All Stars (3) Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva
Franchise (1901-1968 ) 4906-5465-109; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1968 ) 692-601-5; 3-4 WS
After narrowly missing the AL Pennant in 1967, expectations were high for the 1968 version of the Minnesota Twins. The team did not live up to its expectations and it became clear by mid-season that Cal Ermer was going to take the fall. With Billy Martin waiting in the wings to take over as manager, it was not a matter of if Griffith was going to let go of Ermer, but when. Public disagreements with star players, including Rod Carew, Jim Kaat, and Dave Boswell, did not help Ermer’s standing.
Ermer lasted the season, but received his walking papers immediately after the final game of the Twins’ seventh-pkace campaign. Shortly after the World Series, Billy Martin was named his successor. Griffith, when asked about the move, said that “Ermer didn’t take charge. Players can make or break you. Unfortunately, the players broke Ermer this year.”
Bold = Player new to WAS/MIN in 1968
C John Roseboro .216/.300/.311 8 HR 0.2 BFW 10 WS 23 FRAR 2.9 WARP3
Roseboro, a long time Dodger, came to the Twins at the age of 35 as part of the deal that sent Versalles and Grant to the Dodgers. His Twins’ career didn’t start off very well. Roseboro had just three hits in his first 57 plate appearances in a Minnesota uniform. He finally broke out of that slump with a 5-for-5 day on April 29. Roseboro was streaky like that for the bulk of the season – long stretches with very few hits with a few “hot” games strung together sprinkled throughout the year.
1B Harmon Killebrew .210/.361/.420 17 HR 1.6 BFW 12 WS 4 FRAR 3.7 WARP3
1B Rich Reese .259/.301/.352 4 HR -0.9 BFW 7 WS 5 FRAR 1.5 WARP3
Although Killebrew slumped during the first few months of the season, he made his way to the All Star Game in Houston based on his reputation. It would have been better had Killer stayed home. He tore his hamstring when stretching in an attempt to make a play at first base. He returned in September to finish a forgettable season. Whil Killebrew was out, Rich Reese got an opportunity to play at first base.
2B Rod Carew .273/.312/.347 1 HR 0.5 BFW 13 WS 17 FRAR 3.6 WARP3
2B Frank Quilici .245/.305/.341 1 HR 1.4 BFW 7 WS 17 FRAR 2.6 WARP3
Carew confided to TSN in the middle of the season that he had made his league’s All Star Game in every baseball season he had ever played. He wasn’t so sure about 1968 though. After running away with the AL Rookie of the Year Award the previous year, Carew’s early season was rough, partially due to an injury he suffered in June while away from the team with the Marine Reserves. Carew turned an ankle on a hike, and returned to the team with a swollen left ankle. Since Frank Quilici was streaking as a replacement for Carew, Ermer decided to stick with him for a while. Carew eventually found his way back into the lineup, and onto the American League All Star Team. Overall, Carew’s performance was a step back from his rookie season, but good things were still to come.
SS Jackie Hernandez .176/.218/.221 2 HR -0.8 BFW 1 WS 9 FRAR -0.5 WARP3
SS Ron Clark .185/.245/.229 1 HR -1.9 BFW 2 WS 6 FRAR -0.7 WARP3
The shortstop situation for the 1968 Twins was miserable. Jackie Hernandez, who got most of the playing time, had an OPS+ of just 30. His back up, Ron Clark, wasn’t much better with a 41 OPS+. It wasn’t too difficult to figure out what position the Twins might want to make a trade to strenghten in the offseason. Neither player remained with the Twins much longer past the 1968 season. Clark played seven season in the majors with a career line of .189/.249/.258. He remained in the league largely based on his defensive reputation. When he wasn’t playing baseball, Clark was a Golden Gloves boxer and a rodeo rider.
3B Cesar Tovar .272/.326/.372 6 HR 1.6 BFW 22 WS 20 FRAR 6.3 WARP3
3B Rich Rollins .241/.287/.355 6 HR -0.4 BFW 4 WS 5 FRAR 1.0 WARP3
Tovar’s most famous game came on September 22 when he appeared at all nine positions against Oakland. While Tovar earned a misguided MVP vote in 1967, 1968 is probably the year he was most valuable to his team. With the regular Twins stars either injured or slumping, Tovar played in 158 games and had a very good season. Rollins served as a backup for Tovar and covered third when it was necessary for Tovar to play another position due to injury. This was Rollins’ last season with the Twins. He was drafted by the Seattle Pilots in the 1969 expansion draft. Rollins played for the Twins from their first year in Minnesota, and posted the following line: .272/.333/.394 71 HR 101 OPS+ 18.7 WARP3.
LF Bob Allison .247/.324/.456 22 HR 0.5 BFW 16 WS -1 FRAR 4.2 WARP3
The usually mild-mannered Allison had a run in with Cleveland pitcher Sam McDowell on July 1. After a high and tight pitch forced the former college fullback to the dirt, he approached the mound with a few choice words for McDowell. Allison would not repeat his threat to reporters, but teammates said it went something like this: “If you try that again I’ll get you with my bat. And I don’t mean I’ll throw it; I’ll have it in my hands.” 1968 turned out to be Allison’s final good season. He retired as an active player at the age of 35 following the 1970 season.
CF Ted Uhlaender .283/.324/.389 7 HR -0.5 BFW 18 WS 3 FRAR 3.4 WARP3
1968 was, by far, the best season in Ted Uhlaender’s career. He set career marks in most offensive categories and was still considered a very good center fielder by Twins’ management. Uhlaender opened the season with an 11-game hitting streak and was legitimately in the race for the AL batting title until he faded in mid-August.
RF Tony Oliva .289/.357/.477 18 HR 2.0 BFW 21 WS 15 FRAR 7.0 WARP3
Oliva’s numbers in 1968 appear to be down a bit from his career norm, but a closer look through the lens of a pitcher’s year indicates that this may have been one of his better seasons. His .834 OPS was sixth best in the American League, and it translated to a 144 OPS+, the best in Oliva’s career since his rookie season.
SP Dean Chance 16-16 2.53 ERA 0.98 WHIP 1.6 PW 21 WS 8.2 WARP3
Though he had both a lower ERA and a lower WHIP rate in 1968 than he had in 1967, Chance managed to win only 16 games in 1968, down from the magical 20 mark the previous year. Chance had some motivation in 1968. After he won his opening start by shutting out the Washington Senators, Chance angrily told reporters that he should have thrown like that in his last start, referring of course to the final game of the 1967 season that sent the Twins home for the winter. His season may have been typified by his outing on June 1 against the Chicago White Sox. Chance carried a no-hitter into the bottom of the ninth inning thanks to his team’s inability to score runs. With one out, Bill Voss broke up the no-no with a single. Two hits later and the Sox had a 1-0 win.
SP Jim Merritt 12-16 3.25 ERA 1.09 WHIP -0.5 PW 11 WS 4.7 WARP3
Billy Martin predicted that Merritt would win 20 games easily in 1968. By the middle of the season, it looked more like the 24-year-old pitcher was on pace to lose 20 games. He turned it around enough to have a decent record considering, and really didn’t pitch all that poorly most of the year. Though the Twins (and Billy Martin) were still high on Merritt after the season, it became necessary to trade him to the Reds to acquire Leo Cardenas to play shortstop. Merritt eventually lived up to Martin’s prediction when he won 20 games with the Reds in 1970, though arm trouble pretty much meant his career was effectively over after that World Series season.
SP Jim Kaat 14-12 2.94 ERA 1.12 WHIP 0.6 PW 13 WS 5.3 WARP3
Kaat was still on the disabled list when the season started, a result of a torn muscle in his left arm suffered at the end of the previous season. When he returned to the rotation, Kaat pitched fairly well. Late in the season, some old wounds were opened with regards to Kaat and the Twins organization. When a communication breakdown between Kaat and Ermer caused Kaat to be removed from the lineup late in the season, Kaat vented in the papers about the coaching situation. By that time Ermer was already considered a lame duck manager, but Kaat’s criticism certainly nailed the door shut on any possibility that Ermer would be the Twins’ manager in 1969.
SP Dave Boswell 10-13 3.32 ERA 1.24 WHIP 0.0 PW 10 WS 4.6 WARP3
Kaat was not the only pitcher to publicly call out Ermer. Dave Boswell was equally unhappy with the skipper. Boswell had his worst season since he broke into the majors in 1964, and he did not hold back when the time came to assign blame. By his own count, Boswell said he should have won at least 16 games. He cited games in which he was pulled with men on base and the bullpen allowed them to score. Boswell told TSN: “You have starters to win games and relievers to save ’em. I’ll admit it, I don’t like to be taken out of a game when it’s close and low-scoring…I’d like to be around to face the hitters I have been working on for two hours.” In 28 games started Boswell had only seven complete games, his lowest total since 1965, when he started only 12 games. Whether or not Boswell’s crticism of Ermer was entirely fair, he did show what he could do with another manager when he had a breakout season in 1969.
SP/RP Jim Perry 8-6 2.27 ERA 1.00 WHIP 1.8 PW 13 WS 5.5 WARP3
Perry started the first two month in the regular rotation and pitched pretty well, racking up a 5-4 record with a 2.42 ERA through 67 innings pitched. Still, once the regulars were all healthy, Perry was sent back to the bullpen for most of the balance of the season.
RP Al Worthington 4-5 2.71 ERA 1.30 WHIP 0.6 PW 10 WS 3.6 WARP3
At the age of 39, Worthington was able to turn in another very good season.
RP Ron Perranoski 8-7 3.10 ERA 1.43 WHIP -0.1 PW 6 WS 3.0 WARP3
The Twins acquired the left-handed reliever from the Dodgers in the Versalles/Grant trade. Though he pitched pretty well as a left-handed specialist in 1968, his stock was ready to rise when he took over the role of closer under Billy Martin.
RP Bob Miller 0-3 2.74 ERA 1.23 WHIP 0.2 PW 4 WS 1.8 WARP3
Miller was the “throw-in” part of the big trade between the Twins and the Dodgers, but he very quietly had a pretty good season, earning himself more work for the following season.
RP Jim Roland 4-1 3.50 ERA 1.28 WHIP -0.4 PW 2 WS 0.6 WARP3
Roland, who had been with the Twins since 1962, was purchased by Oakland after the season.