Monday, November 28, 2011

The Greatest Minnesota Twin of All-Time?

                                            Rod Carew

Myth is something that we believe is true, but in reality it is not. The power of myth is that even though the myth can be factual proven wrong, many yet still believe the myth is true. Many baseball fans and media types often believe one player is better or worse than he really is. Why do they believe such things and create this myth?

I believe human nature leads us to like certain people over others, and we then create a “justification” as to why we like that person over another. The “justification” may actually be correct, or it is a myth. Either way it is a justification in our own or possibly other’s mind.

I have often wondered if a baseball player’s stats alone tell us everything about a player’s performance. If a player hits 30 home runs in a year is that a good year for the player? In most cases yes, but what if most of the 30 home runs were hit when his team was way ahead or way behind. Does this still make his season a success? What if another only hits 15 home runs, but all of those home runs either put his team ahead or won a game. Is that player more valuable than the player who his 30 seemingly meaningless home runs?

I wanted to determine who the greatest Minnesota Twin of all-time was and modern statistic helped me do so. Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a complex formula that takes into account a position player’s runs produced on offense and runs saved on defense. Those runs produced and saved are then calculated into a formula that produces how many of the player’s team wins that player is responsible for above what a replacement level player would be responsible for.

The formula for pitchers is different, but the concept is the same. How many more wins was the player better than his replacement.

The formula favors catcher, shortstops, and centerfielders since those are the most difficult and important defensive positions. Corner outfielders, 1st basemen and DH’s are not as favored because those positions are easier to find replacements.

I got my number from and use I only use the WAR a player accumulated while in Minnesota. Before they were the Minnesota Twins, the Twins were the Washington Senators. Some players played for the Senators in Washington then followed the team to Minnesota. I do not count those players accomplishments in Washington only what they did in Minnesota. Here is what I came up with:

1. Rod Carew – 62.7
2. Harmon Killebrew – 54.9
3. Bert Blyleven – 45.7
4. Kirby Puckett – 44.8
5. Tony Olivia – 42.4
6. Brad Radke – 41.4
7. Joe Mauer – 40.3
8. Chuck Knoblauch – 35.4
9. Kent Hrbek - 35.3
10. Johan Santana – 32.1

Bob Allison, Jim Kaat, Cesar Tovar, Frank Viola, Gary Gaetti, Dave Goltz, Jim Perry, Corey Koskie, Joe Nathan, and Justin Morneau are the next ten players. Torii Hunter is 26th on the list. Michael Cuddyer does not even make the list.

Rod Carew was worth 62.7 wins above what is replacement would have been worth to the Twins while Harmon Killebrew was worth 54.9. Does this mean Rod Carew is the greatest Minnesota Twin of all-time?

Hank Aaron, Cal Ripken Jr., Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, George Brett, Robin Yount, Tom Seaver, Babe Ruth, Rickey Henderson, Mike Schmidt, Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., and Stan Musial were some of the other players declared by WAR to be the best all-time player of their team. These men are all baseball legends that fans not only know, but probably could tell you what team they were declared the best of. So here WAR looks like it knows what it is talking about.

However, WAR also declared Pee Wee Reese the greatest Dodger of all-time (he beat out Duke Snider 66.7 to 66.5 while Sandy Koufax came in at 54.5), so maybe there is some room for argument or is there?

Carew won 7 American League batting titles. He is the Twins all-time leader in batting average (.334). Carew retired the Twins leader in hits and stolen bases as well as batting average. In 1977 he won an MVP award with the best single season performance in Twins history. He started in 11 All-star games. Rod Carew was a 1st ballot Hall of Famer.

The power of myth though will not allow Rod Carew an easy path to being the Twins all-time best player. Many Twins fans will tell you Harmon Killebrew and his 5 home runs titles, his 1969 MVP award and his incredible warm and humble personality make him the greatest Twin.

The power of myth will not allow those same fans to remember Killbrew was so bad defensively that if he played today he would be a full-time DH. Killebrew hit only .260 (78 points lower the Carew), and despite playing 2 more seasons than Carew with the Twins had 142 fewer doubles and triples.

It took 4 tries for the Twins all-time home run and RBI leader to get into the Hall of Fame, but in many Twins minds, he was a 1st ballot Hall of Famer and the greatest Twin ever because Harmon Killebrew was a great home run hitter, and a great guy off the field.

The power of myth leads many fans to tell you Kirby Puckett is the greatest Minnesota Twin of all-time. Puckett was considered by many to be the most popular athlete in Minnesota history. His Twins won 2 World Series. Puckett’s performance in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series was legendary. Puckett hit for power and average. His career batting average is third all-time to Carew and Joe Mauer while his 207 home runs are 5th all-time.

Puckett’s career was cut short due to injury. Many believe he would have gotten 3000 hits as a Twin had he not been hurt. Then they say there would be no debate of his greatness. Puckett never won a MVP, but he started 6 All-star games which is second in team history to Carew’s 11. Puckett was also a 1st ballot Hall of Famer. Everyone loved Kirby Puckett because he could hit, field, and was such a great guy.

However, Puckett swung at every ball thrown his way rarely drawing walks which cut down on his overall offensive production. Puckett’s defense was overrated as he played deep in center field in order to get back and make several home run saving catches that looked nice on TV, but were countered by the many singles he let fall in front of him.

Also how much credit does Puckett get for his Twins winning a World Series? Puckett was the best player on those teams, but what about Hrbek, Blyleven, Viola, Gaetti, Knoblauch, and Jack Morris who were just some of his talented teammates. What if they had been Carew’s or Killebrew’s teammates instead?

When he died Kirby Puckett was hailed as the greatest Minnesota Twin of all-time. The myth of Kirby Puckett as a great all around player was solidified. When he died Harmon Killebrew was hailed as the greatest Twin of all-time even though just a few years earlier it had been Puckett being hailed. Killebrew’s myth was being solidified as well.

Then there is Joe Mauer. Minnesotans love that Joe Mauer was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is now the most loved athlete in the history of Minnesota (replacing Puckett). Mauer won the 2009 MVP and has 3 batting titles to his name. His average WAR per season is better than any player in Twins history. Are we watching the greatest Twin of all-time as he is currently playing for the Twins?

Statistics say Rod Carew is the best Minnesota Twin. Myth though refuses to allow that fact to be so clear cut. There is no arguing Babe Ruth or Tom Seaver is the greatest Yankee or Met. Those players not only have the stats, but they have the myth of all-time greatness. Carew may have stats on his side, but many Twins fans love the myth of Killebrew’s power, or Puckett perceived all around greatness and his 2 World Series, or Joe Mauer seemingly effortless drive to greatness.

Maybe having multiple legends like Carew, Killebrew, Puckett, and Mauer on the same plane of greatness is better than having one true mega star like Mike Schmidt or Willie Mays.

Of course, as previously mentioned, the Twins were once the Washington Senators, and if I had included the Senators’ players in my ranking, as many baseball people do, than Carew, Killebrew, Puckett or Mauer would have no chance at being considered the greatest player in this organizations history.

Walter Johnson, a charter member of the Hall of Fame, and his WAR of 127.7 (more than double Carew’s 62.7) would win hands down. Add to his impressive WAR score the fact that most baseball people consider Johnson the greatest pitcher of all-time, and stats and myth would agree Walter Johnson, a man who likely never step foot in Minnesota, is greatest Twin of all-time.

However, I excluded the Senators from my rankings, and that means Rod Carew is statistical proved to be the greatest Twin of all-time. Myth though is not so sure about that.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Maya Moore Signs My Basketball Cards

In an earlier post I mentioned I had sent basketball cards that I had made on my computer to 4 Minnesota Lynx players asking if the would sign them for me. Seimone Augustus signed for me right away. Lindsay Whalen signed with a dried out marker and failed to even seal the envelope. Her cards are basically unreadable. Candice Wiggins and Maya Moore had not responded.

Well on Saturday I receive two envelopes in mail. One was former Minnesota Twin Kevin Jarvis who had signed a card for my current and former Minnesota Twins collection. The other was the Lynx’s Maya Moore! Ms Moore signed both the cards I had sent her in blue sharpie; personalizing them and adding the bible verse Col. 3:23.

I think Maya Moore will become the greatest female basketball player of all-time exceeding Cheryl Miller, Cynthia Cooper, and Lisa Leslie. I also find it interesting Ms Moore has chosen the wear the number 23 which was the number Michael Jordan (considered the greatest basketball player of all-time) wore. I found it even more interesting that Seimone Augustus wears 33 which was the number Scottie Pippen (Jordan’s right-hand man with the Bulls) wore. Jordan – Pippen, Moore – Augustus, perhaps the Lynx are about to embark on championship dynasty much like Jordan and Pippen’s Chicago Bulls.

The Lynx are very popular right now, especially amongst the growing sport fan base of young women. I have notice with every passing year more and more young women have been showing up at Minnesota Twins events and games. I believe the Twins and Lynx have been catering more to the young female audience, and it will help both organizations in the future.

Of course nothing helps a sports team’s future more than winning. Right now the Lynx are the WNBA Champs, and with young superstars like Maya Moore to lead them, their future is bright.

Thank you to Maya Moore for signing my cards. Above is a picture of the unsigned version of one of the cards I sent to Ms Moore.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Twins Fire Bill Smith and Bring Back Terry Ryan as GM

The Minnesota Twins have fired Bill Smith as their general manager, and replaced him with former General Manager Terry Ryan. Ryan is a vaunted figure amongst Twins fans. He rebuilt the Twins into a winner. Smith on the other hand is greatly disliked by Twins fans. Under Smith’s leadership the Twins have made multiple bad trades and some questionable free agent signings that have put them in a bind.

Here is a list of Bill Smith good, bad, and just plain ugly moves.

The Good

  • Smith was able to trade minor league pitcher Yohan Pino for to Cleveland for starting pitcher Carl Pavano. Pavano has been a solid starting pitcher for the Twins while Pino has never made it to the majors.

  • Smith signed free agent Jim Thome to $1.5 million dollar contract in 2010. Thome promptly played like a player worth $10 million, and became a cult hero in Minnesota.

  • Smith was able to acquire shortstop Orlando Cabrera, reliever Brian Fuentes, and reliever Jon Rauch for little or nothing. All three players helped the Twins with a division tile.

  • Smith traded Carlos Gomez for shortstop JJ Hardy. Hardy had the look of a long term answer for the Twins at shortstop. Unfortunately Smith would trade Hardy (see below) away before Hardy could he was answer.

  • Smith signed young international prospect Miguel Sano to a then record signing bonus. Sano is the now the best prospect in the Twins farm system, and has the look of a future superstar.

The Bad

  • Smith traded 2 time CY Young award winner, and fan favorite Johan Santana to the New York Mets for Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra. Santana pitched well for the Mets, but not as well as he had for the Twins. Santana also missed all of 2011 with injuries. Gomez, Humber, and Mulvey never did much for the Twins and have left the organization. Only Guerra is still around, and he is still in the minors with a chance he might be become a reliever. Smith should have gotten more for Santana, but it should be remembered Santana had the power to veto a trade, and he only wanted to pitch on the east coast.

  • Smith allowed valuable relievers Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain to leave as free agents. In retrospect Smith should have re-signed one if not both, but he had Matt Capps and Joe Nathan both coming back and earning a combined roughly $20 million which may have affected his thinking.

  • Smith signed Japanese league star Tsuyoshi Nishioka to a 3 year $9 million contract. Nishioka had a miserable year in 2011 and his future is cloudy at best.

The Ugly

  • Smith traded starting shortstop Jason Barlett and young pitching prospect Matt Garza to Tampa Bay for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris. Barlett and Garza helped Tampa to the World Series, and both remain solid to above average major league players. Young had one good year (2010) and three bad years. Harris mostly was below average and was sent packing. The Twins are in need of a shortstop and top of the rotation pitcher. Bill Smith gave both those things away in this trade.

  • Smith traded catching prospect Wilson Ramos to Washington for reliever Matt Capps. Capps proved to be an ordinary at best while Ramos has the look of a good catcher who will be around for the next 10 years.

  • Smith traded J.J. Hardy, who he had acquired just the year before, to Baltimore for two non-descript minor league relievers named Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson. Hardy had a great year and was signed to a contract extension by Baltimore. Hoey and Jacobson had bad years, and have iffy futures.


In the end Smith traded Johan Santana, Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, Wilson Ramos, and JJ Hardy, and all the Twins have left in the organization from those trades is a minor pitching prospect Deolis Guerra, and relief pitching non-prospects Jim Hoey, Brett Jacobson, and Lester Oliveras.

Five good major league players traded and you only have 4 non-descript relievers to show for them. No wonder Bill Smith was fired.

Welcome back Terry Ryan. The Twins need your help badly.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Minnesota Twins and Baseball Free Agency

Baseball free agency is upon us once again, and millions of baseball fans will clamor for their team to sign a big name player who will help them win next season.

The Twins coming off their worst season in years are looking for a starting shortstop, a backup catcher who can hit, a starting pitcher or two, and plenty of help in the in bullpen. However, the Twins history says they won’t be finding any big name player on the free agent market.

In fact the Twins history shows they will leave most of their free agent go to other teams, and most of those players will achieve little with their new clubs.

After the 1976 season baseball had its first true off-season of free agency. Bill Campbell was the Twins first free agent. Campbell had been the best reliever in the American League for the Twins in 1976 going 17-5 with an ERA of 3.01 and 20 saves.

Campbell signed a 5 year $1 million dollar deal with Boston. This was consider outrageous money (oh, how things have changed since then), and much was expected of Campbell. He delivered in 1977 with a very good season then followed that up with a bunch of subpar years.

Outfielder Larry Hisle and Lyman Bostock had brilliant years for the Twins in 1977, and entered free agency as hot commodities. Hisle signed a 6 year $3.15 million contract with Milwaukee while Bostock signed a multi-million dollar deal with the Angels. Twins fans were outraged that Twins had let them go. When starting pitcher Dave Goltz left after the 1979 season to sign with the Dodgers, Twins fans started giving up hope.

However, Hisle, Bostock, and Goltz never lived up to the amount of money they were given. Hisle had a brilliant 1978 for Milwaukee then proceeded to get hurt and never play more then 27 game in a season for the next 4 years. Bostock was having a good 1978 when he was tragically murdered late in the season. Goltz never even came close to having even an average season with the Dodgers, and they released him before the end of his contract.

Gary Gaetti, Greg Gagne, Jack Morris, Jeff Reardon, Dan Gladden, Shane Mack, Chili Davis, Eric Milton, David Ortiz, Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins, Jacque Jones, Corey Koskie, Torii Hunter, Matt Guerrier, and Jesse Crain have all left the Twins as free agents. Some had success, some failure, some a little of both. Were any really worth retaining? You could argue Hunter, Gagne, and Ortiz were, but it is not a high percentage of the number of free agents who have left the Twins.

The Twins will likely loose 4 more free agents this off-season. Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan, Joe Kubel, and Matt Capps are free agents. I expect 3 if not all 4 to leave. Cuddyer and Kubel have spent their entire careers with the Twins while Nathan has spent most of his productive years with the Twins, but money talks and all 3 could quickly be out of the Twins price range.

I was trying to think who the Twins biggest free agent signing was. Minnesota natives Jack Morris, Dave Winfield, Terry Stienbach, and Paul Molitor all signed with Twins as free agents, but took less money to do so. Chili Davis signed a 2 year $4.5 million dollar contract in 1991 that was a fairly large investment at the time. However, since then the Twins have signed few free agents. Players such as Orlando Hudson, Rondell White, Livan Hernandez, and Jim Thome took less the below market contracts mainly because not many teams were interested in them.

There is lots of talk of the Twins signing shortstop Clint Barmes and catcher Ryan Doumit or catcher Rod Barajas not to mention a bunch of pitchers of varying talent and price range. Will the Twins invest in any of them? One cannot be sure, but their history says not unless they can get them at below market cost. Then again, when you loss 99 games as the Twins did this year, they may make an exception.