Meet Your Dynastic Minnesota Twins of the '70s!

coolhandgopher

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Over on the Immaculate Grid thread, I've been dabbling around the question of "what could have been. . ." for the '70s Twins, a period that I caught at the very tail end of the decade when sports fandom was taking hold on me and the most appealing aspect of the team was their baby blue uniforms with the cursive Twins running across the chest. So, moving onward from dabbling to full immersion, I dove into the question of what the Twins could have looked like throughout the '70s, bridging that chasm between the Killebrew/Oliva/Carew '60s/early '70s and the Puckett/Hrbek of the '80s.

Consider this line-up that the Twins pretty easily could have fielded in '75, with a few draft signings here, a bit of good fortune there, and sage personnel moves that unfortunately, were becoming fewer and farther between in the '70s. (Stats assigned for the season):

C Rick Dempsey (71 games, .262, 1 HR, 11 RBI's backing up Thurman Munson as a Yankee)
1B Steve Garvey ( .319, 18 HR, 95 RBI)
2B Rod Carew (.359, 14 HR, 80 RBI)
SS Rick Burleson (.252, 6 HR, 62 RBI)
3B Graig Nettles (.267, 21 HR, 91 RBI)
LF Steve Braun (.302, 11 HR, 45 RBI)
CF Dan Ford (.280, 15 HR, 59 RBI)
RF Reggie Smith (.302, 19 HR, 76 RBI)
DH Tony Oliva (.270, 13 HR, 58 RBI)
Bench
OF Larry Hisle (80 games, .314, 11 HR, 51 RBI)
OF Lyman Bostock (98 games, .282, 0 HR, 29 RBI)
3B Eric Soderholm (.286, 11 HR, 58 HR)

Rotation
Jim Kaat (20-14, 3.11 ERA, 303 IP)
Bert Blyleven (15-10, 3.00 ERA, 275 IP)
Dave Goltz (14-14, 3.67 ERA, 243 IP)
Rudy May (14-12, 3.02 ERA, 212 IP)
Jim Hughes (16-14, 3.82 ERA, 249 IP)

Bullpen
Al Hrabosky (13-3, 1.66 ERA, 22 saves)
Dave LaRoche (5-3, 2.19 ERA, 17 saves)
Bill Campbell (4-6, 3.79 ERA)
Tom Burgmeier (5-8, 3.09 ERA, 11 saves)

Would you like a little more stability in that starting rotation? Alright, let's go with a trade that did happen, slide Nettles out and Soderholm in at 3B and add Luis Tiant to the rotation, on the alternate reality that he hadn't been released after blowing out his arm in '71 and this is what Tiant adds: 18-14, 4.02 ERA, 260 IP in an off-season for him.

Trot this line-up out and I dare say, we never see Carlton Fisk waving his home run fair over Fenway and a significant aspect of Good Will Hunting's screenplay needs to be re-wrote. I'd also venture to say that the Big Red Machine might have sputtered a bit through the '70s once they reached the World Series, as I'll point out in a bit, this is a make-believe team that would have been in its prime through the decade. Instead we have a Twins squad that finished 76-83 in 4th place in '75, with the likes of Glenn Borgmann, John Briggs, and Ray Corbin taking the spots of Dempsey, Garvey, and May on the roster.

How could this fantasy team have come together? Pretty simply, like this:
Dempsey was traded in '72 to the Yankees for Danny Walton, already a journeyman who posted a -1.9 career WAR. In '75, Dempsey was 25 years old.

Garvey was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1966 amateur draft, but didn't sign. He was 26 in '75.

Burleson was drafted in the 8th round of the '69 draft, but did not sign. Age 24 in '75.

Nettles was traded to the Indians in '70 for Tiant. He was 30 in '75 with many fine years ahead for the Yankees and Padres.

Smith was drafted in the version of the minor league Rule 5 draft in 1963 by the Red Sox. Also age 30 in '75, and like Nettles many fine years ahead, mostly for the Dodgers.

Kaat had been released in '73 by the Twins, following a contract dispute with Calvin Griffith. '75 was his last standout year at the age of 36, but he pitched until age 44.

Blyleven would be traded in '76, along with Danny Thompson for Roy Smalley, Mike Cubbage, and a couple other players. In '75 he was 24 years old.

May, like Smith, was picked up in the '63 amateur draft by the White Sox. He was 30 in '75, with his best years still ahead, although admittedly he was someone you wanted at the back of the rotation.

Hrabosky was drafted in 11th round of the '67 draft and did not sign. He was 25 in '75.

LaRoche was traded in '72 to the Cubs for Joe Decker and Bill Hands. He was 27 in '75 with several years of quality relieving ahead.

Here's the ages of those on the team at the time:
Carew-29
Soderholm-26
Hisle-28
Bostock-24
Goltz-26
Hughes-23
Eddie Bane-23

Here's what was in the pipeline:
Butch Wynegar, rookie in '76, age 20
Pete Redfern, rookie in '76, age 21
Roger Erickson, rookie in '78, age 21
John Castino, rookie in '79, age 24

It seems that while the purse strings were being tightened at the MLB level, the same was happening in the minors also, but you could wonder what a bit more minor league development for the likes of Hughes, Bane, Redfern, and Erickson might have offered for the team long-term if they weren't rushing them up to the majors. And you could work in an alternate reality where the Twins were such a juggernaut that enough money was coming in for Griffith to A) afford the higher salaries; or B) sell the franchise high to a deep pocketed owner who wanted to affix himself to the franchise of Killebrew, Oliva, Allison, Carew, Garvey, Kaat, Smith, Blyleven, Nettles/Tiant et al.
 




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