1989 Minnesota Twins
Manager: Tom Kelly 4th Season (4th with Minnesota 268-241)
80 W 82 L 740 RS 738 RA 5th AL West 19.0 GB (Oakland 99-63)
4.57 RPG (AL = 4.29) 4.28 ERA (AL = 3.88)
.694 DER (8th AL)
All-Stars (2) Gary Gaetti, Kirby Puckett
Franchise (1901-1989) 6548-7157-110; 19-25 Post Season; 15-18 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1989) 2334-2293-6; 11-14 Post Season; 7-7 WS
After the success the team had in 1987 and 1988, the result of the 1989 season was a huge disappointment for Twins fans. By the time the trade deadline rolled around, Oakland seemed to be well on their way to winning the West, and the attention that was focused on the Twins had them in the role of seller. The big bargaining chip they had to play was last year’s Cy Young award winner, Frank Viola. The trade was the topic of Twins-related conversation in the weeks leading up to the deadline, and the weeks after, though the fruits of the deal would not be fully realized until 1991.
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1989
C Brian Harper .325/.353/.449 8 HR 119 OPS+ 0.8 BFW 14 WS 2.4 WAR
C Tim Laudner .222/.293/.351 6 HR 77 OPS+ -0.7 BFW 3 WS -0.1 WAR
Harper was known as an good-hitting catcher but not necessarily a great defender for the bulk of his career. Interestingly, it was his defensive improvement that probably helped him earn the job as the starting catcher for the Twins. The team was unhappy with Tim Laudner’s defense, tried out a few other backstops in spring training (including Minnesota native Greg Olson), but ultimately began the season with Laudner behind the plate. Harper continued to hit early in the season while Laudner slumped, but the team continuously referred to Harper’s improved defense as the reason for the change.
1B Kent Hrbek .272/.360/.517 25 HR 139 OPS+ 1.5 BFW 18 WS 3.4 WAR
1989 marked the third in a string of seasons for Hrbek in which he was among the top first basemen in baseball. Hrbek missed more than a month of the season due to a dislocated shoulder suffered while diving for a ball in mid-May.
2B Wally Backman .231/.306/.284 1 HR 63 OPS+ -3.0 BFW 4 WS -0.9 WAR
2B/IF Al Newman .253/.341/.303 0 HR 78 OPS+ -1.9 BFW 11 WS 0.9 WAR
Two major holes the Twins felt they had in the late 1980’s were at second base and in the second spot in the batting order. Tom Herr was a bust in 1988, so the Twins acquired 29-year-old veteran Wally Backman in hopes of filling those holes. Backman did not end the string for the Twins, having one of his worst in his career. He spent 53 days on the disabled list with a rotator cuff problem, but blamed the American League for most of his hitting problems. He was granted free agency and returned to the National League with the Pirates in 1990, and had a much better season, leaving the Twins still searching for answers at second base and in the two spot.
SS Greg Gagne .272/.298/.424 9 HR 96 OPS+ -0.2 BFW 12 WS 3.5 WAR
Gagne’s consistency earned him $1 million for 1990 in salary arbitration, but he and the Twins were unable to come to terms on a long term deal, meaning that Gagne would be an unrestricted free agent after the 1990 season.
3B Gary Gaetti .251/.286/.404 19 HR 88 OPS+ -0.1 BFW 12 WS 1.1 WAR
At the age of 30, Gaetti took a pretty big step back in 1989. From 1986-1988 his OPS was .849 (125 OPS+). Prior to that stretch, Gaetti’s OPS was .704 (89 OPS+). In 1989, he reverted to his pre-1986 form. While his strikeout rate remained pretty consistent, he walked a lot less in 1989, and only 27% of his hits were for extra bases compared with averages in the high 40’s for the previous three seasons. All in all it was a season to forget for Gary Gaetti.
LF Dan Gladden .295/.331/.410 8 HR 103 OPS+ 0.4 BFW 12 WS 1.1 WAR
Though he still didn’t get on base as much as you would want a lead off man to, Gladden’s .331 OBP was his high as a member of the Twins. 1989 also marked the end of Gladden’s career as a major league pitcher. His mop-up duty for a game marked his second appearance and second inning pitched. He finished with a 4.50 ERA.
CF Kirby Puckett .339/.379/.465 9 HR 131 OPS+ 3.5 BFW 27 WS 4.3 WAR
Puckett entered the last day of the season in a virtual tie with Carney Lansford for the AL batting title. He had what seemed like a comfortable lead a few days earlier, but went 0-for-7 in the two games prior to make the last day decisive. Puckett went 2-for-5 against Seattle, while Lansford went 0-for-3, giving Kirby his first and only batting title. While his home runs were down from the bar he had set in the previous years, Puckett hit a career-high 45 doubles. He only struck out 59 times, a rate of 8.6 %, which was a career low. It all added up to another great season for Puckett, who used it as leverage and signed a contract after the season was over to become the first baseball player to make $3 million per year.
RF Randy Bush .263/.347/.435 14 HR 114 OPS+ 0.4 BFW 13 WS -0.4 WAR
While Randy Bush was a well-liked player and a good hitter, Tom Kelly and the Twins’ organization did not seem to thrilled with the fact that he was the everyday right fielder.
DH Jim Dwyer .316/.390/.404 3 HR 119 OPS+ 0.4 BFW 6 WS 0.8 WAR
The Twins traded for Dwyer at the end of the 1988 season to try and fill the hole at DH. The 39-year-old did an admirable job, especially against right-handed pitchers. So well-regarded was Dwyer that he actually batted clean up for a spell when Hrbek was injured. The Twins traded Dwyer to the Expos late in the season, but he would be back to finish his career with the Twins.
1B/DH/OF Gene Larkin .267/.353/.368 6 HR 99 OPS+ -0.8 BFW 11 WS 0.7 WAR
OF John Moses .281/.333/.368 1 HR 93 OPS+ -0.1 BFW 8 WS -0.2 WAR
OF Carmelo Castillo .257/.305/.454 8 HR 106 OPS+ 0.1 BFW 5 WS -0.5 WAR