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All-Time Twins Tournament Review: That summer seemed to last forever

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From 16 teams to one, here’s how it all went down.

Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals
Victory and champagne
Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images

The All-Time Twins Tournament is over.

After fifteen matches narrowed the bracket down, third-seeded 1969 ended up on top, trouncing 2017 four games to none in the championship round.

The final matchup was certainly a surprise, as while 1969 was one of the favorites, having the second-highest total fWAR of any team in the tournament, 2017 was slotted at the bottom, having the second-lowest total fWAR and the lowest seeding.

But while the final match ended in dominance, the other fourteen had their own paths to follow.

Let’s take one final look at each set of games in the tournament.

Walter Johnson Round

(1) 1991 vs. (16) 2017

Game 1: ‘91 wins 5-4
Game 2: ‘17 wins 5-4 (12 inn.)
Game 3: ‘91 wins 11-6
Game 4: ‘17 wins 6-4
Game 5: ‘17 wins 5-2
‘17 advances 3-2

While both teams produced in the clutch, ‘17 outlasted top-seeded ‘91 for an early upset. Overcoming Kirby Puckett’s walk-off home run in Game 1, ‘17 won close matches in Games 2 and 4 before a steady stream of runs pushed them into the next round. Eduardo Escobar led ‘17’s offense, batting .391 with three home runs, while Ervin Santana allowed just three runs in his two starts. Shane Mack (.368, HR) led ‘91’s offense in the losing effort.

(8) 2010 vs. (9) 1925

Game 1: ‘25 wins 5-3 (11 inn.)
Game 2: ‘25 wins 14-8
Game 3: ‘10 wins 5-2
Game 4: ‘10 wins 9-2
Game 5: ‘25 wins 13-7
‘25 advances 3-2

Despite losing both of their home games, ‘25 took all three on the road to knock out ‘10. After an extra-inning battle and an offensive onslaught, ‘25 nearly took the sweep before ‘10 scored four runs in the ninth inning to stay alive, tying the series the next day before ‘25’s offense knocked them out. Said offense was keyed by Goose Goslin (.455, 3 HR), Muddy Ruel (.455), Sam Rice (.440), and Joe Harris (.435), but Delmon Young’s .556 average (albeit in just nine at-bats) led the series.

(5) 1970 vs. (12) 2006

Game 1: ‘70 wins 5-3 (10 inn.)
Game 2: ‘70 wins 4-3 (11 inn.)
Game 3: ‘06 wins 10-3
Game 4: ‘06 wins 8-6
Game 5: ‘06 wins 8-4
‘06 advances 3-2

After a pair of walk-off losses, ‘06 swept ‘70 the rest of the way to move on. Although Rod Carew’s home run and Rich Reese’s double had given ‘70 extra-inning wins, ‘06 outscored ‘70 26-13 the rest of the way, with Michael Cuddyer’s .455 average and two homers pacing the team. On the mound, Johan Santana pitched 14 innings over his two starts, allowing just three runs and winning the deciding game.

(4) 1965 vs. (13) 2003

Game 1: ‘03 wins 8-3
Game 2: ‘03 wins 4-2
Game 3: ‘03 wins 7-3
‘03 advances 3-0

In the most surprising sweep of the opening round, ‘03 knocked out ‘65 in three games. Eddie Guardado earned two saves, allowing a run in Game 2 but still holding the lead, while of ‘03’s lineup regulars, Cristian Guzman (.417), Corey Koskie (.462), and A.J. Pierzynski (.846) led the team in AVG, OBP, and SLG respectively. For ‘65, Jimmie Hall batted .538 in a losing effort.

(3) 1969 vs. (14) 2004

Game 1: ‘04 wins 3-2
Game 2: ‘69 wins 10-3
Game 3: ‘69 wins 9-4
Game 4: ‘04 wins 9-7
Game 5: ‘69 wins 9-5
‘69 advances 3-2

After a back-and-forth series, ‘69 countered ‘04’s four-run Game 5 fourth inning by scoring five runs in the bottom half, going on to win 9-5 and moving on in the series. While Lew Ford batted .444 to lead ‘04, two ‘69 batters passed that mark (Harmon Killebrew at .500, Tony Oliva at .458), with Rich Reese coming close at .400. Joe Nathan saved both of ‘04’s wins, pitching two scoreless innings.

(6) 1924 vs. (11) 1987

Game 1: ‘24 wins 5-2
Game 2: ‘24 wins 4-0
Game 3: ‘24 wins 5-4 (13 inn.)
‘24 advances 3-0

In the first-round matchup between two World Series champions, ‘24 pulled off the sweep, winning three close games to move out of the first round. ‘87 nearly kept the series going, forcing extra innings with a seventh-inning Tim Laudner home run in Game 3, but Roger Peckinpaugh’s sacrifice fly scored the eventual winning run. Goose Goslin and Joe Judge each batted .500 for ‘24, while Tom Zachary and By Speece combined for a shutout in Game 2.

(7) 2019 vs. (10) 2002

Game 1: ‘19 wins 5-1
Game 2: ‘02 wins 10-4
Game 3: ‘19 wins 3-2
Game 4: ‘02 wins 6-4
Game 5: ‘19 wins 5-4 (10 inn.)
‘19 advances 3-2

After alternating victories through four games, ‘19 maintained the pattern and advanced, C.J. Cron’s walk-off walk pushing ‘19 into the next round. Four ‘02 batters hit over .300, led by Cristian Guzmán’s .412, while Luis Arraez (.381, all singles) and Jorge Polanco (.364, HR) topped ‘19’s batting. On the mound, Taylor Rogers pitched 3.2 scoreless innings, tallying two saves and a Game 5 win.

(2) 1933 vs. (15) 2009

Game 1: ‘09 wins 13-11
Game 2: ‘33 wins 4-0
Game 3: ‘33 wins 6-3
Game 4: ‘33 wins 6-3
‘33 advances 3-1

Aside from a Game 1 slugfest, ‘33 steadily wore down ‘09. Highlighted by General Crowder’s complete-game shutout in Game 2, ‘33 wo the next three games to take their opening round series. Joe Kuhel (.500) and Heinie Manush (.400) each outhit every ‘09 batter, Joe Mauer (.357) leading ‘09’s regulars, while ‘33’s pitching staff did not allow a single home run, Jack Russell netting two saves over two scoreless innings.

Harmon Killebrew Round

T.J. Regional: (9) 1925 vs. (16) 2017

Game 1: ‘17 wins 7-2
Game 2: ‘17 wins 4-3 (14 inn.)
Game 3: ‘17 wins 3-0
‘17 advances 3-0

After both teams in this series took all five games to make it through the first round, ‘17 finished off ‘25 in three, giving themselves a rest moving into the semifinals. The sweep was far from easy, as Game 2 was a 14-inning seismograph where ‘17 hit a two-run homer to take the lead in both the ninth and 14th innings, only for ‘25 to tie the game once and come within a run of tying it again at the end. Jason Castro, Miguel Sano, and Brian Dozier each had five hits in the series, while Earl McNeely matched their total for ‘25.

Tawny Regional: (12) 2006 vs. (13) 2003

Game 1: ‘06 wins 5-1
Game 2: ‘03 wins 3-1
Game 3: ‘03 wins 3-2 (10 inn.)
Game 4: ‘03 wins 2-1 (10 inn.)
‘03 advances 3-1

In a series dominated by pitching, ‘03 held off ‘06 and strung clutch hits together, advancing on two walk-off wins. Jacque Jones (4-10) was the only batter in the series to reach .400, while nine relievers on both sides sported 0.00 ERAs. But Brad Radke pitched a complete Game 2 and Eddie Guardado earned both extra-inning wins, while ‘03 got walk-off hits off Joe Nathan in the final two games to move on.

Maija Regional: (3) 1969 vs. (6) 1924

Game 1: ‘69 wins 4-2
Game 2: ‘69 wins 5-4
Game 3: ‘69 wins 4-0
‘69 advances 3-0

Although ‘24 kept it close in each game, ‘69 stayed ahead in all three games, sweeping into the next round. Each game featured its own form of nailbiting play: in Game 1, ‘24 tied the score at two in the top of the sixth before ‘69 pulled ahead in the bottom; in Game 2, ‘24 scored a run in each of the first four innings, only for ‘69 to score five in the fifth; and in Game 3, the score was 1-0 heading into the eighth. No ’24 regular batted over .333, while three members of the ‘69 lineup topped that mark, and only two ‘69 pitchers (Jim Kaat and Dean Chance) surrendered runs.

Sandwiches Regional: (2) 1933 vs. (7) 2019

Game 1: ‘33 wins 4-3
Game 2: ‘19 wins 5-4
Game 3: ‘33 wins 7-5
Game 4: ‘19 wins 9-3
Game 5: ‘19 wins 7-4
‘19 advances 3-2

Six outs away from elimination, ‘19 used big innings to push past ‘33, coming back to take the series in five. Down 3-2 in the eighth inning of Game 4, ‘19 scored seven runs to force a tiebreaker, then took a 6-0 lead early in Game 5 (aided by a Max Kepler grand slam) and held on to win. Kepler led all offensive regulars with a .421 average and three home runs, while Martin Perez won the final two games in relief.

Kirby Puckett Round

Minneapolis Regional: (13) 2003 vs. (16) 2017

Game 1: ‘03 wins 1-0
Game 2: ‘17 wins 6-0
Game 3: ‘03 wins 6-0
Game 4: ‘17 wins 7-3
Game 5: ‘17 wins 7-4
Game 6: ‘17 wins 6-3
‘17 advances 4-2

After a string of shutouts, ‘17 made their way into the final by winning three games keyed by big innings. Brian Dozier powered the offense, slashing .520/.556/1.160 with three home runs, while no ‘03 batter hit over .333. On the mound, Ervin Santana pitched 14.2 shutout innings before allowing two earned runs in Game 5, while Jose Berrios picked up two wins with 13 shutout innings over two starts.

St. Paul Regional: (3) 1969 vs. (7) 2019

Game 1: ‘69 wins 14-3
Game 2: ‘69 wins 5-0
Game 3: ‘19 wins 9-8
Game 4: ‘69 wins 7-3
Game 5: ‘19 wins 9-8 (10 inn.)
Game 6: ‘19 wins 10-7
Game 7: ‘69 wins 6-5
‘69 advances 4-3

After nearly losing a 3-games-to-1 lead, ‘69 won a 6-5 battle in the deciding game to advance to the final. ‘19 won two 9-8 walk-offs and held onto an early 10-7 lead, but ‘69 demonstrated their resilience in the final game, coming back from deficits of 2-1 and 4-2, pulling ahead 5-4, then pulling ahead again after ‘19 tied the score. Rich Reese (.500/.529/.750, HR) and Tony Oliva (.469/.486/.906, 3 HRs) led the ‘69 offense, while only Al Worthington, Sergio Romo, and Randy Dobnak posted perfect ERAs.

Joe Mauer Round

Championship: (3) 1969 vs. (16) 2017

Game 1: ‘69 wins 8-2
Game 2: ‘69 wins 8-4
Game 3: ‘69 wins 7-3
Game 4: ‘69 wins 7-3
‘69 wins 4-0

Having battled ‘19 to the wire in the semifinal, ‘69 wanted no such anxiety, defeating ‘17 in a four-game sweep to win the tournament. While ‘17 led in three of the four games, they never led for more than half an inning as ‘69 not only took leads, but extended them. Byron Buxton led ‘17 with a .429 average, a mark that Rod Carew (.526), Leo Cárdenas (.500), and Rich Reese (.429) all reached or surpassed.

Tournament MVP

At the end of each individual series, I posted the series MVP underneath the header and, immediately underneath, his stat line. I’m not doing that here because the race for tournament MVP was so close. The top four in the 1969 lineup — in order: Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Harmon Killebrew, and Rich Reese — were all under consideration. Below, I’ve listed their stat lines. Without knowing whose is whose, which player would you pick?

  • A: .390/.407/.667, 4 HR, 18 R, 21 RBI
  • B: .416/.454/.623, 2 HR, 11 R, 12 RBI
  • C: .393/.415/.607, 3 HR, 21 R, 15 RBI
  • D: .373/.472/.733, 7 HR, 16 R, 16 RBI

(NOTE: Since OOTP only pulls up partial stats for each individual round, neither giving me the option to show full stats nor stats for the series as a whole, I had to tally the above by going through all their plate appearances in each game. Any mistakes in stat-keeping are mine.)

Going in order:

  • Player A is Oliva, and he was the strongest balance of contact hitter and slugging, finishing second on the 1969 team in home runs and runs scored while leading the team in RBI. The only thing that knocks his OBP down is a lack of walks (three), but his OBP is the lowest of the four.
  • B is Reese, whose run count was likely hindered by having players behind him who did not hit quite well enough to enter MVP consideration, and whose RBI count likely dropped because he had Carew, Oliva, and Killebrew driving in so many runners ahead of him. But Reese led the team in average, hitting over .400, although he did not provide as much power as one would like to see from the cleanup spot (21 of 32 hits were singles).
  • C is Carew, who also provided a lot more contact than power, though that fits his career profile. Like Reese, Carew hit a lot of singles (23 of 35 hits), but Reese actually out-walked him five to four while also being plunked twice. But Carew provided some late power, hitting two home runs in the final round.
  • Lastly, D is Killebrew, whose batting average is lowest among the four but leads in on-base and slugging percentages. Killebrew never sported a sub-.400 OBP in any of the four rounds, that OBP boosted by 12 walks (!!) and two plunkings, while I believe his seven homers led the entire bracket. (Again, can’t pull up full stats. I know Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar had five apiece for 2017, and don’t think anyone else hit more than four.)

After going over their statlines, I am declaring the All-Time Twins Tournament MVP to be:

Harmon Killebrew (1969 DH)
.373/.472/.733
28-75, 7 HR, 6 2B
16 R, 16 RBI
12 BB, 2 HBP

And that concludes the All-Time Twins Tournament. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I had fun playing it.

Thanks for following along.

Introduction
Walter Johnson Round: Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5
Harmon Killebrew Round: Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5
Kirby Puckett Round: Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5 / Day 6 / Day 7
Joe Mauer Round: Preview / Game 1 / Game 2 / Game 3 / Game 4 / Game 5 / Game 6 / Game 7
Review