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Twins' Top 5 second basemen: Park's take

@dohyoungpark
April 6, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only ... if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Twins' Top 5: First basemen | Catchers

Here is Do-Hyoung Park's ranking of the top 5 second basemen in Twins history, since the franchise relocated to Minnesota in 1961. Next week: Third basemen.

1. Rod Carew, 1967-78
Key fact: .334 career batting average with Twins is highest in club history

Where were you during that summer of 1977 when Rod Carew made his historic push for .400? The best pure hitter in club history already had five batting titles to his name at that point, but Carew took his game to an even higher level and made a legitimate bid to become baseball's first hitter to break that barrier since Ted Williams in '41. He captivated the nation and appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine after he first pushed above the .400 mark with a four-hit game on June 26 and stayed there until July 10.

Carew ultimately finished the season with a club-record .388 average and won the American League's Most Valuable Player Award, two years before he was traded to the California Angels, with whom he finished his Hall of Fame career. A former AL Rookie of the Year Award winner, 18-time All-Star and seven-time batting champion, Carew was a shoo-in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he became eligible in 1991. He's still a regular presence around the Twins' clubhouse as a special instructor alongside close friend and fellow Twins legend Tony Oliva.

"It seemed like everything he wanted to do, he could do every single time he wanted to do it," former teammate Roy Smalley said in an interview with FOX Sports North. "I've never seen anything like it. He hit home runs, he hit doubles, he bunted for hits, he stole bases. It was like he was the most complete player on the field."

2. Brian Dozier, 2012-18
Key fact: Set AL record for second basemen with 42 homers in '16

Second base was a position where the Twins historically lacked punch at the plate, but Brian Dozier loudly bucked that trend as one of the Majors' most consistent sources of power throughout his seven years in Minnesota. Dozier's infectious smile, smooth Mississippi drawl, clubhouse leadership and presence around the Twin Cities community were just as important to the franchise as his power through the lean years in the mid-2010s. He was finally able to taste the postseason with the Twins in '17 before he lost a World Series with the Dodgers in '18 and won one with the Nationals in '19.

"I think a lot of people, even if you spend four or five or six years, everyone thinks they’re going to remain somewhere, and I definitely thought that up until the day I got traded," Dozier said when he returned to Minnesota with Washington in 2019.

Dozier's only All-Star appearance came in 2015, but his finest performance came a season later, when he clubbed 42 long balls to join Harmon Killebrew as the only hitters in club history to eclipse the 40-homer mark in a season. (Nelson Cruz has since accomplished the feat as well, with 41 homers in '19.)

3. Chuck Knoblauch, 1991-97
Key fact: Holds Twins single-season records in runs (140 in '96) and stolen bases (62 in '97)

Chuck Knoblauch was one of the more talented players that has ever come through the Twins' organization, as his 276 stolen bases in Minnesota represent a franchise record and his .304 batting average with the Twins places him seventh in club history. He was the 1991 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner, a four-time All-Star, a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner and the '97 AL Gold Glove Award winner at his position. Knoblauch also played an important role in the Twins' '91 World Series win over the Braves, when he matched the club lead with eight hits, deked out Lonnie Smith on the basepaths in Game 7 to prevent Atlanta from scoring a run and later bunted the championship-winning run to third in the 10th inning.

4. Steve Lombardozzi, 1985-88
Key fact: Led Twins regulars with 1.121 OPS in 1987 World Series

Performance-wise, there's a fairly significant drop-off after the top three on this list. No other primary second baseman in club history accumulated more than 5.4 fWAR with the Twins, and only one was an above-average hitter, going by wRC+. Steve Lombardozzi wasn't that hitter, as he was always a defensively minded second baseman and had a 75 wRC+ in his time with the Twins. But one notable exception was during the 1987 World Series, when Lombardozzi led Twins regulars in hitting (.412), on-base percentage (.474) and slugging (.647). He homered in Game 1, drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI single in Game 6 and also had an RBI knock in Game 7, as he helped to bring Minnesota its first World Series championship in club history.

5. Tim Teufel 1983-85
Key fact: Finished fourth in 1984 AL Rookie of the Year Award voting

Who, then, was that above-average hitter? It was Tim Teufel, who was best known as a member of the Mets as both a player and a coach but began his career with the Twins. He only played two full seasons in Minnesota, but he turned in strong enough offensive performances in both years to earn him the final spot on this list. His 14 homers, 30 doubles and .749 OPS in 1984 were enough to earn him fourth in AL Rookie of the Year Award balloting, where he finished one place behind teammate Kirby Puckett. After a 10-homer season in '85, he was moved to the Mets in the trade that brought current A's executive Billy Beane and two other players to Minnesota.

Honorable mention
Luis Castillo only spent a season and a half in Minnesota, but he was part of the 2006 team that won the AL Central and was in the group of hitters that notably earned the "piranhas" nickname from then-White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillén. ... Speaking of piranhas, Nick Punto is actually fifth in fWAR among players who appeared at second base for the Twins, but he'll be considered a third baseman because he spent the most defensive innings there. ... Super-utility man Denny Hocking was part of the club for 11 seasons from 1993-2003, but he was held back by his 69 wRC+ with the Twins.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.