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All-Time Team – Minnesota Twins/ Washington Senators
Originally the Washington Senators, the franchise re-named itself the Twins after it moved to Minnesota prior to the start of the 1961 campaign. As a result, the All-Time Team presented here includes members of both the Twins and the Senators.
First Base – Mickey Vernon
One of my biggest areas of uncertainty during the selection process was where to put Harmon Killebrew. The franchise’s all-time home-run leader earned All-Star honors during his career as a first baseman, third baseman, and as an outfielder, and he certainly would have made an excellent DH. Once I decided to insert him at third base, though, the first base job opened up for Mickey Vernon, who spent 14 of his 20 major league seasons playing for the Senators in Washington. Vernon posted a batting average of .288 during his time in Washington, along with a .358 on-base percentage. He also hit 121 home runs, knocked in 1,026 runs, scored 956 others, and accumulated 1,993 hits. Vernon batted over .300 four times for the Senators, leading the league with averages of .353 in 1946 and .337 in 1953. He also knocked in more than 90 runs three times, driving in a career-high 115 runs for the team in 1953. Vernon amassed more than 200 hits twice and led the American League in doubles on three separate occasions. He represented the Senators in the All-Star Game five times. Either Kent Hrbek or Justin Morneau will serve as Vernon’s back-up.
Second Base – Rod Carew
Buddy Myer had several fine seasons for the Senators during the 1930s, even leading the American League with a .349 batting average in 1935. But Rod Carew won a total of seven batting titles for the Twins, compiling a batting average in excess of .350 on five separate occasions. He also led the league in hits three times, on-base percentage four times, triples twice, and runs scored once. Carew had his greatest year in 1977, when he captured A.L. MVP honors by knocking in 100 runs and topping the junior circuit with 128 runs scored, 239 hits, 16 triples, a .388 batting average, and a .449 on-base percentage.
Third Base – Harmon Killebrew
With 559 of his 573 career home runs having come as a Washington Senator/Minnesota Twin, Harmon Killebrew hit more homers than any other player in franchise history. He also is the all-time leader in runs batted in, with 1,540 to his credit. Killebrew surpassed 40 homers eight times, leading the A.L. in four-baggers on six separate occasions. He also topped the circuit in runs batted in three times, knocking in more than 100 runs a total of nine times. Killebrew earned A.L. MVP honors in 1969, when he led the league with 49 home runs, 140 RBIs, 145 bases on balls, and a .427 on-base percentage, while also scoring 106 runs.
Shortstop – Joe Cronin
Cecil Travis also merited a great deal of consideration, especially since Joe Cronin spent only six full seasons in Washington. Nevertheless, those six campaigns were among the most productive of Cronin’s career. He knocked in more than 100 runs five times, batted over .300 and accumulated more than 40 doubles four times each, and scored more than 100 runs twice. Cronin had his best year in 1930, when he drove in 126 runs for the first of two straight times, scored 127 runs, collected 203 hits, batted .346, and compiled a .422 on-base percentage. He finished second to Jimmie Foxx in the A.L. MVP voting three years later, when he led the Senators to the pennant by batting .309, knocking in 118 runs, and topping the junior circuit with 45 doubles.
Left Field – Goose Goslin
In three different stints in Washington that covered a total of 12 years, Goose Goslin batted over .300 for the Senators eight times, knocked in more than 100 runs five times, finished in double-digits in triples seven times, and scored more than 100 runs three times. One of the finest hitters of the 1920s and 1930s, Goslin drove in more than 100 runs for Washington each year, from 1924 to 1928, leading the A.L. with 129 RBIs in the first of those campaigns. He also posted a batting average in excess of .330 in each of those seasons, capturing the batting title in 1928, with a mark of .379. Goslin played in the World Series each time the Senators advanced to the Fall Classic, appearing in the 1924, 1925, and 1933 Series.
Center Field – Kirby Puckett
Torii Hunter did an exceptional job in center field for the Twins during his time in Minnesota, putting together some solid offensive seasons and winning seven straight Gold Gloves. But Kirby Puckett was no slouch in the field either, earning six Gold Gloves of his own, and he was a better hitter than Hunter. Puckett posted a lifetime batting average of .318 for Minnesota, while also hitting 207 home runs, knocking in 1,085 runs, and scoring 1,071 others in his 12 full years with the team. Puckett batted over .300 and collected more than 200 hits five times each, hit more than 20 homers six times, and knocked in more than 100 runs on three separate occasions. He led the American League in hits four times, RBIs once, and batting average once. Puckett had arguably his best year in 1988, when he hit 24 homers, drove in 121 runs, scored 109 others, batted .356, and topped the junior circuit with 234 hits and 358 total bases. Puckett earned 10 All-Star nominations and seven top-10 finishes in the league MVP voting with the Twins.
Right Field –Sam Rice
The choice for right field came down to Sam Rice and Tony Oliva. However, with the DH spot still open, it really didn’t matter which player I put in right, since the other man would be included in the team’s starting lineup as well. We’ll put Rice in the field and insert Oliva at DH, since the latter experienced major knee problems during the latter stages of his career. Rice played for the Senators for 19 years, serving as the team’s starting right-fielder from 1917 to 1933. He accumulated 2,889 hits in a Washington uniform, scored 1,466 runs, amassed 183 triples, stole 346 bases, batted .323, and compiled an on-base percentage of .375. Rice collected more than 200 hits six times, scored more than 100 runs five times, and stole more than 20 bases nine times, topping the junior circuit with 63 thefts in 1920. He had arguably his best season for Washington’s 1925 pennant-winning squad, batting .350, driving in 87 runs, scoring 111 others, stealing 26 bases, and compiling 227 hits.
Catcher - Joe Mauer
A solid hitter and an outstanding defender, Earl Battey earned four All-Star nominations, three Gold Gloves, and three top-10 finishes in the league MVP voting for the Twins during the 1960s. However, Joe Mauer appears to be well on his way to eventually establishing himself as one of the greatest catchers in major league history. The Minnesota native has captured three batting titles in his six full seasons with the Twins, posting league-leading marks of .347 in 2006, .328 in 2008, and .365 in 2009. Mauer’s .365 average is the highest single-season figure ever compiled by a catcher. His record-setting performance earned him A.L. MVP honors, as Mauer led the Twins into the playoffs by also establishing career highs with 28 home runs and 96 runs batted in, while topping the junior circuit with a .444 on-base percentage and a .587 slugging percentage. Heading into 2011, Mauer has a lifetime batting average of .327 and an on-base percentage of .407. A strong defender as well, Mauer has won three Gold Gloves.
Designated Hitter - Tony Oliva
Perhaps the American League’s finest all-around hitter for much of the 1960s, Tony Oliva won three batting titles for the Twins, before knee problems turned him into a full-time DH. Oliva became the team’s starting right-fielder in 1964, earning A.L. Rookie of the Year honors and a fourth-place finish in the league MVP voting by hitting 32 homers, knocking in 94 runs, and topping the junior circuit with a .323 batting average, 109 runs scored, 217 hits, and 43 doubles. He followed that up by winning his second straight batting title with a mark of .321 in 1965, in helping the Twins capture the A.L. pennant. Oliva finished second in the MVP balloting to teammate Zoilo Versalles. Oliva led the league in hitting for the final time in 1971, when he posted a career-high mark of .337. In addition to his three batting titles, Oliva led the league in hits five times and in doubles four times. He earned eight All-Star nominations and five top-10 finishes in the A.L. MVP voting. Oliva ended his career with 220 home runs, 947 runs batted in, and a .304 batting average
Starting Pitcher – Walter Johnson
Considered by many baseball historians to be the greatest pitcher of all-time, Walter Johnson won 417 games for the Senators from 1907 to 1927, despite pitching for mostly bad teams throughout the period. Johnson posted more than 20 victories for Washington a total of 12 times, surpassing 30 wins on two separate occasions. He also struck out more than 300 batters twice, leading all A.L. hurlers in that category 12 different times. Johnson had his two best seasons in 1912 and 1913, compiling a record of 33-12 in the first of those years, along with a league-leading 1.39 ERA and 303 strikeouts. He followed that up with an even better performance in 1913, capturing A.L. MVP honors by leading the league with a record of 36-7, a 1.14 ERA, 243 strikeouts, 11 shutouts, 29 complete games, and 346 innings pitched.
Starting Pitcher – Jim Kaat
Before eventually splitting his final 10 seasons between four other teams, Jim Kaat spent 15 years with the Senators/Twins, posting an overall record for the franchise of 190-159, along with an ERA of 3.34. Although the left-hander surpassed 20 victories for the Twins just once, he won at least 14 games for them another seven times. Kaat had his best year in 1966, when he led the American League with 25 victories, 19 complete games, and 305 innings pitched, while also compiling an impressive 2.75 ERA, en route to earning a fifth-place finish in the league MVP voting. An exceptional fielder, Kaat won 16 straight Gold Gloves during his career, 11 of which he earned as a member of the Twins.
Starting Pitcher – Bert Blyleven
Bert Blyleven spent 11 of his 22 major league seasons in a Minnesota Twins uniform, posting an overall record with the club of 149-138. Although his won-lost record with the team wasn’t particularly impressive, it must be remembered that Minnesota wasn’t very good most of those years. Blyleven actually pitched quite well for the Twins, winning at least 15 games seven times, compiling an ERA of 3.00 or less six times, and striking out more than 200 batters five times. He had his best year in 1973, when he won 20 games, posted a 2.52 ERA, completed 25 games, threw 325 innings, struck out 258 batters, and led the league with nine shutouts.
Starting Pitcher – Johan Santana
Although Johan Santana didn’t remain in Minnesota very long, he performed brilliantly throughout his tenure there. After becoming a regular member of the Twins’ starting rotation midway through the 2003 campaign, the left-hander went on to win the Cy Young Award in two of the next three seasons. He captured the honor for the first time in 2004, when he finished 20-6, with a league leading 2.61 ERA and 265 strikeouts. Santana won the pitcher’s Triple Crown in his other Cy Young season of 2006, leading the A.L. with 19 victories, a 2.77 ERA, and 245 strikeouts. He left Minnesota with an overall record of 93-44, a 3.22 ERA, and 1,381 strikeouts in 1,309 innings of work.
Starting Pitcher – Camilo Pascual
Had he not spent his first several seasons pitching for poor Washington Senators teams, Camilo Pascual likely would have compiled a far more impressive record than the mark of 145-141 he posted for the franchise from 1954 to 1966. Blessed with an outstanding arsenal of pitches, the right-hander earned All-Star honors for the first of five times in 1959, when he finished 17-10, with a 2.64 ERA and a league-leading 17 complete games and six shutouts. He posted 20 victories for the first time in his career in 1962, when he finished 20-11, with a .332 ERA, and a league-leading 206 strikeouts, 18 complete games, and five shutouts. Pascual followed that up with arguably his best season, compiling a record of 21-9 for the Twins in 1963, along with a 2.46 ERA and a league-leading 202 strikeouts and 18 complete games. Pascual led all A.L. hurlers in strikeouts, complete games, and innings pitched three times each.
Closer – Joe Nathan
The most dominant reliever in franchise history, Joe Nathan has compiled a total of 246 saves in his six seasons as Twins closer. The hard-throwing right-hander has posted more than 40 saves three times, while also compiling an outstanding 22-12 record and 1.87 ERA. Nathan has struck out 518 batters in 419 total innings of work, while allowing the opposition just 271 hits.
Manager – Tom Kelley
Ron Gardenhire has done an outstanding job of managing the Twins the past nine seasons, leading the team to six division titles and an overall record of 803-656, for a winning percentage of .550. However, Minnesota has advanced past the first round of the playoffs only twice under him, coming up short in the ALCS both times. On the other hand, Tom Kelly, who immediately preceded Gardenhire as Twins manager, piloted the team to an overall record of 1,140-1,244, for a winning percentage of just .478. Minnesota posted a losing record in 10 of his 15 seasons at the helm. But, whereas Gardenhire’s teams have thus far repeatedly failed during the postseason, Kelly led the Twins to two world championships. Gardenhire might be a superior strategist, but it appears that Kelly did a better job come crunch time.
- Atlanta Braves, Bert Blyleven, Bob Allison, Bucky Harris, Calvin Griffith, Carl Pohlad, Clark Griffith, Cy Young Award, Frank Viola, Goose Goslin, Harmon Killebrew, Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Jack Morris, Jim Kaat, Jim Perry, Joe Cronin, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, Minnesota Twins, Rod Carew, Ron Gardenhire, Sam Rice, Target Field, Texas Rangers, Tom Kelly, Tony Oliva, Walter Johnson, Washington Senators, Zoilo Versalles
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