Twenty-four years ago today, the Minnesota Twins put Kirby Puckett on the disabled list, so we took a look back at what could have been for the outfielder.
After doctors determined his blurry vision was caused by a partial blockage of a blood vessel in his right eye, the #MNTwins placed Kirby Puckett on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his career on this date in 1996. https://t.co/O95rwUoht2
— The Twins Almanac (@TwinsAlmanac) March 29, 2020
On this day in Minnesota Twins history, Kirby Puckett was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career due to glaucoma, the disease that effectively ended his career. We take a look back at what could have been for Kirby Puckett
Puck was wrapping up one of his best spring training seasons in 1996, hitting .344 and looking ready to have another strong season. That all changed on March 28th, less than four days before Opening Day, when Puckett woke up and couldn’t see out of his right eye.
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He went to the hospital and was diagnosed with glaucoma and the Twins put him on the disabled list the very next day. He underwent three procedures to try to fix his vision, but when that couldn’t fix the problem, Puckett retired July 12th.
Outside of the glaucoma, Puckett was healthy, and was coming off a season where he hit .314, 23 home runs, and 99 RBI and played in the All-Star Game. He turned 36 at the beginning of the season, but he was still hitting well enough where he could have played a little while longer.
Using some math, I averaged out what his statistics were over his prior three seasons and then added an eight percent decrease each year (a reasonable number for an athlete over thirty-five). In addition, because Puckett was getting older, he was being moved into the designated hitter spot so he would play more, so we’ll keep him there.
Assuming that Puckett had about three more seasons in him (his contract had two seasons left and we’re assuming he signed one more deal, here is what his stat lines would have looked like:
- 1996: 126 G, .306 BA, 21 HR, 92 RBI, 2.5 WAR
- 1997: 112 G, .301 BA, 19 HR, 85 RBI, 2.3 WAR
- 1998: 92 G, .294 BA, 18 HR, 78 RBI, 2.0 WAR
Now this is a stat line based on averages, so he could have done better or worse than this, but by average Puckett could have added three more seasons of around .300 batting average, 58 homers, and 255 RBI to his already stellar career totals.
Kirby Puckett was forced to leave baseball far too soon, and baseball fans (Minnesota Twins fans especially) everywhere had to miss out on the end of the greatest Twin’s career.