TwinsCentric was formed by Twins super-bloggers Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes. Together they publish at TwinsDaily.com and have authored books, e-books and magazines that provide independent and in-depth coverage of the Minnesota Twins from a fan's perspective. You can contact them at TwinsCentric@gmail.com.
Aaron and John visit a rainy Nordeast Big River Brew Fest and talk about why the Twins let David Ortiz go, finishing the Justin Morneau trade with Duke Welker, East Side Neighborhood Services, Metrodome-like attendance figures, Joe Nathan and Matt Capps going opposite directions, John Sickels Top 20 Twins' prospects, "Singles Night" at Xcel Center, podcast Hall of Famers, the White Sox spending $68 million on a Cuban import, and mailbag questions from listeners.
[Author's note: This is a series originally posted at TwinsDaily.com revisiting the 1987 postseason from the Star Tribune. On October 17, 1987, the Twins defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 10-1. Here's a look back at that game. If, however, the thought of Twins not in postseason play makes you depressed, be sure to pick up the TwinsDaily.com GM Handbook for $4.95 to find out how to fix the mess.]
With tickets and Homer Hankies sold out for days, Minnesota Twins fans were more than ready for the main event to start.
However the World Series did not start off in the Twins’ favor. Not immediately anyway.
The Cardinals clung to a one-nothing lead through the first three innings. Jim Lindeman, a former roommate of Kirby Puckett’s at Bradley University, reached on a double after his old roomie misjudged what should have been a caught popup to shallow center and later scored on an RBI groundout by Tony Pena.
Shortstop Greg Gagne, who fielded the Pena bouncer that allowed Lindeman to score, drew criticism from ABC’s analyst Tim McCarver for the play. McCarver’s analysis, as the Star Tribune’s Bob Lundegaard pointed out, was wrong -- which is surprising considering the color man’s usually spot-on takes.
“McCarver’s most questionable comment was that Gagne didn’t throw home when the Cardinals scored their only run because, unlike St. Louis shortstop Ozzie Smith, he needs to plant himself before throwing. Not so. Gagne makes more off-balance throws than most shortstops. In fact it’s probably his major weakness as a fielder.”
As it turns out, the run proved to be as harmless as a minnow bite.
Although the left-handed Joe Magrane, a former Minnesota resident himself, had kept the potent Twins hitless through the first three innings, the Twins offense came alive in the fourth inning.
Gary Gaetti, the American League Championship Series MVP, led off the bottom of the fourth with a single. Prior to the game, Gaetti had chatted with reporters in the clubhouse about the Twins’ chances of winning the Series.
“I’ve been reading about some people who have said that it’s a disgrace to have us representing the American League,” he said. “The way I figure it, we might as well go ahead and disgrace the whole game by winning it.”
After Gaetti’s single, Don Baylor did the same. Ditto for Tom Brunansky. Kent Hrbek followed suit with a chopper up the middle and drove in the team’s first two runs of the Series.
People worried about Hrbek. After all, he had gone 1-for-20 in the ALCS against Detroit. The single, even if it was just a chopper, helped reassure fans he was OK. Later, he talked about that at-bat to the Star Tribune’s Tony Moton.
“I just looked at it on the TV, and it was a high fastball away,” Hrbek said, “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 (Twins reserve outfielder) 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 veteran Bob Forsch. Catcher Tim Launder promptly started the singles parade again to score another run and reload the bases. That's when outfielder Dan Gladden came to the plate.
During the regular season, the mulleted Gladden had seven plate appearances with the bases loaded. He had managed just a single in those at-bats.
Earlier in the game Gladden had grounded into a fielder’s choice, eliminating Tim Laudner, who had walked in front of him, at second. With one out, Magrane decided to pay extra attention to the Twins’ outfielder, throwing over to first nine consecutive times reported one Star Tribune blurb. (Nevertheless, on the next batter, Gladden promptly stole second.)
Magrane admitted after the game he focused too much on Gladden, wrote Star Tribune staff writer Jon Roe.
“I messed around with him too much,” Magrane said. “I felt if he was going to go, it was going to be on the first pitch. I should have gone after the hitter a lot more. But I just messed around with him too much.”
Now, with the bases loaded and Magrane out of the game, Gladden launched a 1-2 Forsch offering over the left field plexiglass for the first grand slam in a World Series game since 1970 and put the Twins squarely ahead 7 to 1. The noise at the Dome registered 118 decibels -- the same as a jet taking off -- when the ball cleared the fence.
Twins shortstop Greg Gagne said afterwards that the volume of the crowd was unbelievable at that moment.
“After Gladden hit that grand slam, I was in the batters box and my ears were ringing. I asked Tony (Pena, Cardinals catcher) if his ears were ringing and he couldn’t even hear me.”
Sid Hartman later talked to then-Twins general manager Andy McPhail regarding the process of acquiring Gladden late in spring training that year.
Executive vice president Andy McPhail didn’t think Mickey Hatcher could play left field, so he was looking for an outfielder who could run and hit. But it wasn’t until spring training that the Twins made the deal with the San Francisco Giants for Gladden. “Every time I talked to (Giants general manager) Al Rosen, he asked for either (young pitchers) Jeff Bumgarner or Steve Gasser,” McPhail said. “I wasn’t going to give either one up.”
“We talked about the deal at least once every week until we made it. Atlanta and the Dodgers were very interested in Gladden. The Giants had made a deal with the Reds for Eddie Milner, and they had an abundance of outfielders. Rosen was reluctant to trade him to a team in the National League. He didn’t want Gladden to come back and hurt him.”
“Rosen finally called one day late in March and said he was going to deal Gladden that day. He said he was willing to make the trade for three of our young pitching prospects. He gave me a list of five, I took two out, and we made the trade.”
After the game Steve Lombardozzi, who would be the recipient of a Gladden punch a season later, raved about the outfielder’s contributions to reporter Dennis Brackin.
“I think we needed a little of that,” Lombardozzi said. “Danny is a tough ballplayer. He plays the game hard. … I don’t know how much more I can say about him, other than that he’s added a new dimension to our team. He’s always the first one on the top of the dugout steps yelling and shouting at the opposing players, I don’t know if we haven’t had that before, but…”
The Twins’ starting pitcher Frank Viola, who had to forgo being the best man at his brother’s wedding, was unsolvable for the majority of the game. Having a 10-1 lead didn’t hurt either. Outside of the Puckett misplay that led to the Cardinals’ only run, his results were virtually flawless. Prior to being pulled after eight innings, he retired 12 of the last 14 batters he faced and did not allow a baserunner past first from the fourth inning on. If things had gone differently and the Twins were inclined to shop Viola during the lean years, he may have been in the other dugout, wrote the Star Tribune’s Steve Aschburner.
“I’ve always like Viola,” said Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog, using the word admiration more than affection, particularly this night. “We’ve tried to get him for years.”
“He’s a premier pitcher. He knows how to pitch, he changes speeds real well. He pitched an outstanding ball game.”
The action off the field was just as intense, particularly for the wife of one Cardinal player.
Kathy Booker, wife of St. Louis Cardinals infielder Rod Booker, was knocked unconscious briefly during Saturday’s World Series game when a foul ball caromed off concrete behind her and struck her head. She was removed from the stands behind home plate on a stretcher.
Booker was also three months pregnant at the time and was deemed by the hospital to be in fair condition afterward. Her husband, Rod, was actually a former Twins draft pick who had spent three seasons in the organization, reaching AAA in 1982, but was purchased by the Cardinals shortly after the 1983 season began. Booker was left off the World Series roster in 1987.
A few sections away from Booker’s knockout, Chip and Wendy Lantz had donned a tuxedo and a white dress. The Anoka couple had wed just hours before the first pitch and found themselves with tickets to the biggest game of the year. It almost didn’t happen -- the game, not the wedding. The bride had a ticket, the groom did not. She told columnist Jim Klobuchar she was ready to go the game -- on her wedding night -- minus the new hubby. That is, until her two brothers gave them a surprise wedding gift.
“But the bride’s brothers, vendors at the Dome, extracted two tickets from a travel agency. The couple arrived shortly before the opening pitch, serenaded by the crowd in their section as they descended the steps, she in her white gown with her boat collar and lace, he in his black tails and yellow rose. It was the wrong place to drink champagne out of her slipper, so they drank beer offered by the crowd. For their wedding supper they ate bratwurst.”
The newlyweds’ good fortune finding a pair of tickets was not the norm around the area. That morning, the Twins placed 11,200 tickets for games 6 and 7 and the seats could only be ordered by phone from Dayton’s. The rush of calls overwhelmed the phone grid, Northwestern Bell’s agents told the Star Tribune’s Mary Jane Smetanka, knocking out service as far west as Bismarck, North Dakota as well as parts of South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. While the inconvenience lasted just a few hours, it was enough to irk some residents of the state.
For Donald E. Roberts of Rochester, a sellout couldn’t come soon enough. The 24-year-old student had the same telephone number as the ticket line, though in a different area code.
He estimated several hundred calls interrupted him as he was packing to move to Florida, but he was reluctant to take the phone off the hook because he was hoping for some response to ads he placed to sell some belongings.
Saying he couldn’t care less who wins the World Series, Roberts snarled, “Baseball is 45 minutes packed into four hours.”
I'm sure watching Joe Magrane throw over to first nine times in a row to keep Dan Gladden close didn't help the pace.
Last October in this space, I predicted five outcomes that would unfold for the Minnesota Twins in the ensuing offseason. As it turned out, three proved accurate and the other two proved laughably, laughably wrong.
As we look ahead to another offseason, which some are painting as one of the most important in franchise history, here's another set of predictions -- some bold, some not -- for what I expect to see in the coming months:
1) The Twins will make a bid for Masahiro Tanaka but will come up short of the winning post.
As a 24-year-old with the ability to become a long-term asset at the top of a rotation, Tanaka seems like a logical fit for the Twins. Given their budget surplus, they are poised to place an aggressive bid on the Japanese star, who appears to be the best pitcher available on the open market this year. However, with new revenues flowing in for all 30 MLB teams, and with a number of large-market big spenders showing interest in Tanaka, I suspect that the posting fee may set a new record (beating Yu Darvish's $51 million) and there's no way I can see Terry Ryan wading into those waters.
2) A veteran catcher will be signed.
Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit both suffered concussions during the 2013 season and were held away from catching duties in the final months. It's unclear how either of those two will be handled going forward, and Josmil Pinto looks like a nice young option to step in, but with all the uncertainty going on, the Twins may see a need to add a seasoned defensive specialist to the mix. A veteran with a reputation for working well with pitchers would make a great of sense.
3) Terry Ryan will hand out the largest free agent contract in franchise history.
The bar isn't set very high. Josh Willingham's three-year, $21 million deal signed in 2011 currently holds the title, and with costs expected to rise (perhaps dramatically) across the league, that amount probably won't go very far this winter. I'm not saying they're going to be inking any nine-digit commitments, but if the Twins want to add any kind of impact talent they will need to spend at a level that is unprecedented by their own standards. They'll have more than enough money available to do so.
4) Miguel Sano will emerge as the favorite to start 2014 at third base.
Presently Sano looks like a long shot to claim a spot on the MLB roster out of spring training next year. He has spent only half a season in Double-A, and the Twins are surely gun shy about aggressive promotions for top prospects after the Aaron Hicks experiment blew up in their faces. Of course, Sano is in another category of talent entirely. He slugged .610 with 35 homers between Single-A and Double-A this season, and people within the organization have raved about his defensive progression as he nearly cut his error total in half from the previous year (42 in 2012, 23 in 2013). Over the course of the offseason, I believe we'll hear more and more buzz surrounding Sano's potential to win a spot in March; at that point, it will be up to the 20-year-old to capitalize.
5) Brian Duensing will be non-tendered.
This is a bit of a stretch because Duensing has been an effective pitcher and is well liked by the organization. But he's eligible to go to arbitration for a second time and his salary could rise above $2 million. That's a fair amount to spend on a lefty specialist out of the bullpen and, while the Twins are hardly hurting for cash, they might prefer to save a little by going with cheaper in-house options such as Caleb Thielbar and Pedro Hernandez.
David Ortiz hit the big ALCS grand slam that was nearly caught by a toppling Torii Hunter. It was a reminder of how many former Twins players had strong 2013 seasons. Each of the four remaining teams have at least one former Twins player.
Very little annoys me more than people complaining about former Twins players succeeding with other organizations, forgetting the back stories of when they left the Twins. Sure, letting David Ortiz go looks horrible in retrospect, but at the time, it was a ho-hum decision. Seeing AJ Pierzynski still playing and contributing bothers some yet, who did the Twins get in that trade? Torii Hunter? Yes, he has defied normal aging and been very good. There are bad losses in this group. Everyone loved the Carlos Gomez for JJ Hardy, and no one understood (or understands) what the thinking was when the Twins traded JJ Hardy for Jim HJoey and Brett Jacobson. And, the Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps deal… Yeah. I think we all know the reasoning behind Joe Nathan and Michael Cuddyer leaving the Twins organization, but come on, no one was disappointed when the Twins let RA Dickey go.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing. No question. But, I enjoyed all of these former Twins players during their time in Minnesota, and there’s no reason not to enjoy their continued success. But maybe I’m in the minority and I should just be bitter. Maybe?
Here is a look at some of the top performances by former Twins in the big leagues in 2013!
AJ Pierzynski ($7.5M) – Texas Rangers - .272/.297/.425 (.722) with 24 doubles, 17 homers and 70 RBI.
Wilson Ramos ($0.5M) – Washington Nationals - .272/.307/.380 (.717) with 9 doubles, 16 homers and 59 RBI.
A pretty nice lefty-righty platoon opportunity. Sure, neither gets on base, but both do show some power. Pierzynski was traded way back before the 2004 season to the Giants. Ramos was traded during the 2009 season to the Nationals.
David Ortiz ($14M) – Boston Red Sox - .309/.395/.564 (.959) with 38 doubles, 30 homers and 103 RBI.
Garrett Jones ($4.5M) – Pittsburgh Pirates - .233/.289/.419 (.708) with 26 doubles, 15 homers and 51 RBI.
JJ Hardy ($7M) – Baltimore Orioles - .263/.306/.433 (.738) with 27 doubles, 25 homers and 76 RBI.
Nick Punto ($1.5M) – Los Angeles Dodgers - .255/.328/.327 (.655) with 15 doubles, 2 homers and 21 RBI.
Danny Valencia ($0.5M) – Baltimore Orioles - .304/.335/.553 (.888) with 14 doubles, 8 homers and 23 RBI.
Ortiz miraculously had another spectacular season. The Twins non-tendered him more than a decade ago and no other teams claimed him. Boston decided to give him a chance in spring training. The rest, as they say, is documented, in various reports. Garrett Jones never really had a chance with the Twins since Jason Kubel was the DH, Justin Morneau was at 1B, Michael Cuddyer was in RF and Delmon Young was in LF. He had some good years with the Pirates, though not this year. Hardy had his injury-plagued season with the Twins, and I’m sure they’d love to have given him another shot. Punto remains one of baseball’s better fielders. He played all over that Dodgers infield this year. Valencia was up and down between AAA and the big leagues, but given a chance to play against left-handed pitching and came through.
Michael Cuddyer ($10.5M) – Colorado Rockies - .331/.389/.530 (.919) with 31 doubles, 20 homers and 84 RBI.
Torii Hunter ($12M) – Detroit Tigers - .304/.334/.465 (.800) with 37 doubles, 17 homers and 84 RBI.
Carlos Gomez ($4.3M) – Milwaukee Brewers - .284/.338/.500 (.843) with 27 doubles, 10 triples, 24 homers, 73 RBI, 40 SB.
Denard Span ($4.75M) – Washington Nationals - .279/.327/.380 (.707) with 28 doubles, 11 triples, 4 homers, 47 RBI, 20 SB.
Ben Revere ($0.515M) – Philadelphia Phillies - .305/.338/.352 (.691) with 9 doubles, 3 triples, 0 homers and 17 RBI.
Delmon Young ($1.2M) – Phillies/Rays - .260/.307/.407 (.715) with 16 doubles, 11 homers and 38 RBI.
I think it’s fair to say that some of those former Twins outfielders came through with big seasons. Cuddyer was healthy and won the NL Batting Title. Hunter continues to defy the aging process and hit well with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder hitting behind him. Gomez has finally put it all together, all those tremendous tools. He has become the five-tool talent that the Twins acquired from the Mets but didn’t see. Denard Span had a solid inaugural season with the Nationals, though it’s fair to assume he’ll want a higher on-base percentage. He did a great job of patrolling the team’s outfield, with no errors on the season. Revere got off to a very slow start in Philly, but after losing some playing time, he took off, and as things were getting really good, he unfortunately broke his foot and missed the rest of the season. Delmon Young wasn’t very good, but did show some power. The Phillies DFAd him, and he re-signed with the Rays.
Francisco Liriano ($1M + up to $3.75M in incentives) – Pittsburgh Pirates – 16-8, 3.02 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, 9.1 K/9
Kyle Lohse ($11M) – Milwaukee Brewers – 11-10, 3.35 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 1.6 BB/9, 5.7 K/9
RA Dickey ($5.5M) – Toronto Blue Jays – 14-13, 4.21 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 7.1 K/9
Matt Garza ($10.25M) – Cubs/Rangers – 10-6, 3.82 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, 7.9 K/9
Jason Marquis ($3M) – San Diego Padres – 9-5, 4.65 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 5.2 BB/9, 5.5 K/9
I’d say it is fair to say that Liriano exceeded all expectations in 2013 with the Pirates. Of course, we’ve seen this before. Liriano put up very similar numbers in 2010, so it will be interesting to see if Liriano has truly flipped a switch, or if he’s having another good year. Of course, he was set to make much more money, but it got reduced when he hurt his right arm scaring his kids. Lohse signed late, but he proved worth the contract, at least in its first year. Dickey came back down to earth a bit with his move to the American League, but he still ate a ton of innings. Garza has been really solid since coming up with the Twins in 2006, but he is yet to take that next step to be an Ace, yet.
Joe Nathan ($7M) – Texas Rangers – 6-2, 43 Saves, 1.39 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 10.2 K/9
Grant Balfour ($4.5M) – Oakland A’s – 1-3, 38 Saves, 2.59 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, 10.3 K/9
Craig Breslow ($2.325M) – Boston Red Sox – 5-2, 1.81 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 5.0 K/9
Jesse Crain ($4.5M) – Chicago White Sox – 2-3, 0.74 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 11.3 K/9
LaTroy Hawkins ($1M) – NY Mets – 3-2, 2.93 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 1.3 BB/9, 7.0 K/9
Pat Neshek ($0.975M) – Oakland A’s – 2-1, 3.35 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 3.3 BB/9, 6.5 K/9
Matt Guerrier ($3.75M) – Dodgers/Cubs – 4-4, 4.01 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, 6.3 K/9
Joe Nathan has completely returned from his Tommy John surgery at this point to be just as good as he was when he was younger. Balfour was hurt so often during his time with the Twins. He had Tommy John surgery and shoulder surgery within a two year time period. But he has come back strong, ten years later, and become and intimidating closer. Breslow has been one of baseball’s best left-handed relievers since his days with the Twins. Crain figured out something in May of 2010 and he has been as good as any reliever in the game since that time. He did miss the final three months of this season with shoulder problems. LaTroy Hawkins is another guy who defies age. He had his best season in years in 2013!
ALL FORMER TWINS LINEUP
Denard Span LF ($4.75M)
Carlos Gomez CF ($4.3M)
Michael Cuddyer 1B ($10.5M)
David Ortiz DH ($14M)
Torii Hunter RF ($12M)
JJ Hardy SS ($7M)
Danny Valencia 3B ($0.5M)
AJ Pierzynski C ($7.5M)
Nick Punto 2B ($1.5M)
Francisco Liriano SP ($1M)
Closer – Joe Nathan ($7M); RH Set-Up – Jesse Crain ($4.5M); LH Set-Up – Craig Breslow $2.325M).
Total salaries ($76.875 million) for 13 players.
Total salaries for the 25 player roster mentioned above? $123.565.
That’s a pretty impressive roster. I didn’t include Justin Morneau since he was only gone for a month. I didn’t include Jason Kubel, who made $7.5 million in 2013 and played horribly after a tremendous 2012 season. It didn’t include the $5 million that the Cubs gave to Scott Baker for three starts and 15 innings. It didn’t include Philip Humber, who went 0-8 with a 7.90 ERA before being DFAd by the Astros.
It’s fun for me to see former Twins players sticking around and being very successful with other organizations. There have been plenty to follow!
Aaron and John podcast from the MN Blogger Conference and review their preseason over/under picks, talk about Twins payroll, discuss Justin Morneau's chances of returning, miss October baseball games and finally have special guest David Brauer join to talk about where blogging and journalism are going, for good or bad. You can listen by clicking below, download us from iTunes or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.
If you're depresses about the Vikings, stop by TwinsDaily, where optimism is (relatively speaking) overflowing. Parker takes a look at much happier time in Twins history and Nick examines an area of the roster where the Twins have thrived. And, of course, you can always look forward to the offseason (and save a few bucks while you do.)
Although he hasn't had a great series, Torii Hunter's Detroit Tigers are headed to a decisive Game 5 against the Oakland Athletics after a huge win on Tuesday night.
This is Hunter's seventh trip to the postseason -- a pretty impressive accomplishment when you think about it. You don't see too many players reaching the playoffs seven times in their career, let alone as part of three different clubs. Part of it is that Hunter has been fortunate enough to play almost exclusively on good teams, but certainly another part of it is that he has legitimately helped those teams get it done.
Hunter has been a great player, one whose contributions in Minnesota I may have under-appreciated to some degree in retrospect.
While I've always admired Hunter's game, I haven't always loved him. He's notoriously opinionated and occasionally has things to say that I just don't care for. Then again, you can't fault a guy for speaking his mind, and based on the way he's viewed by teammates and media, it seems safe to say that overall he's an amiable guy and a clubhouse asset. Fans are drawn to his effervescent nature on the field, not to mention his constantly high levels of energy and effort.
Is he a Hall of Famer? I would say no. He has never truly been one of the greatest players in the league and to me that's a prerequisite. But Hunter has a better case than you might suspect. He has hit 314 home runs while spending most of his career as an elite defensive center fielder (nine Gold Gloves). And boy, has he been consistent. From 2001 through 2011, he hit 20-plus homers every year (with the exception of 2005, when he missed almost half the season due to a broken ankle), and while his power has waned somewhat in his late 30s, he has still posted an .800+ OPS in each of the past two campaigns.
When you look back at those scrappy Twins teams that largely reigned over the AL Central from 2002 through his departure in 2007, it's difficult not to see Hunter as the steady beating heart. Other players came and went, had their ups and downs, but Hunter was good every year, providing middle-of-the-lineup offense along with legendary defense at a crucially important position.
There's no question that, these days, the Twins are missing many of the things Hunter brought to the table. That leads to another thought: Could a return to Minnesota ever be in the cards for the veteran outfielder?
Hunter has one more season remaining on his two-year, $26 million contract with the Tigers. He'll be a free agent again next year, at age 39, when the Twins may be looking to add some extra pieces to a roster that will (hopefully) be shaping up as a contender driven by young stars.
Acquiring players who are verging on 40 can be dangerous, but the Twins had great success in a similar situation with Jim Thome and it appears that Hunter has taken phenomenal care of his body because he's showing few signs of age.
Might the Twins consider bringing him back for one last go? Should they? It's a fun talking point as the Hunter gears up for one of the biggest games of his life.
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