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After reading the 2005 season summary that is part of an excellent series on TD I was forced to think about second base where 2005 demonstrated the difficulty we had for many years. Here is a summary of our highs and lows: Billy Martin was our 2B in the first year in Minnesota and would last one year before becoming a coach and manager and then going to the Yankees again and again and again. If only he would stop hitting marshmallow salesmen. Bernie Allen had five years of average play (239 BA). In 1960, Allen led the Boilermakers to a record of 4-4-1 (2-4 Big Ten) and wins over #12 Notre Dame, Ohio State and #1 Minnesota Jerry Kindall was there for the championship with a career 213 batting average. His fame came in Arizona as their coach winning 860 games and three College World Series championships over 24 seasons (1973–1996). Then came ROD CAREW and he might have had a full career with us if Calvin Griffith had kept his racist mouth shut. Here is a summary from Wikipedia - "The greatest contact hitter in Twins history, he won the 1977 AL Most Valuable Player Award, setting a Twins record with a .388 batting average.Carew appeared in 18 straight All-Star Games and led the AL in hits three times, with his 239 hits in 1977 being twelfth most at the time. He won seven AL batting titles, the second most AL batting titles in history behind Ty Cobb, and on July 12, 2016 the AL batting title was renamed to the Rod Carew American League batting title." To make matters more painful he got his 3000th hit against Frank Viola! And what was it that Calvin said --"I'll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when we found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don't go to ballgames, but they'll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it'll scare you to death. We came here because you've got good, hardworking white people here." Danny Thompson - An All-American at Oklahoma State he was diagnosed with leukemia at age 26. He said, “You don’t have time to get down,” he said. “You’ve got to keep your head up and go right at it.” After and excellent rookie season he slid over to SS and Carew went back to 2B. He died in 1976. Bob Randall - A lifetime 257 hitter who came to the Twins from the Dodgers and played all his major league games with the Twins (460) and took over 2B as Carew was again moved to 1B. He was with us five years and went on to be a college coach. Rob Wilfong - His claim to fame is that he lead the American League in sacrifice hits in 1979. He hit 262 in six years with the Twins and was traded to the Angels. Currently he is a scout for the Detroit Tigers (I hope he is finding some better players for them now). John Castino - he was moved to 2B in 1982. He led the league in fielding percentage at 2B in 1982, but if the switch to 2B was supposed to protect his back it did not work. He was out in 1984 when back fusion ended his career - as a person with back fusion I can sympathize. Tim Teufel - known for the Teufel shuffle at bat - a wiggle of the butt His best years would be with the Mets when he was at 2B for the World Series. He is currently their goodwill ambassador and minor league coach. He hit 265 in his six years with the Twins. He was traded for Billy Beane and two others. If only we had moved Beane into the front office and off the field! Steve Lombardozzi - he played in the 1987 World Series and hit .412 with a home run in Game 5. He hit 233 in five seasons with the Twins. In 1986 he led second basemen in fielding percentage. Wally Backman and Tommy Herr - Backman was traded for from the Mets where he was platooned with Tim Teufel. He hit 231 for us. "The Mets sent him and Mike Santiago to the Minnesota Twins for Jeff Bumgarner, Steve Gasser and Toby Nivens, none of whom emerged as a major leaguer.The Mets sent him and Mike Santiago to the Minnesota Twins for Jeff Bumgarner, Steve Gasser and Toby Nivens, none of whom emerged as a major leaguer." That year we also traded for Tommy Herr from the Cardinals, Herr announced that he didn’t really want to be in Minnesota. Backman was brought in to replace Herr and Backman announced that he was thrilled to be with the Twins and bought a house on Lake Minnetonka. Kent Hrbek said, “Tommy Herr never wanted to play here, so he didn’t fit in with the rest of us." Then he added, “Backman does fit in. You can see the difference just in the fact that Wally wants to have fun. Already, Backman and (Dan) Gladden are pulling pranks on each other.” Backman is a minor league manager with an excellent resume. Al Newman - 231 Twins average, he went on to be a coach with the team. He was acquired in a trade where we gave up pitcher Mike Schade (who?). He was allowed to leave as a free agent after 1991 and eventually ended up coaching the St Cloud Rox. Chuck Knoblauch - if we ignore some statements and actions and personality he might be the next greatest second baseman for the Twins after Rod Carew. Rookie of the year, part of the 1991 World Series team. Wiki says, "During the 1994–96 seasons, Knoblauch batted .312, .333, and .341, respectively, won the AL Gold Glove Award at second base in 1997, and stole over 40 bases in three consecutive seasons." Twins fans became irate when he requested that he be traded. When he returned he was booed, bottles and hot dogs were thrown at him. With the Yankees he developed the yips - he could not throw and that was the beginning of the end. He played 12 years, seven with the Twins where he had a 304 career average. His post baseball career in marred by his physical abuse of his former wife which came as he was about to be named to the Twins HOF. He was also named in the Mitchell report for HGH. Todd Walker - a member of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame was a first round draft pick who never prospered in MN and I blame Tom Kelly who seemed to resent the college degree and accomplishments of Walker. Walker his 285 for the Twins in five seasons and his career did better after he left us. He is now on the New England sports network and I was shocked to hear him when I tuned in on a game when I was working in Maine. He was acquired from the Twins in Theo Epstein's first trade. A quiet, studious and serious player "He really took baseball serious," Matt Lawton said. "Everything he did, he's always talking about hitting. He'd play a video game and he'd compare that video game to anything about hitting. He'd bring up something about hitting fastballs, hitting breaking balls." "Some of his former teammates in Minnesota said Walker's glove wasn't the only reason he was in Kelly's doghouse. Their stormy relationship led to him being traded to Colorado in July 2000. Lawton said Kelly wasn't particularly fond of first-round picks. Walker, who had an outstanding collegiate career at LSU, was the eighth overall pick in 1994. Lawton said it didn't take much for a first-round pick to rub Kelly the wrong way, citing pitcher Todd Ritchie and first baseman David McCarty as examples." https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-xpm-2003-03-30-0303300603-story.html "You'd have to ask him all about that, but it certainly seemed that way," Walker said. "I certainly didn't do anything to warrant the way I was treated by him on and off the field. He had his good moments, and he certainly had his bad moments." Jay Canizaro - I have to admit this is the first of the second basemen I do not remember. In two years he hit 255 and went back to the minors. Luis Rivas - Venezuelan - a free swinger who was supposed to take over the base and become the man of the future pairing with Guzman at SS. But think of the free swinging of Rosario with no power and less contact! Six seasons with 262 average and 307 OBP and 383 slugging. Nick Punto - a Gardy favorite - the opposite of Walker this was a guy who hustled, got dirty, wanted to play, had a smile and attitude that made him a lovable piranha. But would you trade Walker for Punto - no way. He played for us for seven years and hit 248, 323 OBP, 324 Slugging. Luis Castillo - Dominican Republic - had a 299 BA for two years with the Twins. 720 OPS. He was with the Marlins for both their World Series. In 2007 he set a major league record for consecutive games at 2B without an error - 143. In August 2019, Castillo was cited on charges related to a drug trafficking and money laundering operation - he was not convicted. Alexi Casilla - Dominican - His biggest contribution was giving up his number so Jim Thome could have it. In seven years he hit 250 for the Twins with a 639 OPS. Orlando Hudson - Hudson hit .268 with a career-low .710 OPS. Hudson founded the C.A.T.C.H. Foundation, a 501c3 organization that seeks to provide resources and a support system for youth coping with autism. Brian Dozier - our third best second baseman in Twins history (my judgment). A member of the Southern Mississippi college team that played in the 2009 college world series. He started as a SS as so many players do and found a home at second. He was a Twin for seven years - hit 248/325/447 - which would be much better if we took his last five years - his HR totals per year are - 6,18,23, 28,42,34. I was say we got rid of him at the right time. He had peaked for us and although he continues to play his top HR since being traded is 20. Notorious for great half years paired with lousy halves it took patience to get the best from him. He became the first second baseman to hit 40 home runs. Jonathan Schoop - we hardly knew you although your 256/304/473 slash line fits many of our historic 2B men. Good luck in Detroit and say hi to Gardy. Luis Arraez - we hope he is the future. His 334 BA certainly makes us think of another great - Rod Carew. Let's hope flash-in-the-pan is something you never hear. I am very excited by him and his potential.
The Twins Best Second basemen The second base slot has changed dramatically in this era. With all the strikeouts and flyballs there are fewer double plays, fewer ground balls, and if there is the shift complicates who is where. But I will not emphasize those changes, I just want to look at the names and skills of the people who players second in our history. Billy Martin – that controversial manager (Twins and Yankees) that succeeded everywhere but off the field. The original Spark plug player who had so much drive he pushed everyone else too. He was the very first Minnesota Twin second baseman and played there 108 games in 1961. Another former manager, Billy Gardner, played 41 games, Ted Lepcio 22 games, Jose Valdivielso 15 games, Rich Rollins, Billy Consolo, Jim Snyder and Bill Tuttle also played multiple games at the position. By 1962, as often happened with Billy – he was gone and former Purdue QB Bernie Allen had the bag for every game! Allen was third in ROY ballots. In 1963 Bernie got some days off and only played second in 128 games. Johnny Goryl, another future manager, played there 34 games and to my great shock – VIC POWER – the outstanding fielding first baseman played second 18 times! 1964 looks like one of the first base years. Bernie Allen only played 71 games there, Minnesotan Jerry Kindall (future gopher coach) played 51, Johnny Goryl 28, Jim Snyder 25, and then Jay Ward, Bill Bethea, Frank Kostro and Bud Bloomfield rounded out the field of eight. 1965 and Jerry Kindall took over for 106 games and Frank Quilici played 52. Rich Rollins 16 and Bernie Allen 10, Frank Kostro 7 and Cesar Tovar 4. Tovar played everywhere and in one game he did play all nine positions. 1966 Bernie Allen had the most starts – 89 and Tovar was second with 74. That year Tovar also played SS, LF, and CF. Rich Rollins had 4 games there. 1967 Rod Carew took over and started 134 games, Tovar played 35, and Frank Quilici 13. 1968 Carew played 117, Quilici (49) beat out Tovar (19) for second place and Ron Clark played 9. 1969 Carew played 118, Tovar 41, and Quilici 36. The sixties had a variety of players and it wasn’t until Carew that we had a long term answer at the position. Martin started it, went to coaching, went to managing and then went elsewhere. Bernie Allen brought his football status for a while and Carew took over the position. Jerry Kindall played for us for two years and you wonder why when you look at his line - .183/.254/.262.516 over his career he played 511 games at second and ended his nine year career with a (-3) WAR. As it says in Wiki – since 1920 “2,000 at-bats has a lower career batting average than Kindall's .213”. He had something special and went to Arizona as their baseball coach. “Kindall is a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the author of Baseball: Play the Winning Way and co-editor of The Baseball Coaching Bible.” Billy Martin played 11 years in MLB, the last one with the Twins. 246/.275/.361/.636 and (-1) WAR for that year. In 1969 he managed the Twins and then followed that up with 15 more managerial years. Following the Kindall model, Frank Quilici played for us five years as a second baseman with the line .214/.281/.287/.569 and a five year WAR total of (-0.5). So for those three players we have an accumulate WAR of (-4.5). Along comes the All American boy, Purdue QB, Bernie Allen and he plays 5 of his 12 years with the Twins – 246/.316/.366/.682 and 3.2 WAR – almost enough to erase the other three on this list. Wiki has a summary of his college career, “Allen played college baseball for the Boilermakers, where he twice named Team MVP. A winner of 6 varsity letters, Allen was also a quarterback on the football team, selected as Team MVP in 1960. He platooned at quarterback in 1959, leading the Boilermakers to a 5-2-2 record and six weeks in the Top 15. Earning the starting job in 1960, Allen led the Boilermakers to a record of 4-4-1 (2-4 Big Ten) and wins over #12 Notre Dame, Ohio State and #1 Minnesota, the AP and UPI National Champion.” Cesar Tovar deserves some recognition here. He was with us 8 of his 12 years with a line of 281/.337/.377/.714 and would be the best except he was never the starter at second. In all he earned 25.9 WAR with the Twins, but he played everywhere – his career totals for appearances are: OF (all three positions) 945; 3B 227; 2B 215; SS 77; DH 90; and one game at C, P, and 1B. So, the best of the sixties belongs to Rod Carew who plays 12 of his 19 seasons with the Twins. He hits - .334/.393/.448/.841, accumulates WAR 63.8 with the Twins, and he will play 1184 games at first and 1130 at 2B. Jump to the seventies. Who starts the most in 1970? Danny Thompson 81, Frank Quilici 74, and Rod Carew 45 with Tovar, and Minnie Mendoza getting the rest. Order was restored in 1971 with Carew at 2b 142 games and Steve Braun there 28. Danny Thompson plays 3 and Tovar came in from LF to play 2. 1972 Carew and Braun are still one and two and three is Dan Monzon. Monzon and Terrell are Carew’s caddies in 1973. In 1974 Monzon is out, Terrell is two and Luis Gomez and Sergio Ferrer get the crumbs. !975 Carew continues to dominate the bag, the same old backups continue to share what is available. Then in 1976 there is a shakeup. Carew is at first and Bob Randall starts 153 games and Terrell 31, Gomez 8, Carew 7, and Cubbage 2. It seems strange to have Carew with so few, but this is the future. With open season at second Randall holds on in 1977 to start 101 games and a new name – Rob Wilfong gets 66 games, Gomez, Terrell, Carew, and Sam Perlozzo share the rest. In 1978 the order stays the same Randall gets 115, Wilfong 80, Cubbage 5, Carew 4. And the decade ends with Wilfong taking the lead 133 games, Randall 71, and Cubbage 1. Randall plays five years for the Twins and has a 3.8 WAR with a slash line of .257/.310/.311/.621. Not bad for the position. Danny Thompson played 5 of 7 years with the Twins and had a 2.4 WAR. He is one of the sad stories in Twins lore as he died of leukemia at age 26. “Thompson appeared in 98 games in 1976 and went 1 for 3 in his final start for the Rangers on September 29, appropriately at shortstop in Minnesota's Metropolitan Stadium. In his final game on October 2, less than ten weeks before his death, he was used as a pinch hitter.” The only choice for the decade of the seventies is Rod Carew – the same as the sixties. The 1980s Rob Wilfong leads of the new decade at second base with 120 games at 2B and Pete Mackanin appeared in games. 1981 the same two dominated with 93 and 31. John Castino got in 4 and chuck Baker 3. In 1982 John Castino took over the lead with 96 and Ron Washington played 37. Larry Milbourne was in for 26 and Wilfong was only in 22. Castino was the only one to have a positive WAR that year at second. In 1983 had 132 games and Tim Teufel was second with 18 and Ron Washington had 14. Rob Wilfong was gone. Then Tim Teufel took over in 1984 with 157 and Ron Washington was his back up. Like the previous decades there was a constant turn over looking for the right guy. Teufel held on to 1985 with Ron Washington and Steve Lombardozzi splitting the rest of the appearances -26 and 24. Like the previous seasons the understood took over for the leader and Lombardozzi was the 1986 starter with Alvaro Espinoza (not related to the philosopher) as understudy. Ron Washington, Chris Pittaro, Greg Gagne, and Gary Gaetti all had a turn. Steve kept the starting position as the team headed to the world series in 1987 and Al Newman was his primary backup. Although Pittaro and Gagne got a taste of the bag. 1988 kept Lombardozzi in the lead, 90, but Tommy Herr appeared and was in 73. Of course, Tommy fits with the great, not necessarily positive, characters in Twins history. The Cardinals traded him for Tom Brunansky. This was not a bargain for us. The Argus Leader wrote, “Herr didn’t hide that he wasn’t thrilled to be in Minnesota, announced midway through the season he wouldn’t return in ’89, and batted just .263 with one homer. He spent half the season on the DL, and teammates and media questioned the seriousness of his injuries. He was traded to the Phillies for Shane Rawley and Tom Nieto after the season.” No one came close to whining and complaining about being in MN. He will not be considered for our best. Al Newman stepped in for him and Greg Gagne and an outfielder named Dan Gladden played second. The end of the decade the mix is really symptomatic of the 80s – now we start Wally Backman from the Mets. “Still uncomfortable with Steve Lombardozzi playing second and what seemed like a cast of thousands batting second, Minnesota sent three pitching prospects to the New York Mets on Dec. 7 for the 29-year-old Backman. Almost immediately, Backman announced that he was thrilled to be with the Twins and bought a house on Lake Minnetonka. "Tommy Herr never wanted to play here, so he didn't fit in with the rest of us," says first baseman and clubhouse leader Kent Hrbek. "Backman does fit in. You can see the difference just in the fact that Wally wants to have fun. Already, Backman and (Dan) Gladden are pulling pranks on each other." LA Times. Al Newman had the exact same number of games at second as Wally – 84, Doug Baker got in 25 times and Chip Hale 16. Where do I start looking for the best of this decade? John Castino played six years and lost his career on a bad back. .278/.329/.398/.727 and 15.2 WAR are pretty good, but he played 416 games at 3B and 232 at second. Tim Tuefel in three seasons with the Twins was .265/.342/.409/.751and 5.5 WAR looks okay. In 11 seasons he played 806 games at second. Steve Lombardozzi had a lot of promise, but produced .233/.307/.345/.652 and 4 WAR in four years. But to put it in perspective, the team was willing to trade Brunansky for Herr because they wanted to replace him. Rob Wilfong was with us six years - .262/.322/.360/.681 and 5.3 WAR for the Twins. In 11 years he was at Second 839 games. Wally Backman was in 87 games for the Twins, he does not qualify. I know it is not a well-remembered name, but Tim Tuefel was the second baseman of the 80s and that is a statement about the team and the decade. 1990s Al Newman began the decade with Fred Manique (a name I cannot remember) playing a significant number of games in reserve. Nelson Liriano also played many games at second. In the one game category were Chip Hale, Doug Baker, and OF – Kirby Puckett! Al did not keep the starting job, in 1991 our last WS championship year we found a second baseman to make us forget the 80s and perhaps at the end also forget Tommy Herr. His name was Chuck Knoblauch. Al Newman was backup and I always enjoy the scrubs at the end of the list – this time they are Gene Larkin (you got to be kidding) and Mike Pagliarulo. Or Course Knoblauch kept the position in 1992 and Jeff Reboulet was his primary backup. Donny Hill got in two games and so did that Kirby Puckett character again. Knoblauch again dominated 1993 with Chip Hale behind him, Reboulet next and Denny Hocking making a token stop at second. The same top two in 1994 with Jeff Reboulet. 1995 was the same but the scrubs were Brian Raabe and Puckett again. 1996 continued the stability with the same top three and then Todd Walker appears, Hocking and Raabe. In 1997 the only change were in number 2 and 3 – Hocking and Walker moving up. 1998 breaks up that lovely consistency and Todd Walker with all the promise in the world took over at the bag and Knoblauch was on his way to the big Apple from the Minneapple. Hocking and Brent Gates were two and three. The same three finished the decade with someone named Cleatus Davidson as the scrub. I am afraid there is no doubt – this decade was Knoblauch’s. His line was .304/.391/.416/.807 for seven seasons with a WAR of 38. He was on his way to a potential HOF career until he got the yips in NY. Todd Walker the heir apparent would have five years in MN with 285/.341/.413/.754 and 1.8 WAR. Like Ortiz he did not get along with Kelly’s ideas and seemed to be disliked for his college degree. He would play 12 years and get 10.5 WAR so he never achieved his first round draft expectations. 2000s The new best second baseman was Jay Canizaro 90, Hocking 47, Jason Maxwell 30, Todd Walker 19, and Luis Rivas 14. Luis took over in 2001 with Hocking behind him and Jason Maxwell behind him Rivas was still the leader with 93 games in 2002, with Hocking, Canizaro, and the scrubs were Warren Morris and David Lamb. The Rivas years solidified in 2003 with Luis starting 134 games and Hocking, was followed by Chris Gomez, Alex Prieto, Michael Cuddyer, and (this must be a joke) Mientkiewicz. In 2004 Michael Cuddyer moved up to second at second with 48 games there. Augie Ojeda, was third followed by the famous Nick Punto! Jose Offerman and Jason Bartlett got token games too. You could see it coming. In 2005 Rivas was second at second and Nick Punto was first. Behind them were Luis Rodriguez, Brent Abernathy, BRET BOONE, Michael Cuddyer and Juan Castro (no relation to Jason that I know). Luis Castillo played in 142 games in 2006, Followed by Punto, Rodriguez, Alexi Casilla. In 2007, Castillo’s days were numbered as we got into another scrum at second. Castillo 85, Casilla 52, Punto 25, Rodriguez 21. Alexi Casilla was the primary starter in 2008, followed by Brendan Harris, Nick Punto, and Matt Tolbert. Then some appearances by Matt Macri, Brian Buscher, and Howie Clark. Alexi was in the next scrum – 2009 with 72 games, Punto 63, Tolbert 36, Harris 11, and one for Cuddyer. Carew and Knoblauch were easy. Here is another tough choice. Nick Punto was with the Twins seven years - .248/.323/.324/.648 and 10.3 WAR While he played all over, his 408 games at second are the most of any position in his 1122 games played. Jay Canizaro .255/.308/.373/.682 for two years and (-0.4) WAR. Luis Rivas was with the Twins 6 of 8 years. .262/.307/.383/.690 (-0.9) total for those six years. Luis Castillo played 2 of his 15 years with the Twins. .299/.357/.363/.720 and 3.7 WAR for those two years. Alexi Casilla played 7 of 9 years with the Twins .250/.305/334/.639 3.6 WAR Base on WAR Rivas and Canizaro are out. Nick Punto was more productive in the same number of years than Casilla so I have to say that Luis Castillo was the best of the decade. 2010s Orlando Hudson began our last decade with 123 games, Alexi Casilla had 24, Matt Tolbert 20, Nick Punto 12, then Plouffe and Cuddyer and Harris. 2011 was another scrum, we obviously were looking for something – Casilla 56, Hughes 37, Tolbert 36, Cuddyer 17, Plouffe 17, Brian Dinkleman 11, and Nishioka 6. 2012 Alexi Casilla was back on top with 95, Jamie Carroll had 66, Eduardo Escobar 8, Plouffe 4, Hughes 3, Nishioka 3, and Darin Mastriani 1. In 2013 Dozier took over and was at second for 146 games. Jamie Carroll, Doug Bernier, Mastrioanni finished up. 2014 Dozier had 156 games and Escobar, Bernier, and Nunez had the rest. In 2015 the dominance was established and the same names appeared. The same was true for 2016, except the other names included Polanco, Danny Santana, and James Beresford. 2017 was the same except the other guys were Adrianza, Escobar, Goodrum (now a Tiger), and Santana. There is no real discussion here. This is Dozier’s decade. .248/.325/.447/.772 and 23.9 WAR. The choices come down to Rod Carew who plays 12 of his 19 seasons with the Twins. He hits - .334/.393/.448/.841, accumulates WAR 63.8 with the Twins, and he will play 1184 games at first and 1130 at 2B. Or Knoblauch.304/.391/.416/.807 for seven seasons with a WAR of 38. Or Dozier 248/.325/.447/.772 and 23.9 WAR I would take Carew/Knoblauch/Dozier and there is no 4 or 5. Compared to 108 first base candidates there were 77 men who played at second. https://twinsdaily.com/blogs/entry/11367-the-best-first-baseman-in-twins-history/ https://twinsdaily.com/blogs/entry/11365-the-best-catcher-in-twins-history/