The Franchise 1997 (Position Players)

C Terry Steinbach 0.6 WAR
C Greg Myers 0.6 WARSteinbach was coming off of what everybody was calling his career year in Oakland, mostly due to the career high 34 HR/100 RBI (based on WAR his 1992 season was better – 1992: 4.0; 1996: 3.4). It seemed a slam dunk that the A’s should offer the 34-year-old arbitration, but Oakland seemed hesitant due to concerns with an overall team payroll approaching $25 million. Ultimately Steinbach signed with the Twins for slightly less than the A’s were offering. It seemed like a great fit, another case of a hometown hero coming to play for the Twins along the same lines as Morris, Winfield, and Molitor, and for his part Steinbach said that playing for his hometown team was the only factor behind the move. Whatever the reason, Steinbach did not produce the way he had in Oakland. In fact, it was by most measures his worst professional season.

1B Scott Stahoviak -0.2 WAR
After a solid 1996, the Twins were hoping Stahoviak would continue to improve. 1997 didn’t start well for him. He broke a bone in his finger in the season opener and went on the disabled list. When he returned, he struggled. By the offseason, Stahoviak found himself off of the 40-man roster. Stahoviak appeared in 9-games in 1998, which turned out to be his final appearances in the major leagues.

2B Chuck Knoblauch 6.7 WAR
Prior to the final game of the season, Knoblauch made his feelings about playing for a losing team known when he called his agent and asked for a trade. He had once again been the sole All Star for a team that was just about to finish its fifth consecutive losing season. All-in-all 1997 wasn’t Knoblauch’s finest season, but he was still by far the most valuable asset on the team. When he was finally traded to the Yankees in the offseason, it marked the end of a 7-year stint with the Twins that included a World Series win. His final statline as a Twin: .304/.391/.416/.807. He will be inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame during the 2014 season. More about Knoblauch in a future post…

SS Pat Meares 2.1 WAR
Pat Meares continued to play solid short stop while struggling to hit. One thing he was among the league leaders in, however, was HBP with 16.

3B Ron Coomer 1.7 WAR
3B Todd Walker 0.3 WAR
Coomer hit 12 home runs in 253 PA’s in 1996, so it was expected that he would at least hit 20 in his first full major league season. That did not happen, however. In the middle of the season, Coomer went on drought in which he was homerless in 220 at bats. He ended the season with just 13.

“I don’t want to say I’m disappointed, but I’ve had three straight years where I’ve hit 20 or more, at different levels, and I expect to hit more homers than I have this season. I might not be a 40-homer guy, but I ought to hit more than this.”

LF Marty Cordova -0.1 WAR
Cordova fought a foot injury much of the season. It showed in his numbers, particularly career highs in strikeout rate and lows in walk rate.

CF Rich Becker 2.7 WAR
CF Darrin Jackson 0.3 WAR
Though he had another slow start at the plate, by the end of the year Rich Becker had put together another solid season. He did, however, strikeout 130 times in 443 at bats. At the end of the season, Becker was traded to the Mets for Alex Ochoa. He bounced around the league until playing his last major league game in 2000. The 33-year-0ld veteran Darrin Jackson signed as a free agent in the spring and was a PTBNL in a trade to Milwaukee before the summer was over.

RF Matt Lawton 1.0 WAR
RF Roberto Kelly 0.6 WAR
Lawton was essentially competing for the fourth outfielder spot in spring training, but made the roster and was the primary starter in right field in the 1997 season. Lawton had a very good season, and used a glove that belonged to Kirby Puckett when he played the field. Towards the end of his second season with the Twins, the veteran Roberto Kelly was traded to Seattle for two PTBNL’s, one of which turned out to be Joe Mays.

DH Paul Molitor 1.5 WAR
In his age 40 season, Molitor was still able to put up a .305/.351/.435/.786 slash line with 10 home runs. He was quoted in a TSN feature on his longevity:

The hardest part is before the game. I used to come out, hit and catch, and be ready to play. Some days my body doesn’t feel like it’s ready to respond. It’s a matter of getting ready to play. Once the game starts, I don’t feel anything.

Teammates had nothing but respect for him, including Marty Cordova

I look at him and I don’t see a 40-year-old guy. I see a young athlete the way he plays the game.

1B David Ortiz 0.1 WAR
UT Denny Hocking -0.1 WAR
A little glimpse into the future….

 

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