I’m a pretty normal guy. I do one weird thing. I like to go in the women’s room for number two.
-Creed Bratton, The Office
I’m a pretty normal guy. I do one weird thing. I like to use Baseball Reference’s Multi-team Finder to determine the best 25-man roster of guys who have played for a given pair of teams. Outside of that one thing, I’m successful and well-balanced. That said, the first team that I thought to pair with the Twins was the Angels, and here’s what happened:
C - Butch Wynegar - Bats: S, 93 OPS+, 26.3 bWAR/ 13 seasons
An All-Star his first two seasons in the league, Wynegar was solid beside the plate, and stellar behind it. Over his 13-year career he threw out 40% of baserunners attempting to steal, leading the league in 1979 with an absurd 52.9%; he topped 45% on three other occasions. Offensively, Wynegar was good for about 20 doubles and half as many homers at his best over a full season, fairly good numbers for a backstop at the time, with only a few notable outliers.
1B - Don Mincher
Rod Carew played slightly more games at first base than he did at second base, but this team would be better served with Carew at second and someone else at first, due to the abysmal selection of middle infielders. Mincher, who I was first made aware of via the greatest book of all time, Ball Four, edged out Vic Power and Kendrys Morales.
2B - Rod Carew -
If nothing else, it was worth writing this post just because it led to looking through pages of Rod Carew photos for an hour or so, trying to pick the right one. Time well spent.
SS - Leo Cardenas
The majority of Cardenas’s glory days came in Cincinnati, where he played his first nine seasons, won a Gold Glove, and was named to four All-Star teams. His other All-Star appearance was in 1971, the last of his three seasons in Minnesota.
3B - Gary Gaetti
Gaetti bounced around for the second half of his career after putting up four 30-double seasons and two 30-homer seasons along with two All-Star nods in his decade with the Twins. He missed out on being part of the Twins’ second World Series Champions when he signed with the Angels before the 1991 season; from there he moved on to both Missouri teams, the north side of Chicago, and finally Boston for five hitless games in 2000. He would also be useful to this team as a position pitcher who gives the bullpen a break in blowouts; he made one relief appearance each year from 1997 through ‘99.
LF - Don Baylor
I always thought it was cool that Don Baylor played in three straight World Series with three different teams. That was from 1986 through ‘88, with the Red Sox, Twins, and his second time with the A’s. 1986 was his last season of nine with at least 20 home runs (his highest total was 36 in 1979, the year he was named the American League MVP); he was already seven years removed from his eight seasons with at least 20 steals (with a high of 52 in 1976).
CF - Lyman Bostock
The knee-jerk impulse is to immediately write in Torii Hunter as the everyday center fielder, as he kept putting up numbers for 17 years, and was named to five All-Star teams in that span, and I would listen to anyone’s argument for him, and probably agree with most if not all of your points. Bostock played just three full seasons, but the stats he put up in that time suggest he was poised for an extremely productive career if he’d had the chance, and this is one of the rare instances where I feel it’s appropriate to credit someone for “what might have been”, especially given the circumstance of his death. A left-handed pure hitter, on this team Bostock would get his rest when the right-handed Hunter took the field on days a left-handed pitcher started for the other team, creating a platoon capable of unspeakable damages.
RF - Dave Winfield
Like Carew, Winfield is an absolute no-doubter, not just for this team, but any team. 41 years old by the time he made it to his hometown Twins, Winfield hit 42 of his 540 career doubles and 31 of his 465 homers in a season and a half in Minnesota.
DH - Chili Davis
In his last nine seasons, Davis appeared in the field just 10 times, and one of those was two innings on the mound in 1993. Of the other nine games, he played two complete games in left field, started two in right field, and played one inning at first base. One look at his defensive numbers from his first ten seasons tells you exactly why the Twins, Angels, Royals, and Yankees were so hesitant to allow him anywhere near any glove that wasn’t part of a pair. Consistent but never extraordinary in any one facet of the game, Davis hit between 20 and 30 home runs 10 times.
C/OF - Brian Harper
Harper was drafted as a catcher, and caught his way up the Angels’ minor league ladder until he was taught the outfield and spent most of his time there with additional work at the infield corners. He was used sparingly in seven seasons with the Angels, Pirates, Cardinals, Tigers, and A’s, playing a high of 61 games in 1983. However, when the Twins signed him as a minor league free agent before the 1988 season he was issued a chest protector, shin guards, and a second shot at a major league career. He was called up by midseason, then went on to spend the next five seasons as Minnesota’s starting catcher. The rare catcher who hit for a high average, Harper slashed .306/ .342/ .431 with 210 extra-base hits in 2,691 trips to the plate over 730 games during his half-dozen years with the Twins.
3B/1B/C/OF - Phil Nevin
Nevin, on the other hand, was drafted as a third baseman and stuck with that and left field his first three years of professional ball, not catching until 1996 when the Tigers — his second major league team — sent him down to AA to learn the position. He stuck with it a few years, setting a nice career high of 69 games caught for the Angels in 1998, before he settled in as the Padres’ starting third baseman in 2000, his second season in San Diego. From then on he only went behind the plate in cases of emergency; he caught four innings in one game in 2004, two games the next year, then one last inning in 2006. He retired after splitting that season between the Rangers, Cubs, and Twins, a shell of his former self at each stop.
SS/2B - Orlando Cabrera
Unlike Don Baylor, Orlando Cabrera played in only one World Series, but he did go to the postseason with five different teams in seven years, with one stretch of four teams in four years. After eight years in Montreal, Cabrera was traded to Boston in 2004, the Expos’ final season. He won a ring there, then went on to reach the playoffs with the Angels in 2005 and ‘07, the White Sox in 2008, the Twins in 2009, and finally, the Reds in 2010. A Gold Glove-winning shortstop, Cabrera never strayed away from the position until 2011, his fifteenth and final season, when he was Cleveland’s starting second baseman until a deadline trade sent him back to shortstop, albeit in a Giants uniform.
OF - Torii Hunter - R, 110, 50.0/ 19
While listed as the fourth outfielder, Hunter would likely see as much gameplay as the starting three, as part of a rotation giving each of them and DH Chili Davis a regular rest schedule. He’d probably play a lot of late-innings defense too since, you know, he knew his way around with a glove. I’ll be the first to scoff at Gold Glove Awards, but I will say that Hunter was far more deserving of his nine than some players were of any of theirs. Wait, why did I write “some players” when you and I both know that the first name that will come to everyone’s mind will be Derek Jeter? Well, him or Rafael Palmeiro, but with Jeter it was a year-in, year-out disgrace. I just checked, and all five of Derek Jeter’s five ridiculous Gold Gloves came from 2004 through 2010. During that seven-season span, not only was he far from the best fielding shortstop in the league, he wasn’t even the best fielding shortstop on his team. I know that this paragraph about Torii Hunter, on a Twins site, in a post about the Twins and Angels, isn’t the perfect place to rant about the absurdity of Derek Jeter — a man who played for neither team — winning even one Gold Glove, let alone five, but any place is an appropriate spot to counterbalance all the exorbitant praise he somehow still receives even as he goes full-on circa-1993 Tom Werner on a franchise and its fanbase. But, anyway, back to Torii Hunter... Um, yeah, he was good at baseball. Yup. Next.
Bert Blyleven -
I briefly made mention of it in my blurb under Rod Carew, but one of my favorite things about posts like this is looking through all the available photographs. There have been many times when I was bored and had blogger’s block, and just went through Getty archives from some random year until something jumped out at me and practically wrote itself. I’m fairly particular, too. When I write about the Padres, I go out of my way to find pictures of current players wearing a throwback or Friday home jersey, just any sort of brown, or at least camouflage, because I refuse to acknowledge their current blue-and-white lack of identity. Steering this slightly back to relevancy, I have a similar disdain for the Twins’ use of Kasota gold. It’s more of the same, just fixing what wasn’t broken. I remember disliking it the second I first saw it, and hoping it would grow on me. It did not. All that said, I had a tough time deciding which of Blyleven’s two Twins stints to showcase; it was a lot like back in the ‘90s when the USPS had that thing where people voted between stamps of Young Elvis and Vegas Elvis. Does anyone else remember that, or am I just old?
There’s a Hall of Fame argument to be made for Luis Tiant, although no one made their point loudly enough in his fifteen years on the ballot. Oddly, the 30.9% of the vote he got in 1988, his first season on the ballot, was the highest total he’d receive. He dipped down into the single digits for a few years, eventually exiting the ballot with 18% in 2002. Perhaps if he’d played a few years earlier or a few years later, that 30.9% would have trended in the opposite direction. He’s favorably comparable to some of the guys who are already in there, but I suppose that the natural counterargument to that would be that two wrongs don’t make a right.
I was born a few decades too late to witness Dean Chance’s career, but as a kid I would constantly read old books and magazines about baseball, and whenever his name came up, there was an unsaid but readily apparent message: This guy isn’t just really good at baseball; he’s a star in every sense of the word. So, star that he was, he burned extremely brightly for a handful of seasons, then disappeared after quickly fizzling out. It was still quite a decade, though. He won a Cy Young Award, made a couple All-Star teams, led the league in ERA and shutouts, and complete games and innings twice each, along with twice winning 20 games, which even though it’s largely insignificant, still looks good on paper.
Candelaria, however, was better than I remembered, likely because I witnessed the tail end of his career, mostly through baseball cards, when he was a middling middle reliever, far removed from the Candy Man of old. That Candy Man was a vital part of Pittsburgh’s rotation for a full decade from the mid-’70s through the mid-’80s; in that time he won one ERA crown and had three other seasons under 3.00, a feat he duplicated just twice in the journeyman half of his career, and in far fewer innings each time. After leaving the Steel City in 1985, Candelaria pitched in Anaheim, Queens, The Bronx, Montreal, Minneapolis, Toronto, and Los Angeles before returning to the Pirates for his 1993 swan song.
This rotation is in awfully good shape, considering the fifth starter is a one-time Cy Young Award winner whose three other finishes were in the top six. His most impressive seasons are the ones in which he puts up video game numbers after a couple of so-so years in which he’s been written for dead. That’s why I’ll be thoroughly unsurprised when, at the All-Star break in 2019, Bartolo has a 2.66 ERA for the Royals and leads the league with 11 wins.
Fuentes saw his best days as a member of the Colorado Rockies, which is not a thing you get to say very often about pitchers. Once he was named the team’s closer he put up three 30-save seasons, with another season of 20, and was named to three All-Star teams before heading to Anaheim as a free agent. There he led the league with a personal high of 48 saves and made his final All-Star team. Minnesota picked him up right before the waiver deadline in 2010; in 12.1 innings in nine regular season and two postseason games — the entirety of his time with the Twins — Fuentes did not allow a single earned run.
Perranoski was a star during a time when relievers were generally looked down upon, although it helped that the bulk of his heyday happened in Los Angeles in a stretch when the Dodgers were in the World Series about every other year. He led the National League in games pitched three times, including 1963 when he compiled a 16-3 record and 1.67 ERA while pitching 129 innings over a nice 69 relief appearances. He was accumulating saves before saves were even recognized, but once they were first included as an official statistic in 1969, Perranoski led the American League that year and the next, the second and third of his three full seasons with the Twins. I checked to see if he has an IMDb page, since I know some Dodgers from that era wound up doing guest spots on sitcoms - and while it wasn’t a sitcom, he did act in one episode of the western show Branded, which, if you’re like me recognize just because it was mentioned in The Big Lebowski.
Fetters was drafted late in the first round of the 1986 draft and was used exclusively as a starter in the minor leagues, even when he split three seasons moving back and forth between Edmonton and Anaheim, starting in AAA and relieving in the majors. It wasn’t until he went to Milwaukee in a trade that he was able to concentrate solely on relief, and it paid off immediately. During his six years with the Brewers, Fetters was good for 40 to 60 games of strong, reliable relief every year, then was a bit more hit-or-miss year to year in the second half of his career. In the eight seasons of 1997 through 2004, Fetters pitched for eight teams: the Brewers, Angels (again), Orioles, Dodgers, Pirates, Diamondbacks, and Twins, finishing up with a second stint in Arizona. Like Brian Fuentes, Fetters did not allow a single earned run in his entire tenure with the Twins. In his case it was six innings in five April, 2003 games.
Tom Burgmeier -
Burgmeier was fairly inconsistent the first 11 years of his career, switching between stellar, so-so, and subpar from year to year. It wasn’t until 1979, his second season with the Red Sox, that Burgmeier finally hit his stride. From then on, for the final six years of his career, he posted an ERA well under 3.00 each season while providing the valuable rarity of left-handed multi-inning relief.
I came close to giving this spot to Hector Carrasco, but LaTroy had a few great seasons and a lot of other very good ones after finally being removed from the rotation, plus I could just not bring myself to omit LaTroy Hawkins. Who doesn’t love LaTroy Hawkins? Following his first seven full seasons and parts of two others with the Twins, Hawkins pitched for a dozen more years, for the Cubs, Giants, Orioles, Rockies (twice), Yankees, Astros, Brewers, Angels, Mets, and Blue Jays.
Like Mike Fetters two decades after him, Sanders bounced around, starting in the minors and relieving in the majors with little success until going to Milwaukee and relieving full-time. In 1971 he led the American League with 83 appearances and 31 saves, taking the crown from Ron Perranoski. Sanders had an ERA of 1.91 in 136.1 innings that year. That was actually up from the previous year. He was never that good again, but still had a few very good seasons left in him.
Corbett’s best season was his first, when he set career highs with 136.1 innings, 73 games, and a 1.98 ERA. He was an All-Star the following season, and had a few more very good seasons after he headed west to the Angels.
C - Pat Borders, Greg Myers, Phil Roof, Drew Butera, Matt Walbeck
1B - Vic Power, Kendrys Morales, Ron Jackson, Danny Goodwin, Julio Becquer
IF - Rob Wilfong, Brendan Harris, Rocky Bridges, Donnie Hill, Ken Aspromonte, Billy Consolo, Jackie Hernandez
3B - Dave Hollins, Frank Kostro
OF - Jimmie Hall, Dan Ford, Tom Brunansky, Ken Landreaux, Albie Pearson, Bobby Darwin, Ben Revere, Andy Kosco, Lenny Green, Alex Ochoa, George Thomas, Shane Robinson, Faye Throneberry, Mike Ryan, Tack Wilson
SP - Geoff Zahn, Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco, Bill Singer, Hector Santiago, Paul Hartzell, Dave Goltz, Alex Meyer, Ken Brett, Ramon Ortiz, Rich Robertson
RP - Dave LaRoche, Hector Carrasco, Pete Cimino, JC Romero, Kevin Jepsen, Buddy Boshers, Don Lee, Mel Nelson, Doug Corbett, Jack Spring, AJ Achter, Mike Cook, Erik Bennett, Fred Lasher, Tex Clevenger, Bob Kipper, Jim Donohue, Ron Kline, Adam Wilk, Tom Morgan, John Verhoeven, Drew Rucinski