1978 Minnesota Twins
Manager: Gene Mauch 19th Season (3rd with Minnesota 242-243)
73 W 89 L 666 RS 678 RA 4th AL West 19.0 GB (Kansas City 92-70)
4.11 RPG (AL = 4.20) 3.71 ERA (AL = 3.78)
.700 DER (11th AL)
All Stars (1) Rod Carew
Franchise (1901-1978) 5733-6244-110; 11-21 Post Season; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1978) 1519-1380-6; 3-10 Post Season; 3-4 WS
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1978
C Butch Wynegar .229/.307/.308 4 HR 73 OPS+ -0.7 BFW 10 WS 34 FRAR 1.9 WARP3
Wynegar’s offensive production fell after his initial two seasons, but he was still a valuable defensive catcher.
1B Rod Carew .333/.411/.441 5 HR 139 OPS+ 2.6 BFW 22 WS -3 FRAR 4.1 WARP3
One of the saddest chapters in Twins history is the chain of events that led to the departure of Rod Carew following the 1978 season. The official story was that Rod Carew had priced himself out of the Twins’ range by winning six batting titles in seven years. Many suggested that Griffith’s very public racist comments at the Waseca Lion’s Club were a factor as well, and they certainly didn’t help things. When Griffith’s final offer for Carew’s contract renewal in December called for only $2 million over five years, it seemed clear that the star’s future would be elsewhere. Carew took full control of his own destiny, seeking and gaining permission to negotiate with potential trade partners for the Twins (he still had a year left on his contract). The Twins looked to have a deal done with San Francisco, though it fell apart when Carew decided that he didn’t want to play for the Giants anymore. Interestingly, Carew seemed to have a change of heart about San Francisco when he announced very publicly that the city was growing on him and that there was a pretty good chance that he would wear a Giants’ uniform next season. Though there had also been talk about Carew to the Yankees, that ended quickly due to Carew’s lack of interest in wearing pinstripes. Ultimately, Carew signed with the California Angels for five years and $3.5 million. The Twins got Ken Landreaux, Brad Havens, Paul Hartzell, and Dave Engel. (For more on the bizarre circumstances surrounding the Carew trade and the 78-79 offseason check out Will Young’s article).
Carew was justifiably bitter when he left the Twins after 12 years of service. The feelings subsided after several years, however, and on Rod Carew day at the Metrodome in 1987, Carew said: “Even though I spent the last seven years of my career in an Angels uniform, Minnesota will be the No. 1 place in my heart…” “Hopefully, within the next few years, if I’m honored to be put in the Hall of Fame, rest assured that I will honor you by making sure that I’m in a Minnesota Twins uniform.”
2B Bob Randall .270/.329/.321 0 HR 83 OPS+ 1.5 BFW 9 WS 20 FRAR 1.3 WARP3
Randall’s value in the field was not enough to make up for his lack of offense. His playing time began to go down significantly in 1979, and he played his last major league game in 1980.
SS Roy Smalley .273/.362/.433 19 HR 122 OPS+ 5.1 BFW 22 WS 52 FRAR 8.1 WARP3
Jim Rice won the 1978 AL MVP award by batting .315/.370/.600 with 46 home runs. While I won’t argue with the voting here (although I would have put Ron Guidry ahead of Rice, but I can see the argument for either one), the fact that Smalley did not receive any votes indicates how under-appreciated he was. While his batting numbers don’t sparkle like Rice’s, his defense at the second-most difficult position on the field should have been worth some consideration. I would make an argument that Smalley was more valuable that #s 3-10 in the voting. He will start to get some national notice in 1979.
3B Mike Cubbage .282/.348/.401 7 HR 109 OPS+ 1.0 BFW 12 WS 22 FRAR 3.3 WARP3
On July 27 Mike Cubbage hit for the cycle against the Toronto Blue Jays. At the time, he was the fifth player in Twins history (ninth in franchise history) to accomplish the feat. It was the signature game in what was probably the 27-year-old’s best season.
LF Willie Norwood .255/.301/.376 8 HR 88 OPS+ -1.4 BFW 6 WS 8 FRAR 0.5 WARP3
In his only year as a regular, Norwood stole 25 bases, second most on the team behind Carew’s 27. He also committed 14 errors in left field, a team record.
CF Dan Ford .274/.332/.424 11 HR 110 OPS+ -1.1 BFW 15 WS 8 FRAR 1.9 WARP3
After playing the majority of his first three seasons as a right fielder, Ford shifted to center for the 1978 season. The numbers indicate that he was more suited defensively to right field, he remained a fan favorite in Minnesota.
RF Hosken Powell .247/.323/.333 3 HR 84 OPS+ -1.2 BFW 7 WS 11 FRAR 0.6 WARP3
Powell, a rookie, showed some promise in his first couple of major league seasons, but quickly earned the nickname “neutral” for his ability to seemingly coast through the games.
DH Glenn Adams .258/.297/.390 7 HR 91 OPS+ -0.8 BFW 4 WS 0 FRAR 0.0 WARP3
DH Jose Morales .314/.363/.401 2 HR 114 OPS+ 0.3 BFW 5 WS 0 FRAR 1.2 WARP3
Morales broke into the league in 1973 with the Oakland A’s. He spent several years in the Montreal Expos organization before he was purchased by the Twins in March of 1978. Never a regular in his career, that trend continued as he split time with Glenn Adams at DH. A native of the Virgin Islands, Morales was a catcher by trade but his defense left a lot to be desired and was the reason he spent 10 seasons in the minors before getting his break in Oakland. While with Montreal, Morales was primarily a pinch-hitter.
OF Bombo Rivera .271/.362/.355 3 HR 101 OPS+ 0.0 BFW 7 WS 13 FRAR 1.8 WARP3
Like Morales, Rivera had most recently been with the Montreal Expos and was purchased by the Twins following the 1977 season. Though he was mostly a platoon outfielder, Rivera was well received by Twins fans and became a fan favorite. Garrison Keillor even wrote a song about the Puerto Rico native.