Now that I have (finally) finished the re-living the 1987 season, some thoughts:
-The ’87 Twins really weren’t that good. They were actually outscored through the season, and based on run differential should have finished fourth in their own division. The West was so bad that year, that the Twins record would have only translated to fifth place if they were in the AL East. It was quite remarkable for the team to find its way into the postseason considering that there would be no “Wild Card” for another seven years.
-Two of the new Twins were given much of the credit for the team making the World Series. Dan Gladden and Jeff Reardon were almost universally praised as the elements that put this team over the edge, and Reardon was even named team MVP by some of the local writers.
Gladden’s OPS+ in 1987 was only 75. He contributed less from an offensive standpoint than six of the other eight regulars. He did steal 25 bases in 34 attempts, but that 73% success rate combined with some pretty solid defense in left still doesn’t make Gladden even an average left fielder in 1987.
Reardon’s 1987 season is one of the more overrated in Twins’ history. He was a downright lousy closer for the first two months of the season; and while he improved from June-September, he was nowhere near the dominant closer he had been for most of the decade prior. What separates Jeff Reardon from Ron Davis in Twins’ history is the timing of his blown saves (Reardon’s came largely early in the season, while Davis seemed to have a flair for dramatic blown saves in September) and the fact that the team had success with Reardon on the mound (mainly due to the fact that the ’87 Twins scored more runs than the teams that Davis pitched for).
-All that aside, this was a fun season to follow. The team was very streaky, and ended up streaking for the good at the right time. Though the 1991 team was much better, I still remember the 1987 team fondly, and suspect that is the case with a lot of upper-midwest baseball fans.
-If I were to hand out awards for the 1987 Twins, I would name Frank Viola the MVP and best pitcher, while Kent Hrbek would be the most valuable everyday player, with Kirby Puckett a close second.
-This was a lot of fun, and I intend to pull out another Twins team to cover next winter. I’m not sure if I will just go in order and take on 1988, or skip ahead to 1991. I would love to go back further, but going back through any year pre-1986 would involve a lot of library time and microfiche. Hopefully one of the local papers will eventually be archived online back the the 1960’s, but at this point they aren’t.