Posnanski: 1987 Twins Were Worst Champs Since World War II

The new World Series champion San Francisco Giants have raised a few eyebrows with their seemingly innocent lineup. At least one writer, though, thinks the 1987 Minnesota Twins were the weakest champs since World War II.

Kirby Puckett
Kirby Puckett was a driving force for the 1987 World Series champs. Photo by Dave Wallis / The Forum

That’s what Sports Illustrated writer – and former “Sports Talk” guest – Joe Posnanaski wrote Thursday when analyzing modern World Series winners since 1946.

Here’s an excerpt:

If you were trying to build a World Series champ, you would likely do the opposite of what the 1987 Twins did. They built a mediocre offense but an even worse pitching staff. Their bullpen was mostly awful, and the hitters couldn’t get on base. They were on pace to be a 104-loss team on the road — 29-52 for the season, if you can believe that — and a Metrodome official admitted that he adjusted the ventilation system to help the Twins hit better at home.

Winning championships isn’t always about just talent. Sometimes, it’s about taking advantage of timing and getting a few bounces to roll your way.

It’s hard to argue too much with Posnanski’s take. One point he fails to make is that the 1987 Twins were actually outscored by their opponents that season. And they had great timing. The AL West was weak that season.

And they ran into a St. Louis Cardinals team in the World Series that was missing a couple of key cogs in Jack Clark and, at times, Terry Pendleton. When a team has Jim Lindeman hitting in the cleanup spot in Game 7 of the World Series – in a lineup that also boasted Tom Lawless and Steve Lake – then you’ve caught that team on a good day.

But the Twins were a powerful team. They ranked fifth in the AL in homers and third in slugging percentage. Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti and Tom Brunansky each eclipsed 30 homers, and Kirby Puckett jacked 28.

And the postseason was to the benefit of the rotation. I don’t remember the statistic, but the Twins’ record when Frank Viola or Bert Blyleven started a game that season was absurdly better than it was when someone else did. Viola was 17-10 and Blyleven 15-12 that year.

So the team’s ERA of 4.63 was 10th in the AL. But take out out guys like Mike Smithson and Joe Niekro and their around-6.00 ERAs from the rotation, and it’s a lot better.

But I can understand why Posnanski would write that. And really, what does it matter? It was a fun piece and shouldn’t be taken as anything more or less than that. And at the end of the day, they’re champs. My guess is Minnesotans would rather have an average team win a title than having a talented team underachieve and come up short as so many have recently.

3 Responses

  1. Jeff

    As Bill James pointed out after the Twin won the 1987 series, “Depth doesn’t matter in a short series.” All you have to do is beat the other team.

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  2. gabe

    I never bought into the whole ventilation deal. It could also be the difference between a blooper falling in for a hit or blowing the ball farther and getting caught.

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