Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hall of Fame thoughts: Ex-Twins on the ballot

There are two names on the writers ballot this year who played briefly for the Twins, and both will assuredly be one-and-done.

There's no shame in that; just getting onto the Hall of Fame ballot signals an impressive career. It requires a minimum of 10 seasons in the majors, for one thing, and even that longevity is not enough by itself.

The former Twins on the ballot this year:

Casey Blake. It 's easy to forget (or to have never noticed) that Blake played for the Twins. Indeed, he had two separate tenures with Minnesota.

He debuted with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1999, then the Twins picked him up on waivers. He got 21 plate appearances with the Twins in 2000 and another 25 in 2001 before the Twins waived him in September. The Baltimore Orioles claimed him and played him in six games, then waived him themselves after the season -- and the Twins claimed him back. He got another 22 PAs with the Twins in 2002.

The Twins then released him. He was 29 and had gotten exactly 125 major league plate appearances. He was blocked in Minnesota by Corey Koskie, but two other organizations had found him wanting. This is the description of a Quadruple A player, a guy who probably needs to find something else to do with his life.

Blake signed with Cleveland, and his career turned around. Over the next eight seasons he averaged more than 20 homers a year, splitting time between third base, right field and first base, playing in three postseasons. He never led the league in anything, never made an All-Star team, but he was a solid regular for both the Indians and the Dodgers. (The Indians traded him for Carlos Santana, so he still has an impact on the Tribe.)

Orlando Cabrera. His career is essentially in two segments: The Montreal years, eight seasons with the Expos, and the nomadic years, in which he wandered from playoff team to playoff team, a short-term shortstop.

He was the shortstop for Boston when the Red Sox broke the curse. He stepped in for the 2009 Twins, hitting over .280 down the stretch and bopping a key homer in the famous Game 163. He never made the postseason with the Expos, but he was in the playoffs six of seven years after leaving Canada. I wouldn't say those teams won because of O-Cab; I would say that he didn't keep them from winning.

Like Blake, he never made an All-Star team, but he did win a pair of Gold Gloves. He was never the best shortstop in the league, but he was a good one and stuck at the position well into his 30s.

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