Friday, February 16, 2007
Top 10 Twins Hitters of the '80s
To the surprise of some, the Twins and Michael Cuddyer agreed to a one year, $3.575 million contract minutes before their arbitration case was set to begin. If he reaches 650 plate appearances, he will get an additional $50,000 which would make it a mid-point deal. Of course, if he manages to stay in the cleanup spot for the full season, 650 plate appearances should be a given!
Yesterday we looked at the Top 10 Twins Hitters of the 1990s. There were some good names considering that it was a tough decade for the organization. Today, I want to look at the Top 10 Twins Hitters of the 1980s. The team was pretty poor early in the decade. They were playing a lot of very young players. In 1984, they actually competed until late in the season. Things were again not good in 1985. Mid-season 1986, the Twins fired Ray Miller and hired Tom Kelly to be the team's manager. In 1987, the Twins won their first World Series championship. Much of the core of the '87 team had come up together in the first half of the decade. They struggled together, and then they won together. It is best to forget that the 1987 Twins team had the worst regular season record of any World Series winner... until the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals... ironically the team the Twins beat in '87. The Twins actually had a better record in 1988 but finished behind their biggest rival of the era, the Oakland A's. There are some excellent players on this list, players full of memories that Minnesota fans will never forget.
*Note - all stats only include the 1980-1989 seasons. Statistics from the '70s or '90s not included.
**Note 2 - it is really hard to find pictures of a lot of these guys, so I am going to use some old baseball cards. Each picture will be linked to the great Twins Cards website. Be sure to check it out!
#10 Mickey Hatcher, OF
Mickey Hatcher was always a clubhouse guy. He was known for his practical jokes. He has now been the hitting coach for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and very good at it. Hatcher came to the Twins right before the start of the 1981 season. He came from the Dodgers with two minor leaguers for Ken Landreaux. He stayed with the Twins through the 1986 season. He twice hit over .300 in a season with the Twins, but only one time did he play in more than 116 games. Hatcher ranks 8th in Games Played (672), 4th in Batting Average (.284), 5th in Hits (671), 5th in doubles (127), 7th in RBI (260) and 7th in Runs Scored (256).
#9 Gary Ward, OF
The Twins signed Gary Ward as a free agent in August of 1972. He made his big league debut for the Twins in 1979. He played in just five seasons with the team, although he combined for just 54 at bats in 1979 and 1980. He became a regular in 1981. He put together a 28 home run season in 1982. That essentially made him an All-Star in 1983. Between 1982 and 1983, he hit 47 home runs and drove in 179 runs. After that season, the Twins traded him to the Texas Rangers in exchange for two pitchers, Mike Smithson and John Butcher. For the '80s, Ward ranks tied for 3rd in Batting Average (.284), 7th in On-Base Percentage (.332), 3rd in Slugging Percentage (.463), 10th in doubles (80), 8th in Home Runs (51), 9th in RBI (218) and 8th in Stolen Bases (26). He is the father of Daryle Ward of the Chicago Cubs.
#8 John Castino, 3B/2B
Castino was the co-AL Rookie of the Year in 1979 (with Alfredo Griffin). But for this analysis, that season does not count. He fought injury throughout his career, and it ended prematurely in 1984 (although the Twins released him after the 1985 season). Although I knew him as a 2B, he actually came up playing more 3B. He was very good defensively regardless of what position he was playing. In 1981, he led the AL with nine triples. Castino ranked 5th in Batting Average (.277), 9th in On-Base Percentage (.329), 10th in Slugging Percentage (.398), 8th in Hits (534), 10th in HR (36) and 8th in Runs Scored (244).
#7 Roy Smalley, SS/DH
Smalley came to the Twins in 1976 from the Texas Rangers with three other players in exchange for Bert Blyleven and Danny Thompson. Then in 1982, he was traded by the Twins to the Yankees in a deal that brought Ron Davis and Greg Gagne to the team. And then before the 1985 season, Smalley came back to the Twins, from the White Sox, in a deal for two minor leaguers. So, in the decade of the 1980s, Smalley spent 1980-1982 and 1985-1987 with the Twins. He gracefully retired after the Twins won that 1987 World Series. In his first stint with the team, he was their main SS. But when he returned, Gagne was the team's SS, so Smalley primarily was a DH and pinch-hitter. So, in the decade, Smalley ranks 9th in Games Played (575). Despite hitting just .263, he ranks 4th for the decade at .354. He also ranks 7th in Slugging Percentage (.416), 9th in Hits (479), 9th in doubles (88), 7th in Home Runs (59), 8th in RBI (221) and 9th in Runs Scored (238).
#6 Greg Gagne, SS
As mentioned above, the Twins acquired Greg Gagne and the infamous Ron Davis for Roy Smalley in 1982. At the time, "Gags" was just an "A" ball prospect, but he was a former #1 pick of the Yankees. He came up for a cup of coffee in both 1983 and 1984, combining for 12 games and 28 at bats. He became the Twins regular SS in 1985 and remained as such through the 1992 season. Although he was never a great hitter, he always seemed to put up decent power numbers and several extra base hits. The fact that he was a very good defensive SS made him a very solid big league SS for a long time. The lone negative was that in his time with the Twins, he never had an on-base percentage of over .310. For the decade of the '80s, Gagne ranks 7th in Games Played (717), 7th in Hits (537), 7th in doubles (115), 9th in HR (47), 10th in RBI (216), 6th in Runs Scored (309) and 4th in Stolen Bases (54).
#5 Randy Bush, OF/DH
Randy Bush was the Twins 2nd round pick in 1979. He played for the Twins from 1982-1993. He always seems to be mentioned as primarily a pinch-hitter. Well, from 1986-1989, he played between 122 and 141 games, most of them in the OF. However, he also never had as many as 400 at bats in any season. We all remember him playing out in RF with his body turned at 90 degrees toward the RF line. Bush ranks 4th for the decade in Games Played with 918. Despite a batting average of just .252, his .335 on-base percentage ranks 6th for the 80s. Bush also ranks 6th in Slugging Percentage (.422), 6th in Hits (623), 6th in doubles (126), 5th in HR (82), 5th in RBI (343), 5th in Runs Scored (335) and 7th in Stolen Bases with 32.
#4 Tom Brunansky, OF
After making his big league debut with the Angels as a 20 year old in 1981, Brunansky came to the Twins that offseason with Mike Walters and cash for Rob Wilfong and Doug Corbett. As a 21 year old rookie in 1982, "Bruno" hit .272/.377/.471 with 30 doubles, 20 homers, but just 46 RBI. He had no less than 20 home runs in any of his six seasons with the Twins. But he never hit as high as .260 after that 1982 season. He was an All-Star in 1985. For the '80s, Brunansky ranks 5th in Games Played (916), 8th in On-Base Percentage (.330), 4th in Slugging Percentage (.452), 4th in Hits (829), 4th in doubles (154), 3rd in Home Runs (163), 4th in RBI (469), 4th in Runs Scored (456) and 6th in stolen bases (36). I would guess I am not alone in thinking that the worst trade in Twins history was in April of 1988 when the Twins sent "Bruno" to the St. Louis Cardinals for Tommy Herr.
#3 Gary Gaetti, 3B
Gaetti was the Twins 1st round pick in 1979. He quickly arrived in the big leagues in September of 1981 and remained with the Twins through the 1990 season. In 1982, he finished 5th in the Rookie of the Year voting. Gaetti was a very good all-around player. He didn't hit for average much with the Twins, but he did show great power at times. He had six seasons where he hit at least 20 home runs. Gaetti was a two time All-Star in the '80s and a three time Gold Glove winner at 3B. he was also the MVP of the 1987 ALCS. For the decade, Gaetti ranks 1st in Games Played (1,207), 5th in Slugging Percentage (.445), 3rd in Hits (1,144), 1st in doubles (225), 2nd in HR (185), 2nd in RBI (673), 2nd in Runs Scored (585) and 3rd in Stolen Bases (68).
#2 Kirby Puckett, OF
Puckett finished in the 2nd spot in the Top 10 Hitters of the '90s too. In part, that shows the randomness of reviewing any short sample series. If we were to look at the Top 10 Twins Hitters from 1985-1994, Puckett would be #1 by a landslide. Now, some of the numbers "Puck" put up fall behind others in this decade, but if you look at his average season over his six seasons in the '80s, he could also rank as high as #1. Puckett came up early in the 1984 season and started hitting immediately. He finished 3rd in AL Rookie of the Year voting. He added power to his game starting in 1986. He won four Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers and appeared in four All-Star games. He led the league in hits three times. He finished in the Top 7 in MVP voting four times. He led the league in hitting in 1989 with a .339 average. His .356 average was good for second in 1988. He hit no lower than .328 from 1986-1989. For the decade, Puckett ranks 3rd in Games Played (924), 1st in Batting Average (.323), tied for second (with Gene Larkin) in On-Base Percentage (.357), 2nd in Slugging Percentage (.469), 1st in Hits (1,243), 3rd in doubles (197), 4th in Home Runs (96), 3rd in RBI (506), 3rd in Runs Scored (542) and 1st in stolen bases (84).
#1 Kent Hrbek, 1B
Kent Hrbek came up at the end of the 1981 season and was with the Twins for the rest of the decade, and through the 1994 season. He was very good for the whole decade of the '80s. He finished 2nd to Cal Ripken, Jr., in the 1982 AL Rookie of the Year voting. That year, he also appeared in the only All-Star game of his career. In 1984, he finished second to the Tigers' Willie (Guillermo) Hernandez in the AL MVP vote. He had three .300+ seasons. Seven of the seasons he hit more than 20 home runs. He had an OPS+ over 110 eight seasons. For the decade, Hrbek ranked 2nd in Games Played (1,156), 2nd in Batting Average (.290), 1st in On-Base Percentage (.368), 1st in Slugging Percentage (.496), 2nd in Hits (1,212), 2nd in doubles (224), 1st in Home Runs (201), 1st in RBI (724) and 1st in Runs Scored (624). And, he ranks #11 with 19 stolen bases!
The '80s began with a lot of very young players who all came up at about the same time. Hrbek, Gaetti, Bush, Brunansky and Tim Laudner all came up at that time. Puckett's Hall of Fame career began in 1984. Add in Frank Viola to that initial group and a veteran returnee in Bert Blyleven, and you can see why the team was able to contend and then win in 1987. Some of the players on this list are there because of longevity. Some are ahead of others because their overall numbers are similar but one did the same in a shorter period of time. Hrbek and Puckett were stars. Many of the rest were just very solid players that contributed mightily to the team.
Any thoughts on the Top 10 Twins Hitters of the '80s? I came up with this list relatively quickly, so please feel free to argue and debate. Send me an e-mail or leave some Comments below.
I will now be out of town for the long weekend. Next week, I will continue with the Player Q&As and plenty of Minnesota Twins talk!. Please leave Comments below. Thank you, and enjoy your day!|
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