1972 Minnesota Twins
Managers Bill Rigney 17th Season (3rd with Minnesota 208-184)
Frank Quilici 1st Season (1st with Minnesota 41-43)
77 W 77 L 537 RS 535 RA 3rd AL West 15.5 GB (Oakland 93-62)
3.49 RPG (AL = 3.47) 2.84 ERA (AL = 3.06)
.724 DER (4th AL)
All Stars (1) Rod Carew
Franchise (1901-1972) 5252-5757-109; 11-21 Post Season; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1972) 1038-893-5; 3-10 Post Season; 3-4 WS
In February of 1972, Bill Rigney participated in a TSN article discussing the challenges of a modern manager. The gist of Rigney’s argument, it seems, was that the modern player was much more difficult to deal with, making the manager’s job near impossible. Rigney, who was still largely managing in the shadow of his predecessor Billy Martin, knew that he had to succeed in 1972 to keep his job, and seemed to sense that it might not be in the cards for him.
Rigney lasted just about half of the strike-shortened season. In the midst of a team slump and laggin attendance, Rigney got the pink slip on July 6. Griffith gave many reasons for the move, but most interestingly is the fact that he echoed Rigney’s thoughts from that February article when he said he wanted a manager who could relate better to the modern player.
Enter assistant coach Frank Quilici. At 33 he became the youngest manager in the majors. Quilici was a bit of a local celebrity from his days as a utility infielder with the Twins in the mid-1960’s. Griffith hoped that Quilici’s hiring would spark interest among the fans and players.
The Twins finished the season at the .500 mark, just 41-43 under the new manager. Still, Quilici’s contract was renewed and there was hope that 1973 would be a new beginning.
Bold = Player new to WAS/MIN in 1972
C George Mitterwald .184/.225/.239 1 HR -0.7 BFW 2 WS 15 FRAR 0.2 WARP3
C Glenn Borgmann .234/.325/.309 3 HR 0.2 BFW 5 WS 10 FRAR 1.4 WARP3
C Phil Roof .205/.235/.356 3 HR -1.0 BFW 2 WS 3 FRAR 0.0 WARP3
Mitterwald and Roof split catching duties for much of the first half of the season. With neither lighting the world on fire, that opened the door for rookie Glenn Borgmann to take over most of the playing time in the second half of the season. 22-year-old Rick Dempsey was also a brief participant the revolving door of catchers for the Twins in 1972.
1B Harmon Killebrew .231/.367/.450 26 HR 2.7 BFW 18 WS 9 FRAR 6.0 WARP3
The 36-year-old sure fire Hall of Fame player had a down year when it came to slugging, but he was still one of the more valuable offensive players in the league. 1972 represents the last of Killebrew’s very good seasons, though he’ll be roughly a league average player in his last three active seasons.
2B Rod Carew .318/.369/.379 0 HR 2.6 BFW 22 WS 34 FRAR 7.8 WARP3
Carew was on his way to a great season in 1970 when his year was cut short by a knee injury. It seems as though it took him a couple of years to get his career back on track:
Year Age OPS+
1970 24 152 *cut short due to injury
1971 25 107
1972 26 119
1973 27 144
Carew’s OPS+ won’t return to the low levels of 1971 and 1972 until he is in his late 30’s.
SS Danny Thompson .276/.318/.356 4 HR 0.9 BFW 15 WS 38 FRAR 6.0 WARP3
Thompson had been a member of the roster since 1970, but didn’t get regular playing time until 1972. By just about every account, he was as well-liked by his teammates as a ballplayer could be. Still, when Cardenas was traded before the season many fans and writers were uneasy with the idea of Thompson as a regular shortstop, particularly considering his past arm trouble. He proved that he belonged, however, with an impressive season in the field and at the plate. During a routine physical in the offseason, Twins team doctors found a high white-cell count in his blood. A few days after his 26th birthday, Danny Thompson was diagnosed with Luekemia.
3B Eric Soderholm .188/.245/.359 13 HR -1.1 BFW 5 WS 16 FRAR 1.4 WARP3
3B Steve Braun .289/.360/.356 2 HR -0.3 BFW 14 WS 20 FRAR 4.7 WARP3
Soderholm was the first-round draft pick of the Twins in 1968. He platooned with another young player, Steve Braun, in 1972 with underwhelming results.
LF Steve Brye .241/.292/.300 0 HR -0.4 BFW 6 WS 19 FRAR 2.0 WARP3
Brye led the Southern Association in batting during the 1970 season, and had a few stints with the major league club that year and in 1971. This was his first taste of regular action.
CF Bobby Darwin .267/.326/.442 22 HR -0.1 BFW 18 WS 6 FRAR 4.5 WARP3
Darwin was orginally drafted by the Angels in 1962 as a pitcher. He was dominant in the low minor leagues but control problems and injuries forced him to make a gradual shift towards the outfield. He was 29 years old when he came to the Twins in a trade with the Dodgers, and looked like a world-beater in his first month of regular play. As of May 9, he was batting .355/.446/.710 with 6 HR in 74 PA’s. He came back down to earth quickly, however, with an extended slump that lasted into July. Darwin was much more consistent in the second half of the season, and ended up with a successful season for himself and the Twins.
RF Cesar Tovar .265/.329/.334 2 HR -0.7 BFW 17 WS 27 FRAR 4.9 WARP3
The 31-year-old Tovar became the second Twin to hit for the cycle (sixth in franchise history) when he did it on September 19. As it turned out, that was one of Tovar’s last games with the Twins. He was traded to the Phillies for three players after the season. Tovar bounced around the majors until 1976. He had a pretty good year with the Rangers in 1974, but was clearly on the downward slope in his career production after the Twins traded him away. In eight seasons with the Twins, Tovar hit .281/.337/.377 with 38 HR. He played at least an inning at each of the nine fielding positions, and compiled 35.3 WARP3.
SP Bert Blyleven 17-17 2.73 ERA 1.10 WHIP 2.4 PW 19 WS 7.4 WARP3
On May 31, Blyleven won his seventh game of the season over the visiting Kansas City Royals. At the time he had just three losses. Over the next two months, Blyleven pitched fairly well, posting a 3.61 ERA in 14 starts. Unfortunately for Blyleven, his record over that same time span was 2-11. Take out the two wins, in which the Twins scored 7 and 5 runs respectively, Blyleven received a whopping 15 runs of offensive support in his 12 appearances. He even pitched 10 scoreless innings against the Yankees on July 8 and only had a no decision to show for it. The lack of support wasn’t lost on Blyleven: “When I look up in the 5th inning and see 0-0, I start thinking ‘well, here we go again.'” Blyleven was able to storm back in the later months to even his record, but the label of a pitcher who “struggles to win games” was already starting to stick to Blyleven, despite the anemic run support.
SP Dick Woodson 14-14 2.72 ERA 1.17 WHIP 0.9 PW 15 WS 3.6 WARP3
On June 25 Woodson was pitching against Kansas City when RIgney decided to go get him. Woodson refused to give the ball to his manager, touching off an argument that continued into the dugout. Woodson was ultimately fined and, as it turned out, it wouldn’t be long before the manager was replaced. Woodson had a pretty good year from a pitching standpoint in the busiest season of his career.
SP Jim Perry 13-16 3.35 ERA 1.15 WHIP -0.3 PW 9 WS 2.2 WARP3
At the end of the 1972 season, the same in which Jim’s brother Gaylord won the AL Cy Young award, the Twins figured to have six starting pitchers for 1973. Since Perry was the highest paid, he was the most logical to go in a trade. In March of 1973, the Twins traded the winningest active pitcher in the AL to Detroit in exchange for pitcher Danny Fife and cash. The trade was a bit of a head-scratcher to observers; Fife wasn’t even on the Tigers’ 40 man roster at the time. It was, perhaps, a fitting end for Perry’s Twins career, however. In 10 seasons with the Twins his record was 128-90 with a 3.15 ERA (113 ERA+) and 46.2 WARP3. He even won a Cy Young award but still managed to be one of the most underrated and underutilized pitchers in Twins’ history. Perry had some success with Detroit and Cleveland before he retired following a brief stint with Oakland in 1975.
SP Ray Corbin 8-9 2.62 ERA 1.16 WHIP 0.8 PW 10 WS 2.9 WARP3
The 23-year-old started the season in relief but became a regular starter by the end of June. He had a string of very good games from August 20 to September 4 in which he allowed just a single run and 14 hits in 28 innings pitched over the course of three starts.
SP Jim Kaat 10-2 2.06 ERA 1.01 WHIP 2.0 PW 12 WS 3.6 WARP3
Early in the season, writers were already suggesting that the 32-year-old had found the “zip” in his pitches again. Kaat was on a roll when, on July 2, his season came to end when he broke his pitching hand while sliding. Despite only playing half a season, Kaat again won the Gold Glove award. Awards and statistics aside, Kaat still didn’t do enough to impress the money out of Griffith’s pocket. Kaat wanted a three-year deal with a raise to total $60,000 per year. Griffith essentially used the reserve clause to force Kaat to play out the 1973 season under his old contract. The owner attempted to spin the move by claiming he could have cut the ace’s salary by 20 percent based on the rules at the time, but instead elected to keep Kaat’s salary steady. Kaat eventually got the contract he wanted, but this is likely the dispute that ultimately led to Kaat’s exit from Minnesota.
RP Wayne Granger 4-6 3.01 ERA 1.24 WHIP -0.1 PW 8 WS 1.4 WARP3
RP Dave LaRoche 5-7 2.83 ERA 1.16 WHIP 0.8 PW 8 WS 3.5 WARP3
The Twins didn’t have many steady options out of the bullpem, but new acquisitions Granger and LaRoche provided some effective innings. Both were traded away following the season; Granger for two players including Larry Hisle and LaRoche for three including Bill Hands and Joe Decker.