummond, and Jack Savage (as a player to be named later on October 16). I was watching the Twins vs. Red Sox game at my grandparents' trailer near Cohasset on July 6, 1995 when Aggie was traded mid-game to Boston for pitching prospect Frankie Rodriguez and a player to be named later. Aggie re-signed with the Twins following the season. His Twins career ended for good on May 21, 1999 when he was traded along with Scott Downs to the Chicago Cubs for Kyle Lohse and Jason Ryan. Aguilera was announced as the 19th member of the Twins Hall of Fame on January 25, 2008, and inducted the following June 21st before a 4-1 loss to Houston. Ironically, starting pitcher Glen Perkins took the loss. Perk, of course, would become a closer himself, finishing his career with 120 saves, third in Twins history behind Aguilera and Nathan. Fun Fact: Aguilera, former Twins infielder Tim Teufel, and their Mets teammates Bobby Ojeda and Ron Darling were arrested after an altercation with off-duty cops working security at a Houston bar on July 19, 1986. The Mets went on to defeat the Astros in the NLCS that fall, and then beat Bill Buckner and the Red Sox in the infamous seven-game World Series. January 1 Happy 34th Birthday, Neil Wagner It's the birthday of 2002 Eden Prairie High School graduate Neil Wagner, born in Minneapolis in 1984. Wagner pitched for North Dakota State for three seasons before signing with Cleveland in 2005. He made his major league debut pitching for the Oakland Athletics against Cleveland on August 30, 2011. He pitched five innings over six games with the Athletics that season. He made it back to the majors with the Toronto Blue Jays, getting into 36 games in 2013, and 10 in 2014. Wagner pitched three scoreless innings over four appearances against the Twins, holding them to 1-for-11 (.091). Chris Colabello hit a seventh-inning double for the Twins' only hit off Wagner in the second game of a doubleheader at Target Field on April 14, 2014. The next inning, Blue Jays pitchers combined to give up six runs on EIGHT walks and just one hit. January 3 Happy 75th Birthday, Bob Gebhard It’s the birthday of former Twins pitcher and front office exec. Bob Gebhard, born in Lamberton, Minnesota in 1943. The Twins drafted Gebhard out of the University of Iowa in the 44th round of the very first amateur draft in 1965. That summer he went 11-2 with a 1.91 ERA for the St. Cloud Rox. Gebhard pitched professionally for 11 years, including 30 relief appearances for the ’70-’71 Twins, and two innings with the ‘74 Expos. He was a player/coach with the Expos’ Triple-A club in ‘74 and ’75, Minor League Field Director and pitching coach from ’76-’81, part of the major league coaching staff in ’82, and Director of Minor League Operations through 1986. Andy MacPhail brought Gebhard home to Minnesota in 1987, hiring him as Director of Major League Personnel. Here’s a fun remembrance MacPhail shared of Gebhard’s first season back in Minnesota: “Literally we had just won the world championship and Bob Gebhard turns to me and goes ‘Damn, Andy, we won this thing. We were just trying to get organized!'” He assumed the title of Vice President of Player Personnel in ‘88. Following the 1991 World Series, Gebhard became General Manager of the expansion Colorado Rockies, who began play in 1993. He hired ’87 Twins World Series hero Don Baylor as manager, signed first baseman Andres Galarraga the day before the ’92 Expansion Draft, and pulled off a trade for slugger Dante Bichette immediately following the draft. He signed Larry Walker in the spring of ’95, and that year, just the team’s third in existence, the Rockies won the NL West. The following season the Rockies won the NL’s first-ever Wild Card spot. Gebhard resigned from the Rockies on August 20, 1999 amid speculation that he was about to be fired. Gebhard served in the St. Louis Cardinals front office from 2000-2004, and as Vice President, Special Assistant to the General Manager of the Diamondbacks from 2005-2016. Gebhard received the Roland Hemond Award from the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) in 2012 in recognition of his contributions to the community of professional baseball scouts. Gebhard makes his home in Centennial, Colorado. January 3 Happy 39th Birthday, Michael Restovich It’s the birthday of former major league outfielder Michael Restovich, born in Rochester, MN in 1979. Restovich was named Minnesota High School Baseball Player of the Year in 1997, his senior season at Rochester Mayo. That June he was selected by the Twins in the second round of the amateur draft. The Twins’ first-round draft choice that year was a Virginia high schooler named Michael Cuddyer. Restovich hit .369 in 76 games between the Rookie League Elizabethton Twins and Class-A Fort Wayne Wizards in 1998. In 1999 he hit .312 with 19 HR and 107 RBI for the Class-A Quad City River Bandits. He made his major league debut on September 18, 2002. Restovich’s first major league hit was a ninth-inning pinch-hit home run in a 14-4 Twins loss at Comiskey Park on September 21. Future-Twins closer Jon Rauch started the game and earned the victory for Chicago despite giving up lead-off home runs to David Ortiz and Corey Koskie in the second and fourth innings. Koskie hit a second lead-off homer in the sixth off of reliever Mike Porzio. Brad Radke had an uncharacteristically bad day, allowing six earned runs on nine hits in just three innings. Restovich went on to play parts of six major league seasons with the Twins ('02-'04), Rockies ('05), Pirates ('05), Cubs ('06), and Nationals ('07). He made 297 plate appearances over 152 games, hitting .239 with 28 walks, six home runs, and 21 RBI. January 4, 2002 Gardenhire Named Manager The Twins announce former third base coach Ron Gardenhire as the 12th manager in team history, succeeding Tom Kelly, who, after the team’s first winning season in nine years, announced his retirement on October 12, 2001. TK was the longest tenured manager or head coach in all of professional sports at the time of his retirement. The Twins won the AL Central in each of Gardy’s first three seasons, and in six of his first nine. They only advanced past the divisional round, however, in Gardy’s first season of 2002. After five runner-up finishes, he was named AL Manager of the Year in 2010. He managed the Twins for 13 seasons before being fired on September 29, 2014, having amassed 1,068 wins, just 72 shy of TK’s team record of 1,140. After serving as Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach in 2017, Gardy will manage the dumb Detroit Tigers in 2018. January 5, 1935 Birthdate of Earl Battey It’s the birthdate of five-time All-Star, and three-time Gold Glove catcher Earl Battey, born in Los Angeles in 1935 (83 years ago). Battey saw limited playing time with the Chicago White Sox from 1955-’59. Then, on April 4, 1960, the White Sox traded Battey and Don Mincher to the Washington Senators for 1957 AL home run leader Roy Sievers. Battey broke out that season, winning his first of three consecutive Gold Glove Awards, and even garnering some AL MVP votes. Battey scored the first walk-off run in Twins history on April 22, 1961, scoring on a Zoilo Versalles sac fly. He retired after the ‘67 season having caught 831 games in a Twins uniform. That stood as the club record until Joe Mauer surpassed him on August 27, 2012. In 1980 Battey enrolled at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, FL, graduating summa cum laude in just 2½ years. After graduation he became a high school teacher and baseball coach in Ocala, FL. Earl Battey passed away on November 15, 2003. He was just 68 years old. He was inducted as the 13th member of the Twins Hall of Fame in 2004. January 5, 2009 Pohlad Passes Away Longtime Twins owner Carl Pohlad passes away at home in Edina. He was 93 years old. Pohlad grew up dirt-poor in West Des Moines, Iowa. After high school he played football at Compton Junior College in southern California. The entertainer Bing Crosby saw Pohlad play and recruited him to his alma mater, Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. While in school, Pohlad earned a little extra money boxing in clubs along the West Coast. He dropped out of school his senior year to focus on his lucrative side job of selling repossessed cars. Pohlad was drafted into the Army in 1942 and served as an infantryman man during World War II in France, Germany and Austria. He was wounded in battle and awarded two Bronze Stars, an Oak Leaf Cluster, and three Purple Hearts. After the war Pohlad partnered with his brother-in-law, taking control of Marquette Bank in Minneapolis in 1949, just three years out of the Army. Pohlad took sole control of the bank after his brother-in-law’s death several years later. He branched out from there, establishing a web of banking, bottling, real estate and other companies. In 1984 the billionaire financier bought the Twins from original owner Calvin Griffith for a cool $38 million, almost certainly preventing the team from leaving Minnesota. Ever the shrewd businessman, Pohlad was a frugal owner, always looking to maximize value. Rather than spending big money on acquiring -- or even retaining -- marquee talent, Pohlad emphasized building a team from the ground up through a farm system that is still regarded as one of the best in the game. His prudent approach paid dividends with World Series championships in 1987 and 1991. You can say a lot about Carl Pohlad. Here’s one thing: Carl Pohlad, the son of a dirt-poor Slovak immigrant who grew up to be the second wealthiest man in Minnesota, never retired. January 5, 2011 Blyleven Elected to Hall of Fame On his 14th ballot, Twins all-time strikeout leader (2,035) Bert Blyleven is elected to the Hall of Fame with the support of 79.7% of voters. He was inducted on July 24 alongside Roberto Alomar and 27-year GM Pat Gillick. The Twins selected the Dutch-born, SoCal-raised Blyleven out of high school in the third round of the '69 draft. Bert made his major league debut on June 2, 1970 at age 19. He would pitch for 22 seasons, 11 in Minnesota (‘70-’76, ‘85-’88), amassing 149 wins in a Twins uniform, second only to Jim Kaat’s 190 (including one as a Senator). In addition to the ’87 Twins, Bert was a member of the 1979 World Series Champion Pirates. He was an All-Star in 1973 and '85. Bert pitched three one-hitters with the Twins, two in 1973 and another in 1974 (only one of those, incidentally, was a shutout). He pitched a no-hitter in his final game as a Texas Ranger on September 22, 1977. His 3,701 career strikeouts rank fifth in major league history behind Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Steve Carlton. Blyleven was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame on June 1, 2002, and his number 28 was retired on July 16, 2011. January 6, 1923 Birthdate of Red Hardy It’s the birth date of Minneapolis South High School graduate Red Hardy, born in Marmarth, ND in 1923 (95 years ago). He began his professional career in 1942 with Eau Claire of the Class C Northern League before enlisting in the US Navy. After pilot training at Camp Croft in South Carolina, he saw active duty during World War II. After receiving his discharge, Hardy enrolled at the University of St. Thomas for whom he pitched in the spring of ‘46, once losing a 13-inning complete game 3-2 to the University of Minnesota. After the college season, he resumed his pro career briefly with the Minneapolis Millers, and then the St. Cloud Rox, for whom he went 7-0 with a 1.70 ERA. Hardy eventually made it to the majors in 1951, pitching 1 1/3 innings over two appearances with the New York Giants. He passed away on August 15, 2003 at age 80. For a more thorough picture, read Terry Bohn’s SABR BioProject article on Red Hardy. January 6, 2004 Molitor Elected to Hall of Fame 1974 Cretin High School grad and Golden Gophers all-time great Paul Molitor is elected to the Hall of Fame alongside legendary closer Dennis Eckersley, both on their first ballots. Molitor appeared on 85.2% of ballots, meaning a staggering 75 members of the BBWAA were complete ignoramuses. The two-time All-American Molitor was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers with the third overall pick in the 1977 draft behind Harold Baines and Bill Gullickson, who, incidentally, was born in Marshall, MN, but attended high school in Joliet, IL. In 1978 Molitor was runner-up to Detroit’s Lou Whitaker for American League Rookie of the Year. Molitor set a World Series record with five hits in Game 1 of the ‘82 Series, which the St. Louis Cardinals won in seven games. The Cards’ Albert Pujols tied that record, going 5-for-6 with six RBI, three home runs, and four runs scored in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series. Molitor stole second, third, and home consecutively in the first inning vs. Oakland on July 26, 1987. Forty-one players have pulled that off a total of 51 times in MLB history, 12 since 1940. The feat was accomplished four times in the '80s, twice in the '90s, once in the '00s, and, most recently, by Dee Gordon in 2011 and Wil Myers in 2017. The Twins’ Rod Carew did so on May 18, 1969. Molitor hit for the cycle vs. the Twins at the Metrodome on May 15, 1991, tripling on Kevin Tapani’s first pitch of the game, and homering off Tapani to complete the cycle. Despite the 4-2 loss to Milwaukee, the Twins would salvage their ‘91 season. In total he played 15 seasons for Milwaukee before signing with the Toronto Blue Jays following the ‘92 season. In ‘93, at age 37, Molitor had his first 100-RBI season, collecting 111. He was the Most Valuable Player of the 1993 World Series, hitting .500 (12-for-24) with two home runs and 10 runs scored, tying the record set by Reggie Jackson in 1977. Molitor signed with the Twins for the 1996 season, when, at age 39, he hit .341, drove in 113 runs, and led the league with a career-high 225 hits. He tied Rod Carew and Tim Teufel’s team record with five runs scored on April 24, 1996 (later matched by Luis Rivas on June 4, 2002). Molitor tripled for his 3,000th hit on September 16, 1996, exactly three years to the date after 1969 St. Paul Central grad Dave Winfield collected his 3,000th off Molitor’s Hall of Fame classmate Dennis Eckersley. The 40-year-old DH went 3-for-4 with two home runs, a double, three RBI, and three runs scored on July 25, 1997. On September 3-4, now 41 years old, he homered in back-to-back games. He stole his 500th base on August 8, 1998, joining Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Eddie Collins, Lou Brock, and Rickey Henderson in the 3,000 Hit/500 Stolen Base Club. Ichiro joined the club in 2016. Molly retired following the ‘98 season. Molitor was introduced as the 13th manager in Twins history on November 4, 2014. On November 14, 2017, just one year removed from the worst season in club history, Molitor became just the second Hall of Fame player to be named Manager of the Year. Baltimore’s Frank Robinson received the award in 1989. Molitor was the second of three St. Paul natives elected to the Hall of Fame. 1969 St. Paul Central grad Dave Winfield was inducted in 2001 alongside Kirby Puckett. 1973 Highland Park grad Jack Morris will be inducted this coming July. Fun Fact: Paul Molitor went 33-for-103 (.320) vs. Jack Morris, including a home run on September 20, 1987. Keep in touch with @TwinsAlmanac on Twitter & Facebook.
  12. Candidates must receive 12 of the 16 votes in order to get elected. Each member of the committee can vote for a maximum of five candidates. Since 2009, only two players have been elected through this process, Ron Santo and Deacon White. Will Morris Get His Call? Some fans who grew up watching the Modern Era are surprised that Jack Morris isn’t already in the Hall. Morris topped out at 67% of the vote on his 14th time on the BBWAA ballot. Morris left his mark on the Twins organization with his 10 inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Other than that, his resume is lacking. He has a career 3.90 ERA and his career WAR of 43.8 doesn’t exactly scream Hall of Fame. Morris was part of three World Series winners and he had the most wins in the 1980’s (for what that’s worth). There are worse players in the Hall and I think other players feel like he should be part of their elite group. Are There Other Deserving Names? Alan Trammell and Marvin Miller also have a chance at being elected. Trammell has similar stats to Barry Larkin who was elected on his third BBWAA ballot. He has the eight-best WAR among shortstops which is the highest WAR total for an eligible shortstop candidate who hasn’t been elected. Miller, the former head of the MLB Players Association, missed being elected by one vote in 2010. With Bud Selig’s election last year, it should pave the way for Miller to be enshrined. Unfortunately, he has passed on since his last time on the ballot. Who Was Missed? With nine players and Miller on the ballot, there wasn’t much room for other non-players. In previous years, George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin were on the ballot. Don Mattingly made the ballot while Keith Hernandez was left off. Even though Hernandez accumulated a WAR total that is 18 points higher than Mattingly. Other names that were missed were players like Dwight Evans, Bobby Grich, Willie Randolph, and Lou Whitaker. All of these players accumulated a WAR of over 65. Some of the other names on the ballot just don’t stack up when compared to those left off the ballot. What are your thoughts? Will Morris finally get the call? Who was the biggest snub? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  13. Berrios Riding The Curve It's no secret that Berrios struggled during his rookie campaign. In 14 starts, he allowed 12 home runs and posted an 8.02 ERA. Things have turned around this season as he has an impressive 2.84 ERA while having a higher strikeout rate and walking fewer batters. Something has clicked for the young pitcher and his curveball might be one of the reasons for the dramatic turnaround. https://twitter.com/ParkerHageman/status/871502455950987264 During the 2016 campaign, Berrios threw his curveball 21.6% of the time. He was consistently falling behind batters and this meant he couldn't turn to his off-speed offerings. So far this season, he has been able to use his curveball almost 30% of the time. This pitch can continue to be a weapon if he can stay ahead of batters and avoid fastball counts. Berrios isn't the only Twins pitcher taking advantage of the curve. Twirling Relief Trio Minnesota ranks in the top-10 for curveball usage this season and only four AL teams have a higher curveball percentage. Tyler Duffey, Buddy Boshers and Taylor Rogers have all used their curveball for close to a third of their pitches. Duffey has been one of Minnesota's best relief options this season as he's posted career best marks in SO/9, WHIP, and ERA. In his first season as a relief pitcher, he has seen his fast ball velocity increase by almost two miles per hour which helps to set up his off-speed offerings. https://twitter.com/MikeBerardino/status/875042262262177793 Rogers has also seen an improvement in some of his peripheral numbers while being used in some late inning situations. Boshers has spent the majority of the season at Rochester. However, he struck out nearly nine batters per nine innings at Triple-A and has a spiffy 0.818 WHIP in his time with the Twins. This trio along with Berrios are following some of the best curveballs in history. Minnesota's Curveball History Two of the most feared curveball pitchers in history have worn Minnesota Twins jerseys. Camilo Pascual started his career as a 20-year old with the Washington Senators. When the Twins moved to Minnesota, Pascual was in the midst of four straight All-Star seasons. He'd led the AL in WAR in 1959 and 1962. Ted Williams, who is considered one of the game's greatest hitters, had high praise for Pascual. "He had the best curveball I ever saw. You could hear it." He went on to say it sounded like ripping silk and that Pascual "had the most feared curveball in the American League for 18 years." Besides Williams' praise, fellow Hall of Fame hitter Al Kaline said, "Pascual's curveball was big, sharp and fast. Most players couldn't hit it." While Pascual was terrific, Bert Blyleven rode his curveball all the way to the Hall of Fame. He had nine seasons where he was in the top-10 for WAR and he led the AL in WAR for pitchers in 1973 and 1981. Jim Palmer said, "I was amazed at how Blyleven's curve seemed to change direction not once, but twice on its way to the plate." Phil Roof, one of Blyleven's catchers, could hear the pitcher's middle finger snap against his palm since he threw his curve with so much force. The curveball might be back and it could be a key pitch as the Twins fight to stay in contention in the weeks ahead.
  14. When the Twins Winter Caravan stopped in Fargo, ND last week, the focus of much of the discussion was on the Twins finding a pitcher to toss 200 innings. Current television announce Bert Blyleven was one of the guests along with right-handed pitcher Jose Berrios. Blyleven is from a bygone baseball era when Tommy John surgeries weren't commonplace and starting pitchers threw well into the late innings of games. Berrios has spent his professional career in a time when pitchers seem to get hurt more often than in the past and some go through multiple major surgeries. Over most of the last decade the number of pitchers throwing over 200 innings has steadily declined. From 2010 through 2016, there were 227 pitchers who reached the 200 inning mark. Two of those players, Phil Hughes and Carl Pavano, wore a Twins uniform. The downward trend in numbers of 200 inning pitchers continued through most of the 21st century. From 2000-2006, there were 298 pitchers with seasons of 200 innings or more. This means there were 71 more pitchers reaching this mark in the first seven years of the century than in the last seven years. Throughout Twins history there have been 97 occurrences of pitchers throwing at least 200 innings. Bert Blyleven accounts for six of the top 12, including a team record 325 innings in 1973. Jim Kaat and Dave Goltz are the only other Twins pitchers to surpass 300 innings in a season. In recent Twins history, 200 inning pitchers have been few and far between. Phil Hughes pitched almost 210 inning through his record-breaking 2014 campaign. Before that, Carl Pavano had back-to-back seasons when he threw over 220 innings. Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn both topped 200 innings in 2009, the Metrodome's final year. And Johan Santana had a stretch of three seasons (2005-2007) when he averaged over 228 innings. A young Johan Santana isn't walking into Target Field. Does this mean the Twins won't have another 200 inning pitcher? Ervin Santana was the closest Twins pitcher to 200 innings last season. Across 30 starts, he threw over 180 innings. In five of his 12 big league seasons, he has thrown over 200 frames so there is a chance for him to hit that mark again in 2017. Phil Hughes is coming off major surgery and no one knows what version of the pitcher will arrive in spring training. He's the most recent Twins player to accomplish the feat but 2017 doesn't seem like a year where he will be able to pitch enough to reach the 200 mark. Other pitchers, perhaps Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson, could make a run at 200. Berrios has never pitched more than 166.1 innings during his professional career. A jump to 200 would be quite the leap for 2017 but it could be a reasonable expectation for the following year. Gibson threw almost 195 innings in 2015 so it's not out of the question for him to get back to that level. Minnesota's pitching staff has struggled for multiple seasons, so a lot of miles have been put on bullpen arms. In the long run, a 200 inning pitcher might not be the most important thing in the world, but in any event the Twins need starters to pitch further into games to take some strain off the relievers. If a 200 inning pitcher (or two) emerges, consider it a bonus. Will the Twins have a 200 inning pitcher again? Who do you think could be the next player to accomplish the feat? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  15. Kelly told reporters following the announcement that he has known for a couple of weeks. They are currently working on the pose, spending a lot of time on which uniform he'll be in. There was no timeline given for completion. Kelly joins several legendary Twins figures to be honored with a bronze statue including Kirby Puckett, Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, Kent Hrbek, Calvin Griffith and the Pohlads (Carl and Eloise). Five years ago, Kelly's #10 was retired by the organization. As per usual, Kelly remained humble in talking about the honor, noting even his hesitance to promote it happening in previous years. He prefers to point out that the game is about the players on the field not their manager. And likely, that is why he was as successful as a manager and leader as he was. Here is a live twitter feed of the announcement as well as some of the conversation with Kelly afterward.
  16. For those who are able to see the embedded Twitter post, you can watch and listen to the entire conversation here: https://twitter.com/ParkerHageman/status/766878258956644353 Berrios, of course, came unglued shortly thereafter. He issued four walks and allowed four runs to score during his four innings of work. He either stopped exploding towards home plate or that wasn’t the pitching tip that was going to remedy what ails him. Now, regular Twins broadcast viewers will recall this pitching advice. This, along with a “good downward plane”, have become common pitching jargon slung around for years. Scott Baker never figured out how to get a good downward plane. It has come to the point where if any Twins pitcher is struggling, the inevitable cure from the broadcast booth would likely be one of those two remedies. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Bert Blyleven doesn’t know pitching. Bert Blyleven has forgotten more about pitching in the time it took you to get to this point in the sentence than most people hope to learn in a lifetime. However, when it comes to utilizing the rubber by pushing off, as Blyleven suggests, science might not agree with the Dutchman’s assessment. According to Kyle Boddy and his Driveline Baseball think tank in Seattle, Washington has studied the “push off” phenomenon and his preliminary research shows that the back leg push off is not the velocity-inducing catalyst that people think it is. Boddy offered the Mariners’ Arquimedes Caminero as a good example of how velocity isn’t generated off the back leg. When he gets to his balance point and goes forward, his foot disengages the rubber area but doesn’t push off. http://i.imgur.com/cxLJzHG.gif When it comes this particular pitching cue, Blyleven is incorrect. By Boddy’s account, coming from someone who has dedicated his career to understanding the science behind it, pushing from the back leg has little influence on velocity or command. What we hear from players, former players and coaches is a disconnect between what they FELT and what is actually happening during the process. To Blyleven, the act of driving off the back leg may have felt like pushing off the pitching rubber but that is not what actually transpires in the kinetic chain. Berrios’ problem does not stem from not utilizing the pitching rubber enough. In the case of Berrios’ development, as Mike Berardino of the St Paul Pioneer Press recently phrased it, the Twins are using a “village” approach. In addition to Blyleven, Berrios has been receiving advice from Neil Allen, Eddie Guardado and teammate Ervin Santana. While the guidance from multiple experienced baseball men can be beneficial, there is also the danger that a young prospect has too many messages being communicated -- especially when some of the advice, in spite of the well-meaning nature, is wrong. There is no denying that Berrios needs refinement. When it comes to his fastball command, he has found the zone just 46% of the time -- compared to the 53.5% major league average. In fact, of those who have thrown 350 or more fastballs, Berrios’ in-zone rate is the fifth lowest. Beyond that, Berrios also struggles to command his fastball in the zone, missing the glove by a wide margin and winding up in a hitter’s whump-em zone. That being said, in spite of the poor command, Berrios’ movement and velocity on his fastball has also incited plenty of swing-and-misses making it a very good potential weapon. Right now his fastball gets a swinging strike 9.3% of the time it’s thrown -- well above the league average of 7.5%. By comparison, the hard-throwing Noah Syndergaard gets a swinging strike 9.5% of the time. That would be good over the course of an entire season. That would be really good. http://i.imgur.com/VH4xtUF.gif Guardado told me something in spring training that resonated about his instructional approach and the psyche of pitchers in general. “I don’t like to go in there and fix a damn engine when you only need to change a spark plug,” he said. “That’s what I try to do. Keep it simple, keep it easy. Not too much to think about because it is already tough to go out there and the pressure out there trying to compete.” There is a lot of pressure. Especially for someone who has been deemed the team’s top pitching prospect and one -- through various social media channels -- who has also set a lofty expectation for himself as well. Berrios has talent, skill and dedication like few others have ever had or ever wish to have and he has carved up hitters in the minor leagues. It is only a matter of time before it all clicks.
  17. 4/3/82: The Twins beat the Phillies 5-0 in an exhibition game, the first major league game played at the Metrodome. Pete Rose collected the new stadium’s first hit, and Bloomington-native Kent Hrbek hit the Dome’s first two home runs. 4/4/90: The Twins traded future-KARE 11 anchor, Mike Pomeranz, to Pittsburgh in exchange for Junior Ortiz and a minor league pitcher. Ortiz, who wore #0, is best-remembered as Scott Erickson’s personal catcher during the Twins’ 1991 World Championship season. 4/5/14: The Twins beat the Indians 7-3 in Cleveland for Ron Gardenire’s 1,000th managerial win. Leadoff hitter Brian Dozier homered on the second pitch of the game. Leading 7-1 in the 9th, 2001 Stillwater Area High School graduate and former Golden Gopher, Glen Perkins, gave up 2 runs before securing the Kyle Gibson victory. 4/6 is the birthday of Rik Aalbert “Bert” Blyleven, born in Zeist, Holland (1951). Blyleven grew up in Garden Grove, CA and was drafted by Minnesota out of high school in the third round in 1969. After only 21 minor league starts, Bert made his major league debut on June 2nd, 1970 at age 19. Blyleven went on to pitch for 22 seasons, 11 in Minnesota (‘70-’76, ‘85-’88). He is a two-time World Series champion, winning his first in 1979 as a Pittsburgh Pirate, and his second as a member of the ‘87 Twins. Blyleven won 149 games as a Twin, second only to Jim Kaat (190). His 3,701 career strikeouts rank fifth in major league history. Bert Blyleven was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 2011, his 14th year on the ballot. His number 28 is retired by the Minnesota Twins. 4/6/66: The Twins traded Nimrod, MN native and 1954 Sebeka High School grad, Dick Stigman and a player to named later to the Boston Red Sox for backup catcher Russ Nixon and second baseman Chuck Schilling who never appeared in a major league game for Minnesota and retired rather than accept a minor league assignment. Schilling became a math teacher in Long Island, NY. 4/6/73: Tony Oliva hit the first home run by a designated hitter in major league history off Oakland’s Catfish Hunter in the top of the 1st, driving in Rod Carew. Bert Blyleven pitched the first of his season’s 25 complete games in the Twins’ 8-3 victory. 4/7/70: Outfielder Brant Alyea drove in 7 runs to back winning pitcher Jim Perry in the season-opener. Alyea went on to collect 21 RBI in the Twins’ first 12 games, 19 of which came in Perry’s first four starts of the season. 4/8/88: The Twins beat the Blue Jays 6-3. Dan Gladden went 4-for-5 with 3 runs scored, 4 RBI and 2 home runs. He homered in the 1st and 8th and, and stole home off of David Wells in the 7th with Kent Hrbek batting. Gladden stole home three times in his career, twice in ‘88 and once in ‘89. He was caught attempting to steal home five times. Rod Carew stole home 17 times, and Paul Molitor 10 times. 4/9/00: The Twins hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in a 13-7 win in Kansas City. Already leading 6-0 entering the top of the 6th, Corey Koskie led off the inning with a base hit. Ron Coomer, Jacque Jonesand Matt LeCroy then proceeded to hit three consecutive home runs on four total pitches, Coomer and Jones hitting first-pitch homers, and LeCroy taking an 0-1 pitch out of the park. Coomer homered again in the 7th, again with Koskie on base. Eric Milton had retired the first 20 batters in order and had a two-hit shutout going into the 8th. After retiring the first two batters, including former Twin David McCarty, Milton allowed two hits and was relieved by Eddie Guardado. Guardado gave up an RBI single and then back-to-back home runs to Carlos Beltran and Jermaine Dye. He was relieved by Hector Carrasco who surrendered the Royals’ third consecutive home run to Mike Sweeney. It was the first game in major league history in which each team hit back-to-back-to-back home runs. The Twins are one of seven teams to have hit four consecutive home runs, doing so on May 2, 1964 in Kansas City versus the Athletics. With the score tied 3-3 entering the top of the 11th, Tony Oliva hit a leadoff home run, followed by Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall and Harmon Killebrew, giving the Twins a 7-3 victory. The Twins set the American League record by hitting five home runs in a single inning on June 9, 1966, also against the KC Athletics, but this time in Bloomington at the Met. The Athletics erupted for four runs in the first off Camilo Pascual, who only lasted ⅔ of an inning. Facing 1987 Hall of Fame inductee, Catfish Hunter, the Twins pulled within 4-3 on a Bob Allison RBI double in the 5th and a two-run Killebrew homer in the 6th. Then, in the bottom of the 7th, Rich Rollins and Zoilo Versalles connected for back-to-back homers off of Hunter to take the lead. Reliever Paul Lindblad retired Sandy Valdespino before allowing back-to-back homers to Tony Oliva and Don Mincher. The Athletics then turned to John Wyatt who allowed the Twins’ third consecutive home run, and the fifth of the inning, to Harmon Killebrew, his second of the game. Four National League teams have hit five home runs in an inning. The first time was in 1939 and the most recent in 2006. All four were against the Cincinnati Reds. For the history of the Minnesota Twins told one day at a time, follow @TwinsAlmanac on Twitter. For the stories of the Major Leaguers who grew up in Minnesota, like Major Minnesotans on Facebook and follow @MajorMinnesota on Twitter.
  18. Who will be the next Brian Dozier? Bert Blyleven? Justin Morneau? LaTroy Hawkins or Brad Radke? 2nd Round 1981 – Frank Viola – LHP – St. John’s University – WAR 47.4 Viola was up with the Twins by 1982 and went on to win 176 games in his long career. He was the World Series MVP in 1987 for the Twins. He also won the 1988 American League Cy Young. Honorable Mention: Butch Wynegar (1974 - WAR 26.3), Scott Baker (2003), Tim Teufel (1980), Jesse Crain (2002), Jacque Jones (1996). Bill Swift (1983), Del Unser (1965), Allan Anderson (1982). Current: Ryan Eades (2013), Mason Melotakis (2012), JT Chargois (2012), Madison Boer (2011), Niko Goodrum (2010). Last year: Nick Burdi 3rd Round 1969 – Bert Blyleven – RHP – High School in California – WAR 95.3 Blyleven was drafted by the Twins and debuted as a 19-year-old in 1970. He went on to win 287 games with a 3.31 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. After years of falling short, Blyleven went into the Baseball Hall of Fame. That is going to make you an organization’s top selection for a round most times. Honorable Mention: Steve Garvey (1966-Did Not Sign), Justin Morneau (1999), AJ Pierzynski (1994), Denny Neagle (1989), John Castino (1976) Current: Stuart Turner (2013), Adam Brett Walker (2012), Corey Williams (2011), Pat Dean (2010), Brian Duensing (2005) Last Year: Michael Cederoth 4th Round 1965 – Graig Nettles – 3B – San Diego State University – WAR 68.0 Of his 68 WAR, just one WAR came with the Twins. Following the 1969 season, he was traded with Dean Chance and others to Cleveland for Luis Tiant. He went on to become one of the best third baseman of his era. Honorable Mention: Scott Erickson (1989) Current: Danny Ortiz (2008), Eddie Rosario (2010), Matt Summers (2011), Zack Jones (2012), Stephen Gonsalves (2013) Last Year: Sam Clay 5th Round 1967 – Dave Goltz – RHP – Rothsay (MN) High School – WAR – 23.2 A local product, Dave Goltz signed and spent five years in the minor leagues before debuting in 1972. He was with the Twins through the 1979 before going to California to play for the Dodgers and then the Angels. He had double-digit wins each season from 1974 through 1979 including a 20-win season in 1977. Honorable Mention: Doug Mientkiewicz (1995) Current: Aaron Slegers (2013), Tyler Duffey (2012) Last Year: Jake Reed 6th Round 2002 – Pat Neshek – RHP – Butler University – WAR 7.3 The Minnesota native debuted with his hometown team in 2006 and was in the final vote for an All-Star pick in 2007, though he lost out. He was a dominant force in the bullpen until he had some elbow problems and eventually missed time due to Tommy John surgery. Upon his return, the Twins let him go and he spent time with San Diego before doing well in Oakland and then becoming an All-Star in 2014 with the Cardinals. He turned that into a big contract with the Astros this year. Honorable Mention: Darrell Jackson (1973) Current: BJ Hermsen (2008), Chris Herrmann (2009), Logan Darnell (2010), Dereck Rodriguez (2011), Brain Navarreto (2013) Last Year: John Curtiss 7th Round 1991 – LaTroy Hawkins – RHP – High School in Gary, Indiana – WAR 17.2 “The Hawk” came up as a starter way back when and struggled. Then he became the closer. And he struggled. Then Rick Anderson moved him to the set up man job and his career took off. In fact, at age 42, he is still playing. Only 13 pitchers in big league history have pitched in more games than Hawkins. There is a chance that he could end the year (and his career) in the Top 10 all-time. Honorable Mention: Mark Guthrie (1987) Current: Steven Gruver (2011), Jorge Fernandez (2012), Brian Gilbert (2013), Last Year: Andro Cutura 8th Round 1991 – Brad Radke – RHP – High School in Tampa, FL – WAR 45.5 One round after drafting Hawkins, the Twins selected Radke out of high school. He flew through the Twins minor league system and debuted as a 22-year-old in 1995. He was “Real-As-Radke” early in his career, but he got into the national spotlight in 1997 when he won 20 games. He was a stalwart in the Twins rotation from 1995 through 2006 and won 148 major league games. Following his career, he was named to the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame. Honorable Mention: Rick Burleson (1969), Brian Dozier (2009), Adam Lind (2002) Current: Jason Wheeler (2011) Last Year: Keaton Steele 9th Round 1981 – Steve Lombardozzi – SS – University of Florida – WAR 4.4 “Lombo” was a surprise contributor as the second baseman for the Twins during their World Series championship in 1987. He didn’t hit for average, but he and Greg Gagne combined to play very good defense up the middle. Before the 1989 season, he was traded to Houston but only played another 19 games before retiring. His son has spent a lot of time in the big leagues the last three years. Honorable Mention: Darrell Jackson (1977), Tony Fossas (1978) Current: Mitch Garver (2013) Last Year: Max Murphy 10th Round 1966 – Steve Braun – SS – High School in New Jersey – WAR 17.6 Braun spent six seasons (1971-1976) with the Twins, playing in at least 115 games each year. He played mostly third base, though he spent time in the outfield as well. He played for four other organizations through the 1985 season, though he was primarily a part-time player and pinch hitter much of the remainder of his career. Honorable Mention: Jeff Reboulet (1986), Marty Cordova (1989) Current: Brett Lee (2011), DJ Baxendale (2012), CK Irby (2013) Last Year: Randy LeBlanc So, as you can see, there aren’t a ton of success stories as the rounds go on, but you just never know which players are going to take off and become valuable regulars in the big leagues. Today, the Twins will draft their third round pick through their 10th round picks. Who will be the next Bert Blyleven, Frank Viola or Brad Radke? Who will be the next Brian Dozier or Craig Nettles?
  19. On the field, the Twins, a team known for its power, displayed a renewed interest in running wild on the bases. In the second game in which Martin managed, he had Rod Carew steal home. Carew would do so another six times that season, which at the time apparently tied a major league record. The Twins four triple steals that year did tie the major league record. In one game on May 18th, both Carew and Cesar Tovar stole home in the same at-bat. More astounding? Killebrew was the batter. Part 2 of a 12-part series that breaks Twins history into fun-sized chunks.You can find more here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 Martin’s well-known aggression off the field boiled over in early August, when it was revealed that he had become involved in a bar fight in Detroit–against his own player. And not just any player, but Dave Boswell, who would go on to win 20 games that season. Both Boswell and Martin required stitches from the incident. But there is no question that the team responded to Martin. They finished with 97 wins, capturing the newly formed West Division by nine games. The postseason was not as kind. In the first American League Championship series, the Orioles swept the Twins, who lost two extra-inning affairs in Baltimore. When they came back to the Met, Martin started journeyman Bob Miller over Jim Kaat. The Twins lost that game 11-2, and Martin was fired at the end of one exhilarating season amid media and fan outrage. Replacing Martin was Bill Rigney, a former player and manager for the Minneapolis Millers. He could rely on several outstanding performances in his first year as manager. Oliva (.325 batting average) and Killebrew (41 home runs) finished 2nd and 3rd in 1970’s AL MVP voting and Jim Perry won the Twins first AL Cy Young award with a 24-12 record, throwing 278.2 innings with a 3.04 ERA. Together, they would lead the Twins to another division in 1970, despite several significant injuries. Most detrimental were the torn ligaments in Rod Carew’s knee, limiting him to just 51 games. A different injury led to the debut of a future Hall of Fame inductee. Bert Blyleven, only nineteen years old, was called up to replace the injured Luis Tiant in the rotation. Blyleven would win that first game (despite giving up a home run to the first batter he faced) and nine more that year while throwing 164.1 innings. It was the last time he would not throw 200 innings for the rest of the decade, and he exceeded 270 innings each year he was with the Twins until he was traded in 1976. He would retire 22 years later with 287 wins, a career ERA of 3.31, and the third most strikeouts in baseball history. The Twins won the division comfortably by nine games, but again couldn’t take the pennant, which they lost in three games to the Orioles for the second year in a row. It wasn’t obvious at the time, but the team would not make another postseason appearance for 17 years. Next up: Gene Mauch, Rod Carew and the Lumber Company
  20. There hasn't been a player of Kershaw's caliber in the Twins rotation since the Johan Santana days in the Metrodome. However, there have been some very good seasons from past Twins pitchers. Last week ESPN tried to rank the top 20 pitcher seasons of the last 50 years. There were no Twins on the list but some Minnesota players were on the honorable mention list. For the purposes of this post, WAR is the average between the Baseball Reference and FanGraphs version of the statistic. ERA+ is ERA that is adjusted for home park and league context. Postseason performance was also considered. 1. Bert Blyleven, 1973 W-L: 20-17 | 2.52 ERA | 325.0 IP | 258 SO | ERA+: 156 | WAR: 10.5 "[blyleven's] best season came in 1973, when he went 20-17, with a 2.52 ERA in 40 starts. He pitched 325 innings and tossed nine shutouts. But in 10 starts in which he allowed one or two runs, he went just 5-4 -- even though he pitched at least 8 1/3 innings in all of those games."--- David Schoenfield, ESPN's SweetSpot Blog The sheer number of innings thrown by Blyleven at such a high level makes this season the most impressive in Twins history. His record could have been even more impressive if the Twins had given him more run support. The Twins finished with a .500 record so there was never a shot for Blyleven to strut his stuff in the postseason that year. Surprisingly, Blyleven received one lone vote in the AL Cy Young balloting that year. Jim Palmer won the award because he had more wins and a lower ERA. Blyleven bested him in innings, complete games and shutouts. He also struck out over 100 more batters. 2. Johan Santana, 2004 W-L: 20-6 | 2.61 ERA | 228.0 IP | 265 SO | ERA+: 182 | WAR: 8.1 "He's the only guy I know who at times has a 20-mile-per-hour differential between his fastball and his change-up. Usually guys have a 10-mile-per hour difference." --- Brett Boone, Seattle Mariners second baseman The toughest choice on this list was between Santana and Blyleven for the top spot. Santana was so dominant in 2004 that it was painstakingly hard not to put him in the top spot. His season didn't get off to the best start. Through his first 12 starts, he had a 5.50 ERA and he had allowed 12 home runs in just under 69 innings. Things turned quickly as he had a 1.64 ERA and 75 strikeouts over his last 55 innings before the All-Star break. He got even better after the Mid-Summer Classic. He started 15 games with a 1.21 ERA and struck out 129 in 104.1 innings. He walked 23 and batters were able to muster only a .443 OPS and they only coaxed 23 walks. 3. Bert Blyleven, 1974 W-L: 17-17 | 2.66 ERA | 281.0 IP | 249 SO | ERA+: 142 | WAR: 8.3 "It (his curveball) was nasty. I'll tell you that. Enough to make your knees buckle. Bert (Blyleven) was a terrific pitcher -- a dominating pitcher." --- Brooks Robinson, Hall of Fame Third Baseman In the follow-up season to his best professional year, Blyleven continued his dominating form. Many of his numbers dropped off but he was still very good. He was especially good in front of the Metropolitan Stadium crowd. In home games, he had a 1.91 ERA and he threw 12 complete games. He struck out 150 over 160 innings and he limited his walks to 45. The second half of the season was also particularly strong for Blyleven. He had a 2.00 ERA and he struck out 107 in just under 113 innings. Over his last 12 starts, he threw 98 innings with a 1.65 ERA. 4. Johan Santana, 2006 W-L: 19-6 | 2.77 ERA | 233.2 IP | 245 SO | ERA+: 162 | WAR: 7.3 "Santana fiddled with a change-up before 2002, but that was when the pitch blossomed. After Minnesota sent Santana to Class AAA Edmonton to covert him from a reliever to a starter, Bobby Cuellar, the pitching coach there, preached about the significance of trusting his change-up in any situation." --- Jack Curry, The New York Times The 2006 season was the last season in a very dominant three year stretch for Santana. He led all of baseball in ERA and strikeouts and he had the most innings pitched and games started in the American League. Among pitchers who compiled a minimum of 600 innings between 2004 and 2006, Santana led in ERA, ERA+, strikeouts, and K/BB ratio. He was the undisputed best pitcher in the baseball world even if it was only for three seasons. 5. Frank Viola, 1987 W-L: 17-10 | 2.90 ERA | 251.2 IP | 197 SO | ERA+: 159 | WAR: 6.9 "It's a tremendous feeling. MVP is a great, great honor but I couldn't do it without the other 23 guys and they all should share in this."--- Frank Viola, 1987 World Series MVP Some people might look at Viola's 1988 campaign as being more dominant since won the Cy Young that year. His 1987 campaign gets moved into the top 5 on this list because of his playoff performance. Viola was credited with three of the team's eight postseason victories that season. His Game 1 and Game 7 starts at the Metrodome were particularly strong as he pitched eight innings in both games and he limited the Cardinals to three runs. During the regular season, he allowed under 100 runs for the first time in his career and he posted the best ERA+ mark for his entire 15-year career. 6. Johan Santana, 2005 W-L: 16-7 | 2.87 ERA | 231.2 IP | 238 SO | ERA+: 155 | WAR: 7.4 In his first All-Star season, Santana lost some Cy Young support because of his low win total. He struck out more batters than everyone else in the baseball world. There were seven starts during the season where Santana didn't allow more than two earned runs and he was either charged with a loss or given a no-decision. 7. Frank Viola, 1988 W-L: 24-7 | 2.64 ERA | 255.1 IP | 193 SO | ERA+: 154 | WAR: 6.9 Viola rode a World Series high into the 1988 season and rattled a league high 24 victories. He posted double-digit victories at home and on the road. Over the first half of the season, he had a 14-2 record with a 2.24 ERA including five complete games. In the month of May, he was a perfect 6-0 with a 1.53 ERA, including two complete game shutouts. 8. Bert Blyleven, 1971 W-L: 16-15 | 2.81 ERA | 278.1 IP | 224 SO | ERA+: 126 | WAR: 6.9 There wasn't much of a sophomore slump for Mr. Blyleven. The 1971 season marked the beginning of a six year stretch where he posted an ERA of 3.00 or lower. It was also the start of an eight year stretch where he threw a minimum of 11 complete games. Blyleven was starting his march toward the Hall of Fame. 9. Dean Chance, 1968 W-L: 16-16 | 2.53 ERA | 292.0 IP | 234 SO | ERA+: 124 | WAR: 6.6 Chance was coming off a 20-win season during his first season in Minnesota. His ERA was .20 points lower in 1968 and he tossed more innings. He had 15 complete games and six of those starts were shutouts. His 234 strikeouts were a career high that he would never break and his 0.98 WHIP was the only time he finished a season below 1.00 in this category. 10. Bert Blyleven, 1975 W-L: 15-10 | 3.00 ERA | 275.2 IP | 233 SO | ERA+: 129 | WAR: 6.4 The 1975 campaign was Blyleven's last full season in Minnesota before he came back a decade later. His 20 complete games were his second highest total as a Twin, behind only his 1973 season. He struck out over 220 for the fifth straight year. In seven of his losses or no-decisions, he pitched at least seven and gave up three runs or less. Honorable Mentions: Dean Chance (1967), Camilo Pascual (1962), Dave Goltz (1977), Jim Perry, (1970), Jim Katt (1966), Jim Katt (1967), Jerry Koosman (1979), Francisco Liriano (2006) Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Who would be in your top 10 list?
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