1983: Deflated

April 16, 2012

April 14, 1983

For the third time in its brief history, the Metrodome deflated.

The first time it happened was in November of 1981, just weeks after the dome was inflated for the first time. The cause was a 10-inch snowfall.

A little more than a year later, in December of 1982, the roof collapsed again, this time as a result of melting snow.

An April snowfall in 1983 didn’t figure to cause too many problems for the roof. Snow removal at the time was handled by people on the roof with shovels. One of the shovelers ran into a chunk of ice which tore a hole in the roof as the crew attempted to move it. The roof deflated on the evening of April 14. Though there was a game scheduled that night, it had been already been canceled due to the fact that the California Angels weren’t able to fly in due to the winter storm.

Though it was the last time that the roof collapsed, the issue was not dead. Seven years later, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission was awarded $3.6 million in damages from the Dome’s builders.

The roof, of course, collapsed one more time in December of 2010. By that time the Twins had already played a season in their new home, and didn’t have to worry about the dome anymore.


1982: RD

April 9, 2012

Ed: I originally wrote this in 2007, but have reposted it several times. I don’t get a large amount of comments here, but I have to excerpt this one from a 2009 version of this same post from a commenter named “hurt for life”:

Oh God, do I remember RD. RD is an icon. Any given ineffectual relief pitcher the Twins now bring in is to be referred to as RD. The year is 1984….

…I’ll omit the details about 1984 blown saves….

I made an oath at this time: I will not listen to the Twins until RD is GONE. It took one entire year plus, until I could listen again.

April 10, 1982

The Twins traded veteran infielder Roy Smalley to the New York Yankees for relief pitcher Ron Davis and minor leaguers Greg Gagne (SS) and Paul Boris (P).

Ever since the mid-1960’s, the Twins have had a revolving door for players to fill the role of “bullpen ace”. The most recent was Doug Corbett, who filled the role pretty admirably in 1980 and 1981 (220 and 154 ERA+, respectively).

In early 1982, the Twins went into full cost-cutting mode (or “build for the future” mode, depending on your point of view), and unloaded a lot of veteran players. Roy Smalley was the first to go.

Smalley came into the league with Texas in 1975. He came to the Twins in 1976 as a part of the deal that sent Bert Blyleven to Texas. The second-generation ballplayer put up solid if unspectacular numbers in his first stint with the Twins (’76-’82); his best season being 1978 when he went .273/.362/.433 and had a 122 OPS+ and 10.4 WARP3.

In exchange for Smalley, the Twins got something they really didn’t seem to need and a couple of minor leaguers. With Corbett pitching so well in previous years, it seemed odd that Davis was the player the Twins went after. About a month later, a struggling Corbett was traded to California in exchange for a couple of young players (including Tom Brunansky) and cash.

Though Corbett had been good for the Twins, Davis had been even more impressive for the Yankees. As a rookie in 1979, he compiled a 14-2 record with 2.85 ERA (144 ERA+). In 1981, he was able to strike out 13 of 15 batters he faced in one three-game stretch of appearances. Davis did it all as a middle reliever, however. The role of closer in New York belonged to Goose Gossage.

The trade represented a chance for Davis to be a closer. This is what he had been waiting for. Instead, the trade in 1982 marked the beginning of the most miserable seasons of his career.

It wasn’t so much that his numbers were bad in his tenure with the Twins. They were actually pretty good until his final season with the team:

1982 3-9 4.42 96 3.8
1983 5-8 3.34 128 5.8
1984 7-11 4.55 92 3.5
1985 2-6 3.48 126 4.0
1986 2-6 9.08 47 -1.2

The numbers weren’t Davis’ problem. His difficulties seem to come from the fact that he tended to blow saves in memorable ways. He quickly earned a reputation for blowing leads in big games, a legend that seems to have been fanned by the local media. One of RD’s critics during his Twins years, Patrick Reusse, still seemed bitter years later when he recalled some of the memorable blown saves on the 20th Anniversary of the trade that sent Davis out of town to the Cubs.


Two words: Jamie Quirk

Sept. 27, 1984: Davis relieved Mike Smithson with two runners on in the bottom of the eighth and the Twins leading 3-1 at Cleveland. Both runners scored and, with the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, Davis gave up a two-out home run to Jamie Quirk, who was making his only plate appearance in a one-week stint with the Indians. The game basically eliminated the Twins from the AL West race.


Saturday the 13th

April 13, 1985: The Twins led the Mariners 7-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Davis came in with a runner on and no outs, struck out two and walked two, then gave up a game-winning grand slam to Phil Bradley.


Monday the 13th

May 13, 1985: The Twins led 8-6 in the bottom of the ninth at Yankee Stadium. With two outs and a runner on, Ken Griffey walked and Don Mattingly hit a three-run home run for a 9-8 victory.


Roof collapses, then Twins collapse

April 26, 1986: The roof collapsed at the Metrodome, causing a delay in the bottom of the eighth inning. In the top of the ninth, with a 6-1 lead, Frank Viola gave up a two-run homer to the Angels’ George Hendrick. Davis relieved. Rob Wilfong singled and Ruppert Jones homered. Davis walked Reggie Jackson and, with two outs, Wally Joyner homered. The Angels won 7-6.


Ifs, ands and butts

May 19, 1986: The Twins led the Red Sox 7-6 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth at Fenway Park when Marty Barrett walked and Wade Boggs doubled. Bill Buckner was intentionally walked, loading the bases. Davis walked Jim Rice, forcing in the tying run, then hit Marc Sullivan in the butt, bringing in the winning run.

The fact that Reusse and the editors at the Star Tribune felt the need, 20 years later, to mark the Anniversary of the Davis trade by remembering his top blown saves is indicative of the strong feelings that still exist in this town towards Davis.

It is surprising, then, to learn that Davis was 106 for 134 in save opportunities during his Twins career, a 79% rate of success. Take away his miserable 1986 season, when he was successful in only two of eight save situations, and Davis converted 83% of his save opportunities. Not a great number, but it certainly seems high for a guy who, based on reputation, couldn’t save a game if his life depended on it (in 1987, Jeff Reardon was called the team MVP by many with only 77% of his save opportunities converted).

Whether he deserved it or not, most of the negative feelings of Twins fans over the course of some losing seasons fell squarely on the shoulder of Ron Davis. It was a relief to him when he was traded to the Cubs late in the 1986 season.

As for the other players involved in the 1982 trade the brought Davis to Minnesota: Roy Smalley ended up back with the Twins for the 1985 season. Paul Boris pitched in 23 games for the Twins, all in 1982, and that was the extent of his career. Greg Gagne became the everyday shortstop by 1985 and had a long and productive career with the Twins, including a big role on the two World Series teams in 1987 and 1991.

Ron Gardenhire 1987

February 23, 2011

via Aaron Gleeman, a glimpse into the past:

Wooden Shoes in the Hall

January 7, 2011

It has been written about at length, but at long last Bert Blyleven got the call from Cooperstown.

Over the past five years, there have been few questions in baseball circles that produce as much debate as Blyleven’s HOF case. It represents, in a way, the line between the traditional baseball press and the new breed of baseball bloggers (who may or may not be writing from mother’s basement). In the end, the “you had to be there” and “he never felt like a HOFer” arguments (which, I believe, were more about his reputation as uncooperative with the media – the gate keepers off the Hall can be a fickle bunch) lost out to the overwhelming statistical evidence.

While Bert’s inclusion feels like a victory for sanity, it may well be a short-lived one. The Hall of Fame voting this year signaled an entirely new wave of voter insanity – the PED witch hunt.

Well, I guess it will continue to give my favorite writers a reason to continue writing.


Manager of the Year

November 19, 2010

Tom Kelly was the American League’s Manager of the Year in 1991. It was his first (and only) MOY award; even though he probably turned in his best managing performance in 1988.

That season Kelly’s team finished a distant second to the Oakland A’s, led by MOY Tony LaRussa, who probably could have slept through the summer and still gotten 100 wins from one of the all-time most talented teams. That season, Kelly dealt with high expectations from a championship the year before, an unpopular early-season trade in which the front office exchanged a fan-favorite right fielder with power for a supposedly high on-base second baseman who acted as though he would rather have a root canal than play with the Twins, and a fist fight between two of his players and still managed to improve his team’s won-loss record from the year before. Still, Kelly only managed a fifth place finish.

TK had to wait four more years for his recognition, and he did it by using the formula the MOY voters could not possibly overlook: taking a last place team and making them a first place team. Kelly got all but one first place vote for that performance.

If one were to simply look over the voting results for ensuing years, one might think that TK stopped being a good manager. He wasn’t named on a single ballot for the next decade. That, of course, coincided with a dark age in Twins’ history, one that was just coming to an end when Kelly finished third in the AL MOY vote in 2001.

Ron Gardenhire hasn’t had any such stretches in his career so far. With the exception of 2005 and 2007, Gardy has been either second or third in voting every year. For someone who follows the Twins year in and year out, it is hard to say that Gardy’s managing this season was any better (or worse) than the previous years, and I would argue that he had more talent in 2010 than on any of his other division-winning teams. Most see his recent win as more of a lifetime achievement award for the man who has led his team to six division titles in nine seasons. In that sense, I do think the award is deserved.

It would be wise not to count on such recognition for Gardy next season. Unlike for the Gold Glove award, in which a Gold Glove the previous season is the greatest predictor for success, the MOY award is less inert. Since its inception in 1983, no AL manager has won in consecutive seasons (Bobby Cox repeated in 1995 – the only NL Manager to do so).

1987: Twins Clinch the West

September 29, 2010

Originally posted as part of the Hot Stove 1987 series.

Monday September 28, 1987

Twins 5, Rangers 3

Twins Clinch AL West Title

For 24 out of 31 players on the Twins’ roster, the celebration was completely new. Those players had never won at the major league level before Monday’s clincher in Texas.

For six players, the win had to be particularly sweet. Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, Frank Viola, Tim Laudner, and Randy Bush all came up together in 1982. That season, the Twins lost 102 games, the worst record since the franchise moved to Minnesota. Now, six seasons later, they were pouring champagne on each other in the clubhouse at Arlington Stadium.

It didn’t look as though the celebration would happen early. Joe Niekro allowed three runs in the first inning. That Texas lead held until the top of the fourth. With two on and two out, Steve Lombardozzi launched a drive into the left field bleachers. The score remained tied until the eighth.

Once again, Lombardozzi came through with an RBI single to put the Twins ahead. An insurance run scored on a balk, but the Twins focus turned towards finishing the game before the Royals-Mariners game (a game the M’s led throughout) became a final.

At about 10:35 PM, Jeff Reardon coaxed Geno Petralli to hit a liner to Lombardozzi at second; Lombo relayed to Hrbek for the double play, and the celebration began.

The night’s hero summed it up to Mark Vancil in the Star Tribune:

“We wanted to get it over before they flashed a final on the Kansas City game,” Lombardozzi said. “We wanted to win it ourselves. And we went out and did it. I wanted to make the 1987 highlight film. Now I’m in Twins history forever.”

Though the celebration continued into the night, all eyes now turn to the AL East race that will determine who the Twins play in the 1987 ALCS.

1981: The Final Game at “The Met”

September 27, 2010

Originally posted last year.

Wednesday September 30, 1981

15,900 gathered at Metropolitan Stadium to say goodbye to the place that the Twins had called home since moving to Minnesota in 1961. There had been some controversy about the new domed stadium in Minneapolis, but it would be ready for the 1982 season.

While the game wasn’t a meaningful one in terms of the standings for the Twins, Kansas City was a different story. The Royals needed a win to clinch a playoff berth. More important, however, was the playoff standing. The Oakland A’s had won the first half of the strike-shortened season and would play some other team from the AL West in a best-of-five playoff for the AL West title. Kansas City clinched at least second place with the win over the Twins, but still needed to hold off the A’s in order to keep home field in the series.

The Royals won the game 5-2 powered by a 3-run fourth inning in which Clint Hurdle hit a two-run home run off of Fernando Arroyo. The final Twins’ home run at the Met came off the bat of Pete Mackanin in the second inning, the blast that ended up also representing the last of the Twins’ runs in Metropolitan Stadium.