My favorite player of the mid-90s and one of the biggest screwups in basketball history is making his triumphant return for something called the North Texas Fresh in the American Basketball Association. What could possibly go wrong?
Much like with Friday Night Lights earlier this year, I'm now obsessed with Lost after discovering that Hulu has the first four seasons. It's hard to imagine any television show having a better debut episode and it took me less than 72 hours to watch the 25-episode first season. Seriously. If you're like me and refuse to jump into a series midstream, seeing the first two episodes will make you feel like someone who just discovered that pizza tastes good. Also, Evangeline Lilly.
Richard Deitsch of SI.com put together a fantastic guide to the various NFL broadcast teams for this season. I'd love to see someone do a similar breakdown for baseball.
G PA AVG OBP SLG OPS+WARPWS 573 2104 .269 .334 .481 124 13.5 76
Jimmie Hall signed with the Senators as an 18-year-old in 1956, but didn't make it to the big leagues until three years after the team moved from Washington to Minnesota. A 25-year-old rookie in 1963, he initially served as a reserve outfielder on a team that had veterans Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, and Lenny Green established as starters. He struggled early on, hitting just .188 in 80 at-bats through the end of May, but then got his big break when Green went down with an injury in June.
It wasn't quite Lou Gehrig replacing Wally Pipp, but Hall stepped in as the center fielder and had a big rookie year. At a time when the league as a whole hit a measly .247/.310/.380 and teams scored just 4.1 runs per game, Hall hit .260/.342/.521 with 33 homers and 65 walks in 571 plate appearances. Despite ranking among the AL's top 10 in slugging percentage, homers, runs scored, total bases, and OPS, Hall finished just third in the Rookie of the Year balloting behind Gary Peters and Pete Ward.
His adjusted OPS+ of 136 in 1963 not only ranked seventh in the league that season, it's a number that only 14 of the Twins' hitters have topped in the 45 years since then. What made Hall's rookie season particularly impressive was that he ended up with those outstanding overall numbers despite playing sporadically and performing horribly through the first two months. Then from June 1 through the end of the year Hall batted .273/.354/.556 with 31 homers and 77 RBIs in 116 games.
Hall's rookie campaign was more than enough for him to supplant Green as the Twins' center fielder going forward, and in the 13th game of the 1964 season Hall, Killebrew, Allison, and 25-year-old rookie Tony Oliva hit four consecutive extra-inning homers in a 7-3 win over the A's. While not an outstanding defensive foursome (Allison played mostly first base that year), they combined to blast 138 homers on the season and the Twins led the league with 221 homers while no other team reached even 190.
Despite all that power, the Twins won just 79 games in 1964 because of a mediocre pitching staff and some tough breaks. Hall turned in a solid sophomore season, batting .282/.338/.480 with 25 homers while making his first All-Star team, but was involved in an incident that might have led to his early decline. Playing center field and batting sixth in a May 27 game against the Angels, Hall led off the fifth inning and was hit on the cheek by a pitch from southpaw Bo Belinsky.
Hall immediately left the game, but returned to the starting lineup about a week later and played well for the remainder of the season while wearing a special protective flap on his batting helmet. However, there's quite a bit of speculation that the beaning ultimately led to his being timid and ineffective versus left-handed pitchers, and could help explain why he was finished as a productive player by his sixth season. Of course, that theory has some holes in it.
First and foremost is that Hall struggled against southpaws prior to the beaning, like many left-handed batters do, hitting just .235/.297/.338 against them during his rookie campaign. Beyond that, whatever negative impact the incident had on his hitting ability certainly didn't show up for several years. In fact, Hall had arguably his best all-around season in 1965, making his second All-Star appearance while hitting .285/.347/.464 and setting career-highs in batting average, on-base percentage, and RBIs.
In large part thanks to Hall's excellent third season, the Twins went 102-60 in 1965 to win the American League pennant by seven games over the White Sox and then matched up against the Dodgers in one of the best World Series in baseball history. Because the Dodgers' three-man rotation included a pair of dominant lefties in Sandy Koufax and Claude Osteen, manager Sam Mele decided to bench Hall in five of the seven games.
The move was somewhat understandable considering how good Koufax and Osteen were and how bad Hall's .240/.272/.333 line against lefties was in 1965. On the other hand, his replacement in center field, rookie Joe Nossek, was one of the worst hitters in the league and hit just .228/.262/.325 against lefties himself. Hall started the two games that right-hander Don Drysdale pitched, going 1-for-7 with five strikeouts, Nossek went 4-for-20, and Koufax tossed a Game 7 shutout to win the series.
Hall remained a power threat in 1966, smacking 20 homers in 356 at-bats, but hit .239/.302/.449 for his worst season in four years with the Twins. He was phased out in center field, giving way to rookie Ted Uhlaender while spending time in both outfield corners, and was used mostly as a platoon player and bench bat. That was Hall's last season in Minnesota. On December 2, 1966 he was traded to the Angels along with Don Mincher and Pete Cimino for Dean Chance and Jackie Hernandez.
Chance became the ace of the Twins' pitching staff for two seasons and Mincher went on to have a quality post-Minnesota career. As for Hall, despite being only 29 years old he had exactly one more decent season left in him. Hall hit .249/.318/.404 with 16 homers in 129 games for the Angels in 1967, which doesn't look very good until you consider that the league hit .236/.300/.351 in what was one of the lowest-scoring periods in baseball history. His modest .722 OPS was good for a solid 117 OPS+.
Hall stuck around for another three seasons, playing for four teams while hitting .208/.277/.297 in 618 plate appearances. He flamed out quickly, but Hall's impact on the Twins was significant. He packed 98 homers into just four seasons in Minnesota despite playing at a time when big offensive numbers were rare, and played a passable center field while doing so. If you adjust his numbers with the Twins to today's hitting environment, they look something like .285/.340/.525.
Twins Notes: Mulvey, Crede, Baker, Penny, Lew!, and Grass
Thanks to some nifty waiver-wire maneuvering, the Twins completed the Jon Rauchdeal by sending Kevin Mulvey to the Diamondbacks as the player to be named later. Acquired as part of the four-player haul for Johan Santana two winters ago, Mulvey was fourth on Baseball America's list of the Mets' top prospects at the time of the trade and was sixth on my list of the Twins' top prospects a short time later, but dipped to 12th prior to this season and likely would have been in the 12-15 range for 2010.
Clearly the Twins soured on Mulvey after making him a key component of the Santana deal, because in the two years since then he started 51 times at Rochester while spending about 72 hours in Minnesota and was passed over for Anthony Swarzak, Brian Duensing, and Armando Gabino when a short-term rotation fill-in was needed. Perhaps they're right to sour on Mulvey, whose performance at Triple-A has hardly been great, but that doesn't say much about their evaluation of him just 18 months ago.
His ceiling now looks pretty low, so the chances of Mulvey coming back to haunt the Twins are slim, but he's a 24-year-old with two seasons of Triple-A under his belt and certainly would have been an option as a back-of-the-rotation starter or middle reliever next year. In fact, Arizona promoted him to the majors immediately after the trade and Mulvey made his Diamondbacks debut Thursday with a perfect seventh inning of relief in a 4-2 game against the Dodgers.
Along with trading Mulvey for Rauch the Twins also sent intriguing mid-level prospect Yohan Pino to Cleveland for Carl Pavano and 2008 second rounder Tyler Ladendorfto Oakland for Orlando Cabrera. None are elite prospects, but Mulvey and Pino are MLB-ready pitchers and Ladendorf got a $700,000 bonus as the 60th overall pick 15 months ago, so it's a lot to pay for 10 outings by mediocre starter, 50 games from a washed-up shortstop, and one-plus seasons of a solid setup man making $3 million.
Cabrera in particular has predictably been a worthless pickup, showing dramatically diminished skills on defense while batting .248/.277/.349 out of the No. 2 spot because regardless of their actual ability to hit Ron Gardenhire apparently must put a middle infielder in front of the lineup's top bats. Aside from the wonderful but brief stint with Joe Mauer batting second every other start there has gone to Cabrera, Alexi Casilla, Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert, or Brendan Harris, and they've collectively hit .203/.249/.275.
Spencer Fordin of MLB.com wrote a good piece on Matt Wieters struggling to live up to the massive hype as a rookie. Some people referred to him as "Joe Mauer with power" when the Orioles called him up in late May, but a) Wieters is hitting just .264/.310/.368 through 71 games, and b) Joe Mauer is now "Joe Mauer with power." Wieters remains one of the best young catchers to come around in years, but Mauer is a totally different animal. When he was Wieters' age, Mauer hit .347 to win his first batting title.
Joe Crede somehow managed to miss 40 of the first 128 games while staying on the active roster, but was finally placed on the disabled list last week with complications from multiple back surgeries. His status for the remainder of this season is uncertain and the oft-injured, 31-year-old impending free agent seems unlikely to re-sign with the Twins, so Crede may end up costing around $3 million for 88 games of .229/.293/.421 hitting and excellent defense.
No one seems to have noticed because the meme is that the Twins' entire rotation fell apart, people are still upset about his awful April following a season-opening DL stint, and Bert Blyleven treats each run he allows as a personal insult while spouting the same cliched stuff about "leaving the ball up," but Scott Baker is 13-3 with a 3.65 ERA and 119-to-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 145 innings during his last 23 starts. Last year he was 11-4 with a 3.45 ERA and 141-to-42 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 172 innings.
According to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Twins opted against submitting a waiver claim for Brad Penny because they were told that he didn't want to remain in the AL after posting a 5.61 ERA in 24 starts with Boston. Penny got his wish, as he went unclaimed and was released by the Red Sox, at which point he signed a one-month, $75,000 contract with the Giants and tossed eight shutout innings in his return to the NL.
My blogmateMatthew Pouliot is nearing the end of "a series of articles examining what every team's roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed" and the results are very interesting. In the Twins' case that means they get to "keep" guys like Torii Hunter, Matt Garza, and A.J. Pierzynski, but don't have current imports like Joe Nathan, Matt Guerrier, and Francisco Liriano or past imports like Santana, David Ortiz, and Jason Bartlett. They still do well and the whole series is cool.
Chris Parmelee, Rene Tosoni, Mike McCardell, Alex Burnett, Spencer Steedley, Steve Hirschfeld, and Steve Singletonhave been chosen as the Twins' representatives for the Arizona Fall League. Last year the Twins sent Jeff Manship, Danny Valencia, Rob Delaney, Anthony Slama, Tim Lahey, Steven Tolleson, and Dustin Martin.
One of the many weird things about having this blog is getting random e-mails from people asking about where they should park at the Metrodome or how they can get in touch with a minor leaguer or where they can find information about a game they attended in 1976. Within that mix are at least a few e-mails per month wondering what happened to Lew Ford, who apparently made quite an impression in 497 mostly mediocre games with the Twins. Anyway, here's the answer. No more e-mails, please.
It remains to be seen if Rauch will be worth parting with Mulvey and $3 million, but he certainly looks the part of an effective late-inning reliever. In addition to being the majors' tallest player at 6-foot-11, he has a whole bunch of tattoos that include plenty of ink on his neck.
Through no fault of her own, Kelly Thesier of MLB.com penned the least-interesting story ever written about staying up late while waiting for grass to arrive.