Monday, May 4, 2009

The All-Dome Team: Outfielders (and DH)

Last Thursday, I talked about the official Twins' All-Metrodome Team ballot and picked my infielders. Today, we continue with the outfielders and DH. The official ballot, like an All-Star ballot, lists a group of outfielders and instructs you to pick three without differentiating between left/right and center...so that's what we'll do, too.

Outfield #1: Kirby Puckett (.318/.360/.477, 66.5 WARP3).
The day he died, I wrote this:
If you saw Kirby Puckett play baseball, whether or not you like the sport itself, you'd have loved him. Most of Minnesota did. A funny little round man, an amazing athlete in an almost completely average-looking body, Kirby did all those little cliches that add up to one big cliche called Playing the Game the Right Way. He was always playing at full speed, no matter what the score was, how he felt, or whether it was Spring Training or the World Series. And you could just tell he really loved to play, more than anyone you've ever seen. See that huge smile? It seemed (in retrospect, at least) like it was just always there.
Turns out that Kirby was also a legitimately great player. A flawed player, just as he was quite obviously a flawed man. But he's a no-brainer for this team and a cornerstone of any all-time Twins team, and the Hall of Fame is a better place for having him in it.

Outfield #2: Torii Hunter (.271/.324/.469, 41.0)
Torii was overrated both offensively and defensively and was (and is) disproportionately beloved by Twins fans. He continued to be considered "the Face of the Franchise" while going out of his way to undermine teammates, most notably calling out a very young Joe Mauer for not playing through an injury while Torii himself would miss time with much more apparently questionable injuries. Frankly, I don't have a lot of good things to say about Torii, except this: he was better for longer than any outfielder in Dome-era Twins history save one.

Outfield #3: Shane Mack (.309/.375/.479, 30.6)
Probably the biggest surprise among any of my picks, but I have no hesitation at all about putting Mack on this team. He had a weird, weird career; he spent 1987 and 1988 as a poor fourth outfielder for the Padres and then spent all of 1989 in Triple-A or injured; he played in Japan in 1995 and 1996 before finishing his career as a more than adequate fourth outfielder for the Red Sox, A's and Royals in 1997 and 1998. In the five seasons in between the two MLB absences, though -- 1990 to 1994 -- he was a Twin, and was very quietly one of the very best players in the league. I remember him as an expert hitter who hit a line drive just about every time he swung the bat. He ran well and played excellent defense. The only knock on him was that he was rather frequently hurt, but when he was on the field, for those five seasons, he was one of the best players in the game.
A good, exhaustive write-up on Mack's career was done quite a while ago by Aaron Gleeman, here.
Runners-up: Tom Brunansky, Matt Lawton and Jacque Jones (probably in that order) were all very solid players for the Twins, but none are really all-time anything material.

Designated Hitter: Justin Morneau (.282/.348/.501, 22.3)
I can't do it!

The official ballot consists of Roy Smalley (discussed in the infielders post) and the names of four very-good-to-all-time-great hitters, none of whom came all that close to distinguishing themselves as Twins: Chili Davis, David Ortiz, Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield. Ortiz played the equivalent of four nondescript years with the Twins, Molitor three (and he hit .341 in one of them, but it was an incredibly good year to be a hitter), Winfield and Chili two apiece.

Pass. I refuse to put a guy on this team who isn't one of the 75 or so best or most important players in Twins history, simply because he "played" a "position" whose only distinction is that it asks nothing at all of you.

So I see no reason Morneau can't DH for this team. He's clearly the best hitter of the Metrodome era who isn't already on the team, so we're going that way.
Runner-up: Davis (.282/.385/.476, 9.2). It was only two years, but the first was a legitimately awesome offensive year given the era, and helped lead the Twins to the 1991 World Championship.

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So we've got our lineup, and we're two thirds of the way through the All-Metrodome Team. I'll be back sometime soon with pitchers and the manager (only because "manager" is on the ballot), and then we'll do a wrap-up post to take stock of what we've got.

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