Managers: Johnny Goryl 2nd season (2nd with Minnesota 34-38)
Billy Gardner 1st Season (1st with Minnesota 30-43)
41 W 68 L 378 RS 486 RA 7th AL West 23 GB (Oakland 64-45)
3.44 RPG (AL = 4.07) 3.98 ERA (AL = 3.66)
.693 DER (13th AL)
All-Stars (1) Doug Corbett
Franchise (1901-1981) 5933-6476-110; 11-21 Post Season; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1981) 1719-1612-6; 3-10 Post Season; 3-4 WS
How bad were the Twins in 1981? A Detroit newspaper, previewing an August series at the Met between the Twins and the Tigers, listed Minnesota’s strengths as “good beer and hot dogs at Met Stadium.” Patrick Reusse added: “that might have been a kind assessment.”
When manager Johnny Goryl led the Twins to a 23-12 record to close the 1980 season, Griffith hoped it would be a sign of things to come. Instead, Goryl was out as manager by May 22 with an 11-25 record in 1981. In his place came Billy Gardner. Griffith liked Gardner’s style, particularly his affinity for calling team meetings and doing a little bit of yelling. Despite that fact that Gardner didn’t fare any better than Goryl, Griffith proudly announced that he would be back for the 1982 season.
Not so for many of the players, who likely didn’t get much sympathy from Griffith due to the strike that interrupted the season. “I don’t know how I ever got such a collection of scabs” Griffith said. “I have never seen anything as bad as this. I’m wondering how soon I can release some of ‘em. If this was another business, you’d give ‘em two weeks’ notice and say ‘I enjoyed your company but not your performance.'” Griffith went on to question the injuries of some of the players, including star shortstop Roy Smalley. At the end of the season, Griffith put his money where his mouth was and implemented a full-blown fire-sale in which he unloaded virtually all of his veteran players over the course of a year and half.
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1981
C Sal Butera .240/.325/.393 0 HR 75 OPS+ 0.3 BFW 4 WS 16 FRAR 0.9 WARP3
C Butch Wynegar .247/.322/.280 0 HR 71 OPS+ -0.4 BFW 3 WS 9 FRAR 0.0 WARP3
When Wynegar went down with an injury in the first week of the season, the Twins initially looked to Ray Smith to carry the load behind the plate. Smith eventually fell to a wrist injury as well, opening the door for Butera, who had spent 8 years in the minor leagues and had played just 34 games as a backup to Wynegar the year before. Butera got off to a hot start with the bat, hitting .371/.450/.514 in his first 40 plate appearances of the season. Though his bat cooled, Butera kept the regular job even when Wynegar returned from injury due to his defense and durability.
1B Danny Goodwin .225/.298/.318 2 HR 73 OPS+ -1.0 BFW 2 WS 1 FRAR -0.8 WARP3
1B Ron Jackson .263/.305/.383 4 HR 92 OPS+ -0.5 BFW 2 WS -1 FRAR -0.3 WARP3
Jackson played first base until he was traded to Detroit in shortly after the work stoppage ended. Danny Goodwin is famous as the guy who was the number one overall pick twice as a catcher . The first time around, he opted to finish his pre-med studies instead of playing baseball. He was drafted by the Angels in the 1975 draft, but an injury to his throwing arm effectively ended his catching career. He spent 1979 and 1980 as a back up designated hitter and catcher for the Twins. 1981 would be the only chance Goodwin ever had to play major league baseball every day. He was released by the Twins following the 1981 season. Goodwin had a few plate appearances with Oakland in 1982.
2B Rob Wilfong .246/.311/.331 3 HR 81 OPS+ -0.4 BFW 8 WS 1 FRAR -1.6 WARP3
1981 was Wilfong’s last full season with the Twins. He was traded to the Angels in May of 1982 as part of the deal that brought Tom Brunansky to Minnesota.
SS Roy Smalley .263/.375/.443 7 HR 129 OPS+ -0.2 BFW 6 WS -2 FRAR 0.6 WARP3
On February 16, 1981 Calvin Griffith made Roy Smalley the highest paid player in the history of the franchise with a 4-year, $2.45 million contract. One of the reasons it took until February to make the deal was Smalley’s desire to have a no-trade clause included. In the end, the contract came without a no-trade clause, a source of unease for Roy on an otherwise joyful day: “I will be disappointed if the Twins decide to trade me. This is a super contract for my family and for me. Without sounding egotistical, I’d also like to congratulate the Twins; I believe they have retained a valuable employee.”
Injuries plagued Smalley most of the season, and he was forced to take most of his playing time as a DH in September. As it turned out, Smalley may have wanted to hold out longer for a no-trade clause. He was dealt to the Yankees early in the 1982 season.
3B John Castino .268/.301/.396 6 HR 95 OPS+ 1.1 BFW 12 WS 22 FRAR 1.4 WARP3
Slowed by a bad back, Castino struggled most of the season, and took the sharpest criticism from Calvin Griffith. “Castino has let us down so much it is unbelievable” Griffith told Patrick Reusse. Castino took Griffith’s words to heart and removed himself from the lineup for the next night’s game. Somehow, Castino avoided the fire sale and remained with the Twins through the 1984 season.
LF Gary Ward .264/.325/.359 3 HR 92 OPS+ -0.2 BFW 7 WS 4 FRAR -0.5 WARP3
The Twins signed Ward as an amateur free agent out of Compton, California in 1972. He had a few stints with the team in 1979 and 1980, including a game in which he hit for the cycle in September of 1980. Still, 1981 was Ward’s first opportunity as a regular. He may have been the one bright spot for the Twins in 1981.
CF Mickey Hatcher .255/.285/.350 3 HR 78 OPS+ -1.5 BFW 7 WS 3 FRAR -2.2 WARP3
Hatcher came to the Twins from the Dodgers in a trade that sent Ken Landreaux, one of the many players unhappy with the regime in Minesota, back home to Los Angeles. Hatcher played mostly third base in two seasons with the Dodgers, but quickly found a home in the Twins’ outfield. Twins’ fans and the media were both slow to warm to the trade, but Hatcher quicklyendeared himself to the fans with quality play and his antics off the field. Doug Corbett noted “I’ve played with some guys who use their antics to cover up for shoddy play. Mickey is not that type. He’s crazy as can be, but is also intense on the field.”
RF Dave Engle .258/.295/.407 5 HR 96 OPS+ -0.6 BFW 5 WS 8 FRAR 0.2 WARP3
RF Hosken Powell .239/.286/.326 2 HR 72 OPS+ -1.2 BFW 3 WS 5 FRAR -1.1 WARP3
Engle was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1978 draft by the California Angels. He came to the Twins in the Rod Carew trade. Engle accounted for himself well in his first year at the major league level. He finished 5th in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
DH Glenn Adams .209/.273/.282 2 HR 56 OPS+ -1.5 BFW 0 WS 0 FRAR -1.8 WARP3
Adams became a free agent after the season and spent his final major league year playing with the Toronto Blue Jays.
IF Pete Mackanin .231/.256/.324 4 HR 62 OPS+ -1.5 BFW 2 WS 0 FRAR -2.2 WARP3
1981 was Mackanin’s final year as a major league player. He made a career for himself as a scout and minor league manager. He had a couple of stints as a major league manager with the Reds and the Pirates.