The opinion here long has been that the most-unwatchable team in Twins history was the 1981 collection. There were two positive elements to that season:
One, the wisecracking Billy Gardner replaced Johnny Goryl as the manager on May 22; and two, a players’ strike stopped the season June 11 and it did not resume until Aug. 10.
This was a bad break for many teams, but for the Twins, it saved them drawing crowds numbering 5,000-6,000 through the summer.
The strike lasted so long that Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and the owners decided to split the season into two “halves.” The winners of each half in a division then advanced to a four-team playoff in each league.
One of the comedic parts of this involved the Twins:
They were 17-39 before the strike and then 24-29 after the strike. That was a combined record of 41-68 for a winning percentage of .376, yet the Twins were told to print postseason tickets as post-strike “contenders” in the American League West.
The split schedule fell so that the Twins were home for 60 games (including two doubleheaders) and on the road for 49.
Minnesotans didn’t exactly buy the “contender” theory for the 30 home games played after the strike. The Twins’ total attendance for the 58 total dates was 469,090 — an average of 8,087.
It was the last season at Met Stadium, and the most horrendous.
Shortstop Roy Smalley had a back injury that limited him to 56 games. Third baseman John Castino also had a back problem that eventually ended his career prematurely. Catcher Butch Wynegar had a shoulder injury and caught in 47 games.
Those were the Twins’ three highest-paid position players. Castino wound up leading the Twins with a .268 average and with 36 RBI. Smalley was the home run leader with seven, with the Twins hitting a total of 47 in 109 games.
Jerry Koosman had won 36 games in his previous two seasons with the Twins, but he was 3-9 with a 4.20 ERA when the Twins (second-half contenders though they were alleged to be) traded him to the White Sox on Aug. 30.
The players sent to the Twins were minor leaguers Bambi Mesa and Ron Perry … neither of whom I can claim to recall.
There was an All-Star Game played in Cleveland on Aug. 9 after the strike ended. The Twins’ mandatory representative was reliever Doug Corbett. He had 17 saves and an ERA of 2.57, and would bring the Twins the prized outfield prospect from the Angels, Tom Brunansky, early the next season.
The most eventful happening for the Twins came Aug. 24 in Yankee Stadium, when Kent Hrbek came from Class A Visalia [Calif.] and hit a home run to beat the Yankees 3-2 in his first game.
Tim Laudner arrived from Class AA Orlando a few days later after Wynegar went on the disabled list. Laudner hit a couple of home runs in what remained of the season, and so did Gary Gaetti after he was called up in September.
Those three were part of a collection of 15 rookies in 1982. They established a record for losses — 60-102. The ’82 Twins started 16-54 and then went 44-48 to finish.
So there was promise, which was nonexistent in the misery of 1981, when all the Twins had to celebrate was a strike.
The Twins were non-contenders for most of the ’70s, they had eight consecutive losing seasons from 1993 through 2000, and the four seasons of immense losing from 2011 to 2014.
Even those teams were not as grotesque as 1981. I didn’t think it was possible to see a Twins team as bad in all areas as that one.
And then came these 2016 Twins: 11-34, one win in every four games, after losing 7-4 to the Royals on Tuesday night. Here’s a matchup with the 1981 Twins:
C: Sal Butera vs. Kurt Suzuki. Sal hit .240 and was a better catcher. I’ll take 1981.
1B: Danny Goodwin/Ron Jackson vs. (today’s version of) Joe Mauer. Tossup.
2B: Rob Wilfong/Pete Mackanin platoon vs. Brian Dozier. I’ll take the platoon.
SS: Roy Smalley (Ron Washington as backup). vs. The Eduardos. I’ll take Smalley and Wash.
3B: John Castino vs. Trevor Plouffe. Tossup.
LF: Gary Ward vs. Rosario/Arcia/Grossman. I’ll take Ward-o.
CF: Mickey Hatcher vs. Danny Santana. Hatcher was worse in center than Santana.
RF: Dave Engle vs. Miguel Sano. I’ll take Engle. He cared.
DH: Glenn Adams vs. Byung Ho Park. I’ll take Adams.
Starters: Al Williams, Pete Redfern, Fernando Arroyo and Koosman … I’ll take ’em over what the Twins are running out there now.
Closer: Doug Corbett vs. Kevin Jepsen. Corbett, easy.
There you go:
By objective analysis, the 2016 Twins are worse than the 1981 Twins, the team that I thought always would hold that spot in my heart.
Unfortunately, there’s no strike in the offing to save Minnesota from an entire 162 games from the current yahoos.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org