C AJ Pierzynski 2.3 WAR
While Pierzynski continued to be a consistent performer for the Twins in his second full season, his reputation for talking during games started to become more and more public. A “jackass” is the term Oakland closer Billy Koch used to describe Pierzysnki. Gardenhire appreciated the edge that the team gained from Pierzynski’s antics:
“Actually, it’s entertaining for me to watch guys get mad at him,” he said. “Then I know it’s taking away from their game.”
1B Doug Mientkiewicz 1.5 WAR
After flirting with .400 at the start of the 2001 season, Mientkiewicz’ batting average hovered around the .240 mark much of the season, causing a lot of concern from fans and from the player himself. The standard line in reports was that he still was a strong defender but he was struggling at the plate. Occasionally his .365 on-base percentage was mentioned, but it was still an undervalued skill at the time. Overall, his production was down, but 2002 was not as disappointing of a season for Mientkiewicz as it seemed at the time to many.
2B Luis Rivas -0.2 WAR
Rivas’ play did not improve. Though the Twins gave a returning Jay Canizaro some time at second base, there was never a time when Rivas’ job seemed to be in jeopardy.
SS Cristian Guzman 1.4 WAR
Whether it was due to lingering injuries or just natural regression, Guzman took a giant step back from his All-Star performance in 2001. Perhaps due to the fact that he flashed some brilliance a season before, Guzman seemed to get more pressure from management and fans to improve than his double play partner.
3B Corey Koskie 4.0 WAR
Another year, another really good season from Corey Koskie. At age 29, however, he was starting to show signs of breaking down. 2002 began a steady decline of appearances and an increase in disabled list visits.
LF Jacque Jones 5.4 WAR
One of Ron Gardenhire’s first moves as manager was to make Jacque Jones the every day lead off hitter despite his struggles against left-handed pitching. Jones responded with a monster season, his best in the major leagues. Though he improved against lefties, he still had a fairly drastic split (.590 vs. .952 OPS) and would have been better utilized with a right-handed platoon partner.
CF Torii Hunter 3.5 WAR
On a July 17th game at Cleveland, Torri Hunter took a Danys Baez pitch in the ribs. In response, he picked up the baseball and fired back at the Cleveland pitcher. Hunter was tossed from the game and served a three-game suspension later in the season. This came less than two weeks after Hunter became the hero of the famous Bud Selig All-Star tie game when he leaped over the fence to take a home run away from Barry Bonds. Hunter had his best year so far at the plate, and won his second consecutive Gold Glove, cementing himself as the standout player of the young team.
RF Bobby Kielty 2.7 WAR
RF Dustan Mohr 2.2 WAR
RF Michael Cuddyer 0.8 WAR
While Gardenhire did not want to platoon in left field, right field was a different story. When the team dealt Brian Buchanan early in the season, it left a right-field by committee situation. As it settled for the bulk of the season, Dustan Mohr played against left-handed pitching and Bobby Kielty played against right-handed pitching. That all changed late in the season when Michael Cuddyer was called up and earned the starting job for the playoffs by impressing Ron Gardenhire with his play in September.
DH David Ortiz 1.3 WAR
While David Ortiz produced with a career year and was reportedly the most popular Twin in the clubhouse, he was still considered a frustration to management. Some of it was due to injuries, but the history of the Twins and David Ortiz seemed to have been a rocky one from the start in the mid-90’s, when the team reportedly tried to teach him to shorten his stroke and punch balls up the middle or hit them the other way. Ortiz was very critical of this approach after he was gone, and the results on the field once he moved on seem to suggest he might have been right. In any case, rather than offering the DH arbitration, the Twins decided to release him in December of 2002. He went on, of course, to have a Hall of Fame career with the Boston Red Sox, but it is easy to forget that every other team passed on Ortiz when the Twins let him go.
UT Denny Hocking 0.1 WAR
Hocking’s 2002 may best be remembered as the time when he made the last out of the ALDS only to sustain an injury in the celebration that caused him to miss the ALCS.