On July 11, in the year of our Lord 1910, the Chicago Cubs defeated the New York Giants 4-2. With the Giants rallying in the late innings, one particular surge was snuffed via a 6-4-3 double play turned by Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance of the Cubbies. In the next day’s New York Evening Mail, columnist Franklin Pierce Adams (a combination of names that could represent roughly 9% of all U.S. Presidents) lamented the Giants’ defeat by crafting the following poem which would quickly become synonymous with ball-playing efficiency…
These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double—
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
As individuals, Tinker, Evers, & Chance were nothing all that special. Some of their closest comps, respectively, according to Baseball Reference were Ozzie Guillen, Luis Castillo, and Darryl Hamilton. In other words, solid major league starters but little more. As a trio, however, their immortalized double-play prowess is largely considered the biggest factor in their 1946 Old Timers Committee HOF selection.
Starting in about 2017, I’ve held the belief that the strength of the entire Twins roster is the starting outfield (left to right) of Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, &
Kax Mepler Max Kepler. From Rosie’s right arm cannon to Buck’s incredible range to Mad Max’s mastery of the overhead limestone slab, not only does that particular combination represent the best OF alignment for the Twins, but perhaps in all of MLB.
Offensively, the triumvirate are nearly as important to the everyday batting order. Byron is quite literally the only speed component in the lineup on a daily basis, Kepler currently leads the team in home runs and has done an admirable job in the leadoff slot against opposing righty starters, and Eddie has a knack for coming through in the big moments that’s almost uncanny (a skill that could prove extremely helpful if this team makes it to October).
This season, when the Rosario-Buxton-Kepler outfield has been intact—a total of 44 games—the Twins are playing at a .727 clip (32-12).
With all other OF compositions (59 games)? .525 (31-28).
Of course, parsing the enormous number of factors that go into any win or loss down to three roster spot configurations is a bit presumptuous. But boy howdy does that difference in winning percentage sure seem significant. As such, I firmly believe that if the Twins want to win the AL Central this season and make some noise in the postseason, that particular OF grouping must roam beside each other more often than not.
In order for this to happen, of course, Buck has to stop destroying his body on a daily basis (or at least catch a lucky streak), Rosie must avoid the mental blunders that sometimes find him on the pine or DHing, and Kep needs to somehow avoid being hit by a pitch seemingly every other game.
If those things can happen, the Twins organization might just find itself raising a gonfalon of its own come Opening Day 2020.