The Franchise 1984 (Part 1)

1984 Minnesota Twins

Manager: Billy Gardner 4th Season (4th with Minnesota 241-318)
81 W 81 L 673 RS 675 RA T2nd AL West 3 GB (Kansas City 84-78)
4.15 RPG (AL = 4.42) 3.85 ERA (AL = 3.99)
.714 DER (2nd AL)

All-Stars (1) Dave Engle

Franchise (1901-1984) 6144-6751-110; 11-21 Post Season; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1984) 1930-1887-6; 3-10 Post Season; 3-4 WS

The 1984 season opened not with talk about contention or even improvement. Rather, the talk around the Twins was about relocation. Calvin Griffith seemed determined to get out of the Metrodome lease, now only in its third season. Due to a clause in the lease, Griffith could get out if the team did not reach a certain threshold of attendance. Amidst attempted ticket buyouts and rumors of buyers including Donald Trump, a somewhat quiet banker positioned himself to buy the team and keep it in Minnesota.

On June 22, in an on-field ceremony, Calvin Griffith signed the papers that sold the team to Carl Pohlad, ending almost 75 years of Griffiths in charge of the Washington/Minnesota franchise.

While the ownership issue was being settled off the field, a funny thing was happening on the field. In 1984 the Twins went from AL West bottom-feeders to actual contenders.

...to be continued in Part 2.

Roster/Stats (Hitters)
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1984
Ed- I’ve dropped the BP stats because they changed yet again. The WAR numbers I use are from baseballprojection.com.

C Dave Engle .266/.308/.353 4 HR 80 OPS+ -0.8 BFW 6 WS 0.7 WAR
C Tim Laudner .206/.258/.389 10 HR 74 OPS+ 0.3 BFW 5 WS 1.1 WAR
Engle, who had formerly been a back up outfielder with the Twins, was playing so well by the All-Star break that he was the Twins’ lone representative at the summer classic. From July to September, however, he only batted .208/.268/.298 with 2 HR and 7 RBI in 50 games. Engle’s second half might have given Laudner a chance to get more playing time, but the backup catcher had an equally bad slump.

1B Kent Hrbek .311/.383/.522 27 HR 145 OPS+ 1.9 BFW 24 WS 5.4 WAR
Kent Hrbek might have been the best player in major league baseball in 1984. He finished second in AL MVP voting. The MVP that year: Willie Hernandez of the Tigers, who was a dominant relief pitcher for one of the best teams of the decade. Still, Hernandez’ season was worth 4.8 WAR compared to Hrbek’s 5.4. Hrbek was gracious about the second-place finish, suggesting that he thought Don Mattingly and/or Eddie Murray might have finished ahead of him. What might have been a greater honor for Hrbek was the proclamation for the normally praise-stingy Billy Gardner that Hrbek was the best he had seen at first base. The rest of the organization saw Hrbek as one of the best, as evidenced by the five-year, $5.9 million contract that the Twins offered Hrbek prior to the 1985 season. It was a welcome sign for Twins fans that the new owner was serious about winning.

2B Tim Teufel .262/.349/.400 14 HR 104 OPS+ 0.6 BFW 19 WS 3.5 WAR
The Twins drafted Teufel in the second round of the 1980 amateur draft. With Castino holding down second base in the first few years of the 1980’s, it wasn’t clear what, if any, Teufel’s role on the Twins would be. After a month-long major league debut in 1983, it was clear that the team wanted to make room for Teufel. The Gary Ward trade was made, in part, to keep a place on the major league team for Teufel. In his first full season, Teufel was a success. He finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.

SS Houston Jiminez .201/.238/.245 0 HR 32 OPS+ -3.1 BFW 3 WS -1.4 WAR
SS Ron Washington .294/.307/.447 3 HR 103 OPS+ -0.4 BFW 6 WS 1.3 WAR
It could be argued that a competent major league short stop might have pushed the Twins over the edge. Even if Ron Washington had gotten more plate appearances, things might have looked up for the Twins. As it stood, shortstop continued to be a position of need for the Twins, so much so that they made a desperate trade with the Cardinals late in the season to acquire 34-year-old Chris Speier. The Twins immediately had buyer’s remorse with Speier, who, due to injury, played in only 12 games for the club.

3B Gary Gaetti .262/.315/.350 5 HR 82 OPS+ -0.2 BFW 16 WS 2.9 WAR
The original plan after the Gary Ward trade was to move Gaetti to the outfield. That way, Castino could move to third base to make room for Tim Teufel. Gaetti never made the switch permanently, however, due to Castino’s injury. He played in all 162 games in 1984, 154 of them at third base. He struggled offensively relative to previous years, and only had five home runs, the lowest power output of his career.

LF Mickey Hatcher .302/.342/.406 5 HR 104 OPS+ 0.4 BFW 16 WS 3.2 WAR
Since plan “A” did not work out for the Twins – moving Gaetti to left field, Mickey Hatcher finally got the chance to play in the field every day for the Twins, and he made the most of it. 1984 was probably his best season as a pro.

CF Kirby Puckett .296/.320/.336 0 HR 79 OPS+ 0.0 BFW 16 WS 2.6 WAR
With Jim Eisenreich continuing to struggle with an unknown ailment, the Twins looked to a young player who was playing AA ball to fill center field. The Twins used their third overall pick in the January 1982 amateur draft to select the kid out of Chicago. Not many teams scouted Puckett, due in large part to the strike in 1981. Jim Rantz, then the team’s assistant farm director, went to Chicago to watch his son play in the Illinois Collegiate League. He found Puckett playing on the opposing team and was immediately impressed. When the big league club made the call to AA Toledo, Twins’ farm director George Brophy balked. Brophy reported concern that Puckett might be overmatched against major league pitching. His fears turned out to be false. Puckett tore up the majors right away, batting around the .400 mark most of his first month. Most impressive to teammates, however, was his prowess in center field. His presence gave the Twins a speedy defender up the middle. Puckett’s defensive ability reminded Billy Gardner of a former teammate: Willie Mays.

RF Tom Brunansky .254/.320/.460 32 HR 110 OPS+ -0.4 BFW 17 WS 2.5 WAR
At the age of 23, Brunansky had already gotten a reputation as a slow starter. He followed that form in 1984, batting just .190/.284/.310 after play on April 22. Things improved for him quickly, however, and by the end of the season Bruno led the team in home runs, prompting Billy Gardner to wonder how good Brunansky could be if he ever got off to a good start.

DH Randy Bush .222/.292/.389 11 HR 84 OPS+ -1.0 BFW 5 WS -0.2 WAR
Hatcher’s move to left field meant that Randy Bush was the primary designated hitter for the team in 1984. He still generally did not play against left-handed pitching.

OF Darrell Brown .273/.309/.342 1 HR 78 OPS+ -0.7 BFW 5 WS 0.4 WAR
Brown served as the back up outfielder for the Twins. He was released prior to the 1985 season.

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