With a brand new normal supervisor and new faces throughout the roster, the Minnesota Twins have been rebooting in 2008. However they have been nonetheless very a lot contenders within the AL Central, and would battle for it right down to the season’s final day.
Picture courtesy of Brock Beauchamp
We’re operating a 20-part collection by which we glance again at every Minnesota Twins season of the 2000s. A rotation of various writers will spotlight key moments, unearth forgotten particulars, and share nostalgic tales from the previous twenty years main as much as the current. This installment covers the 2008 season.
Workforce File: 88-75
End: 2nd Place in AL Central
All-Stars: Joe Mauer ©, Justin Morneau (1B), Joe Nathan (RP)
Awards: Joe Mauer (Gold Glove & Silver Slugger, C), Justin Morneau (Silver Slugger, 1B)
Because the 2008 season arrived, all the pieces felt NEW. Although Ron Gardenhire‘s teaching employees remained intact, a brand new normal supervisor was operating the present, with Invoice Smith taking up following Terry Ryan‘s resignation the earlier September.
And Smith’s first roster was full of recent faces, a stark departure from the tradition of continuity and homegrown expertise he’d inherited. Gardenhire’s Opening Day lineup on the Metrodome featured:
- Middle fielder and leadoff man Carlos Gómez, prize of the offseason’s Johan Santana commerce. Regardless of a uncooked and unrefined sport, the athletic 22-year-old was thrust into motion straightaway, with hopes that his exhilarating pace and vitality might reignite a fanbase feeling gutted by the lack of its elite ace starter. Whereas he positively had his moments, Gómez’s inexperience confirmed typically, and together with his sub-.300 OBP he was badly miscast as a leadoff man (a task he fortunately misplaced to rookie Denard Span within the second half).
- Left fielder Delmon Younger, prize of the offseason blockbuster that despatched Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to Tampa. The Twins envisioned Younger, a primary total draft choose turned No. 1 total prospect turned Rookie of the Yr runner-up, as a long-term resolution to their offensive shortcomings, and in addition an important lineup infusion with one of many workforce’s most important energy threats (Torii Hunter) departing by way of free company. In what would turn into a development, the free-swinging Younger confirmed little development or development from his rookie yr, mixing in ugly protection to turn into a net-negative.
- Designated hitter Craig Monroe, a veteran introduced in to platoon on the place with Jason Kubel because the DH carousel saved spinning. Monroe lasted solely 58 video games as a Twin, earlier than Kubel (lastly) took a agency grasp of the DH function.
- Second baseman Brendan Harris. The Twins had soured on Alexi Casilla after he sputtered to a .516 OPS in 2007, so the 27-year-old Harris, acquired alongside Younger within the Rays commerce, bought the nod at second. Casilla would quickly re-stake his declare as Harris shifted into extra of an infield utility function.
- A left facet of the infield comprising Adam Everett (shortstop) and Mike Lamb (third base). Each have been veteran free brokers, signed to low cost short-term offers, and each flamed out fairly rapidly. In lots of regards, the brand new GM Smith was exhibiting a number of purposeful similarity to his predecessor. As one other instance…
- Beginning pitcher Liván Hernández. Coming off a season in Arizona the place he posted a Four.93 ERA and led the league in hits allowed, Hernández signed a one-year, $5 million cope with the Twins in February. Then, he was named Opening Day starter, as Gardenhire determined to go together with his most skilled possibility within the absence of the one two Opening Day starters he’d ever recognized: Santana and Brad Radke. Hernández and his 5.48 ERA have been traded in July.
The brand new additions have been just about roundly disappointing, as Smith’s preliminary efforts to enhance the roster fell flat. However fortunately, his incumbent expertise was ok to make this workforce a pesky postseason contender.
Joe Mauer gained one other batting title, together with a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger, ending fourth within the AL MVP voting. Justin Morneau performed in all 163 of the workforce’s video games, batting .300 with 129 RBIs and a franchise-record 47 doubles. He completed as MVP runner-up behind Boston’s Dustin Pedroia. The M&M Boys have been driving the bus.
Because the aforementioned rundown alluded, many passengers have been nonetheless trying to find their seats. However a number of did settle in over the course of the marketing campaign.
Michael Cuddyer battled accidents, however his absence opened the door for Span to debut in spectacular trend, slashing .294/.387/.432 and rapidly entrenching himself as leadoff hitter together with his stunningly superior plate strategy. Kubel mashed 20 homers with an .805 OPS to solidify his DH maintain. Casilla got here to suit Gardenhire’s beloved prototype as a bat-handling middle-infielder within the lineup’s second spot. He bunted like loopy and led the league in sacrifice hits.
Whereas uneven, the offensive unit was – on steadiness – a strong one. And the identical will be mentioned for a reworked rotation, the place younger arms have been coming collectively to fill Santana’s void.
Scott Baker led the best way, posting a Three.45 ERA in 28 begins as all of a sudden the workforce’s longest-tenured starter. Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins each gained 12 video games of their first full seasons. Nick Blackburn grabbed the torch from departed Carlos Silva as an environment friendly, strike-throwing, pitch-to-contact righty. Sadly, Francisco Liriano opened the season within the minors and totaled solely 76 innings with the Twins as he handled diminished velocity and wavering command in his return from Tommy John surgical procedure.
The bullpen typically took a step again, exterior of the ever-reliable Joe Nathan, who saved 39 video games with a 1.33 ERA contemporary off signing a four-year contract extension in March.
Altogether, this was an excellent younger workforce nonetheless trying to find greatness. They raced in lockstep with the Chicago White Sox atop the Central for a lot of the season, culminating in similar data after 162 video games. The 2 golf equipment confronted off in a tiebreaker at U.S. Mobile Subject, the place Jim Thome‘s solo homer towards Blackburn proving decisive as Chicago took the division title with a 1-Zero win.
It was a becoming finish for a bunch that was nearly, however not fairly, able to push again into rivalry. Destiny would tilt of their favor quickly sufficient.
Workforce MVP: Joe Mauer ©
Different Contenders: Justin Morneau (1B), Denard Span (CF), Scott Baker (SP), Joe Nathan (RP)
After a little bit of a down yr in 2007, Mauer got here again sturdy in ’08, profitable his second batting title in three years with a .328 common to go together with his .864 OPS. Taking part in in 146 video games, together with a career-high 135 begins at catcher, Mauer scored 98 runs, drove in 85, and walked 34 extra occasions than he struck out. He additionally gained his first of three straight Gold Gloves at catcher.
His 6.Four fWAR led all Twins – practically doubling Morneau’s Three.Three – and tied Mauer with the AL MVP Pedroia for 12th within the majors.
Three Most Pivotal Video games
July 26th: Gained @ Cleveland Indians, 11-Four
Because the All-Star break approached, the Twins had fallen right into a stoop. Tied for first place 5 days earlier, they’d suffered a sweep at Yankee Stadium, after which adopted by dropping their first tilt in Cleveland. Instantly three again, and searching for to snap a five-game shedding streak, the Twins despatched their greatest starter Baker to the mound.
Massive Spot Scott did his half, and the offense got here by in a well-rounded effort the place everybody within the lineup had a minimum of one hit. Third baseman Brian Buscher led the best way with three knocks and 5 RBIs. The Twins would win the collection at Cleveland, after which take three of 4 from the White Sox at house, establishing a dramatic last two months.
September 25th: Gained vs. Chicago White Sox, 7-6
All through August and September, the Twins and White Sox jockeyed for the highest spot, with the division lead altering palms a number of occasions and by no means rising past a couple of video games. In late September, although, it regarded like Chicago may take the factor. Up 2 half with six video games left, the White Sox have been coming to Minnesota for a three-gamer, the Twins desperately wanted a sweep.
They took the primary two behind Baker and Blackburn, then clinched the finale on Casilla’s walk-off RBI single towards Bobby Jenks within the backside of the 10th. The Twins had overtaken first with three video games left.
September 30th: Misplaced @ Chicago White Sox, 1-Zero
Sadly Minnesota could not shut the deal by profitable a house collection towards the Royals, dropping two of three whereas the White Sox went 2-2 to power the primary division tiebreaker sport in both franchise’s historical past. A coin flip decided it could be performed in Chicago – the final time this technique was used.
An epic pitcher’s duel ensued between Blackburn and John Danks, with Thome’s solo homer the one disruption to a crisply pitched and defended ballgame. Minnesota’s greatest probability to attain, within the fifth inning, was thwarted when Cuddyer was thrown out at house by Ken Griffey, Jr. making an attempt to attain on a sac fly. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski held onto the ball at house plate as Cuddyer lowered his shoulder and railed into him.
Go-Go Goes for the Cycle
On Could seventh, Gómez hit for the cycle towards the White Sox at U.S. Mobile Subject, changing into the primary Twins participant to perform the feat since Kirby Puckett in 1986. Gómez was additionally the third-youngest big-leaguer ever to hit for the cycle.
The sequence of Gómez’s hits (house run, triple, double, single) is called the reverse cycle or “unnatural” cycle. He is one among solely 10 gamers to do it.
Kevin Slowey Skewers Brewers
Slowey was simply some of the enigmatic pitchers on the 2008 employees. A 24-year-old recognized for his stellar numbers within the minors and his pinpoint command, Slowey was inconsistent in his acclimation to the majors. However when he was on, he was ON.
That was positively the case on June 29th, when he outdueled Ben Sheets in a whole sport shutout towards Milwaukee, permitting three hits and no walks with eight strikeouts. One month earlier he’d given up one run in a whole sport win towards Kansas Metropolis; a month later he would spin one other shutout in Chicago. Slowey led the workforce in full video games (Three) and shutouts (2); he would obtain neither feat once more after ’08.
“Jason” Morneau Wins House Run Derby
In 2008, Morneau participated in his second straight All-Star Recreation and in addition his second straight House Run Derby. Whereas this contest is greatest remembered for Josh Hamilton‘s ridiculous first spherical, by which he launched a staggering 28 house runs, it was Morneau who finally gained, out-homering a fatigued Hamilton 5-Three within the finals.
After popping out on high, there was a typical (and foolish) sentiment that he’d “ruined” Hamilton’s large evening by having the gall to win the competition. ESPN’s presenter infamously referred to him as “Jason Morneau” throughout an interview after the occasion – a mirrored image of the Twins’ relative anonymity on the large stage, even when repped by an MVP winner.
Glen Perkins Slays the Dragon
The “Massive Unhealthy Yankees” narrative was solely getting began – 10 straight playoff losses have been nonetheless forward – however the dread was already underway. So when Perkins threw an absolute gem towards New York on the Metrodome on August 11th, holding them scoreless on 4 hits over eight innings in a Four-Zero victory, it was a giant deal. And Perkins, it appeared, may additionally turn into a giant deal, as the previous first-round choose was rattling off wins throughout his first alternative within the rotation (he went 10-1 in June, July and August).
Perkins would certainly turn into a giant deal. Simply not within the rotation.
One Element You In all probability Forgot
After rising as one of many sport’s high closers in 2002 and 2003, incomes All-Star nodes each years, Eddie Guardado signed with Seattle as a free agent and delivered a pair extra excellent seasons. However by 2008, he was 37 and had been by some accidents, diminishing his talents.
Nonetheless, he was having a good sufficient season with the Rangers, and the Twins wanted some assist in the bullpen, in order that they traded pitching prospect (and St. Paul native) Mark Hamburger to Texas for him on August 25th.
The transfer did not pan. Guardado posted a 7.71 ERA in 9 appearances with Minnesota. He gave it another go together with Texas in 2009, then retired, later rejoining the Twins as bullpen coach.
Evaluating Mauer’s workload in 2008 to Mitch Garver‘s in 2019 is an eye-opening train within the evolution of catcher administration. Mauer began 135 of Minnesota’s 163 video games at catcher, mixing in 4 begins at DH to complete 139. On 13 separate events, he began a minimum of six consecutive video games behind the plate. At one level in June he caught 15 out of 16 video games over 18 days.
In 2019. Garver – an MVP-caliber offensive producer in his personal proper – began 75 video games at catcher and by no means as soon as began greater than 4 in a row behind the plate.