October 29, 2002

Not so free agents and a blast from the past

I was looking at ESPN.com's list of free agents today.

After I got done dreaming about Jim Thome DHing for the Twins and Jeff Kent taking over for my favorite whipping boy, Luis Rivas, at second base, I actually saw the name of a player that I think could help the Twins at a reasonable cost.

I don't think the Twins have signed even a semi-major free agent since the days of Terry Steinbach and Paul Molitor, so any guy they sign this year will probably be for a 1 year deal for not a lot of money.

Who is someone valuable that could be available for a deal like that?

Ron Gant.

Twins fans will almost certainly remember Gant from his days with the Atlanta Braves.

Gant was a full-time outfielder for the Braves in the early 90s and was a pretty good bet to hit about 30 homers and drive in 100 runs.

He broke his leg in a motorcycle accident prior to the 1994 season and ended up missing the entire (strike-shortened) season.

He came back in 1995 with the Cincinnati Reds and picked up right where he left off, hitting .276 with 29 homers in only 410 at bats.

Then he moved on to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he played from 1996-1998, having 1 good year out of 3.

He has been with 6 teams over the last 5 seasons, including the San Diego Padres this season.

Right now, Ron Gant is a 37-year old role player in need of a job.

I think Ron Gant could really help the Twins next year.

What is the one thing the Twins offense needs?

If you said someone that can hit left handed pitching, you are right.

And Ron Gant is that guy.

Here are his numbers against lefties over the last few years:

Year   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG  HR  2B  BB

1999 130 .300 .421 .469 5 5 27
2000 124 .315 .412 .565 7 8 22
2001 100 .270 .380 .490 4 4 19
2002 109 .294 .383 .569 7 9 17

He basically crushes lefties wherever he goes.

He hits for a high average, great power and he draws walks.

Ron Gant would be a perfect fit in the Twins lineup against lefties.

He is a capable left fielder and would make an awesome platoon partner for Jacque Jones or a good DH against lefties (possibly platooning with David Ortiz, if the Twins keep him).

And I think he would be pretty cheap too.

As an added bonus, he isn't horrible against right handed pitching either.

This year he hit .245/.313/.445 with 11 homers in 200 at bats against righties.

He is a free agent, he is probably cheap, he is a veteran, he has a ton of playoff experience and he absolutely destroys left handed pitchers.

Sounds like a perfect fit to me.

Someone get Terry Ryan the number for Ron Gant's agent.

Speaking of Ron Gant...

I got home from class this afternoon and was flipping through the channels when I came across one of the greatest games in baseball history on ESPN Classic.

The 7th game of the 1991 World Series between the Twins and Braves.

I tuned in late, so I only got to see the 9th and 10th innings.

I don't think I had seen a replay of that game before and my memory of it, while pretty good for someone that was only 8 at the time, was pretty shaky.

First of all, what an awesome game.

Everyone remembers the Lonnie Smith base running blunder that cost Atlanta a run.

But, what I did not remember was that the Twins had 2 men on base and zero outs in the bottom of the 9th and weren't able to score the winning run.

In the bottom of the 10th, Dan Gladden lead off with a blooper that landed between the shortstop and the center fielder for a hit.

Gladden, for reasons that can only be described as temporary insanity mixed with adreniline, decided that he would never stop running on the play and try for a double.

He surprised the Atlanta defense with his hustle and barely beat the throw by the center fielder...you guessed it, Ron Gant!

Probably not a real good decision by Gladden, but hey, it worked!

That set up the winning rally.

Chuck Knoblauch bunted him over to third.

The Braves intentionally walked Puckett and Hrbek to load the bases and set up the force at the plate.

And Gene Larkin, who was struggling with a knee injury, came up with one of the biggest pinch hits in baseball history, a long fly ball "single" over the head of Atlanta left fielder Brian Hunter.

A few things that I found really interesting in the two innings I was able to watch...

The announcers for the game were Jack Buck (Joe Buck's legendary father) and...TIM MCCARVER!

I had no idea Tim McCarver had been ruining World Series broadcasts for so long.

Ron Gardenhire, minus the white goatee and about 30 pounds was coaching third base.

Current Twins third base coach Al Newman was a late game substitution at shortstop for Greg Gagne.

Al was probably minus about 50 pounds.

Since Newman never really could hit his weight (and this is when he was skinny), Tom Kelly pinch hit for him in the 9th inning.

With Gagne already out of the game, that meant rookie Scott Leius, normally a third baseman, had to play short for what turned out to be the final inning.

Leius lives in Minnesota and I actually got a chance to meet him last year...really nice guy.

Dan Gladden, also minus about 30 pounds (notice a pattern here?) had the full blonde mullet hairstyle going on.

The mullet is a horrible haircut in almost any circumstance, but I have to say that it looks kinda cool when you are stetching a bloop single into a double in the 10th inning a 0-0 7th game of the World Series.

Jack Morris, as well all know, threw a complete game, 10 inning(!) shutout for the win in game 7.

I was always curious as to how many pitches he threw in that game and, lucky for me, I saw the pitch count graphic during the first at bat of the 10th inning.

I think (I forgot to write it down) it had him at 127 pitches and that was before he recorded an out in the 10th.

My guess is he got up around 140-145 pitches on the game.

If ever there was a time to say "F%$@ pitch counts!" that was it.

Finally, here is a little trivia question for all you Twins (or Braves) fans out there...

Who was Gene Larkin pinch hitting for in the bottom of the 10th?

Check back tomorrow for the answer.

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