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Whose jersey might Minnesota retire next?

Twins Hall of Famers Hunter, Nathan worthy of consideration
@dohyoungpark
April 8, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite only establishing roots in Minnesota in 1961, the Twins have a rich tradition of retired numbers, thanks to several Hall of Famers and club greats who have passed through Metropolitan Stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and Target Field over the years. In fact, not including Jackie

MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite only establishing roots in Minnesota in 1961, the Twins have a rich tradition of retired numbers, thanks to several Hall of Famers and club greats who have passed through Metropolitan Stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and Target Field over the years.

In fact, not including Jackie Robinson's No. 42 that is retired leaguewide, only 10 MLB franchises have more retired numbers than the Twins' eight: the Yankees (22), Cardinals (12), White Sox (11), Braves (10), Red Sox (10), Reds (10), Giants (10), Astros (nine), Dodgers (nine) and Pirates (nine).

Twins' all-time retired numbers

All eight of those decisions were likely easy ones for the Twins, featuring members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett and Bert Blyleven; unquestioned all-time club greats in Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek and Joe Mauer; and Tom Kelly, the longest-tenured manager in club history and leader of the club's only two World Series championships in 1987 and '91.

Every team's retired numbers

As for how those decisions are made? A small committee of Twins executives -- team president Dave St. Peter, senior vice president of operations Matt Hoy and senior director of communications Dustin Morse -- issues a recommendation to consider a number retirement when appropriate, and the decision is ultimately made in a vote by owner Jim Pohlad and his family.

The Twins have historically been quite prompt in retiring numbers. Of the seven players with their numbers retired, five received the honor within two seasons of the end of their playing career: Killebrew, Carew, Puckett, Hrbek and Mauer. Oliva's final playing season was in 1976, but his No. 6 was retired in '91 during his final season on the coaching staff, while Blyleven's No. 28 was retired in the summer of 2011, when he was inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

So that's something to keep in mind as we examine who could be the next Twin to have his number retired and posted along the facade of the club's front offices in the left-field corner at Target Field.

There have obviously been other great players who have made indelible marks on the franchise -- Brad Radke, Johan Santana, Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau come to mind -- but given the amount of time that has lapsed since their retirements, it doesn't seem likely that they will be considered soon. Consider also that third baseman Miguel Sanó and manager Rocco Baldelli -- key members of the current club -- wear Radke's No. 22 and Cuddyer's No. 5, respectively.

With that in mind, there doesn't appear to be a leader as far as predicting the Twins' next retired number, but it could come as the result of another Hall of Fame induction, like that of Blyleven nearly a decade ago. Who might that include? Here are two possibilities:

No. 36: Joe Nathan
Who has worn it since: Clete Thomas, Terry Steinbach, Blaine Boyer, Robbie Grossman

The club's all-time leader in saves, Nathan saved 260 games during his seven seasons in Minnesota from 2004-11 following his arrival from the Giants in the deal that sent A.J. Pierzynski to San Francisco. Factor in 117 more saves in stops with the Giants, Rangers and Tigers, and Nathan's 337 career saves rank him eighth in Major League history. He was a four-time All-Star with the Twins, twice finished in the top five in American League Cy Young Award voting and pitched for three AL Central championship clubs, in 2004, '06 and '09.

"I knew every single time I went to whatever position I was playing that night, I could have taken a lawn chair," Cuddyer said at Nathan's induction to the Twins Hall of Fame in 2019. "That game was over."

Will that be enough to get Nathan into the National Baseball Hall of Fame when he is first on the ballot in 2022? Only time will tell. But to this point, no reliever has had his number retired by the Twins, and there's no member of Twins bullpens past and present more deserving of that honor than Nathan.

No. 48: Torii Hunter
Who has worn it since: Nobody

A true ambassador for the franchise, both on and off the field throughout his Twins career, Hunter ranks seventh in club history with 1,373 games played across 12 seasons, including a stretch from 1997-2007 and one final year to close out his career in '15. A fan favorite for his dazzling personality, community work and highlight-reel home run robberies -- including his notorious catch against Barry Bonds in the 2002 All-Star Game -- Hunter was part of the core of four division champion clubs in 2002, '03, '04 and '06.

"He's symbolic of a lot of things we try to do here, in the way he played, the way he handled himself, the way he gave back to the community," said former Twins manager Paul Molitor, when Hunter was inducted to the Twins Hall of Fame in 2016. "Certainly talented, but it goes way beyond that with him in terms of character, and other ways he's been able to influence other people, other players and certainly he's given back in a lot of different ways off the field."

Whether it's Hunter's 50.7 career bWAR, 2,452 hits, 498 doubles and 11 seasons of hitting 20 or more homers, his nine Gold Glove Awards in center field or his two Silver Slugger Awards, he should have plenty of bona fides working in his favor when he first enters the Hall of Fame ballot in 2021. Regardless of whether Hunter's number is retired by Minnesota, Hunter already occupies an outsized place in Twins history.

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