The Franchise 1985 (Part 1)

1985 Minnesota Twins

Managers: Billy Gardner 5th Season (5th with Minnesota 268-353)
Ray Miller 1st Season (1st with Minnesota 50-50)
77 W 85 L 705 RS 782 RA T4th AL West 14 GB (Kansas City 91-71)
4.35 RPG (AL = 4.56) 4.48 ERA (AL = 4.15)
.703 DER (6th AL)

All-Stars (1) Tom Brunansky

Franchise (1901-1985) 6221-6836-110; 11-21 Post Season; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1985) 2007-1972-6; 3-10 Post Season; 3-4 WS

In late June of 1985, the Twins found themselves in a stretch of play in which they lost 19 of 24 games. The frustration came to a head on the morning of June 21, when Howard Fox fired manager Billy Gardner. Gardner had been a mainstay for the Twins, and had been key in the emergence of the team’s young talent. When his tenure ended, he stood as the third longest serving manager for the Twins.

Fox hired Ray Miller to replace Gardner. Miller had been a pitching coach for the Baltimore Orioles for ten years, and was one of the most sought after managerial candidates in baseball. Miller came to the Twins and implemented many of the successful strategies that the Orioles had used under Earl Weaver. Miller also said he would not publicly criticize players that way that he predecessor had, but that turned out to be a more difficult challenge than Miller had expected.

The team finished the season with a 50-50 record under Miller. It was better than they had performed for Gardner, but still not up to the expectation that the Twins’ front office had set.

Roster/Stats (Hitters)
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1985

C Mark Salas .300/.332/.458 9 HR 110 OPS+ 1.5 BFW 13 WS 2.1 WAR
C Tim Laudner .238/.292/.396 7 HR 83 OPS+ -0.8 BFW 4 WS 0.4 WAR
The plan in the spring was to have two catchers: Dave Engle and Tim Laudner. When Dave Engle’s shoulder started to act up, the competition for catcher became more open. Mark Salas was an underdog at the beginning of camp, but the rookie earned his way onto the team with his bat. Tim Laudner started the season behind the plate, but slumped throughout, clearing the way for Salas to get the bulk of the playing time all season.

1B Kent Hrbek .278/.351/.444 21 HR 112 OPS+ 0.1 BFW 19 WS 2.5 WAR
Expectation were high for Hrbek in 1985. He had finished second in the MVP voting a year earlier, yet the Twins and Billy Gardner talked openly about the fact that Hrbek was “about to” explode with the bat. Given the high hopes, Hrbek’s 1985 performance was considered a disappointment. He had a particularly rough start and took a lot of the blame for the fact that the Twins were out of contention. There where whispers that part of Hrbek’s struggle in 1985 was due to his weight. He reportedly was up to 240 when he reported in the spring, though he was down to 223 when the team broke camp. Hrbek insisted that he weight had no impact on his performance, but the criticism would follow him for the rest of his career.

2B Tim Teufel .260/.335/.399 10 HR 97 OPS+ -1.9 BFW 11 WS 0.6 WAR
Teufel struggled all season to match his 1984 performance. Towards the end of the season, the Twins started to give Steve Lombardozzi some playing time in a platoon role with Teufel. Lombardozzi impressed, which ultimately left Teufel as an expendable player in the eyes of the Twins. He was traded to the Mets prior to the 1986 season and he went on to play a key role in that team’s World Series season.

SS Greg Gagne .225/.279/.317 2 HR 60 OPS+ -0.3 BFW 4 WS 0.6 WAR
Gagne didn’t hit well in his rookie season, but he kept the job the bulk of the year thanks to his defense. Ray Miller said he had a great first step, and that he would develop offense. Twins’ pitchers seemed to agree and preferred to have Gagne in the field. In one very public incident, Frank Viola was upset that Roy Smalley was in the lineup as short stop and requested Gagne play during Viola’s starts.

3B Gary Gaetti .246/.301/.409 20 HR 89 OPS+ 0.6 BFW 15 WS 2.1 WAR
Gaetti sort of flew under the radar for the Twins in 1985. He produced just about what had become his norm in terms of offense, and continued to play steady defense at third base. He was still one year away from a breakout season.

LF Mickey Hatcher .282/.308/.365 3 HR 80 OPS+ -1.2 BFW 7 WS 0.0 WAR
Mickey Hatcher had always been considered a bit of a liability in the outfield, but his offensive numbers in the years leading up to 1985 guaranteed him a spot. That all changed as his success at the plate slipped, and one of the bigger topics in the offseason following 1985 was who would replace Hatcher in left. The ideal candidate to the Twins, according to Patrick Reusse, would be a good fielder who could run and be a lead off man.

CF Kirby Puckett .288/.330/.385 4 HR 92 OPS+ -0.2 BFW 19 WS 2.1 WAR
Puckett improved on his numbers from an impressive rookie year, and was dubbed a “model of consistency” both at the plate and in the field for a team that was prone to highs and lows all season. Notable was Puckett’s first major league home run, which came on April 22, almost a full year after his major league debut.

RF Tom Brunansky .320/.448/.767 27 HR 104 OPS+ -0.5 BFW 16 WS 1.3 WAR
For a stretch at the beginning of the season Brunansky was the hottest hitter in baseball. Through play on May 11, Bruno was batting .343/.437/.637 with 8 HR and 23 RBI. While his average came down a bit after that, his power and on-base numbers continued to rise. He was the team’s only representative at the All-Star Game, which was played at the Metrodome.

DH Roy Smalley .258/.357/.402 12 HR 104 OPS+ 0.1 BFW 12 WS 0.9 WAR
Three years after being traded by the Twins to the Yankees, Smalley returned to his original team in a trade from the Chicago White Sox. Smalley has signed a long-term contract with the Yankees, but was dealt to the White Sox in July of 1984. Smalley was benched in Chicago, and the White Sox seemed more than willing to give up Smalley for marginal prospects. Smalley was the Twins’ regular shortstop out of spring training, but suffered a pulled hamstring early. Gagne took over at short and Smalley became the team’s designated hitter.

OF/DH/PH Randy Bush .239/.321/.449 10 HR 104 OPS+ -0.4 BFW 6 WS 0.5 WAR
When Ray Miller arrived as manager, one of the changes he made was giving Randy Bush more playing time in the outfield. Bush responded by making some good plays in the field while maintaining a decent offensive line.

DH/OF Mike Stenhouse .223/.330/.335 5 HR 80 OPS+ -0.5 BFW 3 WS -0.2 WAR
DH Dave Engle .256/.333/.448 7 HR 108 OPS+ 0.2 BFW 5 WS 0.4 WAR
IF Ron Washington .274/.308/.400 1 HR 89 OPS+ -0.2 BFW 3 WS 0.4 WAR

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