I firmly believe that there is one more year left in the decade, but I will pay attention to the Twins’ All-Decade Team anyways.
At catcher, the panel didn’t have to think long about its choice. While the decade began with A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate for the club’s first two division titles in the 2000s, Joe Mauer is without doubt the face of his hometown franchise and has emerged as one of the most complete players in all of baseball.
It took longer to read that paragraph than to make the decision between A.J. and Mauer. Loved Pierzynski when he was here, but c’mon.
First base was also a slam dunk with Justin Morneau getting the nod, and the 2006 AL MVP received recognition for more than just the offense he’s delivered since taking over the position full-time in the middle of the ’04 season.
No mention that Doug Mientkiewicz was at first base for the team’s first two division titles…
The middle infield proved a tad trickier due to the shuffling that’s taken place at both positions. The Twins had a double-play combination of Luis Rivas and Cristian Guzman during their early title runs, but while Guzman earned the nod at shortstop, the group couldn’t quite award Rivas the second-base spot.
“Rivas played a lot of games there where he really struggled,” Blyleven said.
Deciding which of the many others who have followed at second base, such as Luis Castillo, Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla and Brendan Harris, would be chosen wasn’t easy either. In the end, they awarded second base to Punto based on the defense he’s provided at all the infield positions that he’s played for the club over the past six years.
“There is no one person that took [second base] and ran with it,” Rantz said. “So I guess my vote based strictly on defense would have to go to Punto.”
The correct answers should be Rivas and Bartlett. I guess it is fairly predictable that this panel would want to reward Punto with a lifetime achievement award even though he never really played much at second base, but he’s scrappy and he slides into first base – and he has managed to keep a job. I still think that letting Bartlett go was among the bigger mistakes this franchise has made in recent years.
Third base wasn’t nearly as tough to determine, mostly due to the lack of venerable candidates. After Corey Koskie departed as a free agent following the 2004 season, Minnesota has faced an enigma trying to fill the spot, as 16 different players have started at third base for the club.
“The story of the decade is that it really has been kind of a revolving door there since Koskie left,” Donaldson said. “Koskie was the constant. He was a good clubhouse guy, a good hitter and could field the position.”
What…you couldn’t justify having Punto play second base and third base?
The first two choices in the outfield were considered no-brainers — Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer. But for the third outfield spot, there was more of a debate. The candidates for that final opening were narrowed down to Jacque Jones, Shannon Stewart and Denard Span.
Jones was a mainstay in the outfield for the first five years of the decade, while the Twins’ trade for Stewart at the July 31 Trade Deadline in 2003 was credited for being a huge spark toward another division title. Span’s impact hasn’t been as big, since he’s spent only a little over a year and a half in the big leagues — but he’s emerged as the club’s leadoff hitter and a budding defensive star in the outfield.
The nod eventually went to Jones.
No problems here. A true all-decade team, however, would include 2010 and probably, then, include Span.
Designated hitter is another spot that has been in flux for the Twins. David Ortiz was the club’s primary DH during the first three years of the decade, but he didn’t find success in the role until he moved on to Boston. So for the panel, Jason Kubel seemed the obvious choice.
Indeed. No rewards for Ortiz blowing up after he left, so Kubel is the right choice.
Starting pitching created an interesting debate as well. Johan Santana and Brad Radke were the unanimous, no-question selections — but from there, the panel wasn’t quite so sure. Among the candidates for the final three spots in the rotation were Joe Mays, Eric Milton, Kyle Lohse, Carlos Silva, Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker.
Let the debate begin!
Mays and Milton were given two spots based on Mays’ All-Star season in 2001 and the long-term contract he signed, and Milton’s production for the early part of the decade, having posted a 42-26 record with a 4.60 ERA from ’00-03.
I don’t think that the long-term contract is really an argument for Mays’ inclusion, maybe an argument against. Milton certainly belongs on this team.
The group felt Lohse didn’t have a strong enough single-season performance to warrant selection, while Liriano’s elbow injury prevented him from having a big enough impact to make the All-Decade club.
“If Liriano wouldn’t have gotten hurt, I would have put him in there,” Rantz said. “He was the talk of the league in 2006.”
Eh, why don’t we just put Punto in as the final starter and call it a day?
The final rotation spot ended in a split vote between Baker and Silva. Baker has started to emerge as one of the club’s best young pitchers toward the end of the decade, while Silva was its workhorse for a couple of years in the mid ’00s. But Baker’s overall numbers (43-33 record, 4.27 ERA over five seasons) surpassed Silva’s (47-45, 4.42 ERA over four seasons), giving him the edge.
I hope that they didn’t spend too much time on the matter of Silva vs. Baker. Doesn’t seem to be that tough of a decision. I might add Liriano in place of Mays if we must have five.
In the setup role, the group considered Matt Guerrier, but chose LaTroy Hawkins, who they felt shined in the role and deserved a spot on the All-Decade team based on his versatility for the club in the early part of the decade.
And by versatility do we mean the many ways Hawkins found to blow games as closer in 2001? (I’d still put him on this team).
The toughest decision for the group was the final one, the closer.
Toughest? Umm….Nathan. Done. Almost as easy as Mauer at catcher.
While Joe Nathan’s numbers (246 saves and a 1.87 ERA from ’04-09) surpass those of Eddie Guardado (107 saves and a 3.31 ERA from ’00-’03), it was hard for the group to narrow it down to one based on the impact that both players have had on the organization.
Nathan’s numbers surpass Guardado’s by far. Debate over.
“That’s tough,” Blyleven said. “I don’t know if we can pick between the two of them, because I think both guys earned that.
Tell you what. You can have Guardado for your team. I’ll take Nathan.
Eddie again came through with the Koskies and the Hunters and the Joneses, and really solidified the closer role and helped so much with the chemistry of the team in the early 2000s.
Coming through with the Koskies and Hunters and Joneses: not really an argument for inclusion on this team.
Joe Nathan of course, is an All-Star right there and one of the best closers today. But I think if you look at the numbers, probably Nathan over Eddie.”
Right… that’s what I said – without the “probably”.
Gardenhire, who took the reins as skipper before the 2002 season and has compiled a 709-588 record, was the clear choice as manager for the Twins’ All-Decade team.
Easy choice. Well done, panel.