It has been awhile since I have made an appearance on this website, so I figured I would wait until after the Twins had a horribly disappointing season, and Major League Baseball is in a lockout. In the meantime, my colleagues here at Twinkie Town have brilliantly covered the Byron Buxton extension and the signing of Dylan Bundy, who is certain to reverse the Twins’ recent fortunes with veteran pitching and win multiple Cy Young awards (gulp). While going down an unrelated Baseball Reference rabbit hole, I started thinking, who are the most random/interesting/shocking Twins selections for the All Star Game? Because there must be a representative from every team, most teams have at least one All Star that seems like a total longshot in hindsight. The Twins certainly have a couple of those, but they also have a couple of All Stars that are just plain interesting or memorable. In compiling the list below, there is no statistical or formulaic method, but it is simply just a random list of dudes. In researching for this piece, I also came across a similar post from TJ in 2019, so I will be piggybacking off of that one!
CATCHER: Dave Engle, 1984
Engle’s story surrounding the Minnesota Twins is a just plain interesting one altogether. He became a member of the Twins after being traded for Rod Carew, he got the first regular-season hit in the Metrodome (which was also the first homerun), and also played with his future brother-in-law, Tom Brunansky. His selection to the All Star team in 1984 is somewhat of a surprise looking back, as his teammates included Frank Viola, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, Kent Hrbek, and a rookie named Kirby Puckett. Engle’s numbers at the All-Star break were solid, posting a .310 batting average and hitting three homers on his way to an OPS of .752 before the All Star Game. While these numbers are solid, they don’t necessarily scream “All Star,” but Engle still became the Twins’ lone representative. Unfortunately, Engle did not appear in the game, and would struggle the rest of the year, posting an overall OPS of .661 in 1984.
Others: Kurt Suzuki (2014), A.J. Pierzynski (2002), Tim Laudner (1988), John Roseboro (1969)
FIRST BASE: Ron Coomer, 1999
In the height of the offensive boom that was the steroid era, Ron Coomer became an All Star for the Minnesota Twins. Coomer’s pre-All Star numbers were decent, posting 11 homers on his way to an OPS of .770. Luckily for Coomer, the All Star Game requires one player from each team, and it only assesses the numbers for the first part of the season. He became the lone selection amidst some late-90s luminaries such as Todd Walker, Terry Steinbach, Marty Cordova, and Denny Hocking. Also getting some playing time on this team were future stars such as Corey Koskie, Torii Hunter, and a young bat named David Ortiz. Coom-dog managed to rise above the competition and make the team despite his meager numbers, but Coomer would only get one at bat in the game, striking out looking against future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman. His numbers would also level off the rest of the year, as his final OPS of .731 would register an OPS+ of just 82.
SECOND BASE: Brian Dozier, 2015
The selection of Dozier for the all-random team doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Dozier not being deserving, but instead a thin selection of second base options. The other names that are listed are Rod Carew and Chuck Knoblauch, both of which made multiple appearances. There are no random Todd Walker or Luis Rivas All Star selections, so Dozier is the choice here. Dozier had a run from 2014-2017 as one of the best offensive second basemen in the league, but he only ended up with one All Star appearance. This was due to Dozier being a perpetual slow starter, as his numbers before the All Star break are much more modest than his overall numbers. Take a look at his numbers before the All Star break:
2014: 18 HR, .777 OPS
2015: 19 HR, .841 OPS
2016: 14 HR, .786 OPS
2017: 13 HR, .745 OPS
While 2015 may have not been his best overall season, it may have been his most deserving All Star first half. During the game, Dozier only got one at bat, a pinch-hitting appearance in the 8th inning. He would make the most of his appearance, however, hitting a homerun off of Mark Melancon.
SHORTSTOP: Eduardo Nunez, 2016
Coming into 2016, Nunez’s career was trending much more toward “career utility guy” instead of “American League All Star.” Before 2016, Nunez had a modest career OPS of .696 and 18 HR in 1244 plate appearances. After receiving a sudden wave of playing time, Nunez became a power/speed threat to the likes that could’ve never predicted. Before the All Star break, Nunez piled up 12 homers, stole 21 bases, and batted .321 on his way to an OPS of .836. After being named to the game, Nunez would not get to bat, but would come in as a defensive replacement in the 9th inning. A couple of weeks later, Nunez would be dealt to the Giants for Adalberto Mejia. His 0.9 WAR for his first half with the Twins in 2016 is actually higher than his overall career mark of 0.2.
Others: Leo Cardenas (1971), Cristian Guzman (2001), Roy Smalley (1979)
THIRD BASE: Rich Rollins, 1962 (x2)
Right off the bat, the most interesting part of this All Star appearance is that Rollins actually made two appearances, as the MLB held two All Star games from 1959 until 1962. This would be Rollins’ first and only nominations to an All Star team, and he batted leadoff for both games for the American League. He beat out the legendary Brooks Robinson for the starting role on the team, and was a part of a lineup that featured Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and fellow Twin Earl Battey. Rollins was rudely greeted into his All Star game baptism by Don Drysdale in the first game, as he was hit by a pitch in his first plate appearance. He would also add a single and run scored in a 3-1 loss to the National League. Twenty days later, Rollins would again lead off, starting the game off with his only hit of the game, a single against Johnny Podres. The American League would win the second contest 9-4. Rollins would go on to have a moderate amount of success in 1963 and 1964, but would struggle to maintain that success throughout his career, posting a career OPS+ of 81 from 1965-1970.
Others: Miguel Sano (2017)
OUTFIELD: Ken Landreaux, 1980
Landreaux, like Engle, was a key cog in the trade that sent Rod Carew to the Angels. In his second year with the Twins, Landreaux put together a solid first half, batting .296 on his way to a .758 OPS. The 1980 Twins didn’t have a ton of prime candidates for the All Star game, as the team leader in homers was John Castino with 13, and only one starting pitcher (Jerry Koosman) had a winning record. Landreaux would enter the game in the 5th inning as a pinch runner for Reggie Jackson, and would make one plate appearance, lining out against Bruce Sutter in the 8th inning. He would finish the season with the Twins, but that would be the end of his two-year career with the Twins, as he was traded to the Dodgers in the offseason for a trio of players that included Mickey Hatcher.
OUTFIELD: Gary Ward, 1983
Ward is an interesting story in the fact that he took an unusual path to the Twins, signing as an undrafted free agent in 1972, and he didn’t receive regular playing time until 1981 during his age-27 season. In 1981, Ward received some votes for the American League Rookie of the Year award, and in 1982, he posted his finest season, hitting 28 homers and posting an OPS of .849. Ward would follow that up with another solid season, posting an OPS of .816 and 15 homers to earn his spot as the Twins’ All Star Game representative. He would make a lone appearance in the game, pinch-hitting in the 5th inning and flying out to center against Dave Dravecky. In true Twins fashion, he would be traded after the season to Texas, where he would once again make the All Star Game in 1985.
OUTFIELD: Matt Lawton, 2000
Lawton’s Twins career may be most infamously known for taking an Edgar Martinez line drive off of his face after losing the ball in the Metrodome light band, but Lawton actually put together a couple of nice seasons for what was mostly a miserable Twins team. After sparse playing time in 1995 and 1996, Lawton would become a key part of the Twins lineup, posting an OPS+ of 104 from 1997-1999 in 412 games. In 2000, Lawton would come out the gates blazing, posting a .330 batting average, an OPS of .914, and 19 stolen bases before the All Star break. Lawton would join a stacked American League roster during the heart of the steroid era as the lone Twins representative. He would enter the game in the sixth inning, replacing Bernie Williams in centerfield. In the ninth inning, Lawton would single off of Trevor Hoffman to knock in Ray Durham, steal second base, and eventually score on an error. Lawton would finish out the season with the Twins, and of course would be traded the next season for Rick Reed.
Others: Tom Brunansky (1985)
STARTING PITCHER: Scott Erickson, 1991
In researching Scott Erickson’s 1991 All Star campaign, I came across a black hole in the baseball history universe. The official website of Major League Baseball has Erickson listed as an All Star in 1991, but Baseball Reference does not have Erickson’s All Star election on his page. With some help from my colleagues at Twinkie Town, and some Twitter help from @TwinsAlmanac, @MNTwinsZealot, and even Twins’ play-by-play guy Dick Bremer, it was determined that Erickson was indeed elected to play, but was scratched due to an injury. Erickson was likely in line to start the game, but was instead replaced by teammate Jack Morris. As pointed out by Mr. Bremer on Twitter, Morris took a line drive to the ankle in the game, and it was initially feared that he broke his leg, which could’ve created a whole different ripple effect for the eventual World Series champions.
STARTING PITCHER: Joe Mays and Eric Milton, 2001
As covered in July by Zach Koenig in July, the 2001 season was the beginning of the emergence of the “Contract This” Twins, as the Twins climbed out of their perpetual cellar to finish second in the AL Central. A wave of players became household names, as the Jacque Jones/Torii Hunter/Corey Koskie/Cristian Guzman/Luis Rivas/Doug Mientkiewicz/A.J. Pierzynski/David Ortiz core established themselves as a lineup to be reckoned with. On the pitching side of things, Mays and Milton rounded out the rotation with longtime stalwart Brad Radke. Mays had a remarkable season in what would be his only All Star appearance, posting an ERA of 3.16 and leading the Twins with a 6.6 WAR. He did in an unconventional fashion, striking out only 4.2 batters per nine innings, but his success was largely buoyed by a .246 BABIP against him, which was 52 points below his career average.
Milton achieved his success in a similar fashion, even though his 6.4 K/9 somehow tied for the team lead among starting pitchers. He has a successful first half, going 8-3 with an ERA of 3.73 going into the All Star break, highlighted by a four-hit shutout of the Yankees on May 8th. This would also be Milton’s only All Star appearance. The 2001 All Star midsummer classic was highlighted as a coronation for Cal Ripken, Jr., as he was taking his retirement victory lap. Alex Rodriguez would famously have Cal move back to his original position of shortstop, and Chan Ho Park famously threw a batting practice fastball that led to a homerun and the MVP for Ripken. Milton would not appear in the game, but Mays would enter in the 5th inning for the American League, retiring Hall of Famers Larry Walker, Mike Piazza, and Chipper Jones in order.
Others: Jake Odorizzi (2019), Ervin Santana (2017)
PITCHER: Francisco Liriano, 2006
I listed “Frankie Fastball” as a general pitcher for this one, as he started the season in the bullpen before joining the starting rotation. He would emerge as an immediate Cy Young contender, blowing hitters away with his high-velocity fastball and his unhittable slider. Going into the All Star break, Liriano carried an ERA of 1.83, a FIP of 2.39, and he had struck out 102 batters in 88.1 innings. He did not appear in the All Star game, but teammate Johan Santana did. Liriano was on track to make a legitimate Cy Young argument ahead of Santana, not to mention the AL Rookie of the Year. However, because the Twins can’t have nice things, he would shred his elbow in the second half of the season and would require Tommy John surgery. Liriano would eventually return to being an effective pitcher, but his career was marked by inconsistency, and the ultimate “what-if” would loom over Liriano after his meteoric rise and injury.
RELIEF PITCHER: Doug Corbett, 1981
In a different article that I wrote, Corbett’s rookie season of 1980 made the list of best seasons in Twins history, in which he finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting after posting a WAR of 5.7. His 1981 was also very good, as he led the league in appearances (54) and games finished (45) while posting an ERA of 2.57. Corbett would not appear in the game for the American League, and it would eventually be the only All Star appearance for him. In 1982, Corbett would be traded early in the season to the Angels as part of a package that would return Tom Brunansky, Mike Walters, and $400,000.
Others: Jeff Reardon (1988)
It was fun to look back at some of the interesting Twins that have made the All Star team. Who did I leave off of this list, or who were you surprised to see? Let me know in the comments!