Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Luis Tiant, Graig Nettles and Bert Blyleven

Chris Jaffe -- yeah, you've seen his name here a few times lately -- posted an item Tuesday about a big trade the Twins made 15,000 days earlier.

The Twins got Luis Tiant and Stan Williams; in return, they shipped off to Cleveland Bob Miller, Ted Uhlaender, Dean Chance and a young guy they couldn't fit into their lineup named Graig Nettles.

Graig Nettles hit 390 homers
in 22 major league seasons.
Twelve of those homers
came for the Twins.
These were name players. Chance had won a Cy Young; Tiant was one season removed from a 1.60 ERA and 22 wins. Williams and Miller were veteran swingmen; Uhlaender had been the Twins regular center fielder.

In retrospect, we Twins fans would probably like to have Nettles back. But the trade made sense at the time, and in the short term, it wasn't a disaster.Chance, Uhlaender and Miller didn't do much when they left the Twins. Nettles had a stellar career. As for Tiant and Williams ...

I had a post back in September about the 1970 Twins staff. Williams had a big year in relief -- 10-1 with 15 saves and a 1.99 ERA in 113-plus innings. He and Ron Perranoski (7-8, 34 saves, 2.43 ERA 111 innings) were a devastating right-left bullpen combo. They were also 33 and 34 years old respectively, and both men's performance fell off the cliff in 1971.

Jaffe dismisses Tiant's contribution to the 1970 Twins, but he was doing what the Twins were looking for -- 6-0, 3.12 -- before suffering an arm injury in late May that derailed his career for a few years.

People are all agog about the current Phillies rotation, but consider the Twins rotation entering 1970:

  • Jim Perry (age 34) had won 20 games in 1969 with a 2.82 ERA.
  • Dave Boswell (age 24) was also coming off a 20-win season and had four straight double-digit win years on his resume.
  • Jim Kaat (age 31) was one of the better lefties in the league.
  • Tiant (29) had had a poor 1969 season, but had been marvelous in 1968 and was clearly a talented pitcher.

Perry won 24 games and the Cy Young in 1970, and Kaat was his usual effective self (14-10, 3.56). But Boswell's career cratered and never recovered, and, as noted already, Tiant got hurt.

Tiant's injury (and Boswell's ineffectiveness) opened holes in the Twins rotation. One of those holes was plugged by a 19-year-old named Bert Blyleven.

Tiant and Kaat both have Hall of Fame cases. Today should be the day Blyleven's case is finally accepted.


  1. Not to pick nits, but I believe you mean GRAIG Nettles, rather than "Craig". It's an easy and common mistake to make (and blame on the guy's parents for not knowing how to spell either Greg or Craig). In fact, I'm pretty sure Topps made the same mistake on a baseball card or two.

  2. Yer right, Jim. Change made. Thanks.