Minnesota Twins: Ranking the Top 10 Performances in the Olympics

Matt LindholmContributor IIAugust 10, 2012

Minnesota Twins: Ranking the Top 10 Performances in the Olympics

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    With the absence of America's pastime in the London 2012 Olympics, baseball fans can't help but reminisce about past Summer Games when baseball was played. 

    Heroic home runs.  Dashing pitching performances. 

    Since baseball became an official Olympic sport in 1992, several Minnesota Twins have played key roles for their respective countries' Olympic clubs.

    The following article ranks Twins, current and former, in order of Olympic success (individual and team) and career performance in Minnesota.

10. Adam Everett

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    Then an infielder for the Houston Astros organization, Adam Everett, was a member of the gold medal squad in 2000.

    Despite only hitting a meager .043 at the Summer Games, Everett did have a good Olympics in the field and managed to go 1-4 with 1 run in the gold-medal game against Cuba.

    Unlike his mixed performance in the Olympics, Everett's Twins tenure was mostly negative.  In the 48 games Everett played for the Twins, he hit .213/.278/.323 with a .967 field percentage.  

    In the 44 games he played shortstop for the Twins, Everett committed 7 errors (a rate of 24 per season, personal worst).

    Everett made the list because despite having a so-so Olympics and short-lived Twins career, he did contribute the USA's first-ever Olympic gold in baseball.

9. Grant Balfour

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    Grant Balfour, an Aussie by birth, pitched for the Australian national team at the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney.

    Balfour pitched a 0-0 record, 4.39 ERA, 1 SV, 6:1 K:BB through 4.1 IP in the 2000 Olympics.  In spite of home-field advantage, Balfour and Team Australia went 2-5, failing to make the semi-finals.

    Signed by the Twins in 1997. Balfour played for the Twins through 2001, 2003-2004.  As a reliever, the Aussie native pitched a 5-1 record, 4.63 ERA, and .240 BAA through 68 IP.

    Okay Olympics.  Decent Twins career.

8. Tsuyoshi Nishioka

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    The NPB star, Tsuyoshi Nishioka represented Japan in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  The infielder posted a .435/.536/.609, 1 HR, 4 RBI, and 6 R. Despite Tsuyoshi's best efforts, Japan lost the bronze-medal game to Team USA.

    In his rookie season with the Twins, Tsuyoshi played only six games before breaking his leg.  He returned to the team in mid June and posted modest numbers for his rookie season (.226 BA, 15 BB, 43 SO, 2 SB).

    Even worse yet, Tsuyoshi did not make the Twins roster in his second season, 2012.  He was finally called up to majors in August 2012.  Currently, Nishioka is 0-for-12 at the plate and has committed 3 errors in the field through three games.

    Great individual Olympics+fourth place team finish+Poor standing with the Twins organization=eighth place

7. RA Dickey

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    As part of the USA's team of college players in 1996, 21-year-old RA Dickey had a successful Olympic Games. 

    The University of Tennessee pitcher performed extremely well in his Olympic debut.  In fact, Dickey was 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA, 9 K/9. 4:1 K/BB over 12 IP.  Dickey's efforts helped the USA dominate preliminary games against Italy and the Netherlands.

    His career in Minnesota was a different tale.  Dickey played just one season in Minnesota pitching to a 1-1 record, 4.52 ERA, and .290 BAA through 64.1 IP.

    Good Olympics, individually and team.  Brief and mediocre Twins career.

6. Chad Allen

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    The Texas A&M outfielder represented Team USA in the 1996 Olympic Games.

    During the Atlanta Summer Games, Allen hit an impressive .375, 2 HR, 8 RBI, and 9 R through 32 AB for Team USA's bronze-medal run.

    Allen was one of three '96 Team USA members who were drafted by the Twins.  During his Twins career, Allen hit .273/.332/.401 with 14 HR and 73 RBI.  After a solid rookie year, Allen's numbers went down, and he was granted free agency two seasons later.

    Great individual Olympics.  Good team effort.  Short and unimpressive Twins career.

5. Brian Duensing

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    Brian Duensing was part of bronze-medal winning Team USA in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

    Going 1-0, with a 1.17 ERA through 7.2 IP, Duensing easily retired 23 of 29 batters that he faced. Though his playing time was limited, Duensing played a key role in as a middle reliever. 

    Coming late into a close game against Canada, Duensing retired 10 of 11 batters to earn the win for Team USA.

    The 29-year-old pitcher is in his fourth season with Twins and has had a mixed career thus far.  Currently, Duensing has pitched a 26-26 record, 4.03 ERA, .275 BAA, 5.7 SO/9 through 449 IP for the Twins.

    Good Olympic effort.  Adequate Twins career.

4. Matt LeCroy

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    The Clemson University DH played on the 1996 US team that won Olympic bronze.

    During the Olympics, Matt LeCroy hit .393, 4 HR, 10 RBI, and 10 R through 33 AB.  LeCroy also had a hit in every game through the Olympics.

    Following his Olympic success, LeCroy was drafted in 1997 by the Twins, making him the second member of Team USA '96 to be picked up by Minnesota. 

    LeCroy played seven seasons for the Twins, with limited playing time.  He did find his niche as a pinch hitter having an unheard-of four pinch-hit home runs in 2004.

    Outstanding individual Olympics.  Good team Olympic effort.  Decent but limited Twins career.

3. Jacque Jones

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    The USC Trojan played for Team USA at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.  Like his Olympic teammates, Jacque Jones was a college phenom.

    During the team's bronze-medal performance, Jones hit .394, 5 HR, 13 RBI, and 12 R in 38 AB.

    Drafted by Minnesota in 1996, Jones remained a Twin until he was granted free agency in 2005. From 2000 to 2005, Jones averaged .280/.333/.455, 20 HR, 72 RBI, and fewer than 5 errors in the outfield per season.  

    His good offensive production and reliable defense helped propel the Twins from from 90-loss seasons in the 1990s to 90-win seasons in the 2000s.

    Great Olympics. Good Twins career.

2. Jon Rauch

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    The 6'9 Jon Rauch became a key part of the Team USA's Olympic gold run of 2000.

    The intimidating Rauch pitched a 1-0 record, .81 ERA, 22 K, O BB through 11 IP during the Olympics. Rauch led the Olympic baseball contest in strikeouts.  

    Playing just two seasons in Minnesota, Rauch pitched a 8-2 record, 2.82 ERA, 21 S, .263 BAA through 73.1 IP.  What is significant about Rauch's tenure with the Twins was his success at filling in for the injured/recovering Joe Nathan.

    Impressive Olympics.  Strong Twins tenure.

1. Doug Mientkiewicz

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    Doug "Eye Chart" Mientkiewicz swung one of the best bats during the US's run to win Olympic gold in 2000. 

    Mientkiewicz hit .414/.471/.655 with two important home runs to help the US win in key games against Korea, in the preliminary round and the semifinals. The semifinal home run came in bottom of a tied 9th inning to send the US to the gold-medal game.

    During his seven seasons as a Twin, Mientkiewicz was a key component in the franchise's turnaround from pushover in the 1990s to AL Central powerhouse of the 2000s. 

    His unsung hero performance the 2000 Olympics and influence on the Twins of the 2000s put Doug Mientkiewicz at No. 1.