The 1990 Twins were a bad team. They won 74 games and finished in the bottom half of just about any statistical category you could name -- at bat and on the pitcher's mound. A couple of guys who were better suited to reserve roles were in the lineup as regulars and some of the veterans had poor seasons.

Changes needed to be made -- and changes were made. The 1991 World Series winners were a pretty extreme makeover of the 1990 team, and that's why we're celebrating the 20th anniversary of a Twins' World Series championship this weekend.

Here's the shorthand version of what was done:

The pitcher who threw the most innings in 1990 was Allan Anderson, a one-tine ERA title winner whose record slipped to 7-18 in 1990. There was nothing hard-luck about that record. In his place at the top of the rotation was Jack Morris, signed as a free agent to a one-year deal. And Scott Erickson, in his first full major-league season, got off to a spectacular start and won 20 games. Anderson became the fourth starter behind Morris, Erickson and Kevin Tapani, who was part of the haul the Twins received by sending Frank Viola to the Mets.

Popular third baseman Gary Gaetti, a hero of 1987, batted .229 in 1990 with a .274 on-base percentage and 18 errors at third base. In 1991, he was playing for the Angels and replaced by Mike Pagliarulo, a veteran who had played for the Yankees and caused the Twins all kinds of grief when he played against them.

Gene Larkin was the primary DH in 1990. He was a switch-hitter who had OK numbers -- five home runs and a .392 slugging percentage. Numbers like that don't win titles, no matter how many little things are done right. The Twins went out and picked up Chili Davis, who hit 29 home runs and was a fearsome presence in the middle of the lineup. Larkin still appeared in 98 regular-season games in 1991 and got the Game 7 hit that you'll likely see more than once over the next few days.

Playing second base most of the time in 1990 was Al Newman, a wonderful and valuable utility player. In 1991, he was replaced by rookie Chuck Knoblauch, who brought the Twins more offense and more speed without losing anything on defense. Newman resumed his valuable role as a utility player, appearing in 118 games, mostly as a middle infielder but at one time or another playing every infield spot and left field. Newer fans know Newman as a cheerful presence; older fans know him as tough.

The 1987 Twins were the weakest of the four division winners and took advantage of the Metrodome and an injury-depleted St. Louis roster to win the World Series -- advantages that mattered not one bit to the local celebrants but that played in the background when the season's outcome was discussed more globally. (It should be noted there was nothing fluky about the thumping those '87 Twins gave much-favored Detroit in the Championship Series that year.)

The 1991 Twins were solidly constructed and played with a surly confidence that doesn't exist among the current Twins. If there were any lingering doubts about the soft, immature and inconsistent nature of the current club, they were put on display yet again for those who suffered through Thursday night's game. You could hear the frustration in Bert's voice when he was talking about Francisco Liriano's lack of maturity and Danny Valencia's soft slide into home in the eighth inning. (Did anyone hear how Gladden described that play -- and would care to share?)

The '91 group had to be that tough to successfully battle Atlanta through one of the best weeks of baseball ever played. I wasn't covering the Twins by then, but I was asked to write stories for the front page of the Star Tribune -- an assignment described as "writing about the game for people who don't want to read the sports section"

OK, a little vanity here:

Here's my Game 6 story.

And here's Game 7.

I was lucky to be there.

Back to today. Yes, we're all disappointed in the current Twins -- some more than others. But the roadmap that was used by general manager Andy MacPhail and his baseball staff back then is one that Bill Smith should take quite seriously. It's history well worth studying.







Older Post

Section 219: Figuring Cuddyer's future

Newer Post

Section 219: A dozen haiku for losers