Thursday, July 30, 2009

All Metrodome Team: Visitors

As odd as it seems, the Minnesota Twins have been spending all season trying to make its fan base nostalgic about the Metrodome—even though it’s a dump of a stadium with uncomfortable seats that don’t always face the action. They’ve done promotions, give aways, countdowns, etc. to try and convince everyone that we should feel sad about leaving the Big Inflatable Toilet, before they hype everyone up on Target Field. One of the ways they are doing this is by naming the All Metrodome Team. This team is supposedly comprised of the best (and most liked since it’s voted on by the fans) Twins players at each position from 1982, when the Dome opened, to 2009. Well, I believe that any make believe team needs to have a make believe opponent. So after the jump, I will unveil my All Metrodome Team…the visiting team, that is. This team is made up of players who have absolutely destroyed the Twins during the Metrodome era.

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t have official stats for any of these guys (I tried, believe me, but I’m not so great on the Internets). I’m basing my selections based solely on my knowledge and watching 150+ Twins games a year for the last 10-15 years. This should explain why everyone on this team played post-1990: I don’t have the memory or the stats to include anyone from the 80’s.

*UPDATE: Thanks to a loyal reader, I have now added some statistics to go with my selections. These are their career numbers against the Twins.

First Base: Jim Thome
185 G, .313 BA, .632 SLG, 57 HR, 142 RBI, 1.044 OPS, 202 H

Whether he was playing for the Indians or the White Sox, Thome has spent most of his career in the AL Central and has been punishing Twins pitching the entire time. With his patented aim the bat at you pose and giant uppercut swing, Jim is in the top 3 or 4 for homeruns hit against the Twins in team history. If it was a key situation where a homerun would tie or give the other team the lead, and Thome was up, you may as well have walked away from the TV so you didn’t have to see the inevitable.

Second Base: Ray Durham
105 G, .280 BA, 22 2B, 17 SB, 112 H

This was one of the easiest selections in my mind—and one of the most frustrating opponents during his time in the bigs. Durham was never an elite player. Sure, he made a couple of All-Star teams, but for the most part he was a stop gap: a player brought in for a year or two because a team thought they were going to make a run or had a younger player who wasn’t quite ready yet. However, I vividly remember Ray hitting double after double against Twins pitching, whether he was in an Oakland uniform, or playing for the hated White Sox. It always sucks when a glorified role player consistently destroys your favorite team.

Shortstop: Carlos Guillen
108 G, .305 BA, .843 OPS, 26 2B, 116 H

If there’s one thing Guillen is, it’s a professional hitter (and a below average fielder). Never was that quite so evident than when he would come up against Minnesota late in a close game. It was a virtual certainty that he would find a way to bleed a ball through the infield or rip a double down the line to give the Mariners/Tigers a lead, and likely a victory. A career .288 hitter, I’d bet he’s closer to .350 against the local 9.

Third Base: Casey Blake
97 G, .285 BA, .801 OPS, 23 2B, 110 H

Blake is a very important part of the visiting All-Metrodome Team because not only did he crush Twins fans souls, but he represents a very common theme: former players coming back to Minnesota and dominating. Even though he was an unimpressive minor leaguer before the Twins gave him a couple of shots at being an everyday player in the early 2000’s, Blake seems to have some sort of vendetta against the team. If someone told me that half of his career homeruns came against the Twins, I wouldn’t even bat an eye.

Outfield: Ken Griffey Jr.
137 G, .287 BA, .941 OPS, 42 HR, 116 RBI, 151 H

To be fair, Junior kills just about everybody. There’s a reason why he’s a lock to be a first ballot Hall of Famer and was every kid’s favorite player in the 90’s. But he didn’t have to prove it every time he played against Minnesota? You expect the best players in the league to play well against your team and come up with big hits: that why they’re the best. Still, there wasn’t one pitcher on the Twins staff who wasn’t guaranteed to give up a long ball to Griffey. And if it was a Radke-Griffey Jr. matchup? I don’t think Vegas would even put odds on an HR—it was going to happen. Even now, at the tail end of his career, Griff still destroys the Twins, as evidenced by his short stint with the White Sox last year, and his power resurgence during opening weekend this year.

Outfield: Tim Salmon
105 G, .272 BA, .915 OPS, 25 2B, 100 H

Salmon is the only position player on this list who has never played in the AL Central, which makes his inclusion on this team all the more impressive. From his Rookie of the Year campaign in ‘93 until his retirement in 2006, he consistently tore up Twins pitching whenever he got the chance (though he did conveniently stink up the joint in the 2002 ALCS). To be fair, I could include a number of Angels players from that era as well since they, along with the Yankees, were one of the teams the Twins could never beat. But Salmon nudged out Garrett Anderson to get the spot.

Outfield: Albert Belle
107 G, .315 BA, .994 OPS, 38 2B, 97 RBI

Speaking of teams that killed the Twins in the late 90’s, here’s the representative from the Cleveland Indians. With a lineup that also included Kenny Lofton, Carlos “One if by land, two if by sea, three if” Baerga, and Manny Ramirez, it was easy to see why they were the class of the American League at the end of the century. Though all of the players listed were studs, no one found the seats more often than Joey. With his big, hulking frame (likely enhanced by steroids) and huge, powerful swing (using a bat that was likely corked), Al spent a lot of time in the Dome lightly jogging around the base paths. And yes, I’m still bitter.

Designated Hitter: Frank Thomas
186 G, .290 BA, .969 OPS, 42 2B, 52 HR, 142 RBI, 194 H

If my memory serves me right, Thomas is in the top 3 for homeruns against the Twins. That alone gets him on this team. As a kid, he was the scariest, most intimidating player I ever saw. He was a 6’5”, 250+ lbs homerun hitting monster. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who was scared of him—so were Twins pitchers who were more than happy to guide pitches over the middle of the plate just to appease him (or so it seemed). They were even kind enough to groove one for him to get his 500th career homer. Frank will likely go into the HOF at some point, but if he had played his whole career against the Twins he’d have 800+ HR’s and be considered the greatest player of all time.

Starting Pitcher: Mike Mussina
33 G, 22-6, 3.10 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 3.51 K/BB

His career record against the Twins was brought up every single time he pitched against us (thanks Dick and Bert), thus deflating any hope that I’d ever have that we had a chance to finally beat him. Like most of the players on this team, he did damage against the Twins with multiple organizations, but I remember him best when he was in Baltimore. I used to hate Moose as a little kid because I thought the way he dipped his shoulders to look at the runner on first was a balk every time (still do), yet it was never called. Then as a teenager/adult I hated him because seeing that knuckle-curve meant that there was no chance for my favorite team to win the game.

Starting Pitcher: Mark Buehrle
39 G, 23-15, 4.00 ERA, 5.7 K/9, 4 CG

Don’t let the last couple of starts against the Twins fool you: Buehrle has owned us ever since he came into the league in 2000. Even during that run of division titles earlier in this decade, we would always lose to the White Sox when he was pitching. Granted, any tall, imposing lefty usually killed the Twins, and maybe it’s because we faced him so often, but when I saw Buehrle’s name as that game’s starting pitcher, I started looking at the matchups for the next day to see if we would be able to get the game back that we were about to lose.

Closer: Mariano Rivera
34 GF, 26 SV, 1.20 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 5.36 K/BB, 0.850 WHIP

I know, I know: this one isn’t really fair. Mariano is arguably the best and most dominating closer of all time. But I don’t care. I’ve seen way too many Twins hitters freeze looking at that nasty cutter for strike three in the ninth inning to not include him on this team. The Twins have a well publicized awful record against the Yankees, and it’s not because we get blown out all of the time. Quite the contrary actually. We usually hang in against the Bronx bombers, only to have Rivera step on our throats at the end of the game every time.

Manager: Ron Gardenhire

Gardy beat out a very tough field to gain this honor. Guys like Mike Scioscia, Joe Torre, and Mike Hargrove were all considered, but none of them has done more to defeat the Twins than Ron has. His pitching selections, terrible use of the bullpen, unjustifiable lineups, insane pinch hitting choices (Luis Rodriguez anyone?), refusal to let lefties hit against lefties, playing AAA call-ups immediately, and so on make this a very simple choice when you really look at it.

Again, this is all based on my memory of watching games. I tried not to include players just because they achieved a milestone hit against the Twins, which happened often (see: Ripken Jr., Cal, Murray, Eddie, etc.). Did I miss someone? Do you disagree with a selection or five? Post it in the comments section…


Colin said...

Good piece Q, I'm not sure about all the stats either, since my membership to the elias sports bureau has been revoked due to banned substances, but I gotta think that although the Twins-Blake connection has warranted merit for that selection, I've cursed A-Rod too many times to not believe he belongs on the list.

Mr. Cue said...

A-Rod seemed too obvious of a choice because he dominates everyone (much like Griffey I suppose). You are correct though, here are his career numbers against the Twins:
122 G, .330 BA, 1.077 OPS, 44 HR, 110 RBI, 154 H

Krebs said...

Q - when can loyal TKOT readers anticipate to your list of all-time Monster Truck Greats to be published? Waiting...