Now that the Minnesota Twins have closed the book on their 2021 season, it is natural for fans to look to the future. In the short-term, since we are all baseball fans, we look forward to riveting and exciting playoff action and, of course, a World Series for the ages. But our minds naturally also drift to next year and the prospect of another baseball season.
We are full of excitement thinking about what free agents the team may acquire. And we can’t help but get a chill when we think about what a rookie like Jose Miranda may bring to the team. And hope springs eternal that players like Max Kepler and Miguel Sano will rebound and put together more consistent seasons.
The criteria for my favorite Minnesota Twins roster
But fall is also a time to reflect and think about years past, when life was simpler as we watched our favorite Minnesota Twins roam the field. To that end, I give you a starting lineup that is full of my favorite Twins of all time. These players aren’t necessarily the greatest Twins of all time, although some on this list are certainly in that category. Rather, it’s a list of players that for one reason or another I have a special affinity to.
There will be two parts to this article. The first part will cover catchers, infielders, and the DH position. Part two will include my favorites at the outfield, starting pitcher, relief pitcher positions, and manager.
Brian Harper and Kurt Suzuki. I cheated and called this one a draw. Harper played four seasons for the Twins in the late 80’s and 90’s. Always known more as a hitter than a fielder, Brian had some very productive years for the Twins, including the 1993 season when he hit 12 home runs, drove in 73, and sported a .304 average for the season. He also combined with first baseman Kent Hrbek on a nifty 3-2-3 double play to keep the score tied in the historic Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
Suzuki was with the Minnesota Twins from 2014-2016. A tremendous defensive catcher, he earned his only All-Star berth during the 2014 season. That season, he hit a career-high .288 and added 61 RBI’s. Kurt continues his major league career to this day as a member of the Los Angeles Angels during the 2021 campaign.
First Base: Kent Hrbek: Local boy makes good. Hrbek grew up in the shadows of Met Stadium and went on to star for the competitive Twins teams of the late ’80s and early ’90s. He had a wonderful line-drive stroke and was a major catalyst on the 1987 & 1991 World Series teams. He was a great jokester in the clubhouse. And he was the best player at any position in the history of Major League Baseball to never win a Gold Glove. And that’s a travesty.
Second Base: Rod Carew: He was simply the smoothest and most elegant player ever to play the game. Where do you begin to list his many accomplishments? Hall of Famer, 18-time All-Star, 7-time batting champion, and 1977 Major League MVP are among them. He led the American League three times in the offensive WAR category and four times he led the junior circuit in on-base percentage. He had seven steals of home in 1969. Forget about it. He was simply the best.
Third Base: Gary Gaetti: “The Rat.” He was a hard-nosed, junkyard dog type of player. He and Dan Gladden put the toughness into the 1987 World Champion Minnesota Twins. A four-time Gold Glove winner and MVP of the 1987 AL Championship Series, Gaetti was a gritty, clutch player.
In his first Major League at-bat, he swatted a home run off Charlie Hough and never played in the minors again. The two-time All-Star was considered the best third baseman in the league in 1989 in a Sports Illustrated poll of AL managers.
Honorable mention: Eduardo Escobar: He’s the one that got away. Many Minnesota Twins fans lament the day he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was just coming into his own as a ballplayer when he was traded in 2018. A versatile infielder, impactful hitter, and solid clubhouse guy, he was named to his first All-Star Game this year. Traded to Milwaukee at the trade deadline, he has a shot at winning his first World Series title for the Brew Crew.
Shortstop: Jorge Polanco: Here’s our only current Minnesota Twin on the roster. His breakout season occurred in 2019 when he hit 22 dingers and drove in 79 runs. He was named to the AL All-Star game that year and finished 13th in the AL MVP balloting. Hampered by ankle injuries during the next year and a half, Jorge struggled both offensively and defensively. But in the second half of this past season, he was El Fuego.
His second-half slash line was: .287/.329/.544 and his OPS was a sizzling .914. Playing mainly second base, the reduced stress on his body proved to be the elixir for his improved play. He was easily the MVP of the team in 2021.
Nelson Cruz: The original Bomba himself, Cruz had a big influence on the Twins. He was a clubhouse leader who always set a great example for his teammates with his hard work and positive attitude. This particularly helped hitters such a Miguel Sano, who was just starting to realize his potential as a Major League ballplayer.
And then there was his bat. In his three and half seasons with the club, his slash line was .304/.386/.598 and he also posted a monstrous OPS of .984 during this time. Nelson helped the 2019 Minnesota Twins’ Bomba Squad set an all-time MLB record of 307 home runs in a season. Nelson Cruz is a class individual, a phenomenal ballplayer, and an outstanding citizen.