I’m driving in my car, listening two a couple of media personalities talk about the wonderful season the Minnesota Twins have had this year, when one of them said something that just about made me drive into oncoming traffic!
The opinion offered was that with so many Twins players having “career” seasons, when it came to the team’s MVP, or, Most Valuable Player, these guys felt the most deserving of the honor was relief pitcher Taylor Rogers.
OK, but no.
Taylor Rogers has had a fine season, I’ll give you that, and the Twins would not be where they are without him. The left-hander has brought stability to the elusive “closer” role, that being the guy you give the ball to when you’re trying to protect a lead late in the game.
Given the ball 35 times with the game on the line, Rogers has produced 29 saves, which is really good. Add to that a 2.65 earned run average, 89 strikeouts in 68 innings, and the ability to pitch more than just the 9th inning if asked to, and I get where those guys are coming from, but Taylor Rogers is NOT the Twins MVP.
Despite battling injuries down the stretch, Max Kepler moved seamlessly from right to center field whenever Byron Buxton went down, hitting 36 home runs from the leadoff spot. Jorge Polanco was flirting with .300 at the time of this writing. The switch-hitting, All-Star shortstop also has 22 home runs and 78 RBI. Eddie Rosario has more than 30 home runs. Marwin Gonzales has played multiple positions while delivering big hits, Mitch Garver has hit 31 homers as a part-time catcher, and if Luis Arraez is not named American League Rookie of the Year, I will be writing another post about the injustice of it! But, none of those guys are the Twins MVP.
Usually, the Most Valuable Player award is based on numbers, but the only number that matters this year is wins, and with 98 and counting, this 2019 Twins season has been anything but usual.
To me, there is no question that the Minnesota Twins most valuable player is designated hitter Nelson Cruz. Using just his numbers: 40 home runs, 108 RBI and a .303 batting average, you can make a strong case for Cruz. But, do you really think that all those younger players would each have their breakout season and the Twins would win as many games as they have without the arrival of Nelson Cruz?
And we haven’t even mentioned Miguel Sano.
At the start of the season, the Twins wisely put Cruz’ locker right next to Sano. Only, Sano wasn’t ready to play baseball. Sano had cut his foot celebrating his team’s victory in the Dominican Winter League Championship. The injury, which was expected to only delay Sano’s start to Spring Training, ended up keeping the slugger out of the Twins lineup for the first month of the regular season.
For Twins fans, it was only more of the same. In 2009 the Twins gave Sano a $3.15 million dollar signing bonus, which at the time, was the largest signing bonus for a Latin American player from outside of Cuba. Over the next decade however, Sano battled weight and off-field issues, and never developed into the dominant ballplayer the Twins, and almost every other Major League team, had envisioned.
This year would be different.
Unlike years past, when Sano was finally healthy enough to play, there was no pressure to return to the Twins lineup or to be the team leader because that role was already occupied by Cruz. Watch the two in the dugout, they are almost always near each other. Under Cruz’ influence, Sano has rebounded to hit 32 home runs (and counting) despite getting a late start to the season, for the first time in years his weight has not been an issue, and there haven’t been any hints of issues on or off the diamond. Coincidence? I think not.
I’m pretty sure that Nelson Cruz owns a baseball glove? But to be honest, I’m not really sure, because I’ve never seen him use it. He’s not a pitcher, and he doesn’t play in the field. But, he is in the lineup almost every day as the team’s designated hitter, and every opponent is acutely aware of his presence.
I was going to end the piece by saying the best part is that Cruz is under contract for another season, but the best part is that we still get to watch Nelson Cruz and the Twins play baseball in October! Could all of this have happened without Nelson Cruz? Maybe, but I highly doubt it.