My Jonny Boy

Fatherhood.  A role that is so important, enjoyable, and stressful all wrapped into one.  Life is a single journey, filled with so many chapters.  It’s a winding, curvy, uphill/downhill, meandering pathway to an unknown ending.  I’m 36 years old right now, but can vividly recall memories of my first days as a kindergartner.  In 1987, our school’s varsity boy’s basketball team was dubbed “The Dream Team,” earning the state’s #1 ranking all season long.  The Hawley Nuggets eventually took their undefeated record of 26-0 to the state semi-finals, losing 54-53 in a heartbreaking loss.  That experience fed my love and lore for sports, coupled with the 1987 Twins winning the Worlds Series.  Canoe trips, visits to the Metrodome to cheer on the Twins (and whenever the A’s were in town) and being involved in a multitude of school sports and activities dot my entire youth days.  I don’t know why, but I can still remember many school/life events during my youth.  That part of my brain must be wired differently than the rest of my brain — I have a terrible working/organizational mind when it comes to getting things done sometimes.  My youth culminated in meeting my eventual bride-to-be, my high school sweetheart Tonia.  College and later being a teacher and coach brought much more responsibility, pride, and free time.  My wife and I both attended college in Bemidji, MN, and later relocated back to Hawley, MN.  We were married in 2002 and lived seven busy, but quiet years without children.  Coaching year round fit the bill for me, whether it was junior high football in the fall, junior high and elementary traveling-team basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring and summer.  Being immersed in my first full-time post-college job, third grade teacher at Atkinson Elementary in Barnesville also consumed my time with incredible memories and growth as an educator.  My wife, meanwhile, plugged away with her career goals— her first in education but then turned nursing career, busy with school and work, she’s always carried the bigger share of the load (and still does today!).  Life was good back then I’ve gotta say — we bought our first home, traveled all over, and thought we were too busy enough then.

Flash forward to 2017 — we’ve been married almost 15 years, and now have three sons.  Jonathan is 7 and is in 2nd grade, Carter is 4 and in preschool, and Luke just turned two in December.  Each day brings new challenges, joys, frustrations, and emotions.

image

Tonia and I with Jonathan – just one month old. My team made it to the  State Baseball Tournament for the 2nd straight season in 2009.  This was taken before our state semi-final game.

First and foremost, you want your children to be healthy — we are so blessed to have three healthy boys!  Some days, there’s peace in the valley at home and all three coexist in harmony.  Those days, however, are few and far between.

IMG_2250

Dad and his 3 boys with more hardware – a 21-4 season with a bittersweet ending, finishing runner-up in the Section Tournament in 2015.

With the commotion of the everyday tasks of life, the events we’re involved in with our jobs, kids’ activities, and church, and the needs of our boys, it can be difficult to find quality one-on-one time with the boys, let alone each other.  They’re great playmates, but are now finding ways to meddle and be mischievous to each other, resulting in being more police officer than father in the house.  Nonetheless, we know it’s all part of growing up, both for the boys and for us as parents.  We certainly want to soak it all in because these years will zip by in the blink of an eye!

My oldest son Jonathan is a typical oldest-child.  He’s a sponge when it comes to learning new information, he’s very caring and sincere, and at school is the consummate rule-follower.  In his four years of school, he’s been in trouble just one time — for kissing a girl in kindergarten.  I’ll take that compared over a lot of other things he could be getting in trouble with!  He’s super curious, loves Legos, playing piano, and is a geography nut.  HELLO — his favorite TV Show is “How the States Got Their Shapes.”  He even has the first two seasons on DVD!  He would rather have a notepad and a pen to play with instead of a device or a video game.  He’s a throwback kid in that regard.  He is, however, the most uncompetitive competitor when it comes to playing games or sports.  Win or lose, he’s just pleased to be a part of the action.

img_4211

Jonny kind enough to pose with Dad as we prep for our venture.

He could care less how he does (so he says) — It’s a tough thing to tackle as a parent — how much influence should you have in terms of your child’s interests?  How much do you push versus let them go their own way?  I know what MY interests are…..but what about his?  I’ve come to the conclusion that I want my boys to choose their paths on own, and that they alone by the choices they make will determine their success/failure within each of those activities or ventures.  Just as long as they’re involved in activities and try as many things as they can as they get older instead of coming right home after school to play 5 hours of video games (there’s too much of this in today’s world unfortunately).  Luckily, our little community on the edge of the prairie has a great deal to offer for youth.  I’ll always be there as a resource for help or advice, and he will always be exposed to sports with what I do, but I want the boys to do what they want.  The last thing I want to do on my deathbed is have the regret of pursuing the dreams of my youth vicariously through my children.

So Jonathan….he’s always been somewhat interested in my all-time, yet somewhat recent favorite hobby — APBA Baseball.  For those that don’t know what APBA (pronounced APP-buh) Baseball is, it’s a simple yet complicated baseball board game that involves cards and dice.  You basically “play” games with Major League teams using special cards, dice, and a playbook.  For me, it’s the one thing I do to let go of all that’s around me….when I play it, I’m not thinking about work, bills, doing the laundry, renovating the bathroom, etc.  It’s just the game and me, and it’s a trip back into the past….into simpler times…

beau-jonny-dome

Three month-old Jonny living it up at his 1st Twins game – July 28, 2009.

Recently, Jonathan asked me when he could play the game with me.  He’d played a couple times before, but lost interest as he didn’t quite have the patience to finish a game (a game takes about 20-30 minutes).  We started talking some more.  He really wanted to play and to “use the i-Pad for keeping track of the score” (I use an app that’s an interactive scorebook and stat keeper).  As far as the teams, I came up with an idea. When he was born in 2009, baseball was at the forefront that whole year.  Jonathan was born on May 15th.  A day later, I was back in Hawley for a double-header on a Saturday as we won two big games.  Our team advanced to the Minnesota State Class A Baseball Tournament for the second consecutive season.  We finished 3rd in the state in 2008 and 4th in 2009–some of the best times of my life!

kioyr0q92fz7ja40le0ghdmrg

I know it’s crazy, but I miss the simplicity of the Metrodome.

Later that summer, the Twins celebrated their final season in the Metrodome.  9,999 out of 10,000 people were happy to see the ‘Dome go and couldn’t wait to go to Target Field the following season.  I was that 1 out of 10,000 that was going to miss the ‘Dome (more on that in another blog post).  It was my mission to see as many Twins games as I could that summer down in Minneapolis before the end of the Twins’ era at the Metrodome.  We were fortunate enough to take Jonathan to four games in the Metrodome that year (out of the ten I saw).  So I talked to Jonathan about what team he would like to play with.  He wasn’t quite sure, so I told him about the 2009 Twins and the connections he had with them.  He was sold right away…and not a minute later, he suggested that I choose a team from the year I was born (1980), and that it should be the Oakland A’s (my favorite franchise).  I was like, “That’s a really cool idea, buddy!”  He just grinned ear-to-ear with pride!  So…the ball was rolling here for something potentially special!

Over the last couple of days in the mornings before we’d head to school, I had Jonathan enter the 2009 Twins and 1980 A’s team information into the I-PAD, a task he immensely enjoyed!  He entered all of the players, their numbers, and positions using baseball-reference.com.  It kept the house in harmony as those mornings trying to get three young kids ready for the day aren’t exactly smooth sailing most mornings!  Today (a Saturday), after playing outside on a balmy 50 degree February day here in west-central Minnesota, we were on a mission to start to play a game of APBA.  Jonathan wanted to play a best-of-seven series “just like the real teams do.”  I asked him if we should make up a name for the series, and he said yes.  So….we are calling it the “Father-Son Birthyear World Series.”  Original, huh?  LOL.  I got the game all set up with the cards, dice, iPad, rulebook, team pennants, and my own little slice of heaven, my custom-built ballpark I roll games in (another future blog post).  Meanwhile, as I did the prep work, Jonathan went upstairs.  Since it was noon, I figured he was fixing himself a quick drink or snack.

img_4212

Jonny’s Lego-themed fans sitting in the center field bleachers!

He comes back downstairs.  With what you might ask?  Baseball “fans” cheering on the bleachers!  He’d gone up to his room to quickly assemble a set of bleachers with whatever Lego people he could find, “So we can have fans watching what we do,” he said.  LOL – what a kid!  As we were about to finally begin this epic series,  we heard the better half of the Lofgren Household call for lunch.  After our tasty meal wrapped up at 12:45, it was nap time for Luke so that was my job  (yes…I squeezed in a nap, too!) Tonia entertained Jonny and Carter playing the new card game version of Oregon Trail.  Two hours slipped by.  Instead of being hunkered down in the house all day, Jonny, Carter, and I ended up running to Fargo, ND (because it’s nice to get out of town once in awhile) to watch the new Lego Batman movie with Grandma (If you like Legos and Batman–the movie is a MUST SEE).  After the movie and supper at Culver’s, we returned home at 8:00 PM , just in time for bed.  So….our little series didn’t start.  However, the game will be awaiting our return whenever time permits.

IMG_4209.JPG

Our impromptu “series” is all ready to go! When it’s time……it’s time!

I’m hoping that it will sway his confidence and curiously just a tad bit more into baseball, but more importantly, I’m looking forward to the time spent with my Jonny boy, rolling some dice, teaching about baseball, and just talking about the events of the day in both of our worlds.  The series itself should be a doozy as the 2009 Twins were 86-77 while the 1980 A’s were 86-76 during their respective seasons.  Jonny’s Twins will be the home team for Games 1 and 2 as he had the highest dice roll to determine home/away for the series.  What will happen?  Who knows!  We will continue to meander down life’s path, and the game will await until life deals us the time to sit and play together.  Until then….

 

1984 Twins: You’ve Made a Difference

Well….it’s over.  Just like that, it’s over.  In October of 2015, I began my quest of replaying the season of the 1984 Minnesota Twins.  And now….it’s done.  It’s crazy how you can get so immersed into a replay, thinking it’ll take eons to complete.  All of the sudden, you realize you’re rolling the final batters of the replay and it’s very depressing!  I still can’t wrap my head for the exact reason why I picked this team — most likely because I needed a change of pace from the ’87-’89 Oakland replays I’ve done.  But I wanted to take a chance on a team that was mediocre and take them to the playoffs.

bush-bruno

My brother Ben, Randy Bush, nephew Chris, Tom Brunansky, and me in 2009.

I learned a lot about the 1984 Twins while I was at the Metrodome for several games during the 2009 season, the last at the ‘Dome.  I attended the final two scheduled regular season games against the KC Royals.  On Fan Appreciation Day, several former Twins’ greats were in the Metrodome concourses available for pictures.   My brother Ben (a now-conformed APBA-holic), nephew Chris, and myself were there and scoured hallways trying to get as many photos as possible.  It was awesome seeing all of these Twins greats!  Tom Brunansky! Randy Bush! Al Newman!  And then….RON DAVIS!  YES….THAT RON DAVIS!  After all of the horror stories I’d heard and read about, there he was!  A rather tame and unintimidating fellow…we were able to get a quick pic of him before he and all the others had to leave.

ron-davis

RON DAVIS!  CHECK OUT THE HAT!

That moment, coupled with Fox Sports North running a series that year called “The Top 100 Metrodome Moments.”  The ’84 Twins were mentioned a few times during that series, and when it came down to picking a Twins’ replay, once I dug deeper about this team, I knew I found the perfect replay opportunity.

My goal was to take the Twins to the post-season.  Minnesota went 81-81 that year, three games behind the 84-78 AL West Champion Royals.  The replay was very much up and down. I had winning streaks of 6-7 games, followed by losing streaks of the same number.  The replay went through times of intensity where I’d roll 3-4 games a day, to withdrawing from the project for two spans of three months apiece.  It’s been beaten to a dead horse, but APBA will always be waiting for you when time allows.  And when I was mentally ready to proceed or resume, it didn’t take long to get hooked.

The ’84 Twins held a lead in the West heading into the final month of the season.  I almost made a blockbuster trade involving Kirby Puckett and Rollie Fingers to strengthen up my paltry bullpen, but common sense prevailed and I kept things as-was in terms of my roster make-up.  Little by little, my lead diminished right up to the final week of the season.  With the Twins being tied with the Royals on the final day of the regular season, it was Ken Schrom (DZ) outdueling Bert Blyleven (BYZ) aided by a Randy Bush homer and two RBI by Puckett, along with a Royals’ loss, that catapulted the ’84 Twins into the postseason limelight.  Throughout that final month, I recapped each game on the APBA Facebook page — I think I had just as much fun writing those up as I did playing (almost).

Before I recap the postseason, I’ll touch a little on the regular season numbers.  Starting pitcher John Butcher alone made this replay my most favorite of all time.  Butcher, who in the real 1984 was 13-11 with a 3.44 ERA and WHIP of 1.311, totally outdid himself in the replay.  Butcher went 20-5, 1.95 ERA, and WHIP of 0.978!!

butch

John Butcher’s efforts in the replay garnered enough votes for the ’84 Cy Young Award.

He had a scoreless innings streak of 39 in the early parts of the year.  He also carried that momentum into the ALCS with a huge Game 3 complete game, allowing one earned run.  I’m sorry, but, in this alternate 1984, he’s the Cy Young Award winner — BAR NONE!  I can’t believe I’d never heard of Butcher before this replay. Frank Viola and Mike Smithson also pitched deep into games giving me a solid 1-2-3 punch atop the rotation.  Closer Ron Davis (CX, MG 6) actually did better than I thought he would do.  Even though he blew 12 saves, he still ended up with 38 and a sub-5.00 ERA (1.6 WHIP – YUCK).  I savored every minute with him closing, because it was going to be like winning the lottery or losing a limb depending on the outcome!  I also counted on Rick Lysander and Len Whitehouse heavily down the stretch – two more guys I’d never heard of before, either.  Pitching as a whole did alright.  I can’t complain a whole lot considering they weren’t the 90’s Braves, nor were they the 2003 Tigers!

Offensively, when this team hit, they were unstoppable.  When they didn’t, it was impossible to win.  What made this team great was the top of their lineup.  Puckett, Mickey Hatcher, Kent Hrbek, and Tom Brunansky carried this team most of the year.

e76d8803ae4762f0a8abd77165a20ef5

Puckett thrived in his rookie season, smacking 200 hits.

Puckett, Hatcher, and Hrbek all managed to get 200 hits in the replay!!  (DYK—the 1991 TEXAS RANGERS were the last team to have 3-200 hit teammates?? LOOK IT UP!) It helped having their cards littered with 7’s, although Puckett and Hatcher’s on-base percentage wasn’t the best.  Puckett and Hatcher’s average hovered around .350 thru the All-Star break, but both came back down to almost reality as Puckett hit .313 while Hatcher hit .336 thanks to a late-season surge.   Hrbek’s heroics, however, took the cake.  After finishing 2nd in MVP voting in the real ’84, Hrbek needed to step his game up for team success. He did just that, helping Minnesota to the playoffs and also snatching the alternate ’84 MVP from Willie Hernandez.  Hrbek was simply amazing!  For me, he hit .351, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 102 runs, and OPS of 0.990.  He didn’t make a single error in the field. He was lights out for about the first 100 games, then curtailed a bit, but still, those numbers are rock solid, especially for 1984.  Tom Brunansky definitely was my team’s MVP in the second half of the season.  Bruno ended the campaign with a team-leading 35 HR and 122 RBI.  He hit 22 of his 35 HR after the break!  After those four guys, it was really a crapshoot.  Randy Bush batted against righties, and he belted 14 homers.  So did Tim Teufel.  Outside of those two, there was no chance of any power threat whatsoever.  John Castino made the most of his second chances, batting .330 with an OBP of .396 in limited action.  I managed to play Gary Gaetti in all 162 games, and he swatted an abysmal 4 HR in 595 plate appearances.  During the last two weeks, I started Ron Washington at third and let him play until the 7th/8th inning and then swapped Gaetti in with his 5 defensive rating.

bruno-gaetti

Brunansky, Gaetti, and Laudner celebrate at the Metrodome after a Bruno homerun.

Thank goodness my light-hitting Houston Jimenez (yet another no-name I’d NEVER known of) hit 70 points higher in the replay (.271 instead of .201).  That warranted some extra playing time down the stretch.  I couldn’t figure out Tim Laudner.  In 1984, he had 284 PA, batting .206, 10 HR, and 35 RBI.  In my replay, in 269 PA, he hit .131 with 4 HR and 11 RBI.  THAT AIN’T GOOD!!  He had a nice single-column one, but he was immune to the 66.  Dave Engle hit .260 for me but failed to go deep once.  Other players like Darrell Brown, Dave Meier, Andre David, Lenny Faedo, Jim Eisenreich, Jeff Reed, and Mike Hart all took some cuts.  These Twins, however, had decent base running speed, but no stolen base potential.  As a team, they had a TOTAL of 14 stolen bases in 35 attempts!  YEP – a 40% success rate!  It was always a stretch to get the game going.  I utilized sac bunts more heavily that I’ve ever done before.  My team hit .280 overall, and again, did enough collectively to get the job done.

The task in the ALCS was biggie – beat the ’84 Tigers in a best-of-five.  As you all know, those Tigers could mash the ball, and had a terrific pitching staff with stellar defense.

min-1982-2009-hhh-metrodome-2

There were no spare seats to be found at the Metrodome during the ’84 ALCS.

Games 1 &2 would be played in front of capacity crowds at the two year-old HHH Metrodome. In Game One, Smithson allowed five first inning singles which led to three runs.  Little did Detroit know, those would be their only three of the game.  However, Jack Morris and Hernandez turned the ‘Dome into morgue, allowing a lone solo homer by Brunansky as Detroit won 3-1.  Game Two was the lone “blowout” of the series….if you can call a 4-run win a blowout.  Lance Parrish launched a two-run homer off Viola in the first and the Tigers built an early 5-0 lead.  Hrbek and Teufel would hit homers, but Dan Petry and Aurelio Lopez nailed down the doors as Minnesota was down 0-2 in the best-of-five series.

jack-morris-lance-parrish-1984-detroit-tigers

Morris and Parrish could do no wrong in the Metrodome.

The series shifted to historic Tiger Stadium for Game Three and Games Four/Five if necessary.  At this point, I was pretty much relegated to the fact that it was over.  I clung onto what little hope I had as my tried-and-true John Butcher took the mound against Milt Wilcox.  A Randy Bush solo homer and an RBI single by Gaetti (inserted back into the starting lineup after Washington’s 0-8 resume in the first two games) put Minnesota up 2-0 early.  Dave Bergman rose the crown to its feet with a solo shot to right in the 5th.  But…..that was all they got!  Butcher went the distance in the Twins 2-1 win!  Game Four was a rematch of Morris and Smithson.  Morris took a 1-0 lead into the 7th.  Hrbek tied the game in the 7th with a solo shot to RF, and his RBI single in the 8th inning put Minnesota ahead 2-1.  Lysander hurled the final 1 2/3 innings to shut out the Tigers as the Twins again were 2-1 victors, forcing a decisive Game Five.  At this point, all bets were off, and I truly was just happy to have a chance now to beat Detroit.  Would it happen next?

Game Five pitted Frank Viola versus Dan Petry.  Scoreless in the bottom of the third, Marty Castillo hit a low liner to CF for a single, but the ball scooted through Puckett’s legs.  The ball rolled all the way to the 440 FT sign in center as Castillo chugged around the bases to score on a huge 3-base error for the game’s first run.  In the top of the 5th, the Twins tied the game on an RBI single by Puckett and had the bases loaded with one out for their top two hitters – Hatcher and Hrbek.  Both flew out to end the inning….and Minnesota’s best chance at victory.

darrell-evans-apjpg-a03d4fd725b822aa

If I have to lose to the Tigers, I don’t mind if this guy beats me.  I’ve always been a big Darrell Evans fan!

Darrell Evans took that momentum by hitting a solo homer into the upper reaches of the second deck in RF, putting Detroit up 2-1 and the home fans into pandemonium.  An RBI double by Barbaro Garbey in the 6th added an insurance run.  Hernandez slammed the door in the 8th and 9th innings, retiring all six men he faced to save the game and the series for the Tigers as they beat Minnesota 3-1.  Detroit was able to clinch the pennant on their home field as they did in 1984, but they certainly had to earn it!  The Twins were worthy opponents in this master game replay. Dan Petry was named ALCS MVP, going 2-0 in the series.

I was so disappointed in Mickey Hatcher and Kirby Puckett, who went a combined 4-40 in the series atop my lineup.  That really hurt!  Hatcher alone was 1-20.  He hurt me by not showing up in this replay, but hurt my in my 1988 A’s replay in the World Series when he was torrid for the Dodgers against me in that one!  Grrrr — the curse of Mickey Hatcher!  I was overjoyed at how close all these LCS games were, but without a doubt, the best team won.  I’m just so happy the Twins were able to qualify, which was my number one goal overall.

joker

Even The Joker knows the hardships between APBA projects and time to complete them.

The saddest part of this whole thing is when you put those cards back in the envelope….and you wonder if you’ll ever play with them again?  In the words of The Joker in the 1989 film Batman, “There’s so much to do…..and so little time….”

In conclusion, this replay made a big difference for me.  I’m so content right now with APBA, and what it’s given to me.  This replay taught me so much to just enjoy the game, win or lose, and to savor the tidbits you come across. So many times, I’ve become lost on Google or baseball-reference, researching and pondering what was or what might be.  This all alleviates maybe some things that I should be doing, but rather takes away from a lot of the other garbage I could be involved with or might watch on TV.  I have such a greater appreciation for these 1984 Twins…the Twins team that was a prelude to the championship seasons.  Who played in my favorite ballpark of all time — The Metrodome.  I love Target Field, but I miss the simplicity of the ‘Dome.

enhancedome

Game 162 – 2009 season at the Metrodome – the original “final home game.”  Twins beat KC 13-4 to force Game 163, the epic 12-inning win over Detroit!  Talk about memories!

 

A building I shared countless memories in right until the end, and even was able to bring my firstborn son to on several occasions in the summer of 2009.  He’s seven now, and he’s just starting to appreciate these stories I tell him about the ‘Dome.  And someday, I’ll tell Jonathan and my other two boys about this fantastic replay I’ve just finished.

What’s on the APBA docket next?  No idea….but I’ll let you know when it comes to fruition.  Until then, enjoy APBA-ing the best way you all see fit!  Thanks for reading!

6151BqK7nmL

Thanks for taking me on a fantastic voyage, ’84 Twins!

THEY DID IT!

It’s over!  The regular season of the 1984 Minnesota Twins’ Master Game Replay has concluded. To backtrack, I still consider myself somewhat of an APBA rookie.  I’ve played APBA on and off since 2010, exclusively the master version when I’m playing solo.  In that time, I’ve completed three team-season replays: The 1987, ’88, and ’89 Oakland A’s.  All three were exciting, fun, and very different from each other.  After losing in the World Series in ’87 and ’88, the ’89 A’s defeated the SF Giants for the world’s championship.  I pondered for a long time as to what my next project would be.  Replays that were on my radar included the 1922 St. Louis Browns, 1990 A’s, or 1979/1980/2002/2003 Expos.  I shelved the game for quite some time in 2015 as I was a little burnt out, but eventually, gained a renewed interest when my brother Ben became hooked on APBA.  With the Twins having such struggles in recent history, it led me to wanting to do a Twins replay.

Of course, I was not going to pick an obvious choice like 1956, 1987, or 1991.  I researched the Twins year-by-year records and wanted to replay a team that was close, but fell short of a playoff berth.  1979, 1984, 1988, 1992, and 2008 were seasons I all considered.  It was the 1984 team that won out.  I can’t say why exactly, but that’s what my gut was telling me.   In the real ’84 season, Minnesota finished at 81-81, three games back of the Kansas City Royals.  My goal was to lead the Twins to a division title.  In previous replays, I’ve never made any major tweaks of any kind, but with this one, I decided I’d be more aggressive in terms of making realistic changes.

1979-topps-john-castino

Castino hit .330 in a platoon role to help bolster the Twins offense.

The two significant changes were bringing rookie Kirby Puckett up from the minors in early April instead of early May, and having John Castino be a part of the team in a reserve/platoon role all season using all six of his career cards (1979-1984).  I have to say that I’m extremely thankful I chose this team because it’s been the best regular season replay experience I’ve had playing APBA!

It started in October of 2015 when I was on a mini-vacation with my wife without our three young boys.  We spent a weekend in Minneapolis, and, of course, I brought my APBA Game with, anticipating a late-nite session of my cards and dice.  I rolled the opening series with the ’84 Twins, which was a two-game series against the ’84 Tigers.  Detroit rolled over my Twins, but it was very refreshing to roll with a non-A’s team for the first time.  This replay took longer than I wanted to, but life gets busy and I simply am “too tired” to even roll dice a lot of the time.  Ever since this past Thanksgiving, however, the replay’s end was in sight and I decided to ramp things up.

The Twins held the division lead for most of the second half of the season.  This team was quick streaky, though, throughout the year.  The had three separate losing streaks of six games, and two streaks of seven wins in a row.  I strongly considered trading Kirby Puckett away for Rollie Fingers to help solidify my less-than-ideal bullpen, but decided at the last minute to keep things as is.  That ended up being the best thing I did (or didn’t do).  The team’s divisional lead slowly was eaten away up through the final week of the season.  The Twins would go onto lose four games in September against “D” pitchers and time appeared to be running out.  With seven games to go (all on the road), Minnesota regrouped and went 5-2 to nip the Kansas City Royals by one game in the West to finish at 86-76.

schrom

Ken Schrom sits with a satisfied look after earning the win in the Twins regular season finale.

 

With MN and KC tied for first on the last day of the season, Ken Schrom (DZ, MG 3) outdueled Cleveland’s Bert Blyleven (BYZ, MG 15) while Ron Davis (CX, MG 6) earned his 38th save to win 4-2. Randy Bush hit a two-run homer, but it was a pair of 55-7 RBI singles by Puckett that gave MN the insurance it needed to beat the Tribe.  Meanwhile, the Royals lost to Oakland 8-2, paving the way for the Twins to take the AL West crown!  That was MY GOAL, and that alone has made this replay rewarding.  I’ve learned a great deal about 1984 baseball through this replay.

The strengths all season for the ’84 Twins has been the starting pitching of John Butcher, Frank Viola, and Mike Smithson and the top half of the lineup consisting of Puckett, Mickey Hatcher, Kent Hrbek, and Tom Brunansky. They will need to step up once the ALCS begins with the powerful Detroit Tigers.  I really don’t know what to expect in the upcoming ALCS, but I plan to enjoy every moment of it.  Look for a more detailed season recap once the post-season is over.  I really wonder, though, what would’ve happened to the Twins had they really won the AL West in 1984.  How would’ve it impacted future Twins’ teams? Would it have thrown a wrench into the Royals’ title season in ’85?  Who knows…and WHO CARES!  I’m about to roll a post-season series with the ’84 Twins!  I can’t wait!

6151BqK7nmL

The 1984 Twins will christen post-season play in the HHH Metrodome in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.

 

Gardner Hot About Potential Deal – Trade With Milwaukee Nixed

Big news (which turned out to be no news) out of the ’84 Twins camp.  A huge trade proposal was on the table regarding Minnesota and the Milwaukee Brewers that involved the following:

Milwaukee trades RHP Rollie Fingers and OF Mark Brouhard to Minnesota for OF Kirby Puckett, SS Greg Gagne, and RHP Ron Davis.

With the team on its way to Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium, Twins manager Billy Gardner caught wind of the proposed deal.  One the team charter bus arrived for batting practice for its night game against the Blue Jays, Gardner immediately took matters into his own hands, furious about losing his budding center fielder and hard-luck closer.  Gardner found the nearest phone in the visitors’ clubhouse and called newly crowned owner Carl Pohlad.  “What the #$@! do you think you’re doin, Carl?” bellowed Gardner.  “We’re finally in a position to win this thing with our OWN guys and this is what you want to do?  Blow it all up?  We have the lead – the clubhouse chemistry is the best I’ve ever been a part of – we WILL WIN this division with who we have!  Puck and Davis will get it figured out here in Minnesota.  If you deal them away, I’m walkin’ out!”

Gardner quickly hung up the phone and then put it in Pohlad’s hands.  With his opinions and words about the matter in the rearview mirror, Gardner quickly scurried to the clubhouse and had a closed-door meeting with the club.  It is not certain what was all said during the meeting, but the team took the field for batting practice with a renewed vigor and sense of enthusiasm not seen all season.  The trade deadline came and passed at 4:00 PM Eastern Time with no news about a trade involving the Twins and Brewers or with any other teams for that matter.

bg1

A stoic Gardner addressing the media before the series opening game versus the Blue Jays at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium.

Prior to the game, Gardner was asked about how he’ll manage the rotation in the latter stretch of the year.  “We’ve done just fine with what we’ve got.  BUT…let’s face it, the back end of the rotation has struggled all season.  If the gap narrows between us and KC and California, I’ll have no choice but to throw Frankie (Viola), Jonny (Butcher), and Smitty (Smithson) on three days’ rest.  But these back-end guys better start to shape up or they’ll be off the playoff roster!  Excuse me — which one of you guys took my chaw?”


I hope you enjoyed my wavering imagination!  It’s so fun to wonder what really goes on behind the scenes!  I thought LONG and HARD over the last few days about making this trade — the Twins’ bullpen is so awful!!  I had to take a series look at some numbers before I made my decision.  The biggest reason I pulled the trade off the table was Puckett.  Yes, he has struggled at the plate over the last month.  He’s hitting .302 (he hit .296 in ’84), leads my team in stolen bases (a modest 7), and has 14 outfield assists!!  WHOA!  He had 16 in the real ’84, but after looking again at the Master Game arm and base running ratings and his numbers compared to Darrell Brown (his replacement), that sold me to keep Puckett.  Puckett’s is 35 compared to Brown’s 26, which is huge!

579702790

The versatile Darrell Brown will continue to serve his role as platoon outfielder, pinch hitter, and pinch runner.

On the same note, Tom Brunansky has 24 outfield assists!!  I was shocked I hadn’t noticed that yet!  Also, the more I thought about it, despite the love-hate relationship with Ron Davis I’ve had playing this silly game, what a story book ending it COULD be if somehow this team can finish atop the AL West to take on the Tigers in the ALCS.  This replay will either reiterate his inequities, or his script will be rewritten into Twins folklore forever!  Also, the more I thought about it too, why should I mess up a good thing?  Puckett IS Minnesota — he needs to be a part of this stretch run!  Could you imagine, though, if this hypothetical deal was actually made??  I think it could have severely hampered the Twins and helped Milwaukee’s for sure!

So — my third and final “big move” or alteration in this replay will be using a four-man rotation if needed during the final two-three weeks.  Frank Viola, John Butcher, and Mike Smithson will all go on three days rest if the Twins’ lead shrinks or even worse, fall into second or third place.  The Twins have a three game lead for now, so all is OK, but this team is very streaky!  After playing the Blue Jays and Royals, the Twins will have some easier competition to squeak out some more W’s.  To make things as realistic as I possibly can, I will cut 1/4 of each pitcher’s master grade if they do in fact pitch on three days’ rest.  For example, Viola, who is a 14, will fall down to an 11.  Butcher (MG 11), will be reduced to an 8, as will Smithson (MG 10).  I will rotate between Pete Filson (D, MG 5) and Ed Hodge (DZ, MG 4) for the 4th/5th rotation spot.  In a perfect world, I won’t have to utilize a four-man rotation, but I feel like if I do, I needed to tweak the master grade ratings a tad to reflect the added workload.  I’ve largely used the same personnel in each lineup using baseball reference as a guide, but I’ve batted players in different orders.

ce8620edcac9094b0f1f7fc80ced620c

Will the Metrodome be Minnesota’s key to a 1984 post-season berth?

Once September rolls around, I’ll have the full 40 man roster at my disposal, and I’m going to play who I want to play.  I am going to make sure Gary Gaetti at least appears in each game as he did in 1984, but I may slip him into the lineup late in games for his 5 defensive rating at 3B, and instead, start Ron Washington (4) or John Castino (4) instead for a better punch in the lineup (see stats in link below).  Gaetti’s really struggled, while Washington and Castino are waiting in the wings to help out at the dish.  I will say, though Gaetti has helped me with many 52-27’s, resulting in double plays with that 5 rating!

105955-15228748fr

Tom Brunansky (left) and Gary Gaetti are relishing their second chance in 1984!

Gaetti’s really struggled, while Washington and Castino are waiting in the wings to help out at the dish.  I will say, though Gaetti has helped me with many 52-27’s, resulting in double plays with that 5 rating!  New acquisitions to the roster include veteran shortstop Chris Speier and the left-handed hitting outfielder/firstbaseman/DH Pat Putnam (who I’d never heard of before!). Speier came over in a trade with St. Louis while Putnam was dealt over by the Mariners.  Both players were given up for minor leaguers that never made it to the bigs.  I don’t see myself using Putman very much with Hrbek having a career year and lefty Randy Bush serving as DH.  Speier will be used possibly to spot-start or to replace Houston Jimenez if I pinch hit for him as Speier has an 8 SS rating like Jimenez does. Jimenez has done all that I’ve needed him to do and more, hitting 64 points higher than he did in ’84 and leading the squad in sac bunts.  Lastly, I will continue to give Tim Laudner at bats and starts despite his disastrous year at the plate.  Laudner, who hit just .206 but had 10 HR and 35 RBI in 262 at bats and possesses a single-column 1 at 66, really is doing all he can to warrant a trip back to the minors.  For me, in 213 at bats, Laudner is batting .131 with 3 HR and 10 RBI. He is the backup to Dave Engle, who was an All-Star rep in 1984.  Engle, however, is batting .247/.277/.291 – no homers and 14 doubles in 339 plate appearances.  Basically, I’ve gotten very little from the catching position in terms of offense.  Laudner, though, has thrown out 9 of 15 runners trying to steal, and he has a better catcher arm rating than Engle.  Both are 7’s for defense – I’ll likely just continue to platoon them both.

bg6

Gardner keeps a close eye on his boys with fresh snoose in the pouch of his cheek.

As for Gardner, he’ll continue to keep things low-key, but I hope he’ll be able to keep his cool while the Twins look for ways to find wins in the season’s final month.  Below is what’s left for the Twins’ schedule, standings, and statistics.  Thanks for reading!

AL WEST STANDINGS – THRU AUGUST 30th

Minnesota 71-62

California 68-65 (3 GB)

Kansas City 67-66 (4 GB)

———————————–

Remaining Schedule – Current Record

at Toronto (74-59)- 3 games

at Kansas City (67-66)- 3 games

Texas (60-73) – 3 games

Kansas City – 3 games

at Texas – 3 games

Chicago White Sox (60-72) – 4 games

Cleveland (62-73) – 3 games

at Chicago White Sox – 3 games

at Cleveland – 4 games

——————————————————————

1984 Minnesota Twins Stats – Thru August 30th

84′ Twins Reach Trade Deadline – Is It Time to Deal?

Well, the 1984 Minnesota Twins Master Game Replay has hit August 31st.  It’s been an “on-and-off” replay as I haven’t had many opportunities to roll games.  With four Christmas gatherings now in my rear-view mirror, bathroom and hallway renovation projects in my house completed, and six days left of vacation before I return to my day job of third grade teacher at Hawley Elementary, I’m hoping to close the gap with 29 games left to go.  I started this replay in October of 2015, and now with the end in sight, I’ve gotten a renewed interest in completing it.  It gets tough with three young kids and a busy family and career, but amid all of the craziness, APBA is ALWAYS on my mind….ALWAYS.  Past, current, and future projects consume my imagination when time allows me to at least daydream a tad during the most mundane parts of my days.  Minnesota holds a record of 71-62, a full five games ahead of the second place Kansas City Royals.  However, a tough September schedule lies ahead and with it, pressure on these youthful Twins to deliver a division title.  It includes a big three game series with the Blue Jays coming up, and six more games with the Royals.

This 1984 Twins have fared much better than I thought they would!  The team’s offense has led all season by Kent Hrbek and Mickey Hatcher.  Hrbek, who’s hit third most of the season, leads the team with an average of .355, 29 HR, 90 RBI, and an impressive OPS of 1.012.  He’s really doing his part to garner MVP votes at season’s end. Mickey Hatcher, who I despised in my 1988 Oakland A’s replay when Hatcher wore Dodger white and blue with the Dodgers coming back down 3-1 to beat my A’s in 12 innings in Game 7, continues to amaze me!  He’s been the #2 batter in the lineup, and he’s hitting .345 with 4 HR and 65 RBI with only 22 K’s!  His OBP isn’t so hot considering the average (.377).  Tom Brunansky has been torrid since the All-Star break, and now leads the team in RBI with 99 to go along with a .297 average and 28 homers.

Starting pitching is another stronghold (for the most part).  The big three of Frank Viola, John Butcher, and Mike Smithson are as good as anyone in 1984.  “Sweet Music” is 15-10 with a 2.92 ERA and WHIP of 1.110.  Smithson just earned his 13th win by holding the Red Sox to a run, improving to 13-8, ERA of 3.22.  Butcher continues to turn heads with his incredible season.  He’s turned into the staff “ace” over the course of the year, and holds a record of 15-4 with a 1.99 ERA and WHIP of 1.027.  He’s pitched at least 6 innings in all of his 27 starts to date!  The rest of the “rotation” is suspect at BEST.  Ken Schrom, for example, has made 15 starts and is 0-4 with an ERA of 5.36 and WHIP of 1.600.  Ed Hodge has also made 15 starts, and he’s 3-8 with an ERA of 6.53.  “Big Al” Williams, who started opening day, is now the mop-up specialist, boasting an 8-5 record, ERA of 5.01 in 11 starts and 9 relief appearances.  Sometimes, Minnesota gets lucky and brings out the bats to carry the team to a win when one of these gents takes the hill….other times, not so much.  I will say this – If these Twins can make it to October, the big three of Viola, Butcher, and Smithson will do just fine and give me a fair shot – the question is, can the bullpen keep it together?

The weakest link in the ’84 Twins chain is definitely the bullpen.  I’ve had an absolute heckuva time with the closer, Ron Davis (CX, MG 6).  This man has made me FUME on many occasions.  Through August 30th, he’s 0-9 with an ERA of 5.45, WHIP of 1.706, 30 saves, and 11 blown saves.  Lefties Len Whitehouse (C, MG 7) and Pete Filson (D, MG 5) and righty Rick Lysander (CY, MG 9) and are my other three bullpen options.  All are pedestrian at best and are very capable of imploding, especially in the walks department.  With the current bullpen, I’m foreseeing a meltdown of epic proportions at some point.  It’d be nice to bolster it somehow, albeit realistically.  I could move either Lysander or Whitehouse into the closer role as well and see what happens.

When I started this replay, I wanted to take part in a “Big Three.”  Three alternative moves or changes to this replay in contrast to what actually took place in the real 1984.  The first move was bring up rookie Kirby Puckett up to the bigs during the first week of the season instead of waiting until mid-May.  Move #2 was having John Castino play part-time after his career-ending back injuries that plagued him after just 8 games in the real ’84 (I roll one die and whichever side it lands on, that’s the Castino card I use – ’79-’84).  I spot start him at second base, third base, and DH him against lefties while Randy Bush hits versus  righties.    Both moves, in my opinion, possibly have helped my offense, but not by much.  I just thought it would be fun to especially have Castino be a part of this team because he was one of the few bright spots for the Twins from the late 70’s-early 80’s.

Carl Pohlad did in fact purchase the Twins from the Griffith Family, putting to rest any rumors that Donald Trump would sneak in and purchase the franchise.  Trump will be on his way to ruining the USFL in short time.  Will Pohlad make a deal for the “here and now,” or will he play the cards he has in September and hope he’ll be dressing the Metrodome in red, white, and blue bunting come October against the Detroit Tigers, the soon-to-be champions of the AL Eastern Division.  With the trade deadline set to pass here after my next game as the Twins travel eastward to Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium to take on the Blue Jays,  there is an offer on the table from the Brewers.  Milwaukee, which is currently a whopping 31 games out of first in the AL East, is looking to, well, not rebuild, but rather reload.  With some great players still in their prime, the Brewers believe they will compete in the near future.  A few aging stars still carry some value, and Owner Bud Selig would like to get something in return after a lost season. The deal on the table is this:

Minnesota would get reliever 37 year old RHP Rollie Fingers (BXZ, MG 15) and outfielder Mark Brouhard.

Milwaukee would get outfielder Kirby Puckett, shortstop Greg Gagne, and the hot/cold reliever Ron Davis.

With Robin Yount set to go to the OF in 1985, Selig says Gagne would be the heir apparent to take over as the Brewers shortstop of the future.  Gagne has yet to play a game for MN this year as rookie Houston Jimenez has gotten the job done with his 8 defensive rating and is hitting 60 points higher than he did in the real 1984.  Ben Ogilve and Rick Manning will be out and will platoon when needed, and Yount and Puckett would be in as starting outfielders, duking it out for left and center field.  As for Davis, maybe a change of scenery would do him good for the rest of ’84 in hopes of returning for a better ’85.  He does have a career-high 30 saves this season.  For Fingers and the Twins, this would be a short-lived marriage that would enable them to shore up the bullpen for the stretch run, and yet parting ways with two players that could/would have a tremendous impact in later Twins teams.  Darrell Brown, who was the opening day center fielder, would regain his full-time starting role out there while Brouhard will offer another bat off the bench versus left-handed pitching, and is basically icing on the cake for Minnesota in the deal.  Puckett was batting over .340 most of the season, but second-half slump has brought his average down to .302, with an OBP of just over .330, similar numbers to what Brown has posted.  The only thing is, though, Pucket carries a 3 rating in the outfield for defense while Brown is a paltry 1, which is big considering the confines of the Metrodome.  Will the Twins take a chance and diminish their lineup and possibly their future by taking the bait and do more to secure their bullpen in a quest for the 1984 AL West crown?  Or….Will they keep their budding centerfielder and Jekyll and Hyde closer and pray he’ll “figure it out” over the course of the final month?  A decision will be made soon!

Gardner on Hot Seat – ’84 Twins Slump Continues

The 1984 Minnesota Twins Master Game Replay trudges on as one of the most memorable Fall Classics ever just wrapped up earlier this month (Congrats to the Cubs!). It’s certainly been slow but sure, but the game is always on my mind when life takes a firm hold of my time.  I started this replay a little over a year ago, and I’m thru 108 games. I’m a little disappointed that I haven’t finished this yet (because like you, I’ve got TONS of projects in mind I want to get to). This is the first non-A’s project I’ve done, and this era is slightly before my first baseball memories, so that could be a reason it’s been a slow process.  Nonetheless, I’m hoping that I can finish this by the new year.  I recently attended the fall Twin Cities APBA Tournament last month – look for a blog post about that soon.

The ’84 Twins have been mired in what you could say is a somewhat discouraging slump at the moment.

Gardner has pulled the right strings most of the season….will he see the fruits of his labor into October?

Minnesota currently has lost six in a row and has gone just 7-15 in their last 22 games.  Nine of those 15 losses were by two runs or less, so at least they have been in most of these games.  Timely hitting has been the big culprit recently as the team has struggled to hit with RISP, a .227 clip over that stretch.  There was one game in particular, however, that the Twins could blame a loss on manager Billy Gardner and his iffy bullpen.

It all happened on the night of Saturday, September 17th (August 2nd, 1984 in my replay).  I had finished my second week of teaching third grade in Hawley, MN where I live and work. With temperatures expected to be in the mid-70’s all weekend, I decided to take my two oldest boys (ages 7 and 4) on a little camping trip. After a fun-filled day of hiking, biking, and roasting marshmallows, my sons Jonny and Carter crashed and went to bed at 9:00 PM. I was at my usual breaking point – either go to bed as my window to get a decent amount of sleep was open OR burn the midnight oil and enjoy this beautiful night.  Well —  with a full moon out, a roaring fire, and a few beverages in the cooler, I took matters into my own hands and decided to live life while being awake!

As always, anywhere I go, I bring along my APBA Baseball game – I’ll throw the master game booklet in my bag/suitcase and my cards/dice fit nicely in a plastic bag tucked into one of the side pockets.  I set the game up on the picnic table with a utility light clamped onto the handle of the cooler which I put on the table as well, and I was ready to go back to 1984.  I have been VERY hit and miss with APBA lately so I was counting on this game being the ticket to getting back into it.  Frank Viola (MG 14, BYZ), my best pitcher according to APBA MG ratings, was set to pitch for my ’84 Twins while he faced Jim Slaton for the California Angels at the Big “A” in Anaheim as he clung onto the hope of remaining in California’s rotation down the stretch run.  Right before I was set to roll, a local Pelican Rapids Police Officer made a quick drive through the campground.  He stopped in his squad car and asked me, “How’s it going?”  I said, “Well, there’s a full moon, a blazing fire, and it’s a Saturday night….I can’t lose!”  Then, the officer asked, “What are you doing?”  Hmmm…how do I explain APBA to this guy?  This could be a 20 minute conversation…..Instead of going into details, my reply simply was, “I just decided to bring my desk work to the campground.”  He gave me a curious look, but then said, “You have a good one!”  I took the path of least resistance so I could get rolling, but I certainly felt at ease knowing the local constable was out and about doing his duty!  God Bless the men and women in blue!

In this particular game, the Twins and their offense gave Viola plenty of run support early.  Tom Brunansky’s two run homer and an RBI double by Tim Teufel in the first put Viola at a nice advantage.  That lead ballooned to 6-1 heading into the bottom of the 8th inning.  With Viola set to face the middle of the Angels’ lineup for the 4th time, allowing four hits and three walks and coming off a complete game on short rest, Manager Billy Gardner decided to hand the reigns over to the bullpen.

Williams, who lost his spot in the rotation, may have sealed even his mop-up duty fate in the loss at the Big A.

Williams, who lost his spot in the rotation, may have sealed even his mop-up duty fate in the loss at the Big A.

Al Williams (DZ, MG1), who was Minnesota’s Opening Day starter, has been relegated to mop-up duty.  Since he hadn’t pitched in almost two weeks, I thought to myself, “This is the PERFECT game for Williams to mop up some innings.”  Well, it was perfect for the Angels.  A leadoff walk, a two-run homer by Doug DeCinces, a single and another walk brought up Bobby Grich, who all of the sudden was the tying run.  Gardner had seen enough as he yanked Williams in favor of Ron Davis (CX, MG 6).  With the count 2-1, Davis piped a fastball right down Broadway and Grich parked it into the left field bleachers for a game-tying three-run blast.  This was just the start of the onslaught of Davis.  A single, a sac bunt, another single, a double, a walk, and another single led to three more runs crossing home plate as California now led 9-6.  Gardner, who was befuddled beyond reason, sheepishly walked out to the mound and brought in Rick Lysander (C, MG 9) to help put this horrific inning to rest as there was still one out.  He managed to get the final two outs, but that was before Brian Downing launched a three-run homer to dead center!  In total, the Angels put up 11 runs in the bottom of that 8th inning en route to a morale-breaking 12-6 loss for the Twins.  Unbelievable!  The loss, however, wasn’t bitter for long.  I enjoyed another hour outside by the warm campfire, and later retired to the tent.  Because of no rain in the forecast, I left the rain tarp off and fell asleep with a full moon and stars ablaze, savoring nature’s largest bedtime reality TV screen Mother Nature can offer!  I still ended up winning in that regard!

Back to the ’84 Twins here, though.  All of the horror stories I’ve heard about Ron Davis growing up as a kid have been coming alive with more frequency!  He’s currently 0-7 with 25 saves and an ERA of 5.77 and a WHIP of 1.786!!  YUCK!!  This loss was a crushing blow, so who knows what would’ve happened had Viola been left in.  The Angels used that momentum of the opening game of the four game set, sweeping the Twins in four games.

So what does that mean for the Twins?  They’re right where they were in 1984 – sitting at 56-52 and a half a game up on the Angels in the AL West.  Kent Hrbek continues to build his case for AL MVP with the numbers he’s been putting up.  Brunansky is right there in terms of power and has been the offensive leader since the All-Star Break.  Mickey Hatcher is still hitting at a ridiculous clip, but rookie Kirby Puckett’s average has taken a plunge.  After those four, the offense is really hit-or-miss, but Tim Teufel, John Castino, and Randy Bush provide some punch at opportune times, while Tim Laudner is enjoying an epically ugly offensive output.  On the pitching side, John Butcher has been the rock of the rotation, and he too, will be in the running for the ’84 Cy Young Award with the stats he’s posted with mostly pedestrian-like numbers by the rest of the league. Viola and Mike Smithson remain huge assets for the team, but after that, the rotation is a crapshoot at best.  In the bullpen, more of the same, but Bobby Castillo (CW, MG 10) was recently called-up and so far has been fairly strong so we’ll see what happens. Davis’ days could be numbered as the August 31st trade deadline nears. I cringe every time his name is called — even a three-run, one-inning save opportunity is hardly a given.  I just hope the Twins are relevant by that time!  We shall see….one game at a time!

And….if that weren’t enough drama for these 1984 Twins, DONALD TRUMP…..yeah…..our newly-elected Commander-In-Chief, might also play a role in the rise and fall of the Twins in this replay.  We shall see if any twists or turns lie ahead, but for now, I had no idea that he ALMOST bought the Twins in ’84…can you IMAGINE what the Twins’ fate may/may have not been?  Unheralded!  Click the link below for more info, and check out the stats and box score from the latest of Ron Davis’ infamous outings!  Thanks for reading!

http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/donald-trump-had-the-top-bid-on-the-minnesota-twins-in-1984-but-lost/

Since Trump lost out on the Twine BEFORE he won the Presidential Election, maybe he’ll try to buy the Twins AFTER his time in the White House….it would only seem logical, right?

Twins Continue Alternate 1984

Back to the Future II – Home of the Alternate 1985.  Marty McFly was in disarray, Biff Tannen built his evil empire Biffco, and the future of Hill Valley hung in the balance of mad-scientist/inventor Doc Emmet Brown.  All because Gray’s Sports Almanac wound up in the wrong hands.  As the story goes, Marty and Doc were able to destroy the almanac to put Biff in his place, Marty didn’t suffer his life-shattering car accident, and Doc Brown was commended (not committed). Those movies are timeless; movies like these are just as exciting and fun to watch now as they were 30 years ago. That’s also one of the many beauties of APBA Baseball. You look at the APBA cards of players from yesteryear, and no matter how little or long it’s been since a particular player has played, it instantly brings you back to that time period.  APBA has made me more of a student of the game’s history and rekindled more baseball memories than any other avenue I can think of.

For the past few months when time allows, I’ve enjoying an alternate 1984 in the comforts of my home and other locations compliments of APBA Baseball Master Game.  After replaying the Oakland A’s seasons of 1987, 88, and 89, I’m smack dab in the middle of a season replay of the 1984 Minnesota Twins.  Being a fellow lifelong Minnesotan (born in 1980), I was not aware of how close these ’84 Twins were to winning the American League West that year (3 GB).  Because of this, and the fact I’ve yet to play much with any Twins team, I wanted to put this club to the test to see if they could possibly leapfrog their way to the top.

So far, it’s been a very rewarding replay to say the least.  The 1987 A’s certainly weren’t dominant (my first replay), but the ’88 and ’89 teams were.  It’s been a nice change to go back to a team that really you can say has a 50/50 chance to win (’84 Twins finished 81-81).  There’s a tremendous amount of parity in the American League in 1984.  And it’s clear that the Detroit Tigers by FAR have a lineup that can hurt you in a hurry!  They are above and beyond better than the other 13 teams from my experience here thus far.  I began this replay in October of 2015 and now, I’m just about to the halfway point.  I went about four months without rolling a game, but now with baseball coaching all wrapped up, countered with gallbladder removal/hernia surgery next week, I’ll be forced to have some seat time.  Wishful thinking will have me in the basement rolling some APBA games. I’ve found that out since my APBA playing days began six years ago that there will be times when I’m “into” the game and times I’m not.  The luxury, though, is that it’ll be sitting there….on my  simply card table….in the basement….ready to go whenever I need a fix.  The ’84 Twins are 42-35, one full game ahead of the California Angels and three games

IMG_2519.PNG

A losing streak of six games has trimmed the Twins’ divisional lead to one game.

ahead of their actual ’84 counterparts.  The Twins, however, are mired in a season-long six game losing skid.  In the middle of that stretch were four heartbreaking losses by either a run or the game was lost in the last at-bat.  I’m beginning to have a real LOVE-HATE relationship with closer Ron Davis (CX, MG 6).  He’s put up OK numbers in the bullpen as the closer and is on pace for a mind-boggling 40 saves!  But in a recent game against Detroit, he blew leads twice in Minnesota’s 9-7 loss at Tiger Stadium.  The first time he blew the save opportunity walking, of all people, Tom Brookens with two outs and the bases loaded to force in the tying run in the 9th (he struck out Lou Whitaker to get out of the jam).  In the top of the 10th, Randy Bush’s solo homer put the Twins up 7-6 going into the bottom of the 10th.  With two outs, Davis walked Lance Parrish and Dave Bergman before Rupert Jones’ 66-1 sent the Tigers to the clubhouse winners on a walk-off three-run homerun.  Frustrating, but unpredictable at the same time!  There’ve been a few Ron Davis meltdowns up to this juncture and I’m sure there will be more, but for now, he’s converted 20 of 25 save opportunities…enough to keep his job.

The ’84 Twins possess three very serviceable starting pitchers.  John Butcher (BZ, MG 11) has been the clear leader of the staff.  He still has put up big numbers despite being roughed up in his last two starts, and if his success continues, he could be in the running for the Alternate 1984 AL Cy Young Award.  Frank Viola (BYZ, MG 14) didn’t make it out of the second inning in a recent 15-0 loss in Detroit, allowing 8 earned runs as Sparky’s boys clubbed the southpaw into oblivion.  Other than that, Viola has been able to go deep into games.

IMG_2521

The ’84 Twins pitching staff features three effective starters and the rest is potpourri! Ron Davis has an ugly WHIP right now!

Mike Smithson (BZ, MG 10) is the third leg of the starting-pitching tripod, and he too has been pretty decent.  Having three slightly better-than-average starters will give this team a chance.  The bullpen is putrid.  Davis, Len Whitehouse (C, MG 7), and Rick Lysander (CZ, 9) see most of the action, especially if the game is close.  After that, it’s all D pitchers and a whole lot of praying!

Offensively, Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, Mickey Hatcher, and Tom Brunansky are all making up for any pitching deficiencies this team may experience at any given time.  All four players are far-exceeding their real ’84 alter-egos.  Hrbek especially has been the key cog in the lineup, and is on pace for a possible Triple-Crown push.  Puckett and Hatcher are a solid 1-2 punch in the lineup and have been excellent table-setters for Hrbek and Brunansky.  After these guys, however, runs can be hard to come by.  Randy Bush has come on recently, and Houston Jimenez is hitting at a surprising .273 clip in the #9 hole.

IMG_2520

Hrbek, Hatcher, Puckett, and Brunansky have provided Minnesota’s offensive punch.

Gary Gaetti, Dave Engle, Tim Laudner, and Tim Teufel all provide offense albeit sporadically.  Gaetti played in all 162 games in 1984, hitting a lone 5 HR.  I will stay true to this as his “5” rating at third base is just too good to leave on the bench.  But his .302 slugging percentage is a sad sight!!  Ron Washington’s pitiful “7” shortstop rating hasn’t earned him the right to being in the lineup consistently, but his .306 average might earn him a few more starts than what he’s gotten up to this point.  He’s a great pinch-hitting or pinch-running option late. Teufel has also appeared in all of the team’s 77 games so far, but his days are numbered.

With this replay, I wanted to do a “Big Three” of sorts – three moves, trades, or significant changes to create an “alternative,” yet realistic replay.  The first

1984-donruss-120-john-castino-nm-mt-66ba55257def2cc50610a86526424f9c

Castino’s full potential will never be known.  Could he have helped the ’84 Twins to the AL West title?

“move” was inserting Kirby Puckett into the starting lineup during the first week of the season instead of waiting for his early-May call up to the bigs.  So far, I’m pleased with that decision as Puckett’s been quite consistent, and really should’ve been playing ahead of Darrell Brown since Day 1 anyway.  It took me awhile to figure out what my second “move” would be until recently.  John Castino, the 1979 co-AL Rookie of the Year, played his final season of his all-too-short MLB career in 1984.  Chronic back issues forced his early retirement following the 1984 season as he aggravated it during a game in May, sliding into home at Anaheim Stadium.  As a kid, hearing stories about Castino from my brother Ben and other old Twins fans, I’ve always wondered “what could’ve been” had Castino been healthy.  Would he have been a piece of the Twins’ championships later down the road?  Could the Twins have maybe earned more post-season berths?  All-Star games? Gold Gloves?  We’ll never know. HOWEVER….in APBA-land, we could at least find out if Castino has the wherewithal to give the ’84 Twins the push they need to win the AL West.

How can I accomplish this and yet keep this realistic with integrity?  Here is my idea.  Castino has not played since early May, just as in real 1984 as he’s been nursing his back.  My plan is after the All-Star Break, to insert him back into the lineup as the regular second baseman with Teufel as backup with some starts here and there.  Castino has a MONSTER card in 1984 as he hit .444 in his 8 games played.  I’m not going to fully use that card as that would be completely unrealistic.

FullSizeRender.jpg

Casino’s APBA Baseball cards.  Each card will be thrown into the fire for Castino’s comeback.  Top row (L to R) 1979, 1980, 1981.  Bottom row (L to R) 1982, 1983, 1984.

My plan is this – any game that Castino plays in (starts, pinch hits, etc), I’ll roll one die.  Whatever the number rolled is will correspond to the card I’ll use for him in that particular game.  If a one is rolled, I’ll use his 1979 card, a two, 1980, and so on.  If a six is rolled, well, the Twins and Castino will really benefit.  Who knows – he could have had a career season in ’84 (no way he’d kept up his .444 clip), but at least this way, it will provide the opportunity to at least have his that epic card in the mix.  Because he was an “8” second baseman for fielding during his last two full seasons (’82 and ’83), he will remain an 8 in every game I play, and a “4” if he has to play third base.  He will never be an “F” despite what his first two cards say.  For everything else “Master Game” related, I’m going to keep it simple and use Teufel’s ratings for arm strength, stealing allowance, etc.  For batting characteristics, no matter what the card, I’ll use the default -1/-1  for lefty/righty pitchers.  I want this to be interesting enough to answer all of my “what-ifs” with Castino, to be random enough where there are six varieties of cards to use, but not overcomplicate this where I’m yanking my teeth out.  I can’t wait to see how this unfolds.  My opinion, simply is I wish Castino had been a part of the Twins run of titles because he deserved the opportunity to be a contributor, if not a leader.  The ’84 Twins have seven games before the All-Star break, so it will be awhile before Castino returns, but it will be worth the wait!