The Franchise 1994 (Part 1)

1994 Minnesota Twins

Manager: Tom Kelly 9th Season (9th with Minnesota 651-619)
53 W 60 L 594 RS 688 RA 4th AL Central 14 GB (Chicago White Sox 67-46)
5.26 RPG (AL = 5.23) 5.68 ERA (AL = 4.80)
.673 DER (12th AL)

All Stars (2) Chuck Knoblauch, Kirby Puckett

Franchise (1901-1994) 6931-7535-110; 27-29 Post Season; 19-21 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1993) 2713-2671-6; 19-18 Post Season; 11-10 WS

1994 was a remarkable year around baseball. While the MLB celebrated history by commemorating the 125th anniversary of the founding of organized professional baseball, it also moved forward with a few of Bud Selig’s more notable changes to the game. Both leagues were realigned into three divisions each, and the 1994 baseball post season was set for an eight-team format that would include a wild-card team from each league. That of course, did not come to pass. Instead, the game actually set itself back several years by shutting down in early August due to a player’s strike.

The baseball that was played seemed to be a different brand. In 1993, the AL averaged 4.71 runs per game. That number ballooned rather suddenly to 5.23 runs per game. When the National League’s numbers were included, teams were scoring at their highest rates since 1936. Teams averaged 1.03 home runs per game, up from 0.89 a year before, and the most in the history of the game save the outlying 1.06 in 1987.

The Twins’ offense, still primarily a mix of veterans from the franchise’s two trips to the World Series, kept pace in scoring, but struggled keeping other teams from scoring. General Manager Andy MacPhail indicated that he expected the team would struggle for a few years before once again becoming competitive. There was some hope that the team might make one more run with the Hrbek-Puckett team, but it was not to be.

C Matt Walbeck -0.7 WAR

He won’t hit like Brian Harper, but the Twins are happy with his work ethic, his attention to detail behind the plate, hit intelligence, arm, his ability to block pitches and the fact that he appears savy beyond his 24 years.

So said Jim Souhan in his preview of the 1994 season. Walbeck did not hit like Harper. Among qualified batters, he was dead last in both batting average (.204) and slugging percentage (.284).

1B Kent Hrbek -0.2 WAR
Though the official announcement was not made until after the work stoppage, it was no secret that 1994 was going to be Kent Hrbek’s last season. Tom Kelly alluded to it when he refused to bench Hrbek during a mid-season slump (though the lack of solid options at first may have had something to do with Kelly’s decision). Despite season-long struggles with various injuries, Hrbek ended his career on a high note, streaking in his last 33 games with a .297/.361/.458 slash line.

The Bloomington native played all of his major league games with the Minnesota Twins. At the time of his retirement, Hrbek had the record for the most indoor home runs in baseball history with 166. Additionally, he still is the historical leader in “Hardware Hank” home runs with 34 balls hit into the upper deck seats in right field of the Metrodome.

2B Chuck Knoblauch 4.1 WAR
Knoblauch had his best season to date in 1994, and he was in the conversation, with Carlos Baerga and Roberto Alomar, as the best second baseman in the American League. There were some whispers at the end of the season that the Twins might try Knoblauch at shortstop, the position he played at Texas A&M, to make room for first round draft pick Todd Walker in a couple of years.

SS Pat Meares 0.4 WAR
The Twins brought rookie Denny Hocking into training camp to try and push Meares, but the job was always going to belong to Pat, who improved his offense from the year before but continued to be suspect in the field.

3B Scott Leius 0.9 WAR
Leius recovered from the torn rotator cuff that erased all but a small portion of his 1993 season to play every day at third base for the Twins.

LF Shane Mack 3.9 WAR
With Chuck Knoblauch figuring in the team’s future plans, and Puckett and Hrbek retiring, Shane Mack was the focus of most of the trade rumors during the 1994 season. This was the last of Mack’s five very good seasons with the Minnesota Twins, and probably his best. He set career highs in all of the slash stats and was set for a big pay day as a free agent after the season. As the strike extended into 1995, however, the rumors that the Twins would resign Mack proved to be premature as the former All Star signed with the Yomiuri Giants to play baseball in Japan. Mack spent his 26-30 year-old seasons with the Twins, and rather quietly compiled a .309/.375/.479 line.

CF Alex Cole 1.8 WAR
The Twins signed Cole for the purpose of having a classic lead off hitter on the roster. He performed well for the team in 1994, but had a reputation for making mistakes, particularly on the base paths.

RF Kirby Puckett 3.7 WAR
Though he continued losing steps in the field, Puckett was still a force at the plate in 1994. With the strike looming, much of the talk around Puckett was how much time he would lose in his quest for 3,000 hits.

DH Dave Winfield 0.1 WAR
42-year-old Dave Winfield was a victim of a combination of injuries and an organizational youth movement in 1994. He appeared in only 77 games in 1994 and it was clear that if he was going to play another season, which was his desire, it would be elsewhere. Winfield signed with Cleveland in 1995, his final season. Though he spent only two seasons with the Twins, the St. Paul native made memories by getting his 3,000th hit while he was with his hometown team.

OF Pedro Munoz 0.6 WAR

IF Jeff Roboulet 0.8 WAR

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2 Responses to The Franchise 1994 (Part 1)

  1. Beau says:

    I was still young enough in 1994 that I wasn’t really aware of the aging curve of ballplayers, and just assumed players were just who they always were until they hit 40 or something. So I was really saddened when Hrbek quit. In retrospect, he was probably done, and it was a good time anyway with the state of the league and the Twins.

  2. Scot says:

    If the first base cupboard wasn’t so bare in the organization, he might have been pushed aside earlier. As it stands, I think the timing was right. He went out on a high note.

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