January 23, 2006

Top 40 Minnesota Twins: Intro

I've long wanted to incorporate more Twins history here, rather than always focusing on trade rumors and Ron Gardenhire's nightly lineup construction. However, that's difficult because I can't talk about the time I saw Jim Kaat toss a shutout against the Yankees or what a joy it was to watch Rod Carew lay a bunt down the third-base line. By the time I was old enough to be a baseball fan, 30 years of the team's history was already in the books.

With that said, over the weekend I began working on an ongoing series of entries devoted to Twins history based on an idea I stumbled across while reading one of my favorite blogs. Over at his great Angels/Dodgers Double Play Blog, Rob McMillin is counting down the "Top 40 Dodgers of All Time." He is also participating in a countdown of the "100 Greatest Angels" over at another good blog, Halos Heaven.

The idea of ranking and discussing the greatest players in team history seems like an interesting yet simple way to take a stroll through Twins history. Plus, it'll give me a long-term topic to write about whenever I can't think of something more timely (I'll devote one day to each player). Before I officially kick off the countdown tomorrow with the 40th-best player in Twins history, here are a few notes and ground rules:

  • The rankings only include time spent playing for the Minnesota Twins. In other words, David Ortiz doesn't get credit for turning into one of the best players in baseball after joining the Red Sox and Paul Molitor doesn't get credit for being one of the best players in baseball for the Brewers and Blue Jays. The Twins began playing on April 11, 1961, and that's when these rankings start as well.
  • Peak value is important, but you've also got to stick around for a while to crack the top 40. Someone like Chili Davis was really valuable for two seasons and is an important part of Twins history, but at the end of the day he played fewer than 300 games in a Twins uniform. Same thing goes for Jack Morris, who tossed an amazing 10-inning shutout in perhaps the most important game in team history, but started just 39 other times for the Twins. Neither guy makes the top 40.
  • I combed through the hundreds of guys who have played for the Twins over the years and came up with a preliminary list of 150 who could reasonably be considered somewhat valuable players while in Minnesota. That trimmed down list still included guys like Davis and Morris, who weren't with the team for very long, and guys like Denny Hocking and Pat Mahomes, who really have no business being associated with anything having to do with the words "top" and "all time."

    The Twins have had more than their share of great players since 1961, but you'd be surprised by how steep the dropoff is once you get past about 50 names. Consider that Luis Rivas safely made the cut for the 150 players I looked at closely, as did immortals like Frankie Rodriguez, Scott Leius, Rich Becker, Danny Thompson, Tim Laudner, and Pat Meares.

    That's something to think about in the context of these rankings, and a big part of why I chose to do a top 40 rather than a top 50 or top 100. Not only do the resumes get thoroughly unimpressive once you get past around 30 or so, no one in the 41-100 range played long enough or well enough for the Twins to really separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

  • Lastly, if you've got any ideas for how to make this a better, more interesting series of entries, please e-mail me or leave a note in the comments section. I'm open to any and all ideas, and would appreciate a link to interesting articles, facts or general tidbits of information related to players who figure to crack the top 40.
  • UPDATE: As the list progresses, I'll update this entry with links to each profile.

    #23 Cesar Tovar
    #24 Shane Mack
    #25 Brian Harper
    #26 Eddie Guardado
    #27 Larry Hisle
    #28 Tom Brunansky
    #29 Kevin Tapani
    #30 Jacque Jones
    #31 Butch Wynegar
    #32 Al Worthington
    #33 Greg Gagne
    #34 Matt Lawton
    #35 Steve Braun
    #36 Dave Boswell
    #37 Jimmie Hall
    #38 Eric Milton
    #39 Scott Erickson
    #40 Randy Bush

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