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  1. If you missed the first half of the series, take a look back at some of the year's other top stories. Below is a rundown of the top-10 stories of the year at Twins Daily. 10. Three Starting Pitchers to Trade for this Winter Published: September 19 Author: Cody Pirkl Trading for starting pitching might be the most logical path to building Minnesota's 2022 rotation, and that was even before Minnesota missed out on many of the top-tier free agent arms. There are multiple teams with controllable arms that offer intriguing trade options. Which player makes the most sense for the Twins? 9. Get Ready for the Opposite of Joe Mauer Published: November 18 Author: Ted Schwerzler With Joe Mauer, the Twins paid a premium for one of baseball's best players. He was coming off an MVP season, and his hometown connections were tough to ignore. Like Mauer, Byron Buxton was a homegrown star on the cusp of free agency. Luckily, the Twins didn't bypass a Buxton extension. Fans may continue to connect Mauer and Buxton because of their injury histories, but Twins fans won't have to watch Buxton in another team's uniform. 8. The 10 Best Twins Target Among Remaining Free Agents Published: January 17 Author: Nick Nelson Last winter, multiple free agents seemed like fits for the 2021 Twins. Two of the names identified ended up signing with the Twins, and both players signed for one-year deals. This leaves the Twins looking for replacements for these players during the current off-season. Also on the list, there were some names that Minnesota was lucky to avoid 7. 4 Possible Teams Interested in a Byron Buxton Trade Published: June 15 Author: Cody Christie During the summer, rumors swirled about the Twins and Buxton not reaching an agreement on a contract extension. It seemed like a very real possibility the team would entertain trading their Gold Glove center fielder. Imagining Buxton in a Yankees or Red Sox uniform might have been tough to swallow for Twins Territory. Luckily, fans won't have to worry about that for the foreseeable future. 6. Sano Sets Strikeout Record Published: September 18 Author: Seth Stohs When he was a top prospect, Miguel Sano breaking a record was something all Twins fans hoped for, but this probably isn't the record most fans had in mind. Not only did he set the record for fastest player to 1,000 career strikeouts, but he also smashed the record. The other players on the list aren't exactly a group of Hall of Fame players, but this is the type of player Sano has become throughout his career. 5. Notebook: Twins Have Offer Out to Veteran SP Published: February 11 Author: Matthew Lenz Twins fans were excited about the possibility of adding a veteran pitcher to Minnesota's starting staff. Unfortunately, the signing became one of the worst free-agent moves under the current regime. Other news covered in this story included the Twins claiming Kyle Garlick, who eventually made the team's Opening Day roster over Brent Rooker. 4. Simmons Wants to Know the Real Story Behind Reliever's Broken Hand Published: October 1 Author: Randballs Stu Randballs Stu offers a little humor to the Twins Daily site, and this piece was one of multiple he has in the top stories of the year. After celebrating the team's playoff-clinching victory, Milwaukee's Devin Williams broke his hand. Andrelton Simmons, a player with a known anti-vaccine stance, questions whether fans are getting the full story with the relief pitcher's injury. 3. What Happened Between Josh Donaldson and Luis Arraez? Published: July 18 Author: Tom Froemming There were plenty of frustrations with the Twins in the middle of the season. During the middle of July, Josh Donaldson got frustrated with Luis Arraez during a game in Detroit. Arraez was slow to get his lead off second base with Donaldson batting. This caused Donaldson to call time and step out. Eventually, the two had a heated discussion with Nelson Cruz playing mediator. 2. 5 Things to Know About Twins Deadline Centerpiece Austin Martin Published: July 30 Author: Nick Nelson After his blockbuster trade to the Twins, fans were excited to know more about Austin Martin. Austin Martin immediately entered the conversation as one of the team's top prospects after being a 2020 top draft pick. His college experience and defensive flexibility make him one of the exciting prospects in the Twins farm system. 1. Rare Unwritten Rule Triggers Name Change for Minnesota Twins Published: May 21 Author: Randballs Stu Baseball's unwritten rules can undoubtedly cause some on-field headaches. Randballs Stu painted a satirical picture of how ridiculous these rules can be when teams follow some of these old-school mentalities. It might be fun to have some Minnesota Cocaine Dentist gear. I wonder if MLB.com still has some available? Which of these stories will you remember the most? 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
  2. A Minnesota Twins Christmas Carol - Part 1 A Minnesota Twins Christmas Carol - Part 2 Jim Pohlad tosses and turns in bed and finally awakens with a start. He gasps and feels his pajamas, which are soaked in sweat. He reaches for his end table and takes a big drink of water. He isn’t sure why, but he is absolutely parched. “Oh, my, what a terrible dream,” Pohlad says. “And stupid because that story has a happy ending, we got our stadium.” He pulled his sleep mask over his eyes and fell back into a deep slumber, but it didn’t last long. He was awakened again by the sound of cleats on the floor. Pohlad awoke and asked “Kirby? Is that you again?” But this time it wasn’t Puckett at all. It was a tall, quiet, side-burned figure wearing a Twins jersey outlined in beautiful Kasota gold. His name, he explained, was Joe Mauer. The Ghost of Christmas Present. Without a word, Pohlad is taken to a big convention center full of happy people. There are hands shaking everywhere they looked and happy agents calling their clients. They were at the MLB Winter Meetings. There was Max Scherzer shaking hands with Mets GM Billy Eppler. On the other side of the room Robbie Ray shook hands with Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto. Free agents were signing at a record pace and everyone seemed to be very happy. Suddenly, Mauer led Pohlad to an alleyway behind the convention center. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine were looking tired while picking through the offerings near the dumpster. A Dylan Bundy here, a Michael Wacha there… there simply wasn’t much for the duo to choose from. “Thad, I don’t know what we are going to tell Mr. Pohlad if we come up empty here,” Falvey said. “I’m afraid we won’t have enough pitching for the upcoming season and if we don’t start winning some games, we might not have a job soon.” “Don’t worry Derek, everything will work out for us in the end,” Levine said, with more than a little hint of doubt in his voice. Suddenly, Mauer and Pohlad were standing outside of a house in Burnsville. Inside was a family of meager means and a child was opening a present. Inside was a pair of tickets for a Twins game and a Jose Berrios jersey. “I know Berrios isn’t on the team any more son, and I know he was your favorite player. But the Twins simply couldn’t afford to pay him anymore,” the dad said. “Jerseys nowadays are so expensive but this one was on clearance so we could finally afford one. “You see, the Twins are just a small-market team that cannot afford to pay any players. Sure, there is no salary cap and the owners have money they could never spend in seven lifetimes, but something something TV contracts. “I worked overtime to get us two tickets to see the Twins play against the Tigers this April,” the dad said. “It was outside of our normal budget, but you have been so good and loyal that I wanted to reward you this year.” The child thanked the dad and gave him a big hug. “That dad works 50 hours a week to put food on the table,” Mauer explained. “He had to work overtime to be able to afford two tickets to take his baseball-loving kid to a Twins game, even though they won’t be very good this year, especially without Jose Berrios.” He explained that sometimes people spend more money than they maybe want to in order to show someone that they appreciate them. He called this phenomenon ‘reciprocation.’ Mauer then shows Pohlad the 2022 MLB Standings. The Twins have finished with a record of 54-108. “If you don’t change your ways, Jim, this is what you have to look forward to,” Mauer warned. Suddenly, Jim Pohlad was back in bed and again soaked in sweat. He began to think he was losing his mind but he was so, so tired. He went back to sleep. Check back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion to... A Minnesota Twins' Christmas Carol. A Minnesota Twins Christmas Carol - Part 1 A Minnesota Twins Christmas Carol - Part 2
  3. If you don’t know who I’m talking about by now, it’s Joe Mauer. Other than my parents, there is nobody I idolized more growing up than Joe. Joe Mauer was an extremely talented hitter and it was evident from the moment he put on a Twins uniform that he would do great things for the Twins organization. Young Prodigy When Mauer was four years old, he was asked to leave his youth tee-ball league because he hit the ball too hard for the other kids. When he was in high school, he might have been the best athlete in the entire country. A three-sport athlete at Cretin-Derham Hall, Mauer excelled in all three sports. In baseball, he hit a remarkable .605, hit a home run in seven consecutive games, and only struck out once in his entire career. In football, he threw for 5,528 yards and 73 touchdowns over a two-year career, being named National Gatorade Player of the Year his senior year. He had a verbal commitment to play college football for Bobby Bowden at Florida State had he not been drafted by the Twins. 247 Sports ranked him as the 17th best football player in the country, ahead of Frank Gore and Larry Fitzgerald. In basketball, he averaged 20 points per game and was named All-State his junior and senior years. Meteoric Rise In the 2001 draft, Mauer was selected first overall by his hometown Twins. He started in rookie ball the summer of 2001 and dominated, hitting .400/.492/.491 in 32 games there. In 2002, he played in A ball with the Quad Cities River Bandits and continued to perform well, hitting .302 with a .785 OPS while walking more than he struck out as a 19 year old. In 2003, Mauer split time between high A ball and AA, and combined to hit .338/.398/.434 with 30 doubles. This accumulation of great performance earned Mauer the #1 prospect ranking in all of baseball heading into the 2004 season. Because of Mauer’s readiness for the big leagues, the Twins traded their starting catcher, AJ Pierzynski, to the San Francisco Giants for Boof Bonser, Joe Nathan, and Francisco Liriano. In 2004, Mauer started out hot before suffering a sprained left knee. He returned in June of that year and appeared in 35 games, hitting .308/.369/.570 with six home runs. In 2005, Mauer was able to stay healthy and played 131 games, hitting .294/.372/.411 while also throwing out 43 percent of base stealers (league average was 30 percent) for a 3.4 WAR season. It was clear that Mauer and his beautiful swing were close to breaking out and he was already a major contributor for the Twins. Prime Years 2006 was the year Mauer took a big step forward. He started off the season hitting an absurd .378/.446/.535 with 40 extra base hits and a 157 wRC+ before the all-star break. He was named the starting catcher in the all-star game for the first time in his career. Mauer finished that season as the batting champion, hitting .347/.429/.507 with 13 home runs and 84 RBI while accumulating 5.8 fWAR. He was named the AL Silver Slugger at the catcher position and finished 6th in MVP voting while teammate Justin Morneau won it. Mauer led the Twins to a 96-66 finish and a division title. In 2007 Mauer took a minor step backwards, only hitting .293/.382/.426 (.808). He had his best defensive season yet, posting 7 Defensive Runs Saved. In 2008, Mauer won the AL batting crown again, hitting .328/.413/.451 while winning his first Gold Glove and his second Silver Slugger. He was once again named an all-star and finished 4th in MVP voting while posting a 6.4 WAR. MVP In 2009, Mauer missed the first month of the season due to a back injury. He made his season debut on May 1st and hit a home run in his first at bat. That was only the start of a historic season. Through his first 185 plate appearances, Mauer was hitting an otherworldly .429/.497/.756 with a 225 wRC+ (125 percent above league average). He was named AL Player of the Month in May. He was named an all-star and finished the season hitting .365/.444/.587 (1.031) with 28 home runs. He led the American League in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, wRC+ (170), and was second in fWAR (8.4). He won the AL MVP and received 27 of 28 first place votes. This was the second best season in Twins history in terms of WAR only behind Rod Carew’s 1977 MVP year. He also won his third silver slugger and his second gold glove. Go Get Paid On March 21, 2010, Mauer was given a large 8 year, $184 million extension. This was the biggest contract in Twins history and remains the biggest. In the 2010 season, Mauer continued his excellence, hitting .327/.402/.469 (.871) with 43 doubles and nine home runs in the Twins first year at Target Field. He was worth 5.7 WAR and led the Twins to another division title. He won his fourth silver slugger and third gold glove. In 2011 and 2012, the Twins were terrible, averaging 64.5 wins. Mauer however was a bright spot, hitting .308/.397/.419 (.816) with an average of 3.3 WAR. 2013 was more of the same, but Mauer started off great. Then August 19th came along. On August 19, 2013, Mauer took a foul tip off the mask and suffered a concussion. He hit .324/.404/.476 (.880) with a 143 wRC+ and won his fifth silver slugger while being named to his sixth all star game. But he was never the same after the concussion. Mauer’s concussion greatly affected his vision, and his stats can back it up. Pre-Concussion (2004-8/19/2013): (.323/.405/.468) .873 OPS, 134 wRC+, 12.2 BB%, 11.1 K% Post-Concussion: (8/20/2013-2018): (.278/.359/.388) .747 OPS, 103 wRC+, 11.1 BB%, 16.2 K% First Baseman In 2014, the Twins announced they were going to make Joe Mauer into their full-time first baseman because of his concussion risk and they thought he would be able to stay in the lineup more if he played first base. They were right, as he averaged 136 games played from 2014 to 2018. However, he was a shell of his former self, only accumulating 6.4 WAR in those five seasons. He went from being 34 percent better at hitting than league average while excelling at a premium defensive position to only being 3 percent above league average while playing first base, not a premium position. Final Goodbye In 2018, there had been ramblings about Mauer potentially retiring at the end of the season, as his contract was due to expire. In his final game against the White Sox, he had quite the final send-off. In his final at bat as a Twin, he got to a full count and hit a hard line drive into the left-center gap for a double. Mauer always used the whole field so it was fitting that his final at bat was a hard hit double the other way. In the ninth inning, there was a slight delay in starting the inning, and there was no catcher behind home plate. Mauer emerged from the tunnel in catcher’s gear, and the stadium gave him a standing ovation. Mauer caught just one pitch before getting pulled for Chris Herrmann, and got yet another lengthy ovation from the home faithful. This was Mauer’s first time catching since 2013 so it was a very emotional moment. A month later, Mauer penned a retirement letter to Twins Territory, citing health reasons and wanting to be with family as a couple of main reasons for retirement. Conclusion Joe Mauer was a fan favorite for many years. Seeing an athlete play for his hometown team, dominate, and do it all with class made Mauer one of the most likable athletes in Minnesota history. Mauer had five seasons of 5+ WAR in his career. Only three catchers in MLB history have more. These catchers are Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, and Gary Carter. Mauer finished his career with 52.5 WAR (3rd in team history), 2,123 hits (2nd), 428 doubles (1st), 1,018 runs (3rd), 923 RBI (5th), 939 walks (2nd), and 143 home runs (12th). A personal note - Joe Mauer is my favorite athlete of all-time. Right when I started playing sports as a kid, Mauer was in the midst of his prime and he was very fun for me to watch. A couple years for his birthday, I sent him a letter and he responded. This made me into a fan of his for life. Mauer was a fantastic player but an even better person and this makes him the fourth best Twin of all time and eventually, a Hall of Famer. Stay tuned for the tenth day of Twinsmas! 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 - Joe Mauer #3 - Coming Soon!
  4. 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
  5. I explained my process of how I chose these players in the first part of this trilogy, so if you didn’t read that, I recommend reading this so this article will make more sense. Taking all of the position player seasons over 4 WAR, I found salary data for 86 players. Using these 86 players, I compared their equivalent 2021 salaries with their season WAR’s and constructed the graph below. The names highlighted in yellow are the players who made the starting lineup As was the case in part 1, the bottom right of the graph is where you want to have your players be, signifying a lot of WAR for not a lot of 2021 money. There were some very tough decisions in constructing this lineup, but these are the position players I decided would make the best team in Twins history. Catcher: 2009 Joe Mauer - $15.69M translated salary, 7.8 WAR Because of his lackluster production despite a large contract in the latter part of his career, some Twins fans see Joe Mauer as a bust and not as one of the best players in Twins history. In reality, over the course of his career, Mauer vastly outproduced his contracts. Adding in 2018 to these totals, Mauer made just over $218M in his career but according to FanGraphs, he was worth over $307M. Mauer was so phenomenal early in his career that he completely outperformed his rookie contract and arbitration deals. It makes you wonder what he would’ve done if not for his concussion problems later in his career. Mauer’s best year was 2009. He slashed .365/.444/.587 for the second highest single-season OPS in Twins history of 1.031. Mauer also hit a career high 28 home runs, had a wRC+ of 170, walked more than he struck out, and was an above average defensive catcher in his MVP campaign. In 2009, Mauer had a salary of $10.5 million. This translates to over $15 million in 2021, meaning his contract efficiency number was 0.497. Mauer outperformed his contract not just in 2009, but over the duration of his entire career and he should be inducted in the hall of fame. First Base: 1977 Rod Carew - $10.93M translated salary, 9.7 WAR In 2021, Rod Carew would not be your stereotypical first baseman. Today, first basemen are power-hitters who strike out quite a bit, hit home runs, and don’t steal a lot of bases (see Sano, Miguel). Carew was the greatest player in Twins history and in 1977, he had the greatest season in Twins history. In Carew’s historic 1977 season, he stole 23 bases, slashed .388/.449/.570 for an OPS of 1.019, and had a 135 wRC+. He had a Twins franchise record 239 hits, his .388 average was a franchise record, and he won the MVP award. In 1977, Carew had a salary of $180,000. This translates to just shy of $11 million in 2021 for a contract efficiency number of 0.888. Carew was an outstanding player, will bring some defensive quickness to first base, and would be an outstanding leadoff hitter for this dream-team. Second Base: 1995 Chuck Knoblauch - $13.44M translated salary, 6.7 WAR Even though Chuck Knoblauch isn’t Keith Olbermann's favorite player, he still had an outstanding tenure as a Twin. Knoblauch was a four-time all-star with the Twins before contract disputes led to him becoming a Yankee. In 1995, Knoblauch batted .333, had a .911 OPS, stole 46 bases, and won the American League Silver Slugger at second base. Although Knoblauch’s best season may have been a year later in 1996, he still accumulated nearly 7 WAR in 1995 on a cheaper contract. In 1995, Knoblauch had a salary of nearly $3 million. This translates to $13.4 million in 2021 for a contract efficiency number of 0.499. Knoblauch was a great all-around player for the Twins and is the greatest second baseman in Twins history, so it is only right to put him here. Third Base: 2001 Corey Koskie - $606K translated salary, 6.3 WAR One player who was always undervalued for the Twins was Corey Koskie. In the early 2000’s, you could tell Koskie was a very solid player for the Twins but if you look at him in a more advanced scope, you can see that Koskie was a great player for the Twins and they did not have to pay much for him. In 2001, Koskie slashed .276/.362/.488 for an OPS of .850 and a wRC+ of 119. He led the team in slugging percentage, walks (68), RBI (103), and WAR (6.3). He was an outstanding defender at third base, racking up 1.9 defensive WAR which ranked 4th among third basemen in MLB. Combining above average offense with a stellar glove at third base makes Koskie an easy choice to be our third baseman. In 2001, Koskie had a salary of only $300K. This translates to only $606K in 2021 for a contract efficiency number of 10.39, which was the highest contract efficiency number out of all of the top 100 WAR seasons in Twins history. Getting a 6 WAR player for nearly league minimum does not happen very often so we can save a lot of money while getting a lot of value out of Koskie at 3B. Plus, the man is a townball star Shortstop: 1965 Zoilo Versalles - $7.63M translated salary, 7.2 WAR When building this team of superstars, Zoilo Versalles was the most confusing player I researched. He only had 12 career WAR, and over half of it came in this MVP 1965 campaign. Versalles was the Baha Men of 1965, a one-hit wonder. Digging deeper into his MVP season, he only had a wRC+ of 116 and led the American League in strikeouts. The reason Versalles was so good in 1965 was that he was the best defensive shortstop in the league. He led all MLB shortstops with 3 defensive WAR, also the best mark for any shortstop in Twins history. Versalles’ defensive prowess coupled with his above average offensive abilities (led AL in runs, doubles, and triples) made him the best player in the AL in 1965 and the best shortstop in Twins history. In 1965, Versalles had a salary of $28K, which translates to $7.63 million in 2021. His contract efficiency number (0.944) was very good. Cristian Guzman was also in contention for this spot with an extremely cheap contract, but Versalles accumulated 2.4 more WAR than Guzman so I thought it was a worthwhile trade-off. Left Field: 1992 Shane Mack - $5.44M translated salary, 6.5 WAR One of the most overlooked Twins of all-time is World Series Champion outfielder Shane Mack. After being the Twins Rule 5 draft pick in 1989, he had a great five-year stretch with the Twins. In those five years, he slashed .309/.375/.479 (.854) while hitting 119 doubles, 67 home runs, and stealing 71 bases. His best year of that stretch was 1992, having a wRC+ of 142, hitting 31 doubles, 16 home runs, and stealing 26 bases. He also led the American League with 15 hit by pitches. In 1992, Mack had a salary of $1.075 million, which translates to $5.44 million in 2021. He posted a WAR of 6.5, so his contract efficiency number was very good at 1.195. Mack is one of the most underrated players in Twins history and was frankly one of the best outfielders in Twins history. Center Field: 1992 Kirby Puckett - $6M translated salary, 7.2 WAR Undoubtedly the most beloved figure in Twins history, Kirby Puckett is also the best outfielder in team history and delivered some unforgettable moments, like his walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. Kirby joins fellow ‘92 outfielder Shane Mack on the team. One of Kirby’s best seasons was 1992. He hit .329/.374/.490 (.864) while leading MLB in hits (210). He had 110 RBI, a wRC+ of 136, hit 38 doubles, 19 home runs, and had a defensive WAR of 1 while manning center field for the reigning World Champs and being a clubhouse leader. In 1992, Puck had a salary of $2.97 million, which is about $6 million today. He had a 7.1 WAR so his contract efficiency was about 1.184. Puck would be the heart and soul of this team and bring some much needed energy and leadership to the team. Right Field: 1964 Tony Oliva - $2.12M translated salary, 6.8 WAR Recent Hall of Fame inductee Tony Oliva joins the squad with his phenomenal rookie season of 1964. Oliva is one of the greatest hitters in Twins history and a Twins great, hitting .304/.353/.476 (.830) over his 15-year career with the Twins. Oliva was phenomenal in his rookie season, winning rookie of the year and finishing fourth in AL MVP voting. He had a wRC+ of 148, led the AL with a .323 batting average, 109 runs, 43 doubles, and 217 hits while posting a .916 OPS and clubbing 32 home runs. In 1964, Oliva had a salary of $7,500, which translates to $2.12 million in 2021. He accumulated 6.8 WAR, so his contract efficiency was 0.73. Oliva has always been an excellent representative of the Twins organization both on and off the field, so he is a great addition to the team. Designated Hitter: 1963 Bob Allison - $8.75M translated salary, 7.4 WAR The last hitter we have in the lineup is Bob Allison. Allison was ahead of his time. He was more of a three true outcomes hitter than most people in his time. Allison was one of the original Twins, coming from the Washington Senators. He is one of the more underrated players in Twins history and he was one of the leaders on the 1965 World Series team. Allison was a star in 1963, hitting .271/.378/.533 (.911). He led the American League in WAR (7.4), OPS, and wRC+ (150). He hit 35 home runs and was solid defensively, posting a defensive WAR of 1.1 as a right fielder. Somehow, he finished 15th in MVP voting despite leading the league in all of these categories. If they could revote today knowing what actually makes a player valuable, he would most definitely finish in the top 3. In 1963, Allison had a salary of $29,250, translating to a $8.75 million salary today. His contract efficiency was 0.846 so he would be a great bopper in a lineup full of them. Harmon Killebrew was also considered for this position but Allison edged him out in WAR and was slightly cheaper. Summary Overall, the Twins lineup would bolster some heavy hitters and some very high on-base guys, creating a high-powered offense that would wreck the league. These hitters accumulated 65.6 WAR and would be worth $70.6 million translated to 2021 salaries. Part 3 will cover the bullpen and bench, so stay tuned for that. Thanks for reading, and Go Twins!
  6. It finally happened. The Twins have signed Byron Buxton to a huge deal, $100 million deal over seven years and a bunch more incentives per Ken Rosenthal. Twins fans are very excited right now, but not every big contract pays off. While this is an excellent deal for the Twins and exciting for the fan base, it is more than fair to be concerned about the health of Buxton and how much time he can stay on the field. Buxton has only appeared in over 100 games once in his career. That was in 2017, when he appeared in 140 games. $15 million per year with incentives is not an insufficient salary for a player who has trouble staying on the field. While this investment could work out for the Twins, it could also go wrong if Buxton doesn't stay healthy. When Buxton is healthy, he is easily the best player on the field and in the lineup. He’s made clutch catches and his batting average in 61 games this year was .306 . He made those 61 games count. The incentive for him to stay healthy? $500K each for reaching 502, 533, 567, 600, and 625 plate appearances. It is an incentive to stay healthy. The gamble is Buxton is like other players who have had outstanding years and been an asset to their team. This article is not meant to say that Buxton is not an asset, or will not fulfill the contract. When he is on the field, he is a solid asset to the team. He is a hard-nosed player who rehabs hard and does go all out. The concern of this writer, and some other fans, is that larger deals with players who are prone to injury can be exciting while still being concerning. Some players got long-term, big contracts and then busted after the ink had dried. Here are three such examples: Gary Matthews Jr had an outstanding year with the Rangers in 2005. He hit .313 and drove in 79 runs with 19 home runs. The Angels liked what they saw and offered him five years and $65 million. He was barely productive with the Angels posting a .248 hitting average, ten home runs, and totaled just 55 RBI in three seasons. The contract amount is comparable to what we are looking at in terms of length and desired production for Buxton. Jeffrey Hammonds signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Brewers. In 2001 that was a fairly large deal but it wasn’t the largest or craziest. Milwaukee saw Hammonds hit.335 and drive in over 100 runs while posting an OPS over .900 the year before. Hammonds only played 49 games due to injuries in 2001 and never lived up to his contract or potential. Looking for an example with the Twins? Well, the largest contract the Twins have signed was with Joe Mauer. He was coming off of an MVP season and a year away from free agency. At the time, the Yankees and Red Sox likely would have been competing for his services, so the Twins didn’t let him get to free agency. They locked him up for eight years and $184 million. The Twins were about to move into Target Field and the local boy turned future Hall of Famer had to be retained. Was he worth the $184 million during that contract? No. He fought some knee injuries and a concussion that altered the trajectory of his career. He struggled some and had to switch positions. Like Mauer a dozen years ago, the Twins could not afford to lose Byron Buxton this offseason. Of course, the ultimate hope would be to see Buxton have an inverse career to that of Mauer. Buxton has fought injuries before signing his nine-figure deal. Hopefully he will be able to remain healthy after signing the deal. The Twins are signing Buxton based on his previous field production and his immense talent and ceiling, but also considering his on-field time missed. There have been notable times when players have been signed and gone downhill. The contract shows that the Twins have the means to make big contracts happen. Not all large contracts are bad. The Twins certainly are showing us that they are willing and able to make commitments to players and I believe this is a good sign for the organization and fans alike. I know there is still plenty of time left and about $50 million left, so now with Buck locked in and a good outfield roster, we can focus on putting that money into pitching - both starters and relief. While I am cautious about what this will mean for the Twins in the long run and the team if they have to continually cover for Buxton if his injurious state does not improve, it is proof that the organization is willing to do what it takes to retain players. The fans who were putting all their hopes into the organization, I just hope it’s enough. Now we can take a quick sigh of relief and hope the Twins make some pitching moves that will help the team in 2022 and beyond. But will they sign anyone before the CBA comes to an end and signings will be on a freeze.
  7. In March of 2010, Minnesota inked hometown hero Joe Mauer to an eight-year, $184 million contract extension. He’d played in 699 games to that point and tallied three batting titles along with an MVP. With free agency looming, the Twins did the right thing and signed him to a deal that kept him from being paid by the Boston’s or New York’s of the baseball world. Because we know that we can’t have nice things as Twins fans, Mauer’s career would be forever changed due to injuries. He’s still a Hall of Famer, and he was still underpaid, but what could’ve been is something we can always wonder about. Due to those injuries changing production Mauer’s contract was long a point of consternation for fans. Working through revisionist history, detractors will often suggest a desire to have let Mauer walk and watch larger markets pay him more. As luck would have it, those same people may now have their day. Coming into 2022, Byron Buxton will have played 493 games for the Minnesota Twins. He’s owned an .897 OPS over the past three seasons and has a Platinum Glove to his credit before turning 28-years-old. An expected prime still ahead of him, this is a player that’s one of the ten best in the sport when he’s healthy. That’s where we pick up this story. Unlike Mauer, Buxton has experienced injury issues early on in his career. Also, unlike Joe, those injuries are the only reason Minnesota has a chance to sign the superstar in the first place. Reportedly offering an $80 million deal, Minnesota has not yet pushed to the $100 million asking price even with a valuation that would far exceed that number with an average bill of health. Instead of being asked to pay $250 million or more to keep their home-grown talent, the Twins are being asked to pay pennies on the dollar to factor in the availability, or lack thereof, that comes with Buxton. Instead of jumping at that chance, they are said to be leaning in the opposite direction. This isn’t a scenario in which history can be aligned to Terry Ryan’s ultimate gaffe regarding David Ortiz. No one is getting released, and the Twins will undoubtedly get something in exchange for Byron. The problem is that no player as valuable can be had for the same dollar amount, and a move regarding someone so intertwined with the fan base will forever cause ripple effects that only Mauer could’ve mirrored. We should know soon how the front office is going to play this situation. Maybe they’ve purposely been leaking misinformation to increase their negotiating stance. However, time is running out on wondering what may happen as we are less than a year from knowing what will. Byron Buxton might not be from St. Paul, Minnesota. Still, the Baxley, Georgia, native is every bit as Twins Territory as it gets and there isn’t an opportunity to put the band-aid back on this bullet wound once the trigger is pulled. Target Field was sold as an opportunity to keep the internal stars. That rung hollow when flipping Jose Berrios, and it hits rock bottom in moving on from Buxton. Whether he stays healthy or not isn’t the question for now. It’s whether or not you are willing to keep your best talent or continually recycle it. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  8. On the surface, Joe Mauer and Buster Posey seem to have similar cases for Cooperstown. Mauer hit .306/.388/.439 (.827) while earning three Gold Gloves, five Silver Sluggers, and six All-Star appearances. Posey hit .302/.372/.460 (.831) while earning a Gold Glove, four Silver Sluggers, and seven All-Star appearances. Both players won an MVP, and Posey won two fewer batting titles than Mauer. JAWS is one way to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness as it averages their career WAR with their 7-year peak WAR. Mauer currently has the seventh-best JAWS total among catchers as he trails only Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fish, Mike Piazza, and Yogi Berra. Those are the best catchers in baseball history. Posey doesn’t rank quite as well, according to JAWS, as he finished his career ranked 14th. This puts him below the average of the Hall of Famers at this position. However, other factors impact Posey’s candidacy. He was a three-time World Series champion, and that certainly plays a role in his Cooperstown case. Mauer and Posey both have some unique characteristics for the voters to consider. Mauer is the only catcher to win three batting titles, and he topped the .400 OBP mark in six of his seasons at catcher. Posey finished in the top-20 for MVP voting in six seasons, including three in the top-10. Mauer finished in the top-20 in MVP voting in five different seasons with four seasons in the top-10. Posey is in elite company when narrowing down his career to a six-year window. From 2012-2017, only Mike Trout had a higher fWAR total, and the next closest player is Josh Donaldson. Mauer’s best six-year stretch (2005-2010) ranks him as having baseball’s fourth-highest fWAR total behind Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, and Alex Rodriguez. He also played 70 fewer games than any of the players ahead of him on the list. Another commonality between Posey and Mauer is that their careers ended earlier than some of the other greats at the position. Posey is walking away at age-34 after one of the best seasons of his career. After concussions, Mauer retired following his age-35 season, which forced him to become a primary first baseman for his final five seasons. It seems like both players have a good chance of eventually getting inducted. Mauer becomes eligible for the first time in 2024, while Posey will be eligible in 2027. There will be plenty of talk about Posey being a Hall of Fame player as he rides off into the sunset. If that is the case, Mauer’s credentials should make him a lock for Cooperstown. Do you think both Mauer and Posey will be elected to the Hall of Fame? 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
  9. Twins Daily usually stays between the lines as regards content. However, when the best catcher in team history sends a movie review to our Friday correspondent, we disregard the baseball aspect. What follows is Joe Mauer’s review of the 2021 film Dune, now available on HBO Max and in theaters nationwide. Hey guys. I watched the movie Dune at mom’s house. She usually gets sore when me or Jake (Mauer, Joe’s younger brother) watch HBO there because they show S-E-X stuff at night, but I told her this was more like the Star Wars so she let it slide. I wasn’t even telling stories to Mom there, I really thought this was a Star Wars movie. Remember when Luke Skywalker was just driving around the desert with his cool grampa and the robots from England? It was a whole bunch of dunes! Easy mistake to make if you’re asking me. I was wrong. No funny robots or Han Solo, I tell you what. I guess this movie involves Timothy Huggybear or whatever and the one young woman from Shake It Up on Disney Channel and they’re trying to find a bunch of spices and get into adventures? I’ll be honest, it was real tough to follow. The thing is, I knew it was going to be a real weirdo beardo, because my friend Glen (Perkins, former Twins pitcher) told me there was a Dune that came out when I was born with the guy from Twin Peaks and the Police rock band and it was super cool. The thing is Glen always mixes his lies with the truth to mess with me so I knew he was busting my chops lol. Also he might be the devil? Mom’s kinda on the fence about him. Anyway, when Timothy Chandelier and Shake It Up Chicago go on their adventure, it’s pretty fun. I couldn’t follow it all that closely because Jake kept hucking wiffle balls at me while I was trying to watch the ding-dang movie. But the parts I could watch before Jake put Bob Seger on the Bluetooth speakers looked really fun. Anyway, I guess I’d watch this again. Have a great weekend, guys. Stay golden, Joe
  10. Inconsistent pitching and injuries have been just some of the issues for the 2021 Twins. There have been some positives as with any season, but it’s hard not to be disappointed as expectations were high this year. Here’s a look at some of the other disappointing teams from recent years. 2011 Twins (Record: 63-99) The 2010 Twins had opened Target Field with a bang, including winning the division by six games over the White Sox. It was the team’s second consecutive AL Central title, and there were many that thought the Twins would be fighting for a three-peat. It’s easy to find connections between the 2021 Twins and the issues faced by the 2011 squad. Justin Morneau struggled to return after a concussion ended his 2010 campaign. Joe Mauer dealt with bilateral leg weakness and back problems. Players like Danny Valencia, Alexi Casilla, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka were relied on to fill full-time roles. Minnesota’s starting staff struggled to reproduce their numbers from 2010, with Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, and Francisco Liriano all posting ERA totals of 4.30 or higher. 2007 Twins (Record: 79-83) The 2007 Twins didn’t implode like the 2010 season, but they were indeed a disappointment. Back in 2006, the Twins put together a magical season with Justin Morneau being named AL MVP, Joe Mauer winning his first batting title, and Johan Santana earning his second Cy Young. It was only the fourth time the team had won over 95 games since moving to Minnesota. During the 2007 season, Minnesota finished just under .500, but that was closer to last place than first place in the division. Outside of Johan Santana, the team left fans wanting more. Jason Bartlett finished with the highest WAR among position players, and the pitching staff took a step back. Terry Ryan stepped aside from the GM role in the middle of September. This left Bill Smith to trade Santana and watch Torii Hunter walk away in free agency. The franchise was heading in a new direction. 1993 Twins (Record: 71-91) Minnesota had won the World Series in 1991, and the club finished with 90-wins in 1992. Many of the core pieces of the championship club were still in the prime of their careers. There was hope the team could bounce back in 1993 and keep their winning window open. However, the club was entering a stretch of nine straight losing seasons. During the 1993 season, many of the team’s issues were on the pitching side of the ball. Out of the team’s regulars, six of the nine batters had an OPS+ of 100 or more, including Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek with 120 OPS+ totals. Every starting pitcher with over 100 innings had an ERA north of 4.00, with Willie Banks being the lone starter to post an ERA+ greater than 100. It was Hrbek’s last season of over 100 games, and Puckett was only two years away from being forced to retire. The end of an era came more quickly than many would have anticipated. Which of these seasons was most disappointing? 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
  11. No, the problem is not that the Twins don’t spend money, but rather that they don’t know HOW to spend money. Said another way, they don’t correctly know how to spend money. As we embark upon a quasi-deadline for homegrown talents like Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios, it seems the front office is faced with a decision to extend or deal both talents. Buxton would be looking at a payday north of $200 million as a free agent coming off a season of health. Jose Berrios wants to max out his value, and it seems he’s all but gone in this club’s mind. Those are problems, but only because they compound an already developing issue. Way back when the Twins paid Joe Mauer. He was worth every penny and was underpaid throughout his career. Nothing about his contract hamstrung a mid-market team without a salary cap. What prevented the hometown nine from winning was the lack of supplementation on the roster, both in youth and acquired talent. Fast forward to where we are now, and once again, the Twins are showing a lack of ability to spend wisely. This club paid Josh Donaldson nearly $100 million following one season with Atlanta. The Bringer of Rain posted a .259/.379/.521 slash line in 2019 while playing in 155 games. His first year in Minnesota was challenging in that the pandemic cut short any real season, but nagging leg injuries kept him to just 28 games and out of the most important during October. Look at what Donaldson has done for Minnesota, however, and it’s nothing short of what this club should’ve hoped. After his 124 OPS+ in Atlanta, Donaldson has posted a .244/.358/.485 slash and 135 OPS+ with the Twins. The slugging has slid a bit, but the ball has changed, and arguably the only knock has been losing a step defensively. After an injury-plagued season a year ago, he’s been one of the most consistently available Twins in 2021. So, here we are with a big contract given out to a free agent that’s performing, and Minnesota is looking at a teardown. Donaldson could be had for salary relief, Berrios could command prospects, and Buxton may be the most exciting asset the sport has seen in a long time. Once again, though, this club looks to have failed to spend. Over the winter, the thought process should’ve been acquiring talent to supplement this group. Alex Colome and Hansel Robles had appeal on paper, but neither is the impact arm the provides insurance for the group headlined by Taylor Rogers and Tyler Duffey. J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker were veteran starters with relatively decent floors, but neither would push Berrios or Kenta Maeda for the top of the rotation duty. When acquiring talent to raise the water level, this organization changed out oars and continued to tread water. Donaldson was a significant expense, and nothing was done to truly supplement him. Here we are now facing an awful result, and the outcome could be moving assets for hope in the future. Target Field was opened under the assumption that Minnesota would be able to retain its homegrown talent. Watching Buxton and Berrios be moved isn’t a reality that is supposed to take place. Suppressed payrolls for much of the past decade should pave the way for an influx of dollars to be utilized around a core that’s shown it can compete. Right now, it feels like that couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t believe that Minnesota’s strategy should be to play in the pool near a $200 million mark. Acquiring top-tier talent only to keep them on an island and then piecing things out for another cycle when things go wrong looks like a misappropriated allocation of funds. Development isn’t linear and should be the focus internally. Still, it’s time this organization made financial commitments to those they’ve seen bear fruit and then continue to support the roster as a whole with acquired talent that makes more sense than just cents on the dollar. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  12. As a quick preface, each of these cards won’t make fans rich and they can all be attained fairly easily on the secondary market. This makes it even more fun for those getting into the hobby for the first time. 1985 Topps Kirby Puckett Rookie Card MLB.com named the Puckett rookie as the most iconic card in team history for a variety of reasons. First, he is quite possibly the most popular player in franchise history. It also helps that his playing career corresponds with a trading card boom unlike any other. Puckett was the face of the franchise as the team ran to two World Series titles. Kids across the upper Midwest idolized the team’s star player and his rookie card made fans feel like they were even more invested in his career. Recently, this card has sold for under $5 if fans are fine with it having some imperfections. 1993 Topps Kirby Puckett Big Bat Card I loved this card as a kid growing up in the late 80’s and early 90s. Puckett’s personality was larger than life and that is depicted on this card with the giant bat. The same photo graced the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine in April 1992. The Twins were coming off a dramatic World Series win, and Puckett was the face of the franchise. This card can be acquired for $2 or less, because of how many were produced at the time. 2002 Topps Joe Mauer Draft Picks Card He was the first overall pick, and he was drafted by his hometown team, so the story doesn’t get much better than that. Now, he seems destined for Cooperstown to join other St. Paul legends like Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield, and Jack Morris. Over the last couple years, the card collecting hobby has really picked up and so has the value of Mauer’s first Topps card. For those interested, the time might be right to invest now before Cooperstown comes calling. https://twitter.com/NoDakTwinsFan/status/1380163376056258561?s=20 1968 Topps Rod Carew All-Star Rookie Card Carew’s actually rookie card was in the Topps 1967 series, but he was featured along with fellow rookie, Hank Allen of the Washington Senators. His 1968 card is his first card where he is featured solo, and it is just a beautiful looking piece of cardboard. The All-Star Rookie trophy on the front helps to accentuate the look of the entire card. Depending on the condition, fans can pick one up for under $20. 1986 Fleer Mickey Hatcher Big Glove Card Hatcher isn’t exactly a Twins’ legend, but this card certainly is one that fans remember across the collecting world. In the card, Hatcher was caught wearing a very oversized glove that looks like it was used either by a team’s mascot or for some type of fan contest between innings. Either way, collectors can get this card for a couple dollars. What’s your favorite card in Twins’ history? 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
  13. This was supposed to be a critical year for Royce Lewis. Back in 2019, he struggled for the first time in his professional career as the Twins were aggressive and pushed him up to Double-A. He was projected to head back to that level in 2021 with a chance to make his big-league debut before season’s end. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case and Lewis will go over 900 days without getting a professional at-bat. Minnesota is no stranger to top prospects being hit by the injury bug. Alex Kirilloff, Twins Daily’s highest rank Twins prospect, missed the entire 2017 campaign due to Tommy John surgery. Even with the missed season, he came back with a vengeance in 2018 as he was one of MiLB’s best hitters that season. Obviously, Kirilloff was able to recover and put himself back on the prospect map, which is something Twins fans can hope for with Lewis. Before Lewis and Kirilloff, Byron Buxton was widely considered the team’s top prospect and many national rankings had him as one of the baseball’s best prospects. Buxton’s injury history has been well documented as he was limited to 103 combined games between his third and fourth professional seasons. Those injury woes have followed him to the big-league level as he as he has only had one season where he has played more than 95 games. Prior to Buxton, Miguel Sano was the team’s top prospect, and he was widely considered one of baseball’s top-10 prospects. He was forced to miss all his age-21 season after needing Tommy John surgery. It still didn’t stop him from making his big-league debut the very next year and he’s been with the Twins ever since. Kyle Gibson had a short stint as the Twins’ best prospect, and he seemed to be rocketing to the MLB level. Entering the 2011 season, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus had him in their top-55 prospects. Unfortunately, he had Tommy John surgery in November 2011 and wouldn’t be back until the end of the 2012 season. Going further back, there certainly more examples of prospects hit by the injury bug. Francisco Liriano famously blew out his elbow while the 2006 Twins seemed like they would have been unstoppable in the playoffs. Joe Mauer’s career started on a bad note as he needed knee surgery shortly into his rookie campaign. One player some people might forget is Jason Kubel. He seemed destined to be a middle of the order power bat that could bring above average defense at multiple outfield positions. Entering the 2005 season, Baseball America ranked him as baseball’s 17th overall prospect. He was able to return from injury and have a decade long big-league career, but his outlooked was significantly changed after his leg injury. Many of the players on this list went on to have solid big-league careers, but there will also be questions about what could have been. How good could Kubel have been? Would the Twins have won the 2006 World Series with a healthy Liriano? How much better would Mauer’s numbers look with another full season? Lewis finds himself among some of the best Twins players in recent memory, but it is a list that he never wanted to join. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  14. Defensive metrics have come a long way over the last two decades and new technology continues to help front offices evaluate their defensive talent. Many key advanced fielding stats like Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and Defensive Runs Above Average (Def) began being calculated in 2002. Over the last 20+ seasons, the Twins made defense an organizational hallmark and these teams rank as the best defenders during that stretch. 5. 2003 Twins (23.2 Def, 23.2 UZR) Top Defenders: Torii Hunter (18.4 Def, 16.2 UZR, Gold Glove), Corey Koskie (10.1 Def, 8.2 UZR), AJ Pierzynski (9.0 Def) The 2003 Twins were on their way to claiming a second straight AL Central title and there were some clear standout defenders. Hunter was the team’s top defender, and he was awarded his third Gold Glove on the way to winning seven straight honors for the Twins. His defensive numbers in 2003 were otherworldly as he posted career highs in Def and UZR. Koskie was underrated as a defensive third baseman and he should have won a Gold Glove at some point in his career (see below) 4. 2010 Twins (33.8 Def, 28.1 UZR) Top Defenders: Joe Mauer (12.2 Def, Gold Glove), JJ Hardy (11.8 Def, 7.4 UZR), Orlando Hudson (10.5 Def, 8.7 UZR), Denard Span (9.3 Def, 7.0 UZR) This one might hurt for some Twins fans as JJ Hardy’s lone season in Minnesota saw him put up some strong defensive numbers at shortstop. Since that season, the Twins have rotated through carousel of players that were stretched to play shortstop. Mauer would win his third straight Gold Glove behind the plate, but it would be his last as he was eventually forced to move to first base. Orlando Hudson and Hardy formed quite the double-play combo and Span only strengthened the team’s up the middle defense. 3. 2006 Twins (34.8 Def, 30.8 UZR) Top Defenders: Jason Bartlett (16.1 Def, 11.6 UZR), Nick Punto (14.1 Def, 13.1 UZR), Joe Mauer (8.1 Def) Jason Bartlett and Nick Punto might surprise some to be at the team’s top defenders over the course of a season. Bartlett was helped by the fact that he played fewer than 880 innings so a player can hide more of their defensive flaws in a smaller sample size. Punto’s numbers above were at third base, but he also posted a 5.3 Def and a 4.6 UZR at shortstop albeit in 146.2 innings. It was one of Mauer’s worst defensive seasons as a catcher and he was still one of the best defenders on the team. 2. 2005 Twins (41.9 Def, 31.9 UZR) Top Defenders: Juan Castro (16.1 Def, 13.2 UZR), Jason Bartlett (15.6 Def, 12.6 UZR), Joe Mauer (8.6 Def), Torii Hunter (3.4 Def, 2.5 UZR, Gold Glove) For the fifth consecutive season, Hunter was awarded the Gold Glove, but he was limited to just over 810 innings in center. Minnesota turned to Lew Ford for 548 innings in center field and he finished fifth on the team with a 4.9 Def. Castro and Bartlett have high totals, but neither player played more than 590 innings at shortstop. In fact, Mauer and Justin Morneau were the only players to play close to 1,000 defensive innings at one position. Morneau’s 13.5 UZR was the team’s highest total and it was the highest mark he’d have in his entire career. 1. 2002 Twins (60.4 Def, 60.4 UZR) Top Defenders: Corey Koskie (21.9 Def, 19.9 UZR), Jacque Jones (11.5 Def, 17.6 UZR), AJ Pierzynski (8.9 Def), Torii Hunter (5.1 Def, 3.0 UZR, Gold Glove) ESPN dubbed them, “The Team That Saved Baseball,” and a lot of the credit can be given to the defensive side of the ball. Koskie might have been the AL’s best defensive player as his Def and UZR ranked him at the top of the league ahead of players like Darin Erstad and Alex Rodriguez. Minnesota had three players rank in the AL’s top six when it came to UZR (Koskie, Jones, and Doug Mientkiewicz). Koskie lost the Gold Glove to Eric Chavez, but the Twins had the last laugh as they defeated Oakland in the ALDS. Do you think the 2021 Twins can match the defensive numbers from 2002? 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
  15. Sinclair Broadcasting, owner of the Fox Sports regional networks, revealed Wednesday that Minnesota Twins games would be carried on Bally Sports North this year. The gaming and casino company will be lending its name to all the former Fox networks. While we still don't know if any of these games will be available to non-cable households, we do have the names of the failed suitors for the sponsorship, plus analysis from a Sinclair executive close to the negotiations. Please credit Twins Daily if you choose to share these: MyPillow Sports North. ("The owner didn't want to actually carry any games, he just wanted to run a livestream of him yelling about Georgia voting machines. Weird dude.") KARE11 Sports in the Backyard. ("They wanted to do all the pre and post-game shows from their backyard weather studio. We would have done that, but they also wanted a half-hour every week where KARE meteorologist Belinda Jensen would fight one of our announcers with her bare hands. We gave it a whirl and it became clear this wasn't a culture fit. The Bally's Corporation would also like to take this time to wish a speedy recovery to Tim Laudner as he recovers from what doctors call a 'classic Western Wisconsin beatdown.'") Joe Mauer's Sports Machine. ("Obviously Joe would have been a great partner for any Minnesota sports network. But when he found out these games would be carried on cable he had to back out. Apparently his mom told him cable TV is where they show boobs, butts, and swears, and he didn't want her to get all sore.") Minnesota Public Television Presents: Sports. ("Public television is not known for live sports coverage, but this seemed like a really intriguing partnership. Unfortunately the BBC just released all seven seasons of The Vicar's Regret, a British drama about 18th century manners and society. Between that and pledge drives we would have been forced to air all our games after Arthur but before Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.") Minnesota Sports With Chip and Joanna Gaines. ("They wanted to plaster Target Field with shiplap and farmhouse sinks. It was a non-starter. And Chip would not shut up.")
  16. Case for Induction There are currently 19 catchers that have been inducted into the Hall of Fame and Mauer is clearly above the threshold set by previous backstops. According to JAWS, Mauer ranks as the seventh best catcher all-time with all six players ahead of him already inducted and the four players behind him also enshrined. Mauer’s WAR, seven-year peak WAR, and JAWS total are all above the average of the Hall of Famers at his position. He topped the .400 mark in on-base percentage in six of his seasons as a catcher, a total exceeded by only four other catchers, none of whom started their careers after 1930. Since MLB began tracking Win Probability Added in 1974, Mike Piazza is the lone catcher ahead of Mauer in the WPA rankings. Mauer also does well when it comes to Clutch because he was able to compile a .943 OPS in nearly 850 plate appearances with two outs and runners in scoring position. Plus, he is the only AL catcher to win a batting title and he did it three times. Case Against Induction Mauer played 15 big league seasons, but the last five came after concussions forced him to move from behind the plate to first base. Many Hall of Fame catchers end up changing positions in the later parts of their careers, but its usually a gradual shift instead of the abruptness that came with Mauer’s change. Another knock against Mauer’s resume is the fact that he retired at the age of 35. All the other catchers ahead of him when it comes to JAWS played more seasons than Mauer. To put this in perspective, Nelson Cruz is three years older than Mauer. Longevity is something Hall of Fame voters appreciate because it allows for a player to accumulate some of the counting stats (3,000 hits, 500 home runs, etc.) that are usually guarantees of induction. Prediction Mauer will become eligible for the first time in 2024 and he has a very strong case to be elected. Some writers don’t feel that he will be a first ballot electee, because of his relatively brief career. However, the voting electorate continues to change with the possibility of these younger voters using a more analytics-based approach. Mauer will get elected but it might take a few years of being on the ballot. Do you think Mauer should be a first ballot selection? 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
  17. Was Mauer Clutch? There are many ways to look at the value a player brings to a team. One that has gained popularity in more recent years is Win Probability Added (WPA), a stat that has been kept since 1974. Among catchers during that time, Joe Mauer ranks second and he only trails current HOF member Mike Piazza. It took Piazza four trips through the BBWAA voting process to be elected, but this has been the case with multiple power hitters from the steroid era. Another FanGraphs statistic that uses WPA is Clutch, which measures how well a player performed in high leverage situations. Piazza does great when it comes to WPA because he had an extended career, but his Clutch score is actually negative. Joe Mauer ranks seventh all-time in Clutch due in large part to having a .943 OPS in nearly 850 plate appearances with two outs and runners in scoring position. Clutch as a statistic does have flaws because it compares a player to himself. Mauer hit .306/.388/.439 for his career so to have a positive Clutch, he has to hit better than those numbers in high leverage situations. Good hitters hit no matter the situation, so Clutch is something that is almost impossible to quantify. Going to WAR Wins Above Replacement (WAR) has become the common measuring stick for the value players accrue for their team. Currently, there are 16 catchers who have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Mauer ranks ninth all-time in WAR and his total is also higher than current catchers like Buster Posey and Yadier Molina that might be on the path to Cooperstown. Also, his WAR total is higher than the average of those already elected to the Hall. The players ahead of him on the WAR catching leaderboard are a who’s who of all-time catching greats. Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fisk, Mike Piazza, and Yogi Berra are among the greatest players of all-time and Mauer is right there with them. Mauer is also within 4.3 WAR of passing Berra and Piazza to place him fifth all-time. He’d have been able to reach that total with one more good season behind the plate. Show Me the Money Mauer signed the largest contract in Twins history following his MVP performance in 2009. For many fans, Mauer’s contract became a point of contention later in his career. His overall value and performance on the field were worth every penny out of the Pohlad’s pocketbooks. Prior to signing the contract, Mauer had provided the Twins with $160.8 million in value while his salaries had totaled $21.53 million. For his career, he provided the Twins with $329.5 million in value and he was paid just over $218 million. Obviously, his years after concussions forced him to move to first base weren’t worth $23 million per year. The Twins signed him to be a Hall of Fame catcher and he could wind up being the second Hall of Fame player to play his entire career in a Twins uniform. Was Mauer’s value enough to help his Cooperstown case? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  18. News broke on Sunday that Ron Gardenhire was retiring, effective immediately. The former Twins manager had been Detroit’s skipper for the last three seasons. He’s had a losing record in every season for the Tigers as they have been in full rebuild mode. Initially, his plan was to retire at the conclusion of the 2020 season, but a case of food poisoning and underlying health conditions pushed him into an early exit. In a press release, Gardenhire said, ““This is a bittersweet day for myself and my family. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the countless players and coaches that I’ve had the honor of working alongside for the last 16 seasons as manager. I’d also like to thank the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins for giving me the privilege of leading their clubhouses. While I’m stepping away from managing, I’ll be watching this group of Tigers closely in the next few years. There’s a lot of talent on this team, and a lot coming through the farm system. Tigers fans are going to enjoy the exciting times on the horizon.” Gardy’s Twins tenure started back in 1986 in his final year as a professional player. He played 117 games for the club’s Triple-A affiliate and hit .272/.347/.380 with 26 extra-base hits and a 70 to 45 strike out to walk ratio. He must have impressed the Twins, because he retired following the season and immediately started coaching in the Twins system. He quickly made his mark in his first three years as a minor league manager. He led teams in the Midwest League (Class A) and Southern League (Class AA) to one second place and two first place finishes. From there, he was promoted to being a coach on the big-league squad and he served as a coach for over the next decade (1991-2001). When Tom Kelly retired, Gardy took over with a flurry. In his first season as manager, he would lead the Twins to the AL Central crown and all the way to the ALCS before eventually losing to the eventual World Series champions, the Anaheim Angels. The Twins have yet to win a playoff series since that run, but Gardenhire’s impact was far from over. Minnesota would complete a three-peat of AL Central titles in 2004 before winning the title again in 2006. The club lost to the White Sox in Game 163 to end the 2008 season before coming back and winning a Game 163 against the Tigers to close out the Metrodome one year later. His final AL Central crown came in 2010 when he won his lone the AL Manager of the Year award. Many great players came to stardom under Gardenhire’s watchful eye. Johan Santana went on one of the greatest pitching runs in franchise history as he won two Cy Young awards before being traded to the Mets. Joe Mauer made his debut in 2004 and played a large portion of his potential Hall of Fame career under Gardenhire. Other players like Torii Hunter, Corey Koskie, Denard Span, Joe Nathan, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer would have long careers tied to Gardy’s tenure. Gardenhire’s personality was what separated him from previous Twins managers. He was able to connect with players and fans and he brought a passion that would overflow into the game. His club record 71 ejections would attest to that fact. If Twins teams were in contention, he pulled the right strings to be able to keep them in the race. Overall, he seemed to be able to get the best out of his players and to guide young players as they entered the league. Following the 2010 season, things went the wrong way in a hurry for Gardenhire and the Twins. For four straight seasons, the club lost over 90 games in the worst stretch of losing in franchise history. At his final Twins press conference, he said, “Sometimes people need to hear a different voice. They need a new face. I just want this organization to win; I’ll be rooting just like everybody else.” His 27 years in the Twins organization were over, but he was still part of the Twins family. Twins President Dave St. Peter said, “Baseball has always been better with Ron Gardenhire part of it. His legacy is highlighted by the hugely positive impact he made on players and staff. I will always remember his authentic connection to the fans. The Gardenhire family will always be part of the Twins family.” Twins fans might not have agreed with every on-field decision during the Gardenhire era, but his legacy will be felt throughout Twins Territory for years to come. Congratulations on retirement to Gardenhire and his family. May he stay healthy and enjoy the years ahead. What are some of your favorite Gardy memories? 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
  19. Minnesota had a decent run of first round picks in the early 1990s. Torii Hunter, Todd Walker, Mark Redman and Michael Cuddyer were all drafted in consecutive years leading into the three picks discussed below. All those players would make it to the big leagues and there are multiple All-Stars on the list. However, Minnesota’s luck ran out from there. Ryan Mills (1998, 6th overall) Ryan Mills had been a 13th round pick out of high school by the Yankees, but he opted to head to Arizona State and he greatly improved his draft stock. He played every professional inning with the Twins organization, but he failed to get out of Triple-A. He was the only top-10 pick that year not to make the big leagues. Other players taken later in the first round included Carlos Pena (25.5 WAR), Jeff Weaver (15.2 WAR), CC Sabathia (62.5 WAR) and Aaron Rowand (20.9 WAR). BJ Garbe (1999, 5th overall) One year after the Twins took Mills, BJ Garbe was the team’s first round pick and the team missed out for the second year in a row. Josh Hamilton and Josh Beckett were the first two players off the board, but some other well-known big leaguers were taken later in the first round. The Twins missed out on Barry Zito (31.9 WAR), Ben Sheets (23.2 WAR), Alex Rios (27.3 WAR) and Brian Roberts (29.5 WAR). Garbe played for three different organizations and never made it past Double-A. By the age of 25, he’d be out of baseball. Adam Johnson (2000, 2nd overall) Adam Johnson might be the biggest swing and a miss in team history. Minnesota saw the Marlins take Adrian Gonzalez with the first overall pick before they were on the clock. There was plenty of other strong talent left on the board including Rocco Baldelli (10.2 WAR), Chase Utley (64.4 WAR) and Adam Wainwright (40.5 WAR). Johnson would make his big league debut in 2001, just one year after being drafted. He would only make nine appearances with the Twins and he allowed 30 earned runs in 26.1 innings. Johnson was out of affiliated baseball at age-26 and his professional career was over before he turned 30. Minnesota’s first round ineptitude improved after the Johnson debacle. Joe Mauer was selected first overall in 2001, Denard Span was taken in 2002, Trevor Plouffe and Glen Perkins were taken in 2004, and Matt Garza was taken in 2005. While these picks all worked out well, one must wonder how the future of the franchise would have changed with different picks from 1998-2000. Which player was the biggest bust? Which player do you wish the Twins would have drafted instead of 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
  20. I sat in the stands back in 2006 as the Twins were locking up the AL Central and Mauer beat out multiple Yankees for his first batting title. At the time, I certainly thought it was great for a catcher to win a batting title, but I didn’t fully appreciate what it meant for a backstop to be able to not only play a physically demanding position, but to also hit at an ungodly level. He would go on to win batting titles in 2008 and 2009 before being named the American League’s Most Valuable Player for the 2009 campaign. He is the only catcher to win three batting titles. I don’t appreciate that enough and Twins fans don’t appreciate that enough. He was one of the best hitting catchers in baseball history and that’s why the Twins signed him to a franchise-altering contract. The National Baseball Hall of Fame collects information on possible future inductee and Mauer has some unique qualifications for the Hall of Fame. He topped the .400 mark in on-base percentage in six of his seasons at catcher, a total exceeded by only four other catchers. None of those catchers started their careers after 1930. Let that sink in for a minute. Mauer was a once-in-a-generation catcher… No, that’s not enough. He was more than once-in-a-generation and not enough praise is put on what he was able to do behind the plate. There were other very good catchers during the Mauer era, but none of them were able to match his offensive output. Yadier Molina, Jorge Posada, and Buster Posey all played in the same era as Mauer, but none were able to match his combination of offensive output and defensive capability. He was truly a once in a generation player. Batting titles alone certainly don’t qualify a player for baseball’s highest honor. That being said, Mauer’s circumstances are clearly unique. He won multiple batting titles while playing the most physically, and likely mentally, demanding position in the sport and he did so while being one of the best players in the game. He saw the ball. He hit the ball. And he did that better than any player to put on catching gear. No other American League catcher has won a single batting title. Not to mention, Mauer was able to pull off the trifecta. How much do Mauer’s batting titles help his Cooperstown Case? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  21. 2019: 53-29, 9 Games Up Minnesota still would have won the AL Central after 82 games, but the playoffs would have looked different for the Bomba Squad. New York had the top record in the AL after 82 games so Minnesota would have matched up with Houston in the first round. Besides matching up with the Astros, the Twins had the second-best record in the league and that would have meant home field advantage for the ALDS. 2017: 42-40, 2.5 Games Back Back in 2017, the Twins used a surge in the second half to separate themselves from the other teams in the American League and clinch the second Wild Card spot. After 82 games, the Twins wouldn’t have been so lucky. Minnesota would have been tied with Tampa Bay and Kansas City for the second Wild Card spot. This would have set up one crazy three-way tie breaker just for the opportunity to play the Yankees in another do-or-die game. 2010: 44-38, 1 Game Back Minnesota’s first year at Target Field had it’s share of memorable moments, but it wouldn’t have included the playoffs back in 2010. Through 82 games, the Twins trailed the Tigers by one game. Detroit would have walked away with the division, so maybe Minnesota had a shot at the Wild Card? Nope. Boston and New York were off to hot starts in the AL East and the Twins were five games behind the Red Sox for the lone Wild Card spot. 2009: 42-40, 3 Games Back 2009 was a fun season for the Twins as the club stormed back and forced an unforgettable Game 163 at the Metrodome. It might be the most exciting game in Twins history. It never would have happened if the season was shortened to 82 games. Minnesota would have trailed the Tigers by three games, and they would have been tied with the White Sox for second in the division. Either way, the Twins would have missed the playoffs and the drama of Game 163 would have never occurred. How would previous seasons change if they were limited to 82 games? 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
  22. As we look at the decade of the 2010s, it was pretty disappointing. The Twins opened Target Field in 2010, and they had a great stretch run to get back to the playoffs. And then there were a lot of struggles the rest of the decade. The team almost got to the playoffs again in 2015. They got to the Wild Card game in 2017. A new batch of young stars took their lumps, but things really came together in 2019. Rocco Baldelli's lineup was strong and set the MLB record for homers in a season on their way to a 102-win season. This group includes at least one future Hall of Famer, several Twins Hall of Famers, some All Stars, and some immensely talented players who will lead the Twins in the new decade. Before we jump to the 2020s, let's take one more look back at the 2010s. C - Joe Mauer (2010-2018) 1,159 games, .294/.376/.412 (.788) with 270 doubles, 71 homers, 526 RBI. If you choose to live in the world of What If, imagine what Joe Mauer’s career trajectory had been if not for the foul tip off of his face mask in 2013. At the time, he was hitting .324/.404/.476 (880). And yes, the numbers were never quite the same. He moved from behind the plate to first base… but he still remained a better than average player. He was an All Star in 2012 when he hit .319 and led the league with a .416 On-Base Percentage. He was an All Star and won the Silver Slugger in his shortened 2013 season as well. After 2013, he hit over .282 and posted an OPS over .752 just once. In 2017, he hit .305/.384/.417 (.801). Despite the relative struggles, he finished with an OPS+ below league average just once (2% below in 2015). He retired after the 2018 season with the Twins records in Times on Base and Doubles. He had his number #7 retired by the Twins in 2019. 1B - Justin Morneau (2010-2013) 411 games, .272/.340/.451 (.791) with 99 doubles, 58 homers, 237 RBI. Speaking of What Ifs… Justin Morneau may have been having his best season in 2010 when he slid into second base and took a knee to the head. At the time, he was hitting .345/.437/.618 (1.055) with 25 doubles and 18 home runs in 81 games. He was headed to the All Star game, but instead missed the rest of the season. He returned for a partial season in 2011 then spent all of 2012 with the team. With the Twins, he just didn’t fully recover from the concussion. Late in 2013, he was traded to the Pirates and was on their playoff roster. He won a batting title in Colorado in 2014 (.319) and hit .310 in 2015 before hit career ending after 58 games with the White Sox in 2016. 2B - Brian Dozier (2012-2018) 955 games, .248/.325/.447 (.772) with 202 doubles, 167 homers, 491 RBI. Dozier was the Twins 8th round pick in 2009 from Southern Mississippi. He made his MLB debut as a shortstop in 2012. That offseason, he worked with Paul Molitor and successfully transferred to second base the following season. He continued to get better each year. But his power stroke showed up in 2013 when he hit 18 homers. That was the team record for most homers by a second baseman. He hit 23 homers and 33 doubles in 2014. He hit 28 homers in 2008 (with 39 doubles). He played in the 2015 All Star game and homered in his lone at bat. In 2016, he hit 35 doubles and drilled 42 home runs and drove in 99 runs. In 2017, he hit another 30 doubles and 34 homers. He also won a Gold Glove Award that season. He struggled early in 2018 and was traded to the Dodgers at the July deadline. His 167 homers led the Twins for the decade by nearly 50. His 98 stolen bases was 24 more than Ben Revere stole. He played in the 2018 World Series and won a ring in 2019. He signed with the Padres for the 2020 season. 3B - Trevor Plouffe (2010-2016) 723 games, .247/.308/.420 (.727) with 148 doubles, 96 homers, 357 RBI. This is a tough one. Miguel Sano hit 118 homers in the decade, but we’re going with Trevor Plouffe. He was the Twins first, first-round pick in the 2004 draft. He debuted as a shortstop in 2010. He went up and down throughout the 2011 season. In 2012, he came up and for a stretch in June, he and Josh Willingham put on a major power display. In 2013, he finally made the full-time move to third base after playing all over the diamond and became a plus-defender. Plouffe ended that season with a career-high 24 home runs. He was a regular the next three seasons. His 96 homers ranked fourth in the organization in the decade. He split 2017 between the A’s and the Rays, and played in seven games for the Phillies in 2018. He’s now a star in the media! SS - Jorge Polanco (2014-2019) 441 games, .281/.339/.444 (.783) with 104 doubles, 45 homers, 226 RBI. Polanco signed in July 2009 and worked his way up the farm system. He was added to the 40-man roster in December 2013 after a strong season in Cedar Rapids. In 2014, he was called up from Ft. Myers a couple of times as depth, and again in 2015. He became a regular in the second half of 2016 and has been the primary shortstop since, well, except for that 2018 first-half suspension. He was struggling mightily in the first half of 2017. He couldn’t be sent down, but Paul Molitor gave him a weekend of game off, and he came back on fire, and he hasn’t really stopped hitting since. In 2019, he became the first Twins shortstop to start for the American League in the All Star game since Roy Smalley in 1979. He received MVP votes in 2019. LF - Eddie Rosario (2015-2019) 640 games, .270/.309/.479 (.788) with 127 doubles, 106 homers, 346 RBI. Rosario was the Twins 4th round pick in 2010 from Puerto Rico. He put up some great numbers in the minor leagues. Still, it was a surprise when he was called up to the big leagues early in 2015. An even better surprise? In his first MLB at bat, he homered off of Scott Kazmir. That season, he filled the stat line with 18 doubles, 13 homers, 11 stolen bases and a league-leading 15 triples.He added 16 outfield assists that season, showing off a powerful arm. After an up-and-down 2016 season, he has provided power to the Twins lineup the last three years. In 2017, he hit 33 doubles and 27 homers. In 2018, he missed much of September and still hit 31 doubles and 24 homers. Last year, he hit 28 doubles and added career highs in homers (32) and RBI (109). His 106 homers ranks third for the decade. CF - Byron Buxton (2015-2019) 393 games, .237/.292/.414 (.706) with 74 doubles, 38 homers, 145 RBI. Buxton was the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. He became one of the top prospects in the game. He was the Baseball America minor league player of the year in 2013. He was promoted from Double-A in mid-2015 when there was a roster crunch. He became a regular in 2016. In 2017, he played in 140 games and hit .253 with 14 doubles, six triples and 16 homers. He also stole 29 bases. He finished the season very strong and received MVP votes. After that season, he was presented the Gold Glove Award. He also won the Platinum Award for the best defensive player regardless of position. Unfortunately, he missed most of 2018 with injury. In 2019, he was putting together a great season when he ran into a wall and hurt his left shoulder. Through 87 games, he was hitting .262 with 30 doubles, four triples and ten homers. RF - Max Kepler (2015-2019) 553 games, .238/.319/.444 (.763) with 114 doubles, 92 homers, 280 RBI. Like Polanco, Kepler signed with the Twins in July 2009. The Berlin native spent a year in the GCL and then played two seasons in Elizabethton. In 2013, he moved up to Cedar Rapids. In AA Chattanooga in 2015, he hit .322/.416/.531 (947) with 32 doubles, 13 triples, nine homers and 18 steals. He was the Southern League MVP and after winning a league championship, he was promoted to the big leagues where he played in three games at the end of the season. He came up early in 2016 and hit a solid .235/.309/.424 with 20 doubles and 17 home runs. A solid .734 OPS for a rookie. But in 2017, his OPS was .737, and in 2018, it was .727. He hit 17, 19 and 20 home runs. All solid, but a step forward would need to happen. The Twins locked him up to a long-term deal. Kepler went out and earned it in 2019. He hit .252/.336/.519 (.855) with 32 doubles, 36 homers and 90 home runs. And he only was used as a pinch runner after September 14th. DH - Miguel Sano (2015-2019) 486 games, .245/.338/.498 (.836) with 87 doubles, 118 homers, 315 RBI. The most highly touted (maybe controversial) of the international class of 2009, Sano signed with the Twins in October. He was moving up the ladder quickly until he missed the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery. He debuted in July of 2015 and played great, posting a .916 OPS and hitting 17 doubles and 18 homers in 80 games. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. In 2016, he hit just .236, though he had 22 doubles and 25 homers. He returned to his rookie form in 2017, hitting .264 (.859) with 15 doubles and 28 homers. He played in the All Star Game and was runner up in the Home Run Derby. Unfortunately, his season ended early after a slide led to him having a titanium rod put in his leg. That offseason was a rough one. He was unable to work out. He found himself in the center of an MLB investigation. His season started but he really struggled. On June 13th, he was hitting .203 and was sent all the way down to Ft. Myers. He was pushed to lose weight and really work out. He spent time with the Miracle, the Lookouts and then the Red Wings before being called back up in late July. While the numbers didn’t improve much, there was a clear change in his physique and his work ethic (and diet ,and attitude, and…). His 2019 started late because of freak ankle injury. But he put together his best season. In 105 games, he posted a .923 OPS and hit 19 doubles with a career-high 34 homers. His 118 homers is second only to Brian Dozier for the decade. He is scheduled to be the Twins first baseman in 2020 with the addition of Josh Donaldson for third base. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EViDA5abYrU So what do you think about this team of the decade for this past decade? Players like Denard Span and Jim Thome were certainly considered. Eduardo Escobar would certainly be the Utility Player of the Decade. Another season and Mitch Garver may have been the catcher with Joe Mauer at first base. My rule on one-year players not being eligible made decision of potentially adding Nelson Cruz unnecessary. Share your thoughts? For more from this series, see below. 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 Howard Sinker) Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Pitchers) Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Pitchers)
  23. Tom Kelly suffered through some rough Twins seasons but when he retired after the 2001 season, he left the team in a good spot. Ron Gardenhire took over and the team won six division titles in a decade. As we have seen in other decades, much of that credit for this decade belongs to the offense. The team had two MVPs, a three-time batting champ, several Silver Sluggers and Gold Glove Awards, more All Stars, lots of 30+ double seasons and many 30+ home run seasons. The list below includes some of the better players in Twins history, but don't worry, there are still a few tough choices in this "lineup." And, frankly, there are some snubs that are deserving as well. Read through this list and share your thoughts in the lineup. The Twins Hitters of the 2000s C - Joe Mauer (2004-2009) 699 games, .327/.408/.483 (.892) with 158 doubles, 72 homers, 397 RBI. The #1 overall pick of the 2001 draft rose quickly through the Twins minor league system and made his debut on Opening Day 2004. In the following seasons, he became one of baseball’s best players. In 2006, he hit .347 to become the first catcher in American League catcher to win a batting title. He won another in 2008 (.328) and 2009 (.365). He was baseball’s best player in 2009 when he won the AL SABRmetric Triple Crown at .365/.444/.587 (1.031). He was named the league’s MVP that season. Through the 2009 season, he had three batting titles, three All-Star appearances, three Silver Sluggers and his first two Gold Glove awards. 1B - Justin Morneau (2003-2009) 867 games, .280/.350/.501 (.851) with 190 doubles, 163 homers, 623 RBI. Morneau was the Twins third-round pick in 1999. He made his MLB debut in 2003. He had his ups and downs for a couple of years, but he came into his own in 2006. He hit .321/.375/.559 (.934) with 37 doubles, 34 homers and 130 RBI. He won his first of two Silver Slugger Awards. He was an All-Star each of the next four seasons. He was the runner up for MVP in 2008. From 2006-2009, he hit 31 or more homers three of four years and drove in at least 100 runs all four years. 2B - Nick Punto (2004-2009) 659 games, .249/.325/.327 (.652) with 91 doubles, 11 homers, 174 RBI. Punto was the Twins 33rd-round pick in 1997, but he didn’t sign. He was later drafted by the Phillies and worked up to the big leagues with them. The Twins acquired him after the 2003 season in the Eric Milton trade, and he became a regular, playing a variety of positions, by 2005. While he’s not a perfect fit at second base, he provided the Twins a ton of versatility. He always took quality at-bats and made pitchers throw a lot of pitches. He also was a plus-plus defender around the infield. In 2006, he hit .290/.352/.373 (.725) with 29 extra base hits in 135 games. In 2008, he hit .284/.344/.382 (.726). He averaged nearly 16 stolen bases between 2005 and 2009. Also considered at the position: Luis Castillo. 3B - Corey Koskie (2000-2004) 688 games, .278/.373/.465 (.838) with 159 doubles, 89 homers, 377 RBI. Koskie, a native of Manitoba, was the Twins 26th-round pick in 1994. He made his debut late in the 1998 season. In 2000, he hit .300/.400/.441 (.841) with 45 extra- base hits. In 2001, he both scored 100 runs and drove in 100 runs. He also hit a career-high 26 home runs that season. He hit 37 doubles in both 2001 and 2002. He posted an OPS of .815 or higher in seven of eight seasons between 1999 and 2006. He also became a very reliable defensive third baseman. SS - Cristian Guzman (2000-2004) 710 games, .272/.308/.398 (.706) with 130 doubles, 38 homers, 263 RBI. Guzman was acquired by the Twins in the February 1998 Chuck Knoblauch trade. He was the Twins Opening Day shortstop starting in 1999. Initially, he was known for strong defense and his great speed. In 2000, he led the league with 20 triples. 2001 was his best season. He hit .302 and played in his first All-Star Game. He hit 28 doubles, a league-leading 14 triples, and a career-high ten home runs. He led the league with 14 triples again in 2003. LF - Jacque Jones (2000-2005) 881 games, .278/.327/.455 (.781) with 165 doubles, 123 homers, 432 RBI. Jones was the Twins second-round draft pick in 1996 out of USC (Southern California). The Olympian signed and made his debut midway through the 1999 season. 2000 was his first full season. In 2002, he hit .300 with 37 doubles and 27 home runs. In 2003, he hit .304 with 33 doubles and 16 homers. He hit 23 and 24 homers in 2004 and 2005, respectively. He was a solid left fielder with a great - though sometimes inaccurate - arm. Soon after the Twins acquired Shannon Stewart in 2004, Jones moved to right field. CF - Torii Hunter (2000-2007) 1,092 games, .273/.326/.478 (.803) with 241 doubles, 183 homers, 674 RBI. Hunter was the Twins first-round pick in 1993 out of high school. He had brief call ups in 1997 and 1998 but spent a lot of time traveling between AAA and the big leagues in 1999 and 2000 as well. He became a regular in 2001 and took off from that point. He was incredible with the glove and won six straight Gold Glove Awards between 2002 and 2007. He was an All-Star in those two seasons as well. Hunter hit a career-high 45 doubles and 2007. He had hit a career-high 31 homers in 2006. While known for his defense, Hunter came into his own offensively as well with the Twins. RF - Michael Cuddyer (2001-2009) 843 games, .270/.344/.457 (.801) with 173 doubles, 107 homers, 479 RBI. Cuddyer was the Twins top pick in the 1997 draft. He debuted very late in the 2001 season and had several cups of coffee in 2002 and 2003. He became a regular in 2004 and remained as such through the decade. He moved all over the diamond, but he became his best when he was thrown into right field where his rocket arm became a huge asset. That happened in 2006 when he hit .284/.362/.504 (.867) with a career-high 41 doubles, 24 homers and 109 RBI. In 2009, he received MVP votes for really leading the Twins in their incredible September to force a Game 163. That season, he hit .276/.342/.520 (.862) with 32 doubles and a career-high 34 home runs. DH - Lew Ford (2003-2007) 494 games, .272/.349/.402 (.750) with 80 doubles, 32 homers, 172 RBI. This may be a controversial choice, but Ford did play some DH throughout his time with the Twins. We could have gone with Denard Span whose first two MLB seasons were incredible with high batting average and on-base percentage. You could go with AJ Pierzynski who played in an All-Star Game as a Twins catcher before the Mauer years. How about Jason Bartlett for his short time with the Twins? For me though, the choice was Ford. In September of 2000, the Twins traded reliever Hector Carrasco to the Red Sox in exchange for Ford. He debuted in 2003 by hitting .329 (.928) in 35 games and made the playoff roster. In 2004, he burst on the scene with a huge first half which found him on the AL’s final vote for the last spot on the AL All- Star roster. Overall that season, he hit .299/.381/.446 (.827) with 31 doubles, 15 homers and 72 RBI in 154 games. He also had 20 stolen bases. That was the pinnacle, but he did play in 147 games in 2005. He spent most of the next two seasons with the Twins as well, though his performance dropped. But that 2004 season was special. What are your thoughts? Agree with the choices? 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 Howard Sinker) Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Pitchers)
  24. Torii Hunter Region Hunter’s defensive prowess was something that followed him through his big-league career, even after he was forced to move to a corner outfield position. He won seven Gold Gloves during his time in Minnesota and added two more after signing with the Angels. He was a clear pick as the number one overall seed, but would he have enough to make it through the entire bracket? Zoilo Versalles might have provided the biggest challenge to Hunter in the region. The former MVP won multiple Gold Gloves at shortstop. Many reached out on Twitter and wondered how many current fans even remembered Versalles and his slick glove up the middle. Even if he was good for his time, Hunter ended up winning the region and moved on to the Final Four. Kirby Puckett Region Kirby Puckett made arguably the most famous catch in team history during Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. He wasn’t a one-catch wonder though as he accumulated six Gold Gloves throughout his Hall of Fame career. Unfortunately for Puckett, his region had a strong number two seed and an upset looked like it could be on the horizon. First, Puckett had to get by Corey Koskie, one of the team’s best defensive third basemen. From there he matched up in the regional final against Joe Mauer, who had defeated Denard Span in round one. Mauer won multiple Gold Gloves behind the plate and likely should have won one during his time at first. He was a tremendous athlete and his defensive skills beat out Puckett to win the region. Jim Kaat Region Younger fans might not be aware, but Jim Kaat lived up to his nickname on the mound as he used cat-like reflexes to pounce on batted balls. He holds the team record for Gold Gloves, and he went on to win 16 for his career. Much like Versalles before him, would a younger crowd on Twitter know enough about Kaat to push him through the region? Kaat’s region was no breeze as it included some of the biggest names in team history. Tony Oliva, Gary Gaetti, and Greg Gagne had a chance to upset the region’s number one seed. The regional final would be a battle between Gaetti, the team’s outstanding World Series third baseman, and Kaat, the top seed. Cooler heads prevailed and Kaat qualified for the Final Four. Byron Buxton Region Recency bias could play a role in making Byron Buxton the number two overall seed in the tournament, but he has made some legendary plays in his big-league career. Unfortunately, his career has been limited because of a variety of injuries. Would fans overlook his injury time and allow him to move out of the region? Buxton first made quick work of Kent Hrbek, a team legend, but one that played his entire career at first base. The lower part of the bracket pitted two other first basemen as one player took over first base from another in a dramatic trade deadline deal. Buxton faced a Gold Glove winner, Doug Mientkiewicz, in the final, but the first baseman couldn’t pull off the upset and Buxton moved on to face Kaat in the Final Four. Final Four Torii Hunter versus Joe Mauer and Jim Kaat versus Byron Buxton comprised the semi-final matchups in the Best Defender Bracket. Mauer had upset the number one seed, Puckett, to qualify for the Final Four, but he wouldn’t have enough steam to take down Spider-Man. Fans are more familiar with Buxton and it was easy for him to take down Kaat, especially since Buxton’s defense has been other-worldly when he has been healthy. Hunter facing off against Buxton in the final was certainly an intriguing match-up. Hunter has more Gold Gloves and was able to stay healthy and on the field for most of his Twins tenure. Buxton makes spectacular plays but there have been injury concerns. Overall, Buxton is a better defender and the fans picked him over Hunter’s longevity. https://twitter.com/NoDakTwinsFan/status/1253497118645518337 Do you agree with the results? 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
  25. Multiple reports surfaced last week that Minor League Baseball was prepared to accept MLB’s proposal to eliminate more than 40 teams. Short-season and rookie ball would be eliminated but they would like to work out a deal where baseball could continue for the long-term in those cities. After these reports surfaced, MiLB responded and clarified that no agreements had been reached between the two parties. Many insiders believe MLB will use the loss of revenue from 2020 as the final push to get their desired outcome for Minor League Baseball. Some of the leagues are in need of reconfiguration to cut back on travel and other costs. Also, some of the facilities have been sorely ignored throughout the years and are hardly suitable for preparing athletes for the big-leagues. The E-Twins started play in 1974 and until recently, have seen few upgrades to the team’s facilities. Small clubhouses, no weight room and poor fan amenities were part of Elizabethton. In October 2018, the Twins agreed to upgrade the home clubhouse and add many modern training amenities. This could be one reason Minnesota might push to continue a partnership with the city of Elizabethton. Ray Smith, the manager in Elizabethton, might be the biggest reason for the team’s success. He took over the managerial role at age 31, just one year after retiring from his professional playing career. He spent all but two professional seasons in the Twins organization including all his big-league playing time. In those three MLB seasons, he was a light-hitting catcher as he ended his career hitting .219/.259/.270 (.529), while earning the nickname “Quality or Qualls.” He brought that quality approach to his minor league managerial role. Last season’s E-Twins finished one game below .500 and that ended a streak of 30 straight seasons with a .500 record or better. That’s not a typo; it’s a culture of winning. Smith has won 10 Appy League crowns, over 1000 regular season wins and guided the team to the playoffs in 14 of the last 17 seasons. Elizabethton has been a rite of passage for many of the team’s greatest players. After being taken with the first overall pick, Joe Mauer took his first professional swings in an E-Twins uniform. In 32 games, he hit .400/.492/.491 (.983) with eight extra-base hits. Like Mauer, Kirby Puckett started his pro career in Elizabethton with a .928 OPS and 21 extra-base hits across 65 games. Kent Hrbek and Gary Gaetti made stops there on the way to being World Series heroes. The E-Twins are part of the fabric of the Minnesota Twins organization and now that fabric has a good chance of being torn. Do you think E-Twins will ever play another game as an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins? 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
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