The Franchise 1987 (Part 1)

1987 Minnesota Twins

Manager: Tom Kelly 2nd Season (2nd with Minnesota 97-88)
85 W 77 L 786 RS 806 RA 1st AL West 2.0 GA (Kansas City 83-79)
4.85 RPG (AL = 4.90) 4.63 ERA (AL = 4.46)
.700 DER (6th AL)

All-Stars (1) Kirby Puckett

Franchise (1901-1987) 6377-7004-110; 19-25 Post Season; 15-18 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1987) 2163-2140-6; 11-14 Post Season; 7-7 WS

Roster/Stats (Hitters)
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1987

C Tim Laudner .191/.252/.389 16 HR 65 OPS+ -1.5 BFW 4 WS -0.4 WAR
When Mark Salas was traded to New York in exchange for Joe Niekro in June, it basically cleared the way for Tim Laudner to be the team’s regular catcher. Laudner gained some notoriety in 1987 for his sub-Mendoza batting average, but there has rarely been a player in baseball that has gotten more punch out of a .191 batting average. Laudner averaged a home run every 18 at-bats in 1987 – only two regulars (Hrbek and Brunansky) had a lower AB/HR ratio. When Laudner needed to rest, Tom Kelly turned to either Sal Butera or Tom Nieto.

1B Kent Hrbek .285/.389/.545 34 HR 142 OPS+ 1.0 BFW 25 WS 4.0 WAR
Kent Hrbek had been an snubbed for the All-Star Game on a few occasions in his career, but for some reason the slight got to him more in 1987. When he found out that he had been left off the team, he went into what was described as a “profane rage,” suggesting that anybody who asks him to play on the All-Star team in the future could kiss his posterior region. While the quotes didn’t sit well with a lot of people, Hrbek had a real argument. At the break he carried a .904 OPS and was 3rd in the AL with 23 home runs.

2B Steve Lombardozzi .238/.298/.352 8 HR 70 OPS+ -1.4 BFW 10 WS 1.3 WAR
Aside from being the starting second baseman on a World Champion, Lombo may have been remembered as the guy who ignited the bench-clearing brawl in Milwaukee on June 17.  Upset that he was hit by a Mark Clear pitch, Lombo took it out on his opposite number, Jim Gantner, with a hard slide later in the inning. Gantner went after Lombardozzi igniting the brawl that sent Joe Niekro to the disabled list with a shoulder injury and knocked Sal Butera unconscious.

SS Greg Gagne .265/.310/.430 10 HR 92 OPS+ 2.3 BFW 18 WS 4.1 WAR
Gagne continued to stabilize the middle of the Twins’ defense, and he hit well enough to be an asset to the team overall. His value with the glove was best illustrated by a streak that he had in late June where his glove seemed to betray him. Gagne committed a series of game-changing errors that cost the Twins a few games (and cost Bert Blyleven a shut out). He righted the ship, however, and continued his steady ways the rest of the season.

3B Gary Gaetti .257/.303/.485 31 HR 102 OPS+ -0.2 BFW 17 WS 2.4 WAR
Gaetti’s on-base percentage and batting average was down a bit from his 1986 performance, but the power numbers were still there, as was his solid defense at third base. Cleveland manager Doc Edwards watched Kirby Puckett destroy his team in a couple of September series, but still shared the opinion that Gaetti was the Twins’ most valuable player. “Puckett is a great talent and a great ballplayer,” he said, “but Gaetti is the straw that stirs the drink for the Twins. Puckett is exciting, but Gaetti is the glue.” The glue batted .300/.348/.650 with two home runs against the Tigers in the playoffs and was named ALCS MVP.

LF Dan Gladden .249/.312/.361 8 HR 76 OPS+ -1.0 BFW 9 WS 1.3 WAR
At the start of spring training, the Giants had an excess of outfielders and the Twins had a need for a left fielder and a lead off man. The two sides came together and made a deal – the Twins sent Jose Domnguez, Ray Velazquez, and a PTBNL to San Francisco in exchange for the 29-year-old outfielder. Gladden had opened some eyes in his rookie year, finishing 4th in NL ROY voting in 1984. He struggled in 1985, but had another good season in 1986. Gladden, it was hoped, would add some speed and some “fire” to the lineup. Initially, Gladden was used mainly in a platoon role. He marched into Tom Kelly’s office and asked if that was how he was going to be used the entire year. Kelly told Gladden to be patient, but ultimately made him the team’s everyday left fielder. “He’s got a baseball mentality like a lot of people here,” said teammate Gary Gaetti, “it’s just that he’s strung a little tighter than a few of the guys.” It may have taken Gladden a few months to find his place in the laid-back Twins clubhouse, but once the wins started coming he became one of the guys.

Gladden is an interesting figure for debate. His numbers indicate that he probably should have remained in the platoon role, but he was almost universally praised and a “spark plug” for the team. The team’s success with Gladden in the lead off spot ensured that he would keep the job for several years.

CF Kirby Puckett .332/.367/.534 28 HR 132 OPS+ 2.0 BFW 29 WS 4.4 WAR
On August 28, in the first of a three-game series at Milwaukee, Kirby Puckett went 0-for-4 in a 1-0 Twins loss. Someone or something must have lit a fire under Puckett, because for the next two games he was as good as anybody had ever been in baseball. Over the course of August 29 and 30, Puckett went 10-for-11 with four home runs and 11 runs scored. Puckett was the team’s lone All-Star representative, and for the second consecutive season won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards for center field. After struggling a bit in the ALCS, Puckett was also great in the World Series, batting .357/.419/.454.

RF Tom Brunansky .259/.352/.489 32 HR 118 OPS+ 0.7 BFW 20 WS 2.5 WAR
Brunansky had been the subject of trade rumors since the end of the 1986 season, and he almost lost his job early in the 1987 season to make room for Dan Gladden. Still, he was quietly one of the team’s best hitters and probably its most under-appreciated. The trade rumors persisted, with the smart money saying the Twins would use Brunansky as trade bait for some pitching help. That didn’t materialize during the season, and Bruno rewarded the team with a very good performance in the ALCS. For Brunansky, however, the numbers simply served to bolster his value on the trade market, something the Twins tried to take advantage of early in the 1988 season. Bruno ended his Twins career with a .250/.330/.452 line with 163 home runs from 1982 to 1988.

DH Roy Smalley .275/.352/.411 8 HR 100 OPS+ -0.6 BFW 8 WS 0.1 WAR
Smalley had a fitting final season in the major leagues. He was a contributor to a World Series champion. While he wasn’t the player he had been in his first stint with the Twins, he was a valuable designated hitter and pinch hitter for the Twins.

RF/PH Randy Bush .253/.349/.413 11 HR 99 OPS+ -0.5 BFW 9 WS 0.0 WAR
Bush started the season as a platoon player in the outfield, but within the first few months he settled into the role as a left-handed pinch-hitter for the Twins. He also played some first base when injuries dictated, but for the most part Bush was considered a very good weapon off the bench.

IF Al Newman .221/.298/.303 0 HR 59 OPS+ -1.3 BFW 6 WS 0.2 WAR
Newman was acquired in a trade with the Expos prior to the season. He was the beneficiary of Kelly’s “play everybody” strategy. As a utility man, Newman spelled Lombardozzi and second, Gagne at short, and occasionally Gaetti at third.

OF Mark Davidson .267/.321/.327 1 HR 71 OPS+ -0.6 BFW 3 WS 0.0 WAR
The Twins gave Davidson every chance to win a starting job, but ultimately his role was as a late-inning defensive substitution or pinch-runner.

DH/1B Gene Larkin .266/.340/.382 4 HR 89 OPS+ -0.9 BFW 5 WS -0.1 WAR
Larkin made his major league debut in 1987, and made a valuable contribution when Kent Hrbek was down with an injury.

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