Drafting WAR

The next crop of Twins draftees.

These champion Twins are (maybe) the next crop of Twins draftees.

Major League’s amateur draft came into existence in 1965.  Since that time the Twins have drafted thousands of players.  Many of those players failed to reach the Big Leagues.  Some of the players that eventually made it to The Show ended up never playing for the Twins.  Of the players the Twins drafted, the ten players to accumulate the most value (judged by Wins Above Replacement, WAR) in a Twins uniform were Kirby Puckett, Bert Blyleven, Brad Radke, Joe Mauer, Chuck Knoblauch, Kent Hrbek, Frank Viola, Gary Gaetti, Torii Hunter, and Dave Goltz.

  1. Kirby Puckett (48.2 WAR) – 1st round – 3rd overall – 1982 – Triton College (River Grove, IL)
  2. Bert Blyleven (46.3) – 3rd round – 55th overall – 1969 – Santiago HS (Garden Grove, CA)
  3. Brad Radke (42.6) – 8th round – 206th overall – 1991 – Jesuit HS (Tampa, FL)
  4. Joe Mauer (37.0) – 1st round – 1st overall – 2001 – Cretin HS (St. Paul, MN)
  5. Chuck Knoblauch (36.3) – 1st round – 25th overall – 1989 – Texas A&M University (College Station, TX)
  6. Kent Hrbek (35.7) – 17th round – 432nd overall – 1978 – Kennedy HS (Bloomington, MN)
  7. Frank Viola (25.0) – 2nd round – 37th overall – 1981 – St. John’s University (Queens, NY)
  8. Gary Gaetti (24.8) – 1st round – 11th overall – 1979 – Northwest Missouri State University (Maryville, MO)
  9. Torii Hunter (24.7) – 1st round – 20th overall – 1993 – Pine Bluff HS (Pine Bluff, AR)
  10. Dave Goltz (22.5) – 5th round – 97th overall – 1967 – Rothsay HS (Rothsay, MN)

It certainly takes some time for players to accumulate enough playing time, even at elite performance levels, to produce the career WAR totals that would put a player on this list.  Joe Mauer, drafted in 2001, is the only player on this list that remains active and with the Twins (Torii Hunter is active and playing for the division rival Detroit Tigers), and if he can remain healthy for a couple more seasons he should find himself on top of this list before his current contract expires.

The Twins have been in Minnesota for more than 50 years, but seven of the players on this top ten list were all drafted within the 15 year period betwee 1978 and 1993.  Unsurprisingly, these players contributed to some of the best Teams in Twins history.  If the Twins are to return to success in the near future, successful drafting will be a big part of their reappearance at the top of the standings.

-ERolfPleiss

Who will be the Twins’ Opening Day Starter?

With the Twins likely done making moves this winter, and with Spring Training games just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to put my predictive powers to the test and try and suss-out the Twins’ plan for the Opening Day starter.  With the Twins opening the season at home this year, the Opening Day start has a little more significance than it has the past couple of years when the Twins started the season on the road.  The Twins have not started the year at home since 2009, and the last Twins pitcher to win the Opening Day game at home was Livan Hernandez in 2008 against the Los Angeles Angels.  In fact, the Twins haven’t won an Opening Day game since 2008, working on an 0-4 streak losing 6-1 in 2009 against the Mariners, 6-3 against the Angels in 2010, 11-3 in 2011 against the Blue Jays, and 4-2 a year ago in Camden Yards against the Orioles.  An Opening Day win would be a nice change of pace.

opening day optimism

Since the Twins moved to Minnesota to start the 1961 season, Opening Day starters are just 14-25, with 12 no decisions.  Not exactly a great track record on baseball’s biggest day, but with names like Camilo Pascual, Jim Kaat, Jim Perry, Bert Blyleven, Frank Viola, Brad Radke, and Johan Santana, the Twins’ Opening Day starter has historically been some of the most beloved players in Twins history.

Looking over the current 40-man roster, and some non-roster invites to Spring Training, there are several players who have a shot at being the Opening Day starter.  I’ll rank them from least likely to start to most likely to start on Opening Day.

Rafael Perez  (1% chance to start Opening Day) – Perez was just signed to a Minor League deal with the club a week ago.  He’s spent his entire big league career working out of the bullpen, and has not had a K/9 above 6 since 2008.  He has put up strong ERAs every year except 2009, but with the declining strike out rates and a ballooning walk rate, his ERA has been propped up by an above average strand rate.  Perez has an uphill battle to even make the team as a left-handed reliever, and an even tougher climb into the starting rotation.

Rich Harden (4%) – Like Perez, Harden is with the Twins on a Minor League deal.  Harden has not pitched in the big leagues since 2011, and while he has had a consistently above average strike out rate, he has not been an above average pitcher since 2009.  There is some question as to whether or not Harden’s shoulder can stand up to the high pitch counts associated with starting, so there is a pretty decent chance that if he makes the team at all, the Twins would prefer that he work out of the bullpen to keep him healthy for the entire season.  I like him more than Perez because Harden has a track record as a starting pitcher, and because the Twins are so desperately in need of strike outs, but he is still a long shot to even break camp with the Twins.

Mike Pelfrey (7%) – Pelfrey signed a 1-year deal with the Twins this offseason hoping to rebuild his value coming off of Tommy-John surgery.  Pelfrey is still not a ful year removed from surgery, so there are concerns about his ability to be ready to start the season in the rotation.  Unlike Harden and Perez, if he is healthy, Pelfrey has a guaranteed spot in the rotation.  If I was confident that Pelfrey would be healthy when the Twins break camp I would have him higher, but it is early in camp and I anticipate that he will end up needing an extra few weeks go get all the way up to speed.

Liam Hendriks (10%) – Hendriks is a fringe candidate to make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training, but with questions about health among several of the arms ahead of him on the pecking order, he is likely to be the next man in if any one of the projected five starters are not ready to start the season.  Even a healthy Liam Hendriks is a long shot to take the ball for the Twins on Opening Day as Ron Gardenhire usually likes to reward his veterans.

Kevin Correia (12%) – Poor Kevin Correia has been written off since before the ink was dry on his shiny-new 2-year $10 million dollar contract.  Correia certainly is not the type of pitcher that would typically get the ball on baseball’s biggest stage, but the Twins seem to like his veteran leadership and clubhouse presence, something that went a long way for Carl Pavano (who started back-to-back Openers in 2011 and 2012).  Pavano had almost a year and a half of starts with the Twins under his belt prior to taking the mound on Opening Day, but with no other experienced veterans on the roster, Correia might end up pitching by default.

Kyle Gibson (13%) – The Twins seem dead set on starting the year with Aaron Hicks in center field field despite not having any Major League experience.  If the Twins are trying to build excitement in 2013 and invite fans to buy into the Twins future, Gibson could wind up pitching on Opening Day to help build momentum toward 2014 and beyond.  But like Pelfry, Gibson is coming off of Tommy-John surgery, and unlike Pelfrey, Gibson figures heavily into the Twins future plans, so they are likely to treat him with kid gloves.  The Twins are looking to limit his inning totals in 2013, so putting him on the mound from Day 1 does not do a lot to aid that effort.

Scott Diamond (15%) – After playing the role of savior for the 2012 Twins, Diamond was the overwhelming favorite to take the ball on Opening Day.  If Diamond is healthy he will undoubtedly be pitching on April 1st.  But Diamond had surgery in December to remove some bone chips from his throwing elbow and is reported to be progressing through his rehab slower than anticipated.  There is still an outside chance that Diamond is healthy when the Twins open 2013, but the Twins want Diamond healthy long-term, so if any question marks remain about his health, expect the Twins to take things nice and slow.

Vance Worley (38%) – Vance Worley seems to have become the Twins de facto Opening Day starter because there really is not anyone else with a real shot at keeping him from it.  He has a lot of things working in his favor; he is healthy, he is young and exciting, has a chance to be a long-term part of the Twins ballclub, and he is not Kevin Correia (which is to say he is not old, ineffective, and overpaid).

When the Twins traded away Ben Revere for Worley and Trevor May I would not have though Worley had any shot to pitch on Opening Day, but he seems to be the last man standing.

-ERolfPleiss

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 23

Episode 23 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

This week the Pleiss brothers spend way too much time discussing obscure state capitols and bantering on about MySpace and hipsters.   In between those strange and obscure conversations you can find plenty of talk about the Minnesota Twins, including a discussion about the 25-man roster, Frank Viola, prospect Luke Bard and former Twins around the MLB. Also making his Talk to Contact podcast debut it Jason from The Inverted W podcast (www.invertedW.com) to continue the series looking around the AL Central, this time discussing the Kansas City Royals.

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us become more like summer time on the shores of Cape Cod.)

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.

– ERolfPleiss

Twins History Lesson: August 2-8

It’s not yet nearing the end of the season, but we can certainly see the end from here. The Twins are only half a game out of first place in the AL Central Division and there’s still a lot of baseball to be played. It won’t be long, however, before we won’t be able to say that.

I debated with myself about whether to post another Twins History Lesson this week, but then I realized the Twins didn’t lose a single game last week after I posted the Lesson for July 26 – August 1. I wouldn’t dare do anything to risk bringing this winning streak to a premature end! So let’s start the month of August with another trip down memory lane with the Twins.*

August 2:

1965: Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew was leading the AL in two of the three Triple Crown categories entering this date with 22 home runs and 70 RBI. After suffering a dislocated left elbow in a collision with Oriole Russ Snyder on August 2, Killebrew missed the following 48 games. As we all know, the Twins managed to win the American League pennant even without Killer in the line up for most of the last 2 months of the season.

1982: The Twins took the worst record in MLB in to a game with the Western Division leading Angels and predictably were getting shut out 6-0 through six innings (the 5th and 6th runs coming on the strength of a 2-RBI single by former Twin Rob Wilfong). Tom Brunansky’s double and singles by Kent Hrbek and Gary Ward (combined with a bit of an Angel circus act) put three runs on the board for the Twins in the 7th. Another former Twin, Doug Corbett, was on the mound for the Angels in the 8th when Gary Ward’s 3-run HR brought the Twins to within 7-6. Ron Washington and Brunansky (who had been traded by the Angels to the Twins for Corbett and Wilfong) came through with runners on base in the 9th inning to give the Twins a 9-7 lead with the Angels coming to bat against Twins closer Ron Davis. I know what you’re thinking, but just to demonstrate that not everything he touched as a Twin turned to stone, RD sat down Don Baylor, Fred Lynn and Doug DeCinces in order to close out the win. Perhaps not the most important win in Twins history, but with the benefit of hindsight, it provided a glimpse of what Twins fans had to look forward to five years later.

August 3:

1969: Oriole pitcher Dave McNally was on a roll when he took the mound at Met Stadium to face the Twins. He had a 15-game winning streak during the 1969 season (and since he had won his last two games in 1968, his personal streak was actually 17 tames). The streak came to an end in Bloomington when Rich Reese powered the Twins to a 5-2 win on the strength of his pinch hit grand slam home run.

Joe Niekro and umpire Tim Tschida

1987: We could make a good case for the 11-3 win over the Angels on this date warranting inclusion in this post on the basis of Gary Gaetti’s night. He went 3 for 5, scored twice, homered once and drove in 5 RBI. But nobody remembers any of that (except, most likely, Gaetti). What we remember is umpire Tim Tschida approaching the mound and asking to see pitcher Joe Niekro ‘s glove and for him to empty his pockets… at which time an emery board flew to the ground and a piece of sandpaper was also discovered in his pocket. It would be Niekro’s only ejection in his 702 career game appearances.

2008: The Twins entered the day a half game behind the White Sox and sent Francisco Liriano to the mound to face Cleveland in his first start after being recalled from Rochester. Liriano had pitched poorly in accumulating an 0-3 record before being sent down to AAA in April. All he did upon his return this night was shut down the Tribe for six innings, enabling the Twins to win 6-2 and take over first place from the Sox, who lost on the same day.

August 4:

1985: Rod Carew blooped a single to left field for his 3,000th career hit, becoming the first foreign born player to reach that plateau. Unfortunately, rather than reaching the milestone as a Twin, he did so as an Angel, and got the hit off of Frank Viola in the third inning of a 6-5 Angel win over the Twins.

1993: Kent Hrbek became just the second player to reach 1,000 career hits in a Twins uniform.

1994: Exactly one year after his milestone hit, Kent Hrbek announced his retirement from baseball, effective at the end of the season.

1997: Twin pitcher Brad Radke went 7 innings to earn the W over the Blue Jays and, in doing so, recorded a win in his 12th straight start… a feat only Bob Gibson (1968) and Pat Dobson (1971) had accomplished before.

Kirby Puckett

August 5, 2001 was a bad day for Twins fans to be at the Metrodome (where the AC went out and the Twins lost to the Royals while the temperature in the ‘Dome reached 91 degrees), but a good day to be in Cooperstown, NY.

Dave Winfield

That’s where former Twins Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield  were being inducted in to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

August 6:

1967: Twins pitcher Dean Chance threw a perfect game that will not be found on any list of MLB perfect games or no-hitters because he “only” retired all 15 hitters he faced in a rain-shortened 5 inning, 2-0 win over the Red Sox.

1969: The Twins’ Dave Boswell ended the night with a trip to the hospital to get 20 stitches after being punched by Twins manager Billy Martin. Martin stepped in after Boswell and team mate Bob Allison had a bit of a scuffle.

August 7:

2005: Yes, we all had a good laugh at the Cubs’ Milton Bradley a while back when he lost track of the number of outs and tossed a ball in to the stands after catching it, thinking there were 3 outs when there were only 2. But I don’t recall anyone mentioning at the time that on August 7, 2005, the Twins’ Shannon Stewart did pretty much exactly the same thing. The Red Sox went on to score 5 runs in the first inning and beat the Twins 11-7.

2009: The Twins acquired pitcher Carl Pavano from Cleveland in return for a “player to be named later”.

August 8:

1074: The Twins-Royals game in Kansas City is delayed several minutes while the fans (along with the rest of the country) listen to President Richard Nixon’s resignation speech, as it was broadcast in the stadium. The game resumes after the speech concludes. The Twins go on to win 3-2 in 14 innings with Bill Campbell tossing 7 innings of relief to get the win as Tony Oliva’s sac fly drives in Rod Carew with what would be the winning run.

1987: Steve Carleton records the 329th and final win of his career in a 9-2 Twins win over the A’s. Carleton gave up 2 runs in 8 and two-thirds innings of work.

1988: Twins catcher Brian Harper went 4 for 4 and outfielder Dan Gladden went 3 for 5 to lead the Twins to a 7-2 win over the Tribe. But the real excitement came in the fourth inning with former Twin Ron Washington on 2B for Cleveland and Willie Upshaw on 1B behind him. Joe Carter ripped an Allan Anderson pitch deep to left field. It looked like the Indians would be taking the lead until Gladden managed to run down the line drive, turn, and throw a strike to second baseman Steve Lombardozzi to double off Washington. Lombardozzi then turned and threw to Gene Larkin at 1B to complete the 7-4-3 triple play.

Paul Molitor

1998: Paul Molitor joined an exclusive club as he stoles the 500th base of his career. With 500 SBs and 3,000 hits, Molitor joined Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Eddie Collins and Lou Brock in that club.

With that, let’s look forward to another big week for the Twins. I suppose it would be a bit much to expect another perfect week, but I’ll settle for winning 6 out of 7 games this week (it wouldn’t be so bad to lose ONE game to the Rays, I suppose), seeing Justin Morneau rejoin the team in time to sweep the Tribe in the weekend series at Cleveland, and reclaiming their rightful spot atop the AL Central Division. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

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*We pull this information from a few different sources, including (but not necessarily limited to) Dave Wright’s excellent book, “162-0, The Greatest Wins!”, as well as some  internet sites like “Twins Trivia” and “National Pastime”.

 

Twins History Lesson: July 26 – August 1

Yes, I know… I skipped the Twins History Lesson* post (again) last week. Did you miss it? You did? Really? Dang… now I feel bad. Tell you what, there wasn’t a LOT of cool stuff that happened during the week of July 19-25 but I’ll briefly mention a couple of items, just for you, then I’ll move on to all the noteworthy items (and a few not so noteworthy) for the upcoming week.

Bruno the speed demon?

If I say “pine tar incident”, chances are you’re mind goes to George Brett’s famous “out” on July 24, 1983, that was later reversed. But how many of you remember July 19, 1975, when the Yankees’ Thurman Munson had his first inning RBI single nullified when his bat was found to have pine tar more than the legally allowed 18 inches up the handle?  Nobody? OK, do you maybe remember Tom Brunansky’s inside-the-park Grand Slam Home Run seven years later, on July 19, 1982?

Let’s also catch up with a couple of pitching performances taking place on July 23 in 2005 and 2006. On 7/23/05, the Twins needed a starting pitcher to face off against Justin Verlander in the second game of a doubleheader with the Tigers so the call went to Rochester for an arm to pitch one game and head back to the Red Wings. Enter Scott Baker, who held the Kitties to 2 runs on 5 hits in 7 innings to earn his first W as a Twin… then headed straight back to Rochester. Gardy’s postgame quote: “I think you’re seeing what we hope to get out of this young man. It’s very exciting.”

Exactly a year later, another young starting pitcher, Francisco Liriano, combined with four Twins relievers (Pat Neshek, Dennys Reyes, Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan) to set a new Twins record for most strikeouts in a nine inning game, with 17 combined Ks, in a 3-1 win over the Indians. Liriano recorded an even 10 of those Ks in his 5 innings of work.

Lyman Bostock

July 24 is also worth catching up on. On that date in 1961, The Twins signed Tony Oliva and 15 years later, in 1976, Twins OF Lyman Bostock hit for the cycle during a 17-2 win over the WhiteSox.

That’s enough for last week… let’s move on to this week in Twins History:

Merritt: No pitch count?

On July 26, 1967, Twins pitcher Jim Merritt set a Twins record when he pitched 13 innings in a 3-2 win over the Yankees. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for Merritt to earn the W as it took 18 innings for the Twins to earn that win. I’m guessing the Twins didn’t have Merritt on a pitch count limit.

There have been a couple of hitting performances of note on July 27. In 1978, Twins 3B Mike Cubbage hit for the cycle in a 6-3 win over the Blue Jays. He was the 5th Twin to accomplish the feat and the first after Bostock’s cycle two years and  three days earlier.

Five years later, on July 27, 1983, the Brewers Ben Ogilvie hit the longest HR in Metrodome history when he took a Brad Havens pitch 481 feet in to the upper deck in RF.

Dean Chance

Those in attendance at Fenway Park for the Twins/RedSox game on July 28, 1967, saw something very few people ever had an opportunity to see, but few of them probably really appreciated it. The Twins beat the Sox 9-2 as pitcher Dean Chance outdueled Boston ace Jim Lonborg (who was allowed to take leave from his National Guard duty to pitch the game). The rarity? That would be Chance’s bunt for a base hit in the Twins’ 7-run 4th inning. It was Chance’s first base hit following a stretch of 78 straight ABs without a hit (setting an AL record). Chance and Lonborg matched up twice more that season in eventful games. Nine days after this game, Chance retired all 15 hitters he faced in a rain shortened five inning “perfect game” win over Lonborg and the RedSox, making Lonborg 0-12 against the Twins in his career. Unfortunately, he broke that string on October 1, leading the Sox to the AL pennant over the Twins on the last day of the season.  Chance was the Twins’ losing pitcher.

I couldn’t find a darn thing of note that has ever occurred on July 29 in the history of the Twins. That probably won’t change this season as the team has the 29th off this year.

Not much going on for the Twins on July 30, either, for that matter, unless you consider the Twins trading Matt Lawton to the Mets for Rick Reed in 2001 or the trade of Luis Castillo to the same Mets for Drew Butera and Dustin Martin in 2007 to be big deals. Hmmmm… I do sense a pattern here. Should we look forward to Bill Smith completing another trade with the Mets on Friday?

We’ll make up for the lack of activity over July29-30 with a pretty long list of stuff for July 31, much of it trade related as it’s the last day for non-waiver trades:

1965: No trades of note on this date, but Tony Oliva’s heads up baserunning brought home a 2-1 win in 11 innings over the Orioles. (See if this sounds familiar, you fans of the movie Major League.) With one out in the 11th and Oliva on 2B and Harmon Killebrew having been intentionally walked to set up the double play, Joe Nossek hit a roller to Brooks Robinson at 3B. Robinson threw to second to force Killer but the relay to first was too late to complete the double play. That’s when O’s firstbaseman Boog Powell was surprised to realize Oliva never stopped at 3B but had rounded it and headed for home. Powell’s throw was late and Oliva slid home for the Twins win. His quote after the game, “… if I’m out at home, it’s a bad play. Today it was a good play because I made it.”

1972: No trade involved here either, but if you ever get a chance to talk to Bert Blyleven ask him about the day he gave up two inside-the-park HRs to the WhiteSox’ Dick Allen (then duck).

Now let’s get to some of those trades, shall we?

1987: The Twins picked up future HoF pitcher Steve Carleton from the Indians for a player to be named (who turned out to be pitcher Jeff Perry).

Frankie 'Sweet Music" Viola

Rick Aguilera

1989: The Twins became the first team in MLB history to trade a reigning Cy Young Award winner by trading Frank Viola to the Mets for Rick Aguilera, David West, Kevin Tapani, Jack Savage and Tim Drummond.

1995: Tapani was traded to the Dodgers along with Mark Guthrie in return for Jose Parra, Greg Hansell, Chris Latham and future FSN field reporter Ron Coomer.

2004: The Twins sent 1B Doug Mientkiewicz to the Cubs for pitcher Justin Jones.

2006: The Twins sent P Kyle Lohse (and his evil twin, Lyle) to the Reds for P Zach Ward.

2009: The Twins acquired SS Orlando Cabrera and cash from the A’s for minor leaguer Tyler Ladendorf.

Finally, let’s check in on what the first day of August has meant to the Twins:

1985: Pitcher Bert Blyleven returned to the Twins in a trade with Cleveland. The Twins sent outfielder Jim Weaver, pitchers Curt Wardle and Rich Yett, and shortstop Jay Bell to the Indians.

Bert Blyleven

1986: Exactly a year after returning to the Twins, Blyleven threw a 2 hitter against the A’s and struck out 15 hitters (then a club record). In the process, he became the 10th pitcher with 3,000 career Ks. In the same 10-1 win, Kirby Puckett became the first Twin to hit for the cycle in a game at the Metrodome.

1994: Oriole Cal Ripken played in his 2,000th consecutive game in a 1-0 win over the Twins at the ‘Dome.

2007: Perhaps a memory many of us would prefer not be reminded about as the Twins decided to go forward with their game against the Royals in order to keep from sending almost 25,000 fans on to already congested roads following the collapse of the I-35W bridge about an hour before game time. A moment of silence to remember the victims of the bridge collapse was held prior to the game.

With that, let’s all look forward to cheering on the Twins in their series this week at Kansas City and at home, next weekend, against the Mariners! – JC

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*We pull this information from a few different sources, including (but not necessarily limited to) Dave Wright’s excellent book, “162-0, The Greatest Wins!”, as well as some  internet sites like “Twins Trivia” and “National Pastime”.

Twins History Lesson: June 14 – 20

It’s no wonder that Major League Baseball came up with interleague play as a gimmick to generate interest in games played during the month of June. Based on the relative lack of notable events taking place in Twins history this month, baseball certainly needed something to keep fans from turning their attention elsewhere. Nevertheless, there’s been a smattering of noteworthy milestones, transactions and general an entertaining event or two that we felt worth bringing to the attention of Knuckleballs Nation. (Yeah, we know… it’s a REALLLLLLY small nation. But we can dream!) Now on with this week’s Twins History Lesson.*

Even to someone like me who had the pleasure of following Jim Kaat’s Twins career as it was playing out, it’s still somewhat amazing to me how often his name comes up in these peeks back in Twins history. June 14, 1964, may not have been a monumental date in the organization’s history, but the game that day did demonstrate just the sort of player Kaat was. It was questionable whether would even take his turn in the rotation against the Washington Senators because of a sore shoulder that had caused him to leave a game five days earlier. Kaat got a shot of Novocain in the shoulder the day before his start and took the mound vs. the Senators. He not only threw a complete game, but hit a 2-run home run in the sixth inning of the Twins 9-2 victory in the second game of a double header. It was Kaat’s second HR of the season.

There have been a couple of notable events on June 15 over the years:

On June 15, 1964 (the day after Kaat’s big game mentioned above), in a deal that would prove critical to their AL Championship season a year later in 1965, the Twins acquired pitcher Jim “Mudcat” Grant from the Cleveland Indians in return for pitcher Lee Stange and OF/3B George Banks.

Forty-four years later, on June 15, 2008, pitcher Scott Baker became the first Twins pitcher to strike out four hitters in one inning, when he K’d Brewers Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder (who reached 1B on a wild pitch on strike 3), Russell Branyan, and Mike Cameron.

June 16 has seen a pair of events, one personal and one more team oriented, that proved indicative of greater things to come:

The Twins’ rookie starting pitcher Frank Viola threw seven innings while giving up just one run on June 16, 1982, to earn his first career victory… a 5-2 win over the Kansas City Royals.

Nine years later, on June 16, 1991, the Twins scratched out a 4-2, 10-inning, win over the Indians. It was the Twins’ 15th straight victory and moved them in to first place in the Western Division for the first time since the final day of their 1987 championship season. Not a bad comeback for a team that lost 9 of their fist 11 games of the year and didn’t reach .500 until May 15.  The winning streak ended the following night, but by the time they finished their road trip a week later, they held a 3 1/2 game lead in the Division… and never looked back.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and Astros manager Cecil Cooper became the first managers fined by MLB for failing to comply with the league’s “pace of game” regulations on June 17, 2008. A month earlier, teams were instructed by MLB to help enforce rules intended to cut the amount of time it took to play games. (Apparently the Yankees and Red Sox still haven’t received that memo.)

Washington Nationals rookie Stephen Strasburg has drawn a lot of attention recently as he continues to be heralded as the next “can’t miss” superstar pitcher. But he’s far from the first phenom to garner that kind of attention and the events of June 18, 1973, could provide a cautionary lesson to those singing Strasburg’s praises. On that date, the Rangers’ David Clyde took the mound for his first Major League start… just 20 days after pitching in the state championship game for his high school team. The 18 year old Clyde gave up just one hit to the Twins in the 4-3 Ranger victory, in front of the first sell-out crowd at Arlington Stadium. Clyde, the $125,000 bonus baby, would go on to win a total of 18 games in his five year MLB career.

June 19 has been an eventful day for a trio of famous Twins:

On June 19, 1968, in a game against the Washington Senators at Metropolitan Stadium, slugger Harmon Killebrew became the first Twin to drive in 1000 runs in a career.

Twenty years later, on June 19, 1988, Jeff Reardon notched his 20th save of the year as he closed out a 3-1 win over the Mariners. It was the seventh consecutive season he accomplished that feat. The game also marked Bert Blyleven’s 250th career victory.

On June 19, 2007, on the team bus to Shea Stadium for that night’s interleague game with the Mets, Blyleven, who as a broadcaster never misses the opportunity to complain about starting pitchers failing to complete games, told Johan Santana he’d allow his head to be shaved if Santana throws a complete game shutout that night against the Mets. Not a single Met so much as reached third base  against Santana and before the next night’s game, Blyleven was shorn.

On June 20, 1965, the Twins played in front of the largest crowd ever to see the team play on the road, as 71,245 showed up for a double header at Yankee Stadium. In the first game, the Twins broke a 4-4 tie in the ninth inning when Zoilo Versalles and Sandy Valdespino scored runs on two separate wild pitches thrown by two different Yankee pitchers in the Twins 6-3 win. 20-year old pitcher Dave Boswell was credited with the win in the second game but, once again, a wild pitch played a role when Versalles reached first base after swinging and missing at a 3rd strike knuckleball ahead of a Harmon Killebrew home run. The 7-4 win capped a sweep of the Yankees on their home turf and served notice that the Twins were for real and they went on to win the ’65 AL pennant.

This week has the potential to create some new “history” as the Twins are scheduled to face the current odds-on favorite to win the NL Cy Young Award, the Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez, on Thursday before heading to Philadelphia for a weekend series against the defending NL champion Phillies. Let’s hope the Twins get healthy in a hurry and return to their traditional dominant ways over NL opponents. – JC

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*We pull this information from a few different sources, including (but not necessarily limited to) Dave Wright’s excellent book, “162-0, The Greatest Wins!”, as well as some  internet sites like “Twins Trivia” and “National Pastime”.

Twins History Lesson: May 17-23

UPDATE: I didn’t want to create a brand new post this morning, but as I was perusing through a few sites, I came across a couple of items that I thought others might enjoy. So, if you have a few minutes, check out:

This article by the PioneerPress’ Brian Murphy on Twins LOOGY, Ron Mahay. Did you know… Mahay came up through the Red Sox organization as an outfielder and made it to the Bigs in that capacity… and is one of two remaining “Replacement Players” who filled in during the strike of 1994-95… leading to him not being entitled to any licensing royalties from the MLBPA (and thus explaining the mysterious “Ryan Moss” in the Twins bullpen in the MLB 2K10 video game)… which led to him eventually having a closed-door “come-to-Jesus” meeting with Roger Clemens… which came shortly before throwing his first bullpen session (in Australia) and earning $20 bucks on a bet from his manager there (who promptly called the Sox and told them to make Mahay a pitcher)… leading to a nearly 10-year MLB career during which he’s played for 9 different teams, 5 of them (counting the Twins) twice. Yes, I know I’ve irritated some people by communicating my support for Mahay, but beware… after reading this article, I like the guy even more. Talk about persistence!

And over here in Curve for a Strike, we get to go along on a weekend’s worth of Twins games at the new Death Star, culminating in Kubel’s “cleansing breath” of a grand slam HR. Good stuff, along with accompanying pictures!

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This week sees the anniversaries of a few more Twins “firsts” as well as  several more noteworthy games in Twins history*.

May 17 has seen a couple of terrific performances over the years.

1963: Bob Allison became the first Twin to hit 3 home runs in one game. Hit hit a HR to LF, CF and RF in his final 3 ABs against the Tribe in an eventual 11-4 Twins win. Only 3 Twins have accomplished the same feat that Allison did. You may recognize their names: Killebrew, Oliva and Morneau.

1998: The Twins were on the wrong end when David Wells of the Yankees threw the 13th perfect game in MLB history against the twins in a 4-0 win for the Evil Empire.

Likewise, May 18 has witnessed a couple of impressive games:

1969: You couldn’t blame Tiger AllStar battery Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan if they said the 3rd inning of their game vs. the Twins on this date was the worst inning in their respective careers. In that one inning, Rod Carew stole 2B, 3B and home… and Cesar Tovar stole 3B and home the same inning, tying a MLB record.

1983: The Twins defeated the A’s 16-5 as they rolled off 18 hits (including 6 doubles and a HR) off of A’s pitching in the first 6 innings of the game, behind Frank Viola (who hadn’t won a game since August of the prior season). A’s third baseman Wayne Gross pitched the final 2 1/3 innings for the A’s… holding the Twins scoreless.

May 19, 1961 saw the first grand slam home run hit by a Minnesota Twin when Dan Dobbek went yard with bases loaded off of Kansas City A’s pitcher Ed Rakow.

We could write an entire post just listing the interesting events that have taken place on May 20 over the years. With some difficulty, I’ve culled them down to the following:

1962: Relief pitcher Ray Moore became the first Twins pitcher to both win and lose a game on the same day as he took the loss in the first game of a double header at Yankee Stadium and got the W in the second game.

1970: Rod Carew became the first Twin to hit for the cycle in a 10-5 victory over the Royals.

1984: The Twins lost 5-4 to Boston. Roger Clemens K’d 7 Twins in 7 innings for his first MLB win. He would go on to win a few more.

1989: Two Twins entered the record books during a 19-3 win over the Rangers in Arlington. Dan Gladden had 7 plate appearances in a 9 inning game, tying a record, and Randy Bush tied a Twins record with 8 RBI.

1994: Scott Erickson’s hot start to the season hit a road bump when he was scratched from his start after developing a stiff back warming up. Rookie Carlos Pulido, who hadn’t pitched in 10 days, got the start and retired 9 of the first 10 RedSox he faced. Meanwhile, the Twins forged a 10-0 lead through 3 innings and added 11 more runs in the 5th inning, on the way to a 21-2 win. The Twins offense was led by Kirby Puckett, who knocked in a career high 7 RBI in just 3 ABs. The next night, the Twins beat the RedSox again, on a 1-0 score.

1995: Rookie Marty Cordova tied a record for rookies by hitting a home run in his fifth consecutive game.

2005: Carlos Silva used only 74 pitches in a complete game win over the Brewers.

Besides being the day when (in 1999) the Twins acquired Kyle Lohse from the Cubs for Rick Aguilera (there were a couple of other players included as well), May 21 is perhaps best remembered as the date the Twins took the field in 2009 at US Cellular Field for the final game of road trip that had seen them drop four straight (2 in Extra Innings) to the Evil Empire and two more to the BitchSox. The Twins released a week’s worth of frustration on the Tidy Whities in a 20-1 win that was the worst defeat for Chicago in the franchise’s history.

May 22 has been just marginally more eventful:

1981: After 8 straight losses, John Goryl was fired as manager of the Twins and replaced by Billy Gardner. The Twins celebrated with a 7-0 shutout of KC.

2002: In what could have been an eventful day in Twins history, Governor Jesse Ventura signed a bill in to law approving financing of a new open-air stadium for the Twins. The Twins were eventually unable to meet the terms laid out in the deal and it expired. Almost 8 years later, the Twins are finally playing in their new ballpark.

2009: Michael Cuddyer became the second Twin to hit for the cycle in the 2009 season as he went 4-5 in an 11-3 win over the Brewers.

The week winds down with a bit of a slow date in Twins history, with May 23:

1991: The Twins wasted a 6-hit game by Kirby Puckett in a 10-6 Extra Inning loss to the Texas Rangers.

2009: Anthony Swarzak became the first Twins starting pitcher to record 7 scoreless innings in his MLB debut.

So that’s this upc0ming week in Twins history! Let’s see if the 2010 team can generate a few highlights this week that we can look back on in future years!

-JC

*We pull this information from a few different sources, including (but not necessarily limited to) Dave Wright’s excellent book, “162-0, The Greatest Wins!”, as well as some  internet sites like “Twins Trivia” and “National Pastime”.

Off-day History Lesson: April 26-May 2

I’m a bit of a history buff. I love reading about history. I love watching movies with at least a basis in history. So leading up to this baseball season, it should come as no surprise that any time I’ve ventured in to a bookstore, I’ve walked out with at least one book about baseball’s history.

That’s not to say I always read those books… at least not right away. In fact, I admit I bought two copies of Fay Vincent’s, “We Would Have Played For Nothing.” Obviously, I thought it would be a good book during a visit to a book store… twice.

Bob Showers’, “The Twins at the Met” is a terrific “coffee table” book for old timers like me who have so many great Metropolitan Stadium memories. Reading through it is like reliving every summer of my youth and my teen age years.

A year or two ago, I read “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Minnesota Twins”, by Steve Aschburner and found myself literally laughing out loud in public more than once and Jim Thielman’s “Cool of the Evening: the 1965 Minnesota Twins” is must reading for every Twins fan who remembers the 1965 Championship season.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I really enjoyed Joe Posnanski’s, “The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America”. In fact, I’d put that at the very top of my favorite “baseball books” list.

All of this is just leading me to today’s off-day rambling (hey, at least I’m not ranting about Bud Selig again!). I bought “162-0: The Greatest Wins in Twins History”, by Dave Wright, over the weekend. Mr. Wright’s premise is to go in to detail about the best (in his view) Twins victory that took place on most every date during a baseball season, from Ron Gardenhire’s first victory as the Twins’ manager on April 1, 2002 to Jack Morris’ 1-0 gem in game 7 of the 1991 World Series on October 27 of that year.

I’ve read enough to catch myself up to date in the season, but I’m trying not to read ahead too far. I’m enjoying reading a few days, corresponding with where we’re at in this season. Sometimes the game chosen by Wright to represent a particular date is unique because of something special one of the players did or because of something peculiar that happened during the game, but they all have one thing in common… a Twins victory. You have to love a book with 162 stories, all with happy endings! (Actually, it’s 167 stories, since Wright had to include last season’s game 163 plus four World Series victories!)

A Monday “off day” seems like a good day to provide a glimpse of the week ahead, April 26-May2… throughout Twins history. As you might imagine, not all of the interesting games the Twins played on a given date in history were captured in Wright’s “162-0″, so I’ve done a bit of web-searching to supplement the information in his book.

April 26 has been pretty uneventful, it turns out (unless you count April 26, 1986 when a game against the Angels was delayed when winds ripped a hole in the Metrodome roof.

Maybe April 27 is a better day to start with. We may find more eventful dates as we go forward with this (assuming I feel inspired to do this again some time), but until we do, April 27 presents a very interesting group of games.

Here’s what happened on April 27 in the year…

1961: 74 year old Ty Cobb threw out the first pitch before the first home game of the new LA Angels as they hosted the Twins. It was Cobb’s last visit to a ballpark prior to his death.

1969: Camillo Pascual hit a grand slam home run in the Twins’ 11-1 win over the Indians. What’s the big deal about that? Pascual was a pitcher for the Twins and this was the only grand slam home run ever hit by a Twins pitcher.

1969: Harmon Killebrew hit his 400th career home run over the BitchSox (yes, even in 1969, I’m sure the southsiders were bitches.)

1980: The Twins hand pitcher Geoff Zahn a 10-0 lead over the A’s in the first inning, but he doesn’t record a win. Zahn was removed after giving up 8 runs in less than five innings. Doug Corbett gets the win as the Twins outscore the A’s 20-11.

1994: Scott Erickson, after losing three straight games and seeing his ERA rise to 7.48, throws the third no-hitter (and the first in 27 years) for the Twins as they blank Milwaukee 6-0.

By comparison, April 28 has been relatively uneventful. In fact, the most eventful game on that date in Twins history was met with a collective sigh as they managed to beat the Orioles 4-2 in 1988… as the Orioles set a new AL record for consecutive losses at 21 games.

April 29 has seen a couple of interesting games.

1962: The Twins swept a doubleheader from Cleveland and, in the second game, they tied a MLB record by hitting six solo home runs… two by Johnny Goryl and one each by Bill Tuttle, Zoilo Versalles, Lenny Green and Don Mincher.

1970: Relief pitcher Stan Williams saved a 1-0 win over the Tribe for the Twins and Jim Kaat… without any Indian completing a plate appearance. With Tony Horton on 2B, Vada Pinson fouled off Williams’ first pitch. Before the next pitch, Williams (who had pitched the prior four seasons for Cleveland) picked Horton off 2B to end the game. Horton was not the first runner Williams had ever picked off. In fact, he had picked off Roberto Clemente once and Stan Musial twice in his career.

It may not seem like much, but given the problems the current Twins have had with the Yankees, Brad Radke’s 2-1 win over the Evil Empire on April 30, 2001 is something to celebrate, even now. Radke gave up only 6 hits, with the sole run being a Tino Martinez HR. Doug Mientkiewicz drove in both Twins’ runs, one with a solo HR.

May 1 has seen a couple of notable pitching performances from members of the organization’s Hall of Fame (and one memorable hitting performance by a future member of that HoF).

1988: Frank Viola shut out the RedSox 2-0 at Fenway Park. It was the first complete game thrown by a lefty against the RedSox in Fenway in over four years.

2005: The Angels beat the Twins 2-1 at the Dome, marking the first loss by Johan Santana in 20 starts, going back to the prior year. Santana had gone 17-0 during that span.

2009: After missing all of Spring Training and the month of April with a bad back, Twins catcher Joe Mauer makes a triumphant return when he drives a Sidney Ponson fastball over the left field wall for a home run in his first plate appearance of the season. The Twins beat the Royals 7-5.

The Twins have been busy boys on May 2 throughout their history as well.

1963: The Twins picked up Jim Perry from the Indians. Perry would win the Cy Young award in 1970.

1964: The Twins enter the top of the 11th inning in their game vs. Kansas City tied 3-3. Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall and Harmon Killebrew rip four consecutive home runs and the Twins win 7-3. Only two teams, prior to Minnesota, had gone back to back to back to back.

1967: It was 32 degrees at game time, the coldest start of any game played at Metropolitan Stadium, before the Twins beat the Yankees 13-4 in a game that lasts less than two and a half hours.

1992: They weren’t consecutive this time, but once again the Twins hit four home runs in one inning as Shane Mack, Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek and Randy Bush ‘go yard’ in the 5th inning vs. the Evil Empire. The Twins win 7-6.

2001: Over 40 fans are ejected from the Dome after umpires pull the Yankees off the field during the Twins’ eventual 4-2 win. The fans had been throwing objects at former Twin Chuck Knoblauch.

Kind of a lot of excitement for this year’s group of Twins to live up to this week, isn’t it?

-JC