The rebirth of the 1984 Minnesota Twins via the APBA Baseball Game (Master Addition) is in full force. The reincarnation of this somewhat forgotten Twins squad just completed its April games, and what has transpired has surprised many. The season didn’t start out so swell with a near-capacity crowd on hand for Opening Day against the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers took it to the Twinkies 12-1, bashing three homeruns off beleaguered starter “Big” Al Williams. Minnesota dropped four of its first five games, all at the Metrodome, to start the year out 1-4.
The Minnesota brass made an early decision that helped change the course of the rest of the month. Heralded prospect Kirby Puckett was brought up from AAA to take the place of struggling Jim Eisenreich in center field to help bolster the offense. In Puckett’s debut, he almost witnessed a no-hitter in the Bronx.
Frank Viola (BYZ, MG 14) won a 1-0 duel against Phil Niekro. Viola’s no-hit bid ended with a two out single to Lou Piniella in the bottom of the 9th, beaning Don Baylor, and then inducing Dave Winfield with an infield popup to end the contest. That victory seemingly springboarded this Twins team to cloud nine the rest of the month, going 15-4 the rest of the way.
With a 9-7 record, the Twins headed to Tiger Stadium in Detroit for an important two-game series. After day one was rained out, the two teams locked horns in a doubleheader down on “The Corner.” In the DH opener, the Twins blasted the Tigers 7-1, outhitting Detroit 15-5 as Jack Morris was driven out in the 4th inning. “Big” Al hurled six effective innings to earn the win. Minnesota took the nightcap 4-2 in a see-saw game. Gary Gaetti’s bloop single in the 8th drove home the go ahead run, and Ron Davis (CX, MG 6) pitched two scoreless innings to save it. Those two wins pushed Minnesota home with added confidence and renewed fan interest in the squad. The hometown club didn’t disappoint in a short two-game series versus the Yankees. Mike Smithson (CYZ, MG 10) dealt the Yankees a four hit shutout and the Twins used four two-out RBI singles to nip New York 4-0. The following night, John Butcher (BYZ, MG 11) tossed a two-hit shutout over the mighty Bombers, leaving the Yankees hitless over the final six innings. Darrell Brown and newly-crowned shortstop Houston Jimenez (who took over for Lenny Faedo mid-April) came through with two out singles to provide the Twins enough offense in their 2-0 win. The shutout was Butcher’s THIRD of the month. You read right….THIRD!!
The sparse crowds were very enthusiastic and energetic which provided a nice change for the 25 guys in the third base dugout – the ‘Dome is beginning to become a relevant place! The Twins took that energy to the Oakland Coliseum to win three of four against the A’s. Minnesota owned a seven-game winning steak until the final game of the series that saw Ron Davis allow a game-tying homerun to Dave Kingman in the 8th, and a two-out bases loaded walk in the bottom of the 9th to officially lose it for the Twins. Nonetheless, the Twins own a 16-8 record and sit atop the AL West with a three game lead over those same A’s. The Twins will open May with a three game series up at the Kingdome against the Mariners before heading back to the confines of the Teflon roof.
Team pitching has been the biggest surprise thus far for Minnesota. The staff boasts a TEAM E.R.A. of 2.99 thru 24 games. Yes….that’s including Ron Davis (3.68, 6 saves in 8 opportunities). The team has used a four man rotation with a spot-start by Larry Pashnick (DZ, MG 4) who only threw seven shutout innings in Oakland! The dice will turn the other way eventually, but right now, the Twins will take their good fortunes until the dice roll dry. Five shutouts and six total complete games round out the accolades. The bullpen is patchwork at best, but a recent callup of lefty Len Whitehouse (CZ, MG 7) will help a little. Below are some of the numbers of the Twins starting hurlers:
Viola: 4-2. 2.85 ERA, 1 CG, 1 SHO, 1.244 WHIP
Butcher: 3-1, 1.56 ERA, 3 CG, 3 SHO, 0.942 WHIP
Smithson: 3-1, 2.95 ERA, 2 CG, 1 SHO, 1.286 WHIP
Williams: 3-2, 6.00 ERA, 1.833 WHIP
The offense has been ignited by one main Minnesotan – Kent Hrbek. “Herbie” came out of the gates blazing, and although he’s cooled off a bit over the last six games, his numbers are certainly MVP-worthy (see below).
The Bloomington, MN native hit six homeruns in his first ten games to provide the early punch the offense needed to be competitive. The others have slowly followed suit. Mickey Hatcher and Puckett are great table setters for the meat of the order in Hrbek and Tom Brunansky. Other than Puckett, no one is even a remote threat to steal, so the Twins must utilize the hit-and-run to move men along as the team has attempted to steal just six times (5 for 6). Gary Gaetti will be mired in the bottom third of the lineup, but his defense is needed on the field (5 rating at 3rd) despite his offensive struggles (in real life, he hit just 5 HR in 1984 despite playing in all 162 games!!). The team overall is hitting .288, which most teams would take any day of the week, and team on base is a moderate 0.326. Minnesota is batting a hearty 0.316 with runners in scoring position. Defense, however, continues to plague the team as it’s made 24 errors – an average of one per game. With Jimenez now at short, his 8 rating is a huge improvement over Faedo’s miniscule 6. Below are some offensive stats through April.
Hrbek: .394, 9 HR, 23 RBI, 8 2B, 19 Runs, 1.181 OPS
Puckett: .325, 25 total hits (2 XBH), 15 Runs, 6 RBI
Hatcher: .370, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 0.921 OPS
Brunansky: .293, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 0.737 OPS
Ron Washington: .455 (10 games)
Tim Teufel: .250, 2 HR, 9 RBI, .739 OPS
Gaetti: .202, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 0.456 OPS
Tim Laudner: .208, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0.594 OPS
Darrell Brown: .292
Dave Engle: .288
Randy Bush: .275
Also, I want to give a quick shout out to Jim Fraasch for organizing the 5th Twin Cities APBA Baseball Tournament to be held in April of 2016. Check out his blog – JIm’s APBA Barn – pretty unique stuff there! I’m already trying to think of what team to bring next….I’ve narrowed it to about…..hmmmm…..20 TEAMS! Oh well….I still have time on my side! Thanks for reading and following this blog. If you have any 1984 baseball memories, Twins or otherwise, I’d love to hear from you. Enjoy APBA however you see fit! 66’s! Enjoy what’s left of this Thanksgiving weekend. We all have a lot to be thankful for without a doubt.