The last month, we have been highlighting some of the best players in the Twins 60-season history. Today, we enter the 21st century. Who makes the team of the '00s? These should all be familiar names for Twins fans.
Tom Kelly suffered through some rough Twins seasons but when he retired after the 2001 season, he left the team in a good spot. Ron Gardenhire took over and the team won six division titles in a decade. As we have seen in other decades, much of that credit for this decade belongs to the offense.
The team had two MVPs, a three-time batting champ, several Silver Sluggers and Gold Glove Awards, more All Stars, lots of 30+ double seasons and many 30+ home run seasons.
The list below includes some of the better players in Twins history, but don't worry, there are still a few tough choices in this "lineup." And, frankly, there are some snubs that are deserving as well.
The Twins Hitters of the 2000s
C - Joe Mauer (2004-2009)
699 games, .327/.408/.483 (.892) with 158 doubles, 72 homers, 397 RBI.
The #1 overall pick of the 2001 draft rose quickly through the Twins minor league system and made his debut on Opening Day 2004. In the following seasons, he became one of baseball’s best players. In 2006, he hit .347 to become the first catcher in American League catcher to win a batting title. He won another in 2008 (.328) and 2009 (.365). He was baseball’s best player in 2009 when he won the AL SABRmetric Triple Crown at .365/.444/.587 (1.031). He was named the league’s MVP that season. Through the 2009 season, he had three batting titles, three All-Star appearances, three Silver Sluggers and his first two Gold Glove awards.
1B - Justin Morneau (2003-2009)
867 games, .280/.350/.501 (.851) with 190 doubles, 163 homers, 623 RBI.
Morneau was the Twins third-round pick in 1999. He made his MLB debut in 2003. He had his ups and downs for a couple of years, but he came into his own in 2006. He hit .321/.375/.559 (.934) with 37 doubles, 34 homers and 130 RBI. He won his first of two Silver Slugger Awards. He was an All-Star each of the next four seasons. He was the runner up for MVP in 2008. From 2006-2009, he hit 31 or more homers three of four years and drove in at least 100 runs all four years.
2B - Nick Punto (2004-2009)
659 games, .249/.325/.327 (.652) with 91 doubles, 11 homers, 174 RBI.
Punto was the Twins 33rd-round pick in 1997, but he didn’t sign. He was later drafted by the Phillies and worked up to the big leagues with them. The Twins acquired him after the 2003 season in the Eric Milton trade, and he became a regular, playing a variety of positions, by 2005. While he’s not a perfect fit at second base, he provided the Twins a ton of versatility. He always took quality at-bats and made pitchers throw a lot of pitches. He also was a plus-plus defender around the infield. In 2006, he hit .290/.352/.373 (.725) with 29 extra base hits in 135 games. In 2008, he hit .284/.344/.382 (.726). He averaged nearly 16 stolen bases between 2005 and 2009. Also considered at the position: Luis Castillo.
3B - Corey Koskie (2000-2004)
688 games, .278/.373/.465 (.838) with 159 doubles, 89 homers, 377 RBI.
Koskie, a native of Manitoba, was the Twins 26th-round pick in 1994. He made his debut late in the 1998 season. In 2000, he hit .300/.400/.441 (.841) with 45 extra- base hits. In 2001, he both scored 100 runs and drove in 100 runs. He also hit a career-high 26 home runs that season. He hit 37 doubles in both 2001 and 2002. He posted an OPS of .815 or higher in seven of eight seasons between 1999 and 2006. He also became a very reliable defensive third baseman.
SS - Cristian Guzman (2000-2004)
710 games, .272/.308/.398 (.706) with 130 doubles, 38 homers, 263 RBI.
Guzman was acquired by the Twins in the February 1998 Chuck Knoblauch trade. He was the Twins Opening Day shortstop starting in 1999. Initially, he was known for strong defense and his great speed. In 2000, he led the league with 20 triples. 2001 was his best season. He hit .302 and played in his first All-Star Game. He hit 28 doubles, a league-leading 14 triples, and a career-high ten home runs. He led the league with 14 triples again in 2003.
LF - Jacque Jones (2000-2005)
881 games, .278/.327/.455 (.781) with 165 doubles, 123 homers, 432 RBI.
Jones was the Twins second-round draft pick in 1996 out of USC (Southern California). The Olympian signed and made his debut midway through the 1999 season. 2000 was his first full season. In 2002, he hit .300 with 37 doubles and 27 home runs. In 2003, he hit .304 with 33 doubles and 16 homers. He hit 23 and 24 homers in 2004 and 2005, respectively. He was a solid left fielder with a great - though sometimes inaccurate - arm. Soon after the Twins acquired Shannon Stewart in 2004, Jones moved to right field.
CF - Torii Hunter (2000-2007)
1,092 games, .273/.326/.478 (.803) with 241 doubles, 183 homers, 674 RBI.
Hunter was the Twins first-round pick in 1993 out of high school. He had brief call ups in 1997 and 1998 but spent a lot of time traveling between AAA and the big leagues in 1999 and 2000 as well. He became a regular in 2001 and took off from that point. He was incredible with the glove and won six straight Gold Glove Awards between 2002 and 2007. He was an All-Star in those two seasons as well. Hunter hit a career-high 45 doubles and 2007. He had hit a career-high 31 homers in 2006. While known for his defense, Hunter came into his own offensively as well with the Twins.
RF - Michael Cuddyer (2001-2009)
843 games, .270/.344/.457 (.801) with 173 doubles, 107 homers, 479 RBI.
Cuddyer was the Twins top pick in the 1997 draft. He debuted very late in the 2001 season and had several cups of coffee in 2002 and 2003. He became a regular in 2004 and remained as such through the decade. He moved all over the diamond, but he became his best when he was thrown into right field where his rocket arm became a huge asset. That happened in 2006 when he hit .284/.362/.504 (.867) with a career-high 41 doubles, 24 homers and 109 RBI. In 2009, he received MVP votes for really leading the Twins in their incredible September to force a Game 163. That season, he hit .276/.342/.520 (.862) with 32 doubles and a career-high 34 home runs.
DH - Lew Ford (2003-2007)
494 games, .272/.349/.402 (.750) with 80 doubles, 32 homers, 172 RBI.
This may be a controversial choice, but Ford did play some DH throughout his time with the Twins. We could have gone with Denard Span whose first two MLB seasons were incredible with high batting average and on-base percentage. You could go with AJ Pierzynski who played in an All-Star Game as a Twins catcher before the Mauer years. How about Jason Bartlett for his short time with the Twins? For me though, the choice was Ford. In September of 2000, the Twins traded reliever Hector Carrasco to the Red Sox in exchange for Ford. He debuted in 2003 by hitting .329 (.928) in 35 games and made the playoff roster. In 2004, he burst on the scene with a huge first half which found him on the AL’s final vote for the last spot on the AL All- Star roster. Overall that season, he hit .299/.381/.446 (.827) with 31 doubles, 15 homers and 72 RBI in 154 games. He also had 20 stolen bases. That was the pinnacle, but he did play in 147 games in 2005. He spent most of the next two seasons with the Twins as well, though his performance dropped. But that 2004 season was special.
Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers)
Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona)
Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers)
Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers)
Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with Howard Sinker)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Pitchers)