Nelson Cruz has once again caught fire with his home run swing for the Minnesota Twins as he continues to move up the all-time Home Run List.
After what seemed to be a two week long home run drought, Minnesota Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz finally got his power swing back at Target Field this last week against the Kansas City Royals.
The first of the two hit in the Twins Saturday doubleheader was just like any of Cruz’s ordinary home runs. But the second home run that Cruz hit on Saturday afternoon brought him a step up in the history books, as Nelson Cruz hit his 407th career home run, tying him with the Brooklyn Dodger great Duke Snider.
On Monday, Cruz kept it going when he crushed two more home runs to surpass Snider on the all time home run list and move into a tie with his former teammate, Mark Teixeira, at 409 career home runs.
For those unfamiliar with the Silver Fox, Duke Snider debuted the day after Jackie Robinson did on April 17, 1947. Snider didn’t have his breakout season until 1949, and from there became one of the top three center fielders in New York City during the 1950’s. Snider, Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays were the talk of their teams year after year, as three of the MLB’s biggest stars.
Teixeira on the other hand is recently retired from the game, ending his career with the New York Yankees in 2016 after playing 14 seasons in the majors. Teixeira was a career slugger himself and spent a short season and a half as a teammate with Nelson Cruz on the 2006 and 2007 Texas Rangers before being dealt to the Atlanta Braves in a massive deal during the 2007 trade deadline.
Besides all three of these players being some of the top home run hitters of their eras, Nelson Cruz, Duke Snider, and Mark Teixeira have a few other career accolades in common. Unlike Cruz, Snider and Teixeira were both players who got their call ups to the bigs in their early 20s, and were both breakout stars in their early years in the league.
Snider’s best years took place from his age 23-30 seasons. During those seasons (from 1950-57) Snider was a seven-time All-Star, while hitting 288 of his 407 career home runs as well as 885 RBI. On top of that, he also earned a .307 batting average and a .967 OPS (on base plus slugging percentage).
To top it all off, Snider was a part of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers World Series team that finally ended the Dodgers’ World Series drought. The team had appeared in seven throughout the franchise’s history, but had never made it over the top.
Teixeira was also at the top of his game during that same age span of 23-30. From his rookie year in 2003 up until 2010. Teixeira proved to be one of the most dangerous hitters in the MLB, hitting 275 HRs, with 906 RBI, and a .286 batting average.
Teixeira earned several awards during this time, appearing in two All-Star games, earning three Silver Slugger Awards, and four of his five career gold gloves. Just like Snider, Teixeira also won a World Series while playing in New York, but he earned his with the 2009 New York Yankees.
Cruz’s path to home run greatness was a little different. He didn’t break out until his age 28 season, but he has shown no signs of decline since (especially since he joined the Twins). This is where Cruz has succeeded where those other two home run hitters never did: playing at a high level into their middle and late thirties (and now forties).
In the Minnesota Twins last series against the Kansas City Royals, Cruz hit .500 and had four home runs. In his post-game interview with Twins beat writer Do-Hyoung Park, for MLB.com, following Monday nights game, Cruz said on his age: “I think everything starts with the preparation, the way I prepare for every game. Trust what you’ve got, trust what you see, trust the report that they give us and from there, you take off.”
From his one year with the Baltimore Orioles, four years in Seattle Mariners, and season and a half with the Minnesota Twins, Nelson Cruz has been the best designated hitter in baseball, leading the league with the most home runs hit within the past decade.
This makes every home run Cruz hits even more enjoyable to watch. Not only are Cruz’s home runs making an impact for each game he hits in for the Minnesota Twins, but the home runs bring him further up the list of history as one of the games best home run hitters.
Only time will tell if Cruz still has what it takes to make it into the 500 home run club, but the next player for Cruz to move past is another former star of the 2000’s: Alfonso Soriano, who currently sits at 412 career home runs. It’ll be a fun chase to watch.