Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The 'Franchise Four' failure

When the "Franchise Four" fan vote was announced this spring, I figured the results would suffer from what I call "ESPN Syndrome" -- the belief, fostered by the Worldwide Leader, that nothing in sports history counts unless it's on video.

And so it basically proved. The Giants list, for example, was entirely players from the San Francisco era, ignoring the likes of Christy Mathewson and Mel Ott in favor of Buster Posey, a fine player but necessarily lacking the long-term stature of Master Melvin and Big Six. Neither the Athletics nor the White Sox claimed Eddie Collins, but the Sox list included Harold Baines and Paul Konerko.

I've grown to expect such historical ignorance, but I decline to accept it.

The eight-man Twins ballot featured seven players from the Minnesota years. Only Walter Johnson from the long-ago Washington Senators era was on the ballot. Fellow Hall of Famers Goose Goslin, Joe Cronin and Sam Rice were excluded. And when the results were announced, the winning four were Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett, Rod Carew and Tony Oliva.

Nothing against Oliva, but Johnson was by any measure the greater player, with a good case as the greatest pitcher ever.

Of course, the Twins have spent decades pretending that the Washington era never happened. When they talk about the team's career leaders, they talk about the Twins career leaders.

But Johnson deserves to be attached to somebody's history. Four hundred seventeen career wins. One hundred ten shutouts. A career ERA of 2.17 (in 5,917 innings). Twelve times the league leader in strikeouts. On and on.

He didn't pitch in Minnesota, but the Twins should still embrace him as part of their history.


  1. Strong point in your favor though I assumed the record belonged with the city and not the franchise after it relocated.

    I guess the answer is both.

    Unfortunately, the arbitrary "four" is not enough.

  2. I just looked at the link to Walter Johnson's Baseball Reference page and 1913 caught my eye. I realize it was an entirely different era, but the guy had a WHIP of 0.780, 243 strikeouts, 38 walks and a 1.14 ERA ... how in the heck did he lose seven games? It's always bugged me that the Twins don't celebrate their former Senators as their own.

  3. Here's another fun one from Baseball Reference. Franchise WAR leaders: Johnson #1 by more than 100! 165 to 63 (Carew). I'm not sure how comparable WAR is between eras and also pitchers vs. position players, but in any case that's a big difference from #1 to #2.

    Of course current management ignores all this. I'd love to have a throwback Johnson jersey.

    I think part of the problem is because they don't own the rights to the Senators name.

  4. I think it is because we all think in the present.

    The Twins were ours, the Senators were not
    I do not think there is any management conspiracy.

  5. They're missing marketing opportunities. The 100th anniversary of the first franchise World Series victory is approaching.

    (The 100th anniversary of Walter Johnson is already past. The game that day was cancelled because of the bridge collapse.)

  6. While I appreciate the baseball history, I don't view the Senators as being the Twins in an early incarnation. A new city and a new name, that's a new team to me. (Heck, even just a change of management can make a team seem like a new team.)