Minnesota Twins: Who Are the Top 15 Players in Twins History?

Tim MeehanCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2012

Minnesota Twins: Who Are the Top 15 Players in Twins History?

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    Since the 1961 season, the Minnesota Twins have won one American League pennant, four American League West division crowns and six American League Central division crowns. They have appeared in three World Series and won two of them.

    Winning is a part of this franchise's history, but without the great players that have donned the Twins uniform, that winning culture would have never been established.

    This list will count down the 15 best players in franchise history.

Criteria

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    The criteria for making this list is fairly simple.

    The length a player wore the Twins uniform is a big part of it.

    The player's statistics from when they played for the Twins is the next thing considered.

    After that is whether they held or currently hold any Twins franchise records.

    And last, but not least, is the impact they had on the fanbase.

    Without any further ado, let's take a look at those that just missed out on the top 15.

Honorable Mention

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    In no particular order, here are those players who just missed out on being named a top 15 player in Twins history.

    Al Newman

    Newman was acquired in a trade prior to the 1987 season from the Montreal Expos. Newman was a super utility man, having played five different defensive positions for the Twins in 1987. While he wasn't much with the bat (having a .231 batting average over his five seasons with the Twins), he gave manager Tom Kelly a good glove at any position he needed Newman at. He was also one of only seven players to play for both of the Twins World Series winning teams.

    Dan Gladden

    Gladden was another of the seven players to play for both Twins World Series winning teams. He also scored the winning run in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series after stretching a bloop hit into a double in the bottom of the 10th inning. He was an above average outfielder for the Twins and showed a knack for stealing bases at the most opportune times.

    Eddie Guardado

    The man nicknamed "Everyday" certainly lived up to that title, pitching in 648 games and being named an All-Star twice during his time in Minnesota. In 2002 and 2003 he was the closer for the Twins, shutting the door 86 times. He helped Minnesota to their first and second AL Central titles. Guardado left the Twins on less than great terms, but has finally reconciled his differences with the franchise and is taking part in the Twins spring training in some capacity as a coach this season.

    Gary Gaetti

    Gaetti spent 10 seasons with the Twins and was a part of the team that won the 1987 World Series. He was a two time All-Star and four time Gold Glove winner, as well as three times received votes for the AL MVP award. Throughout his time with the Twins he played as many as four different positions a season and was an integral part of the Twins clubhouse.

    Gene Larkin and Randy Bush

    Larkin and Bush both get honorable mention mainly because they were in the group of seven players that won both the 1987 and 1991 World Series with the Twins. It was also Larkin that had the game-winning RBI in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Bush played his entire 12 year career with the Twins.

15. Juan Berenguer

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    Juan Berenguer spent four seasons with the Twins from 1987-1990. He was at the tail end of his career but eclipsed the 100 innings pitched mark coming out of the Twins bullpen every year. He pitched in 211 games over those four seasons.

    Twins fans referred to Berenguer as "Senor Smoke" and "El Gasolino" because of his fastball, which at that time was well above average constantly clocking in the mid 90s.

    To know the true lasting impact of Berenguer on the team, one must only make the trek to Target Field where they can get concessions from Senor Smoke's.

14. Justin Morneau

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    Justin Morneau has spent all nine years of his career in Minnesota. He was drafted by the Twins in 1999 and has become a main stay in the four-hole in the lineup, when healthy.

    He is a four-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger, and the 2006 AL MVP. He was also second in the MVP voting in 2008.

    Morneau is a fan favorite and will most likely play out the rest of his career in a Twins uniform.

13. Johan Santana

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    Johan Santana pitched eight seasons with the Twins from 2000 to 2007.

    Over that stretch he was a two-time All-Star, two-time AL Cy Young winner, one-time Gold Glove winner, finished fifth or higher for the Cy Young two other times and seventh or better twice for the AL MVP award.

    He won 93 games for the Twins while having a 3.22 ERA, making 175 starts. In four consecutive seasons (2004-2007) he pitched at least 219 innings a season while striking out at least 235 a season. 134 of his starts came during that four-year stretch and his lowest win percentage was .536 during a season the Twins went 79-83.

    There are still some hard feelings toward Santana for leaving the franchise, but it is hard to blame him for wanting to have a chance at playoff success.

12. Frank Viola

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    Frank Viola spent eight seasons with the Twins from 1982 until he was traded in 1989.

    Viola started 259 games for the Twins and won 112 of them. He won the AL Cy Young award in 1988 as well as appearing in the Midsummer Classic that year. The man known as "Sweet Music" was a workhorse for the Twins, pitching over 200 innings for them in every season except his first season with the team and the year he was traded. He did, however, pitch a total of 261 innings in 1989.

    Not only is Viola beloved for what he did for the Twins for those eight seasons, but he is also loved for two of the players the Twins got in return for his trade.

    When he was traded to the Mets in 1989 the Twins received four pitchers and a player to be named later. One of those pitchers was Kevin Tapani, who helped lead the Twins to their 1991 World Series.

    The Twins also received Rick Aguilera in the trade.

11. Joe Nathan

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    Joe Nathan was acquired by the Twins in a trade with the San Francisco Giants in 2003.

    He immediately became the Twins closer in 2004 and held that role until he required Tommy John surgery in 2010. He missed all of 2010, but came back in 2011 to regain his closer role late in the season.

    He holds the Twins single-season record for saves with 47 (2009) and career saves with 260.

    He is also ranked sixth in games played by a pitcher in a Twins uniform.

10. Torii Hunter

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    Torii Hunter roamed center field for the Twins for 11 seasons. He was twice an All-Star and won seven Gold Glove awards while playing for the Twins.

    Hunter was a fan favorite in Minnesota, always bearing a huge smile when interacting with any fan that might come across him. However, what made him so likeable was the fact that as soon as the game began the smile disappeared and the passion he had for winning took over.

    The most impressive thing about Hunter was that in his four trips to the postseason with the Twins he actually played better. Hunter was a .271 hitter during the regular season for the Twins but in his four postseason appearances with the Twins he was a .300 hitter.

    When the game was on the line, Hunter was the man that every Twins fan wanted at the plate.

9. Greg Gagne

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    Greg Gagne is another member of the seven players who won two World Series with the Twins.

    During his tenure with the Twins, Gagne did not win any awards or make any All-Star appearances. He was also only a .249 career hitter in Minnesota.

    The reason that Gagne makes this list is because he is a true blue collar, Minnesota Twins type player. He worked hard every day. He never complained. And he rarely made mistakes.

    He was the even keel player that counter-balanced the extremely emotional Kirby Puckett, and that earns him a spot on this list.

8. Rick Aguilera

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    Rick Aguilera came to the Twins in the 1989 trade that sent Frank Viola to the New York Mets.

    Aguilera spent 11 seasons with the Twins, working as their closer in every season except 1989 right after he arrived.

    He was a three-time All-Star with the Twins and also received votes for the AL MVP in 1991.

    During the 1991 postseason he had five saves en route to the Twins winning the World Series.

    He was the all-time leader in franchise history in saves with 254 until Joe Nathan broke his record last season.

7. Joe Mauer

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    Joe Mauer has spent all eight seasons of his career with the Minnesota Twins and with a contract that has him signed until 2018, it is likely his whole career will be played here.

    He is a Minnesota native, having been born in St. Paul and playing his high school baseball at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul.

    He is a four-time All-Star, a four-time Silver Slugger award winner, a three-time AL batting champ, and was the AL MVP in 2009.

    Not only is he the face of the franchise, he is also a huge reason the Twins got their new stadium. It can also be argued that the new stadium was designed specifically for the type of hitter that Mauer is.

6. Bert Blyleven

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    Bert Blyleven spent 11 of his 22 major league seasons with the Minnesota Twins. He got 149 of his 287 wins wearing a Twins uniform and pitched 141 complete games for the Twins.

    Last season the Minnesota Twins retired his number and he was also inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Blyleven is third in innings pitched in franchise history and second in strikeouts in franchise history. He is also third in complete games and shutouts in franchise history.

    He was known for being a prankster and helping to keep the other players from becoming too stressed during the daily grind of the season.

    Blyleven currently works as a television commentator for Twins games and is still a fan favorite, among fans who grew up watching him pitch and those who never saw him pitch alike.

5. Rod Carew

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    Rod Carew spent 12 of his 19 seasons playing Major League Baseball wearing a Twins uniform. He was a 12 time All-Star in Minnesota, as well as the AL Rookie of the Year in 1967 and the AL MVP in 1977. He received votes for the AL MVP award seven other times during his tenure in Minnesota.

    He was a career .334 hitter during his 12 seasons with the Twins.

    Carew holds the franchise record for batting average and hits in a single-season.

    In 1987 the Minnesota Twins retired his number and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.

4. Kent Hrbek

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    Kent Hrbek played his entire career with the Minnesota Twins. A native of Minnesota, he was also a member of both the 1987 and 1991 World Series Championship teams.

    Hrbek was a consistent power hitter for the Twins, hitting 20 or more home runs in 10 of his 14 big league seasons.

    He was once an All-Star, was second in voting for the 1982 AL Rookie of the Year and twice received votes for the AL MVP.

    Hrbek is best known for a play during Game 2 of the 1991 World Series where he appeared to lift Ron Gant off of first base to apply a tag. The Twins actually made a bobblehead of the two tangled up at first base and gave it away during last season. It was one of the most anticipated promotional nights in Twins history.

    While Hrbek was not great at the plate during either World Series, he made an instrumental defensive play in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. During the eighth inning with the score tied, the Atlanta Braves had the bases loaded. A ground ball was hit to Hrbek and he quickly fired the ball to home plate, where catcher Brian Harper stepped on the plate and rifled the ball back to Hrbek to complete the 3-2-3 double play.

    Hrbek's number is retired by the Minnesota Twins.

3. Tony Oliva

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    Tony Oliva spent his entire 15 year career in Minnesota. He was an eight-time All-Star, won one Gold Glove award, AL Rookie of the Year in 1964 and received votes for the AL MVP eight times.

    Oliva was a career .304 hitter for the Twins and holds the franchise record for total bases in a single-season.

    His number was retired by the Twins in 1991, and he serves as a hitting coach for the Twins during spring training.

2. Harmon Killebrew

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    Harmon Killebrew played 14 seasons in Minnesota and a total of 21 seasons with the franchise (seven prior to their moving from Washington).

    He was an 11 time All-Star, won the AL MVP award in 1969 and received votes for the AL MVP 10 other seasons.

    Killebrew is the franchise leader for the Twins in games played, total bases, home runs, runs batted in, walks, sacrifice flies, and intentional walks. He is also the single-season leader in home runs and runs batted in.

    In the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN, there is a red bleacher seat showing the place where his fabled 520 foot home run was hit. The Mall of America is located where the Minnesota Twins first field, Met Stadium, was located.

    In 1975 Killebrew was a member of the Kansas City Royals and when the Royals came to Minnesota to play the Twins, the Minnesota Twins retired Killebrew's number.

    Killebrew was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.

1. Kirby Puckett

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    Kirby Puckett played his entire career with the Minnesota Twins. He was the heart and soul of both the 1987 and 1991 World Series Championship teams.

    A 10-time All-Star, six-time Silver Slugger award winner, and six-time Gold Glove winner. Nine times during his career did he receive votes for the AL MVP award and he was third in the voting for the 1984 AL Rookie of the Year award.

    Puckett was a .318 career hitter with 2304 hits, 207 home runs, and 1085 runs batted in.

    In 1996 Puckett's career was cut short when he woke up one day unable to see out of his right eye. He was diagnosed with glaucoma and after three surgeries were unable to restore the vision he subsequently retired. Upon his retirement he became the Twins executive vice president of the team.

    In 1997 the Twins retired his number, and in 2001 he became a first-ballot member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.