If a Minnesota Twins team MVP were to be crowned four games into the 2020 season, the slam dunk pick would be Nelson Cruz. In a meager 17 ABs, he has clobbered three bombas, smacked two doubles, and driven in ten runs for a .412 BA & 1.503 OPS.
While that blistering pace would be remarkable for any player, it’s even more mind-boggling that the Boomstick turned 40 this past July 1. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the 40-somethings that have contributed to Twins rosters over the years:
During the early goings of Twins history, oldster pickings were slim. In their inaugural season (1961), outfielder Elmer Valo (40) contributed 36 PA (.156 BA, .469 OPS). 1969 saw reliever Al Worthington (40) toss 61 pretty solid innings (4.57 ERA) and compile three saves.
It would take 18 years for a few more aged ones to appear. In ‘87 and ‘88, Joe Niekro (42-43) and Steve Carlton (42-43) were, well, let’s just say “present” (ERA’s well over 6.00).
The 1990s saw a few veteran designated hitters put up quality numbers. Dave Winfield (41-42) averaged .262 with a .757 OPS in ‘93-’94 (922 PA), while Paul Molitor (40-41) was a solid batsman right to the end (‘97-’98, 1,156 PA, .293 BA, .752 OPS) as well.
In the mid-2000s, Ron Gardenhire seemed to have a soft spot for venerable graybeard arms. In 2003, Jesse Orosco (46) became the oldest pitcher to ever don the TC logo—albeit for a whopping 4.2 innings. The following two seasons, Terry Mulholland (41-42) provided 182.1 rubber-armed frames out of the pen and spot starts.
After a spectacular 2010 campaign, Jim Thome turned 40 in ‘11 and was—okay (242 PA, .243 BA, .827 OPS). Twins fans did get to see him swat HR #600 in a Minnesota uniform.
In recent years, a couple of 40+ hurlers have toed the Target Field rubber. Who can forget Bartolo “Big Sexy” Colon (44) in 2017 (80 IP, 5.18 ERA) or the Fernando Rodney (41) Experience (TM) of ‘18 (43.2 IP, .309 ERA, 25 SV)?!
A few more grizzled Twins who made (very) brief impressions...
-1990: Jim Dwyer (40, 75 PA, .190 BA, .558 OPS)
-2004: Pat Borders (41, 44 PA, .286 BA, .683 OPS)
-2006: Ruben Sierra (40, 33 PA, .179 BA, .487 OPS)
That brings us back to Nelson Cruz, who after claiming the AL Player of the Week award is clearly not ready for the front porch rocking chair quite yet. On the contrary, he seems poised for the best quadragenarian season from a Twin since Winfield and Molitor still had some juice. I just hope we get a “full” 60 games to see it play out.
(and we still haven’t seen 40-year old Rich Hill pitch yet)
How about you—who is your favorite Minnesota Twins geezer?