Minnesota Twins 1987 World Series Anniversary Profile: Steve Carlton

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COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 24: Hall of Famer Steve Carlton is introduced at Clark Sports Center during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 24, 2016 in Cooperstown, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 24: Hall of Famer Steve Carlton is introduced at Clark Sports Center during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 24, 2016 in Cooperstown, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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With the celebration of the Minnesota Twins’ 1987 World Championship this weekend, it’s high time to profile the players!

This weekend, the Minnesota Twins will be honoring the 1987 World Series championship team. As we get ready for that weekend, we at Puckett’s Pond want to highlight some of the best players and moments from that season.

Many remember that there were two Hall of Fame members on the 1987 Minnesota Twins, long time Twins Kirby Puckett and Bert Blyleven, but many forget about the third, Steve “Lefty” Carlton

Background

By 1987, Steve Carlton was at the end of his years. He had started his illustrious career in the St. Louis Cardinal organization before becoming one of the elite pitchers in all of baseball while pitching 15 years with the Philadelphia Phillies. In 1986, however, the Phillies released the 41 year-old. He caught on with the San Francisco Giants roughly a week later, but lasted just over a month before they, too, released him. The White Sox scooped him up quickly and he finished out the season with the White Sox.

Coming into that unfortunate end, Carlton had established himself as one of the best left-handed starters of all time, ranking second only to Nolan Ryan at the time in strikeouts, and in fact, he led Nolan Ryan for a short time as the top strikeout pitcher after both had passed Walter Johnson.

Coming into the 1987 season, he had pitched in 10 All-Star games. He had won 4 Cy Young Awards, and in 1972, he had one of the best left handed seasons of the 20th century when he won the triple crown for all pitchers, winning 27 games, leading the league with a 1.97 ERA, 346 1/3 innings, 30 complete games (and 8 shutouts, though that didn’t lead the league), and 310 strike outs. He even had a sub-1 WHIP on the season with a 0.99 WHIP for the 1972 season.

1987 Performances

Coming into 1987, Carlton had signed with the Cleveland Indians. after 23 appearances, 14 of them starts, the Indians traded him to the Twins at the deadline for a minor leaguer who was out of baseball after the 1988 season, Jeff Perry.

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Figuring Carlton could provide veteran leadership to a rotation that was struggling outside of leaders Blyleven and Frank Viola. The Twins also gave starts to a number of young pitchers along with veteran Joe Niekro in seek of a fifth part of the rotation. Even Juan Berenguer made 6 starts.

Carlton didn’t provide quite the help the team was hoping, pitching to a 6.70 ERA over 9 games, 7 of them starts, throwing 43 innings, walking 23 and striking out 20. He was left off the postseason roster.

I found this tid bit interesting about Carlton’s time with the Twins from his Wikipedia page:

"Interestingly, when Carlton was photographed with his teammates at the White House, newspapers listed each member of the team with the notable exception of Carlton. Instead, Carlton was listed as an “unidentified Secret Service agent.”"

Post-Twins

The Twins brought back Carlton for the 1988 season hoping to have him find the magic for one more season, but Carlson’s struggles, paired with the emergence of Allan Anderson in the rotation led to Carlton’s release in April of 1988. He wouldn’t pitch again in the major leagues.

Next: Twins Top Prospects: Others To Know

Carlton was selected to the Hall of Fame with 95.6% of the vote in 1994, his first season of eligibility. One of the all-time great pitchers, he ranks second among all left-handed starters in career wins with 329. He is fifth all-time among left-handed pitchers in career bWAR with 84.1. The closest he is to an all-time leader among lefties is in career innings, where he trails Warren Spahn by only 26 with 5,217 2/3 innings in his career. He’s also now 700 strikeouts behind Randy Johnson as the all-time strikeout leader among left-handed pitchers. Only Eddie Plank and Spahn threw more shutouts among lefties as well.

Excited for the anniversary weekend?! Who should we profile next? Let us know in the comments!

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