Michael Cuddyer‘s player page on Baseball Reference.com will soon have a new look. Next week he will have a red, white, and blue All Star badge near the top of his page, just like the pages of teammates Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano. Cuddyer was selected yesterday as the Twins’ sole representative to the Midsummer classic.
We at Puckett’s Pond would like to salute Cuddyer, congratulate him on his first All Star selection, and recognize his long tenure with our favorite baseball team.
Much like Fred Taylor, the workhorse NFL running back who was repeatedly snubbed by Pro Bowl voters before his 2008 selection, Cuddyer has waited a decade for this recognition. 2011 has not been the best season of Cuddyer’s career – he hit 24 home runs in 2006 and 32 in 2009 – but he earned the slot this year because he has been the only veteran hitter on the team to stay healthy. After a very slow start (Cuddyer failed to achieve an RBI in his first 60 at bats of 2011), he has been the most dependable hitter on the Twins for the past two months, posting a .300/.357/.389 line in May and a .323/.402/.603 line in June. On many occasions this year, Cuddyer has been the only proven quantity in Minnesota’s lineup, surrounded by rookie AAA callups who replaced the team’s injured veterans.
Cuddyer has had an up and down career with the Twins, but he has been a constant presence on a team that undergone several complete facelifts over the past decade. It is probably not a coincidence that the Twins’ reemergence as an Americal League contender began in 2001, the same year Cuddyer first played in the Major Leagues. When he came up with the Twins, he played alongside guys like Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones, Johan Santana, and Doug Mientkiewicz. After winning three straight division titles with that group, Cuddyer won with a new generation of Twins – Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Luis Castillo, and Francisco Liriano. And he is still here, acting as a team leader for younger players like Ben Revere, Danny Valencia, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka.
Even in his best seasons, Cuddyer has not been among the league leaders in any major statistical categories. But time and again, we hear that his value to the team is impossible to quantify. Teammates constantly praise Cuddyer’s leadership ability and charisma in the clubhouse. And since Torii Hunter left in 2008, Cuddyer has been the most outgoing media presence for the Twins. He may not get the national attention that superstars Mauer, Morneau, and Nathan receive, but Michael Cuddyer is the face of this franchise for many Twins fans.
Congratulations, Mr. Cuddyer. The staff of Puckett’s Pond hopes that this is the first of many All Star selections for you.