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  1. 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
  2. Hometown Kid Hrbek grew up in Bloomington, MN and attended Bloomington Kennedy High School. In 1978, the Twins drafted Hrbek in the 17th round of the MLB draft. Late in the summer after Kent was drafted, he still wasn’t sure if he would sign with the Twins or take his scholarship offer to play baseball at the University of Minnesota. Eventually, owner Calvin Griffith increased his offer to $35,000 and Hrbek decided to sign with the Twins and start his professional career. After posting OPS’s of .576 and .805 his first two years in the minors, Hrbek exploded onto the scene in 1981. In 121 games in the minors, he hit .379/.446/.630 (1.076) with 27 home runs, 111 RBI, and the same amount of strikeouts and walks. Hrbek’s .379 average was the second-highest for a full season in the minor leagues in the 1980’s. It was clear Hrbek was ready to make his Major League Debut. Hrbek got his feet wet in the majors at the end of 1981 but he really took the league by storm in his full first season, 1982. His rookie year, Hrbek hit .301/.363/.485 with 23 home runs and posted a wRC+ of 124. He also had 3.3 WAR, was named an all-star, and finished 2nd in AL Rookie of the Year voting, only behind some guy named Cal Ripken Jr. (I wonder if he ended up being any good?). Glory Years From 1983 to 1986, Hrbek was a picture of consistency, hitting .288 with a 125 wRC+ and 13.3 WAR. He especially excelled in 1984, with a career high 174 hits and driving in a career high 107 runs. He posted a 145 OPS+, 5.6 WAR, and finished second in MVP voting. In 1987, Hrbek finally experienced some team success. The Twins won their first division title since 1970 and Hrbek played a major role in the team’s success. That year, he hit a career high 34 homers, had a career high .934 OPS. Hrbek was not outstanding in the postseason in 1987, only going 8 for 44. But one of those eight hits remains one of the biggest hits in Twins history. With the Twins trailing 3-2 in the series to the Cardinals in the World Series, game six was a must win. Hitless in his first three at bats, Hrbek came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the sixth with the Twins clinging to a one-run lead. Hrbek took the first pitch he saw and deposited it past the center field wall. Hrbek blew the game open and gave the Twins a 10-5 advantage in game six, essentially clinching a game seven. One day later, Gary Gaetti fielded a ground ball and threw it across to Hrbek for the final out, and the Twins were World Series Champions. How fitting that the hometown boy caught the final out of the World Series. Running it Back After the magical World Series run in 1987, the Twins had a few mediocre years. During this time, Hrbek kept mashing, hitting .290/.375/.504 (.879) with a wRC+ of 140. In 1990, the Twins went 74-88 and it seemed like they were not a contending team anymore. In 1991 however, the Twins rekindled some of that magic that they had in 1987. Hrbek had a down year by his standards, only posting an OPS of .834 with 20 home runs, but it didn’t matter. On June 1, the Twins started a 15-game winning streak which brought their record from 23-25 to 38-25. This would prove not to be a fluke as the Twins went 95-67 and won the AL West. Hrbek hit a big home run in game one of the 1991 World Series and helped the Twins get out to a 1-0 lead in the series. In game two, Hrbek was involved in the most controversial play in Twins history. In the third inning, Ron Gant singled to left for the Atlanta Braves. He took a very wide turn at first base, and pitcher Kevin Tapani fired it to Hrbek. Gant got back to the base in time but Hrbek put a hard tag on Gant who came off the base and was called out. Many Braves fans still contend to this day that Hrbek pulled Gant off the base, but I will let you decide that yourself in the video below. The Twins would go on to win their second World Series in team history and the hometown kid was a champion once again. The Latter Years After his second World Series title, Hrbek started to regress with injuries and decreased performance. In 1994, Hrbek informed General Manager Andy MacPhail that he would be retiring at the end of the season, which ended up being on August 11th because of the player strike. Hrbek said he wanted to retire because it was something his dad never got the chance to do, and Kent wanted the chance to enjoy retirement. After Hrbek retired, he started a TV Program called Kent Hrbek Outdoors where he shared his love for hunting and fishing with viewers and showed them that despite his larger than life persona on the field, he was just another guy with a goofy personality. In his career, Hrbek hit .282/.367/.481 (.848). His .848 OPS is 5th best in Twins history. He hit 312 doubles (4th in Twins history), 293 home runs (2nd), scored 903 runs (5th), drove in 1086 runs (2nd), and accumulated 37.6 fWAR (6th among hitters). Hrbek is a Twins legend and his numbers back it up. Conclusion Hrbek is an all-time fan favorite Twin. With his slugging bat, his great glove, and his happy-go-lucky personality off the field, everyone around the Twin Cities loved Hrbek and he is the eighth best Twin of all-time. 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 - Coming Soon!
  3. After a spirited series of phone calls, emails, and at least one in-person visit to the league office, former Minnesota Twins great Kent Hrbek announced Thursday that delicious, overstuffed hoagies are not on Major League Baseball’s banned substances list. “This is a victory for the Twins and America,” said the longtime first baseman. “I understand that we need to get illegal substances under control, but not at the expense of hoagies.” MLB’s plan to crack down on the items pitchers use to exert a better grip on the baseball has roiled the entire league. For retired players like Hrbek, it’s been a mixed bag. “I’ve never even heard of Spider Tack, go ahead and get rid of it. But I saw that they were coming after sunscreen. Heck, if they’re coming after suntan lotion, they might be coming after sandwiches that are laden with mayonnaise, oil, assorted mustards, you name it. I’ll be damned if that’s going to happen to the game I love.” Sources in the league office tell Twins Daily that while it was apparent that Hrbek was the only one concerned about this, he was persistent. “The avalanche of emails from his Hotmail address was substantial,” said one source with knowledge of the situation. “They weren’t threatening in any way, just very concerned about the visual and textural similarities of Coppertone and Hellmann’s Mayo. We honestly couldn’t tell if it was a bit, but then he followed up with a question about Miracle Whip and tuna salad.” “Miracle Whip is a garbage condiment,” said Hrbek. “But I’ll defend the right of every major league clubhouse to have it on hand for hoagies, sandwiches, grinders, and subs. We have to have common sense about what’s legal and what isn’t.” A spokesman for Major League Baseball said that the pre and post-game meal options in the clubhouses will remain unaffected by the substance ban. Hrbek was relieved. “I’m just a kid from the suburbs but I tell you what, you ever have one of those pita sandwiches? With the spicy lamb and hot yogurt? Brother, I’m not a fan of yogurt but that is a phenomenal sandwich right there.” Image license here. Flickr/JeffreyW
  4. A: Bob Allison (211 Home Runs) Allison is possibly one of the most underappreciated sluggers in Twins history. His first All-Star appearance and his first 30-home run campaign came in a Senators’ uniform. Even with his season’s in Washington, he ranks sixth all-time in home runs in a Twins uniform. B: Tom Brunansky (163 Home Runs) Brunansky hit 20 or more home runs for eight straight seasons from 1982-1989. He also became the Twins first Home Run Derby participant when the Twins hosted the 1985 All-Star Game at the Metrodome. In that contest, he finished two home runs behind Dave Parker and tied with some all-time greats like Carlton Fisk, Eddie Murray, and Jim Rice. C: Michael Cuddyer (141 Home Runs) Cuddyer will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year and his home run total puts him in the top-12 in Twins history. He’d make his first All-Star appearance as a 32-year old in his final season with the Twins and he went on to win the NL batting title in 2013 with the Rockies. D: Brian Dozier (167 Home Runs) Dozier was a late bloomer when it came to Twins prospect as he wouldn’t make his big-league debut until he was 25. His first season with 30 or more home runs was 2016 when he was already 29-years old. His 42 home runs in 2016 are the most all-time in Twins history by a player not named Harmon Killebrew. E: Eduardo Escobar (63 Home Runs) Escobar is the gift that keeps on giving as the Twins seem to still be benefiting from his trade to the Diamondbacks. His best home run season came in Arizona, but he hit 21 home runs for the Twins in 2017 and he probably would have crossed that mark again in 2018 if he weren’t traded at the deadline. F: Dan Ford (57 Home Runs) This would be a lot of fun if Lew Ford ended up with the top spot, but he only hit 32 home runs as a Twin. Dan Ford played 11 seasons as a big-leaguer and broke into the AL as a 23-year old in 1975. He hit double-digit home runs in all four seasons with Minnesota. G: Gary Gaetti (201 Home Runs) A long-time fan favorite, Gaetti is one of only eight players to clock over 200 home runs with the Twins. He’d play at the big-league level until he was 41-years old in a career that spanned 20 seasons. He’d end his career with 360 long balls which is no small feat for a player that was also a strong defensive presence. H: Kent Hrbek (293 Home Runs) Bloomington’s own has his number retired by his hometown team and only one player in team history has hit more home runs. He retired at age-34, so it’s interesting to think about how many home runs he could have ended up with if he had played well into his 30s. I: None No Twins player has ever hit a home run with the last name starting with I. J: Jacque Jones (132 Home Runs) Jones ranks 13th on the Twins all-time home run list, but he is only one home run ahead of Miguel Sano. He played seven seasons in a Twins uniform and he would only accumulate 33 home runs outside of Minnesota. In 2002, he finished eight among position players in WAR when hie hit 27 home runs. K: Harmon Killebrew (475 Home Runs) The best home run hitter in Twins history and it’s not even close. No other player hit over 300 home runs for the Twins. He led the American League in home runs six different seasons, and he is one of two Twins players to hit more than 40 home runs in one season. Oh yeah, he did that seven different times. L: Tim Laudner (77 Home Runs) Laudner played all nine of his big-league seasons in Minnesota and hit double digit home runs in four different campaigns. His lone All-Star appearance came as a 30-year old when he hit .251/.316/.408 with 13 home runs and 18 doubles. M: Justin Morneau (221 Home Runs) The more powerful half of the M&M duo, Morneau hit 18 or more home runs in seven consecutive seasons. Only a handful of Twins players have hit more than 30 home runs in a season which Morneau did three different times. He has the third most home runs in team history. N: Eduardo Nunez (20 Home Runs) He helped the Red Sox win the World Series, but his lone All-Star appearance cam with the 2016 Minnesota Twins. He’s never hit more than 16 home runs in one season, but his defensive versatility allowed him to play parts of 10 different seasons at the big leagues. O: Tony Oliva (220 Home Runs) Outside of Joe Mauer, Oliva might be the greatest Twins player that hasn’t been elected to the Hall of Fame. He became the first designated hitter to hit a home run while hitting 13 or more home runs in 11 different seasons. Only three players have hit more home runs for the Twins. P: Kirby Puckett (207 Home Runs) Puckett’s most famous homer came in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series, but he hit plenty of other home runs in a Twins uniform. He hit double digit home runs in nine different seasons, and he hit 20 or more home runs in six different years. He ranks seventh in club history. Q: Frank Quilici (5 Home Runs) Surprisingly, his five home runs aren’t the lowest total on this list. He played parts of five different seasons with the Twins and ended his career as a .214/.281/.287 hitter. He was part of Minnesota’s first World Series team in 1965 and he played on the 1970 team that lost to Baltimore in the ALCS. R: Eddie Rosario (119 Home Runs) Rosario’s time in Minnesota might be done and if it is, he will finish his Twins tenure with the 15th most home runs in club history. As part of the 2019 Bomba Squad, he hit a career high 32 home runs. He has hit 10 or more home runs in every big-league season. S: Miguel Sano (131 Home Runs) After six seasons, Sano already ranks 14th in team history when it comes to home runs. If he hits 13 or more home runs next season, he will pass Joe Mauer and move into 11th on the Twins all-time list and he’s 22 home runs away from breaking into the top-10. T: Cesar Tovar (38 Home Runs) Tovar hit double-digit home runs in two seasons, but he was more known as a doubles hitter. He led the American League in doubles and triples back in 1970 and he had the most hits in the league during the 1970 campaign. U: Ted Uhlaender (23 Home Runs) His lone double-digit home run season came after he left the Twins organization. As a center fielder, he wasn’t known for his power, but he got on base over 30% of the time. V: Zoilo Versalles (86 Home Runs) The 1965 AL MVP led the league in runs, doubles, and triples that season. Versalles is one of three Cuban born players to take home MVP honors including Jose Abreu in 2020. He only hit double-digits in home runs in four seasons, but all those seasons were with the Twins. W: Josh Willingham (61 Home Runs) Willingham only played parts of three season with the Twins but only four Twins players have hit more than his 35 home runs in 2012. His career took a steep downturn from there as he never hit more than 14 home runs in another season. X: None No Twins player has ever hit a home run with the last name starting with X. Y: Delmon Young (47 Home Runs) Young was acquired to be the powerful right-handed bat to break-up Minnesota’s lefties (Mauer and Morneau). He hit a career high 21 home runs in 2010 before going on to have some postseason success with the Detroit Tigers when he won the 2012 ALCS MVP. Z: Jerry Zimmerman (3 Home Runs) Zimmerman play parts of seven seasons with the Twins, but he only played more than 85 games in one season. He hit one home run in each season from 1965-1967 to end up with the most home runs for the letter Z. What names stand out to you on this list? What home run from these players do 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
  5. To tell the story of Matt Walbeck, it goes back to his early days as a baseball fan in northern California. He was able to watch and learn from two really good major-league teams, the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants. As he said, “I liked both. I would go to the Giants and the A’s games with my dad. I was one of those fans that pulled for both of them.” He wasn’t the biggest kid, but he had a lot of support and kept working, and growing. “I wanted to be a Major League Baseball player ever since I was five. I had to fight for everything that I had. I was never the biggest or strongest kid on the team. My dad was my coach and used to practice with me a lot. By the time I got to high school, I was still considered too small to catch. So freshman and sophomore years, I played other positions like second or third base.” An opportunity arose during his junior year. “The catcher in front of me didn’t get good grades, so I took over the spot. I started to lift weights and got bigger and stronger. I always knew I was going to play in the Major Leagues, but it wasn’t until that point that I realized I had a chance to get drafted. The scouts were coming and looking at one of my teammates, Wayne Weinheimer, who played in the minor leagues with the Cubs.” He became a very good, highly-touted high school player in Sacramento and became the eighth round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs in 1987. “I was going to sign no matter what out of high school because I always wanted to get to the big leagues, and I figured there was no better way than to learn how to play professional baseball as a youngster. I was 17.” As a high school draft pick, he gradually made the move up the minor leagues, though there was some extended missed time. “When I was 19, I blew my knee out. I had a career-threatening ACL/MCL injury.” The injury cost him part of the 1989 season and most of the 1990 season. But you could say that he made the most of the time off, adding another aspect to his game. He said, “During the time it took me to rehab my knee, I taught myself to switch-hit. So I came back as a switch-hitter.” He spent the entire 1992 season at Double-A Charlotte. He had hit .301/.358/.418 (.776) with 22 doubles and seven homers. He went to spring training with the Cubs in 1993. Ryne Sandberg broke his arm and started the season on the Disabled List. That opened up a roster spot. Just days before the season was set to begin, GM Larry Himes and manager Jim Lefebvre called him over during batting practice. “I walked over. I thought they were going to send me down, but they said, ‘Hey, Congratulations! You made the team.’ So, that was pretty exciting.” I’d say so. He played in 11 games for the Cubs at the start of the season and hit .200. However, he had two doubles and a home run (off of Jose DeLeon) among his six hits. He spent the rest of that season in Triple-A. Following that 1993 season, the Twins traded right-hander Willie Banks to the Cubs for Walbeck and right-hander Dave Stevens. The Twins hoped they had their catcher and closer for the next several years. “It was really exciting. Baseball is a business, and I understood that deals had to be made. It opened up a spot for me to really learn from Tom Kelly, and play alongside Kirby Puckett. To learn to play the game like that, having watched the Twins as a minor leaguer, watching them win the World Series in 1987 and again in 1991. I knew quite a bit about their organization and the importance they placed on the fundamentals of the game, to always play hard and get the most out of what you had.” Of course, he was a young player who played for Tom Kelly, who was very well known for not being real patient with rookies.. “My Tom Kelly experience was... I learned a great deal from him. He was very difficult on younger players, and I had it coming. Sometimes I spoke more than I listened. I was young, inexperienced. I didn’t really understand what it was like to play in the Major Leagues. At the same time, even as a young player, you have to be very confident. Sometimes you walk the line of being overly confident. He was very hard on me. I think he respected me. I respected him.” Walbeck continued, “It was a tough time for him, trying to rebuild. And, trying to fill the shoes of Brian Harper isn’t an easy task. He was an amazing player. It was very difficult to fill those shoes. The city welcomed me. The teammates were great. TK was great, but sometimes he had very little patience, and understandably so.” Minnesota Twins The Twins had the two World Series titles, but things went downhill fairly quickly after the 1992 season. “It was a tough time for the Twins and for baseball in general. “Our teams weren’t very good. Our winning percentage wasn’t very good. It was tough losing more than winning, and rebuilding. There were a lot of great moments, but certainly a lot of not great moments.” Across the league, things were changing as well. “We went on strike in 1994, and we came back later in 1995. So the game was somewhat going through some growing pains. We broke it apart for a little bit. Owners and players alike. It became a challenge from that point too. The game had changed. They did some re-alignment. They added a division, the Central. I can remember Hrbek saying he was disappointed because we didn’t play the A’s in the same division anymore because they were rivals.” He made the Opening Day roster in 1994 and spent three seasons with the Twins. In 275 games played, Walbeck hit .230 with 40 doubles and eight homers. Walbeck said, “(TK) stuck with me, and he gave me more chances than I probably deserved, to be honest. The whole organization did. I was so fortunate to have that opportunity, and looking back on it, getting to play with Kirby Puckett and Chuck Knoblauch, and to catch Scott Erickson and Rick Aguilera.” He added, “I mean, I remember hitting behind Dave Winfield. That was just surreal. Kent Hrbek. All those guys.” He was there for Dave Winfield’s 3000th hit, “Molitor too. I was there for Paul Molitor’s 3000th hit.” But his favorite memory? “ My biggest memory, my happiest moment playing for the Twins, was catching Scott Erickson’s no-hitter. By far. That was my career highlight.” He really grew to love the Twin Cities too. “The city itself is just a wonderful city. I really learned to fish there, and get into the great outdoors. Man, what a great experience!” His playing time lessened in 1996, and after that season he was traded to the Detroit Tigers. He spent a season with the Tigers before spending three seasons with the Angels. “Playing in Anaheim was great because it was closer to home. It was my first multi-year contract. That was awesome. I got to play for Mike Scioscia, Terry Collins and even Joe Maddon a little bit.” He spent the 2001 season in the Phillies organization. “I was in Philadelphia for a long time. That was when 9/11 hit. I didn’t have an at bat for three weeks or so. My wife was getting ready to give birth, so I had to leave pretty soon too. We were making a playoff run, and I didn't have any at bats. It came down to the point where I had to literally beg Larry Bowa to get me in there. It was in Florida, on the road, game was out of hand, and he was somewhat hesitant but then finally gave in. I realized that at-bat was going to be my only at-bat for the entire year. Reflecting on my baseball card, with my stats, this was it. I didn’t know if I was ever going to play again. I was fortunate enough to get a hit in that at bat, so I batted 1.000 that year. Oh man, talk about a career highlight. It really doesn’t mean a lot but to me it was pretty special.” He ended his career with two more seasons in Detroit. “2002 was a rough season. Then 2003 was really rough. We went 43-119 which was … we almost broke the record for the all-time losingest season.” Upon retirement, Walbeck went into the world of coaching. He had a ton of success, winning a couple of league championships, as a minor league manager in the Tigers organization. He spent a season coaching for the Texas Rangers in 2008. Then he went back to managing. After 11 seasons, “that was enough.” “I look back on it very fondly. At the end of the day, I’ve worked for ten of 30 major-league teams as either a player, coach or a manager. That’s over 25 years of professional experience in organized baseball. I”m only 50, but I still look back on it and think, ‘Wow! I’ve accomplished a lot.’ Half my life I was in pro baseball. Pretty cool.” --------------------------------------------------------- He went back home to Sacramento. He did some lessons, but he was able to be a dad and a husband, helping his wife as their three children were growing up. Walbeck’s son is now 21 and just got his first ‘real’ job. He’s got a daughter who just finished high school and is headed to college soon. He’s also got a daughter in eighth grade. In 2011, his lessons developed into a business, the Walbeck Baseball Academy. Walbeck offers training classes. Players come into his facilities and warm up. They choose classes like hitting, pitching, or the catcher position. They have memberships or training plans. They would enroll and come in to train. Well, that was before COVID. Walbeck had to let some staff go since students can’t come into the facilities for indoor training.. Now Walbeck is at the office nearly every day handling online training. He offers Zoom classes, three to five classes a day, up to five days a week. He has up to 15 players in each class. He says over the past, he’s done 250 Zoom classes and reached about 1,400 students. “It’s pretty amazing to see the improvements the kids are making, and the different areas they work around their house, such as the garage or the living room, or kids will go to the park. We do drills, and I focus on each kid, and I help them with their technique and their concentration and their confidence.” Walbeck lives in a suburb of Sacramento, and his facility is in Rancho Cordero, California. Most of the players who have attended the facilities are from within a 50-mile radius. However, with the online training and camps on Zoom, you can sign up and participate from anywhere around the country. For more information, be sure to bookmark Walbeck Baseball Academy. Check out the training opportunities and the camps. Check out the schedule of training coming up. Hey, there are even training sessions for adults. --------------------------------------- One more fun story from Walbeck. We talked a bit about how the Catcher position has evolved since he was a big league catcher. “That position has changed dramatically over the years. When I was trained to play professionally, your job was to block pitches and be in a position to throw guys out, as well as receive the pitch. But you also had umpires back in those days that would come down on you if you tried to frame pitches.” “In fact, Paul Runge was my first umpire in a spring training game, and he literally told me he would have my (butt) if I ever tried to frame another pitch for the rest of my career.” “I couldn’t believe it. I went to Tom Trebelhorn and said, ‘Hey get a load of this…I’m not supposed to frame pitches.’ “He said, ‘Hey, you get back out there and tell him you’re paid to do this.’ OK. This guy is a veteran ump in the major leagues, so I had to deal with that.” “The umpire catcher relationship was very strong. You had to have their trust. You didn’t want to try to steal anything from them. Nowadays, you’re literally trying to steal pitches from them. Yeah, you’d try to steal pitches, but you didn’t want to embarrass yourself by pulling pitches too far. Now there’s so much emphasis on trying to pull pitches.” ---------------------------------------------------------- I’ve got to say, this was a fun phone call for me. I think the interview portion was about 15-18 minutes, and then we just talked baseball for another 20-25 minutes. It was fantastic, and you can just hear and feel Matt Walbeck’s joy and passion for the game of baseball. If you get a chance, please take a look at the Walbeck Baseball Academy website, and consider signing up for one of his training sessions.
  6. FanGraphs went through this exercise while using players drafted (and signed) in the last decade. For the Twins version, it was a little more critical to go further back throughout the team’s history. Spoiler alert... There haven't been that many good starting pitchers in team history. Players were only eligible if they were drafted by the Twins after the fifth round and they had to sign with the club. As the original article said, “To illustrate how much talent is at stake, let’s build some teams of players drafted in rounds that don’t exist in this year’s draft.” Catcher: Mitch Garver (9th Round) Garver was the back-up catcher on the FanGraphs roster, which seems like a slight towards the reigning AL Silver Slugger winner. Their predicting system says that Garver’s 1.8 WAR is just under the 1.9 WAR projected for Tucker Barnhart. Either way, Garver is an easy pick when it comes to the best late round catcher in Twins history. First Base: Kent Hrbek (17th Round) The Twins got lucky by taking a hometown slugger who turned out to be one of the best hitters in team history. He was a key cog in both the team’s World Series titles and he has been a fixture in the Twin Cities since his retirement. Outside of Harmon Killebrew, Hrbek is arguably the best first baseman to ever suit up for the Twins. Second Base: Brian Dozier (8th Round) Dozier was a late bloomer as he didn’t debut until he was 25-years old. He became a fan favorite on some pretty bad Twins teams. From 2015-2017, he averaged 35 home runs including one season with 42 long balls. He won a Gold Glove and even made an All-Star appearance. Third Base: Corey Koskie (26th Round) Koskie was part of a key group of Twins that helped bring the team back from the brink of contraction. Outside of Gary Gaetti, Koskie is the next best third baseman in team history. He played seven years for the Twins and hit .280/.373/.462 with 101 home runs and 180 doubles. His defense at third was also Gold Glove caliber. Shortstop: Jeff Reboulet (10th Round) In five years with the Twins, Reboulet got on base over 33% of the time. He played decent defense at shortstop but having Koskie on the same side of the infield could take some pressure off him. He played on some bad Twins teams in the early 1990’s and went on to have a 12-year big league career. Outfield: Matt Lawton (13th Round), Steve Braun (10th Round), Lyman Bostock (26th Round) Lawton would become a two-time All Star in his career and one of those seasons was with the Twins. That year, he hit .305/.405/.460 with 13 home runs and 44 doubles, a career high. Braun and Bostock might not be as well known to younger Twins fans. Braun played for the Twins from 1971-1976 and had a .757 OPS. Bostock played four seasons at the big-league level and three of them were in Minnesota. For his career, he hit .311/.365/.427 while averaging over 25 doubles per season. From 1976-1978, only Rod Carew and Dave Parker hit for a higher batting average than Bostock. He was tragically murdered near the end of the 1978 season. DH: Jason Kubel (12th Round) During his minor league career, Kubel looked like he might be on a path to join Mauer and Morneau as a middle of the order bat. Baseball America ranked him as the 17th best prospect on their top-100 list entering the 2005 season. A devastating knee injury slowed his prospect status, but he went on to have a decent 10-year career as a big leaguer. Bench: Steve Lombardozzi (9th Round), Rob Wilfong (13th Round), Danny Valencia (19th Round), Rick Dempsey (15th Round) Lombardozzi was one of the regular contributors on the team’s run to the 1987 World Series, which happened to be his best big-league season. Wilfong’s best season were in a Twins uniform as he hit .262/.322/.360. Valencia finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting after posting a .799 OPS back in 2010. Dempsey was a catcher for 24 years at the big-league level and he played until he was 42-years old. He seemed like a natural choice to be the back-up catcher behind Garver. Rotation: Brad Radke (8th), Nick Blackburn (29th), Pat Mahomes (6th), Mark Guthrie (7th), Darrell Jackson (9th) This isn’t exactly a rotation that is destined for greatness. Brad Radke is the lone bright spot and it’s tough to consider that Nick Blackburn might be the second-best pitcher in the rotation. Luckily, the bullpen includes some of the top relief pitchers in team history, so the manager could have the starter go once through the line-up and hand the game over to the bullpen. Bullpen: Pat Neshek (6th), Latroy Hawkins (7th), Taylor Rogers (11th), Eddie Guardado (21st), Mike Trombley (14th), AJ Achter (46th), JC Romero (21st) Since the starters are limited, it’s nice to look at all the options available in the bullpen. Neshek, Hawkins and Romero could be used in the middle innings leading into a late inning tandem of Rogers and Guardado. As Twins fans saw last year, Rogers can be used for multiple innings with plenty of effectiveness. Sign me up for this bullpen. How do you feel like this team would do? 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
  7. The Rabbit Ball Season (1987) During the 1987 season, 79 players hit 20 home runs, a new record at the time. In the five seasons prior to the Rabbit Ball Season, the most players with 20+ homers in a season was 1986 when 60 players topping that mark. Four out of the top six home run totals all came in the 1987 season including Andre Dawson (49), Mark McGwire (49), George Bell (47) and Dale Murphy (44). Minnesota’s 1987 season is remembered for the team’s first championship, but the club also took advantage of the Rabbit Ball Season. Four Twins hit more than 20 home runs: Kent Hrbek (34), Tom Brunansky (32), Gary Gaetti (31) and Kirby Puckett (28). For Hrbek, it would be the only time he would cross the 30-homer threshold while Brunansky tied his career high. The Twins actually had five players in 1986 that hit 20 or more home runs but moving beyond the Rabbit Ball Season clearly put the Twins in a different light. The Aftermath (1988 and Beyond) MLB’s 1988 season saw a sharp decline when it came to home runs with only one player, Jose Canseco, topping the 40-home run mark. Overall, teams hit 3180 home runs compared to the 4458 home runs knocked out the year before. After a record- breaking 79 players had 20+ home runs, that total wouldn’t crack 50 again until 1991. Batters also saw their average OPS drop from .747 in 1987 to .696 in 1988. Offensively, the Twins looked a little different in 1988. Three players (Gaetti, Hrbek, and Puckett) had more than 20 home runs, but only six players were able to hit 13 or more home runs. Puckett might have been the brightest spot on the team as he hit .356/.375/.545 (.920) and led the league in a variety of offensive categories (at-bats, hits, singles, and total bases). He lost the batting title to Wade Boggs who hit .366 and no other hitters were higher than .325. In 1989, Kent Hrbek was the lone player on the team to hit more than 25 home runs. Gary Gaetti came close with 19 and Puckett dropped down to single digits in homers (9). In fact, the 1991 season was next season that saw anyone other than Hrbek hit more than 20 home runs. Chili Davis joined Hrbek in the 20-home run club and the club went on to their second World Series title in the last five seasons. No one knows if the baseballs will be similar or different for the 2020 season. Looking back at the aftermath of the Rabbit Ball Season, there’s a good chance home run rates will decrease this year. Maybe the Bomba Squad will have enough power to overcome it. Do you think the baseball will be different whenever MLB action is seen again? 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
  8. 6th Round: Pat Neshek (10.7 Career WAR, 3.0 Twins WAR) Neshek has gone on to have a 13-year big league career as he appeared in 20 games last season for the Phillies. He’s been selected to four All-Star teams, but they have all come after he turned 33-years old. His time in Minnesota (129 2/3 innings) saw him compile a 3.05 ERA with a 1.01 WHIP and a 151 to 45 strikeout to walk ratio. 7th Round: Latroy Hawkins (18.0 Career WAR, 8.1 Twins WAR) Hawkins pitched nine seasons in a Twins uniform, but the more amazing feat might be the fact he pitched in the big leagues until his age-42 season. Minnesota used him as a starting pitcher through the 1999 season, but he led the league in earned runs that year and would transition to the bullpen for the rest of his career. Because most of his Twins tenure was as a starter, his 5.05 ERA 1.523 WHIP are high. However, no one pitches 21 years in the big leagues without providing some value. 8th Round: Brad Radke (45.4 Career/Twins WAR), Brian Dozier (23.6 Career WAR, 22.7 Twins WAR) Radke and Dozier are a strong duo to pull out of the draft’s same round. Since the Twins moved to Minnesota, only five players have compiled more WAR in a Twins uniform and four of them are in the Hall of Fame (Carew, Killebrew, Puckett and Blyleven) and the fifth, Mauer, likely could be there someday. Dozier was a late bloomer as he didn’t debut with the Twins until age-25 and he was a first-time All-Star at age-28. His last three full seasons in Minnesota he hit .258/.335/.496 while averaging 35 home runs per season. 9th Round: Mitch Garver (5.1 Career/Twins WAR) Like Dozier, Garver was a bit of a late bloomer, but he’s revamped his offensive and defensive approach since leaving college. He has 218 games played at the big-league level and last season he was masterful at the plate with a .995 OPS and 31 home runs while only appearing in 93 games. Many fans were looking forward to what he was going to be able to do for an encore performance during the 2020 campaign. 10th Round: Steve Braun (17.4 Career WAR, 15.0 Twins WAR), Jeff Reboulet (10.0 Career WAR, 5.8 Twins WAR) For younger fans, Braun might be a name that is a little less familiar. He played the bulk of his career during the 1970s and early 1980s when the Twins were between their strong 1960’s teams and their future World Series squads. In over 750 Twins games, he hit .284/.376/.381 while playing all over the infield. Reboulet joined the Twins in 1992 as a 28-year old that spent six seasons working his way through the minors. He posted a .335 OPS and played decent enough defense at shortstop and third base to help his value. 11th Round: Taylor Rogers (6.4 Career/Twins WAR) As the team hurdled toward 100-wins last season, Rogers anchored a bullpen that saw some trepidatious moments through the middle of the season. Over the last two seasons (137 1/3 innings), he has posted a 2.62 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP with a 165 to 27 strikeout to walk ratio. That includes a season where the baseball was flying out of the park at a record pace. Other Late Round Picks: Kent Hrbek (17th Round: 38.4 WAR), Eddie Guardado (21st Round: 13.3 WAR), Corey Koskie (26th Round: 24.6 WAR), Matt Lawton (13th Round: 15.0 WAR) Some important figures in Twins history fell even deeper than the 12th round of the draft. Hrbek has his number retired by his hometown team and he was a vital part of the two World Series runs. Guardado and Koskie both played pivotal roles on the Twins as the team rebuilt itself in the 2000s. Lawton played on some bad Twins teams in the late 1990’s but he was one of the best players on those squads. Who gets your vote for the best late round pick in Twins history? Leave a COMMENT and join 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. The 1960s presented Minnesota baseball fans with a new team, the Twins, and those teams provided some really good baseball for most of the decade. There were so many great players. The 1970s presented Minnesota Twins fans with a lot of mediocrity. Rod Carew and Bert Blyleven put up Hall of Fame caliber numbers, but other than that, there were some strong single seasons, and a few players had two or three quality seasons. The 1980s Twins teams began really bad. Really bad. However, a young core of players were developing into a team that brought the first World Series title to Minnesota... and then a second four years later. There were several Twins Hall of Famers, and one MLB Hall of Famer in that group. The Twins of the second half of the decade could certainly hit. Below you'll find my choices for a Twins All-Decade lineup. A couple of the choices were difficult and will likely cause some discussion. Some were quite easy. Enjoy! C - Tim Laudner (1981-1989) 734 games, .225/.292/.391 (.682) with 97 doubles, 77 homers, 263 RBI. Laudner went to high school at Park Center, in Brooklyn Park (MN), and went to the University of Missouri. In 1979, the Twins made him their third-round pick. In 1981 he hit 42 homers at Double-A Orlando before the Twins called him up late in the year and he added two more. While he never hit, he was the team’s regular catcher for most of the decade. In the 1987 postseason, he was referred to as “Buck-Ninety” because he hit just .191 on the season. He hit .318 with a double and a homer in the World Series. He then was named an All-Star in 1988. 1B - Kent Hrbek (1981-1989) 1,156 games, .290/.368/.496 (.864) with 224 doubles, 201 homers, 724 RBI. The Twins made Hrbek their 17th-round pick in 1978 out of Bloomington (MN) Kennedy High School. He made his debut in August 1981. In 1982, he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting (to some Ripken guy who played in Baltimore). As a 22-year-old, he also played in his first (and only, by choice) All-Star Game. In 1984, he hit .311/.383/.522 (.906) with 27 homers and finished second in MVP voting. He hit over 20 homers in seven seasons in the ‘80s. In 1987, he hit a career-high 34 home runs. He added a home run in both the ALCS and the World Series in 1987. 2B - John Castino (1980-1984) 518 games, .277/.329/.398 (.727) with 73 doubles, 36 homers, 197 RBI. Castino’s career was cut short by major back issues. He debuted and was the co-Rookie of the Year in 1979. However, he played most days for the first four seasons of the 1980s. His best season was 1980 when he hit .302 with 17 doubles, seven triples and 13 home runs. He had another strong season in 1983, hitting .277 with 30 doubles and 11 homers. However, after just eight games in 1984, his career was done. 3B - Gary Gaetti (1981-1989) 1,207 games, .259/.311/.445 (.757) with 225 doubles, 185 homers, 673 RBI. Does anyone else feel that Gary Gaetti is a little underrated in Twins history? He is overshadowed, to some degree, by Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett. Gaetti debuted late in the 1981 season and became the team’s regular third baseman the following year. He was an All-Star in both 1988 and 1989, and was better in 1986 (34 homers, 108 RBI) and 1987 (31 homers, 109 RBI). He hit 19 or more homers in seven of the eight seasons in the 1980s. In addition to hit offensive prowess, Gaetti won four straight Gold Glove Awards between 1986 and 1989. SS - Greg Gagne (1983-1989) 717 games, .250/.294/.396 (.689) with 115 doubles, 47 homers, 216 RBI. Early in the 1982 season, the Twins traded their shortstop Roy Smalley to the New York Yankees. One of the players who came to the Twins in the deal was their shortstop for most of the rest of the decade, Greg Gagne. Gagne played 12 total games for the Twins between 1983 and 1984, but in 1985 he became the team’s regular shortstop. With Gagne, there wasn’t a lot of offense. However, in 1987, he hit .265/.310/.430 (.740) with 28 doubles, seven triples and ten homers. While not a great base stealer, Gagne had great speed. He also was a very good defensive shortstop. LF - Gary Ward (1980-1983) 407 games, .284/.332/.463 (.795) with 80 doubles, 51 homers, 218 RBI. Ward originally signed with the Twins in August of 1972. It was a slow process up the ladder. He spent 1975 and 1976 in Double-A. He spent 1977-1980 in Triple-A. He played a combined 23 big league games between 1979 and 1980. In 1981, he became an everyday player and remained with the team until a trade to Texas following the 1983 season. In 1982, he hit .289 with 33 doubles, seven triples and had career-highs with 28 homers and 91 RBI. In 1983, he played in his first All-Star Game and hit a career-high 34 doubles. He continued to play through the 1990 season. CF - Kirby Puckett (1984-1989) 924 games, .323/.357/.469 (.826) with 197 doubles, 96 homers, 506 RBI. Puckett was the third overall pick in the January phase of the draft. Two years later, he was in the big leagues. He came up as a speedy centerfielder and grew into one of the game’s most feared overall hitters and a first-ballot Hall of Famer after his 12- year career. In the 1980s, he had 199 or more hits in every season but his rookie year (when he had 165 hits in 128 games). In 1986, his power emerged with a career-high 31 homers. He was an All-Star each season starting in 1986. He won four Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers in the decade (and more in the 1990s). In the ‘80s, he led the league in hits three times and in batting average in 1989 at .339. He had hit .356 in 1988 and finished runner up. He finished in the Top 6 in MVP voting four straight years from 1986 through 1989. RF - Tom Brunansky (1982-1988) 916 games, .250/.330/.452 (.782) with 154 doubles, 163 homers, 469 RBI. “Bruno” had been the 14th overall pick in the 1978 draft by the California Angels. In May 1982, he came to the Twins in a trade involving Doug Corbett and Rob Wilfong. He immediately became the Twins primary right fielder and a leading source of power for the team. He was really quite consistent. He hit between .240 and .260 most years. He hit 21-30 doubles each year. He hit between 20 and 32 homers each year (32 in both 1984 and 1987). He represented the Twins in the 1985 All-Star Game at the Metrodome. Traded to the Cardinals after just 14 games in 1988. DH - Roy Smalley (1980-1982, 1985-1987) 575 games, .263/.354/.416 (.770) with 88 doubles, 59 homers, 221 RBI. Smalley began the 1980s as the Twins shortstop, coming off of his 1979 All-Star season. Between 1980 and 1981, he hit .274/.364/.415 (.779). As mentioned above, he was traded to the Yankees just four games into the 1982 season. He returned to the Twins before the 1985 season and was the team’s primary DH all three seasons, averaging 127 games played. Over those three seasons, he hit a combined .258/.350/.419 (.768) and willingly took on a lesser role late in the 1987 season as the Twins made their way toward their first World Series title. Let the discussion begin... Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers) Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers) Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers) Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with TBD)
  10. First year of the decade (1990) - Worst team in the American League. Second year of the decade (1991) - Second World Series championship in five years. Third year of the decade (1992) - Won more games than that championship team. After that, well, it wasn't always pretty. However, there were still some great performances. Some of the top players of the 1980s were still playing well into the 1990s. A new star emerged in 1991 and was probably the best player of the decade. Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Terry Steinbach all came home. Today, we talk about the All-Decade team of hitters. Admittedly, some of the positions were harder to find greatness at than others, but the list is certainly enjoyable. Read through it and share your thoughts below. 1990s Twins All-Decade Hitters C - Brian Harper (1990-1993) 544 games, .304/.339/.428 (.767) with 121 doubles, 37 homers, 269 RBI. An argument could have been made that Harper should have been the Twins catcher of the ‘80s for the two years he played, but he continued to hit well for the Twins into the ‘90s and was a key piece of the 1991 Twins World Series championships. Harper went to the plate to hit. In 2097 plate appearances, he had just 67 non-intentional walks. He also struck out just 100 times over these four seasons. He hit at least .294 in each of these seasons (as well as 1988-89). 1B - Kent Hrbek (1990-1994) 591 games, .267/.365/.449 (.814) with 88 doubles, 92 homers, 362 RBI. Hrbek’s best years came in the 1980s but he was still a very productive player in the first half of the ‘90s as well. Even in the two seasons in which he hit under .250, he still had an on-base percentage over .350. He hit for power and doubles. His best season of the ‘90s was the championship 1991 team. He missed more time as he got older. He quietly retired during the 1994 strike. 2B - Chuck Knoblauch (1991-1997) 1,013 games, .304/.391/.416 (.807) with 88 doubles, 59 homers, 221 RBI. Knoblauch was easily the Twins top hitter of the 1990s. He was the team’s first-round pick in 1989 out of Texas A&M. He rose quickly and was the team’s opening day second baseman in 1991. He was the easy choice for American League Rookie of the Year and an instigator of the Twins World Series lineup, hitting second most nights. He was an All-Star four times in his seven seasons with the Twins. Despite playing in the same league at the same time as Roberto Alomar, “Knobby” won two Silver Slugger Awards and one Gold Glove Award.He posted OPS over .900 in 1995 and 1996. He was a doubles machine and led the league with 45 doubles in 1995. He led the league in triples in 1996. Knoblauch could hit, hit for extra base power, run, steal bases, play strong defense and other intangibles. He was traded to the Yankees after the 1997 season. 3B - Scott Leius (1990-1995) 476 games, .252/.327/.366 (.694) with 58 doubles, 26 homers, 155 RBI. Leius was the Twins 13th-round pick in 1986 out of Concordia College in Bronxville, NY. He debuted late in the 1990 season. In 1991, he platooned with Mike Pagliarulo and hit .286/.378/.417 (.795) with 14 extra base hits. He was also on the 1991 championship team. That was easily his best season. He played a career-high 129 games in 1992. He missed most of 1993, and he played a combined 214 games between 1995 and 1996. He later played for Cleveland (1996) and Kansas City (1998-99). This wasn’t a very strong position for the Twins in the 1990s. Other possible candidates include Ron Coomer, Jeff Reboulet, Pagliarulo and one-season stretches for Gary Gaetti and Corey Koskie. SS - Pat Meares (1993-1998) 742 games, .265/.301/.381 (.682) with 120 doubles, 41 homers, 303 RBI. Meares took over the Twins shortstop position in 1993 after Greg Gagne left via free agency. While Gagne was clearly the better fielder, Meares was a solid fielder who could hit a little bit more. He was the Twins 12th-round pick in 1990 from Wichita State and debuted less than two years later. In his six seasons with the Twins, he hit double-digit homers twice and had 19 or more homers in four of the seasons. He then played three seasons with the Pirates. LF - Shane Mack (1990-1994) 633 games, .309/.375/.479 (.854) with 119 doubles, 67 homers, 315 RBI. Mack remains one of the most underrated players in Twins history. He had been the top pick of the Padres in 1984 from UCLA but he just never got going in San Diego. In December 1989, he was the Twins Rule 5 draft. He spent the next five seasons hitting like crazy for the Twins. He hit between .310 and .333 in four of the five seasons. He got on base. He hit for power, lots of doubles and double-digit homers too. He had really good speed on the base paths and was really good out in the outfield. He was a key contributor to the 1991 championship. In 1994, he was hitting .333/.402/.564 (.966) with 21 doubles and 15 homers in 81 games when the strike hit. After the season, he signed a two-year deal to play in Japan before coming back to the States in 1997. CF - Kirby Puckett (1990-1995) 859 games, .312/.363/.485 (.848) with 217 doubles, 111 homers, 579 RBI. While Puckett was one of the top players of the 1980s, he continued to be a top player in the ‘90s. He was an All-Star all six seasons. He led the league in hits once. RBIs in 1994. Three more times he finished in the top 10 in AL MVP voting. He won two more Gold Glove Awards and two more Silver Sluggers. His career came to an abrupt end in spring training 1996. While he was 36 years old, he likely had three to five more seasons remaining. He played mostly center field through the 1993 seasons and then moved to right field the final two seasons. RF - Matt Lawton (1995-1999) 512 games, .264/.367/.416 (.783) with 94 doubles, 49 homers, 245 RBI. Lawton was the Twins 13th-round pick in 1991 out of Mississippi Gulf Coast CC. He debuted with 21 games in 1995 and was up for good midway through the 1996 season. He was an All-Star for the Twins, though that was in 2000 so not included here. However, he was a very solid all-around player. He was a quality right fielder with a strong arm. While he didn’t hit for average, except in 2000, he always found his way on base, getting on base via walk about 10% of the time. In 1998, he hit .278, got on base 39% of the time, and he hit 36 doubles, six triples and 21 homers. He also could steal bases. He remained in the Twins organization until the July deadline in 2001. DH - Paul Molitor (1996-1998) 422 games, .312/.362/.432 (.794) with 102 doubles, 23 homers, 271 RBI. Coin-flip… Paul Molitor (‘96-98) or Chili Davis (‘91-92)? I went with Molitor. The St. Paul native finished his Hall of Fame career with three seasons in a Twins uniform. In 1996, he hit .341 and drove in a career-high 113 runs despite just nine homers. He did have 41 doubles. At 39, he still stole 18 bases too. He hit .305 with 32 doubles and ten homers. He recorded his 3000th hit in 1997 with a triple. What do you think? Previous Installments Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers) Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers) Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters) Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers) Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with Howard Sinker)
  11. 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
  12. Drafting in baseball is a ridiculously nuanced practice. Not only are you trying to project future ability, but you’re doing so with athletes that have not yet even began to experience body maturation. On top of that you have the split between scouting acumen and analytical importance, and then add in a pool that spans 40 rounds. To say the practice is hard is putting it lightly. When looking back over the course of Twins history, there are certainly some gems that have stuck out, however. Excluding anyone taking before a double-digit round, and focusing entirely on hitters, here’re the top five gems ever uncovered by the Minnesota Twins: 5. Marty Cordova 4.8 fWAR (1989 10th round) Cordova was taken by the San Diego Padres in the eighth round out of high school but did not sign. After going to college and being eligible two years later, he fell to Minnesota in the 10th round. Cordova reached the big leagues in 1995 at the age of 25. Posting an .839 OPS in 137 games, he went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year edging out names like Garret Anderson, Andy Pettitte, and Troy Percival. Despite an even higher .849 OPS in 1996, Cordova’s 3.6 fWAR in his debut season was easily a career high. He went on to play for another eight seasons and compiled just 1.2 fWAR in that stretch. What began so promising eventually led to Cordova leaving Minnesota in 2000 after five relatively mediocre years. Kicking this list off with one of Minnesota's one-hit wonders should only highlight how hard drafting truly is. 4. Lyman Bostock 9.3 fWAR (1972 26th round) Taken in the 26th round Bostock burst onto the scene as an incredibly special talent. He debuted for the Twins at the age of 24 in 1975 and put up a .282 average. Although not a power hitter, he established himself as a very talented outfielder and earned MVP votes in 1977 thanks to an .897 OPS. Playing just three years for Minnesota, he became one of the first players to cash in on the new free agency opportunity and signed with the Angels for a cool $2 million. Sadly, he played just one season in California as his life was tragically ended at the age of 27. On a trip home to Gary Indiana he was in a car that was fired upon and the bullet damage ended up taking his life within a few hours. A few years ago, Twinkie Town did a nice story on the former Minnesota outfielder. 3. Matt Lawton 9.3 fWAR (1991 13th round) Taken by the Twins in the 13th round out of Community College, Lawton would make his big-league debut four years later. It was just a 21-game sample in 1995, but he posted a .317/.414/.467 slash line to kick off his major league career. Lawton wound up playing parts of seven seasons with the Twins and made his first All-Star appearance in 2000 as he posted a strong .865 OPS. Following the departure from Minnesota, Lawton went on to play for another six organizations. It was in Cleveland that he found another stable home, being there for three years from 2002-2004, and eventually made his second All-Star team. He posted 138 career long balls and tallied a .785 OPS over a 12-year Major League resume. 2. Corey Koskie 23.2 fWAR (1994 26th round) Taken in the 26th round out of Canada, Koskie went on to have a nine-year career that placed him 10th all-time among fWAR for Twins hitters. He spent his first seven seasons in Minnesota and is one of the most under-recognized stars in franchise history. In six full seasons he averaged an .840 OPS and never once posted a mark in the .700 range. Koskie earned MVP votes in 2001 and ripped 25 dingers in a season twice. For the early part of the 2000’s Koskie was among the most stable things in baseball. He was a staple at the hot corner for the Twins and was a big part of teams that ripped off three-straight AL Central Division titles. Still plenty active in the Minnesota baseball scene, Koskie is a strong contender as one of the best draft gem selections in baseball history. 1. Kent Hrbek 37.6 fWAR (1978 17th round) Just missing the top five in fWAR among hitters in Twins history, Kent Hrbek was the local kid that stayed home to make good. From Minneapolis and drafted out of Bloomington Kennedy High School, Hrbek was in The Show just three years after his pro debut. He was an All-Star during his rookie season and finished runner up in the Rookie of the Year voting to some guy named Cal. Kent finished just seven dingers shy of 300 for his career. He owned an .848 OPS and should have won the American League MVP in 1984 (Willie Hernandez grabbed both the Cy Young and MVP award that year). Hrbek is a two-time World Series champion, and there’s no doubt that he’ll tell you Ron Gant was out. 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. The Twins began the decade of the 1980s in really bad shape. The 1981 strike may have kept them from being one of the worst teams in baseball history. The 1982 Twins lost 102 games. However, that team was developing a strong core of young players, taking their lumps, who would be World Series champions just five years later. While our look at the hitters of the decade shows that there was some good offense, the pitching staffs were generally quite "offensive." With the exception of Frank Viola, it's clear why the Twins struggled at finding quality starting pitchers. Bert Blyleven came back in the mid-80s and helped the team toward that 1987 championship. Who would the player of the decade be for the Twins? Kirby Puckett? Kent Hrbek? Maybe Frank Viola? http://traffic.libsyn.com/sethstohs/GTKE_Podcast_Ep17_Howard_Sinker.mp3 Which players were underrated? Which players were your favorites, whether they were great players or not. To help talk about the 1980s Twins, we are joined by friend of Twins Daily's Howard Sinker. Howard is the digital man behind the startribune.com sports pages online. In September of 1984, he was the Twins beat writer for the Star Tribune. It was a job that he held until August of 1987. He saw some bad baseball. He saw some very good baseball. He interacted with some of your favorite players from that 1980s. You can follow Howard on Twitter at @afansview. And be sure to check out his great work at StarTribune.com as well. Enjoy, and discuss! http://traffic.libsyn.com/sethstohs/GTKE_Podcast_Ep17_Howard_Sinker.mp3 You can subscribe to the Get to Know 'Em podcast on iTunes. or follow Libsyn for new episodes here as well. Please leave ratings or feedback. And did you know that you can listen to the Get To Know 'Em podcast by asking Alexa to "Listen to the Get To Know 'Em Podcast." PAST EPISODES Episode 1: Get to know Niko Guardado (Actor and son of Eddie Guardado) Episode 2: Get to know Pat Dean, Brent Rooker Episode 3: Get to know Royce Lewis, AJ Achter Episode 4: Get to know Devin Smeltzer Episode 5: Get to know Jaylin Davis, Tyler Wells Episode 6: Get to know: Travis Blankenhorn, LaMonte Wade Episode 7: Get to know: Matt Wallner (and Ten Minutes with Tyler Wells) Episode 8: Get to know: Caleb Hamilton, Austin Schulfer, Nick Anderson Episode 9: Get to know: Andy Young, Billy Boyer (and Ten Minutes with Tyler) Episode 10: Get to know: Wesley Wright (Twins Pro Scout) Episode 11: Get to know: John Manuel (Twins Pro Scout) Episode 12: Get to know: Marshall Kelner (Mighty Mussels broadcaster) Episode 13: Get to know: Dick Bremer (Twins broadcaster, author) Episode 14: Get to know: Anthony Slama (former Twins pitcher, entrepreneur) Episode 15: Get to Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona) Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse) Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook.
  14. Both Kirby Puckett and Michael Jordan made their professional debuts in 1984 and both were joining teams that had struggled in recent years. The Twins had a record of 171-262 (.394 W-L%) during the three seasons prior to Puckett’s debut. The Bulls were even worse in the years leading to Jordan’s arrival. The Bulls went 89-157 (.361 W-L%) in the three seasons before Jordan suited up in the red and black. Winning did not come instantaneously for either franchise because it takes a while to build a supporting cast after years of losing. Minnesota finished second in the AL West in Puckett’s first year, but then the club finished fourth and sixth before breaking through for the team’s first title in 1987. Jordan would have to wait even longer as the Bulls made the playoffs every year, but it took until 1991 for his first championship. Jordan made it very clear in the documentary that he needed a player like Scottie Pippen to be alongside him because Jordan couldn’t do it alone. Many of the Twins supporting cast was already in Minnesota before Puckett arrived. Kent Hrbek, Frank Viola, Gary Gaetti and Tom Brunansky were just a few of the key World Series players who debuted ahead of Puckett. Pivotal coaching changes also drastically altered the career paths of both Jordan and Puckett. In fact, within one year of coaches switches, both franchises would clinch their first title. Phil Jackson took over as the head coach of the Bulls for the 1989-90 season and Tom Kelly took the reigns in 1986. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where the legacy of Jordan and Puckett would have been vastly altered with different coaches at the helm. The championships came, both cities were energized, but the lasting legacy for both players might have been “what could have been” situation even though they are Hall of Fame players. Back in 2016, ESPN named both players as part of a series on unfulfilled potential. Jordan’s minor league baseball career could have cost the Bulls a chance at eight-straight titles. Twins fans are well aware of Puckett’s career being cut short due to lost eyesight. Fans might still ask themselves, “What could have been?” Puckett’s legacy in the Twin Cities and upper midwest is well established, much like what Jordan’s legacy means to Chicago. In the book Puck by Chuck Carlson, Twins President Dave St. Peter said, “There’s a great sense of community pride with Kirby Puckett. He’s our Michael Jordan, our Larry Bird.” There are connections between the two metropolitan areas and the two players that redefined their individual organizations. For Twins fans, Kirby Puckett was the player that revitalized the franchise after years of ineptitude. For the NBA, no player may have meant more to any league than what Michael Jordan and the Bulls did in the 1990’s. Players like these are once in a generation and it’s hard to ignore their greatness. One player born in Chicago that provided more than one heroic World Series moment. One player born in North Carolina that provided more than one heroic NBA Finals moment. Two players connected in more ways than one. Who do you think meant more to their city? Michael Jordan to Chicago or Kirby Puckett to the Twin Cities? 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. Jack Morris Region Game 7 of the 1991 World Series is widely considered one of the best games in baseball history. It capped off a tremendous back-and-forth World Series that might be the best World Series in history (See Kirby Puckett Region below). Jack Morris pitched 10-shutout innings on the way to winning the World Series MVP and this game was the logical choice as the number one overall seed. After a Twitter request, many important games in Twins history were identified and placed throughout the tournament. Johan Santana dueling with Jamie Garcia back in 2005, Minnesota tying for the AL West lead in 1987, and clinching the AL title back in 1965 were all great moments that some fans might have forgot. In the end, fans appreciated the 2002 Twins and their defeat of the Oakland A’s featured in the book and movie Moneyball. Kent Hrbek Region Kent Hrbek, a native of Bloomington, famously caught the final out of the 1987 World Series as the Twins were champions for the first time in franchise history. While the 1991 World Series is thought of as one of the best in history, the 1987 World Series was also strong as it went a full seven games and featured plenty of memorable moments. Johan Santana’s best strikeout performance, Jason Kubel taking out the game’s best closer, and Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter were not match for the team’s first championship. One of the most important games in Twins history got beat out in the first round of this bracket. Back in 1965, Harmon Killebrew walked off the New York Yankees in the days leading into the All-Star Game. It propelled the team to their first World Series run. Alexi Casilla Region Alexi Casilla certainly does not fit in with the other big names for this bracket’s regions, but he did provide one of the biggest hits in one of the team’s greatest games. Game 163 back in 2009 gave the Metrodome a send-off for the ages (we will just gloss over the Yankees series in the ALDS). For the younger generation of Twins fans, Game 163 is their World Series moment, because the club has not won a playoff series since 2002. One of my favorite games to attend was also in this bracket. Game 162 in 2006 saw Joe Mauer secure his first batting title, but the best moment of the day took place after the game. Twins players stayed in the dugout and fans stayed in the stands to watch the Tigers and Royals play on the big screen. Kansas City was able to upset the Tigers and the Twins players stormed the field and did a victory lap after clinching the AL Central. Kirby Puckett Region Kirby Puckett told the team to get on his back and he made sure to follow through with his end of the bargain. Puckett’s first big moment in the game was a leaping catch as he scaled the Plexiglass wall that occupied the Metrodome’s outfield fence. Later in the game, Puckett provided quite possibly the signature moment in Twins history with his extra-inning walk-off home run to push the series to a decisive seventh game. Puckett had another big moment that was part of this region. In 1987, he had a perfect 6-for-6 day at the plate that still stands as the team record for hits in one game. Jim Thome hit the first walk-off at Target Field and his 600th home run came a season later. Neither of these games survived the first round. Minnesota is the only club to turn two triple-plays in one game, but that game got beat out by Scott Erickson’s no-hitter. Final Four All four number one seeds qualified for the Final Four, but it was really no contest to get into the championship game. The 1991 World Series provided so many memorable moments that Game 163 and the team’s first championship clinching game did not stand much of a shot. It would come down to a battle for the ages between Game 6 and Game 7 from the 1991 World Series. In the end, it came down to two games that were separated by one night. Kirby Puckett provided a masterpiece with a defensive play for the ages and an iconic home run. On the other side of the coin, Jack Morris provided a pitching performance for the ages. Both games were epic, but Game 7 of the 1991 World Series might be the best game that has ever been played and that is the champion of this bracket. https://twitter.com/NoDakTwinsFan/status/1250115733633236994 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  16. For the legendary manager of the 1991 Twins, the first one he pulled out was announced just hours before the first pitch was thrown. With his options limited for starting pitchers, he would turn to rookie lefthander Denny Neagle, who in game three had looked like an ace while holding the 2019 Twins scoreless through seven innings. He began this one with a quick one-two-three inning, needing just seven pitches to retire Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez, and Nelson Cruz. His offense then immediately got to work for him in the bottom half against Baldelli’s big-blind check move of Michael Pineda, who was on the losing end in Game 3. Second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, as he had also done to lead off their third matchup, ambushed Pineda with a bunt on an 0-1 pitch. It got past Pineda, and since Miguel Sano was playing in at third base, he was unable to cut it off in front of Polanco at short, who’s throw to first was a step late. Going back to the well for perhaps the coaching move of the series, Kelly again had Kent Hrbek batting second, and once again he rewarded his manager’s faith by launching the first pitch he saw into the first rows of seats above the baggy in right field. It was his sixth home run of the series, and 15th RBI for the ’91 team. In the second inning it was Baldelli’s turn to play his cards right, and since his team was known as the Bomba Squad and had just set the Major League record for home runs in a season, it was a bit of a bluff that paid off big. The inning started with back-to-back four pitch walks to Mitch Garver and Sano, then Max Kepler, C.J. Cron, and Eddie Rosario all followed with hard hit singles that put them out front 3-2. Neagle struck out Byron Buxton in his attempt to limit any further damage but followed that up by walking Polanco as the lineup turned over, again loading the bases. Luis Arraez then clubbed an opposite field double that scored two more and brought Kelly out of the dugout, his first trick having failed. “Yeah, the greenhorn didn’t get the job done,” the skipper would pan at the podium after the game when asked about the decision to start the rookie. With a smirk he continued, “It was Gardy’s idea with the options we had, I don’t think he’ll ever trust a rookie again.” Nelson Cruz and Garver added two more singles and two more runs to the tally before lefty David West was able to shut it down. In the inning, twelve men came to bat for the 2019 team, and seven had crossed the plate. Baldelli’s team took the second inning pot with three walks, five singles, and Arraez’s double instead of any Bombas. “It was a little different than how we did it throughout the season, but we’ll take ‘em how we can get ‘em,” Baldelli exclaimed in the locker room after the game. “We needed all those chip shots!” The ’91 Twins were able to get a few of those runs back in the following innings, as Mike Pagliarulo snuck a fly-ball just inside the foul pole and over the baggy in right for a two-run homer in the bottom of the second. Kirby Puckett led off the third with a ball that ricocheted hard off the folded-up seats above the baggy in nearly the same spot. Pineda’s night was over a batter later, after surrendering a single to Shane Mack. Baldelli then called upon Ryne Harper again, who allowed just one run over the next three innings, providing a good counter. Reliever West got the ’91 Twins into the fourth inning but was lifted after a two-out walk put runners on the corners for the 2019 squad, and Kelly again reached up his sleeve by bringing in his closer, Rick Aguilera, earlier than he ever had to try and squash any further rallies. This gamble paid off and by the time Aguilera was out of gas, Kelly’s team had reclaimed much of their chips at the table. He retired the first nine hitters he faced, five of them on strikeouts, and although he was clearly unhappy when Kelly came out to get him after allowing his first hit - a single to Miguel Sano in the seventh —it was clear to his manager he had given him all he had. “You saw Aggie want to tear my head off when I went out there to get him,” Kelly said about the extended mound meeting before he finally got the ball out of Aguilera’s glove. “He still hasn’t spoken to me, but that’s the type of competitor he is. He would have stayed out there until he could only lob it underhand if I let him.” Kelly maybe should have let him lob a few over, as Mark Guthrie proceeded to allow a double to Kepler that scored Sano after a passed ball put him in scoring position, and the 2019 Twins got a needed insurance run for an 8-6 lead. In the bottom half of the inning, Hrbek and Chili Davis drew a pair of walks, and with two outs Harper lined a shallow single into center field. Ignoring the stop sign from his third base coach, the hulking Hrbek took a gamble of his own rounding third and luckily caught Byron Buxton by surprise. His double-pumped throw to home came in off target and Hrbek’s headfirst flop beat Garver’s diving tag attempt to the plate to make it 8-7. “I’m sure you can tell I’ve never slid headfirst in my life,” Hrbek quipped post game, the road rash on his cheek and chin still red and covered in dirt. “There was no way I was gonna be able to stop at third there with the momentum I had built up.” The teams traded zeroes in the eighth inning, but it wasn’t due to lacking drama. The Bomba Squad got a single from Jorge Polanco in the top half that prompted Kelly to bring in Kevin Tapani. Luis Arraez then singled on a 3-2 pitch, and after an intentional walk to Nelson Cruz to load the bases with one out, Tapani stared down the highest Leverage Index situation of his career. He rose to the challenge, striking out both Garver and Sano to keep his team within one. In the bottom half a leadoff single from Pagliarulo prompted Baldelli to turn to Tyler Duffey, who induced a double-play ball, bringing Kent Hrbek to the plate down one. He was right on a couple 95 MPH fastballs up in the zone, fouling them straight back, before sending the third one deep into center field. Off the bat it didn’t seem like it was going to get out with that low of a trajectory, but surely it was going to land for extra bases. That was until platinum glove center fielder Byron Buxton turned on the afterburners to run it down at a full sprint speed of 33.4 feet-per-second, a Statcast era record, just short of the warning track before crashing into the wall just shy of where the baggy rises in right-center. Kepler helped him up off the track with a strong slap to his backside, his jaw on the turf in bewilderment. “Didn’t get enough air under that one” said Hrbek in his presser, shaking his head. “That kid is #^&@-ing fast.” Buxton would make noise from the batter’s box in the ninth as well, the adrenaline likely still coursing through his veins. After two one-out singles from C.J. Cron and Eddie Rosario, Buxton sent a grounder up the middle past a diving Greg Gagne to score Cron who beat Puckett’s throw to home with a foot first slide through Brian Harper’s legs as he fielded the hop over the plate. Kelly then brought out Jack Morris from the bullpen, looking to keep his team as close as he could, and Black Jack did his thing in striking out Ehire Adrianza and Arraez to keep the game within two. In the bottom of the ninth Baldelli couldn’t have felt better about sending out his season long bullpen weapon and closer, Taylor Rogers, looking to complete a 3-1 series comeback and hoist the trophy with all the state of Minnesota. “That’s the situation you dream about as an MLB closer,” Rogers remarked to Fox Sports North’s Marney Gellner in the clubhouse. “You just hope it goes a lot different than it did.” That’s because after Rogers got both Puckett and Mack to ground out to start the inning, Chili Davis’ solo home run into left opened the portals of doom with two outs for the 2019 squad’s best reliever. Brian Harper followed with a single to left, then Gene Larkin’s double down the left field line scored him all the way from first to tie the game at nine and send the Homer Hanky faithful in the stands into pandemonium. When Rogers stepped back onto the mound to face Greg Gagne, the decibel meters at field level in the Metrodome were registering a constant 130+ decibels, equivalent to a F-16 taking off from an aircraft carrier, and this beat writers glass of [not water anymore] was rumbled off my workspace in the press box. Gagne tried to channel the energy in the stadium and took a big cut at the first pitch fastball from Rogers, sending it toward center field. It had the height but fell harmlessly into Buxton’s glove in center for the third out and a brief reprieve from the overwhelming noise inside the homer dome, so this one was going to extra innings. Nelson Cruz got things started in the tenth by crushing a 3-2 pitch 108.1 MPH to deep center that Puckett couldn’t catch up to, resulting in a double and the go-ahead runner in scoring position. Garver moved him 90 feet away with a fly ball to the warning track in front of the baggy, then Sano stepped into the box with one out. For all the earlier excitement in the game, this at-bat would prove anti-climactic, as a 1-2 slider in the dirt bounced and was deflected by Harper towards the visitors’ dugout, allowing Cruz to scamper home for a 10-9 lead. Sano struck out and a fly ball from Max Kepler ended the inning, but the ’91 team now had work to do. After blowing the save in the ninth, Baldelli stuck with his closer to start the tenth, as the left-handed hitting Pagliarulo led off. Pagliurulo grounded out before Chuck Knoblauch lined a single into right field to put the tying run on base. Even though the next hitter was left-handed and his name was Hrbek, Baldelli wanted a fresh arm to face the Bomba Squad’s killer in the series. He went to Trevor May and the noise started creeping upward in the dome again as three straight balls made the count 3-1 to the slugger. May’s next pitch perhaps surprised Hrbek a bit, coming in a little softer than his normal mid-90’s heat at 88 MPH, and he was only able to send a can of corn out to center for the inning’s second out. That brought up Kirby Puckett, and he kept the rally alive with a single into left field, putting Knoblauch in scoring position for Shane Mack as perhaps their last hope. On a 2-2 pitch, he smashed a ground ball at 107 MPH the other way that looked like it would get past C. J. Cron at first base with the aid of the turf, but his reactionary dive allowed him to get just enough glove on it. As he pushed himself up off the turf he looked into his glove just to make sure the ball was in there, then put his hands up in the air in celebration as he stepped on the base for the game’s final out. “I kind of panicked for a split second when I saw the ball in my glove, it just happened so fast,” Cron said of his game saving play. “I didn’t even feel the ball hit my glove, so I didn’t think I had it, then it’s like ‘where do I get an out?!’” he laughed. Luckily for him, that out was just a few feet away, and he and the rest of his teammates could get to celebrating their series comeback from 3-1 and holding off the onslaught that was Kent Hrbek’s series MVP winning performance. It was only the second time a losing player has ever won the award in a World Series. “He can have it, my goodness” Rocco Baldelli remarked in the champagne covered clubhouse media-scrum after hearing about the award. “I don’t know who the heck else you could give it to after what he did this series, but I think my guys are fine with the other trophy!” It was then that Hrbek barged into the visitor’s clubhouse, exclaiming “Who’s got a beer for me?!” while unceremoniously dropping that MVP trophy into the nearest garbage can. He had to duck a bit as cans came flying at him from every direction, but he joined in on the celebration all the same. You can find the box score and pitch-by-pitch results for Game Seven attached below. If you would like to learn more about Out of the Park Baseball 21, please click on this link. If you would like to try it, you can also download it for 10% off the regular price using the code TWINSDAILY. Finally, be sure to go back and see the recaps for: Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4 Game 5 Game 6
  17. Harmon Killebrew Killebrew moved all over the field during his big-league career as the Twins shuffled him between the left field and both corner infield spots. He spent more time at first base than any other position. His fielding percentage at first was the best of any position (.992). His total zone rating in runs above average was -6, but at third he was a -51 and he was a -19 in left field. Like Killebrew, Sano is in the Twins line-up because he can put baseballs into orbit with his powerful swing. Unlike Killebrew, the designated hitter role could impact Sano as his career progresses. Killebrew was forced to play a defensive position because the DH didn’t exist until the tail-end of his career. If Sano struggles with the transition to first, he could move to DH after Nelson Cruz vacates that position for the Twins. Rod Carew While Killebrew and Sano share similarities, Rod Carew and Sano might be the furthest thing apart when it comes to body type and approach at the plate. Carew did not move full time to first base until his age-30 season and his lone MVP award came in his second full season at first base. He played three full seasons there before leaving for the Angels and he amassed an 18 total zone rating. His best season at first base actually came in 1982 when he posted an 18 total zone rating, a career high. With a .991 fielding percentage, he and Killebrew posted nearly identical marks for their careers. Like Carew, Sano started his professional career at another defensive position where he wasn’t exactly strong defensively. Carew provided a -3 total zone rating in nearly 9,500 innings at second base. This included a bad season (1971: -11 TZ) and a couple of good seasons (1969, 1975: 6 TZ). Sano had multiple seasons with a -10 TZ rating at third including last season. His best season (4 TZ) was in 2016 when he was limited to 42 games at third. Kent Hrbek Both players above made the Hall of Fame, but Kent Hrbek was Minnesota born and he was part of some of the most famous plays at first base in team history (See: Final out 1987, Ron Gant). Hrbek posted a .994 fielding percentage at first with a 16 TZ rating. He had multiple seasons with a TZ rating higher than five, but he also had two of his final five seasons with a -7 TZ. Arguably, his best defensive season was 1984 when he finished second for the AL MVP. Like Hrbek, the Twins hope Sano can provide a big target for infielders especially Minnesota’s current middle infield duo. Jorge Polanco and Luis Arraez are both below average on the defensive side of the ball. Last season, Polanco was saved multiple times by CJ Cron after throwing the ball in the dirt. With a big target at first, the team’s advice for this season is to throw it high because those types of throws will be easier for a less experienced first baseman. Joe Mauer Joe Mauer won multiple Gold Gloves in his career, but all of them came as a catcher which is considerably harder defensive position than first base. Most people thought his transition from catcher to first base would be smooth because of his athleticism, but it was a skill he had to improve. In his first three seasons at first, he combined for a -6 TZ ranking, but over his final two seasons he posted positive totals to end his career with an overall 0 TZ at first. He also combined to have a .996 fielding percentage, a higher total than any player mentioned above. Like Mauer, Sano has played his entire career in an advanced analytical age and this means more defensive data to gauge player effectiveness. SABR’s Defensive Index has been used to help pick the Gold and Platinum Glove winners in each league since 2013. Back in 2014, Mauer finished tied with Albert Pujols (3.8 SDI) for the top SDI ranking at first. He tied that SDI total in 2017, but it was only good enough to finish third overall at first base. Last season, only two players ranked worse than Sano (-6.8 SDI) at third base according to SDI. What do you remember about these different defenders? How good can Sano be at first? 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
  18. “The crowd was crazy,” said 2019 starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi. “I played in Tampa Bay, so this was pretty much the polar opposite of that. Not that it bothered me. What bothered me was Herbie. You have to tip your hat to him.” Hrbek had plenty of opportunities to tip his own hat to the 55,426 full-throated fans, most notably after a third inning grand slam put the 1991 Twins up 8-0. “Right place, right time,” laughed Hrbek. Getting Hrbek into the right place at the right time involved juggling the lineup. With Dan Gladden out tonight with an undisclosed leg injury, Kelly shifted some players around – and raised some eyebrows. Kent Hrbek batting second instead of his traditional cleanup spot? What is this? 2020? “We might know a few things in 1991,” smirked Kelly. Like maybe he wanted his best left-handed hitter getting to face the right-handed Odorizzi a few extra times? “Maybe that,” deadpanned Kelly. “Herbie can swing the bat. He can hit anywhere in the lineup.” Last night it could not have worked better. By the time the third inning had ended, Hrbek had three hits, two home runs, six RBI and had scored three runs. He had the first hit of the game - a single - in the first inning and came around to score on a Chili Davis single. In the second inning he blasted a line drive over the left field wall that also brought home Mike Pagliarulo and stretched the lead to 4-0. The big blow came in the third inning. Odorizzi, who struggled with his control the entire night, started the inning by walking Brian Harper and Gene Larkin. After striking out Greg Gagne, he also walked Pagliarulo, loading the bases. That ended his night. Still, the 2019 Twins nearly escaped. Ryne Harper was brought in to face the top of the order and struck out Chuck Knoblauch on three pitches. That brought up the second spot in the order….and Hrbek? “No, I don’t remember ever hitting second, or at least not starting a game there,” Hrbek said when asked about his spot in the order. “Maybe as a pinch-hitter?” But he was there last night, with the bases loaded, two outs, and a chance to turn this first game of the series into a laugher. Turn he did, on a 1-1 pitch, lifting a majestic fly ball over the baggy in right-center field. The party in the Metrodome stands began. It was a little different in the 2019 Twins dugout. “I have never heard sound like that in my life,” said Odorizzi. While he said the crowd noise didn’t bother him, Odorizzi never did get on track. He didn’t give up the backbreaking second home run, but he kept setting the table with walks while falling behind in the count. He lasted just 2 1/3 innings and walked six. He also gave up five hits while striking out two. The first seven runs of the game were charged to him. The early fireworks paved the way for, and overshadowed, a gem by 1991 starting pitcher Keven Tapani. Tapani nearly pitched a complete-game shutout. After striking out the first two batters in the ninth inning, a ground ball to second base should’ve ended his night. But Hrbek dropped a throw from Knoblauch, allowing Jorge Polanco to reach. Luis Arraez followed that with a double, bringing Tapani to 101 pitches and ending his night before the final out. "We'll need to turn to him again soon," said Kelly. David West came in and got the final out, but only after giving up a three-run bomb to Nelson Cruz that provided a little balm to an otherwise shell-shocked 2019 Twins squad. They’ll attempt to rebound tomorrow night with their ace Jose Berrios on the mound. But the 1991 Twins will have their own ace, Jack Morris, attempt to put them up 2-0 before they travel across downtown to Target Field for Game 3. You can find the boxscore and pitch-by-pitch results for Game One attached below. If you would like to learn more about Out of the Park 21, please click on this link. If you would like to try it, you can also download it for 10% off the regular price using the code TWINSDAILY. MLB Box Score, Minnesota 2019 Twins at Minnesota 1991 Twins Game 1.pdf Minnesota 2019 Twins @ Minnesota 1991 Twins Game Log Game 1.pdf
  19. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/Ep_463_Winter_Meltdown_Hrbek_Plouffe.mp3?dest-id=74590
  20. Kent Hrbek. 612 Brew craft beer. Hot stove talk. Gray Duck Vodka. A free pint glass. Proper Twelve Irish Whisky. Food stations. 400+ Twins fans. More Guests. Raffle prizes. You can get it all now until the tickets sell out. Just click here. Again – these tickets will sell out. And then it will be next Saturday night and you’ll be all mopey, and whine “Why am I not drinking craft beer with Kent Hrbek and Seth Stohs?” And you’ll make the mistake of saying that out loud and someone will point and laugh at you. Nobody wants that. So here are the details, and below are the tickets. Saturday, January 25th 4:30 to 7:30 PM Lumber Exchange Event Center (above The Pourhouse), just three blocks from Target Field and Twins Fest A Twins Daily Winter Meltdown Pint Glass. Two complimentary local craft pints from 612 Brew Drink specials and tasting tables from Gray Duck Vodka and Proper Twelve Irish Whiskey. Raffle prizes, including a signed picture of Hrbek from FanHQ Food stations, Interviews with Kent Hrbek and other guests and It’s only $40 (if you can get tickets). Plus, we are not done making announcements. However, the tickets may not last that long. So grab a friend. Or come by yourself. This is your tribe and they’re going to take care of you. Get Your Tickets
  21. Trevor Plouffe is a very familiar name to Twins fans. Not only did he play in 723 games for the Twins between 2010 and 2016, he was, and continues to be, a fan favorite. Over his time with the Twins, his 148 doubles rank 25th in team history. He ranks 20th with 96 home runs. He is the Twins all-time leader in most buttons left unbuttoned on a game jersey. While he spent parts of seven seasons with the Minnesota, Plouffe actually spent 13 seasons in the Twins organization. Plouffe was the 20th overall pick in the June 2004 draft out of Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, California. --------------------------------------------------- Looking Back: 2004 MLB Draft, First-Round 7 - Homer Bailey (Reds) 20 - Trevor Plouffe (Twins) 22 - Glen Perkins (Twins, via Mariners for losing Eddie Guardado in free agency) 23 - Phil Hughes (Yankees) 25 - Kyle Waldrop (Twins, via Cubs for losing LaTroy Hawkins in free agency) --------------------------------------------------- He worked his way up the organizational ladder and made his debut in 2010 at shortstop. He spent a couple of seasons riding that Rochester-to-Minnesota train before establishing himself as a full-time big leaguer in 2012. He played all over the diamond before becoming a very solid defensive third baseman while developing his extra-base power. Plouffe became a free agent after the 2016 season. He spent time with the A’s to start 2017 before being traded to the Rays where he worked with current Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. He signed with the Rangers in 2018 but ended up playing seven games with the Phillies that year. He had three hits in 12 at-bats, but one of them was a walk-off home run. (Instead of showing you the Phillies walk-off, here’s a 2015 walk-off for the Twins!) He went to spring training with the Phillies in 2019 but was released before the season started. Plouffe has kept himself busy since his playing days came to an end. During the postseason, he provided analysis for Stadium. https://twitter.com/Stadium/status/1189618219784519680 He’s been on several radio stations and podcasts: https://twitter.com/trevorplouffe/status/1202345916855771136 He accomplished many things on the field during his baseball career and now he’s working on his list of accomplishments after his playing career. https://twitter.com/trevorplouffe/status/1207093799559684096 And he’s also working with and helping develop the Twins first-round pick in the 2034 draft. (I’m certain Twins scouts in southern California already have an initial report on this young talent.) https://twitter.com/trevorplouffe/status/1202993043692912642 We are very excited that Trevor Plouffe will be joining us at the Twins Daily Winter Meltdown on Saturday night. For those who will be attending Saturday night’s Winter Meltdown (which is sold out), you will receive: The 2020 Twins Daily Winter Meltdown Pint Glass. Two complimentary local craft pints from 612 Brew Drink specials and tasting tables from Gray Duck Vodka and Proper Twelve Irish Whiskey. Food stations. Interviews with Kent Hrbek and Trevor Plouffe and Several raffle prizes
  22. Part 5 of a 12-part series that breaks Twins history into fun-sized chunks.You can find more here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 The roots of that decline could be traced back to late 1975, when an arbitrator’s ruling essentially struck down MLB’s reserve clause and granted players free agency at the expiration of their contracts. Griffith had a miserly reputation – the Twins built an advertising campaign around that very topic in 1976 - and baseball’s new economic reality hit the Twins hard. Before the 1978 season, both Bostock and Hisle signed with other teams and the offense suffered to the tune of 200 fewer runs. The team finished 16 games under .500 and attendance fell with it, down to just 787,000, which perpetuated the problem of retaining premier players. But even if the Twins had continued to draw fans, circumstances had deteriorated to the point where keeping a superstar like Carew with the club might have been impossible. For starters, Carew wanted more quality ballplayers around him to give the team better chance at winning. Moreover, the relationship between Carew and the Twins became irreparable after Griffith made several off-color remarks--some of a racial nature--at a Lions Club function in Waseca, Minnesota. Carew, due to become a free agent following the 1979 season, was traded for four players to the California Angels, where he would finish his career. Without their superstar, the Twins competed in two of the next three years. They finished above .500 in 1979 and had a surprise run at a division title in the second half of the strike-impacted 1981 season. But the focus was shifting from the present to the future, which would include overwhelming changes for the franchise. The first of those changes was a brand new indoor ballpark. The Metrodome was the result of a 1977 Minnesota Legislature stadium bill, but could only be built if the Vikings and Twins both signed a 30-year lease. Griffith, skeptical of the facility but intrigued by an increase in outstate attendance due to no rainouts, negotiated an out-clause: if the team failed to average 1.4 million in attendance over three consecutive years (a level the Twins had not averaged over a 3-year period in their history), he could break the lease. When the new stadium opened in 1982, the honeymoon lasted exactly one night. In its inaugural home opener, the Metrodome drew 52,279 fans amid much pageantry. The next night the club drew 5,213. By the end of the season, attendance would fail to reach the 1,000,000 mark. And by the end of the first week, Griffith started dismantling the team for a youth movement, trading quality shortstop Roy Smalley to the Yankees. Two more trades would complete the fire sale by the middle of May. The 1982 team, in their brand new home, would finish with 102 losses. But 1982 wouldn’t just be remembered for a record-setting number of losses for the Twins. It would also become known as the beginning of a new generation of Twins that would finally reach the mountaintop. Nineteen-eighty-two was the rookie season for Kent Hrbek (22 years old), Tom Brunansky (21) and Gary Gaetti (23), all of whom slugged at least 20 home runs. Starting pitcher Frank Viola (22) would also debut that season, pitching to battery-mate and rookie Tim Laudner (23). Griffith had put together the cornerstones of the next contending Twins team. But it wouldn’t be his Twins team.
  23. April 1, 2002 Twins Hit 5 HRs on Opening Day The Twins tie an American League Opening Day record with five home runs in Kansas City. Jacque Jones hit a solo and three-run home run, while David Ortiz, Brian Buchanan, and Torii Hunter each hit solo shots in a 8-6 Twins win. The Twins are the most recent of five AL teams to hit five homers on Opening Day. The Mets set the major league Opening Day record with six home runs against the Expos in 1988. The major league record for home runs in any game is 10, by the Blue Jays against the Orioles in 1987 (full list on Baseball Almanac). April 1, 2007 Carneal Passes Away Legendary Twins radio broadcaster Herb Carneal passes away at age 83. Carneal spent 44 years calling Twins games, joining Ray Scott and Halsey Hall in 1962, the Twins’ second season in Minnesota. He received the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award in 1996. He and Jim Kaat comprised the sophomore class of the Twins Hall of Fame, inducted on July 7, 2001. On a personal note, when I was in elementary school I won a drawing at Hardee’s (true story) and got to spend an inning in the booth with Herb Carneal and John Gordon. April 2 Happy 67th Birthday, Tom Johnson It’s the birthday of former Twins reliever Tom Johnson, born in St. Paul in 1951. Johnson graduated from St. Paul’s Murray High School (now a middle school) in 1969, the same year that Dave Winfield graduated from St. Paul Central. Both players accepted scholarships to play for coaches Dick Siebert and Jerry Kindall at the University of Minnesota, but Johnson backed out at the last minute and signed a professional contract with the Twins. Johnson made his major league debut at Met Stadium on September 10, 1974 (age 23), starting the top of the 14th in relief of 1961 St. Cloud Cathedral graduate Tom Burgmeier. The Twins had a 4-1 lead entering the ninth when White Sox catcher Brian Downing hit a three-run homer off Bill Campbell to tie it up (Campbell had a historic ’76 season with the Twins, which he parlayed into a big pay day with the Red Sox following the season). Each team scored in the 11th and 13th innings for a 6-6 tie. Johnson struck out the first batter he faced, Eddie Leon. He gave up a single to the second batter, Jorge Orta. During the next at-bat, Johnson had Orta picked off first but made a throwing error, allowing Orta to advance to second. Orta later came around to score, with the run being unearned, despite the error being on Johnson himself. Trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the inning, Eric Soderholm reached on a two-out single, and scored on a Tony Oliva double. Johnson came back out to pitch a 1-2-3 top of the 15th. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Goose Gossage walked Rod Carew, who stole second, and scored on a Larry Hisle walk-off single, giving Johnson the win over future Hall of Famer Gossage. Johnson also earned the win in his second appearance three days later (September 13), again with Carew scoring the walk-off run, this time with a home run leading off the 10th. He pitched in both halves of a doubleheader on September 14, earning a save in Game 1. He pitched seven innings total in four appearances in 1974, giving up just four hits and no walks (0.571 WHIP). After making 18 appearances in both 1975 and ’76, Johnson had the best season of his career in 1977, going 16-7 with 15 saves, 3.13 ERA, and 1.357 WHIP in 71 games (146.2 innings pitched). He struggled during 18 appearances in 1978, his final major league season. Read Jim McKernon‘s SABR BioProject essay on Johnson (click here). April 2, 1962 Twins Trade Ramos for Power and Stigman It what is commonly considered the first major trade in team history, the Twins trade Pedro Ramos to Cleveland for four-time All-Star Vic Power and 1954 Sebeka High School graduate and 1960 All-Star Dick Stigman. Ramos started the first regular season game in Twins history, pitching a three-hit shutout at Yankee Stadium on April 11, 1961. He was involved in an interesting piece of Twins history on May 12, 1961, as he and Angels pitcher Eli Grba traded homers off each other. Grba homered off Ramos in the top of the fifth to give the Angels a 3-2 lead. Ramos returned the favor in the bottom of the inning to tie the game. He added a two-run single in the sixth, and the Twins held on to win 5-4, with the pitcher driving in the final three runs. Dick Stigman went 12-5 in 40 appearances (15 starts) in 1962. 1963 was his best season. He pitched a three-hit shutout in his second start of the season on April 18, and went on to post a 15-15 record in 33 starts. That’s just three no-decisions! He posted career-bests with a 3.25 ERA, 1.207 WHIP, 15 complete games, and 193 strikeouts, finishing third in the American League in the latter two categories (Camilo Pascual led the league in both). Pedro Ramos, incidentally, was second in the AL with a 1.067 WHIP, and 8.237 strikeouts per nine innings in 1963. April 2, 2010 First MLB Game at Target Field The Twins and Cardinals play an exhibition game at Target Field, the first major league game at the new ballpark. Center fielder Denard Span had himself a day, collecting the stadium’s first hit (a triple, of course), first home run, and first run scored. Jacque Jones, attempting a comeback with the club, pinch-hit and received a memorable standing ovation. I sure wish the Twins would make this kind of footage available. If they want to monetize it, fine, but don’t just keep it in the damn vault! April 3, 1982 First MLB Game in the Dumb Dome The Twins and Phillies play an exhibition game at the Metrodome, the first major league game at the new ballpark. After Pete Rose collected the Dome’s first base hit, 1978 Bloomington Kennedy graduate Kent Hrbek hit the first AND second home runs in Metrodome history, powering the Twins to a 5-0 win. April 3, 1997 Old Man Grand Slam 40-year-old Twins DH Paul Molitor hits a grand slam off Detroit’s Willie Blair at home in the Dome, driving in Todd Walker, Chuck Knoblauch, and Rich Becker. It is the third and final grand slam of the 1974 Cretin High School graduate’s career. The second came off Minnesota’s Dave Stevens on July 5, 1994. The first came way back on April 22, 1981. 41-year-old Dave Winfield hit a grand slam at the Metrodome on April 4, 1993. I believe he is the oldest Twin to do so. Atlanta’s Julio Franco became the oldest player in major league history to hit a grand slam on June 27, 2005 at age 46. Playing for the Mets, he became the oldest player to hit a home run off the Diamondbacks’s Randy Johnson on May 4, 2007 at age 48. April 4, 1990 Twins Trade Pomeranz for Ortiz The Twins trade future-KARE11 anchor Mike Pomeranz to the Pirates for Junior Oritz and minor league pitcher Orlando Lind. Oritz, who wore number 0, hit .335 (57-for-170) in 71 games (47 starts) in 1990. He is best remembered at Scott Erickson‘s personal catcher during the Twins’ 1991 World Championship season. He hit .209 in 61 regular season games (41 starts), and went 1-for-8 in six postseason games. Mike Pomeranz never made it to the majors. These days he works in San Diego, doing, among other things, Padres pre- and post-game broadcasts. April 5, 2004 Wuertz Makes MLB Debut 1997 Austin High School graduate Michael Wuertz strikes out the first two batters he faces in his major league debut, pitching a 1-2-3 sixth in a 7-4 Cubs win in Cincinnati. Wuertz made 426 relief appearances over eight seasons with the Cubs and Athletics. April 5, 2014 Gardenhire Wins 1,000th Brian Dozier homers on the second pitch of the game, leading the Twins to a 7-3 victory in Cleveland for Ron Gardenhire’s 1,000th managerial win. The milestone victory didn’t come without a new gray hair, however, as 2001 Stillwater grad Glen Perkins gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth before securing the Kyle Gibson win. April 6 Happy 67th Birthday, Bert Blyleven It’s the birthday of Rik Aalbert “Bert” Blyleven, born in Zeist, Holland in 1951. He grew up in Garden Grove, CA, and was drafted by the Twins out of high school in the third round in 1969. After only 21 minor league starts, Blyleven made his major league debut on June 2, 1970 (age 19) at RFK Stadium versus the Ted Williams-managed Senators. After Tony Oliva drove in César Tovar in the top of the first, staking the youngster to a 1-0 lead, Blyleven gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, Lee Maye. He recovered, striking out the second batter for the first of 3,701 career K’s, and pitched seven strong innings, allowing just the one run on five hits and a walk while striking out seven. Tovar put the Twins back on top 2-1 in the fifth, driving in Frank Quilici. Ron Perranoski pitched the final two innings, saving the first of Blyleven’s 287 major league wins (currently 27th all-time). Blyleven earned a 7-1 complete game victory over the Brewers on July 12, 1972 for the 1,000th win in Twins history. Remarkably, he also earned the 2,000th win in Twins history on September 25, 1985. Only July 31, 1972, Blyleven gave up two inside-the-park home runs at Met Stadium to Chicago’s Dick Allen, who went on to win the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award that season. The next player to hit two inside-the-park home runs in the same game was Greg Gagne at the Metrodome on October 4, 1986, doing so in his first two at-bats. He tripled in his third at-bat. Remarkably, Blyleven was on the mound for that game, too. More on Blyleven’s ’86 season later. On May 23, 1973, Blyleven pitched a one-hit shutout versus the Royals at Met Stadium. He would pitch two more one-hitters on September 26, 1973, and July 4, 1974, but the first was the only shutout of the three. Jim Kaat also pitched a one-hitter in 1973. 1973 was Blyleven’s best season, posting his only 20-win season (with 17 losses), with a career-best 2.52 ERA, major league-leading 2.32 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), and a major league-leading nine shutouts in a staggering 325 innings pitched (Wilbur Wood led the majors with 359.1 innings pitched). He pitched back-to-back shutouts twice in 1973 (and once in 1971). His 25 complete games, nine shutouts, and 325 innings pitched are still Twins records. He finished the season with 258 strikeouts, a team record that would stand for 31 years until Johan Santana K’ed 265 in 2004 (Nolan Ryan led the majors with 383 K’s in 1973, 125 more than Blyleven’s team record!). Blyleven made his first of two career All-Star teams in ’73. Blyleven earned an 11-inning 1-0 win in Milwaukee on August 27, 1975. Craig Kusick tied a major league record with three hit-by-pitches in the game. Blyleven earned a remarkable 15 1-0 complete game wins in his career. Blyleven was involved in contentious contract negotiations with Calvin Griffith early in the 1976 season. With trade rumors swirling, Blyleven walked off the mound after the top of the ninth on May 31 trailing the Angels 3-1. Some of the 8,379 fans in attendance, frustrated by Blyleven’s refusal to sign Griffith’s latest contract offer, gave the pitcher grief, singing “bye, bye, Bertie.” Before he got to the dugout, Blyleven, visibly angry, looked to the stands and gave someone—possibly hecklers, but likely Griffith himself—the ol’ one-finger salute. The next day, June 1, Blyleven was traded along with Danny Thompson to the Rangers for four players, including Roy Smalley and Mike Cubbage, and $250,000 cash. Blyleven wasn’t the only player involved in the trade that had bad blood with Griffith. Contract negotiations between Danny Thompson and the owner were also at a standstill. Griffith refused to give the infielder, who had been diagnosed with leukemia prior to the 1973 season, a fair price, insisting that no other team would offer someone with cancer a contract at all. Thompson struggled in Texas, and passed away that December. Blyleven pitched a two-hit shutout at Met Stadium in his first game against the Twins on July 26, 1976. He pitched a no-hitter in his final start as a Ranger on September 22, 1976. The Rangers sent him to the Pirates as part of a four-team, 11-player trade on December 8. Not until the Phillies traded Cole Hamels to the Rangers during the 2015 season would another pitcher be traded after pitching a no-hitter in his final game with a team. Blyleven made his second postseason with the Pirates in 1979 (he had pitched two innings of relief in the ALCS as a rookie in 1970). He earned a complete-game 1-0 win over the Reds in the third and decisive game of the NLCS in Pittsburgh. Johnny Bench homered for the Reds’ only run. Blyleven started Game 3 of the World Series in Baltimore, leaving after six in a 2-2 tie. The Pirates went on to win 3-2 on a Manny Sanguillen RBI single in the ninth. Down three games to one and trailing 1-0 in Game 5 in Pittsburgh, Blyleven entered in relief in the sixth and held the Orioles scoreless on just three hits over the final four innings of the game. The Pirates rallied for a 7-1 win, sending the Series back to Baltimore where they won both games. Blyleven was traded with Manny Sanguillen to Cleveland following the 1980 season. He won 19 games with Cleveland in 1984, finishing third in AL Cy Young balloting. He finished third again in 1985, when, playing for both Cleveland and Minnesota, he led the AL with 24 complete games, five shutouts, 206 strikeouts, and 293.2 innings pitched. After making his second All-Star team that summer, the Twins reacquired Blyleven on August 1 in exchange for four players, including former first-round draft pick and future All-Star Jay Bell, who would become the 11th player to homer on his first major league pitch on September 29, 1986. The Twins’ Andre David had also homered on his first MLB pitch on June 29, 1984, as did Eddie Rosario on May 6, 2015. The Twins put on one heckuva show at the Metrodome on August 1, 1986, as Blyleven two-hit the A’s, striking out a team record 15 (broken by Johan Santana with 17 strikeouts in just eight innings on August 19, 2007), becoming just the tenth player in major league history with 3,000 strikeouts. One of Oakland’s two hits, not surprisingly, was an Alfredo Griffin homer in the eighth. Kirby Puckett, meanwhile, hit for the seventh of ten cycles in team history, and the first at the Dome. Twins won 10-1. On September 13, 1986, Blyleven set a team record by giving up five home runs in a 14-1 loss to the Rangers at the Metrodome. Carlos Silva tied that record with five home runs allowed on August 22, 2006. On September 29, 1986, Blyleven gave up his 46th home run of the season, breaking Hall of Famer Robin Roberts’ 30-year-old single-season record. He would give up 50 altogether, while notching 17 wins and pitching an American League-leading 271.2 innings. Blyleven was solid again in 1987, going 15-12 in 37 starts, pitching 267 innings. He did, however, again lead the majors with 46 home runs allowed. He beat Jack Morris in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, and earned the win the fifth and decisive game in Detroit. He held the Cardinals to two runs over seven innings as the Twins won Game 2 of the World Series 8-4. He took his only postseason loss in his final postseason appearance, giving up three runs over six innings as the Cardinals won Game 5 4-2 to take a 3-2 Series lead. The Twins, of course, won Games 6 and 7 back in Minnesota. Altogether, Blyleven went 5-1 in eight career postseason games (six starts), with a 2.47 ERA and 1.077 WHIP. Blyleven tied a major league record by hitting four Cleveland batters on April 22, 1988, giving up seven runs in just 4.2 innings. That wasn’t the worst thing that happened that day, though. After the game, the Twins traded Tom Brunansky to the Cardinals for clubhouse cancer Tommy frickin’ Herr. Blyleven notched his 250th major league win on June 19, 1988. Of his eventual 287 wins, 149 came in a Twins uniform, second only to Jim Kaat‘s 190 (including one as a Senator). Blyleven holds Twins records with 141 complete games and 29 shutouts. For comparison, Brad Radke pitched 37 complete games. 1988 was a rough season overall, though, as Blyleven led the majors with 17 losses. After the season he was sent to the Angels as part of a five-player trade that brought Paul Sorrento to Minnesota. Blyleven came roaring back in 1989, going 17-5 with a league-leading five shutouts. He finished fourth in Cy Young balloting and was named AL Comeback Player of the Year. 1992 was his final major league season. He was 41 years old. He retired with 3,701 strikeouts, fifth-most in major league history behind Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and 1987 teammate Steve Carlton. Blyleven was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011, his fourteenth year on the ballot. The Twins retired his number 28 on July 16, 2011. April 6, 1973 Oliva Hits First HR by DH With Rod Carew aboard in the top of the first on Opening Day, Tony Oliva hits the first regular season home run by a designated hitter in major league history off Oakland’s Catfish Hunter. Interestingly, it was Oakland owner Charlie Finley who spearheaded the movement for the AL to adopt the DH. Bert Blyleven pitched the first of his 25 complete games of the season as the Twins won 8-3. April 6, 1982 First Regular Season Game at Dome The Twins opened the 1982 season versus Seattle at home in the dumb new Dome. 1977 St. Cloud Tech graduate Jim Eisenreich, making his major league debut, had the honor of being the first Twins batter to the plate. He grounded out to short. Two batters later right fielder Dave Engle homered for the first regular season hit in Metrodome history. Gary Gaetti was thrown at at home trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run in his first at-bat. He put the ball over the fence in his next two at-bats, going 4-for-4 with four RBI and two runs scored in an 11-7 Twins loss. April 6, 1993 Winfield Homers in Twins Debut 1969 St. Paul Central graduate Dave Winfield (age 41) homers in his Twins debut, a 10-5 loss to the White Sox at the Metrodome. Kirby Puckett also homered in the game. Winfield signed with the Twins after winning a World Series in his only season with the Blue Jays. He had been sensational in 1992, hitting .290 with 26 home runs, 33 doubles, 92 runs, and 108 RBI, finishing fifth in American League MVP voting (Dennis Eckersley won the award, with Kirby Puckett coming in runner-up). It was certainly exciting to have him in Minnesota, but his production was pretty pedestrian, hitting .270 with 21 home runs, 27 doubles, 72 runs, and 76 RBI in 143 games for a 0.2 WAR (wins above replacement). He hit another 10 of his 465 major league home runs in 77 games with the Twins in 1994. He wrapped up his 22-year Hall of Fame career with Cleveland in 1995. April 7, 1970 Alyea Has Record-Setting Opening Day In his first game as a Twin, outfielder Brant Alyea drives in a team record seven runs, helping Jim Perry to a 12-0 shutout on Opening Day in Chicago. Alyea went on to drive in 21 runs in the Twins’ first 12 games. Remarkably, 19 of those 21 RBI came in Jim Perry’s first four starts. Perry would go on to win the AL Cy Young Award that season. Pretty hot start to his Twins career. His Senators career got off to a hot start, too, homering on his first major league pitch on September 11, 1965. Alyea matched his team RBI record on September 7, 1970, going 3-for-4 with two home runs and driving in all seven Twins runs in a 7-6 win over the Brewers at Met Stadium. Glenn Adams broke Alyea’s record with eight RBI on June 26, 1977. Rod Carew also made Twins history that day, going 4-for-5 with a walk and a team record (since tied) five runs scored, raising his season average to .403. Randy Bush tied Adams’ team record with eight RBI on May 20, 1989. April 7, 1984 Morris Pitches No-Hitter Playing for the Tigers, 1973 Highland Park (St. Paul) graduate Jack Morris pitches a no-hitter in Chicago. April 7, 1987 Hrbek Hits Walk-Off in Opener After tying the game with his second RBI groundout in the eighth, Kent Hrbek hits a walk-off single in the tenth to give the Twins a 5-4 Opening Day win over Oakland at the Metrodome. Kirby Puckett homered and doubled in the game. Keep in touch with @TwinsAlmanac on Facebook and Twitter. If you have any notes to contribute, please leave a comment or e-mail me at Matt@TwinsAlmanac.com.
  24. February 11, 1985 Hrbek Cashes In The Twins sign 1978 Bloomington Kennedy High School grad Kent Hrbek to a new five-year, $6 million contract, making Hrbie the first player in team history scheduled to make a million dollars a year. I say "scheduled" because Hrbie's annual salary wouldn't actually exceed $1 million until the 1986 season, and the Twins traded for Bert Blyleven, making well over $1 million a year, during the 1985 season. Hrbek celebrated by going ice fishing outside his Lake Minnetonka home. Hrbek was coming off of what would be the best season of his career in 1984, hitting .311 with 27 home runs and 107 RBI. He finished runner-up in American League MVP balloting to Detroit closer Willie Hernandez, who also won the AL Cy Young Award. Kansas City closer Dan Quisenberry came in third in MVP balloting and second in Cy Young balloting. Quisenberry finished second or third in Cy Young balloting four straight seasons from 1982 to 1985. Next time you see Hrbie, ask him how he feels about pitchers receiving MVP votes. February 12 Happy 62nd Birthday, Brian Denman It’s the birthday of 1974 Richfield High School graduate and University of Minnesota alumnus Brian Denman, born in Minneapolis in 1956. Denman was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the 1978 January secondary phase. The 6'4" right-handed pitcher was a hot prospect in the Red Sox organization, winning 30 games in his first two minor league seasons, and 51 between 1978 and ‘82. Denman made his major league debut on August 2, 1982 at age 26, allowing two runs on six hits over five innings to earn the win in Oakland. 1961 St. Cloud Cathedral grad Tom Burgmeier earned the four-inning save. (Noticing these cool little connections makes Baseball Reference game logs some of the best reading there is) Denman made nine starts during his only big league season, going 3-4 with a 4.78 ERA, only striking out nine in 49 innings of work. He only lasted 2/3 of an inning in his second-to-last start, giving up six runs (two earned) on four hits and a walk against the Yankees at Fenway. He was again relieved by Burgmeier. Denman made one heckuva recovery, pitching a six-hit shutout at Yankee Stadium on October 2, his final major league start. He played two more seasons in the Red Sox organization, and 1985–'86 with the Tigers' triple-A Nashville Sounds. In addition to being an all-time great baseball player at Richfield, Denman was a standout member of the Spartans’ 1972 state champion and '73 and '74 state runner-up basketball teams. These days Denman makes his home in Buffalo, NY. February 12 Happy 33rd Birthday, Cole De Vries It’s the birthday of 2003 Eden Prairie graduate, University of Minnesota alumnus, and former Twins pitcher Cole De Vries, born in St. Louis Park in 1985. De Vries played three seasons for the Gophers before signing with the Twins as an amateur free agent in 2006. He made his major league debut on May 24, 2012 at age 27, allowing six runs on six hits and a walk over five innings in an 11-8 loss to the White Sox in Chicago. It was a rude welcome to the big leagues as A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios each took him deep. Mauer and Morneau homered for the Twins, for what it's worth. De Vries made 17 appearances (16 starts) in 2012, compiling a 5-5 record with a 4.11 ERA. He earned the win in his second and third big league starts, but did not win again for almost two months before winning his final three starts of the season. De Vries made it back to the majors in September 2013, struggling through two relief appearances and two starts, giving up 18 runs on 22 hits over 15 innings. He pitched in Venezuela that winter, with similar results. The retired pitcher still lives in Eden Prairie, and works in commercial real estate. February 15 Happy 75th Birthday, Don Arlich It’s the birthday of 1961 St. Paul North graduate and former Houston Astros pitcher Don Arlich, born in Wayne, Michigan in 1943. Arlich went 15-0 for the 1961 State Champion North High Polars, a team that also featured Twins curator Clyde Doepner. Arlich signed with Houston out of high school. He made his major league debut on October 2, 1965 at age 22, starting the second-to-last game of the season versus the St. Louis Cardinals at the Astrodome. He held the Cardinals to two runs on five hits and a walk over six innings, and was in line for the win before St. Louis rallied against the Houston bullpen. Arlich made it back to the majors in July 1966, making seven relief appearances, giving up nine runs (seven earned) on eleven hits and four walks over four innings pitched. He stuck it out in the minors until 1969, playing his final two and a half seasons in the Braves’ organization. February 16, 1897 Birthdate of Paul Castner It's the birthdate of St. Thomas Academy (Mendota Heights) graduate, World War I veteran, Notre Dame legend, and former White Sox pitcher Paul Castner, born 121 years ago in St. Paul. According to biographer Bill Lamb, baseball was Castner's third-best sport after football and hockey. He played fullback at Notre Dame under legendary coach Knute Rockne, blocking for the Gipper. He made six relief appearances for the 1923 White Sox, giving up nine runs (seven earned) on 14 hits and five walks over 10 innings pitched. He never struck out a major league batter. Read Bill Lamb's thorough and fascinating SABR BioProject essay on Castner (click here). February 16, 1973 Twins Announce Thompson’s Leukemia Diagnosis The Twins announce that 27-year-old infielder Danny Thompson has been diagnosed with chronic granulocytic leukemia. Doctors say that the disease is in an early stage, and should not affect Thompson for about five years. The Twins drafted Thompson out of Oklahoma State in 1968 in the first round of the June Secondary Phase. He made his major league debut on June 25, 1970 at age 23 and never went back down to the farm. He played in 630 games over seven seasons with the Twins. Thompson was involved in contentious contract negotiations with Calvin Griffith in 1976. Griffith refused to give the infielder a fair price, insisting that no other team would even offer a contract to someone with cancer. So on June 1, 1976 he was packaged with Bert Blyleven and shipped to Texas in exchange for Roy Smalley, Mike Cubbage, and pitchers Bill Singer, and Jim Gideon. Thompson struggled in Texas. He passed away at the Mayo Clinic on December 10, 1976, just 69 days after playing his final major league game. He played in 98 games between Minnesota and Texas in the final year of his life. He was just 29 years old. February 17 Happy 39th Birthday, Josh Willingham It's the birthday of former Twins outfielder Josh Willingham, born in Florence, AL in 1979. The Twins signed Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract on December 15, 2011. It was the richest free agent deal in team history at the time according to SABR member John Swol's awesome site, TwinsTrivia.com. Willingham led off the top of the ninth with a line-drive single to center on April 21, 2012 in St. Petersburg, extending his season-starting hitting streak to 15 games. It was the longest streak to begin a Twins career, and tied with Kirby Puckett's 1994 streak for the longest to begin a season in team history. Willingham had a career year in 2012, hitting .260 with 35 home runs and 110 RBI, and winning a Silver Slugger Award alongside fellow AL outfielders Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton. Keep in touch with @TwinsAlmanac on Twitter and Facebook.
  25. Game 7 of the 1987 World Series was Sunday, Oct. 25, and the special section was published that following Thursday. The cover was a giant picture from the parade with this box of text with the headline “Minnesota Magic.” That may be a little difficult to read, so I typed it up below. I get goosebumps every time I read it. “America, you gotta believe.” The banner hanging in the Metrodome outfield in Game 7 shouted the conviction of a baseball team and its fans. It’s finally Minnesota's turn to be No. 1. World Champions. They were a team of strugglers, overachievers, regular guys — long on heart, short on superstars. That was the best part because it was so Minnesota. A team considered so unlikely to win it all that Las Vegas took 150-1 odds against the Twins. It seemed magical. The Twins were unbeatable in the Dome, where fans created the ultimate home-field advantage. Commissioner Peter Ueberroth watched the World Series and declared, “These are the best baseball fans I have ever seen.” The Minnesota Twins made sports history this October. You helped make it happen. Now remember.This photo of Kent Hrbek losing his mind — arms up in celebration, dogpile already starting to form — is a classic. You can’t talk about a Twins title without mentioning the Homer Hanky. Here’s a great ad from the paper: Along with all the ring, special news coverage, merchandising and all that stuff, winning a title gives you the opportunity to do all sorts of other silly stuff, like make music videos. Here’s an ad for the Berenguer Boogie: What was the Berenguer Boogie? Thankfully someone has uploaded it to YouTube, because words can’t do it justice: Game 7 of the 1991 World Series was on Sunday Oct. 27 and, again, the special section was released the following Thursday, which was Halloween. Hmmm, Halloween 1991 … why does that day seem to stick out for some reason? … It was a series to savor, indeed. A variation of this iconic photo of Dan Gladden and an upended Greg Olsen made the cover of Sports Illustrated. Dazzle was tagged out on the play, which came in Game 1 of the series, but the Twins had already built a four-run lead by then. Here’s another just incredible shot: The Catch. Kirby looks like he must’ve found a trampoline hidden on the warning track to catapult himself that high off the ground. Twins fans looked on with bated breath, but we know Kirby wasn’t going to let the Twins lose that night. His walkoff homer later that evening went to nearly the same spot. Of course, Puckett’s blast cleared the 13-foot tall plexiglass wall and Jack Buck delivered one of the most famous home run calls of all time. Don't worry, we'll get to Jack Morris and Game 7 a little later today. Let’s get some good vibes flowing. What are some of your favorite memories from the Twins’ World Series championships? The Twin Cities are buzzing with the Super Bowl in town, but what was the aftermath of those championship seasons like?
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