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  1. Pete Rose gets the first base hit in the Metrodome, but the Twins secure the first victory, a 5-0 win over Philadelphia in an exhibition game. The baggie is noticeably absent in KSTP's footage as rookie Kent Hrbek homers twice to tie Harmon Killebrew's spring training club record of 9. Hrbek and fellow Twins players Gary Gaetti, Butch Wynegar, and Dave Engle comment on the stadium. View full video
  2. Pete Rose gets the first base hit in the Metrodome, but the Twins secure the first victory, a 5-0 win over Philadelphia in an exhibition game. The baggie is noticeably absent in KSTP's footage as rookie Kent Hrbek homers twice to tie Harmon Killebrew's spring training club record of 9. Hrbek and fellow Twins players Gary Gaetti, Butch Wynegar, and Dave Engle comment on the stadium.
  3. Reserve outfielder Randy Bush hits a grand slam and Kent Hrbek collects 4 hits in Frank Viola's complete game win in Baltimore. Viola's bid for a shutout is spoiled by a Fred Lynn home run in the 9th. WCCO notes ominously that the Twins road trip will continue the next two nights in New York... Watch that day's full newscast here. Presented in partnership with TC Media Now. View full video
  4. Reserve outfielder Randy Bush hits a grand slam and Kent Hrbek collects 4 hits in Frank Viola's complete game win in Baltimore. Viola's bid for a shutout is spoiled by a Fred Lynn home run in the 9th. WCCO notes ominously that the Twins road trip will continue the next two nights in New York... Watch that day's full newscast here. Presented in partnership with TC Media Now.
  5. A lineup of mostly Twins reserves (plus Kent Hrbek) lose a spring training game to former Twin Jim Eisenreich and the Kansas City Royals. But WCCO's Mark Rosen gushes about the new Royals spring training complex, featuring an amusement park, and suggests the Twins may soon be persuaded to leave Orlando for a similar new development in Fort Myers. Watch the full newscast here. Presented in partnership with TC Media Now. View full video
  6. A lineup of mostly Twins reserves (plus Kent Hrbek) lose a spring training game to former Twin Jim Eisenreich and the Kansas City Royals. But WCCO's Mark Rosen gushes about the new Royals spring training complex, featuring an amusement park, and suggests the Twins may soon be persuaded to leave Orlando for a similar new development in Fort Myers. Watch the full newscast here. Presented in partnership with TC Media Now.
  7. Hope springs eternal in this report from KARE 11, as Twins spring training gets underway at Tinker Field in Orlando, Florida. Kent Hrbek hits a 3-run home run and adds a great defensive play as the Twins beat Boston. Chip Hale and Paul Sorrento each hit home runs in their quest to be named the Sire of Fort Myers Overlord of Orlando, but catcher Orlando Mercado's 3 hits (and first name) might prevail in that contest. Watch more of that newscast here. Presented in partnership with TC Media Now. View full video
  8. Hope springs eternal in this report from KARE 11, as Twins spring training gets underway at Tinker Field in Orlando, Florida. Kent Hrbek hits a 3-run home run and adds a great defensive play as the Twins beat Boston. Chip Hale and Paul Sorrento each hit home runs in their quest to be named the Sire of Fort Myers Overlord of Orlando, but catcher Orlando Mercado's 3 hits (and first name) might prevail in that contest. Watch more of that newscast here. Presented in partnership with TC Media Now.
  9. 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
  10. Last week, MLB.com tried its best to identify the best draft pick in each club’s history. There’s no question this can be debatable, so here are the top-5 draft picks in Twins history. 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 View full article
  11. There have been plenty of great players in the history of the Minnesota Twins. From Killebrew to Buxton and many in-between, it is tough to narrow it down to the top twelve players in the history of the Twins. One fan favorite who was vital in bringing popularity and success to the Twins was Kent Hrbek. 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! View full article
  12. 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!
  13. “Now that the Twins have become America’s team, I’ll say Minnesota in six games,” ESPN’s Chris Berman predicted. “Twins in six,” speculated the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Gerry Fraley. “Their pitching staff is in order. They have the first two games at home. They’re relatively healthy. The series is set up perfectly for them.” Tim Kurkjian, who had written that the Tigers would trounce the Twins in the American League Championship Series, now saw them as the superior team. He still threw shade by saying “the Twins will win in seven because the Cardinals are so banged up and because of the Metrodome factor.” While the Twins shifted to favorites, no one was counting St. Louis out. Were the Cardinals injured? Yup. Were they offensively depleted? Of course. But they had speed and speed never slumps. They were battle-tested with recent World Series experience. And they had Whitey Herzog at the helm. Herzog had guided his team to the best record in the National League and pulled them through a bloodbath of a playoff series against the San Francisco Giants. At 95-67, the Cardinals had finished with the National League’s best record. Yet, in many ways, they had lost the magic from the first half of the season. At the All Star Break St. Louis led all of baseball with 56 wins. Despite pitching well and playing good defense throughout the year, it was the offense that was ablaze in the season’s first half, scoring an MLB-best 486 runs. Even though speedsters like Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith and Tommy Herr were getting on and getting over, the vast majority of the lumber was supplied by first baseman Jack Clark, who was hitting .311/.459/.645 with an MLB leading 86 RBI at that point. His loss would be monumental to the Cardinals' lineup. On September 9, while playing at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, his season all but ended. In the top of the sixth, Clark hit a harmless grounder off of Dennis Martinez that third baseman Tim Wallach fielded cleanly only to make a wide throw to Andres Galarraga at first. In an attempt to avoid Galarraga’s tag, Clark rolled his ankle. Herzog would later say that he knew that Clark’s season was finished right then and there. Cardinals pitcher Bob Forsch wrote in his biography that the injury was one of the “ugliest” he had ever seen, describing Clark’s foot grossly swollen and the color of an eggplant. ''Without Jack Clark in the lineup we’re missing a big weapon,'' Jim Lindeman, Clark’s replacement, told reporters. “When he walks up to the plate, he's the only guy who gets the crowd buzzing and the other team fidgeting. He's the only guy who intimidates people with his bat.'' Indeed. After Clark's bat in the lineup, there was a prolific drop-off in power for St. Louis. And to make matters worse, the next closest power contributor had also just injured himself. Terry Pendleton, who had the most home runs on the team behind Clark, pulled a muscle in his rib cage during the final game of the National League Championship Series and was not expected to participate much in the World Series. “Right now it is doubtful that he will play at all,” Herzog said addressing the media before the series. Clark and Pendleton’s absence was no doubt felt throughout the Cardinal lineup. Rather than having Clark, a hitter with a 1.055 OPS that season, Herzog was forced to choose from the rookie Lindeman, who possessed a .632 OPS over his last two seasons, or the 35-year-old Dan Driessen, who had spent most of the year in AAA and posted a .625 OPS in 24 games with the Cardinals. In place of Pendleton, who had posted a respectable .772 OPS that year, it was the 30-year-old Tom Lawless, owner of a career .549 OPS. “Two hundred RBIs,” Herzog answered when asked if they team would miss Clark and Pendleton in the heart of the order. “I’d say that is a hole.” Clark led the team with 35 home runs during the regular season. After that, Pendleton’s 12 was a distant second followed by center fielder Willie McGee’s 11. McGee, a light-hitting speedster, sadly represented St. Louis’ biggest long-ball threat. In fact, no other Cardinals starter managed more than five that year. Prior the series, the Star Tribune’s Doug Grow marveled at the juxtaposition of the two teams. “The Twins dig in at the plate and grunt as they play long-ball. Watch ‘em in batting practice. They love that time in the cage. They stand there and laugh and measure how far they hit it,” Grow observed. “When the St. Louis Cardinals step into the batting cage, the walls are safe from baseballs. Batting is something the Cardinals do only so they can get a chance to run.” With so few options Herzog decided to use the right-handed part-time player in Lindeman -- who had nine career home runs to his name -- as his cleanup hitter against left-handed pitching in the postseason. In Game 3 of the NLCS, Lindeman responded by hitting a 1-1 fastball from San Francisco’s Atlee Hammaker over the left-center field fence for a two-run shot (one of two home runs the Cardinals hit that entire seven game series). It was his first cleanup duty since April of that year. "I think the last time I batted cleanup I probably went oh for four and broke three bats," he told reporters after the game. With another left-hander on the mound from Minnesota in Game 1 and the switch-hitting Pendleton unable to swing from the right-side, Herzog went forward with a lineup card that included Lindeman in the middle of the order, another rookie at DH (Tom Pagnozzi and his .583 OPS) and Lawless, who had a .080 batting average in the regular season, at third. They would meet the man affectionately known in Minnesota as Sweet Music. *** On the night of October 17, 1987, 27-year-old Frank Viola was at work and not at his brother’s wedding in New York where he was supposed to be the best man, like he had committed to a year prior. In 1986 the Twins were well out of postseason contention and the left-handed starter figured that if 1987 were anything like the previous year, he would have his October wide open to participate in his brother’s nuptials. After all, how could a team that won just 71 games make up that much ground? “I thought it would be a little far-fetched. I told ‘em, yeah, I shouldn’t have any problem making it. That was last year, when we were 20 games under .500. It’s unbelieveable,” said Viola. Viola was heavily responsible for the Twins making this postseason run. He had finished the year 17-10 with a solid 2.90 ERA (a career-best 159 ERA+). It was a coming out party of sorts. Viola went from a very good pitcher in 1986 to a great one in 1987. When people asked how he was able to shave an entire run off his ERA over the previous year, he attributed it to his changeup. Viola’s development of the changeup was the difference maker from the good pitcher that arrived with the Twins in the early 1980s into the great one towards the end of that decade. In 1983, Viola was a lefty who used a solid fastball and a slider-curveball combination to retire hitters (or not retire them when you consider his 128 earned runs that season was the most in baseball). That same year, Twins pitching coach Johnny Podres taught Viola how to throw a changeup, keeping his arm action consistent with his fastball delivery. When Podres left and Dick Such took over pitching coach duties, Viola’s changeup became a significant weapon. “I had been working on it for 3 ½ years under Podres but was using 15 or 20 grips. None of them worked. When Such joined us, he made a few adjustments and all of a sudden I found myself comfortable throwing a changeup,” Viola said in spring training before the 1986 season. By 1986, he had mastered command of the pitch and scrapped his slider in favor of the off-speed pitch. "The changeup I use now is the one I felt most comfortable with, but it took me two years to throw it over the plate," Viola told the LA Times in August 1987. Because the Twins were pushed out of the pennant race early in 1986, Viola said he was able to experiment with the pitch until he got it right. It was working swimmingly -- after striking out 5.3 hitters per nine innings over his first four seasons, he was now whiffing 7 per nine, a massive jump. Most notably, the changeup also gave Viola an advantage over right-handed hitters he did not have before. From 1982 through 1985, Viola struck out 13 percent of right-handed hitters but saw that rate jump to 19 percent in 1986 through 1987. That's one reason why that, on October 17, 1987, Frank Viola was standing on the mound at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and not at his brother's wedding ceremony. The game started off with a failed bunt attempted by Cardinals' leadoff hitter Vince Coleman on Viola’s first-pitch curve. That brought shortstop Ozzie Smith to the plate. Smith took his stance in the right-handed batters’ box. With the exception of Bill Buckner, no hitter was more difficult to strike out than the Wizard of Oz. From 1982 through 1987, Smith had struck out in just 4.9% of his total plate appearances. If there was one thing Ozzie was going to do, it was put the ball in play. In his first appearance against Viola in his career, the left-hander shot a low-90s fastball on the inner-half of the plate at Smith's knees for strike one and then missed wide on a big curve that skipped in the dirt to even the count. Viola now turned to that off-speed weapon that the National League was not accustomed to. The first changeup he threw split the plate in half while falling rapidly, leaving Smith waving over the top of it. Viola followed that one with a near clone of it that Smith once again swung over for strike three. Up to that point in his career, Ozzie Smith had 55 World Series plate appearances under his belt without a strikeout. If their first match-up was any indication, Frank Viola was showing the Cardinals hitters and viewers across America that something special was afoot. **** When you consider the personnel loss the Cardinals had, it was a near miracle that they were able to overtake the Giants in the NLCS. ABC’s Al Michaels’ suggested that Herzog reached baseball’s pinnacle series by virtue of “paste and glue and tacks and the rest of it”. They were missing Clark. Pendleton had a strained rib cage that kept him from being able to hit right-handed. Everything about the lineup felt patchwork. Following his tendon tear Clark attempted to do everything possible to make it back for the postseason to face his former team. He made a pair of pinch-hitting appearances in the regular season and was kept on the roster for the NLCS despite the inability to put much weight on his right leg. Prior to games, he and some of the coaching staff took private on-field batting practice, away from the attention of his teammates and onlookers. It did not go well. He lunged and lurched at balls and produce off-balanced swings with mediocre contact. "It's going to take a while longer," he said in response to an inquiry about his injury status, "and I don't know how much longer it will be. This is more than just a little twisted ankle. There isn't any medicine I can take. If there were shots or pills that would help, I'd have had them by now.” Herzog used Clark once in the seven game series against San Francisco -- a pinch-hit appearance in Game 3 -- where Clark struck out looking with runners on first and second. Before the start of the World Series, the Cardinals ran Clark through a simulated game. Clark went down looking in his at-bats, barely able to transfer his weight off his front leg. That was enough for Herzog to decide not to keep him on the roster for the series, instead opting to carry reliever Lee Tunnell. Surprisingly, it was Clark’s replacement who got the Cardinals on the board first. Leading off the second inning, Viola ran a fastball off the inside edge of the plate, inciting the right-handed Lindeman to flinch. Naturally, the next offering after going hard in was to throw something soft away. Viola spotted a changeup just off the outside corner but left it too far up and Lindeman, now swinging off his front foot, was able to lift toward center field. Puckett, who enjoyed playing a deep center in order to defend the wall and takeaway would-be home runs, initially froze. Perhaps Puckett misjudged the contact, or lost the ball momentarily in the sea of white Homer Hankies; either way, by the time he made his furious break back toward the infield and the landing spot, the ball hit the artificial turf and Lindeman gained second. Following a Willie McGee fly out to right center that moved him up a base, Lindeman later scored on an RBI groundout by Tony Pena, putting the Cardinals up 1-0. As it turns out, the run proved to be as harmless as a minnow bite. Although Magrane had kept the potent Twins hitless through the first three innings, his habit of falling behind hitters and issuing free passes eventually catch up to him. The Twins offense also used their first plate appearances to calibrate themselves against the young pitcher. After their first looks, they were ready to pounce. Magrane had relied mainly on his sinking fastball -- one that didn’t find the zone consistently. In the bottom of the fourth, he started Gaetti with a fastball inside which the reigning ALCS MVP rapped on the ground down the third baseline. Lawless, playing deep for the power hitter, laid out to snare the ball well behind the bag and came up firing. In a bang-bang play, Gaetti beat it by a step -- the Twins’ first hit of the 1987 World Series was an infield hit. After Gaetti’s single, veteran DH Don Baylor did the same. Ditto for Tom Brunansky. *** Brunansky didn’t know it at the time but he was showcasing his talents his future employer. It was no secret that the Cardinals lacked power. When Clark left as a free agent after the 1987 season, St. Louis was left with a pile of toothpicks for bats. Internally, they hoped that Lindeman would progress in the power department but they looked for more of a proven presence, adding beefy Bob Horner to the mix, much to manager Whitey Herzog’s chagrin. The 30-year-old Horner had averaged 24 home runs in his ten seasons in Atlanta but had spent 1987 in Japan playing for the Yakult Swallows where he smacked another 31 home runs. In his exit interview, Horner took parting shots at the Japanese version of the game, calling out the pitchers for not throwing him strikes, chastising the fans for their choice of whistles and noisemakers, and saying the umpires’ strike zones were prejudice against foreigners. His words nearly incited an international incident. While he never was asked about Horner’s remarks, the Redbirds’ manager wasn’t thrilled by the prospect of adding him based on his pool of play. “I don’t like Horner,” Herzog told reporters where rumors surfaced that Cardinals’ GM Dal Maxvill was targeting the large first baseman. “Of his lifetime homers, about seventy percent were hit in Atlanta. He never could hit in St. Louis. He can’t hit, and he can’t field.” It was true that the bulk of Horner’s home runs had come in Fulton County Stadium -- 174 of his 218 homers came in Atlanta. Herzog’s words, however, eventually reached Horner who had signed with St. Louis on a one-year, $960,000 deal, significantly lower than the $10 million multi-year deal that Yukult offered him to stay. “Obviously it’s not something you want to read,” Horner said. “But even though Whitey had criticized me in making those statements, I would still enjoy the challenge of proving him wrong.” With a need for more power, the Cardinals turned to the Twins. On April 22, 1988, the two sides agreed to swap the outfielder Brunansky for St. Louis’ switch-hitting second baseman, Tommy Herr. According to Sid Hartman, who had learned of the trade on the radio while driving his close, personal friend Bobby Knight to his hotel in Bloomington, he immediately called McPhail at home in the middle of the night to ask “what the hell is going on?” The Twins GM told the Star Tribune columnist that they were convinced Brunansky couldn’t throw the ball from right field any more and was turning into a defensive liability. What’s more, Brunansky was hitting .184 with just a lone home run through the season’s first 14 games. And, more importantly, the Twins were 4 and 9 and looking for a spark. Herr reportedly cried when he heard the news. His desire to play for the Twins was questioned by fans, the media and teammates when he was continually sidelined with injuries. In his autobiography, Kent Hrbek called Herr the only teammate he ever played with that he really didn’t like. Meanwhile, in St. Louis, Brunansky brought with him some of the Twins’ loosy-goosy clubhouse attitude that involved various pranks which endeared him to his coworkers -- possibly with the exception of pitcher Joe Magrane. Later that summer, with the help of Ozzie Smith, the outfielder orchestrated a prank on the pitcher. Magrane, who had a reputation as being a pretty-boy clotheshorse, was sent a telegram from GQ magazine requesting a photoshoot. Smith had been profiled in the April issue so it seemed somewhat plausible that the magazine was interested in more St. Louis subjects -- this time to display winter fashion. On a day in which the heat reached 105 degrees, a photographer and Magrane, along with five winter suits, took to the Busch Stadium field and began a photoshoot that lasted over an hour in the oppressive Missouri summer heat. In his book, Cardinals pitcher Bob Forsch described Magrane as “sweating like a stuffed pig” as he ran from the field to the clubhouse for an attire change. Several days later, Magrane received another telegram that said “because of your subpar season, we’ve decided not to use your session in GQ.” A day later, a follow up telegram arrived. It read: “Roses are red, violets are blue. You’ve been had. There’s no GQ.” *** While wearing winter knits in 105 degree heat sounds uncomfortable, it probably was nothing for Magrane compared to the pressure on the mound at the Metrodome with the bases now at maximum capacity (in the form of Gaetti, Baylor and his future teammate Brunansky) and Kent Hrbek coming to the plate looking for a meal. People worried about Hrbek. After all, he went 1-for-20 in the ALCS against Detroit. Fans expressed frustration with their team's best run producer's inability to produce. Was the pressure to carry his hometown team -- his childhood rooting interest -- to their first World Series victory be too much? Throughout the regular season, Hrbek did little against left-handed pitching. While he finished with 34 home runs, all but six came against right-handed pitchers and he posted a .225/.290/.370 line against southpaws in 155 plate appearances. So it was no surprise that the first baseman was batting seventh in the game against Magrane. Magrane had been tough on left-handed opponents, limiting them to a .226 average and just one home run. Given that Magrane held the platoon advantage, it shouldn’t come as surprise that Hrbek’s contact on the 0-1 pitch wasn’t solid. The ball hit the ground inches in front of home then again just beyond second base -- a classic Dome ball that found its way between Smith, arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game, and Herr at second to score Gaetti and Baylor, putting the Twins ahead 2-1. “I just looked at it on the TV, and it was a high fastball away,” Hrbek told the Star Tribune. “I was just trying to hit it to the outfield and go to the left field to get the run in. It’s the old Randy Bush theory. You try to swing as hard as you can in case you hit it.” When Steve Lombardozzi walked, the fifth consecutive Twins hitter to reach base, Whitey Herzog emerged to tell Magrane his night was over. Magrane exited to a chorus of “Happy Trails” by Twins fans. Herzog called on the veteran Bob Forsch, in hope of coaxing a double-play grounder out of catcher Tim Laudner. Forsch did get the grounder but the right-handed hitting Lauds was able to will it through the left-side of the infield between Herr and Lindeman, scoring Brunansky from third and loading the bases once again. That’s when outfielder Dan Gladden came to the plate. ****Come back to TwinsDaily.com tomorrow for more of the "1987 Revisited" series****
  14. In this series of promotional shorts leading up to the 1985 Minnesota Twins season, we're offered a throwback to some classic faces that contributed to the 1987 World Championship team: Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Tom Brunansky, and Gary Gaetti's mustache. But despite these iconic players taking the stage, the real star of the show ends up being the free tube socks. Presented in partnership with TC Media Now.
  15. In this series of promotional shorts leading up to the 1985 Minnesota Twins season, we're offered a throwback to some classic faces that contributed to the 1987 World Championship team: Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Tom Brunansky, and Gary Gaetti's mustache. But despite these iconic players taking the stage, the real star of the show ends up being the free tube socks. Presented in partnership with TC Media Now. View full video
  16. 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
  17. ‘This is a victory for the Twins and America,’ said the former Taco John's spokesperson. 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 View full article
  18. 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
  19. Matt Walbeck came to the Twins after the 1993 season as a highly-touted catching prospect. He spent three seasons learning under the tutelage of Tom Kelly. He spent parts of 11 seasons in the big leagues before beginning a career as a coach and manager. To this day, he continues to coach and train ballplayers at the Walbeck Baseball Academy. His passion for teaching and training ballplayers is evident. Let’s take a look back at the career of Matt Walbeck, and find out what he’s up to these days.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. Click here to view the article
  20. 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.
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. 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)
  25. After reviewing some of the top players to wear a Minnesota Twins uniform in the 1960s and 1970s in past weeks, this week we will be jumping to the 1980s. Today we start with the top hitters of the 1980s, many of who helped the Twins to their first World Series championship.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) Click here to view the article
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