Weekly Top Ten: Twins of the 2000’s Part One
After a decade of mediocrity in the 1990’s the Twins experienced a resurgence in the 2000’s when they rattled off six playoff appearances. Here we rank the top ten players from the year 2000 through 2009 (part one). Personal bias is involved.
10. Eddie Guardado (Closer, 2000-2004)
“Everyday Eddie” was one of the most colorful characters in Twins history. He inherited the closer role from LaTroy Hawkins midway through the 2001 season and ran with it until signing a big free agent deal in Seattle after the 2003 season.
In a 12 year Twins career that began in 1993, Guardado appeared in a team-record 648 games, over 150 more than second place Rick Aguilera. Guardado collected 116 saves for the Twins during that era.
Personal Bias: I liked Guardado because he was just average as a pitcher talent-wise, but he was a bulldog on the mound. He went from being “Everyday Eddie” to a serviceable closer on a perennial winner. The image of him pointing to the sky for the last out at Oakland in 2002 will be forever ingrained in my brain.
9. Shannon Stewart (Outfielder 2003-06)
S-Squared’s time in Minnesota may have been brief, but the impact he had on the Twins franchise during his stay was immeasurable.Stewart was acquired for the measly price of one (1) Bobby Kielty during the pennant race of 2003.
Stewart came to the Twins and immediately paid dividends, batting .322 in a little over 300 at bats while playing left field at a high level defensively as well. The next season he continued to thrive at the top of the order with a batting average of .304.
Personal Bias: I was beyond delighted when all the Twins had to give up for Stewart was Kielty. It was, and remains, the only time in my life the Twins recognized a need (leadoff hitter) and went out and got it. Also, check out that picture…that catch alone is worth making the list.
8. Jacque Jones (Outfield, 1999-2005)
Jones’ time with the Twins was highly productive as he blossomed from a bottom of the lineup hitter to a leadoff man with pop. Over seven years with the Twins, he hit .279 with 132 home runs and 746 RBI and helped the team to go from cellar-dweller to perennial division winner.
Personal Bias: Jones could have been higher on this list, but he wasn’t much of a playoff performer (.200 BA) and the way he always smiled when he struck out rubbed me the wrong way. However, his home run that broke up Freddy Garcia’s no-hitter in the bottom of the 8th and won the game 1-0 against the White Sox in 2005 is one of my all time favorite Dome memories.
7. Joe Nathan (Closer, 2004-11)
Nathan had not been used as a closer yet in his career when he was traded along with Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser for AJ Pierzynski before the 2004 season. If he needed time to learn how to finish out games, it didn’t show as he saved 44 games in his first year. He went on to make four All Star games with Minnesota.
His postseason struggles are well documented (0-2 in nine appearances with a 9.00 ERA) but Nathan posted some eye-popping seasons (in 2008 his ERA was 1.33 in 67.2 IP.
Personal Bias: Even though he was automatic statistically, he never made it easy. Guardado was worse in this respect, but Nathan’s body language scared the hell out of me.
6. Michael Cuddyer (OF,1B, 2B, 3B, P)
Cuddyer raised eyebrows when he took away a majority Brian Buchanan, Dustan Mohr and Bobby Kielty’s at bats in the 2002 postseason despite having only 112 at bats during the regular season (the three others combined for 807 at bats). The former ninth overall pick responded in the Division Series against Oakland by going 5-16 with three walks.
In over 4,000 at bats as a Twin, “Cuddy” smacked 157 home runs and drove in 637. He played nearly every position at some point and was a very durable player throughout his tenure with the Twins.