A Lineup with my Favorite Minnesota Twins: Part 2

After finishing up the first part of my favorite Twins lineup two weeks ago, I can now present part 2 of a starting lineup of my favorite Minnesota Twins of all time. Some you may agree with, and some not, but it’s hard to argue they were fun.

To make this list, these players don’t have to be among the greatest Twins of all-time (although some on this list are certainly in that category). Instead, it’s a list of players that for one reason or another I have a special affinity to.

Part Two of my All-Time Favorite Minnesota Twins Lineup

The first part covered the catchers, infielders, and the DH position. Part two will include my favorites at the outfield, starting pitcher, relief pitcher positions, and manager, starting with those outfielders. I hope you enjoy.

Left Field: Eddie Rosario

Eddie’s departure from the Minnesota Twins after last season was a result of a numbers game. Faced with the prospect of paying him $12 million in 2021, and with Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach waiting in the wings, the Twins chose to re-allocate those funds to other more pressing needs.

Too bad, because they could have used the newly minted NLCS MVP‘s clutch hitting and ability to drive in runs during a season where they stranded way too many runners. Due to injuries, Eddie had a poor year in the field during the 2018 season and during the first half of the 2019 season, but he was a very competent outfielder and fun to watch.

Honorable Mention: Dan Gladden

I didn’t have a spot for him, but Dan Gladden delivered aggressiveness and sizzle to the 1987 and 1991 World Champions. His speed at the top of the order was the perfect table-setter for the power-laden lineup. On top of that, he took a certain troublesome Minnesota Twins infielder to the woodshed while delivering a well-deserved “Sunday come to Jesus meeting” for the young man.

Center Fielder: Torii Hunter

The greatest Twins’ defensive center fielder not named Byron Buxton, Torii Hunter won five Gold Gloves for his outstanding play in centerfield and stole numerous home runs from opposing batters with circus-like catches while extending beyond MLB outfield walls. A two-time All-Star with the Twins, Torii was also named AL Player of the Month in April of 2002.

Also a dangerous hitter, Hunter hit 20 or more home runs seven times with the Twins and drove in 90 or more runs five times for the team. He was recognized for his leadership in the community when he received the 2009 Branch Rickey Award while playing for the Angels.

Right Fielder: Tony Oliva

I just finished a comprehensive review of Tony O’s career, so I encourage you to take a look at his monumental (and-should-be-Hall-of-Fame-worthy) career. What I didn’t mention in that article is the role he played in the development of future Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett.

As a batting instructor for the Minnesota Twins, Oliva encouraged Puckett to alter his inside-out swing and pull the ball more. Oliva also helped him develop his now-famous leg kick that became his trademark.

These changes not only resulted in greatly improved power numbers for Puckett, but it forced opposing outfielders to play him deeper, thus opening up more of the field for his hits to drop in. The rest, as they say, is history, and a lot of that credit is due to Tony O.

 

Minnesota Twins

Bert Blyleven of the Minnesota Twins pitches during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on July 16, 1988 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Minnesota Twins Pitchers

Right-handed Starter: Bert Blyleven

A Hall-of-Famer and a two-time Twin, Bert Blyleven is the choice as my favorite Minnesota Twins right-handed starter. His curveball was the best in baseball for much of his career and he ranks at, or near the top of several all-time Minnesota Twins’ categories including, wins, WAR for pitchers, strike-outs, shutouts, and complete games.

This two-time All-Star was of course also one of the backbones of the 1987 World Series Champs. He was also one of the premier clubhouse pranksters of all time. Many of his teammates over the years were victims of his famous “hot foot.”

He just wrapped up his stellar career in broadcasting, serving as the on-air analyst for the Minnesota Twins for 25 seasons. Sign-carrying fans became famous due to his “Circle Me Bert” segment, and this trademark became a staple of Minnesota Twins’ broadcasts.

Honorable Mention: Brad Radke

The ever-steady Brad Radke was the backbone of the Twins’ rotation for 12 years during the mid-’90s and mid-’00s. The consummate professional, Radke was a steady, inning-eating, cool customer who was loved by all of his teammates. In 2006, his last season with the Minnesota Twins, he pitched with mostly guts and guile as he was suffering from a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder.

In constant pain, he somehow willed himself and his team to an AL Central title. Teammate Michael Cuddyer said of Radke’s performance: “One of the best teammates in the game. Never complains about anything. He was pitching with a broken arm-literally. And he still goes out there and grits and bears it for his team. He doesn’t need to do it for himself. He does it because we need him in the playoffs.”

Left-handed Starter: Jim Kaat

The best Major League player ever who is not in the Hall of Fame, Jim Kaat was a three-time All-Star who was one of the most dominant lefties in the game for several seasons. This multi-talented player was not only a quality starter and reliever in the bigs, but he was also one of the best hitting pitchers of his generation.

This doesn’t even talk about his fielding, as Kaat won an incredible sixteen Gold Gloves for his prowess in the field. His mind for the game is stellar as well, as his

Honorable mention: Johan Santana

This one was the closest of all my honorable mentions. He easily could have been my number one at this position, as the gifted southpaw was a four-time All-Star who threw a mid-90’s fastball, complemented by his best pitch, a circle changeup.

The winner of two Cy Young awards, Santana in 2006 became one of the few hurlers to ever win the pitching triple crown, leading the league in wins, strikeouts, and ERA. Arm problems bedeviled Johan after his days with the Minnesota Twins and ended his career prematurely, but for five seasons in the mid-’00s with the Twins, he was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball.

Relief Pitcher: Eddie Guardado

The Minnesota Twins have been fortunate to employ some excellent relief pitchers over the years. From Al Worthington and Ron Perranoski to Jeff Reardon and Rick Aguilera, the Twins have had many stellar arms to carry them through the late innings of their games. Joe Nathan is one of the best closers of all time. My favorite in Minnesota Twins’ history though, is Everyday Eddie Guardado.

Originally a setup man for the Twins, Eddie earned his nickname, by appearing in 60 or more games seven times, while playing for our home team. Late in the 2001 season, he replaced LaTroy Hawkins as the Twins closer and was very good, racking up more than 40 saves in 2002 and 2003 and earning himself an All-Star berth in both seasons.

Eddie elected to become a free agent after the 2003 season and he signed with the Seattle Mariners. Eddie briefly returned to the Minnesota Twins in 2008 before he retired after the 2009 season. Eddie was a character who gave many a spirited interview during his time in baseball and his time with the Twins as bullpen coach from 2015-2018 was fun as well.

Minnesota Twins Manager

Manager: Tom “TK’ Kelly:

There was really only one choice when it came to my favorite Minnesota Twins manager of all time. Sure, Sam Mele got us to our first World Series, and Billy Martin lit a fire under the 1969 division winners. Ron “Gardy” Gardenhire had some talented playoff teams at the start of this millennium. But no one was better than the cigar-smoking, horse-owning, and irascible TK.

 

Besides guiding the 1987 and 1991 Twins’ teams to World Championships, Kelly also oversaw the development of young stars such as Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Scott Erickson, and Kevin Tapani. Kelly managed the Twins for over 16 years and though there were some lean years, Kelly always got the maximum effort out of his ballplayers.

If you want to listen to someone who really knows baseball, listen try to catch TK on one of his frequent visits to the Minnesota Twins broadcasting booth. He is a walking encyclopedia of baseball knowledge.

So that completes the lineup of my favorite Minnesota Twins of all time. If you have a comment about the list, please let me know. And thanks for following Puckett’s Pond.