As Twins fans gather around the water cooler today to talk about next year and, quite possibly, the Vikings instead, there are a few former members of the club that are worthy of being brought into the conversation. Sometimes it's difficult to talk about an ex (Twin), but ideally you reach a point where it's okay to bring them up and you're legitimately happy for the good things that happen in their lives. Right? Right.
Here we go.
- Torii Hunter delivered the winning RBI in the first inning of last night's game with the Tigers, propelling them to their third consecutive AL Central title. At 37 years of age, Hunter's MLB career continues to be a successful one, and his .303/.335/.467 triple slash is a lot better than I'd have anticipated it to be when he left Minnesota six years ago. The power he generated in the warmer months of this season has disappeared, but his 37 doubles are the most he's recorded since he notched 37 in his first year with the Angels. His career high is 45 doubles, a mark he recorded in his final season with the Twins in 2007.
- Denard Span's 29-game hit streak was the best in baseball this season, but it came to a halt one week ago today. In those 29 games, Span hit .371/.406/.492 and, as a result, his season triple slash has now risen to .280/.328/.379. It's certainly not what the Nationals thought they were getting when they dealt Alex Meyer in a straight up deal last winter, but it's getting better. Span has added 20 stolen bases and the game's fifth-best defense in center field, according to FanGraphs. Still, I'm sure Washington was hoping for a playoff berth this season.
- Staying in the National League, Michael Cuddyer continues to lead the senior circuit in hitting. Cuddyer's .335 average is 14 points higher than that of the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter. It's been a freak of a season for Cuddles at the plate, but his defense makes 2013 his second best season according to FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement. His best season? 2006 with the Twins, when Cuddy hit .284/.362/.504 in his first full-time season in right field.
- Carlos Gomez plays with fire, passion, and maybe just a little bit of crazy. He and Brian McCann are now mortal enemies. If you missed it, check this out. And then, for a laugh, Grant Brisby has your Top 10 Carlos Gomez Crazy Faces. "Soon."
- Maybe the Twins gave up on Kyle Lohse too soon. Maybe the Twins giving up on Lohse, and then the Reds and the Phillies not really caring much for Lohse either, flipped a switch inside the mind of the California native. Whatever the case, Lohse (who was never a teammate of Gomez in Minnesota, but they're teammates now in Milwaukee) has, in the last half dozen seasons, put together a career that a lot of us once thought he'd be having earlier in his career. He finishes 2013 a hair shy of 200 innings, with a 3.35 ERA and a level of command he's seemingly only found as he moved past his early 30s. I still think the Brewers live to regret the contract they gave Kyle, but at least for this season they definitely got their money's worth.
- Over at Baseball Nation, Rob Neyer discusses the fact that we are not in a golden age of long-life veteran relief pitchers. Following Mariano Rivera's retirement at season's end, the only reliever who will be 40 or older in 2014 and plans to pitch is LaTroy Hawkins. Unless Octavio Dotel and/or Tim Byrdak bounce back from almost non-existent years, since they'll both be 40 next summer. Hawkins has had a very good season. But unlike some other ex-Twins, I doubt there will be any reunion talk. The Minnesota bullpen is one place that's probably sitting pretty for 2014. Still - when looking at the list of Twins pitchers from 1995, who would have thought that Hawkins would still be an active pitcher at age 40?
- Finally, at the trade deadline this season the Atlanta Braves rejected a mammoth offer from the Texas Rangers for Justin Upton. Texas offered David Murphy, Joe Nathan, and Matt Garza for the younger Upton brother. The Braves have now officially made the post-season while the Rangers are still clinging to life for the Wild Card spot in the AL, down by just one game with just four left to play. Texas was looking for a replacement for the suspended Nelson Cruz, and they were willing to deal Nathan because at the time they expected Neftali Feliz to return in short order. The Braves, meanwhile, would have had an even more ridiculous bullpen than they already boast, and Garza would have taken Paul Maholm's spot in the rotation to give Atlanta a pretty good five-man rotation of Garza, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran, and Tim Hudson. Clearly, Atlanta didn't like losing one of their best bats in exchange.